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Road trip, part III – More Amarillo

April 4th, 2009|Photography, Road trip|5 Comments

Drat those best-laid plans! I wanted to try to do a daily diary with pictures from the trip each day. But since each on-the-road post takes me over 2 hours between transferring the day’s photos from memory cards to the hard drive, editing them and deciding which ones to use, then uploading to WordPress on an unreliable motel wireless connection that keeps dropping out, and then figuring out what to say about them, I got antsy about how long it was taking and decided that my time would be better spent out exploring for more photo opportunities than sitting in the motel room blogging. Then after I got back home, I had to make up for lost time working on school assignments that were due right after spring break. But without further ado, I want to get back to what had me so excited about Amarillo. Here it is, the object of my affections:

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From subsequent research, I learned that this is apparently the former Great West Mill and Elevator, built in 1919 and “instrumental in Amarillo’s growth as a regional industrial center,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online. It changed hands a couple of times and as far as I can tell, the abandoned mill is currently under the ownership of the DeBruce Companies. I wish I had taken a shot of it from the perspective shown in this Amarillo Public Library archive photo, but as we only stumbled upon it by accident, by glimpsing it from afar, I can only think about that as hindsight.

Now, it’s pretty obvious to anyone, myself included, that this falls into the category of stuff that you’re not supposed to go poking around. The immediate environment had a somewhat apocalyptic feel, but the surroundings were quite active, with well-used railroad tracks immediately behind the buildings and a busy salvage yard just beyond them, from which frequent but unintellible announcements and loud beeps continuously emanated from a loudspeaker system. This only heightened the air of tension, as at any moment I expected someone to come out and tell me to get the hell out of there (a not-infrequent occurrence in these kinds of explorations). But the lure of such a thing is irresistible to me, and in the absence of any obvious “NO TRESPASSING” signs, it seemed that a closer but very brief look around was warranted.

I wasn’t able to easily determine when this place was last used as a mill, but there was one area where thick piles of flour (?) were still very much in evidence on the ground. I thought maybe they should have been turned into a solid mass by rain and sun by now, but evidently not. The drifts were quite loose as though just freshly sifted from above.

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Lots of tagging all around increased the feeling that someone, whether authorized or not, was lurking nearby and would most definitely not appreciate any company. Hey … what do you think happened to the owner of this headgear?

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We started from one side of this building, circled around the back by the railroad tracks, and came back around to the front. When we got there, we were confronted by this:

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A wide-open door beckoning us hither? No way! There could be any number of unspeakable presences on the other side of that doorway. No sir, not for me! But my semi-intrepid travel companion, my husband, has a far greater sense of adventure and a far less developed fear of the unknown than I do. So he pokes his head inside, looks around, and pronounces the premises to be free of bogeymen. “Come on,” he says, “We’ve come this far. Can’t turn back now!” So, protesting meekly and with heart pounding a mile a minute, I edge closer to the doorway, until I can stick my head in and flash a gander at the wonders that await within. “OK, I say, I’ll just jump in for a second and pop off a few quick ones.”

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By now I am pretty much petrified with fear, so I say, “All right, that’s good now, besides, it’s dark in here and I don’t have a tripod, so I can’t get any good shots, so OK, let’s go.” But Intrepid says, “Well, the tripod’s out there in the car, let me go get it.” I try to talk him out of it, but curiosity has gotten way ahead of us, so there it is. I weigh the consideration of which is worse: possibly attracting more attention with both us trotting back to the car, or staying in that place all by myself. Uh…yeah. Out we go the several hundred yards back to the car to get the tripod, then back to the door and inside once again. This time we delve beyond the first big room and go through the doorway you see in the right third of the above photo. OK, for sure we are going to be killed now, no doubt about it. There’s even a warning in here confirming my suspicions:

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But in for a penny, in for a pound. I go to put the camera on the tripod, and now I come to the very sad realization that I had earlier removed the mounting plate and put it back in the camera bag — which, naturally, is outside in the car — because I thought I was going to be outside all day. This time the annoyance of going back trumps my fear, and I stay inside by myself while the desired object is retrieved. When my husband gets back with the plate, he tells me there are a couple of workmen outside who appear to be aware of our presence and have gone into a nearby mobile office structure to call the authorities. I’m not sure how he could have known this specifically, but the urgency has now become very pressing and I have to hurry even though I’m in sheer photographic heaven. Time for just a very few shots because they are a bit long in exposure and composing with the tripod takes me forever.

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Things got very curious in some places. I would love to know how all these hoses came to be lying on the floor in here.

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But that’s about when we couldn’t stand it any more and knew we had to get out of there while the getting was good. We peeped outside, found the coast to be clear, and walked back to the car, our measured pace belying the sense of dread I felt as I expected to hear a shout or feel a hand on my shoulder at any moment. But we made our escape successfully — no flashing sirens appeared in the rearview mirror, so apparently all is well, at least so far.

I already wish I could go back there and spend a lot more time. I want to know what’s in there on the upper floors!

April 4th, 2009|Photography, Road trip|5 Comments

Road trip, part II – Amarillo

March 27th, 2009|Inspiration, Photography, Road trip|1 Comment

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As a vacation destination, Amarillo, Texas can certainly hold its own. There are several attractions in the area which demanded our attention, the Big Texas Steak Ranch providing only the smallest glimpse of what was to come. The parking lot was very full when I was there taking pictures near sundown on Wednesday night, so there must have been a lot of people in that place trying to earn their free 72-oz steak by eating it within an hour — something probably very interesting to observe. However, since I don’t eat steak, we have to move on find to less burly but more suitable refreshments at a local Thai restaurant. Then the next morning it was on to more exploration.

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If you love roadside attractions as much as I do, then you are in luck because there is a most informative web site catering to this addiction: Roadside America. This is how I learned that there is another great Texan in the area, somewhat south of Amarillo in the town of Canyon. He is  the Big Texan, aka Tex Randall, erected in 1959, but in past years under siege and even now in danger of imminent demise. I had to make sure I got to see him before he meets his inevitable end. Unfortunately, he’s not doing so well these days. Hang in there, Tex! You’ve lasted this long, I hope you’ll stick it out for another 50 years.

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Heading back towards Amarillo from Canyon, one can also see this amazing sight, the so-called Huge Pair of Legs, standing out in the middle of a field of cows (many thanks to the model for providing the much-needed sense of scale):

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Evidently, the legs are also the work of Stanley Marsh 3, the creator of Cadillac Ranch. Read the whole sordid story at the link above, if so inclined. Now, having heard of the legendary Cadillac Ranch so many times, I was living in a state of heightened anticipation until I finally got to see it. But as with so many things in life, the things you obsess over the most often turn out to be disappointments.

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Cadillac Ranch has turned into a giant graffiti site, where the main attraction is the chance to go crazy with a spray can without fear of reprisal, with the blessing of the owner of the establishment.

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Now, I’ll be the first to say that I love graffiti when it’s done well, but this is a community free-for-all with no organization, and so it’s pretty much just a big mishmash of colors and there’s no real art to it.

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Everyone is just busy spraying everything in sight, and even the hardpacked dirt road and the unfortunate nearby cow leavings are subject to the frenzy.

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The empty cans are all left behind to be blown by the blasting wind into the adjacent empty field.

Oh well, then, let’s go back to Amarillo momentarily. Are there words to express how much I love this place? Observe just a small sampling of the the delights to be found here:
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As great as these things are, there is another surprise of unsurpassed super yummy goodness, but I fear this is getting way too long, so I shall save it for tomorrow.

March 27th, 2009|Inspiration, Photography, Road trip|1 Comment