If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that Scott and I just returned from an adventurous road trip to Marfa, Texas. This was a trip I had been looking forward to for quite some time, not just because we were going to a location that’s been on my bucket list for years and years, but because this was going to be our longest time alone in over a year (and my first time to sleep through the night since having Parker).
I love road trips. When I was little, my family and I would pack up every Thanksgiving and drive out to Breckenridge, Colorado, and I would have so much fun watching the landscapes change right in front of my eyes. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t so keen on road trips. He would much rather get to the destination as quickly as possible. This is one of the things we’re working on — you know, getting him to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Anyway, with that side note added, I wanted to make this road trip exciting for the both of us so I spent quite a bit of time researching places to see and stop along our trip west (and south). The first stop on our list, taking us about an hour off of the “fastest route” to Marfa, was Cadillac Ranch, just west of Amarillo, Texas.
Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation that was created by a group of peace-loving hippies that moved to Amarillo from San Francisco, and Stan Marsh 3, a local billionaire who was responsible for funding the project. The thought behind the structure was simply to put something in place that would baffle locals – and they succeeded. At this time of conception (1974), the Cadillac automobile had received a face lift a few years prior that involved removing the tail fin. Moved by this metamorphosis, the hippies decided to pay tribute to the evolution of said Cadillac tail fin with this odd installation.
Ten Cadillacs, ranging in models from 1949 to 1963, were installed half-buried, nose-down, in the middle of a field owned by Marsh, located just steps away from Route 66. Once the installation was complete, passerby’s quickly took to defacing each one, which was surprisingly encouraged by the creators. To this day, 43 years later, Cadillac Ranch is more popular than ever. A part of me wonders if the San Francisco hippies and Stan Marsh 3 knew exactly what they were doing by encouraging the spray-painting, car-destroying aficionados because I really think that’s what has continued to drive the excitement around this destination.
As we approached Amarillo, we drove through an actual downpour for what seemed like 30 minutes or more. It was a downpour that had me clenching the steering wheel with white knuckles and my face was literally inches from the windshield. It was so stressful! I was hoping and praying that it would let up in time for us to really experience Cadillac Ranch, and thankfully (insert angelic harmonic music here), the clouds parted a few miles before we reached our exit.
The downside though, as you can see in all of the photos above, was that we were faced with a giant field of mud. We sat in our car as we watched a mother and daughter struggle to crawl through the fence in order to take a shortcut back to their car. On the other side of the entrance, we saw a family of four cleaning their shoes in a fresh puddle of water. Scott and I looked at each other and laughed in agreement about the mess that we were about to make, but we were ready! You can even see Scott in the photo below spray painting a heart. It was so cute watching him put “J + S” inside of it… it was like we were back in middle school.
What surprised us the most about Cadillac Ranch was the number of different nationalities that came and went during our hour-long time there. From French and German, to Canadian and Chinese, it’s utterly amazing how an installation like this, essentially in the middle of nowhere, gets international recognition and curiosity. Additionally, we couldn’t believe how many people passed through just during our time there (8:30 – 9:30 on a Thursday morning). We were never alone, but we loved getting to meet so many complete strangers, take their pictures and vice versa, and laugh about how messy we all were.
So despite having mud up to our ankles, it was such a cool thing to experience together. I definitely recommend stopping if you are in the area, or if you’re close to the area and are considering a detour.
Tips for a Successful Trip to Cadillac Ranch
1. Bring two cans of spray paint. One should be the color you want (neon pink, green, etc.) and the other should be a good base (white, silver, black) to spray on the car first so that whatever you spray in color shows up.
2. Bring paper towels or baby wipes to clean shoes and hands with after. (We were so glad we had these things in the car with the rain.)
3. In case of torrential rain: We passed a genius family that wrapped their shoes in small trash bags and secured them around their pants with duct tape. Genious!! So if you’d rather be safe than sorry, and you don’t want to go barefoot like us, bring duct tape and trash bags too.