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Play it loud November 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s a fast, sweaty and rollicking version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66,” performed by British rock band Dr. Feelgood.

This is one of the best versions of that song I’ve heard, if for no other reason than because it rocks.

A blast from the past November 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Television.
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Here’s an Illinois Lottery television commercial from 1994. Route 66 plays a significant role in the jackpot fantasy.

Constructive criticism for a Route 66 town November 26, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Preservation, Towns.
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Dan O’Neil, the mayor of Edmond, Okla., wrote an opinion piece for the Edmond Sun. In it, O’Neil announced the city was selected by the Mayors’ Institute of City Design to participate in a study. The group tries to resolve urban design problems.

O’Neil lays out what he thinks needs to be addressed:

What project in Edmond did we pick for the mayor’s to study? I chose Route 66 east of I-35 to study. Edmond’s 5 miles of Route 66 looks nice, but it lacks the look of Route 66. We are building a new community softball park there and it would be nice to capture the Route 66 feel at the park and also improve the curb appeal along Arcadia Lake.

We all know East Edmond is changing rapidly and it is my hope we also could do a few things to help preserve and enhance the driving experience along Historic Route 66. 

I’ve been critical of Edmond before, but I’ll try to be constructive this time.

Here goes. Edmond faces two big problems.

First, there are few historical landmarks left on Route 66 to preserve, save for parts of downtown. Edmond did jump on the Route 66 bandwagon, but was more than a decade too late. Many Mother Road landmarks are long gone.

Second, Edmond looks like Anyburb, U.S.A. It is rife with featureless strip malls, fast-food restaurants and ubiquitous chain stores. If you plopped someone from a typical retail sprawl town like Fairview Heights, Ill., into the middle of Edmond, they wouldn’t tell much of a difference. Route 66 travelers — and most tourists in general — don’t want to see stuff you can see just about anywhere else.

My suggestions: Preserve the few historical landmarks that are left and adopt strict architectural zoning on the Route 66 corridor. Require businesses to employ designs that are more retro and distinctive than the typical boxy look. Encourage the use of neon signs. Offer incentives to draw unique or locally owned businesses.

Allow it to evolve into something funky and different, like Nob Hill in Albuquerque, the Blue Dome District in Tulsa, or the Asia District in Oklahoma City.

And Fontana, Calif., is gaining notice for converting parts of Route 66 into mixed-use developments designed more for walking than driving.

Edmond’s population is growing like crazy, so it should be able to adopt these policies from a position of strength. Businesses will grumble about the stringent rules, but they’ll shut up when a destination area is created in the process.

The Father of Truck-Driving Songs November 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s country star Dave Dudley, singing his signature hit “Six Days on the Road” during a 1970 television show. It was a big hit in 1963, and spawned many other truck-driving songs.

“… Just a memory now …” November 25, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Trailerdancer, a poster on YouTube, has recorded his version of Fred Eaglesmith‘s song, “White Rose,” the story of a small-town filling station that was abandoned when it was bypassed by the interstate.

The song doesn’t specifically take place on Route 66, but the sad story is familiar to those who live on the Mother Road.

“White Rose” recently was covered by country star Toby Keith.

An obscure figure of the Bunion Derby November 24, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, People, Sports.
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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today published an excellent story about Ed Gardner, one of the runners in the 3,400-mile transcontinental footrace, famously called the Bunion Derby, that took place on Route 66.

As many Route 66ers know, Oklahoma native Andy Payne won the race and its $25,000 prize. But few know of Gardner, who was one of five black entrants and the only one who contended.

Runners had to deal with heat, cold, primitive conditions, a grueling pace and oncoming traffic. Gardner had to deal with all that and more:

In McLean, Texas, an angry white mob surrounded his tent and threatened to burn it. In Western Oklahoma, a farmer with a shotgun rode a mule behind him all day threatening to shoot if Gardner passed a white man.

“Later (the man) who won the race was talking to a historical group and said Ed could have easily won the race if he didn’t have so many followers in each town,” said Geoff Williams, an Ohio-based Bunion Derby historian, noting he was also slowed by adoring fans.

Gardner told the P-I he dined on washtubs of beans and used whatever shoes he could get. He went through 14 pairs.

“I can’t imagine doing that now,” said Seattle runner Phil Kochik, who last year was ranked among the nation’s top five ultra marathon runners. “Most people don’t run more than 10 hours in a day.”

Even though he won more stages than any runner, Gardner finished eighth.  He split his $2,500 prize money with two sports promoters.

After his running days were over, Gardner worked as a repairman at a Seattle shipyard and as a janitor. He died in 1966.

If you want to read more about Gardner and the Bunion Derby, read Geoff Williiams’ excellent book, “C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race.” My review of the book is here.

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