Heading East

Amarillo, TX

As much as we were enjoying spending time in our home in Boulder City the past two months, it was soon time to head east in the motorhome.   We headed out on the first of June taking US 93 south to Kingman, AZ where we picked up I-40 east.  We completed two long travel days (about 350 miles each) with stops overnight in Holbrook, AZ and Santa Rosa, NM.   Those drives were too long so we cut down our drive on the third day to 150 miles and settled in at the Oasis RV Park, just outside Amarillo, TX.  We took a site for two nights to give us a chance to rest a bit and check out an interesting state park nearby.

Oasis RV Park near Amarillo, TX

The first thing you see when you enter this RV park is a motorhome buried nose-first in the ground.

That’s because just a couple of miles from the park, along the south side of I-40, is a weird roadside attraction called Cadillac Ranch.

Cadillac Ranch was invented and built in 1974 by a group of art-hippies from San Francisco.  They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh.  He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin.  Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high.

The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars. They are stripped to their battered frames, splattered in day-glo paint, barely recognizable as automobiles.  We found the site to be less than interesting (the cars are unrecognizable and the place is covered with old spray paint cans since the public is invited to paint the cars) but other visitors seemed to be quite impressed.

Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) have stayed in this area before and told us about an interesting little state park just south of the city.  We drove about 20 miles south of Amarillo over flat, open prairie before arriving at a deep canyon called Palo Duro.

Palo Duro Canyon (from the Spanish meaning “hard wood”) has been called  the “Grand Canyon of Texas” both for its size and for its dramatic geological features, including the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls similar to those in the Grand Canyon.  It’s the second-largest canyon in the United States and is roughly 120 miles long and has an average width of six miles. The average depth is around 820 feet, but in some locations it increases to 1,000 feet.

The canyon is now a Texas state park that contains campgrounds, hiking trails, a visitor center, and a beautiful amphitheater.  A ranger at the visitor center gave us information on a nice two mile round trip hike that would give us a great view of the canyon.

We drove about a mile from the visitor center and parked along the side of the rode at a trailhead for the CCC Trail (The Great Depression era CCC built the visitor center and many of the park’s trails).

The winding park road below the trail

Small trail guide (he tried to sell us some insurance)

Canyon walls are quite colorful

End of the trail

The Pioneer Amphitheater below us

The park has a performance called “Texas” that is put on in the amphitheater Tuesdays through Sundays in the summer.  The program features the stories, struggles and triumphs of early settlers. It is described as a family-friendly show that has singing, dancing, fireworks and lots of Texas humor!

Returning to the Jeep we drove the four mile loop road through the bottom of the canyon, enjoying the beautiful features along the canyon walls.

Large opening of a shallow cave

We returned to Amarillo and stopped at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.  The museum is located as part of the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV dealership.  Housed in a building behind the dealership showroom, this free museum has an impressive collection of vintage RVs.

For our Airstream friends…The World’s Oldest Airstream

One of the displays was a Starcraft pop-up camper similar to the one we owned in the mid-1980s.

After a long day of touring we needed a good meal, so we stopped at the Big Texas Steak Ranch for dinner.

The Big Texas Steak House is known for the 72 Oz. Steak Challenge.  Take the challenge and you pay $72 for a 72 oz. steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, with roll and butter.  Finish your meal completely within one hour and your money will be refunded.  Contestants sit at a raised table with a digital clock behind them.  During our visit one young man began the challenge.  We didn’t hang around long enough to see if he survived.

The next day we continued our journey eastward with stops in Wichita Falls and Texarkana in Texas.  We’re now in Vicksburg, MS to tour the site of a famous battle and siege during the Civil War.

More on that later (if the heat and humidity doesn’t get to us first!) . . .

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37 Responses to Heading East

  1. Laurel says:

    I saw Cadillac Ranch about 25 years ago…it looks like there are a LOT more layers of paint now! You got some beautiful photos of Palo Duro Canyon. We stayed there a few years ago and enjoyed the hiking, but it was hot and humid in October, too. Not sure if you’re going to outrun the heat and humidity heading east this time of year. 😦 That steak dinner sounds scary!!

    • placestheygo says:

      The cars were thick with paint, Laurel. There was a fellow selling souvenirs made from paint chips. People think of everything. We are not out running the heat and humidity but instead running right into it! But we will survive.

  2. georgeyates says:

    You are making good time and enjoying the sights, We were not impressed with the cadillac ranch either a few years ago, passed by the Big Texan but have never stopped for a meal. Keep in travelling safe and have too much fun.

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    You again have found some interesting spots to hike and a couple we can pass on. Traveling east sounds a bit like ‘jumping from the frying pan into the steamer’! Stay safe and away from the mosquitoes.

    • placestheygo says:

      You described our journey east correctly, Jeff! We hit the “frying pan and the steamer” when we reached Wichita Falls. We are frying for sure! No mosquitoes yet!

  4. Liked the hike, the cars not so much. Heat and humidity–UGH!

  5. Duane Wegley says:

    Cap Rock State Park, a few miles from there, we think is prettier and has a buffalo herd roaming the grounds.

    • placestheygo says:

      We had blog friends visit Cap Rock SP recently and it looked beautiful. But the temperatures predicted for our passing were 105 so we had to drive by this time. Thanks for the heads up, though, Duane.

  6. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw 350 miles. Wow! That is a hell of a long travel day. Glad you slowed down. I’m tired just thinking about it. I can’t tell you how many people have said they were underwhelmed by Cadillac Ranch, but you know you sometimes just gotta hit the touristy spots! The RV museum looks really cool and worth a stop though. Safe travels!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laura! Our eyes were popping out, as well, after our two days and 650 miles. It has been much nicer since we cut back, but it was good to get a big chunk out of the way.

  7. Karen says:

    We were also a bit disappointed at how trashy the Cadillac ranch has become though we did get a kick out of Combine City at a farm down the road where tractors are buried in a similar fashion. Also if you haven’t checked out the International Car Forest of the Last Church in Goldfield Arizona, it’s a hoot!

    • placestheygo says:

      I’m sorry we didn’t know about Combine City. It would have been interesting to check out. I’ve never heard of the one in Arizona either. Thanks for the suggestions, Karen!

  8. Gay says:

    Pablo Duro Canyon was a big hit with us too! We have stayed in Amarillo several times on trips headed back to Georgia. Always a nice stop!

  9. You have just given us a preview of what to do while in Amarillo. It is on our way to FL this fall and we planned to stop there. We may skipped Cadillac ranch but for sure will drive to Palo Duro.

    • placestheygo says:

      MonaLiza, if you stay at Oasis RV (which is very, very nice) the Cadillac Ranch is right down the road. You can’t miss it since it is right next to the road.

  10. Jim and Barb says:

    Your Amarillo experience almost mirrored ours to a T even down to your thoughts on each site you visited. Palo Duro is very cool and we wished we could have spent more time there.

  11. geogypsy2u says:

    I like the partially buried RV & museum better than the painted cars. Didn’t know about that canyon so I put it on the list if I ever return to TX. Which is actually unlikely. Try to endure the humidity.

    • placestheygo says:

      Texas is never high on our list but this was an interesting stop and it was so nice to get back on the trail. Glad we had one day in the 80’s and low humidity for a hike.

  12. LuAnn says:

    Palo Duro Canyon looked interesting but I’m not sure Cadillac Ranch would have done anything for me either. I feel sluggish just thinking about the heat and humidity. It will make you appreciate the west even more.

  13. Sherry says:

    Whew you’ve picked a tough time to head east. We stayed in Palo Duro in cooler weather and loved it. I think we were there hiking for a week. Didn’t see the Cadillac Ranch probably wouldn’t but the RV museum looks interesting. I always said I’d like to eat at the Big Texas Steak Ranch just to see if anyone could actually eat that meal. Just the idea is enough to make my stomach complain. Hope you don’t get heat and humiditied out. Actually what you’d better hope for is that it doesn’t rain every day after your cross the Mississippi.

    • placestheygo says:

      It is a tough time to head east but it’s a good time to visit the family while everyone else is out crowding the parks and trails. We made it all the way across the country without any bad weather. We were very lucky. We arrived in Atlanta for a week of heat and humidity and afternoon thunderstorms! That’s okay since we are parked.

  14. Jodee Gravel says:

    Making those long treks over familiar routes make for very long days, but sometimes you just need to get across those miles :-))) Palo Duro is on the list. We’ll keep an eye out for that insurance salesman! I would love to see the interior on that vintage bus from RV – I love that rig. Eeesh, hoping we miss the humidity when we get east later this summer – hang in there!

    • placestheygo says:

      This trek across country seemed so much longer since there really wasn’t much we wanted to see. We usually try to pick a different route and visit along the way so the trip is more interesting. This time it was just a mission to get across. Oh, well, we arrived safely to our first stop. I sure hope you have a cool less humid visit. Michigan should be beautiful.

  15. Chris Karas says:

    I’ve heard of the Cadillac Ranch. Now I know more about it. Thanks. The strange is always interesting. Palo Duro sounds cool, again, I think I’ve heard about it but never really knew what it was.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for join us , Chris! The Cadillac Ranch is most definitely a tourist thing. The only reason we stopped is because it was right along the road we took to town from our park. Palo Duro Canyon was a nice drive and a great spot to get some exercise with a view.

  16. Nancy says:

    I have heard of Cadillac Ranch! A place I would love to see.
    I enjoyed your salesman… he sure was green!
    Safe travels and enjoy your cool visits to interesting places!

  17. Nancy says:

    By the way… the temps have been fabulous with little humidity! (In our neck of the woods here in the east.)

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Nancy! It was so nice seeing the little”insurance salesman” along the trail. This was only our second collard lizard with all our hiking. Glad to hear your weather has been pleasant. But don’t worry, we are heading to PA in ten days so it will heat up! It had been perfect weather here in Atlanta just prior to our visit. The day we arrived the humidity and afternoon storms arrived and never left. We could really use some of the nice less humid weather to still be in PA when we arrive.

  18. Erin says:

    Love the look of Palo Duro Canyon. The last time we were close enough to visit, it was raining cats and dogs. I can’t even finish an 8oz steak … I think I’ll skip the challenge if I ever go to this steak house.

    • placestheygo says:

      Sometimes it is nice to have a reason to return to a place. Hopefully, the next time it won’t rain. I can’t begin to imagine eating 72 oz of steak. That is a LOT of chewing!

  19. Steve & Dianne Colibaba says:

    We’ll have to put Pablo Duro on our to do list. Got a chuckle from your tour guide selling insurance comment. Safe travels!

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