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Is Winslow becoming an arts community? August 31, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Motels, Towns.
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With the galleries in La Posada Hotel as an anchor, the Route 66 town of Winslow, Ariz., is becoming an arts community, reported the Arizona Journal.

The newspaper cited these examples:

  • Snowdrift Art Space, which displays La Posada manager Daniel Lutzick’s sculptures.
  • El Gran Art Garage, owned by Paul Ruscha.
  • La Posada Hotel, which displays a wide variety of artworks, including works by Winslow resident and La Posada co-owner Tina Mion.
  • The Winslow Arts Trust coalition, a nonprofit organization that is restoring the town’s original railroad depot into an art space.
  • The Station to Station event on Sept. 21, a train that will stop in Winslow as part of a show of contemporary art, experimental music and film. Musicians Jackson Browne and Georgio Moroder and photo legend Ed Ruscha will be part of the show.
  • Artist James Turrell. who bought Roden Crater northwest of Winslow, is turning it into a naked-eye observatory.

The article is fairly persuasive. It wouldn’t surprise me if Winslow becomes much like Marfa, Texas, which has become an artist’s haven in its own right despite it being in a rather isolated location.

If so, it would be an amazing transportation. After Interstate 40 bypassed the town, Winslow shriveled and didn’t have much going for it for a long time. The restoration of La Posada — plus a steady stream of tourists checking out the Standin’ on a Corner site — played a big part in Winslow’s slow but steady renaissance.

(Image of La Posada Hotel interior by Larry Myhre, via Flickr)

Driver aims to set coast-to-coast record in 1930 Ford Model A August 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Vehicles.
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Australian adventurer Rod Wade and co-pilot Michael Flanders are aiming to drive America coast-to-coast in a 1930 Ford Model A in less than 60 hours in mid-October, according to Wade’s website.

Their planned route will take them along the Lincoln Highway, the pioneering American transcontinental route championed by Henry Ford, and part of Jackson and Cocker’s original crossing, as well as down sections of iconic Route 66.

They will mark the start of their non-stop journey, which begins on Columbus Day (October 14th) by filling a bottle with water from the Atlantic Ocean, just off Staten Island. The water will then be poured into the Pacific Ocean when the team arrives at Venice Beach, Los Angeles. That’s when the clock will stop and a new world record will be set.

The “Ocean 2 Ocean Challenge” pays tribute to the original coast-to-coast drive 110 years ago. Based on the map, it appears he and his crew will pick up Route 66 at Oklahoma City and stay on it to the Pacific Ocean.

So be prepared to wave to a 1930 Ford on Route 66 in mid-October. Don’t expect him to stop and chat, however. He’s on the clock.

Wade is no amateur in vintage-car challenges. He recently completed the Peking-to-Paris Motor Challenge, traveling 8,000 miles on primitive roads in 33 days. And he’s planning a London-to-Cape Town journey — a distance of almost 10,000 miles.

Wade has been using the long journeys to raise money for kidney health awareness. His wife and daughter suffer from kidney disease.

(Hat tip to MSN UK; Image of a 1930 Ford Model A by Oliver Hammond, via Flickr)

Interesting observation from a Chinese tourist August 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.
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We’ve reported about the growing numbers of Chinese tourists traveling Route 66. A few days ago, Chinese winners of a General Motors contest to travel the Mother Road drove through Kingman, Ariz.

Naturally, when you’re behind the wheel for long stretches in an unfamiliar land, you start to think about the contrasts of your homeland. Fang Cai, who maintains homes in his native Beijing and in Toronto, had this to say to the Kingman Daily Miner:

“I feel that the more I see Route 66, the more I want to know the stories behind it and how it affected America. [...] We need to understand Route 66 and the culture behind it to be able to bring information back to China that will help develop it. Everything is getting better there, but it developed too fast and we created new problems because the people weren’t ready for it. What we learn here is valuable to us.”

Too bad the reporter didn’t let Fang elaborate a bit more. It’s well-documented China is experiencing growing pains because of its juiced-up economy. But the comparison to Route 66 is interesting. I don’t know whether he mused on the rapid growth in traffic on early U.S. 66 leading to the interstate that nearly killed it, or whether he observed something else. Maybe he saw something desirable in Route 66′s more-organic growth in its decertification era.

Thoughts, anyone?

(Image of a Chinese tourist on Route 66 in Amboy, Calif., by jstdadd, via Flickr)

“Songdogs: The Journey of Michael & Suzanne Wallis” August 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, People.
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The Tulsa Historical Society is hosting an exhibit about “Route 66: The Mother Road” author Michael Wallis and his wife Suzanne.

If you can’t see the exhibit, this video will be the next-best thing.

The video was created by Ideaship Studios, based in Tulsa.

(Image of Michael Wallis by Randy Lane, via Flickr)

Thoughts on “Breaking Bad” August 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Movies, Television.
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The acclaimed AMC television drama “Breaking Bad” has received a lot of attention in recent weeks because it is embarking on its fifth and last season.

For those who are unfamiliar, “Breaking Bad” tells the story of Walter White, a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who morphs into a drug kingpin. A diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer unleashes his id (“I am awake”). He initially begins to cook high-quality methamphetamine to provide a nest egg for her pregnant wife and his handicapped son, but his activities begin to swamp his life and others.

This video conveys the tone of the series:

I’ve watched about 15 episodes on Netflix. In addition to the terrific acting and writing, “Breaking Bad” shows how the smallest details can trip up the most intelligent criminal.

Another thing notable about “Breaking Bad” is it’s shot in Albuquerque. The producers undoubtedly shot in New Mexico to take advantage of generous tax credits for the film industry. But “Breaking Bad” wisely included Albuquerque as a vital part of the setting. I recognized many landmarks from the series, including at least two scenes at the historic Dog House restaurant on Route 66. Albuquerque has made such a big impression on “Breaking Bad,” the city often is described as another character.

That leads to this essay in the New Yorker by Albuquerque native Rachel Syme, who observed the big increase of “Breaking Bad” tours and tourists in her hometown:

Many people have asked me if I think “Breaking Bad” shines a “bad light” on the state. I don’t. And, often, the unabashed love of Walt and co. by locals (citywide events, themed microbrews, Heisenberg hat manufacturers) is puzzling to outsiders. The show is a fable about seediness and monstrosity and a city ravaged by drug trouble. Baltimore isn’t exactly putting up billboards about “The Wire.” (But we are!) I try to explain that New Mexicans are proud of anything that draws us out of neglect, out of never really fitting in. We are just happy to be considered, even if it is for our underbelly.

Perhaps it’s also because we realize there is no sense in hiding our dark side, which is so deep a part of living in a state that has been dismissed and economically hobbled from the start. (We tried to become a state for more than fifty years; no one wanted us; we offered to change the state name to Lincoln; they still didn’t.) [...]

When I spoke with Ball, the Candy Lady, about the influx of interest in the state’s more sordid affairs, she told me that she doesn’t see a downside to it. She also told me that last year, just as her sugary narcotics made national news, her daughter-in-law died from a meth overdose. The reality of her life and that of the show are constantly in collision, in a way that might make other people turn away and look forward to its end. But she doesn’t want “Breaking Bad” to be over. She’ll keep selling blue rocks as long as the people arrive. “The whole world can see Albuquerque now,” she says. “They see us with all our problems. We’re not shy about it, just as I’m not shy about mine. But the people … they also see the sky. They never knew! I get so many travellers who tell me they can’t believe this place. They can’t believe this has been a part of their country, this whole time.”

This excerpt dovetails back to a series of discussions during the Route 66 Summit a few weeks ago in Joplin, Mo. Michael Wallis said (paraphrased) to “tell the truth about history of Route 66. Don’t just sugar-coat for nostalgia. People want the real history.” Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program director Kaisa Barthuli said “people are looking for authentic interactions with people in a community. They want to hear your stories.”

That’s what’s holding back many communities on Route 66. Residents in small towns that deteriorated in the interstate era often are ashamed. Residents of gritty larger towns (such as Albuquerque) or with unsavory histories (Tulsa) often are apologetic or defensive.

Instead, these residents and towns need to take ownership of that history and what they have. I’m not saying towns shouldn’t try to improve their economies and standards of living. But these towns also need to accept what they are and embrace it. Tulsa ought to own up to the 1921 Race Riot and its one of its racist town fathers instead of trying to ignore them. Virden, Ill., should play up the 1898 massacre between security guards and miners that left 11 people dead (and helped kick-start the career of a prominent union activist). And the coming years, Joplin, Mo., should tell visitors of the 2011 tornado that forever altered the city.

Even Disney has learned its lesson from this. The fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs in the movie “Cars” is imbued with tragedy because it shriveled after being bypassed by the interstate. With this background of heartbreak, it becomes even more moving when the sun sets on Radiator Springs in Cars Land and its neon lights flash to life.

In short, Route 66 should embrace all the wonderful, happy, sad and messy things of its history — and its present.

(Image of “Breaking Bad” street art by YVRBCbro, via Flickr)

More Route 66 signs installed in Tulsa August 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Signs, Towns.
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KTUL-TV in Tulsa posted this story about new Route 66 signs in town:

KTUL.com – Tulsa, Oklahoma – News, Weather

The signs have been paid for with Vision 2025 sales-tax money.

Still to come are archways over the road on the east and west side of town.

Students’ Route 66 art on display at Tulsa Historical Society August 25, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Museums.
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Tulsa Public Schools students created about 80 pieces of art inspired by Route 66, and they’re on display at the Tulsa Historical Society through Oct. 5, reported the Tulsa World.

The art pieces depict landmarks such as the Blue Whale in nearby Catoosa, Admiral Twin Drive-In theater, and the historic 11th Street Bridge.

Historical Society Executive Director Michelle Place said the exhibit is paired with another about Michael Wallis, author of “Route 66: The Mother Road” and the society’s historian in residence.

“One of our goals is for school children to learn to love museums. They’re not scary places. They can find a connection,” she said. “We hope Tulsa Public Schools students can make that connection between the ‘Cars’ movie and the sheriff of Radiator Springs and Michael Wallis and our historian in residence.” [...]

Place said even though thousands of people from across the world travel along the historic highway every year, Tulsa doesn’t take advantage of its Mother Road roots.

“Tulsa is really missing the boat in not embracing Route 66. Tulsa is the heart of Route 66. It’s where east meets west,” she said. “We’re trying to raise awareness of and education about Route 66.”

(Art piece of Tally’s Cafe in Tulsa by the Tulsa Historical Society)

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