June 13, 2018 Amarillo, TX
We woke up to a much cooler morning. It had rained quite a bit and puddles were everywhere. After checking out of the hotel, we loaded the car and headed back to Cadillac Ranch. 10 vintage Cadillac models from 1949 to 1963 are lined up, nose down, facing west, supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramids of Giza!
When we got there, I realized we would have been better off coming yesterday – the entrance gate stood directly over a trail of mud puddles, and the Cadillacs were no longer half-buried in the ground – they were now in the middle of a lake! The cars are covered in graffiti and visitors arrive with spray cans to add their own over the layers of graffiti from those who came before them. As we walked toward the cars, we heard the rattling of spray paint cans behind us, being shaken by a group of young people. Discarded spray cans littered the ground, which was disheartening, since there are garbage cans just outside the gate, and a few people had sprayed graffiti on the ground as well as on the cars!
Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, according to Wikipedia. The cars are arranged in order by model year, to show the evolution of their tailfins.
The installation was originally located in a wheat field, but in 1997, it was relocated by a local contractor to a cow pasture two miles (3 km) west so it would be farther away from the expansion of Amarillo.
Cadillac Ranch can be seen from I-40, but to get to it, you get off on a frontage road (the historic Route 66). Visitors are encouraged, although it is located on private land.
In addition, spraying the cars with spray can graffiti is also encouraged and the Cadillacs have thus lost their original colors, but they are now much more colorful! If the installation had been placed in a remote location, the cars could have maintained their original state, but that was not the artists’ intention – they wanted people to interact with it.
Periodically the cars are painted in various solid colors – once all white to film a TV commercial, once pink to celebrate the birthday of the wife of one of the millionaires who funded the project, and once black for the death of Doug Michels.
Occasionally they are painted solid colors to provide a “fresh canvas” for visitors.
In 2012, they were painted rainbow colors to commemorate Gay Pride Day.
The last time they were painted over, they lasted less than 24 hours in their fresh coat of paint before being attacked by spray paint again!
Well, no one was going to get near them the day we were there, although Dale did walk around farther than he should have in order to take photos at a different angle.
When he lifted one of his feet out of the mud, his shoe got stuck and he realized both of his shoes had sunk into the muddy quagmire so that they were mostly covered with the brown sticky stuff! He traipsed back to the car and removed his shoes and socks (also covered with mud) and threw them into the back of the car. The picture below was taken later, when he took them out at our hotel in Oklahoma City to clean them off!
I was not happy with all the dirty smudges made in the back seat of my (new) car as a result!
We headed through Amarillo again on I-40. Once out in the country again, we saw alongside the road a shuttered business which had tried to capitalize on Cadillac Ranch – and the cars (Volkswagen “Beetles”) as well as the building itself were covered in graffiti!
The next attraction was the Leaning Water Tower of Texas (1.5 miles east of Groom, via I-40 take exit 114, go north to Frontage Road – which is what they renamed Route 66 after building the freeway). This was a tourist trap – standing in the middle of a farm field, the old-style water tower was built at a tilt to lure drivers off the road and into the town’s commercial businesses.
After that, we continued on the frontage road (historic Route 66) to our next stop – Shamrock, Texas. The U-Drop Inn and Tower Service Station (101 E. 12th St. – Route 66) is an example of art deco design from the 1930s. The Conoco gas station gained more recent fame as the inspiration for “Ramone’s paint shop” in the Disney movie Cars.
That was all we expected to see in Shamrock, but we ended up taking pictures of several businesses with murals painted on their facades.
Even a garbage can was painted with a Route 66 theme!
Besides the colorful signs of life in this town, as on much of Route 66, we saw plenty of shuttered buildings, which also made me a little sad to see.
Dale speeded up as we reached the edge of town, but then I yelled, “STOP!” I had to take a picture of a typical Texas motel in which each of the guest room doors were painted blue with a white star in the middle. This, I could see, was a surviving (perhaps not thriving) business which seemed to be well maintained.
I took the photo above while Dale waited in our car, the Prius seen in the picture. I saw a half-dressed man looking out the door of one of the rooms and was going back to the car when he emerged from his room, having thrown on a shirt. He, as it turns out, was the proprietor of the motel, curious about who I was, and he told me the story about how the doors came to be painted with the stars and other local lore.
Our last photo opp in Shamrock:
Leaving Shamrock, we were only a few miles from the Oklahoma border. We got back on I-40 and sped on.