Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX Photo copyright Ashley Landis

“Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s on my mind…”

I can’t say that I was entirely ready to leave Palo Duro Canyon (see last post), but I had far exceeded my 24 hour rule.  It was time to move on to the neighboring city of Amarillo.

First stop – Historic Route 66.

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Route 66 was, of course, the main driving route across America before large interstate highways were developed.  As the larger highways became more popular, the quirky diners, shops and bars were left empty and eventually closed.  Today, there’s a push to revamp the old route, and Amarillo is part of that movement.

It was lunch time when I came in to town, so I stopped at Smokey Joe’s to get a Green Chile Burger.

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The burger was okay.  About average, but I chose the place mostly because there was outdoor seating and it was about 75 degrees outside with 30% humidity.  In August!

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After lunch I walked around a little, hoping to find an interesting shop or two and do some iPhoneography.

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I went in to about 10 different shops.  My favorites were Copper Horse Antiques, The Mustard Seed, and Blue Sage Pottery.  All of those are definitely worth walking through.

When I ran out of stores, I headed over to check out my room for the night at La Casita Del Sol B&B.


This place is absolutely charming!  Bonnie, the sole innkeeper, is friendly and knowledgeable and takes wonderful care of this deceivingly large house.  From the front, it looks like a cute little casita, but it has four bedrooms to choose from, a large dinning and living area and a beautiful garden.

The house was originally built in 1926 and was owned by a few prominent Amarillo families through the years.  By 1999, it had been in disrepair for a long time.  Bonnie bought the place at an auction on the steps of the courthouse and there were no other bidders.  She kept the architectural integrity of the house with a complete interior reconstruction.  Now it maintains a place in the annual tour of historic homes.

I stayed in the Garden Room, which is perfect for one person or a couple, and has a lovely view of the garden.



Bonnie brought me in and made me feel at home with a glass of ice tea and some restaurant suggestions.  I felt very comfortable and relaxed there.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

After a bit of a rest, it was time to eat again.  I felt like Tex Mex, so I chose local favorite Leal’s Mexican Restaurant.  (Sorry guys, just couldn’t bring myself to try the 72 oz. steak at The Big Texan.)

Leal’s was alright.  I was a little disappointed since it bills itself to be an Amarillo original.  It looked like any other Tex Mex chain restaurant inside.  The food was good, though.

I had a real Amarillo original in mind for that evening.

My next stop was the famous Cadillac Ranch.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

In 1974, Texas millionaire and art-fan Stanley Marsh 3 invited Ant Farm, a collective of San Francisco artists, to create some art for his Amarillo ranch.  The result was a line of 10 Cadillac cars, ranging in model years from 1948 to 1963, out in a field, nose-down in the dirt.

The cars, which were near the historic Route 66, represented the golden age of American motor vehicles.

Cadillac Ranch has become a road-side curiosity, and a must-stop for anyone driving through Amarillo.

I drove out there (it’s about a mile or two west of town) around 8 p.m., hoping to get some sunset photos, followed by some nice star pictures.  The weather was still cool, but the clouds had moved in.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

When I arrived, there were several people taking photos and walking around, many with cans of spray paint.  This bothered me a little.  It wasn’t the graffiti, because it was clear that painting the cars was part of the whole experience – adding more art to art.  No, it was the cans.  They were everywhere.  Stuck in the dirt and mud, clearly just left there by tourists.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

To me it looked trashy, like these people were polluting an art exhibit.  It was difficult for me to get past that thought and see what I was there to see.  Still, I kept walking around with my camera and captured some of the art.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

The sun sunk lower in the sky, the steady stream of people died down and the cows moved in.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

I was setting up to get some night photos and the cows kept curiously smelling my flashes and playing in the mud around the cars.  They’re shy, though.  They ran away as soon as I got close.

In the dark, I walked around the cars, setting up flashes, trying to create unique images.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

You camera geeks will appreciate this.  I was using two flashes (a Nikon SB800 and an SB910) on stands with remotes, varying my shutter speed to try and get the best results.  I was off to one side of the line of cars, using an 8 second shutter speed when a swarm of mosquitoes surrounded me.  I had just clicked the shutter, but picked up my camera on the tripod (which was set low to the ground), and rushed away from the spot while my shutter was still open.

I looked at the image on the back of the camera and noticed some really cool light streaking from the city lights in the back ground.  It sorta looked like graffiti.  Kinda like the graffiti on the cars!

I framed my shot to have the cars in the lower half of the frame, clicked the shutter, which triggered the flashes to expose the cars, then moved the camera around to create light streaks in the top of the frame from the city lights in the background.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX Photo copyright Ashley Landis

While experimenting, I got an eerie feeling that I wasn’t alone in this dark field.  I got that paranoid, hair sticking up on the back of my neck, hyper-aware, defensive feeling.

About two minutes later, I saw a flash light moving toward me from the road.  I grabbed my heavy-duty Maglite and braced myself for whatever, whoever was coming.

“Hello,” said the male voice behind the flashlight.  I said hello back.  “What are you doing?  Taking pictures?”  he asked.  I flashed my flashes so I could get a quick glimpse of who was talking to me and I answered, “yes.”

He and two other guys came closer.  They were young, and seemed somewhat friendly, but my guard was still up.  There were three of them and only one of me.

The guy with the flashlight explained that he was there to check on the property.  “Stanley Marsh was my grandfather,” he said.

Oh!  Cool!

Trevor Davidson, the 17-year-old grandson of Mr. Marsh, and his friends had taken on the role as caretaker of Cadillac Ranch since Marsh passed away a few months ago.  Davidson was a pleasure to chat with, sharing personal memories about his grandfather and how passionate he was about art.

Davidson shares that passion and it’s obvious that he has taken on his grandfather’s legacy as his own.  It’s so nice to know that this classic road-side landmark will be well taken care of for a very long time!

He and his friends posed for a quick portrait for me while we were there.  Davidson is in the middle.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TXPhoto copyright Ashley Landis

After our chat, I decided it was probably best for me to not be in a dark field by myself for any longer that night, so I headed back to La Casita.

I woke up early the next morning, well before sunrise, so I could make it to my first appointment – horseback riding with Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West.  But first, I had a lovely breakfast with Bonnie.  I munched on fruit, eggs and English muffins with home made jam while she told me the story about how she acquired and renovated La Casita Del Sol.

When I had my fill of breakfast, I put on my boots and hit the road to Los Cedros Ranch, near Palo Duro Canyon.  I was excited to ride a horse around the rim of the canyon, just like a real cowgirl!

I drove through the gate and Phyllis (Phyl) waved me in.  I parked and got out of my car to a few distraught sentences, starting with, “I’m sorry, but we have to cancel our ride for today.”

What?  Oh no!

“We can’t find the horses,” she said.  “You’re welcome to stay and walk around a little, but I need to stress that this is very serious.  We need to find the horses.”

I paused and said, “well, I’m a photographer, would you mind if I just walked around and took a few pictures?”  She said okay, so I grabbed my camera.  Before I could take three steps toward the barn, she said, “why don’t you get in the truck and you can help me look.”

She didn’t have to ask me twice.

We drove to one place and I followed her out of the truck to the edge of the canyon.  No sign of them.


We drove to another location and another, keeping an eye out, but still no trace.  She explained that here had been reports of horse thieves and it was clear that Phyl was extremely worried.

Before too long we heard noise coming from the barn.  Phyl’s husband and the ranch hand found the horses!  They jumped the cattle guard and wandered over to a pond.  They would have been easy to spot, had it not been dark when they looked there the first time.

What a huge relief!

The rest of the group who signed up for that morning’s ride had gone home, so Phyl and her ranch hand set up to give me a private ride.



Bob the horse was kind enough to let me saddle-up, even though my riding skills are pretty lacking.

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Phyl led me around, telling me the history of Palo Duro Canyon (see last post), while I took in the beautiful views.



The ranch hand even showed me a trick or two.


It was a wonderful morning, and Phyl offered to let me stick around for the day to shoot.  After going to bed late the night before, getting up very early and panicking about lost horses, I was exhausted.  I went back to La Casita for a shower and a nap.

Just before lunch, I packed up my things and drove down town to see what the Heart of Amarillo looks like.  No really, there’s a giant heart in down town Amarillo.  Marsh 3 isn’t the only on who appreciates art in this town.


There are also full-sized, painted horse statues in various places around town, but every time I passed one, I couldn’t seem to find a place to park.

Anyway, for lunch I ended up at Eddie’s Napoli’s Italian restaurant.  It was close by and I was hungry.  They have great lunch specials.  I enjoyed the chicken parmigiana.

There were still a few things I wanted to do in town, but I had run out of time.  It was almost 2 p.m. and I still had an 8-9 hour drive ahead of me.

Fortunately, the drive gave me plenty to look forward to.

Amarillo, TX

Amarillo, TX

Amarillo, TX

Again with the windmills?  Yeah, well, they’re so huge and fascinating.  Like controversial sculptures out in the middle of the Texas landscape.

I made it home safe, very happy with my adventures in the panhandle.  It’s worth the drive!

Here are a few links to help you plan your trip:
Historic Route 66  (restaurants, shops and history)
Smokey Joe’s  (green chile burger)
Copper Horse Antiques  (Route 66 shop)
The Mustard Seed  (Route 66 shop)
Blue Sage Pottery  (Route 66 shop)
La Casita Del Sol B&B  (best B&B in Amarillo)
Leal’s Mexican Restaurant  (Tex Mex)
The Big Texan  (tourist restaurant, home of the 72 oz. steak)
Cadillac Ranch  (the one and only)
Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West  (horseback riding along the rim of Palo Duro Canyon)
Heart of Amarillo  (literally)
Eddie’s Napoli’s  (great Italian lunch specials)

One comment on “AMARILLO
  1. jp thomas says:

    Ashley ,way cool photo of the light painting , like to have a poster of it ..Thank you for bring us yet an other wonderful 24intx ,

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