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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)

Miss Belvedere languishing in a warehouse April 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Vehicles.
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The 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, aka Miss Belvedere, that was unearthed from a Tulsa time capsule to much fanfare in 2007, is sitting in a New Jersey warehouse, apparently unwanted, according to a recent story in Hemmings Motor News.

Because water inundated the vault during its 50-year residence, rust and mud covered the Belvedere and rendered it inoperable. The good news is Ultra One, a rust-removal company, did a bang-up job ridding the grime and corrosion from the car’s body, as you can see in a series of photos here.

Despite the car’s improved looks, its poor condition is the primary reason no one wants it:

Late last year, news surfaced that Foster, with Carney’s permission, was attempting to donate the car to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. While it’s known as “America’s attic,” Smithsonian representatives told Foster that they do not see it as “America’s garage,” and the offer was rebuffed, leaving Foster in continued possession of the car. The city of Tulsa also turned down Foster’s request to send it back home for public display, noting that the cost to retrieve a rusted and useless car from an old tomb (and, presumably, the giant letdown experienced collectively by the town) still left a bitter taste in some residents’ mouths.

As Miss Belvedere sits today, its condition remains largely unchanged since 2009, with all of the reasonable preservation work done that could be done. From a distance, the car almost looks presentable, but up close it becomes evident that the damage is irreversible. Foster compares the car’s frame to papier mâché, admitting that “there are spots I could put my hand through if I’m not careful.” Utilizing the frame from the donor Plymouth Savoy would be an option if Miss Belvedere were stronger, but the car’s sheetmetal is in equally poor condition, especially in the rear. While the exterior has been cleaned, the interior of the body is still caked with mud, and as Foster said, “this is actually shoring up the body panels.” The car’s laminated safety glass is damaged beyond repair after water seeped between the glass and plastic layers during the car’s years in storage. While the steering was functional at first, the steering box is “melted inside,” the result of years of corrosion, and none of its electrical systems are even close to functioning. Even transporting the car to another location would be a major undertaking, given Miss Belvedere’s fragile condition.

The car remains in the custody of Robert Carney and two other relatives of Raymond Humbertson, who was the closest to guess Tulsa’s 2007 population 50 years ago and thus won the car (Humberton was deceased when the Belvedere was unearthing). Carney still holds hope he can find an Oklahoma museum to display it permanently.

Although many regarded the Belvedere reveal as a bust, it remains one of the biggest publicity stunts I’ve seen. Thousands of people descended on Tulsa to view it (and drove Route 66 while they were at it). Many more checked out the festivities and news stories online. I worked at the Tulsa World newspaper at the time, and online traffic taxed the company’s servers like no story had before. One reporter said memorably in a column: “This story didn’t have just legs; it had stilts.”

And just days after Hemmings published its story, it gained more than 240 comments from readers. Years later, the Belvedere is still a phenomenon.

The Hemmings story closes with this poignant observation:

Until Foster finds a museum or other sympathetic caretaker willing to embrace Miss Belvedere, however, it sits in a corner of the Ultra One warehouse, free from its watery tomb but no less trapped in time and place.

(Photos of Miss Belvedere by Todd Lappin and That Hartford Guy via Flickr)

World’s Largest Covered Wagon repaired April 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation, Weather.
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The World’s Largest Covered Wagon, aka the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, in Lincoln, Ill., has been repaired in time for tourism season after a severe windstorm damaged it in January.

The Bloomington Pantagraph reported:

“It was a challenge, and because it is in the Guinness Book of World Records, we had to make sure that we rebuilt it exactly as it was,” said Matthews Construction owner Brad Matthews, whose company completed the repair work.

“We called them a few times just to ensure we didn’t do anything differently that might jeopardize that, but we have it back exactly the way it needs to be.”

The Pantagraph also posted several photos of the wagon being fixed.

The job, which was completed Friday, also was helped by good weather in recent weeks. David Bentley, who built the structure in 2001, was a consultant on the rebuild.

Gusts of 50 mph collapsed the wheels on one side of the wagon and ripped off the canvas the night of Jan. 26. (Strangely enough, the Abraham Lincoln statue remained seated on the wagon the entire time.)

Insurance covered most of the repair cost, with a $500 grant from the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association covering the deductible.

The wagon once was along Route 66 in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau in Logan County, Ill., led the way in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007. It sits in front of Route 66 at 1750 Fifth St. at the Best Western Lincoln Inn.

The wagon weighs 10,000 pounds and measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The fiberglass statue of Abraham Lincoln, seated in the front, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall.

(Image of the World’s Largest Covered Wagon by yooperann via Flickr)

Cow Bop embarking on another summer Route 66 tour April 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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Western swing and jazz band Cow Bop, along with several other guest artists and bands, will go on another Route 66 tour this summer, according to a news release from Cow Bop guitarist Bruce Forman.

This time, the World’s First Linear Music Festival on July 25 to Aug. 9 will be sponsored by Rifftime, a new community website.

There will be music all along the Mother Road, sharing pictures, stories and streaming video on the web through one coordinated website: route66.rifftime.com

“This is an exciting way to share my experiences and love of Route 66 with other artists and to revive the tradition of traveling and interacting with new people. Now the internet has made it possible to share all this with the world!” says Forman. “Bands will play in clubs, restaurants, bars, at iconic roadside stops and along the street, even jamming with others that are making this trip.  Just like the generations of people who have made the trip searching for something new, we are creating another way to share our music and to build a more vibrant community.”

An archive of Cow Bop’s three earlier Route 66 tours can be found here. Acts that want to take part during the tour are encouraged to sign up at the dedicated Rifftime site.

Here’s one of Cow Bop’s performances east of Albuquerque during a previous Route 66 tour.

More about that Diet Mountain Dew commercial April 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Television.
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Longtime readers of this site probably have seen a muddy-looking but still-invigorating Diet Mountain Dew commercial featuring an altered version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ by John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

A high-quality version of the ad recently was uploaded by the AICP Show, which honors art and technique for those working the advertising world. Because the footage here is so much better, it becomes apparent Route 66 shield pops up everywhere and is a lot more noticeable.

1997_MountainDew_Route66.mov from AICP SHOW on Vimeo.

According to AICP’s archives, the Diet Mountain Dew commercial was made in 1997 by HKM Productions for the BBDO New York agency. The director was Michael Karbelnikoff, who still is doing commercials and the occasional feature film, including “Mobsters.” The AICP Show honored the ad that year for production design.

According to the archives, there was a 60-second version of the ad that I still haven’t seen. And, according to my Shazam app, Lydon’s recording of “Route 66″ is not available commercially.

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