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Fat Man back on the road December 29, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in People.
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Steve Vaught of thefatmanwalking.com is back walking on Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks after a short break back home in San Diego to spend time with his family during Christmas. Here’s his latest journal piece (scroll down to the Dec. 29 entry).

Notes from the El Vado hearing December 29, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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I acquired a draft of the minutes from the City of Albuquerque Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission‘s Dec. 14 meeting regarding an application to recommend El Vado Motel as a city landmark. The commission approved the application by a 5-0 vote, and the measure goes to the city council in January.

The minutes include verbatum testimony from the commissioners, El Vado advocates and critics, and new El Vado owner Richard Gonzales, who wants to raze at least part of the historic Route 66 property to make way for luxury townhouses.

The minutes document is 36 pages, and it contains interesting tidbits that weren’t reported at the time.

— El Vado Motel was designed by the same people who built El Rey Inn of Santa Fe. Someone at the meeting asked whether El Rey was financially viable. Commissioner Edie Cherry said: “About two years ago, I had occasion to meet relatives in Santa Fe and thought it would be fun to stay there, and I couldn’t get a reservation and rooms were two hundred bucks a night. I think that’s pretty viable.”

— Gonzales testified that rehabilitating El Vado would be prohibitively expensive. However, when pressed by commissioners, he admitted he didn’t have a detailed written estimate. This despite having several weeks to get one.

— Commissioner Barbara Maddox remarked that repair estimates to historic properties can vary wildly. On one of her properties that needed a roof replaced, one bid $86,000. Another bid $56,000. But Maddox said one repairman who had a wealth of experience on historic properties bid just $12,500. This implied that Gonzales should have shopped around more.

— The commissioners discussed the impact of a landmark designation to El Vado. It was generally agreed that the designation does not hurt the property’s viability. In fact, they said the property probably would increase in value with the designation.

— Gonzales kept insisting El Vado was no longer financially viable as a motel. However, commissioners and city staffers said a landmarks designation did not prevent El Vado from being used in other ways.

— Planning staff member Maryellen Hennessy testified that Gonzales was told in August about El Vado’s historical significance:

“City staff advised Mr. Gonzales at that meeting that the El Vado was a significant cultural site with a great deal of popularity both inside and outside the community, and that any proposal to demolish was likely to generate a good deal of public comment in opposition to that concept. We also commented that it was also possible that the city wouild have an interest in preserving those buildings.”

This directly refutes Gonzales’ story that he didn’t know about El Vado’s significance until after he bought it in October.

— Eight audience members at the hearing stated their opposition to landmark status for El Vado. Five of them are practically neighbors of Gonzales’, according to a Google Maps search I conducted. Three audience members supported landmark status; they were a superintendent from the National Trails System, a member of the Albuquerque Conservation Association, and the president of Historic Albuquerque Inc.

— What helped convince the commissioners to recommend landmark status to El Vado were letters and e-mails from Route 66 aficionados, said Chairman William Dodge:

I was struck by the nature of support from around the world on this property. Now I understand that listserves and Internet has made this a different ballgame. It’s much easier for people to respond, but even given that, the amount of response from across the world was quite amazing and quite unusual for properties that come before this Commission, and you have to raise your eyebrows and sit upright for a second or two. Apparently a lot of people have given us a charge to what they believe is to preserve a very valuable piece of history along Route 66.

As I’ve said, there’s plenty of good stuff on this document. If you want to read the whole thing, e-mail me at route66news (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send you an Adobe Acrobat attachment of it.

The Berghoff in Chicago is closing December 29, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants.
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The Berghoff, a 107-year-old German dining institution in downtown Chicago, will shut down for good Feb. 28.

Route 66 enthusiast David Clark, aka The Windy City Warrior, says The Berghoff is on westbound Route 66, about two blocks from the Mother Road’s start.

Here are stories from Reuters, AP, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business about the impending closing. The restaurant was such a Windy City staple, that when Prohibition ended in 1933, the Berghoff received Liquor License No. 1.

Here is The Berghoff’s Web site.

Here’s some reaction to the announcement:

Peter Schauer, 65, has been coming to The Berghoff weekly since emigrating from Germany in 1962.

“It really reminds you of the old country. It is solid,” he said, pounding his fist on the oak bar and sipping a dark red beer. “I don’t believe in some of these modern joints, but I feel better when I come here, I can breathe here.”

While The Berghoff has long been a gathering spot for downtown workers, it’s also a favorite among visitors to the city– especially during the holidays. A line thick with tourists stood under the restaurant’s bright red neon sign Wednesday evening, waiting for a seat in the dining room decked with glistening Christmas decorations.

“I’m just stunned that it’s closing,” said John McGuire, 67, of St. Louis, who said he visited The Berghoff’s bar every weekend while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1950s and 60s.

“I couldn’t afford to eat here, but I’d save my money to buy beer because it was such a famous place,” he said.

It’s a sad day.

Pain Walker gives thumbs-up to Trade Winds Inn December 29, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People.
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Dennis Kinch, the Route 66 walker who’s raising publicity for the National Pain Foundation, is staying at the Trade Winds Inn in Clinton, Okla., until he resumes his journey. This is the motel that’s famed for its Elvis Room — the room where Elvis Presley slept during cross-country road trips from Memphis to Hollywood or Vegas. The room’s look and furnishings have been preserved as it was from the 1960s.

The Trade Winds had been declining for a few years. But it appears back on the upswing. Kinch’s publicist, Cathy Choy, reports:

I just spoke to Dennis this morning, and he’s staying at the Tradewinds Inn. For your records, he can’t stop talking about what a great place it is. Per Dennis: The new owner has really taken the place seriously, and all the hard work shows. There are new heater units in every room, all the rooms have been redesigned, and there’s just a little bit of landscaping left to do (Dennis says when the pool gets finished the place will blow people away). There’s even a great laundry facility available on-site (that Dennis was excited to discover). The hotel is definitely on the “up-and-up.” Dennis says the place is equal to a Best Western (in his estimation) — it’s got really nice furniture, good carpeting without any marks/stains, etc.

Also, FYI, Dennis said the owner, Shafiqul Khan, put him up in the Michael Wallis room, which really sounds like a suite from the way Dennis talks. It’s apparently well done and Dennis is loving it. Dennis thinks the room goes for $69 a night, and he told me (in confidence) “I’d tell people to get it while it’s cheap, because once the landscaping’s done, it’ll be worth much much more!” We both know Dennis doesn’t mince words, so now, from what he’s said, I even want to go stay at the Tradewinds Inn!

Aztec Motel makes the “Uncanny” list December 28, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Web sites.

The Uncanny Valley, a blog that describes itself as a “travel guide to the unusual,” has just added the uniquely decorated Aztec Motel on old Route 66 in Albuquerque to its list.

It also lists Precious Moments Park, near the Route 66 town of Carthage, Mo.

This isn’t on Route 66, but the Stonefridge in Santa Fe deserves mention. It’s inspired by the original Stonehenge, except it’s made out of old refrigerators. It sounds like a cousin to this.

The blog is trying to acquire a worldwide flavor, with entries from India, Peru, Singapore and even Iceland, to name a few. But it lists fewer than 200 unusual attractions. For a far more comprehensive guide that’ll keep you on the road for years, go to the Roadside America site.

Architecture building inspired by Mother Road December 27, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People, Restaurants.
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The Albuquerque Tribune today has a story about architect Antoine Predock and his latest project, the new University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning building.

The project broke ground last month on the university campus, just east of the UNM Bookstore. Terraced and carved and slathered in glass, the building will hang out over and dart away from Central Avenue and flood the street with light.

“Lights are on 24-7 in an architecture school because students are working all the time and moving around, so the building will be an animating force on Central, very much in the spirit of Route 66,” Predock said recently, during an interview in his Downtown offices. “It commands a great site because of the view from the Frontier (Restaurant).”

More drawings of the building can be seen here.

Predock has cited Route 66 as an inspiration in another interview, partly because he became enamored of the Southwest during a vacation with his family to New Mexico and Arizona when he was a teen. He also was born in Lebanon, Mo., and grew up in St. Louis, both of them Route 66 towns.

You can read an earlier story about Predock here.

Rivett’s Route 66 Cafe changes hands December 26, 2005

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, People, Restaurants.
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Ken and Glenda Rivett of the Rivett’s Route 66 Cafe in Sapulpa, Okla., are taking off their aprons and giving them to Allen and Susan Shamburg of Grand Junction, Colo., on Tuesday, according to the Sapulpa Daily Herald.

The Rivetts are retiring after operating the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant for seven days a week for 10 years. They say the history of the diner goes back even further, to 1927. It once was known as the Courthouse Grill.

“We still get e-mail messages from people in Holland and Germany who came to our restaurant years ago,” Ken Rivett said. “One even sent us a wedding announcement,” he said.

And for the past 10 years the menu has stayed just about the same. There’s only been one price increase, Glenda Rivett said.

The second thing was to cater to the daytime breakfast and lunch crowd with daily specials such as the old standard chicken fried steak and gravy.

The featured breakfast menu item was eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy.

“We have never changed the quality of the food we serve,” Ken Rivett said.

“The only change I can remember is we changed from thick sliced to regular sliced bacon,” Glenda Rivett said.

And they have passed along at least one secret to their success: the quality of their coffee.

“We told them about the coffee,” she said. “”We have used Cain’s since the day we opened.”

The Rivetts believe the quality of the coffee continues to attract a morning coffee crowd.

“And we told the new owners that if they were smart, they would not cheapen the food products and give good service with a smile,” Ken Rivett said.

The cafe was even on the Internet, with this modest site.

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