More Than a Steakhouse
It was the Big Texan Steak Ranch (and it's very fine sign) that lured us.
The "Steak Ranch"
This is the steakhouse where Don and I stopped for lunch, a year ago. It's been attracting tourists, traveling Route 66 (and then I-40) since 1960.
Of course the big yellow building is usually surrounded by cars. But when you're a motel guest, you can lay eyes on this peaceful image... if you rise at dawn.
"Charm of the Old West"
Don and I grinned when we spotted the motel a year ago. "We'll just have to stay here someday." Last June we had a chance to book a night, when we planned our drive to Oregon.
We weren't fooled by the Disney-bright facade, or the website's words about old west charm. For less than $80. we geared ourselves up for a motel-kind-of-overnight.
When we arrived, we were in for plenty of motel surprises. I've never stayed at a motel with a fleet of limos, sporting longhorn hood ornaments! I've also never stayed at a motel with "branded" sidewalks!
Evidently the limos do quite a bit of airport shuttling. Big Texan attracts a lot of visitors from other countries. Tour groups of Australians arrive on Wednesdays and a
few guests were speaking German, when we checked in.
Our room was just steps from the office. And of course parking was right in front of the door. Gotta love that about motels!
If guests forget their room numbers like I often do, they can help spot their room by the surrounding door decor! I would have preferred the pink teardrop motif!
Plywood Walls and Saloon Doors!
Our room definitely had the musty smell, that most older motels have. But I was willing to ignore that, to enjoy the fine features of our room.
I had to chuckle at the walls. We've had motels with knotty pine, but this plywood-look was unique. The saloon doors were a hoot. They actually led to a good-sized dressing area and a nicely updated bathroom. The clunky swingers would have driven me crazy if we'd stayed longer. But they were pretty fun and inspired me to dress the part for dinner.
Texas Beds and Horse Lamp
The lone star headboards looked pretty Texan. The spreads and shams had a lot going on, with faux suede and pillow tassels.
Mural and TV
The flatscreen-tv-world never works with themed decor. This TV looked pretty silly, next to the windmill and cattle drive. If only we'd had a chance to search for an old western movie channel, we might have made the TV fit the scene!
Room With a View
We did have a nice little western table set, beneath the window. And our view of the Big Moo Statue, was framed by our plywood shutters. We've never had a motel view like that.
We knew there was a Texas shaped pool and we expected it to be full of families. Don made drinks and we were determined to enjoy our first TX-Pool, no matter the crowds. But we had it to ourselves.
Towards the rear of the complex was a whole different style of motel building. The bell and balcony and pink stucco, looked like an old building in Mexico. The murals were pretty festive, as well.
Taking in the Scene
As we lounged, we took in the oddity of it all. The parking lot began to fill and then I grew giddy, with the arrival of some important guests! I eyed the truck and trailer, parked in front of the office!
This was our first motel experience that included horse guests. I remembered seeing the sign a year ago. When I called a month before to book a room, I inquired.
"Oh yes." the woman on the phone answered. "We're expecting 2 horses."
In the Way Back
Before hitting the pool, I had already checked the stables, back behind the pink building.
I was disappointed to find the stalls empty. However, I did see plenty of semitrailers and buses in the massive lot, nearby.
At one point, I noticed a truck and trailer pulling away from the office.
I grabbed my camera and waited near the horse hotel, for the show.
Girls and Horses
A mom and 2 teens had been traveling 24 hours from Big Sky, Montana.
They were exhausted but worked efficiently, moving the horses out and into their stalls. The fact that the one of the horses had won third place in a 3-day horse show, kept their spirits up. They were a tired, but happy bunch.
Over at the Steak Ranch
Our Big Texan dining experience in 2017 was just a quick lunch on the road.
Don and I were determined to make use of our motel stay and take in all that was offered at the Ranch House, next door. We headed over, giving Big Moo a big wave.
Beer and Tunes
Don and I skipped the arcade and gift shop and headed for leather bar stools. We hardly fit the bar scene in our shorts, but the cowboy hat crowd accepted us, just fine. The strolling musicians were fun. We requested a Hank Williams song. We didn't sing along, but smiled, applauded and tipped.
At the bar we chatted with a couple who had been RV-ing for 2 years. Frank, who sported a foot long beard, shared stories of fighting fires at Mount St. Helen's... which was interesting to think about, when we visited the famous volcano a week later.
More New Friends
We had another fun chat with Ed, who was on pup duty in this photo. He talked with enthusiasm about his life in the marines and motor-cycling across the states.
We didn't have tons in common with Ed, but we did share an appreciation for road travel and the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup. He had a touching story about meeting Navajo Code Talkers at the old hotel. A sweet story for sure.
Before thinking about dinner, we gave ourselves a little time to explore the enclosed patio area.
I did my proper posing in a giant rocker and Don checked out the red stage coach. Then we figured we'd put on our western clothes and head to dinner.
The Dining Room
There was no western dress code requirement, but Don and I are firm believers that costumes and props raise all dining and hotel adventures.
We dressed (a bit) for dinner.
Beer & Bolo
Don looked pretty spiffy sitting in our cozy booth, wearing his horse-covered shirt and bolo tie.
We never take a good view for granted and our window looked right out at Big Moo. Sometimes a good view is worthy of a toast... especially when you're drinking Whoop Your Donkey beer. The beer's name is a little mean, but it was kind of fun that it was made at the on-site brewery.
The 72-Ounce Steak Challenge
I claimed that Don and I were eager for the whole Big Texan experience... but actually we weren't. We aren't huge eaters, so eating a 72-ounce steak, plus potato, sides, bread and drink in an hour, was not a challenge were excited about.
We did get to watch a dapper young guy in a cowboy hat complete the task in 36 minutes. He stood on the raised platform while a bell rang and the dining room applauded. Another guy in a ball cap remained at the table, while the glowing timer counted seconds, beside him. He gave up with 5 minutes to go.
Don could have shown off his own manly eating abilities with this "too pretty to eat" jalapeno. It had a very cute Texas flag stuck in it.
All I ordered was stuffed baked potato for dinner, but my (too small) western belt was cutting into my pig-out abilities. Or maybe it was the stories our server told us about all the different food challenges she's witnessed. I was stuffed before I started.
Good Night Big Tex
It was a treat to stroll back to our funny little room.
It was actually a pretty quiet night, despite being close to the freeway.
An Added Adventure
We totally took advantage of our motel location, to get up before sunrise and drive 10 minutes to enjoy a crazy "Cadillac Ranch" photo op!
This crazy thing is worth Googling or visiting. And in July, a sunrise visit is your best bet if you don't want to inhale the fumes from spray paint artists.
Pretty much anyone, even a vegan, could have a fun time enjoying the nutty atmosphere of Big Texan Ranch House.
But honestly, I'm having a hard time thinking of any friends who would have a blast, staying at Big Texan Motel. It's not something I would recommend to all. But if you have a friend or a spouse who is willing to Play Big Texan, then go for it! Horses, Texas pool, saloon doors, steak challenges! We had a ton of fun for $79.00!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!