It's another edition of Travel Tips Tuesday! Please join my co-host Walkingon Travels and I as we share our travel tips and invite you to share your travel tips. Link up before and spend some time sharing the travel love.
Driving through the panhandle town of Amarillo looks much like any other town from the highway, but as soon as the city runs out, the landscape changes back to the tell-tale flat barrenness of the wide stretch of plains. It’s here that old Route 66 passes Cadillac Ranch, an extraordinary piece of modern art that includes collection of ten Cadillacs built between 1949 and 1963. The cars chronicle the rise and fall of the recognizable tail fin, and though it was dreamed up after the decline of the Mother Road the unique work captures the spirit of roadside Americana.
The installation was conceived in 1974 by eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, an Amarillo native who made his money in helium and thinks that Roman numerals are pretentious. Marsh contracted The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, who assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles. The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids.
There aren’t any signs or directions to point visitors to the nearly 40 year old site, but that doesn’t stop the hundreds daily who pull off, with spray paint in hand to pay homage to the “bumper crop.” The appeal of the attraction is hard to pinpoint. It could be the interactive, yet temporal nature of the spray paint art, or perhaps it is just impossible to see ten cars with their tails thrust towards the heavens without stopping to take a closer look.
Where is Cadillac Ranch and how do I get there?
Cadillac Ranch is located on I-40 between exits 60-62. Access the site via the two way service road. Park along the side of the field and just let yourself in the gate.
Can I really spray paint the cars and where can I get the spray paint?
Although making your mark is optional, it is a big part of the appeal of Cadillac Ranch and is perfectly acceptable. Most travelers bring their own spray paint, but you can take your chances and usually find a discarded can that has a blast or two left at the site. If you want to purchase spray paint, you can do so at the Home Depot in town, where they reportedly sell more spray paint than any other Home Depot in the country.
Did the artists intend for visitors to spray paint the cars?
It’s hard to say. When the Cadillacs were first installed they sported their original banana yellow and teal blue colors with shining chrome. Over the years people began to take pieces of the car and adding graffiti. The artists don’t seem to mind, though. Stanley Marsh says that he thinks the cars look better every year.
Any other practical tips for visiting Cadillac Ranch?
Here are just a few common sense and common courtesy tips for visiting the ranch. Pick up after yourself (there’s a dumpster outside the gate) or offer half empty cans to another visitor. Don’t mess with Texas, even if everyone else is doing it. Be sure to stand downwind, especially on a windy day and take care not to touch or lean on any of the cars, if you care about your clothes. Baby wipes or rubbing alcohol will remove any stray marks on skin. If there has been any rain (which is rare) expect puddles and mud around the cars.
How long will my art last? Can I come back and find my name on my next visit?
Not likely. This is a very temporal and evolving form of art. Most graffiti does not last longer than 24 hours before it is covered over and replaced by the next layer of paint. Take a picture and enjoy your 15 minutes of art acclaim.
How long will Cadillac Ranch last? Is it in danger of being torn down?
Under the shroud of child molestation charges against Stanley Marsh, there is a grassroots movement among lawyers and alleged victims to have the artwork removed. Whether or not Mr. Marsh will be convicted remains to be seen, but his ownership of the art work has long ago passed hands in the both the literal and figurative sense. An art agency in California owns the creative rights to the work, and they will most likely work to ensure that it continues to belong in small part to everyone who stops to take a look. As long as the Krylon coats can keep the rust at bay, visitors will continue to enjoy the art for years to come.