"Four hours from everything (under construction)" Amarillo by der_geograf

Amarillo Travel Guide: 112 reviews and 243 photos

The quirky hub of the High Plains

(To learn more, visit the Amarillo Convention and Visitor's Council Web site.)

What do you get when you huddle 200,000 people together in the middle of the rolling windswept plateaus of the Texas Panhandle?

A city with tendencies that are borderline schizophrenic. As the largest city in the region -- nearly equidistant from Albuquerque-Santa Fé, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver and Oklahoma City -- Amarillo rests at a crossroads, isolated on a narrow mesa bordered by the second largest canyon in the United States to the south and the dry gully of the Canadian River to the north.

Near the midpoint on the historic U.S. Route 66, or "Mother Road," it was a frequent stop for travelers making the Chicago-to-Los Angeles trek.

It's identity as a bland, fiercely independent Panhandle heritage cowtown of the days of old constantly clashes with the culture of modernization that is sweeping in a wave of youthful energy and fueling growth.

The results: a city that is being forced to confront the same issues other American cities its size must address such as urban blight, economic development and crime, and realizing that it must begin planning years ahead how to handle such issues.

A city with a vibrant arts community that boasts its own symphony.

A growing medical community with three regional hospital complexes.

A city with a major role in international affairs, with a plant that has a key role in keeping the nation's nuclear stockpile safe, and another that manufactures experimental military aircraft.

A city receiving waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia that are showing lifelong residents that barbecue isn't the only way to cook beef that is so plentiful here -- and slowly opening the eyes of a population that clings tightly to antiquated world views.

It's the place where cowboys dine in Thai restaurants, and socialites sometimes skip the swanky upscale atmosphere of the Amarillo Club -- the city's highest restaurant -- and get their lips and hands greasy at "common" barbecue, Mexican and soul food restaurants.

Amarillo is in transition -- changing too quickly for some and not fast enough for others.

The character of Amarillo lies in how all of these competing identities mix, and the by-product -- for lack of a better word -- is plain weirdness.

There's Stanley Marsh 3 (yes, he prefers that you not write his suffix as a Roman numeral) who buried a fleet of 1960s Cadillacs in the ground west of town, all aligned with the Pyramids of Egypt. Marsh's current campaign has been to plant mock road signs in random yards about town with cryptic, touching and humorous messages.

The city was the federal government's chosen location to build plants for helium extraction and storage.

A local restaurant holds a contest to see who can eat a 72-ounce steak dinner in one hour.

And who could forget when a consortium of Panhandle cattlemen based in Amarillo sued America's queen of daytime talk, Oprah Winfrey, for libeling cattle meat.

Despite the oddities, Amarillo is a charming city that is generally dull, with weird events and wacky happenings to break the monotony.

As one of Amarillo's newest residents, I hope you'll learn along with me as I explore it.

Welcome to the Top o' Texas!

  • Intro Updated Jan 7, 2006
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der_geograf Used To Live Here!

der_geograf

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness . . . (Mark Twain)”

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