The Road Less Traveled.
On the road again this past June, we covered a bit of the weirdest and funkiest route of America. Originally joining Chicago to Los Angeles, the mostly discarded route is now hosting several other numbers, such as 40 in Texas and New Mexico.
Staring from Amarillo (Texas), the best part of the road is definitely crossing the sculpture field known as Cadillac Ranch, where noses of ancient car models jut out to the sky in a dramatic effect. It looks as if some maleficent earth movement had swallowed the cars to their half. Reminiscent of those strange sinkholes swallowing roads and sometimes houses.
Classic Outdoor Landmark.
The fruit of a madman you ask? No, the art installation was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, all members of the hippie art group Ant Farm from San Francisco. Just by the side of the road, in the middle of a dry field, the cars are loved by locals and wildlife.
Now covered in graffiti, the large models have become a roadside attraction, just like the other quirky items along American roads (think giant pigs, Eiffel Tower, cowboys galore, largest pipe in the world, etc.)
At the beginning, Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh just wanted a piece of public art to surprise the locals. The hippie artists then invented a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin – 10 were driven into one of Marsh's fields, then half-buried nose-down.
A Living Art Project.
A symbol of the "Golden Age” of American automobiles, most of the exhibited cars were purchased from junk yards and metal scrappers and most cost about $200. The Cadillacs were buried in sequence from the oldest, 1949, to the newest, 1964.
The cars are now covered in paint of every color, as well as surrounded by thousands of spray cans discarded by the inkers. At least here, no police will chase them out and stop them, even if a sign clearly states “No graffiti allowed.”
Both Lord and Michels were architects, Marquez was an art student at Tulane University in New Orleans. Lord said that “Ant Farm was founded as an alternative architectural practice, kind of an experiment in an attempt to subvert normal corporate ways of doing architecture.”
Now wildly decorated, the Caddies are periodically repainted various colors: white for the filming of a TV spot, pink for Marsh’s wife birthday, flat black for the death of Doug Michels, rainbow colors for the 2012 gay pride day.
The last time the Cadillac had a fresh coat of paint, the new color lasted less than 24 hours without fresh scribbles. We were very lucky when visiting as a fierce storm chased away visitors and left us with a complete double rainbow in a black sky sprinkled with giant cold rain drops - when the temperature was 100 degrees a few minutes before.
The empty Texas panhandle part was then on the maps of things to see. We should add that Amarillo is also home to the fantastic Palo Duro canyon, the second largest one after the Grand Canyon. It hosts a funky and patriotic musical called Texas in the summer’s evening.
Bruce Springsteen had it all right in his own Cadillac Ranch (1985).
More on Route 66 here.
More on our road trip to follow, stay tuned!
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