It's an endearing phenomenon that towns many think are in the middle of nowhere become somewhere when people exercise creativity, put tongue in cheek and take advantage of that wide open space.
The best part is when those efforts take on lives of their own that their makers never anticipated.
|Cadillac Ranch. Photo by Judy Wells.|
The installation charting the evolution of Cadillac's tail fins (1949-1963) was the brainchild of Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, part of the Art Farm group of architects and artists. They approached millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 of Amarillo, who had a penchant for non-traditional art, and the rest is history. And 10 Cadillacs partially buried nose down supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
The afternoon we arrived it was relatively quiet for a weekend when 2,000 to 4,000 people are likely to drop by. During the week numbers are 1,000 to 2,000
|Take a colorful ride into the imagination. Photo by Judy Wells.|
|Spray on. Photo by Judy Wells.|
It's what you do at the Cadillac Ranch. Spray painting is what people have been doing since the installation was finished in 1974. The cars have been all white for a commercial, pink for the birthday of Wendy, Stanley's wife. All were painted black when Doug Michels died and in 2012 the installation became a rainbow to commemorate gay pride. Sometimes a coat of paint is added to give visitors a fresh canvas. It was about time for that when we visited.
|Focusing on art. Photo by Judy Wells.|
What I did was marvel at how people from all over the world had made a line of oddly placed cars their own. I doubt if any of its creators had any idea how it would be received or that the public would want to add their names, colors, thoughts or scribbles to its "bodies." The Cadillac Ranch has transcended itself and truly is a living work of art.
|Cadillac Ranch jewelry by Bob "Crocodile Lile.|
We didn't see the "Floating Mesa," another Marsh-funded project, a little north of Amarillo because atmospheric conditions were not right.
Then there are "The Legs."
|Photo from afar by Judy Wells.|
Yes, we did, even after being told it was a joke and the official-looking plaque wasn't. We persisted despite wrong turn after wrong turn. Not knowing exactly what to look for, we were driving right by them.
|The Ozymandias legs. Photo by Debi Lander.|
Then I saw the official-looking plaque and started reading. And laughing. Shelley might be rolling in his grave although he wasn't above pulling a prank or two himself. Perhaps we were both laughing.
In 1819, while on their horseback trek
Over the great plains of New Spain
Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife
Mary Wollestonecraft (author of
"Frankenstein"), came across these
ruins. Here Shelley penned these
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold com-
Tell that its sculptor well of those passions
Which yet survive stamped on these life-
The hand that mocked them and the heart
And on the pedestal these words appear.
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and de-
Nothing beside remains round the de-
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. "
"The visage (or face) was damaged by students from Lubbock after losing to Amarillo in a competition. A stone cast of it will be replaced when ready. The original is on display now in the Amarillo Museum of Natural History. Souvenir hunters have scraped off the bottom of the pedestal but archeologists have determined that it was as Shelley described it."
Can't you just imagine a group of beer-drinking students, surely an English major and an art major among them, sitting around coming up with a roadside attraction of their own?
|Photo by Judy Wells.|
Not all roadside attractions are equal but even the worst make for interesting detours and bring a touch of whimsy to otherwise ordinary road trips.