Flat as a Panhandle

Yesterday, I arrived in Amarillo, Texas, to visit an amazing state park called Palo Duro. The park is a giant crack in the flattest land I’ve ever seen and looks a lot like the Grand Canyon. I went to the park with a plan to hike the trail to Lighthouse Rock until I learned in real time that getting to the trailhead requires driving down a very scary road into the canyon. One of my best driving skills is finding a way to turn around on a narrow mountain road with no pull outs while I am feeling terror. As I was finding a way, several large RVs towing jeeps went by on the other side of the road, which was annoying. Anyway, even though I never got down into the canyon, I’m sharing this information because Palo Duro is beautiful from the rim, and you might not think the road to the trailhead is scary. So. Highly recommended!

Lighthouse Rock in Palo Duro Canyon State Park
I got this shot from the Visitor Center at the top of the road into the canyon

Not at the bottom of a giant crack in the flat land is Cadillac Ranch, just off Route 66 near Amarillo. A rich local named Stanley Marsh 3 funded this project that features vintage Cadillacs buried nose-down in the Texas clay, and it was conceived and constructed by a group of San Francisco artists called the Ant Farm. The project was immediately vandalized, which the artists welcomed as a form of public participation. Forty-seven years later, it’s still ok to steal a tire, or spray paint your kid’s name on the hood. I might have done one of those things if it hadn’t been snowing. Anyway, it was fun just standing in front of a bunch of psychedelic cars sprouting like spring flowers from the barren plain.

Cadillac Ranch, a classic bit of Route 66 art that attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Although Palo Duro and Cadillac Ranch are great, they are anomalies here and don’t really define the Panhandle. Horses and cattle do. You know that because you can smell them everywhere! Plus Amarillo spells its name with two little cowboy boots instead of L’s. And the clerk at Palo Duro gift store says everyone in town has a horse hair key chain. So, in the spirit of getting an “immersive local experience,” I went horseback riding on flat ground where cattle live. It was great!

Other than that, Amarillo, meh. Until the Quarter Horse Museum reopens, I guess I need Brad.

36 comments

  1. Howdy Kim. What? a pilgrimage to Amarillo and not to Lubbock which is the HUB of the South Plains and where I am a third generation born and raised?? haha. Glad you got to Palo Duro (translated as hard wood) as it IS really special. Anyhoo, if you can bear any more TX, I’m sure my cousins would put you up in Lubbock if you’ve been vaccinated. Snow in March though? That is loco. And I wish your photo of Cadillac Ranch didn’t show all the empty spray cans but that is TX for ya.

    1. Thanks for the offer — I’m leaving Texas now! May I should publish my itinerary in advance because so many readers have contacted me with ideas of what to see and people to meet. But so far it’s mostly been in my rear view mirror. Big hugs.

    2. Actually Amarillo is the hub to most all locations in the south, because all major highways converge and send you out all over. Even to Montana. Most trucks driving from coast to coast come through Amarillo.

      1. Good to know — it’s these kinds of details that visitors can’t get unless they spend some time getting to know a place. And come to think of it, you describe how I got to Amarillo!

      1. Yes and someone told me the cans are there for others who might want to “participate” but didn’t know to bring their own paint. It’s all part of the creative process I guess!

    1. The Cadillac Ranch is a Texas thang. If your not from Texas you won’t enjoy much. Texas is a country of is own. Texas flag still is waved the same heights as an American Flag. The Texas capital building is 3 or 4 inches taller than the White House. Texan’s made sure of that. There are so many thangs and facts about Texas just ask any Texan, they tell ya.

  2. Very nice photos. Lighthouse Rock looks amazing in the pic so I imagine in person is must be truly awesome.

    Did you get a horsehair keychain… and, if not, why not? 🤔🙄🤪

    1. Nope! I ate all my vegetables, first from granddad’s farm/ranch and eventually, trying to make my new ‘air fryer okra as good as those good ol’ memories. And as are the memories, always delicious. (FYI, so we’re the steaks and sausages.)

  3. Ya really aughtta get to the Lighthouse Rock. It’s a great experience of the canyon’s view. Even if ya don’t get to that spot., tbere is plenty more canyon to see.

    1. I REALLY wanted to go to Lighthouse Rock and I was on my way when I panicked on that road into the canyon! Maybe next time, I’ll hire one of those jeeps to drive me down!

  4. The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon located on the campus of West Texas A&M University is a great stop on a cold snowy day or a hot day. It is not far from Palo Duro Canyon. Believe it not Amarillo has an art museum too. Amarillo Museum of Art located on the campus of Amarillo Junior College and is a great place to visit. There are museums to visit so one can enjoy Amarillo without dealing with the weather or the smell.

    The smell is due to cows. The Amarillo area ranches produce 30% of the nation’s beef and 88% of Texas beef. Those cows end up at feedlots which produce that horrible odor.

    Finally, I have lived in Amarillo most of my life and never even knew horse hair keychains were a thing. I’ve never met anyone with one either. I don’t want the hair of some dead horse in my pocket so I will skip that one. Since very few carry them it sounds like one of those tourists things like The Big Texan.

    1. Thanks for the comments! I wish I’d known about the art museum — I am careful about exposure these days but could do a quick run through for art. About the horse hair key chains — I suspect the woman who told me about them was the one making them LOL.

  5. Honestly I think you should really get to know more about the area of Amarillo better and learn more facts before you just start stating things. I was born right outside of Amarillo and lived here my whole life and it is a really beautiful place with lots of beauty everywhere. And as far as the Cadillac ranch that is not the facts of how it was made and everyone of the cars were new when they was buried and still have the motors in them that is why they are in order by the year. Anywho! I’m glad that you decided to come through and next time I hope you stay longer and learn a little more about us and what is around. Have blessed travels…

    1. You are absolutely right that we can’t get to know a place in a couple of days. Glad for the additional information about Cadillac Ranch. I only know what people share! Thanks for your comments.

  6. I have lived in Amarillo for 55 years. I have never stopped at the Cadillac Ranch because yes, it is an eyesore. Pretty much only people from out of state do that. First time I drove down into the canyon I was 15 years old and just learning to drive. It’s no big deal. I did it yesterday.

  7. You missed a wonderful experience by not driving to the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon. There are several campgrounds with hookups for RVs & tents. We spent a week at the bottom camping in our RV & loved it! There is a trail behind the cafe at the bottom with a bird blind with water & birdseed. Great for bird photography! We drove down that road pulling a 34′ fifth wheel. Okay, my husband drove & I closed my eyes!

  8. Cadillac Ranch was created by Stanley Marsh a rich eccentric man in Amarillo. Facts should be known before writing an article about it.

    1. Thanks for the information. I read half dozen articles before I wrote about Cadillac ranch — and of course, I can only report on the facts others have written or shared with me since I wasn’t a witness myself. I’ve modified my posting to acknowledge there isn’t a single version of who build it, which is a fact 🙂

  9. Hippies from California???? Uhhhhh no! Stanley Marsh 3….not the swellest character from these parts but it was his doing that Cadillac Ranch came about. Itvwas also his vision to move them 1 mile east sum 25 years ago or so. Ant Farm hippies. HAAAAA

    1. Well, I have to say, the only people who have ever shamed me on my own blog are from Texas. LOL. I admit I might be wrong but it’s not for lack of research. I’ve changed the narrative again to avoid future trolling. 🙂

    2. Did my homework. The Ant Farm built Cadillac Ranch. Marsh funded it. Check out the articles I’ve attached for the facts.

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