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Activist Cindy Sheehan taking Route 66 for Tour de Peace ride February 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, Events, Road trips.
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Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, perhaps best-known for her long protest in front of President George W. Bush’s ranch during the Iraq War, will embark on a Tour de Peace bicycle ride from California to Washington, D.C., including Route 66.

Sheehan protested Bush and the war not long after her soldier son Casey was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. The bicycle ride will begin April 4 from her son’s grave in Vacaville, Calif. — the ninth anniversary of his death.

It will continue on much of Route 66 and beyond, finishing July 3 at the White House in Washington.

According to the news release, local groups will organize several events along the way, and cyclists are invited on all or part of the journey.

As for why the Tour de Peace is being organized, the organizers explain:

This August will mark 8 years since Cindy Sheehan began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush’s “ranch” in Crawford, Texas, demanding to know what the “noble cause” was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq. Neither Bush nor President Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year. The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:

To end wars,
To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,
To end suppression of our civil rights,
To end the use of fossil fuels,
To end persecution of whistleblowers,
To end partisan apathy and inaction.

History books will probably cite Sheehan’s protest as a turning point in the public’s opinion of the war. However, Sheehan’s causes have become more strident and quixotic in recent years, as you’ll probably surmise from a lengthy Wikipedia entry about her. Those things have cost her a lot of credibility, and it almost certainly cost her a 28-year marriage.

Regardless, I suspect people along Route 66 will treat her hospitably during her journey. It’s no picnic to pedal more than 3,000 miles across America, and I doubt anyone would say she’s insincere in her causes.

A look at a future boarding house on Route 66 February 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Towns.

About a year ago, a Springfield newspaper reported that the Route 66 town of Atlanta, Ill., was reviving an old boarding house that housed overnight Route 66 travelers until the 1940s.

Here’s the excerpt:

The community also has purchased an 1891 residence that served as a rooming house for Route 66 travelers in the 1940s, before motels were readily available. The city plans to offer the same service to modern travelers, although the Atlanta Route 66 Rooming House isn’t expected to open until 2013.

Recently, Bill Thomas of the Atlanta Betterment Fund emailed photos of the old boarding house and more details about the town’s plans for it  … and other things:

Our intent is to expand upon the idea of giving visitors recreated experiences as they travel Rt. 66; an idea that is the main underpinning of most of what we are trying to do in Atlanta. Currently, folks visiting town get to experience what it would have been like to eat at a small town, Rt. 66 cafe circa 1935 by stopping at the Palms Grill Cafe. We now want to let them experience what it would have been like to spend the night along Rt. 66 before there were lots of motels established along the Mother Road. We are about 1/3rd of the way through this project. We are currently projecting that we’ll open “Neva’s Rooming House” in time for the 2014 tourist season. [Neva is the name of the woman who ran the rooming house back in the 1940s.] …

FYI, next on the list after the rooming house project is completed is the renovation of the “Palace”, Atlanta’s movie theater that opened in October 1947, just half a block off Rt. 66. The building still stands and is currently houses apartments, but the owner likes the idea of converting it back to a movie theater.

Thomas said renovations on the boarding house would resume in the spring.

(Photos courtesy of Bill Thomas)

Atlanta, Ill., organizes a cruise for all-electric vehicles February 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns, Vehicles.
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Credit the town of Atlanta, Ill., to find a new twist to the typical Route 66 car cruise — it has organized an event for all-electric vehicles on June 8.

The Electric Vehicle Cruise-In will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day in downtown Atlanta, where an older alignment of Route 66 runs. From the news release:

When Route 66 was commissioned in 1926, it helped develop the gas and service stations that today we take for granted. Back then, however, these fixtures of the highway didn’t exist. If you wanted gas for your new automobile, you had to go to the local hardware or grocery store, where you’d find a single gas pump the owner had put in to earn a little extra cash.

With the huge increase in automobile traffic created by Route 66, the need for businesses dedicated solely to serving the traveling public arose – and service stations were born.

Route 66 is now poised to help create the next big transportation infrastructure needing to be developed: charging stations for electric vehicles. Atlanta is interested in helping other Route 66 communities discover how to better serve the traveling public that will be searching not for a pump, but a plug-in. Attend Illinois’ first Electric Vehicle Cruise-in on June 8, check out some cool EV cars, and learn more about how the Mother Road is working to give birth to a new travel infrastructure.

The release goes on to plug the town’s downtown businesses and landmarks, including the Palms Grill Cafe, J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum, Bunyon Giant, Gunnar Mast Trading Post, Chubby’s restaurant, Atlanta Museum, Arch Street Artisans, and The Korner tavern.

Atlanta was among the first Route 66 towns to establish an EV charging station. Best of all, to top off the batteries, Atlanta will do it free of charge.

(Photo of Dodge concept electric vehicle by saebaryo, via Flickr)

Willem Bor’s latest Route 66 miniatures February 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Gas stations, Museums, Restaurants.

Netherlands resident Willem Bor, who’s built detailed replicas of Route 66 landmarks in miniature, delivered four more models in recent months.

The miniatures were:

The now-closed Diamonds Restaurant in Villa Ridge, Mo.

Riviera Roadhouse in Gardner, Ill., which was destroyed by a fire in 2010.

Gay Parita station in Paris Springs, Mo.

Bor and his wife managed to personally deliver the models from Europe to America in one piece, thanks to a lot of bubble wrap. Those three models are in the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon, Mo.

Just recently, Bor also mailed by UPS a model of the Odell Station in Odell, Ill., to the Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum in Pontiac, Ill. The model isn’t on display yet in the museum, but should be by April.

(Photos courtesy Willem Bor)

Route 66 enthusiast Jan Finder, aka The Wombat, dies February 26, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in People.

Jan Howard Finder, who was much better known to Route 66 enthusiasts as The Wombat, died Tuesday during his latest bout with cancer, according to friends on his Facebook page and other media outlets.

He was just a few days short of his 74th birthday.

According to one friend, Finder died of multiple organ failure as he was undergoing chemotherapy. Lin Daniel wrote:

I was with him when he died, and I had a friend with me. We probably had the hospital staff wondering about us, because we sat there and told stupid jan stories and laughed a lot.

jan wished to be cremated. And he wanted me to sit shiva for him, which I will. I’m planning on a memorial service in a couple of months, to allow as many people who can make it to do so.

Finder lived in Albany, N.Y., but was born and raised in Chicago. Although Route 66ers knew him as a fellow roadie, he built quite a resume in other fields, including science fiction writing and academic administration. He became a devotee of J.R.R. Tolkien and organized the “First Conference on Middle-earth” in 1969 at the University of Illinois. He became a frequent guest of honor at science-fiction conventions.

I remember him at the International Route 66 Festival in Albuquerque in 2006, where he served as a sort of emcee and was decked out in a tuxedo, including white gloves. He talked freely about his previous bouts with cancer, but was as gregarious and funny as anyone I’ve met. He also frequently posted about Route 66 in his It Comes From Albany blog.

An obituary hadn’t yet been posted in the Albany newspaper. I’ll post a link as soon as it comes over. Locus Online, which posts science-fiction and fantasy news, posted a short obituary.

UPDATE 2/27/2013: The Albany Times-Union published a feature-type obituary. Excerpts:

Jan Howard Finder was the sort of meandering spirit who was passionate, primarily, about being passionate and swore by happy cliches such as “Life is short, eat dessert first!”

He was the ultimate fan, crisscrossing the country and globe to attend science fiction conventions or visit the New Zealand filming locations of “Lord of the Rings.” He had traveled the entire length of Route 66 on multiple occasions, and probably visited all of its museums. [...]

“He was the world’s greatest enthusiast,” said Lin Daniel, his girlfriend, who was with Finder at Albany Medical Center Hospital when he passed.

One thing I didn’t know — he was a spectator at Wrigley Field the last time the Chicago Cubs baseball team played in the World Series, in 1945. He was 6 years old at the time.

UPDATE 2/28/2013: Lin Daniel sent along this photo of Finder in a Corvette:

Daniel also wrote in an email:

He didn’t require you like Route 66, only that you listened to his enthusiasm. Thing is, if you listened for longer than 15 minutes, you’d end up being another “Roadie”. His enthusiasm and joy were infectious.

City of Carthage prods railroad to fix Whee Bridge February 26, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Railroad.
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The City of Carthage, Mo., is taking a more assertive approach with the Union Pacific railroad to shore up two bridges, including the historic “Whee” Bridge on Route 66, reported the Carthage Press.

City Administrator Tom Short said the recent closing of the nearby Sycamore Street bridge due to cracks in its supports prompted the city to send a letter to the railroad, urging it to bring that bridge and the Oak Street bridge, aka Whee Bridge, on Route 66 up to a “reliable standard.”

Ten days after the letter was mailed, Short said the railroad hadn’t responded. The newspaper said:

In its letter, the city said: “A review of our information, it appears that the railroad was required to install and maintain numerous crossings in the city as a part of the city granting the easement for the railroad right-of-way. Therefore, the city of Carthage is hereby notifying the railroad of these conditions and requiring the bridge be brought up to a reliable standard.” [...]

The city has been talking to the railroad for more than six years about refurbishing the iconic Oak Street bridge, also known by other names as the “whee bridge” or “tickle-tummy bridge” because of its unique hump and its location on Route 66.

The city received state and county funds to refurbish the Whee Bridge, but the necessary work would have cost far more than the money that was available.

You’d think Union Pacific, which recorded record earnings in the fourth quarter and in all of 2012, could afford to cough up some money to help refurbish a beloved historic bridge on America’s most famous highway.

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