May 122014
 
wigwam-motel-CA










Kumar Patel grew up along Route 66, a highway long celebrated in literature, song and film. He was not impressed.

On his first long road trip, about six years ago, he found himself bored by the route’s decaying monuments, mom-and-pop diners and dusty museums.

“I hated it,” he said. “But I didn’t understand it.”

The journey to understanding started soon after that trip, when his mother started having health problems. She had been running the family’s Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. She could no longer run it alone.

So at 26, Patel took over, giving up a career in accounting to run an aging tourist trap that struggled to cover its costs.

Kumar Patel operates the Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. He has become a tireless promoter of the highway’s culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

Now, as a 32-year-old entrepreneur, he stands out among the typical Route 66 merchants, who promote such roadside curiosities as a Paul Bunyon monument, a blue whale statue and the Petrified Forest National Park. Such sites now are operated and visited mostly by white, middle-aged travelers, whose numbers are dwindling.

Unless Patel and other Route 66 business owners can attract a younger and more diverse crowd, one that matches the evolving demographics of America, the shops and oddball attractions along the route will shut down for good.

“If it doesn’t happen, we are not going to keep all of this alive,” said Kevin Hansel, the caretaker of another struggling Route 66 business, Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy. “It will be history.”

That history started in the 1920s, when the road was built to handle a surge in automobile ownership and a push by business owners to link the small towns and merchants of the Midwest to big cities. Route 66 became the nation’s main east-west artery.

In his novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck called it the “mother road” because it beckoned and delivered the refugees from the Dust Bowl exodus to jobs in California in the 1930s. Bobby Troup penned his biggest hit song, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” in 1946.

But by the 1950s, the narrow, slow-moving route was replaced in pieces by multilane, interstate freeways, designed for high-speed travel. Federal workers removed the freeway markers and decommissioned Route 66 in 1985, effectively killing business for the jukebox-blasting diners and neon-rimmed motels.

Today, with the future of the Wigwam at stake, Patel has immersed himself in that history, driving Route 66 himself, stopping to chat with his fellow shopkeepers and travelers. He set out on a search for insight into how to promote his business but ended up with a more personal appreciation of the route’s culture.

“That’s what grew on me: The people who shared with me their stories of the road,” he said.

When the Wigwam Motel went on sale in 2003 for nearly $1 million, Patel’s father, an Indian immigrant who ran another small hotel in San Bernardino, saw it as a good investment. It has yet to pay off.

Like many Route 66 businesses, the Wigwam struggles to squeeze out enough money to pay for improvements. It took five years to save up to renovate the pool area. Last year, Patel was finally able to afford a full-time maid for the motel. Before then, Patel and his mother cleaned and changed sheets while selling souvenirs and booking rooms.

“We still run it on a thin line,” he said.

With the Wigwam’s success tied to Route 66, Patel has become a tireless promoter of its culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

He set out recently on a drive to show off some of its peculiar attractions along California’s stretch of the 2,400-mile highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. He started from a rundown roadside hotel in Needles, in the Mojave Desert near the Arizona border.

Stars twinkled in the darkness. The only sound was the hum of big rigs bouncing off the blacktop. The best way to experience the road, he said, is by driving east to west. It’s the way the Dust Bowl refugees saw it and later Midwesterners, heading for vacations in Los Angeles.

“On Route 66 you find real people, real food,” Patel said.

He rattled off history and trivia as the car zipped past telephone poles on National Trails Highway — the name now given to the portion of Route 66 that runs through much of the Mojave Desert.

A downed palo verde tree about half a mile outside of Amboy is called the “Shoe Tree” because it toppled under the weight of hundreds of shoes tossed on the branches by visitors. It’s a tradition that locals say was started by an arguing couple and continues today.

“The purists love this stuff because they don’t want to see things that are renewed,” Patel said. “They want to see the original stuff.”

Take tiny Amboy (population 17), once a bustling pit stop. Today, the only commerce happens at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. The cafe sells only soft drinks and snacks. The motel is closed because of a lack of water. The drop-off in business no longer makes it practical to ship in water by train. The ground has long been saturated with salt, making well water undrinkable.

Kevin Hansel, the caretaker, dreams of the day someone drills a well deep enough to reach drinkable water.

“Once we get the water, we can open the restaurant and the bungalows,” he said.

As Patel visited, about a dozen Volkswagen vans pulled in under the cafe’s giant boomerang-shaped sign. The VW road warriors were meeting at Roy’s before driving east to Lake Havasu.

Among them was retired welder Joe Stack, 71, of Costa Mesa. He has been taking this road trip for 10 years. When Stack’s daughter was a girl, she rode shotgun in his van.

But she is now 22 and not interested in the retro architecture of Route 66.

“Young kids don’t want to come out here,” he said, squinting in the morning sun. “Young kids are on a computer wearing their thumbs out.”

Route 66 travelers today have a median age of 55 and 97% are white, according to a 2011 study by David Listokin, a Rutgers University economics professor. Only 11% of the travelers on the road are ages 20 to 39, according to the study.

A few months ago, Listokin read the highlights of his study to a group of Route 66 business owners who met at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim to discuss the road’s future. Patel was there — among the few people in the room under age 40.

Patel stood at the front of the brightly colored Magic Kingdom Ballroom, urging his fellow Route 66 merchants to reach out to young travelers, the way he has done.

He hosted hip-hop, end-of-summer festivals at the Wigwam Motel, with DJs and strobe lights. During a recent Christmas, he threw a doughnut party and decorated the tepee-shaped motel rooms to look like Christmas trees. He’s volunteered his motel as a stop for a classic car show to raise money to restore a historic gas station in Rancho Cucamonga.

His work has won him the respect of older Route 66 advocates.

“We absolutely need that kind of thing that he is doing,” said Linda Fitzpatrick, 73, who is leading a campaign to restore the Needles Theater, a 1930s-era Masonic temple that was converted to a movie house.

Back on the road, just outside Barstow, Patel pulled up to an attraction known as “Bottle Tree Ranch.”

The forest of metal trees, adorned with colored bottles, was built by Elmer Long, a 67-year-old retired cement worker who, with his long white beard and floppy hat, looks like a ’49er-era gold prospector.

During the busy summer months, he said, his bottle trees draw as many as 1,000 visitors a day. But most of the visitors are international travelers. Each day, visitors leave Long a few dollars in a tip can.

“To them, the U.S. is a magical place,” he said, as traffic rushes past his ramshackle home.

The sky began to dim as Patel pulled up to the Wigwam Motel. His mother, who still helps Patel with the business, told him that two motel guests — young ones — were finishing a long road trip.

At the door of one of the tepees, Patel introduced himself to Emily Mills, 28, and her sister Anna, 25, from North Carolina. Emily Mills was starting a new job managing a Culver City restaurant. For the move west, the sisters decided on a Route 66 road trip.

They hit all the big stops, including the Cadillac Ranch, west of Amarillo, Texas, where junk Cadillacs have been thrust nose first into the earth. A few miles south of the ranch, the sisters stopped to see the statue of a giant pair of legs, more than 20 feet tall.

The Mills sisters also spent the night in another Wigwam Motel, in Holbrook, Ariz. — one of seven built across the country by architect Frank Redford. Only two Wigwams remain on Route 66.

“We wanted to tell our friends we slept in a wigwam and saw a giant pair of legs,” Emily Mills said as the sun set behind her tepee.

Guests like the Mills sisters are a good sign for the Wigwam, Patel said. Most Route 66 travelers zip through San Bernardino to reach the end of the route in Santa Monica, 78 miles away.

Patel can’t yet say when — or if — the Wigwam will ever become the moneymaker Patel’s father envisioned. But now he’s grown attached to the road, and sees himself as more than just a motel operator. Patel has become a curator of the Route 66 legend, a proud member of its cast of characters.

- By The Los Angeles Times

Dec 172013
 

nick-gerlich-route-66









Is there a doctor on the route?!?

Nick Gerlich is really one of a kind Route 66 roadie. Most of us know him, a lot of us have traveled part of the route with him, and not too many can claim the dedication on tracking and mapping of the old(er) sections of Route 66.

I met Nick like most folks: Via Social Media. I actually met Nick in person for the first time in Las Vegas totally by chance as we found out each of us would be there, the same day for different events. So naturally we set up a time and met for a beer (or three) and talked about one thing: Route 66.

From there out Nick and I have become close ‘roadies’ and we share in each others passion. ANYTHING I need to know about Route 66 throughout Texas, I know I can ask him.

I have traveled parts of the route in Texas with Nick (3) times now and each time all for different reasons. I always try my best to see Nick if I know either one of us are within a few hundred miles from each other.

He has such a vast knowledge of everything Route 66 and his intentions are nothing but pure, and I admire that.

He is a fellow lecturer, has been on TV and in print as well as many other formats to share his passion for the route, so it almost seems he and I are running parallel lives (if not missions) for Route 66.

And he seems to always have his mountain bike in the back of his van to hit the parts of the route when a car just simply won’t do!

You can check out his website at www.drgerlich.com or his Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/nickgerlich

Mar 042013
 





The very best thing one can do to support Route 66 is to travel it. Period.
A traveler can stop and visit restaurants, motels, gift shops and so on, and so on – and by purchasing items, meals, overnight rooms, this is the best way to make sure the route not only ‘stays open’ – but grows as well.

So, what if you can’t get out and travel the route (anytime soon at least)? Do what I do: Support the different Route 66 associations.

I have been (and still am for the most part) a ‘business member’ of most of the Route 66 State Associations. I believe in what they stand for on a smaller level as they concentrate only on their state, with once in a while crossing state lines to help a neighboring project on the route.

I am also a fan of any national Route 66 associations or alliances – but the state level is where I like to be. All in all: They all have their purpose.

I have created a link with all the different associations so you can check them out yourself. I enjoy getting all the news letters and info either mailed to me or even Emailed to me and I always try to help them any way I could.

The only ‘downer’ I have is I was surprised on how many folks who are sort of the ‘who’s who’ of the route do not support these associations – even if only in their own state the route runs through. There may be a slew of reasons and I do not want to name names, I just hope they will see the example so many other folks have become members to support the route in yet another way.
I believe those who are in the ‘know’ should always be a great example of how to do the right thing on the route by supporting it. Hopefully we can get a few more members on board!!

Route 66 Association of Illinois

Route 66 Association of Missouri

Kansas Historic Route 66 Association

Oklahoma Route 66 Association

Texas Route 66 Association(They do not have an active website)

New Mexico Route 66 Association

Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona

California Historic Route 66 Association

National Historic Route 66 Federation

Nov 122012
 




This is our third guest article on Route 66. This one focuses on the ‘winter’ of, or ON, Route 66!

Traveling down the historic Route 66 is a unique way to get your family together during the Christmas holiday. Gather the troops from across the country and reconnect on the old historic “Mother Road” that, at one time, was best passageway from the Midwest to the West.


Drive through the streets of a fabulous world of kitschy Americana, follow each other in a caravan of cars or pile in an RV (try to avoid motorcycles during winter — it can get cold!). Each little town you pass has a legend attached to it. You may find yourself touring an old school house, visiting a nostalgic ice cream shop and looking over your shoulder in one of the many ghost towns along the tour. With the wind in your hair and not a worry in the world, this will be the best Christmas EVER!

Step into a history rich with roadside attractions, neon signs, rusty gas stations, 50s diners and vintage motels. It’s all part of the experience, part of the adventure. What do you need to know and where do you go?

Driving Tips

  • Be sure you have appropriate car insurance (with roadside assistance) so you are 100 percent protected and carefree on your journey.
  • Don’t advertise you are away from home. When in a city with inhabitants, keep your maps out of plain sight when stopped and use the truck stops if in need of rest — they are generally the safest place to rest your eyes.

Great Idea No. 1

Before you go on this fabulous family vacation, make a playlist of Christmas songs and old country driving tunes (Willy Nelson would be a great choice). Burn it to a few disks and bam! Christmas gifts, done! You’ll be singing all the way from Amarillo to Tucumcari. Pair that with the EZ66 Guide for sale at Route 66 World Bookstore and Roadfood and you’ll be on your way to worry free holidays.

Great Idea No. 2

Roadfood. It’s a must-get book. Ever wanted to eat at little off the beaten path at classic regional restaurants but don’t know how to find them? This book was written by a couple who went on a country-wide trip, finding and rating the best unknowns. While the directions are good, a navigational device is extremely helpful.

Fun Places to Stop

Christmastime along the Route 66 is vibrant with life and lights. It’s quirkiness illuminates with decorations aglow.

  • Chain of Rocks Bridge — Constructed in 1929, the bridge crosses the Mississippi from Alton, Ill. to St. Louis, Mo. and has a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long bridge, according to nps.gov. Today, it has trails for walking and biking — fun for the whole family.
  • The Blue Whale — Sitting in Catoosa, Okla. is an 80-foot long smiling blue whale that Hugh Davis built for his whale-collecting wife, Zelta, as a gift. The attraction dates back to the 1970s.
  • Sandhills Curiosity Shop — Located in Erick, Okla., this wacky shop is full of music memorabilia. But it’s not just a shop, it’s an experience. Sit for awhile and have a chat with the owners, Harley and Annabelle Russell.
  • Restored Phillips 66 Gas Station – Between Clinton and Amarillo, Texas, this is where gas is 19 cents a gallon. That was all the way back in 1927, according to ridingroute66.us.
  • Cadillac Ranch — Amarillo, Texas has a mythical land covered with 10 historic Cadillacs, noses stuck in the earth as they erect from the land. You are free to graffiti your presence on the pieces of art, says legendsofamerica.com. They are open to the public to decorate.
  • Tucumcari, New Mexico – A pleasant reminder of the good old days. With historic motels like the Blue Swallow and Motel Safari, you can sleep under the pretty neon signs which light up the route through town.
  • Winslow, Ariz. — Simply, so you can stand on the corner in Winslow, Ariz. and live in the Eagles song, “Take it Easy.”
  • The Grand Canyon Railway’s Christmas Polar Express — In Williams, Ariz., a charming little town sits along the Route 66. During Christmas, the railway turns into a magical Christmas train to the North Pole.
  • Santa Monica Pier — Route 66 ends with an amusement park, an old carousel and the lovely California coast.

Lastly, be sure to take special care of our Route 66. Help preserve historic landmarks along the 2,400 -mile stretch. What can you do? Clean up after yourself and others, drive slow and enjoy the sites and get into the nostalgia by helping the local businesses survive.

Article by Olivia Lewin

Aug 312012
 



This article is from the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR – BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT and is one of many programs helping preserve and keeping Route 66 alive. The goal is to get ALL stretches of Route 66 in all eight states under this program!

Route 66 is America’s Mother Road. . . and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration’s $152,300 grant recently awarded to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) will fund the preparation of a corridor management plan (CMP) that ultimately may help preserve the history and nostalgia of the 153 miles of historic Route 66 within the BLM California Desert District that extends from Needles to Barstow, California.

Designated a national highway in 1926, U.S. Route 66 extends 2,448 miles across 8 states and 3 time zones from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, California. The “Mother Road” essentially consists of connecting many existing roads, with some new road construction to complete a continuous route. The road was immortalized by Bobby Troupe’s song “Get Your Kicks On Route 66.

Upon completion of the CMP, the BLM will submit a nomination to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation for consideration to designate the California segment of Route 66 a National Scenic Byway. Currently portions of Route 66 in Arizona, Illinois, New Mexico, and Oklahoma have National Scenic Byway designation. The BLM worked closely with the California Historic Route 66 Association and California Preservation Foundation to develop the grant proposal.

The CMP also will provide travel information to domestic and international visitors about the intrinsic values of the history, culture, and natural landscapes, as well as recreational opportunities available along the corridor. The CMP will include a comprehensive interpretive, tourism and marketing strategy to enhance heritage tourism opportunities in an effort to promote and provide economic benefits to communities and local businesses.

“We have an incredible opportunity to work with stakeholders and communities along Route 66 to preserve and promote the history California’s portion of Route 66,” said Jim Kenna, BLM California State Director. “We want to inspire new generations of explorers who will revive the nostalgia and adventures of bygone days as they experience, learn about and care for our beloved Mother Road.”

The BLM will oversee preparation of the CMP and solicit extensive participation from local, county, state and federal stakeholders and partners to collaborate in the development of the CMP, including six Native American Tribes. NSBP funding supports projects that manage and protect these roads and improve visitor facilities. The California Legislature designated California Route 66 as “Historic Highway Route 66″ by statute in 1991.

For more information regarding the grant or the preparation of the Corridor Management Plan contact Danella George at (760) 808-5877.

Dec 212011
 



The ‘saviours’of the Mother Road…


You truly cannot be part of Route 66 unless you are part of one of these. They are the backbone of keeping the route alive!

The many different associations of Route 66 make sure the route is not only preserved, they make sure ‘travelers’ are informed, updated, and even entertained.

The list below shows all of the state associations and their website links and Facebook links (if they have one):

Route 66 Association of Illinois
To me, they are the ‘leaders’ on how things should be done on, and for, the route!
Click HERE for their website.
Click HERE for their Facebook page.

Route 66 Association of Missouri
The folks in Missouri are also on top of their game with preservation and information on the route!
Click HERE for their website.
Click HERE for their Facebook page.

Route 66 Association of Kansas
Kansas has made a strong running in 2011 with the route – and I feel 2012 will be even better!
Click HERE for their website.
Click HERE for their Facebook page.

Route 66 Association of Oklahoma
Oklahoma has done a good job in 2011 working on the route!
Click HERE for their website.
Click HERE for their Facebook page.

Route 66 Association of Texas
I don’t know about this one – so if you think I have the wrong guys (the page was updated 2002!) let me know!
Click HERE for their website.

Route 66 Association of New Mexico
Brand new website full of information and ‘what’s happenings’ on the route in New Mexico!
Click HERE for their website.
Click HERE for their Facebook page.

Route 66 Association of Arizona
My ‘new home state’ – and sadly – they will have to get up to date on their website and preservation efforts…
Click HERE for their website.

Route 66 Association of California
Although recenlty updated, another association which needs to get caught up with the times.
Click HERE for their website.

While some associations do better than others – it is also because of the fact the ones which seem to do better (nice active website, Facebook page, activities for travelers) actually DO MORE for the route – in my opinion.

But this is the thing: If we do not support the individual states, then the resources start disappearing, which means the route starts suffering. And with such a tidal wave of interest in the route, the numerous blogs, posts, stories, pictures and most importantly, the travelers – we need to do what we can, not matter WHERE you are, you can help!

I, myself, am a member of 5 of the 8 – and a business member at that! I have to pay a little more but it is worth it. I joined an association every month or two to keep my renewal costs spread out (hint!)

Pick one, any one, whether you live in the state the route runs through, or live in a state which the route DOES NOT run through, or even in a different country – you can help…

What a great Christmas gift a membership would be!!

Dec 192011
 



The ‘party’ of the year for Route 66


If you are gonna throw a party, might as well make it a big one! And if you decide to throw it in Texas, you better make it an international party! It doesn’t get any bigger than that!

The 2011 International Route 66 Festival was held on June 9th through 12th in Amarillo Texas. And by all accounts – it was a HUGE success!

The different days had different events – from banquets, to concerts, to car shows, to food, to food, to food (wait, did I say food?!?!) to award ceremonies, to booths, to just plain old fashion fun.

Now, we are going to do a little something different on this day of Christmas. Not only am I going to show the ‘old’ - but I will include the ‘new’.

For the old – click HERE to visit the 2011 website to see all that happened on the weekend of the festival.
For the new – click HERE to get information on the 2012 International Festival in Victorville CA.

We have already planned on spending a few days at the event – so look me up and say ‘hey’ when you see me!

Jun 242011
 



Woke up and was eager to stop back over at the U Drop Inn and see it in the daytime.
We went inside and spoke with a lady (man, I forgot her name!) and she went over the restoration process with me and told me while it was great the government funds helped with the restoration, the government told them they could not run the diner / kitchen for 10 years after the project was complete. They have (fortunately) 2 more years to go before they can ‘open shop’ in the diner.

Overall, I was impressed with the building.



Juliana waiting for service – she might have to wait a bit!







The Philips 66 Gas Station in McLean TX.







The fantastic ‘Leaning Water Tower’ in Britten TX.







We stopped at the Cross in Groom TX again. 10,000,000 visitors a year visit this place – did you hear that Groom TX?!?







Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX - Met a woman from Germany here. Juliana was able to use her German on her, and she told me she was looking forward to meeting Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. I gave her my card and told her to tell Rich she could get a free gift!!! (Sorry Rich!)





Juliana spray painting for the first time – very little room to spray paint your name! These cars are covered!






We stopped in Tucumcari in the afternoon, this is a whole ‘nother post for another day - seeing we are BACK in Tucumcari this weekend doing preservation work…

Jun 232011
 



We woke up to a nice sunny day and started over to Joplin. Unless you visited it – you can not understand the devistation these folks have faced… The damage was just south of Route 66 in Joplin, but you can see damage for miles with signs blown out, shingles tore off, limbs blown around…









































































We decided the best way we could help out Joplin was fill up a cart and donate the food to the food drive they were having… how can you not after seeing all of the destruction…









We drove pretty much thru Oklahoma and ended up in Shamrock TX – and was fortunate enough to grab a picture of the U Drop Inn all lit up. Now it was time to call it a night….

More tomorrow…

Feb 132011
 

Having endured lousy reviews and the insults of Panhandle weather, one of the stars of Cadillac Ranch is entering rehab.

The roof has rusted away from a junker Caddie, a first at the mercurial monument rising from the Earth off Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo.

Stanley Marsh 3, the Ranch’s patron saint, isn’t sure when the top dropped from the vintage auto situated second from the west in the row of 10 buried nose down in the flatlands. But he knows what needs to be done: Amarillo artist Lightnin’ McDuff will have to operate.

“Eventually it will have its head back on,” said Marsh, the millionaire and jester who orchestrated the move of the roadside wonder in 1997 to its current location from a spot two miles east. “Lightnin’ McDuff is a real good welder. I always get the best and give them credit.”

Observers have described Cadillac Ranch, installed almost four decades ago, as everything from “a serious place in the history of the ridiculous” to “an American folly” to a mere “point of interest.” Marsh describes the line of four-wheeled relics more whimsically.

“The dominant feature of the Panhandle is the horizon line,” he said. “Having those fins cut the horizon line, it’s magical.”
Except for that headless heap. McDuff pledges the repair will begin soon.

“I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm back up. I can’t hardly take that into the shop,” McDuff said. “I’ll have to build a framework to straighten it back out and have something to weld to. If the weatherman’s not lying, I should be doing something on it next week.”

A California architectural cooperative called the Ant Farm originally installed the Cadillacs during the summer solstice of 1974. Graffiti artists turned the cars into a metal canvas.

And the creation turned iconic, mused and fawned over in songs by Bruce Springsteen and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, depicted in Pixar’s animated hit “Cars” and appearing in movies and documentaries and on album covers.

“Cadillac Ranch wasn’t made by any one person,” Marsh said. “It was made by everyone who has done anything to it.” Still, Marsh is forever linked to the Ranch.

“I first heard about (the line of standing Caddies) from a biker in Tulsa about 1976,” said Mark Morey, who teaches humanities classes at Amarillo College and has worked as curator of research at the Amarillo Museum of Art.

“He told me there was this crazy, rich guy in Amarillo who stuck Cadillacs in the ground. The myth had already become the reality that he had created it. It reached an extremely layperson’s level that quickly.”

The Cadillacs ended up in a row, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, parallel to U.S. Route 66 and leaning at an angle said to be the same as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

“Based on research I’ve seen, Stanley and (his wife) Wendy had a fair amount of input into the arrangement,” Morey said. “The Ant Farm wanted to arrange them more randomly.”

Marsh saw a deeper vision.

Driving along I-40 “you see one fender in front of another then, when you’re directly across from it, you see the profiles. That’s just the right view, but it’s ephemeral,” Marsh said. “It’s like a butterfly being born, then it’s gone.”

Those profiles might get a face-lift.

“There’s a door or two missing” from some of the cars, McDuff said. Metal fillers might fill the gaps, he said.

“It would be hard to find the right doors.”

The topless Caddie stood Friday in a field blanketed with snow, two spent spray paint cans at its base. The neon colors on the car spelled out the thoughts of visitors who are encouraged to leave their marks — “Wild West,” “RIP,” “Flint, MI” and simply “Miriam.”

Peyton Green, of Amarillo, brought his sister’s family from Colby, Kan., to see the Ranch.

“The whole thing is kind of odd,” he said.

Jared and Kelly — children of Green’s sister LaDonna and her husband, Tom Sloan — both are interested in art.

“I told them I wanted them to see it, and we stopped by the hardware store and they were, ‘What?’” Green said.

They soon pulled out spray cans to make their contributions to the graffiti that covers every inch of every Cadillac.

“It gives people a place to come express themselves,” LaDonna Sloan said.

But is it art? Teenager Jared Sloan, fingers multicolored with spray paint, said “yeah” enthusiastically. He thought he might want to try something similarly monumental.

“Only bigger.”

By Kevin Welch