West Texas Road Trip: Memphis, Turkey, Matador

Our next stop was Memphis. Texas, of course.

We were greeted by a scene from The Twilight Zone. There was almost no car or pedestrian traffic on the streets. Like in most towns, the courthouse (a beautiful old building) dominated the centre. There was a kind of fundraiser going on which consisted of four stands selling trinkets and one selling food (smoker included).  It had something to do with war veterans. It was the early afternoon and there was no one except us, a couple from Forth Worth and the stallholders.

We walked round the courthouse and, lo and behold, we came across a war memorial dedicated to the sons of Memphis who lost their lives in every war since the Civil War. There was the requisite Confederate soldier too.

Memphis

There wasn’t anything else to see or do in Memphis so we pushed on. The further west we went, the redder the earth became. Red and yellow. The drought was so severe that everything looked dead. Even the nodding donkeys were still. There were countless black patches all over the place left by recent wildfires.  Every single river we crossed was completely dry. Dust devils swirled here and there. Heat, dust, draught, road kill, a straight road without end: a typical Texas road trip.

The endless road

Turkey was supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip. Yet it turned out to be another Twilight Zone experience. Just like Memphis, the streets were deserted; the shops were either closed or closed down. It was a big disappointment. The streets signs were pretty, though. The first settlers found wild turkey roosting in the area and called the settlement Turkey Roost, which was shortened to Turkey. A wild turkey is this ghost town’s mascot.

We were excited to stop for lunch at this little cafe called Peanut Patch, which I’d read about in that magazine article. We didn’t have the exact address but in a town this size, with one main street, it wasn’t really necessary. We drove up and down until we found the building, only to find out that it now housed a local museum.

Turkey

Matador was a lovely surprise. This town is bigger that Turkey and more prosperous. It even has street lights and a grocery store! We checked in at the Matador Hotel. The 1914 building was lovingly restored by three sisters who are all retired school principals. One can imagine how efficiently the place is run. Their attention to detail, from the period furniture down to the chocolates on the pillows, is phenomenal.

One of the ladies recommended the Windmill Cafe in Roaring Springs for dinner. They do “Saturday night steak” from 5 till 9. We got there at around 7. Just like in the old Westerns, as soon as we came in, the –mostly senior- clientele stopped chomping on their steaks or talking and looked up and stared at us.

Roaring Springs

To Sean’s chagrin, Motley is a dry county. We ordered rib eye steak. Words fail me to describe this flavoursome, buttery, tender, delicious steak. Hands down, the best I’ve had in Texas.

Thunder cracked and reverberated inside. Rain began to fall, softly at first and then with all its might. Everyone looked pleased and hopeful. We started chatting with our neighbours. They told us they hadn’t seen rain since July 2010. Many ranchers were selling off their livestock because they ran out of last year’s grass and couldn’t feed the animals. At least the price of beef is good. But they will have to start all over again next year, buy new cattle, and start bloodlines. Decades worth of hard work are lost in the worst draught since the 1950s.

 

20 Comments

  1. Sophie

    I haven’t been in Texas in nearly 20 years, but I do remember the feeling of having landed in the Twilight Zone. So many places in that state I’ve driven through where no one was out and about. Just a few cars, no people. Eerie. And interesting.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Nothing has changed :). I agree, it’s eerie but interesting at the same time, it kind of draws you in.

      Reply
  2. NLM

    Truly, Texas is different, and all kinds of different, depending on where you find yourself. If you find yourself near San Antonio, let me know!

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Hey! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Reply
  3. Katie

    Rural Texas = rural province of Buenos Aires? 😉 Your post reminds me of certain small towns I’ve stumbled upon here in Argentina.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Oh, absolutely! That’s probably why I like going to the countryside, it feels familiar.

      Reply
  4. Blade

    Ah Texas, The state motto alone scares the hell out of you. “Don’t Mess with Texas!” and the mean it… Lived in Dallas for 10 years, sorry but I hate it before I even got there. Never seen a city so flat and dry… Texas is a different world all by itself…:) But I heard Austin was nicer, I never been and rather stay out of Big Texas all together. Great article Ana.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Don’t Mess with Texas indeed! I’m not in love with Dallas either -flat as a pancake- but I try to make the most of it while we’re here. I’ve been to Austin once, for a weekend. I rather liked the area along the river where there are lots of bars and restaurants. The rest, bleh.

      Reply
  5. Country Skipper (@countryskipper)

    Nice! I rarely stop in these tiny towns because on road trips we’re usually on the way to one of the bigger cities in Texas, but you make it sound like fun to make the tiny towns the actual destinations 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Since we already live in a BIG city, it’s a relief to experience small town life.

      Reply
  6. Jenna

    So flat!! What music accompanied the drive? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Flat as a pancake!

      Reply
  7. Vancouver Island Jeep

    The streets look empty and quite deserted. Not really an interesting place to go to unless you wanted a trip that can take your mind off your stressful life in the city.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      I agree. However, it was interesting to talk to the locals and to heard their stories.

      Reply
  8. Bill Chance

    Have you ever been to far West Texas? It’s incredibly vast out there, but there are some very special places. Some you’ve heard about: Big Bend, Alpine, Fort Davis. Some you have not: Balmorhea, Monahans, Boquillas. I haven’t been able to make a trip out there for a while but am planning on going later this year.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      No, we’ve never been that far west. Texas is so big, there’s so much to see and so here! Thanks for the recommendations.

      Reply
  9. Doyle Rowntree

    My wife and I had eaten at the Peanut Patch, but this was in 1997. We stayed at the Hotel Turkey on two different occasions that year (we were moving from Colorado to Texas) and both times had the evening meal at the Peanut Patch. Very good food. There was a couple running the restaurant, the wife did the cooking and her husband grew some of the items that were cooked. As I recall, she was originally from Austria. Five or six years ago we passed through Turkey and the Peanut Patch looked abandoned.

    Reply
    1. Ana (Ana Travels)

      Thanks for sharing that. It makes me think that that magazine clipping was rather old and outdated. Oh well, it was a fun adventure!

      Reply
  10. Tracy

    My husband and I ate at the Peanut Patch in August of ’96. I actually found your site trying to find out if it was still in business, hopeful that we could make the drive back to West Texas just for another visit. I’m sad to hear that it’s not, as the couple you describe is quite a pair….the wife quite a culinary chef.. I remember several courses (yes, fresh from their garden across the street) and a memorable evening with them, sharing a bottle of sparkly. I would love to know where they ended up and hope they’ve moved on to bigger and better things!

    Reply
    1. Ana (Ana Travels)

      Hi! Thanks for sharing your story. Now I wish they were still in business. Anyway, I’m glad you ended up visiting my blog 🙂

      Reply

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