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Old sounding new June 30, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Change the key and slow the tempo, and Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ sounds like a new song.

This version is performed by Steve Binetti.

A drive through the desert June 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Road trips.
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Timothy O’Grady of The Observer in London writes about his driving journey through the American Southwest, much of it on Route 66.

Among the places featured in the story is the Route 66 Motel in Barstow, Calif., and the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Notes from the road June 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Events, Music, Preservation, Television, Theaters, Towns.
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There seems to be some activity at the long-abandoned old Route 66 town of Spencer, Mo. We heard from Gary Turner up the road at Gay Parita that someone has bought the town’s handful of buildings and plans to revive it with a gift shop and maybe other things. When we drove by on Sunday evening, old-style gas pumps had been installed. With an old iron bridge nearby and an alignment that’s considerably more serene for travelers than the busy Highway 96, perhaps Spencer can again become a destination. Maybe Turner and Spencer’s owner can feed off each other with tourism visits.

  • Pending clearance from health officials, the historic Bono’s orange stand in Fontana, Calif., is set to reopen, reports the San Bernardino County Sun. It’s sits on the Bono’s Restaurant and Deli parking lot on Foothill Boulevard (aka Route 66). The orange-shaped stand dates to the 1930s.
  • The Route 66 Festival-Hot Dogs and Hot Rods is in Clinton, Okla., this weekend boasts something unusual — the Wiener Nationals dog races on Saturday, in which full-blooded dachshunds participate. Clinton decided to do another Route 66 festival after its hosting of the national festival last year was such a success.
  • The village of Gardner, Ill., reports that out of expenditures of about $17,000, the village lost a little less than $500 during the Kicks on Gardner Route 66 event a few weeks ago. That doesn’t sound encouraging, but for a new event, nearly breaking even is quite good. Most new festivals bleed money for the first few years until the kinks are worked out.
  • It appears, according to varying news reports in varying cities, that the 14th annual punk-rock Vans Warped Tour has a Route 66 stage. It had one actual stop in a Route 66 town, the first date of Pomona, Calif.
  • The Route 66 Rendezvous on Sept. 18-21 in San Bernardino, Calif., needs volunteers. More information here.
  • A new theater troupe called the Route 66 Theatre Company has formed in the Windy City. According to Playbill, “artistic director (Stef) Tovar was looking for a way to collaborate on theater pieces with friends in both L.A. and Chicago.”
  • Michael Giltz of the Huffington Post, ranting against Hollywood’s questionable pricing and constant repackaging of television shows on DVD, singled out “Route 66,” among others. “When the iconic show Route 66’s first season came out in two parts last October and this February, I objected mightily but the people behind the set (a tiny company) insisted they had to put out the first half just to see if they could justify putting out the second half. The company was so small I relented a little. But now that they’re releasing the first season in one set just four months after putting out the individual volumes, I’m sorry I did.”

Montana, R.I.P. June 26, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Attractions, Businesses, People.
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Word came today that Montana, the beloved mascot of Rich Henry’s Rabbit Ranch on Route 66 in Staunton, Ill., died overnight, likely from natural causes.

Montana some months ago underwent abdominal surgery and was nearly seven years old, which is the upper limit of the typical life span of rabbits. Montana even had her own Web page on Henry’s site.

Montana was known for her remarkably soft fur, quiet disposition, and tricks that she would perform for Route 66 travelers.

Here’s a video of Montana performing. It begins at the 3:17 mark:

Baby steps for national Route 66 alliance June 26, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Uncategorized.
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During last week’s Route 66 Summit at Litchfield, Ill., a steering committee was formed to establish a national Route 66 alliance. One of the organizers at the meeting is optimistic the group will be operating by 2009.

The organization would be similar to the old U.S. Highway 66 Association, which operated until 1976, and the Lincoln Highway Association, which has a paid executive director, office staff and representation from all the member states.

Talks about a national Route 66 group occurred at the 2007 Route 66 Summit in Clinton, Okla., but nothing much happened afterward. Route 66 author Michael Wallis, who presided over that meeting, acknowledged a mistake was made in not forming a steering committee at the time.

“Everybody’s heart was in the right place and the intentions were good, but we didn’t put it away,” Wallis said ruefully during a telephone interview this week.

“But it’s a brand-new day, and I was incredibly impressed with what happened at the summit in Litchfield. The debate never got heated. It got lively, that’s for sure, and that’s good. I think everyone, particularly the people on the steering committee, all got on the same page.”

A number of the steering committee members will gather before a meeting in November of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program advisory board in St. Louis, as many of them are associated with both. But much of the talk about a national Route 66 alliance will occur electronically. Swa Frantzen, proprietor of Historic66.com, donated the rt66.org domain to be expressly used by the alliance.

“A lot of what we can do can be accomplished by e-mail, phone or conference calls,” said Jim Conkle of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, who also presided over last week’s summit. “Getting together is nice, but it’s not a necessity.”

The steering panel will have a long to-do list, including writing bylaws, applying for nonprofit status and deciding classes of membership.

“We would like to be up and running by Flagstaff (during the annual Route 66 festival in September) and elect a board of governors,” Conkle said.

The steering committee consists primarily of members of existing Route 66 associations from the eight states. The tentative list is:

  • Marty Bilecki, Illinois
  • Tommy Pike, Missouri
  • Mike Pendleton, Kansas
  • Scott Nelson, Kansas
  • Someone from the Oklahoma association
  • Bob “Crocodile” Lile, Texas
  • Vickie Ashcraft, New Mexico
  • Mike Ward, Arizona
  • Kevin Hansel, California
  • Michael Wallis, at-large
  • David Rushing, at-large
  • Rick Freeland, at-large
  • Swa Frantzen, at-large
  • Jim Conkle, acting chairman

Requests to several other people involved in Route 66 to serve on the committee have been made, but responses have not yet been made.

Conkle is adamant that the future board of directors has representation from outside of Route 66’s eight states, including from foreign countries.

“We’re looking for input,” he said. “This is not a clique; this is not a secret society. It’s going to be open to everybody who has a stake in 66, whether they’re on the road or off the road.”

As for where the alliance will be based, Wallis is lobbying for Tulsa, where a Route 66 museum will soon be built at Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.

“But I’m pushing for this thing whether the alliance is there or not,” Wallis said.

Fodor’s “Essential USA” a disappointment June 26, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Road trips.
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On Wednesday, I received a copy of Fodor’s “Essential USA” (688 pages, $21.95), which is subtitled “Spectacular Cities, Natural Wonders and Great American Road Trips.”

I requested the book from Fodor’s because of this description:

The book includes classic road trip itineraries like Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway, where to stay and eat for all budgets, “best bet” tours and attractions in dozens of locales, best places to slow down (Maine coast, Western Montana, California desert, North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the Florida Keys), and best destinations for foodies (New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and Texas Hill Country).

But having perused it extensively, I found that the entries on Route 66 are scant. The “Best Road Trips in the U.S.” section takes up only three pages, and Route 66 only five paragraphs.

Worse, the Route 66 text contains at least one significant error. It lists the National Historic Route 66 Federation (National66.com) as a place to download turn-by-turn directions, when it actually is Swa Frantzen’s Historic66.com site. And it is curious to list from Arcadia, Okla., to Stroud, Okla., as “one of the longest surviving stretches” of Route 66 when there are others that are longer and more prominent.

“Essential USA” contains chapters on Chicago, Los Angeles and the Santa Fe / Albuquerque / Taos. Each is informative, but has almost no information on the “kitschy roadside attractions, old diners and motels … often marked by huge elaborate neon signs” that Route 66 travelers would seek. The “Along the Way” short summaries of other cities include Amarillo and St. Louis, but omit prominent towns such as Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Flagstaff, Ariz., and both Springfields.

This is the first edition of “Essential USA.” Maybe Fodor’s will devote comprehensive chapters to the best road trips, including Route 66, in future editions (hint, hint).

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