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Route 66′s lifeguard March 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, People.
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The Bloomington Pantagraph recently published a profile about longtime Illinois state trooper Chester Henry, who patrolled Route 66 and Interstate 55 in the Pontiac area for more than 25 years and wrote an estimated 50,000 speeding tickets.

Henry, now 84, has been retired for about 30 years. He still drives his old beat from time to time.

Some tidbits from the Pantagraph’s story:

 

  • He once wrote 238 tickets in one month.
  • His record for issuing speeding tickets in one day was 45, just before Thanksgiving.
  • Over the years, he walked a total of 150 miles walking the distance from his squad car to the front window of the vehicles he stopped.
  • Some days were so busy, Henry and his partner would prefill parts the tickets to save time.

 

Henry didn’t write all those tickets just to be a stickler, either:

Patrolling a stretch of asphalt that was so accident-marred in the post-war dawn of the super highway that it became known in this area as “Bloody 66,” a key part of Chester’s job was simply this: cut down on death by trying to curb the speed-demons who were taking kindly to the new, wider, smoother, more open roads.

“We didn’t waste much time on motorists who were only going 10 (mph) over,” says Chester. “There was enough traffic out there that we could wait for the better ones.”

Until the ’70s, highways like Route 66 cut through hundreds of small towns, wedged amid a patchwork of family-owned gas stations, diners and Howard Johnsons. [...]

Highways, Chester says, were a much more personal, friendly place. He knew all the great places to dine, sleep, take a break and he told anyone who asked.

In a way, he was like a Route 66 lifeguard — friendly, helpful but also stern and mindful.

“Everything went up and down the road,” says Chester, “but it was always the people that made the work enjoyable.”

Henry is the member of two halls of fame, including the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. He was inducted there in 1993.

Photographer will open exhibit in Kirkwood gallery March 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Photographs.
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Missouri-based photographer Mark Appling Fisher will open his “Route 66 and Beyond” exhibit at the Ober Anderson Gallery in Kirkwood, Mo., on Friday.

According to a news release from the gallery about his photos:

Among them are hand colored, infrared film images of from unusual sites along the old Route 66, including a pink elephant shot with a homemade pinhole camera, images taken by the unpredictable and quirky, plastic holgas and colorful carnival chalk figurines.

Mark Appling Fisher is a professional fine art photographer from the Midwest. Fisher taught for more than forty years as an elementary school music teacher, a video production instructor and instructional media technologist. He now teaches black and white film photography, as well as alternative processes, toy camera, plastic camera, and pinhole photography. He loves all things film, and has found great satisfaction with digital photography, especially for color work.

Appropriately enough, the gallery is at 101 W. Argonne Drive, which is on a corner of an alignment of Route 66 in Kirkwood (map here).

Fisher recently completed a Kickstarter campaign for his “Turn Left at the Blinking Light” project. This video that came with the campaign shows his talents and interests well:

(Mark Appling Fisher image of the Bel-Air Drive-In sign in Mitchell, Ill., via Kickstarter)

“Automatic” March 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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This new video by Miranda Lambert came over my feed. I suspect a few Route 66ers will relate to its message — not that I agree with everything in it:

I also am one of the few who learned to drive in a manual-transmission grain truck.

The glimpse in the video of an Airstream trailer brought a smile. Lambert’s always had a thing for those.

(Image of Miranda Lambert by Larry Darling via Flickr)

Suspected drunken driver crashes into Summit Inn March 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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A suspected car thief who allegedly was drunk crashed a minivan into Route 66′s iconic Summit Inn restaurant on the summit of Cajon Pass in Southern California, according to several media outlets.

According to the Press-Enterprise, Jayson Ernest Johnson, 37, of Riverside, Calif., was arrested Thursday on suspicion of being drunk in public, stealing a vehicle, possessing stolen property and drunken driving.

In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, Johnson was driving north on Interstate 15 in a silver 2002 Dodge Caravan — which had been reported stolen from an auto shop on Magnolia Avenue in Riverside, some 35-40 miles away — CHP Officer Leon Lopez said.

Just south of Oak Hill Road in the Cajon Pass, he careered off the freeway, plowed through a fence and smashed into the Summit Inn restaurant on Mariposa Road, Lopez said.

The crash was reported to the CHP about 4:15 a.m. When officers arrived, they found the car has destroyed a wall of the restaurant and came to rest completely inside the kitchen, Lopez said.

KCBS-TV in Los Angeles filed this video report.

Longtime roadie Jim Conkle emailed this photo of he and Summit Inn owner C.A. Stevens at the big hole the driver left behind:

The TV station said it may be weeks before the restaurant’s wall is repaired and it reopens.

The Summit Inn has operated at its present site since 1952, although its roots in the Cajon Pass area date to the late 1920s. Notable celebrities who’ve gone there include Elvis Presley, Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood and Danny Thomas.

UPDATE: According to a story in the Victorville Daily Press this morning, the restaurant suffered about $50,000 in damage, mostly to the kitchen area. The owner says it will take two weeks to get back open.

The crash also broke open gas lines in the kitchen. So it seems lucky the Summit Inn didn’t catch fire.

The Daily Press also posted this video:

(Image of the Summit Inn’s sign by Lynn Friedman via Flickr)

A hike to Amboy Crater March 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Web sites.
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This new video shows as well as anything what it’s like to hike to Amboy Crater, an extinct volcano near the Route 66 hamlet of Amboy, Calif.

The clip comes from the California Through My Lens channel, which is an offshoot of the California Through My Lens blog.

The guy also uploaded this video about Elmer Long’s Bottletree Ranch near Oro Grande:

(Image of Amboy Crater by Mitch Barrie via Flickr)

Autry museum launches fundraiser for Route 66 exhibit March 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Museums.
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The Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles has launched an online fundraising campaign to help pay for its upcoming and long-awaited “Route 66: The Road and the Romance,” according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

The Autry wants to raise $66,000 within 30 days through IndieGoGo. The campaign launched Tuesday; through late Wednesday morning, it had raised more than $3,000.

The show begins June 6. Donations as low as $10 come with perks from the museum. The top tier of $10,000 gives you lunch with the museum’s president and curator, plus a slew of souvenirs and perks.

The Times also has some details about the exhibits and artifacts:

The show, which will run until Jan. 4, will include Jack Kerouac’s famed manuscript of “On the Road,” typed feverishly on a single continuous scroll; pages from John Steinbeck’s manuscript of “The Grapes of Wrath”; a Martin guitar that belonged to Woody Guthrie; Dorothea Lange’s famous photography documenting Depression-era desperation; and a new print of a photograph that L.A. artist Ed Ruscha first published in “Twentysix Gasoline Stations,” his early 1960s book documenting a trip along Route 66.

Here’s a video about the fundraiser by the museum:

(An image of the original manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which will be displayed at The Autry’s Route 66 show, by Steve Rhodes via Flickr)

Suburban Chicago county approves Route 66 marketing plan March 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Bicycling, Motels, Signs.
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The board of Will County, Ill., recently approved a new marketing plan for a long-overlooked section of Route 66 from Joliet to Braidwood, reported the Southtown Star.

The newspaper said:

There is an “untapped tourism potential” here, and tying all these natural, recreational and historical amenities together is historic Route 66, said project consultant Ferhat Zerin, of Gingko Planning and Design.

“Thousands of people drive here, but do not stop,” she said, as she presented the completed plan to the County Board. Many other towns along historic Route 66 which stretches all the way to California — have capitalized on this theme.

The goal is to encourage tourists to spend a day or two here, visiting the Joliet Splash Park, the Jackhammers, Route 66 Raceway, the historic sites, trails, parks, farms and restaurants.

The plan includes forming a tourism advisory council of city officials, business owners and venue operators, with funding the plan through grants, donations, transportation taxes and fees.

Among the plans to market Route 66 in the region:

  • Adding signs along Interstate 80, Interstate 57 and Route 66 to direct drivers to destinations, plus murals on railroad overpasses.
  • A specific identity and brand name tying Route 66 and Will County.
  • Connecting existing bicycle trails, plus new trails along Route 53, aka Route 66.
  • Adding features at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie such as an observation tower and a 1,200-acre bison grazing area.
  • Implementing Wilmington’s vision for Island City, which includes a kayak course.
  • Creating more iconic Route 66-themed photo ops.
  • More events, such as classic car nights, a Route 66 bicycle race, fishing tournament, and festivals.
  • Developing more hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to encourage overnight stays.

This story is yet another sign that Route 66 tourism has met a sea change in recent years that I wrote about a few weeks ago. The Chicago area, which long has treated Route 66 tourism with mild interest or indifference, seems to be coming around. The 2006 release of the Disney-Pixar film “Cars” seems to have lit the fuse, and the Route 66 Economic Impact Report in late 2011 has led many officials to take a much harder and longer look at Route 66 tourism.

(Image of the Joliet Area Historical Museum sign by ElectraSteph via Flickr)

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