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Gas prices coming down in 2008? December 31, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Road trips.

Maybe so. This seems to go against the conventional wisdom that gasoline prices will keep inching upward.

But an report last week by the Christian Science Monitor indicates that the price at the pump may fall modestly in the fast-coming year.

Even if the winter is somewhat colder, the energy markets may have a greater supply of oil next year. Through much of this year, OPEC production has been about 1 million barrels per day lower than expected, says John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group in Washington. But he adds, “I have heard that Saudi Arabia is now pumping an extra 400,000 barrels of oil per day, so we’ll have to see if that continues.”

In fact, supply could outstrip demand next year, says Kevin Lindemer, an energy analyst at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. This year, oil production was about 85 million barrels per day, barely enough to satisfy demand of about 85.7 million barrels per day. “Next year, we’re probably closer to supplies of 87 million or 88 million barrels per day,” he estimates.

Some of the new supply will come from Saudi Arabia, which is opening up another oil field, says Antoine Halff, an energy analyst at Fimat USA, an energy trading company in New York. “We see more production coming onstream next year, more rebuilding of spare capacity that will put some flexibility into the system,” he says.

Spare capacity will also come from non-OPEC sources, says Mueller. “There are a number of big projects coming onstream in the US Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and Kazakhstan,” he says.

Energy supplies will be further augmented by an increase in biofuels. In 2007, EIA estimates, ethanol has been equal to 4.3 percent of the total gasoline pool. “We should be ramping up to 9 billion gallons of biofuels, up from 6 [billion] to 7 billion gallons right now,” says Mr. Felmy.

Those are compelling reasons on why prices should slide. Obviously, this scenario would be good for Route 66 businesses, which see a modest impact when fuel prices rise.

However, the Nervous Nellies in the markets tend to overreact to anything in the world stage. If the Middle East continues to be unstable, prices could ignore all those sensible reasons to drop the price of oil.

For all small-town residents everywhere December 30, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Towns.
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Yeah, I know … John Mellencamp‘s from Indiana, which isn’t one of the Route 66 states.

But he was born and raised in a small town, and his 1985 hit song by the same name (back when he still partly used his John Cougar stage name) captures the humility and pride of small-town people better than any I can think of. He gets the feel right.

And since Route 66 is frequently described as the world’s longest small town,” Mellencamp’s tune seems appropriate here.

Brits invade the Mother Road December 30, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips.
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Owen Adams of the Sunday Mirror in London tells about his trip on Route 66 with other Britons in a coach.

A few things are left out in the article, including Kansas. But the piece is generous in length, and strikes a decidedly positive tone about the Mother Road.

Adams also plugs Archer Direct, which is offering 16-day packages on Route 66 for the reasonable price of about $2,500, flights included.

Racetrack celebrating 25th anniversary December 29, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports.
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Located just off Route 66 near Lebanon, Mo., is the I-44 Raceway, which caters mostly to stock-car racing. The 2008 season for the 3/8-mile oval track will be its 25th, reports WhoWon.com.

A good mix of weekly shows and special events for 2008 will find the weekly shows featuring UMP Late Models, USRA A-Modifieds, Factory Stocks, Bombers, B-Mods and Rookies highlighting regular action, while Superstocks and 305 Winged Sprints will be on the card for limited appearances

The Special events for 2008 will feature the popular traveling USMTS Modifieds making 2 appearances as they will help on the season opener on March 29th along with a return appearance on Aug.9th.

For open-wheeled Sprint Car fans,the Central Missouri based Winged Outlaw Warriors will make an appearance on May 17th to show just how fast the clay oval truly is.

There’s more, including a full tentative schedule, here. The racetrack’s site is here.

Interactive art December 29, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Music.
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A traveler stopped by the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas.

What’s always been cool about this strange piece of artwork is it’s not in a stuffy museum with armed guards making sure you don’t touch it. Here, snow and rain falls on it. You can touch it, spray-paint it and even let your little dogs take a pee on it.

Incidentally, the song is “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M.

Restoration of Rialto Square Theatre begins December 28, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Theaters.
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About 18 months ago, we passed on the news that a local group was trying to raise $5 million to renovate the historic Rialto Square Theatre of Joliet, Ill., which is saddled between lanes of Route 66 and is a stone’s throw from the Lincoln Highway.

The Joliet Herald News reports that the fundraising continues, but the group has already started the restoration.

Some projects will accent the ancient themes of the Rialto’s grandeur. Other projects are adding a digital edge to the theater’s hidden inner workings, ushering in 21st-century production technology.

David Kump strolls through the archway leading into the theater’s column-lined rotunda. The Rialto official points out rolls of new carpet that soon will line the grand staircases sweeping gracefully upward to the north and south of the archway.

However, visitors must remember that in this renovation, everything old is new again. The new carpet design — replacing a solid maroon color — is black, gold and light burgundy with a pattern that reprises the original carpet design of 1926.

There’s a lot more — including pictures — of information that the article gives. To get a sense of the work ahead, go read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: Lynn “Lulu” Bagdon)

Round and round December 28, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History.
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Another story today about the Round Barn of Arcadia, Okla. This one’s by Ted Landphair of the Voice of America.

According to his report, there are 1,000 round barns left in America. They were built up until the 1920s. Given the advantages of such a structure, it makes you wonder why farmers quit building them:

Carpenters discovered that they required less stone or wood than rectangular barns, thus saving on costs. Because their roofs are supported by the one circular wall, there are no columns needed. So there’s more room for livestock or hay. And Midwesterners learned that high winds — even tornadoes — that would pulverize an ordinary barn often glance off a round one.

And I wasn’t aware of this problem during the Round Barn’s restoration:

Slowly it began to bulge and slump to the east, until a group of citizens bought it and fixed it up. They pounded telephone poles into the ground all around the barn, wrapped heavy guy wires around them and the barn, and pulled until the old red barn was upright again. That caused the roof to collapse, but they built a new one.

I’ve seen many photos of the collapsed roof, but didn’t know about the structure leaning. That makes me appreciate the group’s restoration even more.

Here’s an audio file of the report:

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