Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When Getting There is ALL of the Fun - Cadillac Ranch

I can't remember a time I wasn't in love with the thought of travel.  I was a preschooler when I watched my aunt board a tiny plane in Morgantown, West Virginia.  I wouldn't see her again for years.  I remember crying and asking why I was crying and why it made me sad.  The innocence of a child.  My aunt was making her way to Alaska to start a new life there.

Alaska became the far away place I originally found most interesting.  After all, I knew someone in that cold part of the world.

When I was seven, I was so excited because in my school in second grade we got pen-pals.  I can remember thinking Tulsa seemed so exotic from my small town in West Virginia where we had homemade lunches by a school cook in her 80s, no stoplight in town, and our Dairy Queen closed every winter because there wasn't enough demand for ice cream during snow storms.

I had two cousins who I adored.  Aside from being told there was a vampire living in the attic that adjoined my oldest cousin's room, I loved being at their home and being around them.  I o
ften got hand me downs.  I was chubby, so my pencil-thin cousin's clothes would pretty much fit even with the height and age difference.  Toys were cherished, and magazines were poured through.  My younger oldest cousin had a subscription to National Geographic World, the magazine for kids.  I looked forward to getting those old copies and looking at the photos, playing the games, and learning about whatever topic was presented that month.  It wasn't that I lacked for anything that I loved these hand me downs -- I loved them because they had belonged to my cousins.  So I would set aside my copy of Highlights that came in the mail that day to read an outdated article about new technology for those who can't see well.

In one of those magazines, there were photos of a roadside attraction.  Cadillac Ranch. Cars were perched in the desert, people could stop, and they could be spray painted.  I'm not sure why I thought this was the best thing I had ever heard of in my life, but I rushed to my atlas.  For Christmas when I was eight, Santa brought me a Reader's Digest World Atlas that was nearly as tall as I was!  When I finally found Amarillo, Texas on a map, my heart sunk.

Although I was often in Maryland as I grew up six miles from the West Virginia / Maryland border, even venturing to Pennsylvania was an even so extraordinary that we would send postcards home whenever we made the trek.  Amarillo Texas was just another spot on the map I would be able to read about but never visit.

I kept that issue of World for many years.  I would look at the cars and think how fun it would be to see that.  Whenever I heard of anyone going to be in that part of Texas, I always told them to visit Cadillac Ranch.  I wanted to live vicariously.

In April, I put together a trip to New Mexico using points I had earned from credit cards.  We could fly into Amarillo or ABQ (that big long state capitol of New Mexico that I can't spell.)  I decided we would fly into Amarillo because while we might miss a couple fun things in New Mexico, I could go to Cadillac Ranch.

As my husband followed the GPS' directions and pulled the car off to the side of the road on an access highway, I made my usual, "Is this it?" question.  Anytime I am underwhelmed, those are the first words out of my mouth.

It was cool to be there.  It was so windy I could barely see.  I wish I had worn goggles because of all the dust (and my hair) that was flying into my face.  I was wearing sandals.  I had dirt and pebbles in them.  The bring sun was already feeling like it was burning my forearms.

There were ten cars upended.  The photo from World made it look as if it was a huge graveyard of cars.  There was a rare virtual geocache at the art project, but I forgot to figure out what I needed to do to claim the cache.

I did enjoy the amount of spray paint that was on the vehicles.  The paint dried while dripping and it felt rubbery, a testament to the number of people who have visited over the years.

I'm glad I went.  Somewhere I thought I would never see had now become a memory complete with photos of my windblown hair.  The place itself was disappointing after having been built up in my mind for almost thirty years, but the feeling of touching a car was exhilarating.

I was visiting a site I had wanted to see since I could start reading.  In that exotic far away land called Texas.

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