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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)

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)

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