Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch – things don’t get much quirkier than a farmer’s field with 10 car butts sticking in the air.Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch History

Well into its middle age, the 40 year-old art installation has morphed from avant-garde oddity to iconic roadside attraction. Ant Farm, the trio of Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Hudson Marquez, created their strange art installation by burying Cadillac at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The cars look like an unfinished picket fence.

What inspired Ant Farm? The description for the “Cadillac Ranch 1974-1994” video suggests the art installation represents, “….comically subversive homage to the rise and fall of the tail-fin as an icon of postwar American consumer excess.”

Stanley Marsh 3, the wealthy patron who shelled out the cash for Cadillac Ranch, said in an Amarillo Globe News interview that the Cadillac symbolized a time, “…when we all thought we could hit the road, get a blonde, break the bank in Las Vegas, and be a movie star.”

Whether meant to be provocative or just fun, Cadillac Ranch continues to draw thousands each year.

Public Art Installation

Today’s Cadillac Ranch looks very different from the 1974 Ant Farm installation. To start with, Cadillac Ranch is at an entirely different location. It’s still in a farmer’s field, just two miles away from its original site. The installation had to be moved in 1997 as west Amarillo grew and developed.

Forty years of weathering has not been kind to the Cadillac. Bits of Cadillac (like a trunk lid) are missing from some cars. And, oh my, the colors. Each Cadillac benefits from hundreds of graffiti artists who pay homage to the site. The layers of paint look like a crazy sort of bondo on the autos. In fact, some cars likely have more paint than metal left.

Oddly, I found the effect of so many colors and graffiti artists enhances Cadillac Ranch’s appearance. The stunningly bright colors against the azure blue skyline makes for stunning photographs. Trash left behind by the installation’s visitors is the only detractor of this odd art piece.

When you go.

You can access Cadillac Ranch off Interstate 40 in Amarillo. Take the south frontage road between exits 60 and 62A. There are ample places to park on the road apron. Entry is through a metal fence. Bring spray paint (the brighter the colors, the better) if you want to try your hand at a little graffiti art. There are often half-used cans of paint also available. If you visit, please pick up and dispose of your trash.

 

Helium Monument in Amarillo

I love quirky, Texas attractions. The Helium Monument in Amarillo is one oddity I can now check off my bucket list. Built in 1968 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery Helium Monumentof helium, the Helium Monument is part monument and part time capsule.

Time Capsule

Supported by four slanted columns, the stainless steel structure reaches towards the sky. Filled with books, papers, and memorabilia from 1968; each hollowed column serves as a time capsule to be opened at different intervals. The first column was opened after 25 years in 1993. The remaining columns will be opened in 2018, 2068, and 2968. I’m singularly impressed that the final column won’t be opened for 1000 years! A bank passbook for $10 is in the 2968 column. In 1968, the $10 savings account earned four percent interest. You do the math. If the savings account continues to draw four percent interest over 1000 years, the $10 account will have grown to one quintillion dollars!

Why combine a helium monument with time capsules? Helium can be used to protect fragile documents, like the Declaration of Independence, from deteriorating. In the Helium Monument, helium pumped into each column replaced oxygen-rich air, further preserving the time capsule documents.

Helium Capital of the World

A monument to helium may seem strange. It is not so odd when you learn the Cliffside Gas Fields near Amarillo produce over 40 percent of the helium used in the US, lending credibility to Amarillo’s nickname as the Helium Capital of the World.

Helium is mined by super chilling natural gas 300 degrees. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Cliffside Gas Fields began mining the element in the 1920s. Uncle Sam tried to get out of the helium business. However, attempts to privatize mining have not been wholly successful and the BLM continues to operate the Cliffside location under the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013. Helium is important for more than just party balloons. Today, helium plays a critical role in MRI operation, rocket fuel, cryogenics, and as a cooling medium in nuclear reactors.

When you go

The Helium Monument is located adjacent to the Don Harrington Discovery Center at 1200 Streit Drive, Amarillo. The monument is outside, so you can view it at any time. However, if you are traveling with children, be sure to also visit the Don Harrington Discovery Center. The discovery center is open Tuesday through Saturday (9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and Sunday (noon to 4:30 p.m.).

National Weather Center

Meteorologists, storm chasers and weather hobbyists will want to visit the National Weather Center (NWC) located on the University of Oklahoma (OU) campus in Norman, Oklahoma. What a great summer boredom-buster!

National Weather Center - North Texas RamblingsIn a unique partnership, OU, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and state agencies share space within the impressive seven-story, NWC building. Built in 2006, the NWC can withstand a significant tornado not because it houses the weather agencies, but because of its post-911, anti-terrorist construction. The building has both bulletproof glass and Kevlar reinforcements.

NWC Tour

Tours begin in the lobby. Remember the 1996, storm chasing movie Twister? The tornado-monitoring invention Dorothy used in the film is on display in the lobby. You can also see TOTO (TOTable Tornado Observatory) the actual tornado-monitoring device that inspired much of the movie.

From the lobby, the tour takes visitors to the vehicle bay. While Norman gets more than its share of severe weather, scientists also have specially outfitted vans for deployment to severe weather locations. The mobile monitoring stations allow the meteorologists to gather data in the field. What looks like kitchen sink plumbing on top the vehicles’ roofs are actually high tech, sensitive equipment used to measure and monitor weather events.

The NWC has its own observation deck with an unobstructed, 360-degree view of the surrounding area. Here meteorologists view local weather. The OU School of Meteorology is located on the fifth floor. The school has about 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate students, and is ranked as one of the country’s top schools for meteorology.

Working Meteorologists

Perhaps the tour highlight is an opportunity to go into NOAA watch centers to see meteorologists at work. Have you ever wondered who issues tornado watches and warnings? It’s the forecasters right here at the National Storm Prediction Center who track, monitor, and warn about potential tornado and other extreme weather events. The NWC tour takes visitors into the center’s workspace. Next to the storm prediction center, visitors can also observe meteorologists at work providing local weather forecasting.

Details

The comprehensive NWC tour lasts between one to two hours, and offers a unique glimpse into weather research and storm prediction. Enthusiastic OU students lead the tours. The students readily answer questions and provide humor-filled anecdotes on research conducted at NWC.

Public tours begin at 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tours are free but require advance reservations made through the NWC website. Be sure to reserve at least two weeks prior to your visit. Please note security policy requires that foreign nationals arrange tours at least two week in advance and provide passport information.

The Flying Cow Café, located in the NWC lobby, is a great place to grab lunch. I’m a big fan of their t-shirts, which feature their logo of an airborne, cartoon cow.

NWC is easily assessable from I-35 and is located at 120 David L. Boren Boulevard in Norman. It is about 180 miles north of Dallas.

Road Trip — Tulsa, Oklahoma

How about a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma? Spring break is always a good time for a road trip. North Texas Ramblings - The Center of the Universe in Tulsa OklahomaYou can travel to the Center of the Universe, spend the afternoon at an oil tycoon’s home, and visit one of the world’s tallest freestanding statues. Those are just some of the adventures waiting for you in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The second largest city in Oklahoma, Tulsa comfortably combines the sublime with the absurd. Beautiful art deco buildings grace the downtown area. However, there appears to be no city zoning logic with hotels, strip malls and residential neighborhoods clustered together throughout the city. This eclectic building mix gives the city personality and character.

Tycoon’s Mansion – The Philbrook Museum

Waite Phillips, oilman and business entrepreneur, donated his 72-room mansion to the City of Tulsa in 1938 for an art museum. The mansion, designed in Italian Renaissance style, is as much fun to explore as the art collection it houses. You’ll find an excellent exhibit of European art.

Perhaps most intriguing is the museum’s Native American collection. Park any preconceptions you have of Native American art at Philbrook’s front door and enjoy the exhibit’s vast diversity of expression and style. For three decades (1946 – 1979), Philbrook hosted an annual, juried show of Native American artists. Philbrook’s collection was, in part, built from these events. The Philbrook (2727 S. Rockford) is closed on Mondays and major holidays.

Hungry? Just south of the Philbrook Museum on Peoria Avenue you’ll find a several dining options. Charleston’s (3726 S. Peoria) serves an awesome chicken fried steak in a casually upscale dining room. Weber Root Beer Stand (3817 S. Peoria) is the place for root beer (in a chilled glass) and a burger.

Quirky Salute to Tulsa’s Oil Heyday – The Golden Driller

No visit to Tulsa is complete without a visit to the 76-foot tall Golden Driller statue located on the edge of the Tulsa Fairgrounds (4145 E. 21st). Purported to be one of the tallest, freestanding statues in the world, the Golden Driller is made of steel and concrete. He stands as a tribute to the days when Tulsa was known as the “Oil Capital of the World.”

The Golden Driller truly is impressive and well worth a photo. His right arm rests on an actual oil derrick. In 2011, the statue received a facelift courtesy Tulsa based Bill Haynes Co. who applied a special, protective coating to preserve the statue.

The Wild Side — Tulsa Zoo

I confess. I love a great zoo. The Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum (6421 E. 36th) may not be the largest city zoo, but it does have an impressive variety of animals and exhibits. Be sure to take advantage of numerous zoo demonstrations and talks. Our family enjoyed the antics of the California sea lions: Briney (female, age 26) and Dorsey (male, age 19). The geriatric pair of sea mammals works for their living, putting on demonstrations for visitors twice daily.

The Children’s Zoo has the standard corral with sheep and goats for the kids to pet. But here’s the twist, the Children’s Zoo also has a collection of antique animals like the Highland cow and Jacob’s sheep. That’s right, Tulsa Zoo has domestic animals facing extinction as they are being replaced by new farm breeds.

Tulsa Zoo continues to renovate with new exhibits designed so that visitors experience both animal and their habitat. The Tropical Rain Forest transports you to a humid South American and the newly renovated Wildlife Trek recreates forest, desert and aquatic habitats.

The Tulsa Zoo is open 9 am to 5 pm year round (closed Christmas day).

Uncanny — The Center of the Universe

Part of Tulsa’s charm is its unique ambience. And nothing is more eerily unusual than standing in the Center of the Universe. According to the Tulsa Library website, “The ‘center’ is a worn concrete circle, 30 inches in diameter, in the middle of a 13 row circle of bricks. . . located at the apex of a rebuilt span of pedestrian bridge, originally built in the 1930s.”

Stand in the center of the circle and talk. You, but no one else around you, will hear the echo of your voice. It does almost feel like you’re speaking into a hole in the universe. Weird right?

The Center of the Universe is located on the Boston Avenue pedestrian overpass between First and Archer Streets. And, yes, the Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) building opposite the overpass does look a lot like the former World Trade Center. The World Trade Center (built 1973) and the BOK Tower (built in 1975) were designed by the same architect.

While downtown, enjoy the mix of architecture. Tulsa is famous for its Art Deco buildings constructed during the height of the oil boom. Of national note is Boston Avenue Methodist Church built in the 1920s (1301 S. Boston).