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A visit with Rich Henry August 5, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, People.
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KC Keefer continues his “Genuine Route 66 Life” video series with an interview of Rich Henry, owner of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch on a stretch of old Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois.

It’s good to see Henry breaking in a new bunny to greet tourists. He has to do that every few years because their life span is so short. Montana, who gained fame for president but died before Election Day, lived to age 7 — a very old age for domesticated rabbits.

(Image of one of the many residents at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch by Brian Marsh via Flickr)

Pigeon Museum in Oklahoma City holding grand opening June 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Art, History, Museums.
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Signal Corps pigeon memorabilia

A new museum aimed at Route 66 travelers and other tourists is holding a grand opening Saturday in Oklahoma City — the American Pigeon Museum and Library.

The Oklahoman newspaper produced this video about it:

The newspaper said:

The museum and library will contain numerous photographs, paintings, trophies, artifacts, collectables and much more memorabilia. [...]

Visitors during the two-day event will even be able to see and hold these special looking birds that they never knew were actually pigeons.

“The fancy birds look totally different than what their perception is of the bird,” Monteiro said pointing out examples on a painting behind her containing at least 100 unique breeds.

The museum is just off Interstate 44 (aka Route 66) in Oklahoma City (map here).

(Image of memorabilia at the American Pigeon Museum by Sheila Scarborough via Flickr)

New Mexico continues to snub Tucumcari for a racetrack license June 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, Sports, Towns.
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The Quay County Sun newspaper last week published a well-researched story that speculates why the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, hasn’t been awarded a license from the state to build a horse-racing track and casino, despite a license being available for more than a year.

The proposed Coronado Park racino in Tucumcari calls for 600 slot machines and a one-mile dirt racetrack just off Route 66. It would host 55 days of horse racing each year and create an estimated 1,200 jobs. The New Mexico Racing Commission holds six licenses, and one is available after a proposed “racino” in Raton went bust a few years ago.

State officials contacted by the newspaper wouldn’t comment on why Tucumcari is denied the open license. However, the Sun said the state may be holding back for a number of reasons:

  • Doubt exists whether there is enough horse stock to keep six racetracks running.
  • Even more doubt exists whether the horse-racing industry is healthy enough for another facility. Race attendance in the United States declined 30 percent from 2006 to 2011 and shows no signs of improvement.
  • Casino officials are concerned the gaming industry has reached a saturation in the United States, especially with the rapid rise of Native American-owned casinos. And more tribal casinos are coming.
  • Questions remain whether the state can manage enough oversight over illegal doping of horses and ensuring jockey safety. A New York Times report in 2012 showed that New Mexico had the worst oversight in the country.

The Sun reports Tucumcari remains an attractive site for a new racino, with its proximity to Interstate 40 and a neighboring state — Texas — that has almost no casinos. And the promise of hundreds of jobs and thousands of new visitors undoubtedly would boost Tucumcari’s economy and perhaps halt or reverse the town’s 50-year slide.

But the proposed racino contains pitfalls, too. No one should look at a Tucumcari racino with rose-colored glasses.

(Image of downtown Tucumcari by Matt via Flickr)

Family of owls holds up relighting of Whiting Bros. sign June 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Gas stations, Preservation, Signs.
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The last Whiting Brothers gas station still in operation on Route 66 had hoped to relight the neon for its refurbished signs during a ceremony last weekend.

However, a family of owls recently took up residence in one of the signs, delaying the neon installation at the station in Moriarty, New Mexico. Roger Holden at RETRO Relive the Route said in an email:

The owls are not protected to my knowledge, yet we wanted them to have a peaceful home life. Hawks Aloft said they would move them for a fee but we are getting a lot of publicity with their being where they are.

We will have a celebration when the lights are turned on. We will be planning the event at our next RETRO 66 meeting next Wednesday at the Moriarty Civic Center at 202 S. Broadway.

After the last owl leaves it will only take a couple days for the sign crew to install the neon and remainder of the signs.

As Holden intimated, the Route 66 folks decided to make lemonade out of lemons. In addition to leaving the owls alone, a live streaming camera has been installed in the sign so people online can see the birds’ activities through the website owlson66.com.

And the ceremony went on anyway, with “HOOT 66″ and a photo of the owls (seen above) as part of the promotional flyer.

A photo of the mostly restored signs:

RETRO Relive the Route received a $3,700 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore the signs. The group raised $1,500 through the sales of 150 specially made T-shirts.

The Whiting station in Moriarty has been operated by Sal Lucero since 1985, though the station itself dates to 1964.

Whiting Brothers started in 1926 and boasted more than 100 gas stations and several motels in the Southwest. The chain declined rapidly during the 1970s, mostly from stations being bypassed by the interstates. Ruins of several long-closed Whiting stations still stand, but the one in Moriarty remains the lone one still operating on the Mother Road.

UPDATE: The Mountain View Telegraph filed a story about the dedication.

Bees removed from De Anza Motel May 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Motels.
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Several colonies of honeybees were removed from the long-closed De Anza Motel on Route 66 in Albuquerque, reported KRQE-TV.

The bees took up residence inside the walls and roof of the motel, a fairly common occurrence in abandoned properties. Beekeepers were able to remove the bees from De Anza, where they were given new homes at Open Space Visitors Center and the yards of other beekeepers.

Killing honeybee colonies is illegal in many states. They can indeed be a nuisance if they take up residence in the walls of a property, but in general you’ll find area beekeepers who will relocate the colony without killing the bees.

De Anza has seen two developers in recent years walk away from renovating the historic property. The City of Albuquerque is hoping to find another. NewLife Homes, which has renovated other historic Route 66 motels in the city for housing for low-income or disabled people, is said to be a possible candidate.

De Anza is at 4301 Central Ave. S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson, Ariz.; and C.G. Wallace, a Zuni Indians trader, built De Anza Motor Lodge in 1939. It closed during the 1990s, and was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. De Anza received brief notoriety in recent years when it was included in a scene in the acclaimed “Breaking Bad” television drama.

(Image of De Anza Motor Lodge by Debora Drower, via Flickr)

“Genuine Route 66 Life” video series launched September 10, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Art, Businesses, Motels, People, Restaurants, Web sites.
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This has been in the works for a while. But on Monday, Denver-based photographer KC Keefer launched his “Genuine Route 66 Life” channel on YouTube.

The channel is subtitled “American Stories from the Route,” and this is what the series is about:

“Genuine Route 66 Life” is a celebration of people from around the world that share the same love for Route 66 and American nostalgia. These “American Stories From The Route” include writers, artists, innkeepers, restaurant and gift shop owners and perhaps most importantly the travelers from all over the world that keep the route alive. We hope you enjoy this self-funded project produced by KC Keefer, co-producer Nancy Barlow.

We’ve already used a couple of videos about marketing professor Nick Gerlich and the recently deceased dog, Boomer, of the Blue Swallow Motel. But here’s one about Blue Swallow co-owner Kevin Mueller and his collection of classic cars, which do more than just look pretty:

Here’s another clip about Tucumcari artist Doug Quarles:

One about Dennis Purschwitz, owner of the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas:

Finally, one about French Route 66 enthusiast Sylvie Toullec:

If you have a YouTube account, you may subscribe to his channel here.

Boomer, R.I.P. September 1, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Motels.
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Word came a few days ago that Boomer, Kevin and Nancy Mueller’s golden retriever at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M., died after suddenly taking ill.

An autopsy revealed the dog was riddled with cancer, even though there were no outward signs until the day of his death.

Boomer, along with another golden retriever, Bessie, served as the unofficial welcoming committee at the historic Route 66 motel. Boomer even had his own Facebook page.

News of Boomer’s death elicited scores of sympathy messages on Boomer’s page and the Blue Swallow’s Facebook page. It even produced this tribute video from photographer KC Keefer:

The Muellers say they’re heartbroken (having lost two dogs — including one from cancer — in recent years, I can relate). But they can take comfort in what they gave in the last two years of Boomer’s life — a constant stream of visitors, regular trips to the Ute Lake, chasing varmints around the motel’s grounds, and owners who obviously adored him. To socially active dogs such as golden retrievers, that’s already like heaven.

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