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Dan Jordan’s Wild World: Utah Adventure Part 3


Warning: Awesome graffiti photos from the Cadillac Ranch

By Dan Jordan, Jordan Photography and Consulting

If you’ve read my blogs about Day One and Two of my Utah Adventure, you know that Day One was all about bald eagle sightings and photos.  Day Two was supposed to be a travel day but I made a detour to a National Wildlife Refuge which resulted in few photos but confronted us with major weather challenges.  If you haven’t seen these two blogs, you can find them in the history of posts in the Wellsville Sun.

Bruce Hawkes and I embarked on a 15-day journey to Utah and points west May 6 for an epic photography adventure.  Day Three was planned to be mostly driving.  It did offer us the first glimpses of Historic Route 66.  As much as I love nostalgic Route 66 (old cars and abandoned businesses make for great photo ops), we had distance to cover (about 800 miles), so not many stops along the way.  Also, there were not too many photos taken this day.

We did encounter some interesting birds at various rest stops along Interstates I-44 and I-40, but I was more in a “recharge mode” from hours of driving, rather than “photographer mode”.  Bruce did capture some photos of new species (to both of us).  At one rest stop, I believe it was in Oklahoma, there was a display of a totaled car for a “seat belts save lives message”.  There was a family of sparrows which had nested in the engine compartment of the crashed vehicle.  They posed for me at length, giving me their life stories in the process.  I was pleased to make their acquaintances.

The real treat of Day Three was to be had in Amarillo, Texas.  Yep, we drove all the way to Texas on Day Three.  The plan was to have dinner at the world famous Big Texan Steak House, then visit the Slug Bug Ranch and Cadillac Ranch.  Why is the Big Texan world famous, you ask?  It’s the home of the 72 ounce  steak challenge.  You buy a steak dinner (72 ounce) for $ 72.  The dinner includes a shrimp coctail, baked potato, salad, roll and butter.  If you consume the entire meal (fat excluded) within an hour, the meal is FREE.  Sounds simple, right?  72 ounces is 4.5 pounds.  To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to 18 quarter-pound hamburgs……..then there are the shrimps and potato, etc. to navigate.

Our timing was off a bit.  The Big Texan was on the east side of Amarillo while our hotel and Cadillac Ranch were on the west side.  When we drove by the Big Texan (right on I-40), it was too early for dinner and the parking lot was jammed.  When I say jammed, I mean that it had overflowed onto the access road for I-40.  I suggested that Bruce try and make a reservation, which he tried only to learn that they do not take reservations.  So, unfortunately, we opted out of the Big Texan challenge (not that I was going to try the 72-ouncer anyways, I think a nice ribeye was more what I had in mind).  It turned out that the restaurant we chose on the west end was worthy of a 1665 mile drive (our total miles driven after Day Three)!

Anyways, the Slug Bug Ranch, a Volkswagen knock off of the Cadillac Ranch also got skipped because as we passed through Amarillo on I-40, there was a horrific crash in the east bound lane which had rush hour traffic backed up for many miles and more emergency vehicles on site or in route than we could count.  We would have had to navigate that mess to get back to the slug bugs (if you grew up in the 80’s you get this reference).

So, after checking into our hotel, off to Cadillac Ranch it was for us.  The Cadillac Ranch was a must stop for me on my previous tour of Historic Route 66.  It didn’t quite live up to expetations, however, it was really cool.  My return visit was pretty cool too.

Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 and consists of 10 Cadillac cars buried nose-first in an Amarillo corn field.  It was actually moved in 1997 to its current site, it was prevously in a wheat field closer to the city.  They figured that Amarillo-sprawl would overtake it, so they moved it westward. 

It is immensly popular with tourists and it seems, especially foreign tourists.  I heard a lot of languages during our hour-long stay, but none of them were English.  I was asked by a group of Italian tourists to take their photos on each of their cell phones (5 of them).  I don’t speak Italian and they didn’t speak much English, but since Spanish is a similar language, and I do speak that, as did they, we were able to communicate.  After a bunch of “passively posed photos” on their phones, I encouraged them to “act out” a bit for my photos.  The next photo is an example of what I got.  Not crazy like I had hoped for but not passive either.

I am a big fan of graffiti and Cadillac Ranch is a graffiti paradise. There is so much paint on those Caddies, that it literally is flowing off the cars and onto the dirt.  That’s a lot of paint.  In 2021, my daughter and I spraypainted messages onto a few of the cars.  Those messages are probably covered by a half inch of new paint.  Maybe one day, a future paleontologist, keen on figuring out our civilizaiton, will peel the paint layer by layer and find our messages!  I hope so, because mine were pretty juicy, if you know what I mean.

At Cadillac Ranch, we spotted a new species of bird to us.  Technically, it spotted us.  I heard this distinctive call, then another and another, each different from the last.  I mentioned to Bruce that there must be some sort of mocking bird around somewhere.  We could not locate a bird until finally, way off, we saw a great-tailed grackle on top of a sign.  It was making all the calls as well as dancing around showing its “great tail”.  Add another to the new species list.  (There got to be so many new species, I had to buy a bird book-Western Edition, later in the trip)

After the Cadillac Ranch, it was off to a great dinner at Twin Peaks and it was fantastic. A great way to end the day! 

Here are a few more photos from and around Cadillac Ranch:

Even the dumpsters can’t avoid the artists’ paint!

Here’s a close up of one of the Cadillacs.  The tires are still there, but have been dissolved away by the solvents from the spray paint.  WOW.

Lastly, this is not the iconic photograph of all ten of the Cadillac’s I had hoped for, but there were People crawling all over many of them.  I had to settle for half the iconic photo I wanted.

For the record, I filled up Eagle One with 87-octane in Waynesville, MO at a PPG of $ 3.259, in Verdigris, OK at $ 2.919 (lowest price yet), and in Elk City, OK at $ 2.999.  Average price for gas to this point, not counting that first fillup in tax-crazy NY was $ 3.228.  Oklahoma prices pulled that down by almost 40 cents.  MPG for Day Three was 20.73, and the trip-to-date MPG was 22.09.  Again, all Interstate driving pulled the trip-to-date MPG down by almost 1.5 MPG.

The photo tally for Day Three was a paltry 139, bringing the total for the trip to 1333.  The photo fun was about to begin the following day!

The next blog will cover Day Four, which includes our trip to the Grand Canyon National Park, and marks the beginning of several days of immersion into the National Parks System of the U.S. and “tons” of photos of incredible landscapes and wildlife we encountered.

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