122 miles N of Lubbock; 267 miles E of Albuquerque, New Mexico

The commercial center of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo arose when the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway started laying track in the area in 1887, a decade after ranchers began to graze their cattle on the buffalo grass-speckled plains. When the town was formally incorporated, the name Amarillo -- meaning "yellow" literally and "wild horse" figuratively -- was adopted from a nearby lake. In a little over a decade, the combination of the railroad and the ranchland led to the establishment of Amarillo's long-standing status as a cattle-shipping capital. To this day, the city "smells like money" most when the Amarillo Livestock Auction is in full swing.

While its agricultural roots remain the cornerstone of the local economy, Amarillo's location on a major east-west highway -- Route 66 until 1970 and I-40 thereafter -- has long made it a popular stopover for tourists, with a plethora of motels and restaurants catering to the cross-country crowd. Amarillo is fairly low-key and nondescript at first glance, but it's a pleasant, inexpensive spot for an overnight stay. Several of its attractions are must-see tourist traps, namely the roadside kitsch of Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan steakhouse. As a destination, Amarillo can be a fun place to spend a weekend, especially for those with a taste for cowboy culture.

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