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A scene from Route 66 November 30, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Towns.
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Downtown area of Quapaw, Okla., at 10:40 a.m. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008.

Imagine an ill-advised lawsuit November 30, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Signs.
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It appears a wee bit of controversy has hit the Mother Road in the form of a billboard in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

From the Los Angeles Times:

A group that promotes separation of church and state filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Rancho Cucamonga after a billboard on Route 66 that read “Imagine No Religion” was taken down and destroyed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the city because it says Redevelopment Director Linda Daniels, who is also named in the suit, contacted the billboard company telling it of the numerous complaints the city had received regarding the billboard and asked if the company could do anything.

“It does appear that the city was engaging in this officious intervention and has violated our free speech and our establishment clause rights,” said foundation co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “They used their intimidation powers against the billboard company, I believe.”

The billboard, which bore a stained-glass motif and the Wisconsin-based group’s name and Web address, went up around Nov. 13 and was taken down a week later, Gaylor said.

An image of the now-disposed billboard can be seen here.

I’m as big of a supporter of the First Amendment as you’ll find. But this lawsuit is wrong-headed on several levels.

First, the billboard was owned by the billboard company, not the Freedom From Religion Foundation. If a billboard company has second thoughts about a client’s message, it’s within its prerogative to remove it.

Second, because the company refunded the lease, there is a lack of monetary damages to the foundation. If anyone should be sued, it should be the billboard company for breach of contract.

Third, there’s a lack of proof the city was directly behind the billboard’s being taken down. It’s telling that the Freedom from Religion Foundation spokeswoman couches her allegations with terms such as “it does appear” and “I believe.” The only apparent evidence is that the city passed along to the company the complaints about the billboard.

The lawsuit is little more than a publicity stunt.

The billboard’s message was taken from a lyric in this song, which is a lot more thoughtful and complex:

More 66 signs in Southern California November 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Signs.
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Bob Lundy, a Route 66er, sent me a copy of a Rialto (Calif.) Record article about the San Bernardino County Tourism group and its efforts to promote Route 66.

The article dealt with the third annual Taste of Route 66 tour. One of the tour’s aspects was to promote signs the group created, which “combine the cartoonish look from Pixar’s ‘Cars,’ which featured Route 66, and eye-catching colors,” the Record reported.

Each of the “Kicks on 66″ signs was personalized for the cities on the route.

This is in front of the Wigwam Motel, looking east. A traditional Route 66 sign is at left; the new Kicks on 66 sign is at right.

This is in front of the Wigwam Motel, looking east. A traditional Route 66 sign is at left; the new "Kicks on 66" sign is at right.

From left, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, Danny Castro and Bob Lundy present one of the Kicks on 66 signs.

From left, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, Danny Castro and Bob Lundy at one of the "Kicks on 66" sign presentations.

Among the participants was the Juan Pollo restaurant of San Bernardino, owned by Albert Okura, who also owns the Route 66 hamlet of Amboy, Calif. Other stops were El Toro Grill, the Eagle Smog Check station and Sierra Bakery.

Lundy says his signs are more tourism-friendly. Regardless, anyone who is trying to follow Route 66 will appreciate some redundancy in directional signs.

(Photos courtesy of Bob Lundy.)

From Oklahoma to Santa Monica by bicycle November 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, Road trips.
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The Daily Oklahoman has a story about Greg Merkel, a recent high-school graduate who lives in Edmond, Okla., who decided to bicycle on Route 66 westward to Santa Monica.

Luckily, he met a German in Clinton, Okla., who also was cycling the route. Together, they made it all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

“The hardest day was going up to Santa Fe which was uphill,” Merkel said. “I don’t know how high the winds were, but we had to pedal going downhill.” [...]

Merkel returned home on a train after riding his bike 1,795 miles.

He said he would like to attempt a cross-country journey again.

“I think it’s the best way to travel. You’re exercising constantly; you’re seeing different places, and you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight,” he said.

Merkel’s story got me thinking — I hope that someone eventually publishes a guidebook on cycling Route 66. It’s obvious there’s a small but growing market for it, and Route 66 imposes enough of its own challenges (unavoidable interstate, rough-surfaced alignments, nasty hills, nearly deserted stretches) that a well-researched guidebook could save a lot of headaches for cyclists.

Route 66 but, alas, no Cozy Dogs November 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Food, People.
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A day before Barack Obama is inaugurated as president of the United States, the Illinois State Society will hold its Illinois Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C.

More details about the sold-out event on Jan. 19 come from the Springfield (Ill.) Journal- Register:

Corn dogs, lemon shakeups and Chicago-style pizza all will be ready for the cast of thousands who will attend the Illinois Inaugural Gala set for Washington, D.C., the night before Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

“You’re going to enjoy all the sights and sounds and tastes of Illinois, from upstate all the way down to the southern tip and everywhere in between,” Suzanne New, executive chairwoman of the event, said this week.

The gala reception, dinner and ball is a giant party being thrown at the Renaissance Washington by the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C., an organization founded in 1854 in part “to foster and encourage social, friendly, and fraternal spirit among the Illinoisans of the National Capitol area,” according to its Web site [...]

Those attending the ball alone will be able to visit some Illinois-themed venues, such as the Illinois Hall of Heroes, the Springfield Disco and Route 66, as well as the State Fair.

The Route 66 theme and corn dogs made me think that perhaps the organizers were flying in Sue Waldmire and her recipe from the Cozy Dog Drive-In on Route 66 in Springfield. But a quick phone call to Waldmire confirmed that wasn’t the case. Too bad.

It’s not known whether Obama and his family will attend the event.

Incidentally, the president of the nonpolitical society is U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Collinsville. But Shimkus is throwing his partisanship aside for the big bash.

“Are you kidding me?” Shimkus said when asked about Obama being from a different party. “It’s a great opportunity. … I’m just so lucky that I was asked and I agreed to serve during this time of great historical significance.”

Making new memories November 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation.
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During a workshop about how to best update a 16-year-old revitalization plan for Route 66 in New Mexico, someone brought up interesting comments (as reported by the Mountain View Telegraph):

Whether people still get their kicks driving down Old Route 66 is the question asked by some people who attended a workshop sponsored by the New Mexico Route 66 Association.

“There will come a day when no one remembers those family trips anymore. They’re not old enough to have driven that highway, or have gone on a family trip on it, so it doesn’t have the emotional connection,” said Cyndie Tidwell.

Tidwell is a contractor hired by the association to complete an update of a corridor management and economic revitalization plan originally developed in 1992 by Anita Miller. [...]

“We just can’t assume that future generations will understand,” Tidwell said.

There might be some readers offended by Tidwell’s comments, and maybe she was simply trying to get people to think out of the box. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about for years.

I wasn’t around in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Mother Road’s heyday before the interstate highway system began to dismantle it. But I see enough vestiges of that era that I can imagine it — which is why historical preservation is important.

And old Route 66 is so different from any other road anyway, with its oddball characters and gimmicky businesses.

I guess what I’m trying to say that I and many other roadies are too young to remember the old days when gas was 15 cents a gallon and U.S. 66 was still a certified federal highway. But the old road is making happy memories for us now. Old 66 is vibrant and relevant. That’s is why I drive it regularly. And that’s why Route 66 News exists.

A look at Motel Safari’s upcoming sign November 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Signs.
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Richard Talley, owner of the Motel Safari in Tucumcari, N.M., sent me a draft of his new neon sign that will go up in a few months.

An artists rendering of a proposal for the Motel Safaris neon sign.

An artist's rendering of a proposal for the Motel Safari's neon sign.

Talley wrote:

The final version, will have some slight modifications or changes to it, but kept as a closely guarded secret, until completed and a surprise for everyone! [...]

As with everything, we can’t please everyone, but this will be of authentic architectural style. It will be a vast improvement over the original sign’s version as well, as the orignal sign never even had neon. This one will be both in neon and animated with motion. [...]

The Camel will be completely outlined with neon, camel, saddle, rider and all – and the camel’s legs will be walking – in motion at night!!! [...]

The Motel Safari section will also be outlined in neon, and the Smalltown America logo underlined in neon. If we can swing it in the budget, along with finishing all of our other renovation projects, we’re looking at adding neon to the building perimeters as well.

Talley has made a lot of improvements on the property, including these murals.

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