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New Rancho freeway signs point to Route 66 July 26, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Signs.
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Interstate 15 in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., this week received new signs — in both directions — that direct motorists to  Foothill Boulevard, aka historic Route 66.

According to the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif:

“It’s my intent to again let the people know that this is part of Route 66,” said Edward Dietl, vice president of the California Historic Route 66 Association.

Dietl worked with city officials to install the brown signs that read “Historic Route 66, Foothill Boulevard Next Exit.”

“People come down from the 15 (Freeway) from Las Vegas and bypass Foothill Boulevard because they don’t know it’s Route 66 and go to Santa Monica instead,” he said.

“What I’m intending to do is bring the traffic tourism to come down the 15 and see the sign and get off onto Foothill Boulevard. That would bring in a lot of tourism tax dollars to the businesses and follow Route 66 through its termination and get us some local taxes.” [...]

Rancho Cucamonga officials have been working for about a year with state transportation officials to meet the proper requirements to get the signs approved, Councilman Sam Spagnolo said.

This sort of directional sign has been part of many of the other Route 66 states. So it seems like a “better late than never” situation. But it’s good it happened.

UPDATE: The San Jose Mercury News has photos of workers installing the signs.

New song from The Road Crew July 25, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music.
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The Road Crew, which has released an entire album of Route 66-related music and has performed at several Mother Road events, has recorded a new tune specially for the upcoming The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Mo.

“The Middle of Everything” was written by singer Don King and band member Joe Loesch:

During the festival, The Road Crew will perform it live and other music in Springfield’s old town square at 3 p.m. Aug. 11.

Videos of The Road Crew can be seen here. And songs can be heard and purchased here. The band also received the Bobby Troup Artistic Recognition Award last year during the International Route 66 Festival in Amarillo, Texas.

Loesch also said this in an email:

We encourage people to discover and explore Route 66 wherever we go. As far as we know, last year at least 17 fans traveled Route 66 based on our recommendation. I am constantly amazed at how many Americans are unaware of 66. But it sure is a pleasure to send them on their way!

Historical truck group taking a caravan down Route 66 July 24, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Vehicles.
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Here’s something a little unusual.

The American Truck Historical Society is organizing its first Historic Highway Convoy, with a trip down Route 66 in September.

These are big semi trucks, not pickup trucks, at the event. The society has a photo gallery those antique trucks; a few of them might be seen there.

Land Line, a trucking industry magazine, had some of the details:

The journey begins Sept. 6 in Morris, IL, and ends Sept. 15 in San Bernardino with the annual Route 66 Rendezvous. The first stop is Sept. 7 in Troy, IL; then onward to Joplin, MO, on Sept. 8; Oklahoma City, OK, on Sept. 9; Amarillo, TX, on Sept. 10; Albuquerque, NM, on Sept. 11; Gallup, NM, on Sept. 12; Kingman, AZ, on Sept. 13; and Barstow, CA, on Sept. 14.

According to the society, the Convoy’s trucks should arrive no later than 4 p.m. at TA Travel Centers or Petro truck stops in each scheduled town.

Registration and other details are here. It’s noted that the truck’s drivers are urged to not pull trailers because of Route 66′s tight turns and narrow roads. I strongly suspect organizers had Oatman Road in mind when making those recommendations.

(Hat tip: Greg Holmes)

Route 66 bolsters Illinois recovery in tourism July 23, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Museums.
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The state of Illinois announced that tourism returned to pre-recession levels in 2011, with Route 66 helping drive that recovery, reported the Chicago Tribune.

The state reported hosting more than 93.3 million visitors, up 10.2 percent from 2010 and surpassing the previous record of 91 million in 2006.

The increase outpaced a national average gain of 6.7 percent, according to D.K. Shifflet & Associates, which prepared some of the data released by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Tourism. [...]

The number of overseas visitors rose 6 percent, to 1.25 million, the highest level since 2008. Route 66 and the new Pontiac Oakland Auto Museum in Pontiac are proving popular with overseas visitors, Kostner said.

The state is seeing a surge in information requests on its Web site and through its call center, leading to optimism that visitor numbers will continue to climb this year, Kostner said.

The strong numbers of foreign visitors on Route 66 aren’t a surprise, as the City of Pontiac has been reporting robust double-digit increases for the past few years.

Private prison operator is likely source of Santa Rosa’s tax rebate July 21, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Towns.
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Documents obtained by the Guadalupe County Communicator indicate a private prison operator is the likely source of the gross receipts tax rebate that has put the City of Santa Rosa, N.M., in a fiscal crisis.

The GEO Group is the only local employer given a tax refund this year that’s big enough to cover what Santa Rosa and Guadalupe County owe, the newspaper said in this week’s print edition.

GEO’s corporate offices in Florida did not respond to questions from The Communicator. The newspaper said officials at the GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility weren’t aware of the tax-refund situation involving their parent company.

The city owes about about $1.21 million, and the county owes $423,000. The fiscal crisis, which erupted in late June, will hamper Santa Rosa’s efforts to renovate the historic Ilfeld Warehouse and open a Route 66 museum there.

State officials have kept secret the identity of the party that appealed those taxes. However, records show only five taxpayers in the state of New Mexico received a refund of $1.6 million or more in the past six months. And GEO is the only one operating in Santa Rosa.

GEO also was given tax refunds from Hobbs and Clayton. The total rebate was more than $2.7 million.

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa officials were preparing for deep budget cuts. The Communicator provided the grim details:

City officials say there’s still a chance that negotiations will help them avoid a catastrophic $1.2 million tax refund payback this year. However, even in the most optimistic scenario, the city soon must cut about 13 percent of its general fund expenditures to make up for the loss of future revenues from the taxpayer, The Communicator has learned. [...]

Even if the city did not have to pay a dime toward the $1.2 million refund, its general fund still faces a projected loss of $320,000 in annual revenue on  an ongoing basis. The alone will require the city to cut its planned expenditures by around $27,000 each month, prompting some difficult decisions starting at the regular meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Because of the fiscal crisis, it’s hard to see how Santa Rosa will be able to open a Route 66 museum for at least the next two years. Just a few months ago, the state awarded a $325,000 grant to rehab the town’s historic Ilfeld Warehouse. With the city becoming cash-strapped, it’s doubtful it can pay for all the warehouse’s necessary renovations and the costs of running a museum.

Sixty miles east, Tucumcari also seeks to land a Route 66 museum. Recently, Tucumcari’s New Mexico Route 66 Museum was incorporated as an official entity, and the state approved the museum group’s nonprofit status. An announcement for a proposed museum site is expected by fall.

Several Missouri Route 66 oral histories placed online July 21, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, People, Restaurants.
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Tommy Pike of the Route 66 Association of Missouri interviews Thelma White of Whitehall Mercantile in 2005. (Photo via Missouri State University)

Missouri State University has placed online several interview transcripts and photos from the Route 66 Oral History Project, conducted by members of the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

Conducted in 2005-06, the interview subjects were:

  • Robert Boots, whose parents owned the Boots Motel and Boots Drive-In in Carthage, Mo.
  • Julia Chaney, wife of Red Chaney, owner of Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Mo.
  • Jerry and Thelma White, owners of Whitehall Mercantile in Halltown, Mo.

The interviews are really enjoyable to read. And because of the subjects’ advanced age or fragile health, it’s good their stories were saved for posterity.

And I would recommend that any restaurateur or business owner read them; pearls of wisdom are found there.

Event will honor Ernie Edwards and his Pig Hip July 20, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, People, Preservation, Restaurants.
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A free cookout and other activities are set for Ernie and Fran Edwards Route 66 International Appreciation Day from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Pig Hip restaurant site in Broadwell, Ill., according to a news release from Logan County Tourism.

At 2 p.m., the Illinois Route 66 Preservation Committee will dedicate the restored Pig Hip sign and marker.

Edwards, known for his white chef’s hat and tall tales, owned and operated the Pig Hip on Route 66 in Broadwell for decades. Here’s an interview with Edwards a few months before his death at age 94 in April:

Ernie Edwards became one of the first inductees into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1990. The Pig Hip restaurant opened in 1937 and closed in 1991 when Edwards retired. The restaurant was converted into a museum until it burned down in 2007.

He and his wife, Frances, will be honored on what would have been his 95th birthday.

During the celebration, the Railsplitter Antique Auto Club of Lincoln also will display classic cars. Visitors can also sign the Route 66 car hood provided by the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway and the Illinois Office of Tourism.

At 3 p.m., tours will be held at The Mill in Lincoln, Ill., a Route 66 preservation project inspired by Edwards to save it from destruction.

Those who plan to participate are asked to RSVP. Reservations may be made by calling the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County at 217-732-8687 or at the bureau’s Facebook page for the event.

Spnosors of the event are Kroger of Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, Village of Broadwell, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, andRoute 66 Association of Illinois.

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