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Nehemiah, The Musical August 29, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Religion.
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Just when you think the video series of “Route 66: A Road Trip Through the Bible” isn’t strange enough, the Book of Nehemiah brings on a new (and musical) twist.

What’s next? Puppetry?

The star of “Two-Lane Blacktop” August 29, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Vehicles.
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Although I didn’t like “Two-Lane Blacktop” much, I always wondered what happened to that souped-up 1955 Chevrolet that essentially starred (along with singer James Taylor) in the 1971 cult film that was partly filmed on Route 66.

A story in the Berkshire Eagle in Massachusetts answers that question. Walt Bailey of Maryland owns the car, and he took it to the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass., for a James Taylor and Friends event earlier this week.

“I never dreamed it in ‘71, when I saw it in the movies, that I would ever have the real car. Who would?” said Bailey. [...]

Bailey’s car was one of three used in the film and primarily for interior shots. While the movie wasn’t a big commercial success, it has found a cult following and is even shown in many film schools. “To me, it’s a big piece of my history and a big piece of cinematic history,” Bailey said. “It’s like an artifact in a way.” [...]

The biggest treat for Bailey, though, was getting to reconnect the car with its on-screen partner. “It’s like a dream come true,” said Bailey, who took the car over to Tanglewood Tuesday night to show Taylor, or as he called the encounter — “a James Taylor time machine.”

“He jumped right in, it was like not a single day had passed,” Bailey said.

The cool part was that Bailey had the car restored by one of the film’s mechanics and even returned the vehicle to its dark color seen in the movie.

Here’s the trailer for the film, where you can see the Chevy and Warren Oates’ sweet-looking Pontiac GTO.

What’s happening with El Garces? August 29, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Motels, Preservation, Railroad, Restaurants.
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El Garces in Needles, Calif., in summer 2009.

El Garces in Needles, Calif., in summer 2009.

While in the Route 66 town of Needles, Calif., this summer, it appeared there was little recent activity in the restoration of the historic El Garces Hotel. A sign said the century-old Harvey House would have a “limited” opening by winter 2008, and the hotel’s Web site hadn’t been updated since last year.

El Garces’ project manager is Allan Affeldt, owner of the marvelously restored La Posada in Winslow, Ariz. It seemed unlikely that Affeldt would bail on the project after previously going through the arduous (and successful) rehabilitation of another Harvey House. I called him to see what was going on.

In short, Affeldt has gone through “complicated” building rehab so far and recession-related financing hurdles with El Garces. But he plans on having the hotel up and running with guest rooms, public space and a restaurant by the end of 2010.

Affeldt said he spent three years and $3 million to shore up the structure so it would meet California’s earthquake building codes. “It was vastly more complicated than we anticipated,” he said.

He said the El Garces project is “stalled” as he renegotiates the building’s financing. He said the lending crunch that began about a year ago has slowed the project, but he anticipates an answer from financiers within 30 days or so. Instead of building 50 guest rooms as envisioned, the tight lending market may force him to downsize the project to 30 rooms for the time being.

“There may not be enough money to do this all at once,” Affeldt said. “But that’s something we’ve dealt with before. When we bought La Posada 12 years ago, we opened later that year with just five rooms. The situation was similar.

“We’re very stubborn,” he added. “As along as I’m doing it, (El Garces project) will keep going. We’ll figure out a way to get this done.”

La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.

La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.

And like La Posada, Affeldt says he’ll willing to keep making improvements to El Garces indefinitely. Although La Posada has been operating for more than a decade, the hotel is opening another 14 guest rooms next month, boosting its capacity by more than a third. Affeldt also made improvements to the complex’s luscious gardens, and he next wants to work on La Posada’s vast basement.

La Posada’s occupancy rate stands at an impressive 85 percent year-round, and is nearly booked up during the spring and summer. Affeldt’s success with La Posada is why he’s confident about El Garces.

“People were saying, ‘A first-class hotel in Winslow … it’ll never happen,'” he recalled. “The location (in Needles) is actually better than Winslow.”

(Photo of La Posada courtesy of Guy Randall.)

In the footsteps of the Joads August 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, People, Road trips, Towns.
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Chris McGreal of The Guardian newspaper in London is retracing the Route 66 path of the Joad family from John Steinbeck’s seminal novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Day Two of his journey includes a lot of material from Adrian, Texas, and the ghost town of Glenrio on the Texas-New Mexico border. Be sure to check out the video; it includes an interview with one of Glenrio’s few residents.

The story’s a bit bleak, but few would consider it to be inaccurate.

A brief history August 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums.
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Here’s a video produced by the Arizona Office of Tourism. It uses the Powerhouse Visitors Center in Kingman as a jumping-off point about the history of Route 66.

Grand El Rancho Grande August 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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El Rancho Grande restaurant on Route 66 in Tulsa had been working for the past few months in restoring its vintage neon sign. On Wednesday night, Modern Tulsa hosted a celebration as the refurbished sign was turned on.

Here a video of the lighting by the Oklahoma Modern blog:

El Rancho Grande has been in the same location since 1953. Here’s a photo of the sign I shot about a week and a half ago in the daytime, so you can see the detail better:

Here’s a photo of the sign before the restoration. It never looked horrible, but it certainly looks a lot better now.

I have little doubt the sign’s restoration was spurred by this one.

UPDATE: The Tulsa World has a story about the sign’s restoration.

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