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Filling the holes August 22, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Maps, Signs.

It wasn’t long ago that if one wanted to find historic Route 66, vintage maps, old-timers and make plenty of guesses were required.

Now there are maps and guidebooks. Realizing that Route 66 was a tourist attraction, states for the most part installed enough road signs to direct novice travelers.

However, there are stretches of the Mother Road in which tourists get lost — especially ones without the maps or guidebooks. Perhaps a Route 66 road sign was stolen by souvenir hunters. Perhaps the road lies in a sparsely populated area. Perhaps there is an obscure alignment of Route 66 that few people know exists. Perhaps the town in which Route 66 goes through hasn’t jumped on the tourism bandwagon.

Rod Harsh of Visit66.com has a visitors’ center on Route 66 in Carterville, Mo. He says he regularly encounters tourists who become lost in southwest Missouri. (I can attest to problems while driving in Carthage, north Joplin and near Carterville.)

Harsh fears that wayward tourists will miss out the full Mother Road experience. Or worse, they’ll become frustrated and get back on the interstates.

Nearly all the Route 66 states have enrolled or are enrolling in the National Scenic Byways program, which will provide more funds for road signs. However, several states have a ways to go through the process. One state, Texas, has shown no interest. I suspect Route 66 eventually will be a contiguous byway, but it’s years away.

Harsh supports the Byways program, but has decided that something needs to be done sooner. He’s launched a Web site, SigntheRoute.com, and is taking suggestions for a grass-roots effort to sign the historic highway where it needs it.

He even enlisted a professional sign company to make a vinyl sign like the one at right. He says it cost only $25, and it would be even cheaper per unit if purchased in bulk. The sign is not reflective, but Harsh surmises that many travelers drive Route 66 in the daytime.

According to Harsh’s site:

Consider the sign to be a “temporary” aid to travelers, until better signage comes along. [...]

The objective here is to first sign the locations where travelers are getting lost most often.

He has a page of signs that can be used, including the “painted shield on the pavement” option that’s growing in popularity.

For now, Harsh has a “How to Help” page where he’s taking suggestions. One of the ideas is an “Adopt a Sign” effort.

I think Harsh’s effort is commendable. He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel, but to improve the overall travel experience by filling in the holes.

And if those Scenic Byway signs start showing up en masse, there’s nothing wrong with a little redundancy to help you in road navigation.

What’s cooking at Boot Hill? August 22, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants, Television.
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Here in Oklahoma, I haven’t been able to go to Vega, Texas, and check out Rory Schepisi’s recently opened Boot Hill Saloon & Grill on Route 66.

However, the Amarillo Globe-News visited, and published a story about it Tuesday (free registration required).

Some tidbits from the well-rounded article:

  • Schepisi is considering opening another restaurant, in Amarillo, if things go well with Boot Hill. It would be a New York-style bistro.
  • Despite her recent loss on “The Next Food Network Star,” she’s under contract with the network for two years. She’s interested in showing viewers the different cuisines of Texas.
  • She’s learned to work cattle with her cowboy boyfriend, Klay.
  • But she doesn’t ride horses much anymore. She broke three ribs when she was bucked off about eight months ago.

Wallis and Colbert August 22, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Highways, History, Television.
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Author Michael Wallis was on the Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” last week to plug his new book, “The Lincoln Highway.”

Here is the video clip of the interview:

Wallis also is well-known for the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road” and mentions ol’ 66 during the bantering.

UPDATE 8/23/07: YouTube removed the video because of its ongoing copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom, a parent company of Comedy Central.

You can watch the Wallis interview from Colbert’s site here. Warning: a high-speed connection is recommended, and the site still may jam up your browser. That’s the reason the clip was placed on YouTube; it’s far more user-friendly.

The irony is that Colbert and Comedy Central cohort Jon Stewart both are listed as defense witnesses in the upcoming trial. Both have greatly benefited from YouTube clips providing publicity for their shows.

Storms wash out part of Route 66 August 22, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Weather.
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The remnants of Tropical Storm Erin were hard on the ol’ Mother Road in at least one spot this week.

According to the Lebanon (Mo.) Daily Record:

A portion of Route 66, west of the Gasconde River is missing after Monday’s flooding when the culverts that normally allowed water to flow through with each were swept away by flood waters, taking the road bed along with it and leaving a huge hole where it once was.

Missouri Department of Transportation Spokesperson Angela Eden told The Daily Record Monday afternoon that engineers would look at the situation today and MoDOT hoped to have traffic moving again in the area in a matter of days.

“We had a lot of rain in a short period of time,” she said. “We’re going to have to have one of our civil engineers take a look at it before we can do any kind of repairs. Once we have our engineer take a look at it and they determine what we need to do to put it back together, we’ll get on it pretty quick.”

Eden asked that drivers be patient while repairs are being made. Meantime, the road will be completely closed.

Also, in Oklahoma, rising flood waters forced a rare, six-hour closing of Interstate 40 near El Reno. Whether this affected Route 66, I do not know. This portion of the Mother Road is quite a distance from I-40.

Winslow takes it easy August 21, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Music, Towns.
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The Christian Science Monitor tells the story of how the Route 66 town of Winslow, Ariz., has capitalized on The Eagles‘ song “Take It Easy” and its mention of a certain corner.

The Monitor says Winslow didn’t start to cash in on the song until 1997. I’m surprised it waited that long, as “Take It Easy” was at least 25-year-old hit even then.

But now, Winslow has a street-corner park, souvenir stores, a festival, and a revitalized downtown. And it was all sparked by a song written long ago by Jackson Browne.

Magazine names best road tunes August 21, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Magazines, Music.

The folks at American Road magazine have just published their “Rhythm and Cruise” issue, in which they’ve listed the “Best American Road Songs” of the past century.

Here are the Rules of the Road for the song listings:

1) The song must have been written about an American road, street, or destination. That is, songs like “Electric Avenue,” inspired by a London thoroughfare, do not qualify. Neither do songs that have been “retrofitted” like “I’ve Been Everywhere.” (That song was originally written about places in Australia. Only later was an American version recorded that replaced the Australian cities and towns with those in the United States.)

2) Writer(s) and/or performer(s) themselves need not be American as long as the subject of the song is American. Songs like the Kinks’ “Celluloid Heroes” — about a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, California — and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” — inspired by a parking lot in Hawaii — can be considered.

3) Thought was given to a song’s popularity and musical innovation, but also to its overall influence on history and/or popular culture. For example, in the category called “Best Song About Road Racing,” the contenders were “Maybellene,” “Hot Rod Lincoln,” and “Deadman’s Curve.” All three songs are fun and famous road race tunes. But “Maybellene,” the award winner, is roundly considered a watershed song credited with helping to bridge the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll.

I think the “retrofitting” rule is overly picky. Popular music, by its very nature, is retrofitted from earlier sources. To disqualify an obvious American highway song like Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” just because it has obscure Australian roots, seems overly restrictive.

Here is the magazine’s top songs by category:

Best Traveling Anthem
– In My Car (The Beach Boys)
– King of the Road (Roger Miller)
– On the Road Again (Willie Nelson)*

Best Song About a US Highway
– (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (Nat King Cole)*
– Highway 40 Blues (Ricky Skaggs)
– Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)

Best Song About a Car
– Ol’ 55 (Tom Waits)
– One Piece at a Time (Johnny Cash)
– Rocket 88 (Ike Turner)*

Best Song About Riding a Bus
– America (Simon and Garfunkel)*
– Promised Land (Chuck Berry)
– The Load-Out (Jackson Browne)

Best Song About a City Street
– Celluloid Heroes (The Kinks)
– Lake Shore Drive (Alliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah)
– Mainstreet (Bob Seger)*
– South Street (Orlons)

Best Cruising Song
– Cruisin’ (Smokey Robinson)
– Low Rider (War)
– Pink Cadillac (Bruce Springsteen)*

Best Song About Trucking
– Convoy (C.W. McCall)
– Six Days on the Road (Dave Dudley)*
– Truckin’ (The Grateful Dead)

Best Song About Parking
– Chevy Van (Sammy Johns)
– Little Red Corvette (Prince)
– Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Meat Loaf)*

Best Song About Road Racing
– Deadman’s Curve (Jan and Dean)
– Hot Rod Lincoln (Charlie Ryan)
– Maybellene (Chuck Berry)*

Best Song About Motorcycling
– Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf)*
– Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
– The Motorcycle Song (Arlo Guthrie)

Best Song About Hitchhiking
– Me and Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin)*
– Phantom 309 (Red Sovine)
– Sweet Hitch-Hiker (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Best Song About a Taxi
– Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)*
– Cab (Train)
– Taxi (Harry Chapin)

Songs with asterisks are those that are winners in each category. And I’ll take Prince over Meat Loaf in the parking song category, thank you.
I’m sure American Road’s lists will start a few arguments. It already has here.

Road hazard August 21, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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This sort of thing you’ll frequently encounter on Oatman Road, aka Route 66, between Oatman and Kingman, Ariz.

The burros are wild descendants of the original working animals that were used in the gold mines decades ago. They aren’t exactly tame, but they interact with locals and tourists so much that they’re quite docile. They spend much of the time wandering the streets of Oatman, mooching for carrots.

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