Wednesday, June 03, 2009

TORNADO CHASE: Week 2;day 2

On the Way to Amarillo, we stopped at a rest stop to wait for weather. Our Guru Gregg had suggested that the weather would be coming in. The rest stop was beautiful, grassy, plenty of shade from the sun, and free wi-fi. I am starting to learn that Texans can be very hospitable when they aren't trying to secede from the union.

Anyway, it was bright and sunny, so the clients and and staff were mingling, starting to get to know each other better when the dark cloud in the distance started getting bigger. Pretty soon the flashes started appearing. Gregg had landed us right in the path a fierce electrical storm.

Cloud to cloud lightning began to illuminate the day as it approached. Then the thunder began and the wind began to blow. Pretty soon, the moisture began hitting from a horizontal direction. One of our drivers was standing under the metal shelter for the picnic table, and was holding two of the metal support beams. I let him know that the Texas flag on the top was metal and he was touching what was essentially a metal lightning rod.

He made some kind of comment like he wasn't scared, and as I turned to walk away I mentioned that it was only cloud to cloud lightning, not cloud to ground. I couldn't have taken two steps away when a flash of lightning from very near, almost instantly followed by a deafening thunder clap made me jump, and made pretty much everyone in the area scream like little girls. I turned to see that the driver had wisely moved very far away from the metal structure.

Soon after, we had to take shelter in the chase vehicles as the rain was really starting to come down and the lighting was surrounding us. Pretty soon we jumped back on the road towards Amarillo in torrential rain. The lady at the hotel we booked warned us that there were "raindrops the size of silver dollars."

The water on the road seemed to be getting deeper, and motorcyclists were sheltering themselves under bridges. A brief break in the rain allowed us to stop and see what is claimed as the largest crucifix in the northern hemisphere. The coolest part, to me was that they had life size statues of the stations of the cross. I ticked off the visiting pilgrims by posing for a photo whilst sitting on Pontious Pilate's lap and giving him rabbit ears. The rain returned, so we trudged on, in what seemed like a different county every mile. Seriously, in under 6 miles we passed 5 county lines. At least that is what the roadside signs told us.

Speaking of road signs... every mile into Amarillo from about 25 miles away or so we saw a sign that said "Free 72 Ounce Steak." This would be our destination for the evening, both for chow, and to stay. If you recognize the signs, you already know about the "BIG TEXAN RANCH."

There is a catch to the "free 72 ounce steak" deal (4.5 pounds, btw). You had to eat it all, by yourself, in one sitting, within an hour. And not only did you have to eat the huge slab of sirloin, you had to eat the roll, the salad, a baked potato, and 3 deep fried shrimp. If you didn't eat the whole thing, you had to pay for the meal, which was $72.

We had plotted and taken up a pool and one of the clients was brave enough to try it out. So we checked into the attached hotel, and prepared our boy for the biggest dinner he had ever eaten (he was chosen because he was able to eat a 65 ounce steak in Wisconsin a few years earlier).

My room at the Big Texan was, by far, the coolest hotel room I have been in for the entire week and a half or so of this chase. Above the TV area of the room were cowboy murals. The windows didn't have drapes, but instead wooden shutters. They included a fly swatter with the room. The bed covering had cow hide print on it. The shower curtain was the Texas state flag. Free in room wi-fi. The shower pumped buckets of hot water like a fire hose (some hotels have issues with pressure, or lack of to be more specific.) And my favorite part of our lodging was the entry to the sink/closet area prior to going into the bathroom had old fashioned swinging saloon doors. A discount for the Big Texan breakfast buffet helped make it the best value out of any of the business class or tourist class hotels we stayed at by a large margin. If you are in Amarillo, make sure you stay at the Big Texan, especially if you are budget conscious.

Walking into the restaurant illustrated that we were going to something truly unique. The fudge shop right inside overwhelmed the senses with the sweetest smell. To the left was a decent sized old fashioned shooting gallery behind the gift shop. The cute little bartender was dressed like Pocahontas instantly making me thirsty for a Texas sized 32 ounce draft. Our 16 person table was dwarfed by the size of the dining room which had 2 levels, all sorts of stuffed animals all over the room, old guns, knives and other assorted items celebrating the "Texas Lifestyle," and a stage with a timer and table with 6 chairs set up.

As we entered, there was a display of what one would half to eat to win the free 72 ounce steak, and it was huge. We told our server that one of us was going to try to eat it, and ponied up a few bucks each to pay for him to try. They took us to the grill and held up the giant hunk of sirloin, which took up the area of a very large dinner plate, and its thickness is too hard to describe. They began to cook his championship dinner while we checked the menu for our own grub.

In addition to a wide variety of steaks, the menu had unique foods such as buffalo burgers, rocky mountain oysters, and fried rattlesnake. We tried to order the snake appetizer, but it was out of stock. The manager implied if they could meet every order for rattler they got, they might make it extinct. An employee informed us that several TV shows have taped there recently, including a new NBC reality show where families in RV's travel cross country doing wild and crazy things. Stay tuned for it, if it is picked up and actually airs or if you actually enjoy these mindless "reality" type crap shows.

It was then we realized that out competitive eater would have opposition in the form of a member of a Methodist church group who had talked one of their own into climbing on the stage. The spirit of the Lord guided him to a seat across our competitor, while hunger and peer pressure guided our team. To add to the pressure, several employees and the winner sign up sheet boasted that 3 folks had already accomplished the 72 ounce feast THAT DAY.

A rival tornado chase group watched from afar, but they had no chicks with them and no one really cares about a sausage party anyway. They weren't F5, so... nvm about them.

When the 72 ounce steak was served and the timer began, our client began his task as a crowd gathered and surrounded the gastronomic gladiator. We were served shortly after he was, and were quickly filled by our quite large, but comparatively meager dinners. About 20 minutes in, it was obvious our guy wasn't going to finish in time, so he decided to take his time and enjoy his meal instead of making himself sick.

The Methodist boy, was in it to win it. With help from singing, dancing, praying churchmates, he was trying to muscle it down. He went so far as to wring out his steak to try to remove the juices. Despite his group mates pleas to Jesus, Jesus did not actually appear or seem to help him at all, and he failed despite his church's divine effort.

Me and another gentleman agreed that if Jesus was actually summoned via prayer to the Big Texan Steakhouse to help this jabroni win a steak eating contest he would be more than a little miffed off that he was distracted from something important to come help some d00d chomp down a dead cow in under an hour, but what do I know, people pray for all kinds of things.

We posed for photos in the gigantic rocking chair, checked out the hologram comedy "family portraits," and played in the shooting range for a bit, and then walked to our rooms to catch Conan's debut as host of the Tonight Show. A little more farting around, and it was time for bed.

The next morning was a very nice breakfast buffet at the Big Texas, with the highlight being an amazing omelet bar featuring a cowboy who yelled at you if you didn't pick up your omelet on time. I was sad to be leaving the Big Texas Ranch, but I am quite sure I will be back sometime. One of the meteorologists confided in me that he was "cautiously optimistic" that we would find at least one super cell capable of producing a tornado today.

The Chase is on!


Sans said...

Great stories, sweetie, keep going. They're keeping me going :)

<3 Sans

Mulch said...

Thank You Sans, hope you enjoy them! Thanks for reading.




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