Grab A Rope, Saddle Up

Business plans Route 66 tours, ranching adventures


Sir Paul helped put Phyllis Payne Nickum out to pasture, and she’s very happy there.

Nickum retired in June from her post as Ambassador Hotel general manager to explore a different aspect of tourism that showcases Route 66 and the American West.

In partnership with her significant other, Ron Nickum, and friend Katie Bright, Phyllis has launched Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West. The business is offering two-day and weeklong tours of Route 66, Western attractions and ranching adventures on Los Cedros, “The Cedars,” ranch on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon she shares with Nickum.

Paul McCartney’s tour of the U.S. Mother Road and stay at the Ambassador in August 2008 “made me realize how important tourism and Route 66 really are,” Phyllis said. “We are focusing on the motorcycle tours and all of the Europeans who come down Route 66. We will divert them.

“We will grab them at Route 66, give them walking tours of Route 66, but also take them out to other areas in the Panhandle and give them a little experience of the West and horseback and Palo Duro Canyon.


Bright handles sales and marketing, and “I am the operations with the horses and the cattle and getting all the tourists together.”

She is the chef, too. The company has a Cowgirls Catering division, and Phyllis plans culinary tours and experiences.

“We’re doing the foods of Palo Duro Canyon,” Payne said. “We’ll basically start with the Spanish explorers and the Apache and Comanche Indians and take it historically through the West.”

She named potential menu items to include authentic ingredients, the corn and yams used by Native Americans and wild plum muffins. A chuckwagon cookout also is part of the plans.

The business will incorporate a number of local attractions, from the Kwahadi Indian Museum and The Big Texan Steak Ranch to a saddle-making shop and the Southwest Sixth Avenue restaurant and music scene.

Phyllis wants visitors to be able sit astride horses on the canyon rim “and, from a vantage point, a cliff, they can visualize everything that happened in that beautiful Palo Duro Canyon of ours. The obstacles that people had to overcome in so many different ways.”

Phyllis said she expects the seasonal business to run from late April through October. Spring Roundup and Western Vacation dates will be April 15 to 19 and May 6 to 10, according to the website, Reservations must be made 60 days ahead of the roundup.

You’ll find more information on the website and on the business’s Facebook page.

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