So clearly my car was in need of an inaugural road trip and what better place to take her than to visit and learn about her ancestors? As I careened west down I-40 early Monday morning, eyes probing the dense fog formed by the chill left from the night air, I searched nervously, even though I knew I couldn't possibly miss it. As soon as I spotted the ten equally spaced dashes notching the horizon, I got the lump in my throat. Suffice it to say that Cadillac Ranch embodies pretty much everything I find joyous about art and it is in fact for ME a sacred place.
As I pulled up to the gate, a bus load of silver haired hipsters was drifting back to their coach in little knots of 2 or 3 after having walked out to take a look at the Caddies up close. I don't know whether it was the overwhelming beauty of the experience they'd just had or whether possibly seeing a short magenta haired woman in the middle of a wheat field west of Amarillo on a foggy Monday morning that made them smile, but they all seemed genuinely amused as they walked back to the bus.
I spent my time at the tomb studying and enjoying the intricacies of pattern and color that result from the continual spray paintings the cars receive. I directed myself to observe this impossibly colorful and detailed macrocosm on a strictly microscopic level, seeing it solely in abstract. I discovered all sorts of amazing things in the process.
One of which was the realization that part of the sheer brilliance of this piece is how it constantly evolves, created by a steady stream of humanity. The endless layers of paint form a geological record of human expression while the cars remain motionless and timeless and legendary.
I bet it sure gave my new car something to think about.
As I returned to my Caddie, the next carload of bemused spectators was just arriving to pass through the simple spray painted gate and approach the altar. I wished for them that their pilgrimage was even nearly as satisfying as mine and eased the car onto the interstate headed west.
I put the Caddie in magic carpet mode and pointed her toward Colorado City, Colorado, being careful to mind every one of my Ps and Qs as I passed through the northeastern tip of New Mexico. Man those people love an arcane speed limit! I didn't pass through very many interesting little towns, but I was treated to abundant sky, blue as far as the eye could see and sprinkled with all sorts of beautiful clouds. As I approached Colorado, the clouds became stormy and encroached threateningly over the mountains, making for lovely and dramatic scenery. Random road pictures:
My destination for the day was a place called Bishop's Castle, out in the country not too far from Colorado City, Colorado. On a beautiful and remote mountainside parcel of land, a fellow by the name of Jim Bishop has been working the last 41 years to make an enormous castle that intertwines elaborate metal work, native rock and mortar with a liberal sprinkling of stained glass thrown in for good measure. Jim's happy for you to tour his castle because he's clear on the concept that he makes his art for the PEOPLE, not the Man.
When I arrived, I parked my car across the highway from the Castle and as soon as I opened my door, I could hear the sound of Jim's strident voice echoing through the quiet alpine setting. Someone had gotten him wound up and he was talking ninety-to-nothing, the monologue of a nervous conspiracy theorist, almost all of it a stream of consciousness that flowed with colorful language and vitriol. "Obama is Satan! The Federal Reserve is the devil's tool!...Lincoln, Kennedy...assasinated...conspiracy..." Jim was perched high up on top of an arch he was building and was busy lecturing anyone who would listen on the elaborate wrongdoings of evil brokers of global power. I darted quickly and quietly on by, eager to start my tour of the Castle.
It had just finished raining - and in fact - had just finished hailing a mere 30 minutes earlier so I had to scrabble up a muddy hill behind the trees to reach the Castle. When it came into view I was amazed. It is much, much, much bigger and more elaborate than I had imagined from any of the pictures I'd seen on the web. I had no idea it would be so labyrinthine and precarious. I was bowled over by the ambition and extent of the thing. I was astounded by the lack of anything resembling safety railing (which added a large dose of excitement to the place, if you ask me).
The castle is full of intriguing little rooms and nooks, but they all pretty much lead into the splendid cathedral area that lies at the center of the castle. The space is bathed in natural light, streaming in through the peaked glass roof and banks of colored stained glass windows on either end. The room is enormous and airy, an enormous aerie, perched firmly high above the top of the trees.
On this day at least, most of the staircases in the castle seemed to be precariously damp and dripping, including the dozens and dozens and dozens of stairs leading to the top of the geodesic dome tower. I made the ascent slowly and steadily (my new knee held up very well, thank you), my speed mostly moderated by the image of bouncing down several flights of wet metal steps as a result of a poor footing choice. Those were the damndest steps I've ever seen!
When I got to the very top of the tower, I could feel it begin to sway gently as I mounted the last 5 or 6 steps into the top dome area. I'm usually not afraid of heights or climbing a tower, but I got pretty nervous as I looked down who knows how many stories as the deck beneath my butt moved every so slightly back and forth (I sat down immediately when I reached the top step).
Being at the very top for a few moments seemed to complete the experience and I was ready to go. Slowly, back down the dungeon steps I trod, careful hand holds, firm footing. Jim's batteries seemed to have run down because the quiet had become almost deafening. I gained the ground at last, but refrained from kissing it.
After a few more pictures, I headed back down the mud slide to the front gate where Jim was once again unspooling wild theories and harsh invectives. The couple in front of me was trying hard to find something to say that would be soothing, but gave up trying when getting a word in edgewise became damn near impossible. They moved off nervously toward their waiting car as Jim wound down and after a moment, I stepped into the silence that followed and said, "Mr. Bishop, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have created here. It is beautiful and moving and amazing. Thank you for the exquisite gift that you have given each and every one of us." Quietly, but I like to think gratefully, he replied, "You're most welcome. You're all most welcome." He turned to resume his work as I lumbered off toward my car, but it wasn't more than a couple of minutes before I heard him resume his diatribe, having found his next captive audience.
I resumed my journey along the beautiful country road I had been following, and as my altitude increased, I began to notice the aspens (that are so aptly named quaking) were just beginning to exhibit their fall colors. The trees at this relatively high, but yet not mountainous altitude ranged from a bright fluorescent green to a deep buttery yellow, depending I would assume, on how much sun they've received. The rain continued to follow me, thickening to a steady drizzle as I got near Colorado Springs.
As I drove into Colorado Springs, I passed a military base (Fort Carson) the size of a large city, and found a Motel 6 where I could stay the night and make an early getaway. My room sat very close to I-25, and the lullaby roar of truck wheels soon had me sleeping like a baby.