Amarillo travelblog: Staying in downtown

The Fisk Building in Amarillo, before and after the renovation. (Photo provided)

Lubbock is at it again. The hotel price-gouging is in high gear. Cheapest room for OSU-Texas Tech weekend, at a Marriott property, was $379 for a Fairfield Inn. You could stay at the downtown Courtyard in Lubbock for $579 a night. I assume it comes without a view of the Pacific Ocean or Midtown Manhattan.

The last couple of years, I’ve still gotten into Lubbock at a decent rate, somewhere in the $100s, because the rates fall in game week as they try to fill the openings. But thanks to the Kliff Kingsbury revival – the Red Raiders are 3-0 – the rates never fell.

So Scotty Wright and I fell back to Plan B. I had booked rooms in Amarillo a few months ago, and we stuck with them. Only this time, we did something different. Rather than stay out on Interstate 40, which we’ve done a bunch, we stayed in downtown Amarillo, at the Courtyard in the historic Fisk Building, which was constructed in 1927 and renovated into the hotel in 2011.

The hotel is 10 stories and sits right in the middle of downtown Amarillo.

Amarillo has a bunch of sharp-looking, historic buildings. The Santa Fe Building, the Paramount theater, the 32-story Chase Tower. I don’t know how much commerce still goes on. The Santa Fe Building is about 15 stories and is gorgeous, but it was abandoned for awhile and now is home to Potter County offices. The Paramount once was billed as the grandest theater north of Fort Worth, but now it’s a parking garage and office buildings.

For dinner, Scotty and I walked across the street to Acapulco. Viridiana Diaz works on the Thunder video staff and is from Amarillo. Earlier in the week, she recommended dinner at Acapulco, and turns out, it’s right across the street from our hotel.

We didn’t leave OKC until after 4 p.m. I had quite a bit of work, and Scotty was picking up his son from school. So we met at Scotty’s place in Yukon and took off about 4:15. My work wasn’t finished, thanks to Russell Westbrook. I had to write an extra column because of Westbrook’s contract extension, so Scotty drove all the way, and the time flew.

You can make it to Amarillo pretty quick when you’re starting out on the west side of the metro – it’s about 250 miles from OKC to Amarillo, and we made it in little more than three hours.

So around 8 p.m., we walked across the street to Acapulco. Big place, live music, not terribly busy, but got busier as we sat there, which I thought was interesting. The band sang in Spanish, was fine, but the music was a little loud. Good thing Scotty and I had said about all we needed to say during the trip.

Scotty had loaded fajitas – shrimp, been, chicken – and I had seafood enchiladas. Very good. We were well pleased.

I was back in my room by 9 p.m. and ready to watch Southern Cal-Washington State. Stayed up til the very end for quite a ballgame.

Amarillo is not as big as you think it is. The 2016 population was a fraction under 200,000. And the entire Amarillo metro area is only 276,000, which means suburbs are scarce. Canyon, home of West Texas A&M University, is about 15-20 miles south.

Amarillo became a major cattle hub in the 19th century thanks to the railroad. The Depression hit Amarillo hard, but some Dust Bowl highways, including Route 66, made Amarillo into a tourist stop, and it remains so today. A legion of Oklahomans know Amarillo well, as a major stop on the way to Colorado or New Mexico.

Now Amarillo is home to Pantex, the nation’s primary nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly plant. It sits 17 miles outside Amarillo, which not surprisingly doesn’t tout Pantex that much.

Many times I’ve wished Texas Tech had been placed in Amarillo. I like Lubbock, but Amarillo would be just as good if it had a major university, and it would knock two hours off the trip to Tech games.

Jet Luxury at the Trump SoHo

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