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California Route 66 association opposed solar plant near Helendale April 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Weather.
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The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors rejected an appeal from the California Historic Route 66 Association to halt the building of a 20-megawatt solar plant near Helendale, Calif, reported several media outlets.

The Victorville Daily Press initially reported Monday about the appeal:

The California Historic Route 66 Association is appealing the approval of the facility proposed on six parcels of land, 3 miles north of Oro Grande and 3.5 miles south of Helendale, on the grounds it violates the California Environmental Quality Act and officials failed to provide proper notice of the project, a county staff report shows.

But county officials say the application by Arizona-based Alamo Solar, LLC was processed in compliance with CEQA laws and a project notice was mailed to surrounding property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed facility’s boundaries. They also argue that, prior to a Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 6, a notice was mailed to those property owners, advertised in the Daily Press and posted outside of the San Bernardino and High Desert government centers, according to the staff report.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved the project despite the appeal, reported the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. I tried to contact someone from the association to elaborate about its opposition, but an email was not returned. However, the newspaper reported what an association member said at the meeting:

Ted Stimpful, a Newberry Springs resident and member of the California Historic Route 66 Association’s board of directors, said he was highly opposed to the project without an environmental impact report being conducted. The association has been trying to negotiate an agreement with E-on and Alamo Solar, LLC. for the last month to avert the appeal of the project and a potential lawsuit, but negotiations have been fruitless, he said.

“Alamo Solar offered a cash payment to us to withdraw our appeal, but we rejected that offer. We did not oppose the project to make money,” Stimpful told supervisors during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Stimpful said the project would be an eyesore and erode the character of the old stretch of Route 66. He said the solar panels would create glint and glare, thus posing a public safety issue.

The county’s Planning Department determined Route 66 was barely visible from the site, with its southerly end about 2,000 feet from the highway. An environmental consultant also said the site would be on a stretch of the highway that was not a historically significant segment and affected no “cultural resources.”

The plant will be surrounded by fence up to 8 feet tall, with electricity-producing solar panels up to 10 feet tall.

I am neither opposed nor supportive to the solar plant in that area. It’s akin to other industrial areas along the Route 66 corridor, such as oil refineries in Tulsa and the cattle feed lots near Amarillo. Not everything on the Mother Road is a scenic vista, nor does it have to be.

(Image of a solar farm in California by Sarah Swenty / USFWS via Flickr)

Joplin’s new baseball team is called the Blasters April 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Towns.
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The name for the new American Association professional baseball team in Joplin, Mo., will be the Blasters, with a logo that includes a reference to Route 66.

The club announced the nickname and logo Monday afternoon in Joplin. The logo contains a nod to the region’s lead-mining history and the town’s old Joplin Miners ballclub, with the mascot wearing a mining helmet. The Blasters name also refers to dynamite blasting as part of ore extraction.

A Route 66 shield is in the background, and the ownership group acknowledged before the announcement a reference to Route 66 was being considered.

Thw owners chose the name from residents’ suggestions. The Blasters name came from Joplin resident Cliff Mansley, reported the Joplin Globe. He received season tickets and a suite box.

Shawn Suarez, co-owner and general manager, said Blasters is a way to honor the area’s mining heritage in a fresh and new way. [...]

“I know there’s a huge group of traditionalists,” Suarez said. “When we came in, there were two camps of people we would talk to. There was one who wanted the traditionalist way, and there was one who wanted a more modern approach. The thing we’re happy with the Blasters is we think this will satisfy with both camps. If we picked Miners, there’s one section. This way, both groups of people can be represented.”

Black and gold will be the team colors.

Locals greeted the Blasters name mostly with derision on Facebook. Many hoped to resurrect the Miners name, when Joplin hosted a Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s — and two future Hall-of-Famers in Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog. But it’s understandable the new ownership wanted to start with a clean slate.

However, in addition to its historical ties, the Blasters name carries excellent marketing possibilities (blasting home runs, having a blast at Joe Becker Stadium … you get the idea). It brings to mind six years ago a minor-league club in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a seemingly clumsy name of IronPigs (a reference to the region’s pig iron and steel production days). The team’s marketing department used the name in all sorts of clever ways, fans quickly embraced it, and Lehigh Valley went on to set minor-league attendance records.

The ownership group recently began multimillion-dollar renovations of historic Joe Becker Stadium, and the first pitch will be in May 2015.

Mansley made this observation:

“It’s time to have some fun in Joplin. … We’ve had enough of the heartache of the tornado. It’s time to move on and move up and trust that the good Lord has some new things for us. This is one of those new things that will be a lot of fun. We want to bring families together. We want to bring the community together, and this is a great way to do it.”

A visit to Cars Land April 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Movies.
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Here’s one of the best videos I’ve seen about Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park. It’s another example of high-quality equipment and editing software being available to regular folks.

Scott & Jimmy Visit Cars Land from Rick Stewart on Vimeo.

Naturally, Cars Land’s fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs is based on the real landmarks and people of Route 66. It continues to be the most popular post on Route 66 News, with more than 300,000 page views since 2006.

Tropics sign will be taken down and restored April 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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Some good news and bad news about a Route 66 landmark.

The bad news is the long-closed Tropics Dining Room building along old Route 66 in Lincoln, Ill., was sold and its sign will be taken down, according to Lincoln Daily News.

The good news is the sign will be preserved and restored after a new home is found for it.

Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder and Tom O’Donohue of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County made the announcement. The building’s sale went through last week, and its new owner is donating the sign.

According to the Daily News:

The sign at its best was covered with neon lighting. O’Donohue said neon is expensive, and it may take a while to get the money together for the restoration. In the meantime, the sign will be carefully stored so as to prevent any further damage.

The article didn’t elaborate on the sign’s new home.

According to the Legends of America, The Tropics opened in 1950. “Original owner, Vince Schwenoha, served in Hawaii during a tour of duty, so he named his restaurant The Tropics,” the site says.

We’d actually encountered the restaurant open for a short period — as an Italian eatery — about 15 years ago, but it’s been mostly vacant during that time.

(Image of The Tropics sign by calamity_hane via Flickr)

Historic boarding house reopens in Atlanta, Ill. April 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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After months of renovations, a boarding house that operated during the late 1940s near downtown Atlanta, Ill., has reopened as a lodging facility again.

An open house recently was hosted for the Colaw Rooming House at 204 NW Vine St., about a block and a half off historic Route 66.

From the news release about rooming house:

Located just two blocks from Rt. 66 in Atlanta, Illinois, The Colaw Rooming House offers three bedrooms, two full baths, a charming living room with fireplace, dining room, curved front porch, and a delightful yellow & red 1940s kitchen.

To further enhance your step back in time, lodging at The Colaw Rooming House includes a complimentary breakfast at The Palms Grill Café – Atlanta’s fully restored, circa 1935 small town diner.

Not a typical bed and breakfast, The Colaw Rooming House recreates the experience of overnighting along Route 66 in a private residence, before the widespread advent of motels. Back in the 1940s, the Colaw House let rooms out on a longer-term basis, primarily to local, single teachers who worked in Atlanta. It now provides a unique experience that lets visitors travel the Mother Road as it was “back in the day.”

Rates are $150 for the first room and $75 for each room after that. Reservations can be made by phone at 217-671-1219 or by email at thecolawroominghouse(at)yahoo(dot)com. The Colaw has a website, but many parts of it are still under construction.

Here is a slideshow of the Colaw House:

Santa Fe may ban motor vehicles in its Plaza April 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Towns, Vehicles.
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Santa Fe, N.M., may curb motor vehicles in its downtown Plaza area, according to an op-ed piece written by former city councilor Frank Montano in the Albuquerque Journal.

The 1926-37 alignment of Route 66, aka the Santa Fe Loop, runs about a block south of the Plaza. However, El Camino Real – a road older than Route 66 — goes right by the Plaza, and would be of interest to many history-minded travelers.

Montano explained why cruising there is seen as a benefit:

This past Sunday, sitting on the Plaza, I saw six classic Corvairs traveling one behind the other on the roads of the Plaza. On that same Sunday, people of all ages drove the Plaza in their old classic cars, showing them off for all to see. In Santa Fe, at middle age, many people buy a Harley and cruise the Plaza. [...]

Last summer, a new tradition began when young ladies celebrating their Quinceanera began to stop on Lincoln Avenue in their rented stretch limos to walk to the Plaza Park and mingle with family, friends and other people. Photos were taken and people were curious as to what was happening.

During the holiday season, young families, seniors and people with disabilities travel the Plaza roads to admire the beautiful lights, the menorah and farolitos of the festive season.

Mayor Javier Gonzales submitted a proposal last week to close vehicular traffic in the Plaza by May 24. Montano says there’s been few public comments, despite the fact the plan has proceeded through two committees. And Montano, who operates a downtown tour business, claims tourists say the Plaza should stay open to traffic.

Montano encourages the public to give its opinion about closing the Plaza to cars. The emails to the mayor and councilors can be found here.

(Image of the Santa Fe Plaza by Don Graham via Flickr)

Developers tour El Vado Motel April 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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The city of Albuquerque finally is pushing hard to have developers do something with the historic but long-closed El Vado Motel.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque filed this report about developers touring the property this week:

A few weeks ago, the city released a request for proposals from developers. The deadline for submission is July 3.

The hope is someone will redevelop it into a boutique-type motel, with the rest for housing. The city will pick a developer by August, with construction targeted to begin in 2015. NewLife Homes, which has converted several historic Route 66 motels in Albuquerque into housing, reported is interested in the property.

Irish immigrant Daniel Murphy opened El Vado Auto Court Motel on Route 66 in 1937. It’s cited as one of New Mexico’s best examples of pre-World War II motels. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

El Vado closed in 2005 when new owner Richard Gonzales wanted to raze it for luxury townhouses. The city seized the property a few years later after a long fight to save it. Worldwide outcry from the Route 66 community was instrumental in saving the structure.

The near-loss that was El Vado convinced me eminent domain ought to be used to seize threatened protect properties that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Eminent domain often is cussed and discussed in many circles, but I suspect opposition to its use in such a context would be considerably blunted.

(Image of El Vado Motel by Pam Morris via Flickr)

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