Circle Bar Truck Corral is a true truckers’ oasis
Circle Bar was the closest place they could have it towed. After repairs, they weren’t financially able to continue the trip until their payday, which was a month away, and even after payday, they were still going to be light in the bank account. She said she took a chance and walked into the restaurant, explained her situation to the general manager, and he gave her a job. She had been working for almost a month, had saved the extra money they needed, and they were going to continue their trip the following morning. Stories like that always restore my faith in mankind.
Lunch was as delicious as breakfast. The club sandwich was huge (Texas-style) with thinly sliced turkey and thick fried ham. Hand-cut french fries reminded me of childhood and the yummy fried taters Momma used to make. My chalupas were served on a hot plate with refried beans (again, mashed and made right there on the premises) and taco meat that was juicy and flavorful without being greasy.
I even broadened my horizons by tasting the guacamole and I have to say it wasn’t nearly as gross as I thought it would be. (We need to remember that I don’t eat condiments – just tasting it was a huge step for me). The tortilla chips are also made on site, and the salsa is fresh every morning. Nothing comes out of a can in that kitchen. All in all it was a wonderful culinary experience and worth the price, which was just a little higher than we usually spend on lunch.
I asked the general manager if we could wander around and take pictures, and he not only agreed, he took us on a tour of the compound. He told us the story of his grandpa, Tom Mitchell, and how he built the truck stop in 1979 and kept it family-owned, even after being offered ridiculous sums of money from a couple of the big guys.
The Mitchell name is fairly well-known in Texas. Tom Mitchell’s father was a rancher, and Tom not only took over the family business, he expanded it thousands and thousands of acres. It’s safe to say in West Texas, you can’t throw a rock without it landing on Mitchell property. The cattle are all gone, the family keeps several hundred Spanish goats and some wild horses, but the land is mostly used for hunting now.
Mr. Mitchell was and still is a motor head. He loves fast cars, motorcycles and boats. It’s been told that he re-built his first engine when he was 12 years old. Throughout his lifetime, he has built everything from Ford engines to B-36 Bomber aircraft engines. His story alone could fill six or seven pages, but we’ll keep it short and say he’s a very interesting man.
One of the buildings on the property is a museum housing some of the cars and boats that were raced under the Circle Bar name. If you’re a NASCAR enthusiast, you gotta see this place. I’m not much of a fan, and I was fascinated.
After a tour of the car museum, we were treated to what’s known as ‘the desert oasis in Ozona.” As I mentioned before, there’s a motel attached to the restaurant, which is currently a franchise-owned and run by the family. The indoor pool has a lush tropical garden planted all around it, the humid air and green leaves are definitely a contrast to the dry, dusty land surrounding the area. It’s a wonderful place to sit and relax year-round, but you better book ahead, because the motel stays full.
The Mitchells were extremely gracious and kind with the time they took to show us around. I felt very comfortable and really wouldn’t have minded having to stay a few days lounging around the oasis, but we were headed to our own oasis in Ohio, so I’ll wait until next time, because there will certainly be a next time.
If you’re in or near Ozona, it’s worth taking the time to stop and at least eat, and if you have more than a few minutes, stroll around and get a load of the car museum. It’s definitely a welcome change from the sameness of the chain stops, we’ve added it to our list of family-owned spots we make a point to stop at.