Spraying graffiti onto old cars is not normally something Destination>Differentville would condone, but at Cadillac Ranch it’s positively encouraged – so tool up and get ready to hit one of the US Highway’s most fun stops.
When I was looking for an image that summed up everything Destination>Differentville is about I was stuck. I needed something eye-catching and that would fit in a really weird, long, thin shape. ‘Strange stuff isn’t panoramic,’ I said to The (sick to death of blog designing by this point) Boyfriend, adding ‘it’s not like there’s much odd stuff stuck in the middle of fields somewhere with heaps of land behind them’ – and then I remembered, there’s exactly that just outside Amarillo Texas. In fact, Cadillac Ranch, is one of the most famous odditys in America.
What is Cadillac Ranch?
Cadillac Ranch was created by an architect and two art students, with the funding of an eccentric billionaire (anyone know where I can find one of those?). It was put in a field on his ranch property back in 1974 as an art project – I wonder if at that point they had any idea that 40-odd years later there’d be more cars parked on the road outside bringing people to see it than lined up as part of the exhibit!
The original structure was ten Cadillacs plunked nose down in a row at an angle, Over time, local vandals started scrawling on them and ripping bits off the cars, but, rather than having a huge hissy fit and dismantling the thing, the Ant Farm (as the team were known) positively encouraged it as a way of evolving the art. Admittedly, the site the cars are in now wasn’t their original home, they were moved in 1997, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good tale.
We pitched up about 5pm as part of a huge road trip we were undertaking from Dallas, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Amarillo was a perfect stopping point on our first day – and Cadillac Ranch was the one thing I really wanted to see in the area.
At the time, I hadn’t registered I could spray the cars myself so I was most upset when I got there to find about 40 wannabe Banksy’s all letting rip with spray cans – seriously, if you weren’t in a fun frame of mind before you hit this place, the paint fumes could sort that out in a few minutes – and I didn’t think I could play as I had no paint
However, once people have let out their inner vandal, it seems to let loose their inner litter bug too and partially empty cans are everywhere – a lot of people complain about this, and at first, I also thought – uggh, but now I kind of think they add something – especially when you hear that when the site was moved, the Ant Farm team also brought all the rubbish and junk strewn alongside them to add atmosphere!
Plus, if like us you hadn’t thought to bring your own it allows you to join in the fun. It’s just a matter of finding one with some paint left in it and letting your inner vision shine through.
Don’t get too carried away with the art though – there’ are another 200 odd cars pulling up in the car park who are going to over-write stuff within days. However that also means your experience is never going to be the same as anyone else’s which I kind of like. Every so often the cars also get sprayed one colour, obliterating everything gone by and allowing the cycle to start again.
Destination>Differentville Tip: Check the Weather. We were lucky as we visited in June so the ground was dry, but if it’s raining before you, wear gumboots (or at least shoes you don’t mind getting muddy), the field the cars are in is now mostly dirt and it turns into something akin to Glastonbury when it rains. I admit, it doesn’t look as cool then as when it’s dry.
How to Find Cadillac Ranch
It’s just off the I-40 Highway on the Frontage Road about 11 miles west of Amarillo. You’ll need to leave the freeway at exit 60 or 62A depending which way you’re driving. The cars are set further away from the road than you might think so keep an eye out – there are often cars parked out the front to give you a heads up. There’s no real sign, just a spray painted metal ‘gate’ – that’s an extremely liberal description. You’ll also notice two signs either side of that telling you there’s no spray painting allowed past this point which is kind of a huge clue. Here’s a link to a map making the exact point. There’s no fee to get in and you’ll only need about half an hour here to take pics, have some fun spraying and head back to the car.
Where to Stay
If you’re on a longer trip, you’d probably want to stay in Amarillo itself – however, because we arrived late and were leaving very early the next morning to head to Roswell (of course!), we literally stayed at a motel on the I-40 highway. It was actually the perfect stop though. We picked the Staybridge Suites Amarillo-Western Crossing which had a huge room that I didn’t want to leave, was walking distance to a few different restaurants of the chain (and non-chain variety) an indoor pool and a few nice areas to sit outside. After a long drive from Fort Worth and all our spray can fun though we were shattered and literally sat outside by the fire pit with a beer and flumped. I’d done what I came to do on this trip to Amarillo and was happy – but I’m sure there’s more to do there. Have you been to Amarillo? If so, why not let me (and everyone else) know what I missed in the comments.
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