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Ping In A Palace: Checking Canyon’s USA Today Find

March 10th, 2014 · Tags:Cities · Coffee Shops · Sports · Wi-Fi



The Wichita State Shockers were playing the Indiana State Sycs of the storied Missouri Valley Conference on TV this weekend, and one couldn’t help but think back to the golden age of WT … No not White Trash … West Texas … the college formerly knows as West Texas State University. The Buffs. Now, West Texas A&M … Ha … thank God that college kicked me out so that I will never be an Aggie!


Golden age? Yes. I was at the small college during two significant periods. One was the release of the film Animal House. And yes, living the lifestyle to imitate the “high art” of Animal House led to my invitation to leave … no doubt. But more significant than that, that period was the Golden Age because WT was a Division I, national basketball powerhouse back in those days in the Mo Valley Conference. I have fondly told many a surprised friend that my high school teammates and I used to travel to WT games in Amarillo to see The Buffs, led by a future NBA star, Maurice Cheeks (one time NBA assist record holder and NBA coach) squaring off against the Indiana State squad, led by some white kid named Larry Bird.


Mo Cheeks




That was basketball at its finest and perhaps WT at its best.


And many of you know there are other great things at WT … like that little old canyon up the road … Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in The United States … second only to The Grand Canyon. You knew that right?


Palo Duro Canyon


Here’s something you might not know about WT, WTAMU and Canyon, Texas. I certainly didn’t. Canyon has one of the best coffee shops in the entire nation. It’s true … I was visiting family in nearby Wildorado recently, wondering if there was anything I needed to blog about, before I headed back to Fort Worth.


There was. First, I learned that my nephew’s daughter, Lauren, was competing in a track meet at Canyon High School. She wasn’t just competing. She was making history for her team, The Pampa Harvesters. She was one of two of the very first wheel chair competitors to compete in a Texas UIL sponsored high school meet. She did great. She puts the shot, as I like to say … and she is quite a competitor.


Lauren Makes History


Well … any who … when I heard Lauren was competing, I made plans to head over to Canyon. That very morning, I also randomly saw a ranking of the best coffee shops in the country, as listed by USA Today. Having sampled the beans in 48 states, and several countries … I read the list to see if I agreed. There were some on the list I had already written about and concurred.


BUT … but, i had never even heard of Palace Coffee Company in Canyon. It certainly wasn’t there when I was removed from the student body at the hometown university. Well, I don’t think so … although coffee was not my beverage of choice at the time … I digress.


But, there it was — Palace Coffee Company — on the USA Today list and on the square in Canyon. I had no choice. I hopped in the PIngMobile early and hit up the Palace before Lauren’s track meet. False start! Ha … enthusiastically, I showed up ready to caffeinate at 7 a.m. Ha … there was no one there but me and an empty VW Hippie Wagon, branded with a phoenix and the Palace name.


Andrew, Kevin


As I tweeted that morning, “What kind of coffee shop doesn’t open by 7 a.m.?” Well … things may move a little slower in Canyon … so I went and toured the nearby campus. Lots of positive things happening over there. I had seen the new venue on the southeast corner of the college on a previous drive by … but never stopped (The First United Bank Center) .


That day there were lots of cars and something going on at the center — at 7 — even before the coffee was ready. So I parked, walked in and stood on line. Thank goodness I quickly asked what the event was … Ha … it was youth gymnastics … Not wanting to be the old guy at the kids gymnastics meet … I left.


Also, noticed a great facelift on a great museum … The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum — a great collection of neolithic stuff and oil boom stuff — was all bright and shiny. Wonder if they have any Georgia O’Keeffe works on display. You know she taught art at WT, right? (Yes, that was before my ever so brief academic career at WT …)


Panhandle Plains Museum


Back to Palace. This time, one of the baristas was opening the doors.


Well let me tell you … so worth the wait. USA Today … I concur, even though I hate to agree with you. As a journalism major (in my more successful go at college at Texas Tech) we were told that USA Today was probably the “death of the newspaper as we knew it.” Ha … we didn’t know it would be the Internet that would rip the entrails from the journalism industry. I digress …


So, this Palace … Right off the bat … FREE Wi-Fi … don’t tell anyone but the passcode is madhatter … which does take me down yet another of my infamous rabbit trials … When the coffee man told me “madhatter” a light went off. I remembered that a photo I saw once of Amarillo millionaire prankster Stanley Marsh 3 featured him dressed as a mad hatter. I asked if there was any connection. I have interviewed Marsh 3 a couple of times … and have always been a fan of his art and his creative antics … (the above-board antics … not the crazy stuff that has been in the news in recent years.)


Coffee Silhouette


No … “mad hatter” had nothing to do with SM3 … but it would have been sweet irony if it had. You see, when I entered the coffee shop, i had some reading material in my computer case. There were some farm documents and other papers my sister gave to me from my mother’s estate. One of the documents, strangely, was a plaintiffs argument in Whittenburg vs. Marsh … from a celebrated scandal in which Marsh 3 supposedly falsely imprisoned a young man …. long story.


Whittenburg vs. Marsh


Anyway … my mom was not a big fan of court proceedings. Why did she have a copy of this court document? I can only assume that she saw it somewhere and saved it for me, like she did Cadillac Ranch postcards and other things associated with SM3 … weird and quirky train of thought right …


(Ha … let me know if you’re interested, and I will send you a copy of the bizarre court document.)


So, I read the SM3 court document while I enjoyed Wi-Fi, had a black cup of coffee in some generic gimmee mug with some unknown company’s logo and I had probably the best blueberry scone in my lifetime so far. Why are scones hard as a rock at other baked goods counters, yet the ones at Palace are soft, moist and delicious?



I don’t like to agree with USA Today, for reasons previously mentioned … but this time I do. Free, strong Wi-Fi, a shabby chic boutique next door, piano on the sidewalk, great original artwork, a stage, a bench with lots of power outlets for students or bloggers and some awesome early morning sun if you count 8 a.m. as early morning …. and best of all, friendly people! The Palace gets 7 pings — perfect score.


Lastly … all this talk of mom and her papers and such made me a bit nostalgic or whatever … another item my sister saved for me was a copy of a book I worked on many years ago and had given to Mom. The book is NOLAN RYAN: The Authorized Pictorial History. And, it is a coffee-table sized photo book as the title implies … Well … Palace had a pretty good collection of coffee table books, but I was so enamored by this place, I thought it needed one more.


I wrote a little memorial to my mom in the book and left it there for others. Stop by The Palace and see if it is still there … Let me know, okay? What the heck … sign your name in the inside cover pages of the book too.


Know what I sayin?