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State honors Arizona Route 66 passport program July 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Publications, Road trips.
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The Arizona Route 66 passport program received the prestigious Governor’s Tourism Award during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism earlier this month in Phoenix, reported the Williams-Grand Canyon News.

The Arizona Historic Route 66 Passport, spearheaded by the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona (Association) on behalf of the Route 66 communities, received the distinguished Cooperative Marketing Award at a luncheon, which recognized 10 individuals and organizations for their best practices, accomplishments, and contributions to the Arizona tourism industry.

The Cooperative Marketing Award is presented to the project that best exemplifies creative partnerships to develop and execute a cooperative marketing initiative. The criteria used by the panel of judges to select the winner included demonstrating an exceptional effort, innovation, uniqueness, effective use of resources, measurable results, and its overall contribution to the tourism industry of Arizona.

According to the Association’s press release, The Historic Route 66 Passport is the first joint marketing effort between all the communities across Arizona’s stretch of Route 66. The Association said while the overall goal for the Passport Program is to increase visitation to the Route 66 communities, attractions, and businesses across northern Arizona, a major objective has been to demonstrate the power of working together (my emphasis).

Here’s a list of Arizona Route 66 passport locations. A mail-in order form for the passport can be downloaded here. One also can call 928-753-5001 to order the passports.

This “working together” objective on Arizona’s Route 66 is a significant development. The eastern and western halves of the state have long grumbled at each other.

Part of the rancor sprung from the annual Historic Route 66 Fun Run always being held in the western half of the state — never mind that long stretches of unavoidable interstate would make logistics of an eastern Fun Run nearly impossible.

In fact, I received a news release today from Sharlene Fouser, byway leader of the Historic Route 66 All-American Road in Arizona, about a summit on July 21 in Winslow where 50 community leaders from across the state attended. “Coming together, sharing together, working together, succeeding together” was the theme.

The news release also contained a few newsworthy nuggets:

This year two major projects were identified to tie into Arizona’s upcoming Centennial celebration. Planned are a Route 66 Centennial Passport, and a Historic Route 66 Geocaching Project. Both of these projects are designated Arizona Centennial Legacy Projects.

In addition, the 25th Annual Historic Route 66 Fun Run, the Association’s major fundraising event held the first week in May each year, has been designated as an official Arizona Centennial Event.

I haven’t yet received answers to follow-up questions I had for Fouser. Regardless, these are very encouraging developments for Arizona’s portion of the Mother Road.

Joliet museum sees 50% jump in tourism July 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums.
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The Joliet Area Historical Museum in Joliet, Ill., reports a 50 percent rise in visitors since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Guess what gets a good portion of the credit for the increase:

About 16,000 people visited the museum, located at 204 N. Ottawa St. in downtown Joliet, in 2008-09, compared to more than 24,000 people in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Executive Director Tony Contos said that the museum gets visitors from 37 countries and around the world interested in things such as historic Route 66, the Joliet prison as well as the original Dairy Queen site in Joliet.

Just a few weeks ago, the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac reported a 30 percent increase in tourism from the previous year.

Williams may get a railroad museum next year July 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums, Railroad.
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Tucked into this Arizona Republic story about a railroad buff is this intriguing excerpt:

For years, Al Richmond has been collecting – schedules, pamphlets, photos, even locomotives – things that would tell railroad’s story as it unfolded in Arizona. [...]

To appreciate what happened as the rails made their way across Arizona in the late 19th century, Richmond has been working diligently to create the Arizona Railroad Museum, which so far is a collection without a home.

If all goes well with various bonds and financing, the museum will open in Williams sometime next year.

The Republic’s story goes into how the development of railroad lines helped establish the Arizona towns of Holbrook, Flagstaff and Winslow and, subsequently, Route 66.

Anyway, the railroad museum actually has a website. It describes the project:

Slated for a beautiful 16-acre park in Williams, Arizona, the 106,500 square-foot Museum will reflect the atmosphere of railroad engine houses and shops. Interpretive exhibits, archives, an art gallery, meeting rooms, interactive computer facilities, a 500 seat auditorium and an outdoor amphitheatre will provide incredible opportunities for learning and discovery.

It’s part of the Arizona 2012 Centennial Legacy Project.

Here’s an image of an artist’s rendering of the project:

According to the project’s document, it will be a $25 million facility, with an artifact collection worth at least $2.1 million alone. The museum would be right next to the Grand Canyon Railway, and right on Route 66 through town in Williams.

Perhaps I’m late for the party. But this was the first time I’ve heard about this project.

A real Route 66 for Chevy’s Route 66 campaign July 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Television, Vehicles.
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A few weeks ago, we told you about Chevrolet’s video contest for a new ad that will air during the Super Bowl. Budding videographers can use any location, as long as it evokes the “spirit” of Route 66.

Dakota Snider and Hunter Workman’s entry apparently has upped the ante. How better to evoke the spirit of Route 66 than by using the real thing in Arizona?

Pontiac museum gets about 100 petroliana artifacts July 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums.
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The Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, Ill., received a donation of petroleum memorabilia worth $10,000, according to a news release Tuesday from Pontiac Tourism.

According to the release:

The generous gift was made in memory of Robert Wainwright, a former field representative for ComEd in the Pontiac area. The donation was made by Wainwright’s wife, Elna Winterland Wainwright (pictured above), formerly of Fairbury and Pontiac and currently residing in Streator.

In the collection there are more than 100 items, ranging from an original condition Conoco Visible Gas Pump, valued at over $6,000, to a set of Phillips 66 salt and pepper shakers.  The total value of the vast assortment of antiques is well over $10,000.

The collection was accepted for display at the museum on July 15.

(Image courtesy of Pontiac Tourism)

About 12 post offices on Route 66 may be closed July 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses.
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In an effort to cut costs, the U.S. Postal Service announced today it is targeting more than 3,600 post offices across the country for possible closure, including about a dozen on Route 66.

The USPS has created a full list of the post offices that may be closed. Here are the ones on Route 66:

  • Shirley, Ill.
  • Venice, Ill.
  • Nilwood, Ill.
  • Glenarm, Ill.
  • Waggoner, Ill.
  • Lawndale, Ill.
  • Maplewood, Mo.
  • Avilla, Mo.
  • Adrian, Texas
  • Cubero, N.M.
  • Newkirk, N.M.
  • Oatman, Ariz.

I combed through the list thoroughly; let me know whether I missed one.

One noteworthy post office also being targeted is Supai, Ariz. It’s not on Route 66, but delivers mail to locals in the Grand Canyon by pack mule — the only post office that does so.

Also, many of the big cities along the Mother Road — Chicago, Springfield, Ill., St. Louis, Springfield, Mo., Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and the Los Angeles area — will likely see a few closures, but mail service will be consolidated to other facilities.

I’m honestly surprised the charming post office in Devil’s Elbow, Mo., hasn’t been targeted.

This is a sad development, but I’m not sure what else the USPS can do. The mailing service is hemorrhaging billions of dollars; it has little other choice than to cut back — including the possibility of mail service just three days a week.

Book review: “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” July 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Maps, Road trips.
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You can’t accuse Drew Knowles of resting on his laurels with the fourth, “turbocharged” edition of his “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” (456 pages, $19.95, softcover, Santa Monica Press, e-book available).

In fact, so many good changes have been made since Knowles published his first volume in 2002, you could argue that the book has become almost indispensable:

— The fourth edition has added 70 thumbnail maps of various Route 66 alignments and points of interest, making the book even more useful. It also contains brief driving directions.

— The new book contains 350 black-and-white photos.

— Knowles has significantly updated and added material. The first book contained just 240 pages. The third edition contained 384 pages. With this volume, he’s nearly doubled the page count from a decade ago and by nearly 20 percent from the previous edition.

In short, the “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” has become a superb guide to hundreds of architectural marvels, roadside oddities, museums, natural wonders, tourist traps, and historic businesses — not only along the Mother Road, but on side trips within an hour’s drive or so.

With facts arranged from Route 66’s eastern start in Chicago to the end at Santa Monica, the book also is loaded with oddball trivia and obscure attractions that may surprise even a seasoned roadie.

For instance, did you know about Nancy Ballhagen’s Puzzles, just a few miles east of Lebanon, Mo.? It stocks thousands of puzzles, including a 24,000-piece behemoth that measures 14 feet across when assembled.

Did you know a tiny crossroads town of Benonine, Texas, existed just west of the Oklahoma-Texas state line? Did you know about Manila or Hibbard in Arizona? All of those towns once appeared on atlases 50 years ago.

Because Knowles has a lot of material to cover, many of his descriptions are necessarily lean. But when he can elaborate, his writing shines. Here’s his description of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis:

The building itself is an important landmark, but the crucial thing is that here is a business that still believes in the older values of quality product and personal service. They’ve never “sold out” for a fast buck, and their adoring public appreciates it. Their list of mouth-watering topping is printed right on the side of the building to stoke your anticipation. Stop by some morning before opening time and watch the people begin to flock from all over. In no time at all, the place will be mobbed, and it happens virtually every day. And check to see if there’s still a mannequin peering out from one of the upstairs windows.

And here’s advice about traveling Route 66 in the Lone Star State:

You might notice during your time in the Texas panhandle that people are rather neighborly around here. Make eye contact with passing drivers and you’ll find them giving you “The Wave”: the fingers on the hand atop the steering wheel will suddenly spring upward into a sort of peacock spread that means “howdy.” Please learn to duplicate this maneuver so as not to appear out of place.

I sometimes wished the book contained more space for such detail and dry humor.

A few errors are bound to occur in this sprawling book. One is a reference to Terry Wrinkle operating the resurrected Wrink’s Market in Lebanon, Mo.; Terry closed Wrink’s again more than two years ago. Another is the entry about the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and Hall of Fame operating near Helendale, Calif. Exotic World packed up and moved to Las Vegas in 2006. Still, given the volume of material, Knowles’ batting average remains impressively high.

Those who read e-books will be pleased to know the new “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” is available in a Kindle edition (no Nook version is available). The third edition of Knowles’ book has been perched near the top of the Kindle best-seller list for Route 66-related books for many months.

Knowles’ publisher said e-book sales of the third edition of Knowles’ book were just 1 to 2 percent of the total a year ago. Now it’s 10 to 15 percent. Even roadies are catching on to the Kindle craze.

Highly recommended.

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