texas road trip to the cadillac ranch

When we told everyone we were going to the Cadillac Ranch to photograph our annual self-promotion calendar, we had to clarify that the Cadillac Ranch was, in fact, NOT the Chicken Ranch in Nevada, the famous house of ill repute.  We drove over 2000 km round trip from Austin to Amarillo then back to Austin. Weather that time of year in Texas was sunny and HOT.  Very HOT.


Flight from Calgary to Austin.  We flew into Austin instead of Amarillo so we could spent some quality time in our rented Cadillac and meet some people to photograph along the way in case we didn’t find enough people to shoot at the Cadillac Ranch.

We landed in Austin late afternoon and by the time we left the airport it was early evening.  The airline lost our luggage. Not the first time and most likely not the last.

We checked into the hotel which was located not too far from Sixth Street, the main music and bar scene of Austin. We both kind of wanted to spend a few days in Austin as it looked like it’s one awesome city. But we had to go to work.


Went for breakfast in a great old hotel… should have stayed there. We tell the waiter we are heading north to Amarillo and ask him “Where should we stop?”  “What odd things are along the way?” He gives us a few suggestions, mostly routine, but he does say that the best BBQ is in Llano.  We chart a path to north that includes Llano.
Head out of Austin on highway 29 towards Llano. Drove by a roadside burger place…something about it draws us back so we make a u-turn.


It looked cool, but no one interesting to photograph there… oh well, continued on our trip. First destination: lunch at Coopers Old Time BBQ.

Wow, they take their BBQ seriously. Beef ribs seem to be the meat of choice…when in Rome. BBQ lives up to its reputation. It’s awesome. Looks like not many vegetables are going to be eaten on this road trip, which is nothing different than most of our road trips.


Drove around Llano to check out downtown. Scouting around town we decide to check out the local barbershop. There are some animal heads mounted on the walls, one of the animals has three horns. The barbers inside are what one would think would be typical small town barbers. The approach to take their photo… obviously, get a hair cut!!! I volunteered to take one for the team while Michele charms the barbers.


Turns out some photographer from New York had photographed them a few years ago and the photo is hanging in a Manhattan restaurant. We found out that Texans are friendly and cooperative, these two included.


We picked our next town, one that has a decent hotel, okay just any hotel would do.  The town of San Angelo was our pick. The motel… well, let’s say we’ve stayed in better and sadly we’ve stayed in worse too.


After checking in we took a drive downtown. It had some neat old buildings but there’s not a restaurant in sight. We come across a boot making company and we peek through the window and it looks awesome. Everything looks handmade and right out of the early 1900s. Michele thinks she would like some red cowboy boots. We’d be back at 9 am. In the meantime, it’s back to the highway to eat at the local Chili’s… on the menu tonight… Meat.

Quote of the day   “I think religion is big down here.”

An appropriate song would be ‘Jesus is a friend of mine’… tried to find wireless to download.



M.L. Leddy’s Boot Factory.

We walk in and are greeted by Beverly. Turns out she’s one of the owners. She and her brothers had taken over the business from their grandfather and father. She takes the time to give us the tour and explain the process of boot making. She’s heard of the Calgary Stampede and wants to make it up there one day. It takes a few months, if not longer, to get a great pair of boots made… no red ones for Michele on this trip.


On the road again… lots of fireworks stands… some big, some small. We tried to find the perfect one and after driving by at least a dozen over three hours we spotted one just outside of Bronte. It’s was the tiniest one we’ve seen so it’s got to be perfect?? Jim and Carolyn own the fireworks stand, just like they have for many years. Jim was eager to be photographed but Carolyn needed some coaxing.


According to our BlackBerries, the next decent sized town was Sweetwater. The best way to find information about locals was the neighborhood restaurant.   We asked the manager if there was anyone around town who was unique and would be interesting to photograph. She tries phoning someone about the local theatre restoration project but that didn’t work out. Then she made a call to Bettye.

Quote of the day “I’m really tired of salad made with iceberg lettuce and garnished with carrots”


We made our way to Bettye’s ranch. We notice when we arrive she’s wearing what looks to be a gun holster. Makes sense since were strangers on her property. After she goes to change clothes for the photo, the holster is gone. Guess we passed the test. Phewf.

It turns out Bettye is an author and has written a few books. She’s a very proud and deeply religious woman. She’s been on her own and has no problem doing the hard work that a ranch takes. She’s been stripping the hardwood in her farmhouse (previously owned by her parents). Her goal is to survive completely without money…”off the grid” as she puts it. Not only that, she did some modeling when she was younger so she knows how to work for the camera. We spent the entire morning with Bettye and it was very entertaining.


The night before, we had read about a rodeo in Stanford and so that was our next destination. It was the annual Cowboy Reunion Rodeo.  We bought some cowboy hats and then we wandered down to the rodeo grounds to watch the action. We ended up standing next to where the cowboys entered and exited and while leaning on the fence, a cowboy named Gary started chatting with us and soon we met one of his sons. Ten minutes later we were photographing the whole family.


Making our way to Amarillo, we drive through a small town named Anson and at the side of the road was a watermelon stand. We couldn’t resist. Epifanio, the owner, was a war veteran who lives in the house across the lot. There is also an abandoned diner nearby which apparently was used for a Hollywood movie set.

The best shot was with the old diner sign in the background so we encourage Epifanio to come over. He had a bit of a hard time walking and we felt bad that we asked him to move from his comfy lazyboy chair in the shade, but soon there was a big smile on his face as he posed for the camera. We buy a watermelon.


 Pulled into our Amarillo hotel, dumped our gear and took a drive to the Cadillac Ranch to scout it out for the following few days.

Quote of the day
“Turn off the country music, I can’t take it anymore.”

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