Plenty of roadside attractions dot highway sides and interstate exits in the USA, most of them designed to separate the traveller from his money. They’re essentially ways for those who set them up to monetize their investments. Rarely is something built and maintained for the sake of just being art and an outlet for creative expression. Even more rare is for these attractions to create connections between people. Cadillac Ranch is different. It’s an organic, dynamic installation that fosters connections and creativity between people, who most often will never meet or have any idea that each other exists. But this is part of the charm, part of the allure of Cadillac Ranch.
We visited Cadillac Ranch on our way home from our honeymoon in 2011. We were driving back to Louisiana from Colorado and took I-40 through northern Texas for part of the trip. I’m not even sure how we became aware of Cadillac Ranch. I believe it was my friend Crystal who suggested it to us when she found out that we were passing through Amarillo, Texas, the home of Cadillac Ranch. Jeremy knew about it already, but I had no clue as to what Cadillac Ranch was before then. Oh but now I know. Oh yes.
Cadillac Ranch is pretty straightforward. It’s a set of ten old junked Cadillacs that have been planted in the ground, nose first, at an angle. While the cars started out in their original colors, vandals soon took to spray painting and carving words into them. But this is okay. In fact it’s even encouraged. It’s a badge of honor to bring your spray paint can or your magic marker to the ranch and tag one of the cars. From time to time, the cars do get totally painted over, typically in conjunction with special events or promotions. However, soon thereafter, the graffiti art starts again. These huge blank canvases laid in the dusty earth almost beg to be filled.
In many of these photographs you see people. This is because it was pretty packed when we visited. Even though Cadillac Ranch is fairly remote, it receives numerous visitors daily. Now, it’s not 100% remote. It’s actually on the outskirts of Amarillo, as I mentioned earlier, but other than Amarillo, not much else exists on that lone stretch of I-40. Further, while Cadillac Ranch resides on private property, it’s open to the public and is, of course, free of charge.
Cadillac Ranch has a huge cult-style following and references to it have even made their way into popular culture. The mystique and the simplicity of the concept draw people to it. Ten old Cadillacs nose-down in the soil has a way of making you ponder life. In some ways it’s an odd sight to behold, but the beauty of it is in its simplicity, in the devil-may-care dusty air that surrounds the arid arena. Cadillac Ranch is art. It exists solely for people to behold it and to leave their mark on it. And in this way, it’s one of the most interesting and unique roadside attractions in the USA.