In their Author’s Notes, Jones, Hope, and Wooten note that “the characters who populate Sweetgum, Texas, should be portrayed as real people, not Southern caricatures.” That being said every local culture has its own eccentricities that can be a fabulous source of humor for outrageous characters like those found in The Red Velvet Cake War. Here are just a few of the larger-than-life sights you might find on a rocketing road trip through the Lone Star State...
A boulder that nearly caused carnage on a California freeway was transformed into a long-lasting indoor tribute to The Duke. Brett-Livingstone Strong, a 25 year-old new immigrant from Australia, carved the 13 ton rock into a very good likeness of John Wayne. Strong said that Wayne had volunteered to sponsor him for his green card. Strong called the head "Life-Time-Light" and sold it to an Arizona real estate tycoon, who eventually donated it to Lubbock Christian University, which in 1991 renamed it "Spirit of Independence" and put it in its library. It's been there ever since.
No matter how you slice it, 72 ounces is four-and-a-half pounds. That's a lot of meat and at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, it's free. If you can eat it in an hour. And here's the catch; it's not just a 72 ounce steak that you have to eat in an hour. You have to eat a 72 ounce steak dinner. That means 4.5 pounds of meat plus a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, and a roll with butter (The extras are normal-size). According to the menu, over 50,000 have started the Free 72 Ounce Steak challenge; less than 9,000 have finished. Only a handful of women try each year -- but they have a better success rate than men, and their number includes the oldest person ever to win, a 69-year-old grandmother. Other notable champions include pro wrestler Klondike Bill, who ate two 72-ounce steak dinners in an hour, and competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who ate his entire meal in less than nine minutes.
Standing along Route 66 west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by The Ant Farm and their silent partner, Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh III. In 1974 ten Caddies were driven into one of his fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle. People would stop along the highway, walk out to view the cars -- then deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were tolerant of this public deconstruction of their art -- although it doomed the tail fins -- and eventually came to encourage it. Tourists are always welcome at Cadillac Ranch. If you bring spray paint, make sure to also bring a camera. Because whatever you create at Cadillac Ranch will probably only last a few hours before it's created over by someone else.
All information, text, and images are from Roadside America.com.