This entry is part 24 of 29 in the series Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah

April 24, 2024

Coast-to-coast: San Francisco to Savannah (Part 24)

By Simon J. Lau

This morning, we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which commemorates the victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma City bombing. This bombing occurred on April 19, 1995, when a truck loaded with explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The bombing was perpetrated by domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. It resulted in the deaths of 168 people, including 19 children who were in the building’s daycare center, and injured over 600 others. The attack was one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial features a reflecting pool, a field of 168 empty chairs representing each victim, the Survivor Tree, and the Gates of Time. The reflecting pool marks where the street once stood, while the chairs symbolize those lost, arranged in nine rows to represent the building’s nine floors. The Gates of Time frame the moment of the bombing, symbolizing innocence before and healing after. The adjacent Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum provides a comprehensive experience, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and personal stories related to the bombing and its aftermath. I was particularly impressed and moved by the thought that was placed into designing this outside section of the complex. 

As we were preparing to leave, we noticed the “new” Federal Building on the next block. (I say “new” because I’m sure it was rebuilt sometime soon after the bombing in 1995.) I appreciated its proximity to the original site. It felt like a strong statement from the community and federal government, showing that despite the horrors of April 19, 1995, people weren’t afraid to rebuild.

In the afternoon, we arrived in Amarillo. (More on this fun town tomorrow!) I was famished, and since this would be my last night in Texas (at least for now), I was craving BBQ. Tyler’s Barbeque came highly recommended, and I wasn’t disappointed! The pork ribs and corn side, in particular, were excellent! Naturally, this led us to an afternoon nap. 😴

In the evening, I stumbled upon this YouTube video about The Big Texan Steak Ranch. It looked interesting, albeit a bit kitschy. I wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be incredibly fun! Here are some highlights:

Big Tex Mex is a towering and colorful Tyrannosaurus rex statue constructed in the 1990s. It was built as a promotional feature to entice travelers passing by on Interstate 40 (previously Route 66) to stop and dine at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. With its playful design, exaggerated features, and vibrant colors, the statue appeals to families and children, making it a popular roadside attraction. 

This restaurant is renowned for its “free” 72 oz steak challenge. To qualify for the free meal, participants must sit at a designated table in front of other diners with 60-minute timers set up (sometimes with multiple competitors). Contestants have to finish their meal within the allotted time and can’t get up to use the bathroom or throw up. During my visit, I witnessed three attempts: one unsuccessful, one successful, and the third beginning his meal (first photo in this section).

The restaurant also displayed photos of Molly Schuyler, who astonishingly finished three 72 oz steaks in under 20 minutes. Despite assumptions due to her feat, she weighed only 125 pounds. After some further digging, I discovered that she’s a competitive eater with a popular YouTube channel. She is quite impressive indeed!

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t partake in the steak challenge. As much as I love meat, especially steak, this was just way too much for one meal. Furthermore, after my BBQ at Tyler’s, I really wasn’t looking for a second serving.

Inside, there are numerous taxidermy mounts of animals, but my favorite was one featuring two deer heads with entangled antlers (third photo in this section, bottom left). This likely occurred during the rut, when deer mate, resulting in both deer being killed in this manner and then mounted together. While some may find this grotesque, I’ve heard and seen many instances of this on YouTube. Typically, one deer has already perished, and the other is either carrying the deceased deer’s head or dragging its body. It’s a strange phenomenon of nature.

Speaking of strange phenomena, they offered “mountain oysters.” I’d never heard of this before, but later found out that they were fried testicles. (I never asked what kind of animal, which in hindsight, I should have.) I’ve had roasted testicles in Asia, but never fried ones, so I decided to give it a swirl. I asked for a half order, and this came! If this is a half, what is a full order?! From my perspective, it tasted like chicken tenders. I only had a few bites and gave a lot to Bruno. Maybe all this testosterone will transform Bruno from a mini mastiff into a giant beast!

In the gift shop, I found this live rattlesnake. I felt its enclosure was too small and it was desperately trying to escape. (If I were it, I would be trying to plan my escape too.) Generally, I really hate rattlesnakes, but I found this one to be very nicely colored. I have a friend who has two boas. I’m now trying to convince him to get a third snake, hopefully a nicely colored rattlesnake like this one. 🐍

So far, I’ve been really impressed by Amarillo. I initially expected it to tiny, but it’s not small, and it offers quite a bit to see and do! We haven’t even seen Cadillac Ranch, which it’s most famous for and that we’ll visit tomorrow, but it has definitely exceeded my expectations!

Finally, our route from Oklahoma City to Amarillo (260 miles or 418 km).

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