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Help the Horn Oil Co. June 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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The Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday kinda sorta came out against the preservation of the circa-1947 Horn Oil Co., which is slated to be bulldozed for multi-use infill but the decision is being appealed. (For more on the background of the Horn Oil Co. fight, read last week’s Journal story here.)

First, the editorial — which is quite muddled — compares the Horn to El Vado Motel, which was saved from demolition by the city with the help of the mayor and Route 66 preservationists. But the newspaper’s editorial questions whether the Horn deserves to be saved.

Here’s where the editorial runs off the tracks:

A glimpse of the golden era of Route 66 is neat, but a glimpse of the outside is as much as most tourists want. The small rooms, lack of amenities and a location left behind by interstate traffic doom the landmarks to a lower-rent clientele. One residential neighbor describes the Sleaze Land ambience (sic) after dark: “You hear fights out there and you hear— well, I guess the way I can say it is — ‘ladies of the night’ back there, like a lot of them.”

West Central isn’t a theme park. City officials have to figure out how to unchain the economic potential of enough of a property from absolutist dictates to support preservation of the rest. Drive-by tourism in the daytime can’t keep these landmarks respectable at night.

First, I don’t trust the media reports about crime and prostitution at the Horn, especially when previous stories got it so wrong. There’s a big difference between the reported 250 police calls a year at the property and the confirmed number of 25. And quoting an unnamed “residential neighbor” doesn’t add credibility, either.

Second, any editorial that uses statements from El Vado owner Richard Gonzales is highly suspect. With the lies or falsehoods or loaded language Gonzales used during the El Vado fight, Gonzales has zero credibility.

Third, the editorial makes the rash assumptions that 1) Route 66ers wouldn’t be interested at staying at a refurbished Horn Oil Co. because of the small rooms and lack of amenities; and 2) a preserved Horn Oil Co. has no other viable use. The first part of the argument is demonstrably wrong, with the Blue Swallow Motel as a prime example.

The second part of the argument is also rebutted by Albuquerque’s own De Anza Motor Lodge, which soon will be remodeled. The Horn also is close to downtown, which is undergoing a major revitalization. There’s no reason to believe a well-conceived re-use of Horn Oil Co. can’t be part of that.

And razing a property that’s on the National Register of Historic Places is just plain immoral.
The biggest problem I see, after inspecting the property last week, is that Horn Oil Co. is set back from Central Avenue and that it doesn’t have a sign pointing it out. One nicely done neon sign could fix the problem easily.

If you’re interesting in preserving Horn Oil Co., here’s what to do. Write a letter to the Albuquerque Journal, stating you want the Horn Oil Co. preserved. The form to write and submit a letter is here.

It doesn’t need to be long; just state that you would like to see the property saved. Our goal is to have 500 letters submitted to the Journal — this rebutting the notion that there is little interest in saving the property.

Should CBS News have paid Route 66 tour guides? June 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.
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Public Eye, which is sort of an ombudsman of CBS News, received a question from a New York Times reporter about the CBS “Evening News” story about Route 66 and the impact of the interstate highway system.

CBS correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi paid John and Lenore Weiss, two Illinois Route 66 preservationists who also conduct tours of the Mother Road. There was no effort to hide the fact the Weisses were paid; it’s there in the video.

So Public Eye asked whether paying the Weisses was proper:

We asked Alfonsi for a little background information, and she emailed the following:

“They are full time Route 66 tour guides, and drove us around about 100 miles in their car. We paid them to show us the road, like any other customer.”

I asked Linda Mason, CBS News senior vice president, standards and special projects, whether paying for the tour was a violation of CBS News standards.

“No, of course not,” said Mason. “Especially because we disclosed it. He knew Route 66 – he was a specialist – and by disclosing it we’re being totally transparent with our viewers.”

Mason said disclosure was the key issue. “We disclose when we’ve paid somebody,” she said. “Sometimes we do it by saying that the person is a CBS News analyst. Or a CBS News consultant. That’s code for we paid this expert. Otherwise we would just say they’re an energy analyst.”

Since CBS made it clear that the Weisses were paid for their expertise, I don’t have a problem with it. They know about Route 66 in Illinois as much as anyone, and their involvement in the story gave it more credibility. But I would suggest that CBS stop with the self-admitted “code” words on other stories and be more upfront about the use of paid consultants.

Ruminations on roads June 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.
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Hank Stuever of the Washington Post has some interesting ruminations about the 50th anniversary of the interstate highway system. It seems he’s trying to praise it and, at the same time, deflate Route 66 a little. But he’s mostly unsuccessful at both.

Go read it. It’s food for thought, at least.

Re-connect with America through Route 66 June 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Road trips.
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With the 50th anniversary of the interstate highway system, CBS News decided to take a look at its impact on society.

And it’s not been all good, says Columbia University historian Kenneth T. Jackson.

Jackson also says the highway that was supposed to bring us closer together actually pushed us farther apart, as suburbs blossomed, quirky signs for roadside stands disappeared, and American became dependent on cars and fast food.

“We now drive much more,” says Jackson. “We don’t want to walk anymore… it’s helped undermine our sense of community. It really killed the Mom and Pop stores in the United States.”

So driving historic Route 66 is way to re-connect with the people in this country. As CBS reporter Sharyn Alfonsi says:

It’s an America that many Americans have never seen at all.

The story on the page includes a link to a video of an interview with Illinois Route 66 preservationists John and Lenore Weiss, who also confirm that the Mother Road is a way to truly see the country.

Mini-golf on the Mother Road June 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Sports.
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The Washington (Mo.) Missourian reports that the new Route 66 Mini Golf is set to open next month in Gray Summit, Mo., on Highway 100, aka Route 66, next to the Diamond Inn Motel.

It’s at the site of a mini-course that closed a few years ago. If you want to learn more about the 18-hole course, e-mail owner Ben Homeyer at bjhomeyer (at) netzero.net

Norwegian classic-car group nears the end of its trip June 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Vehicles.
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The group of Norwegians who are driving pre-1966 automobiles the entire length of Route 66 is nearing the end of its trip, reports the Big Bear Grizzly of Big Bear, Calif.

The group encountered mechanical problems, difficulty acquiring insurance, and dealt with a hit-and-run in Chicago. But they had a lot of fun, too.

“We’ve had very, very good reception,” said Jon Grasto of Sarpsborg, Norway. “We got the thumbs up from truck drivers and especially elderly people. Our cars are a rembrance of a very nice time, a very nice period in America.”

To check up on the group’s adventures, go to its Web site here.

A look at the Green Spot Motel June 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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Syd, the proprieter of the super Roadside Peek site, sent me some photos of the Green Spot Motel along Route 66 in Victorville, Calif. This was spurred by an earlier post about an article from the Los Angeles Daily News.

Syd concurs that it appears that the formerly run-down motel is on an upswing.

I have to admit, the architecture is unique. Sounds like the Green Spot deserves further investigation from roadies.

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