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Route 66 Pulse may have a heartbeat March 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications.

I’ve received word in recent days that an effort is being made to revive the Route 66 Pulse newspaper, which ceased publication August 2008 after a little more than two years.

Bob “Crocodile” Lile, president of the Texas Old Route 66 Association; and Jim Conkle, executive director of the California Route 66 Preservation Foundation, are traveling Route 66 next week from Shamrock, Texas, to Chicago to sell advertisements, find people to submit articles, and drum up support for the publication.

Lile was a writer and regional distributor for the old Pulse, and Conkle was its managing editor.

I e-mailed Lile, Conkle and Jason Bernhardt, associate publisher of the Pulse during its first incarnation, to find more information about the “new” Pulse. Here’s what I was able to piece together:

  • Publication day for the revived Pulse will be May 18, with distribution along all of Route 66 beginning the next day.
  • It will be a 50,000-copy print run, as opposed to the old Pulse’s peak of 30,000. Ad  rates will remain the same.
  • The initial issue will be printed in California, but the Pulse probably will seek a printer in a more central location or several sites.
  • A copy of the Pulse probably will have a price tag, as opposed to previously giving it away for free.
  • Mercury Publishing Group, which owned the Pulse, has agreed in principle to donate the newspaper and its Web site to the fledgling Route 66 Alliance. At that point, Mercury would no longer be involved. The plan is that the Pulse would be a key part of the Alliance.
  • The Pulse Web site may have only “teaser” parts of the stories online. Organizers want readers to primarily use the actual print publication. It’s planned to give paid subscribers, however, full access to the Web site.
  • Part of the costs for the new issue will be underwritten by David Myers, founder of The Wildlands Conservancy. As a result, that issue will contain stories about solar, wind and renewable energy on the road.
  • Conkle wants a lot of input from the Route 66 community on how to make the publication more successful.
  • Whether there’s a second issue, Lile wrote, “depends on whether or not we can generate enough cash to pay the bills.”

That last part is the rub. The Pulse suffered steep financial losses during its run and encountered problems distributing the newspaper along all 2,200 miles of Route 66. Perhaps the changes that are planned will help resolve those problems.

House passes bill that would renew Route 66 program March 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday easily approved the Omnibus Lands Bill that contains a measure that would reauthorize the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for another 10 years.

The House passed it by a 285-140 tally. The bill had been approved by the Senate 77-20 last week. The lands bill now goes to President Obama’s desk, where it is widely expected to be signed.

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) even mentioned the Route 66 program during a speech on the House floor:

“And from east to west, this bill will reauthorize the Route 66 Corridor Program which is essential to preserving the historical character and vibrancy of our beloved Central Avenue.”

Heinrich’s speech can be viewed on C-SPAN video here.

It was a big victory for the program and Route 66 enthusiasts in general. The well-regarded Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost-share grants for historic property preservation and other initiatives regarding the Mother Road. The program also has done exhaustive research on the road’s historic sites.

Although the recent votes made it look like a slamdunk piece of legislature, the lands bill took a tortuous route. First, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) threatened several times to block or stop it. Then, Democrats miscalculated the bill’s support in the House, where it failed by two votes earlier this month when it required a two-thirds majority to advance.

Lawmakers had to move urgently to reauthorize the program, as it was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2009. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and now-retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) were the ones who pushed having the preservation program … um … preserved. So Route 66 businesses will have the program at their disposal until at least 2019.

The Wolf rises again March 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.

The Wolf, which is the nickname for the 70-year-old grill at the Rock Cafe, is again ready to fry hamburgers and other food at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla.

You can read here on Rock Cafe owner Dawn Welch’s blog about how the grill survived the devastating May 2008 fire and how the appliance was resurrected. The restaurant is planning a Memorial Day weekend reopening.

Stolen meteorite returned to Meteor Crater March 25, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.

A nearly 50-pound meteorite that was stolen in 1968 from Meteor Crater near Route 66 in eastern Arizona has been found and returned, reports the Arizona Republic.

It’s called the Basket meteorite because of its shape. How it was recovered is remarkable:

Tom Lynch did not know any of this three years ago when he stopped at a garage sale near his home in Wisconsin and spotted an odd hunk of metal. For sale. $10.

The retired GM worker liked the way the thing looked. It was bronze, he thought, or maybe copper. “I figured, for $10, it was worth at least that in scrap,” he said.

But Lynch never scrapped it. Instead, he used it to hold down his young grandson’s plastic basketball stand. It weighed 49 pounds. “It worked just perfect.”

But then, he was watching the Travel Channel one day and he learned a little bit about meteorites. Then, he learned a lot more.

Ultimately, he learned that this was no hunk of scrap metal. It was, in fact, quite famous in an obscure kind of way.

It took awhile, but Lynch figured he had something special when the meteorite never rusted, despite it being outdoors. Also, it was magnetic. He took it to the Field Museum in Chicago, where it determined the meteorite was 4.6 billion years old. A staffer, with the help of an old postcard, eventually figured that the rock was a match to the one stolen from Meteor Crater nearly four decades ago.

Lynch was awarded $1,000, two rooms at a hotel and allowing his daughter a run at the museum’s gift shop for returning the meteorite.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal also has a story about Lynch and his meteorite, including a better photo of the rock.

(Hat tip: Tim Steil)

San Bernardino motorcycle festival postponed a year March 25, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Motorcycles.
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The Berdoo Bikes & Blues Festival in San Bernardino, Calif., scheduled for early May, has been postponed to 2010 because the economic recession made it difficult to attract sponsors, reports the San Bernardino County Sun.

The inaugural festival was last year, and it drew about 8,000 people. It was an offshoot on the Route 66 Rendezvous, a massive classic- and custom-car show held each September in San Bernardino.

The motorcycle event is organized mainly by the local firefighters union. The recession is severe in California and in San Bernardino County in particular; the region had a large housing bubble that burst.

The Sun reports that organizers are shooting to resume the festival in April 2010.

The story of the KuKu March 24, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.

KALB-TV in Alexandria, Va., goes waaaaay off its beaten path to tell about Gene Waylan and the last survivor of the old KuKu Burger chain, located on Route 66 in Miami, Okla.

In the early 60’s, there were lots of Kuku Burger joints around the Midwest. Gene took over and settled in. He liked his customers, got involved in the community, and just kept flipping. “I’m not really a people person as far as going out and doing a sales job, but I really enjoy meeting the people and it’s really gotten better now with the Route 66 cruisers coming by,” Waylan said.

Parents sometimes tell their wayward children, teachers like to scold their problem students by saying ‘do you wanna flip burgers all your life?’.  Well, Gene said yes! And let the hungry world beat a path to his door. “I tell people I won’t never retire because I see people from all over the world right here,” Waylan said.

The example of the KuKu, which once numbered about 200 restaurants around the Midwest, is why Route 66ers shouldn’t be so quick to deride fast-food chains. Who knows … there may be only a few survivors of McDonald’s  30 years from now. One man’s behemoth may become a last-of-a-breed a few decades from now.

A visit to the Joads’ hometown March 24, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History.

Rafael Rachael Alvarez, a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, pays a visit to Sallisaw, Okla., the home base for the fictional Joad family in the John Steinbeck novel that takes place on Route 66, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

The first striking observation that Alvarez makes is the recession hasn’t hit Oklahoma as hard as other parts of the country. Sure, the economy in the Sooner State has weakened. But most of the truly hard times have hit elsewhere. Ironically, the state that appears to have fared the worst is the Joads’ promised land — California. Just check this interactive map to see.

Second, Alvarez observes this about the Oklahoma’s view of the Great Depression:

Oklahoma’s 331-mile stretch of Interstate 40 is dotted with signs for such sites as the Route 66 museum in Clinton, country singer Garth Brooks’s boyhood home in Yukon, and spots of frontier and Native American history.

But it’s strangely empty of references to the great migration of Sooners for the promised land of California farms and orchards.

The highway marker for Sallisaw notes the brutal “Trail of Tears” – the forced march of the defeated Cherokee nation from Georgia to pre-statehood Oklahoma – but the white man’s misfortune largely goes unmentioned beyond stories about Route 66, described by Steinbeck as the “mother road” that carried hundreds of thousands of migrants west.

Part of this is easy to explain. People in general try to remember the good times and don’t dwell on the bad. The  Depression was a truly horrible era for many who lived through it, and have no desire to revisit it. It’s for the same reason that, up until recently, that Tulsa doesn’t have much commemorating the Race Riot of 1921. It was a tragedy and an embarrassing episode in that city’s history.

Also, “The Grapes of Wrath” was controversial in the Sooner State. Not only was the book banned and burned in many parts of the country, but many Oklahomans thought (wrongly, in my opinion) that Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Joads was demeaning.

Oklahoma has slowly started to accept “The Grapes of Wrath.” Such respect is hard-won. After all, Woody Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah has embraced its most famous son only in the last 15 years or so.

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