The Power of Place Day 1 - Amarillo, Texas

My family and I just returned from an amazing vacation, which included two weeks away from home, 5000+ miles on the car, and nine different states. As always, in each place we visited, I was struck by the power of place. Each state, each city, each region has its own unique personality... its own distinctive vibe. For a writer, that's what makes the setting of the story so important.

So, this week, I'll be posting about several of the locations we enjoyed on our vacation, and sharing my thoughts about the atmosphere and energy of each place.

Today, we visit Amarillo, Texas.

Our drive across Texas was actually pretty short, since it took us only across the panhandle. But what scenery! The wide expanses, where we could see practically to Nebraska, were quite a change from the rolling hills of our Kentucky home. While we drove, we snapped pictures furiously with every device we had... digital camera, iPad, and iPod. Despite our best efforts, it's just impossible to truly capture the expansiveness of the Texas panhandle in a photo. But below are a couple of pictures that come close. (Plus, I just really like the leaning water tower!)

We spent the night in Amarillo, Texas. What a cool town! First stop, The Big Texan. If you're a foodie like me, you may've seen this place on Man vs. Food. It's the home of the 72 oz. steak, and if you can eat it all within one hour (including side items), your meal is free. No, we didn't attempt the 72 oz., but the steaks we had were really good. I got a real kick out of this place because of the laid back, fun atmosphere. It just seemed to "fit" with the wide open landscape we'd seen on the drive in to the city.

The next morning, before we headed west again, we made a stop at Stanley Marsh's Cadillac Ranch. I read a negative "review" of the place online, saying "It's just a bunch of cars buried in a pasture." And yeah, it's true. But it's SO COOL! Cadillacs ranging from 1949 - 1963 are half-buried in a field just off I-40, and visitors are welcome to stop by and contribute to the graffiti on the cars. Really... you just bring your spray paint (or pick up a discarded can from the ground around the Caddies) and have at it. While we were there we met a group of bikers from Finland of all places. They were biking the old Route 66, which runs right along I-40. That morning, while my kids spray painted, I was struck once again by the feeling of fun and ease that seemed to encompass the area. Below are a few pictures of the Cadillac Ranch (which, by the way, is visible from I-40).

The final picture is Amarillo at sunset, taken as we drove into the city. I love city skylines... the way they hint at what's inside... they way they tease with only glimpses. 

I think as storytellers we use that technique a lot. We hint at what a place looks like, what a character feels, and allow the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. A good storyteller recognizes the fine line between feeding the reader too much information and taking away the element of imagination and not giving the reader enough glimpses to fuel the imagination. 

As I traveled across the county, my imagination was fueled by all that I saw. I hope you'll come back this week as I share pictures and thoughts about New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and the Pacific Ocean.

Happy reading and writing!


  1. What a great idea for a series of blog posts! I can't wait to see where your travels take us!


  2. Thanks for sharing the pictures with us. And I'd have loved to do the same with my family. That's the plan for next summer. So cool. And I did see the episode on Man Versus Food Nation. I don't know how he eats like that and doesn't weigh 800 pounds.

  3. A wonderful post. Travel is absolutely essential to establish a sense of place for writers. Of course, I live in Texas. I love Texas. But we believe that if you live a really bad, evil and sinful life, when you die, you go to Amarillo.

  4. Wonderful post and I can't wait to "travel" with you some more. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.