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Bob Waldmire art featured at Harley-Davidson Museum exhibit July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Motorcycles, People, Photographs, Vehicles.
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The artwork of Bob Waldmire, the famed and beloved Route 66 artist who died of cancer in 2009, is featured in a current show at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“The American Road,” which began June 14, “takes visitors on a journey highlighting the evolution of the quintessential American road trip from its early beginnings in 1930 to what it has come to represent in pop culture today,” according to a news release. It features photographs, film footage, slide shows and travel memorabilia.

Waldmire’s artwork is prominently featured Gallery 3 of the show, which displays a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu that was custom-painted by him. I’m pretty sure that’s vehicle is owned by Dave Jostes of Rochester, Illinois, who has showed up with the car to several Waldmire-related events.

Waldmire’s spiral notebooks and sketches — including some of the earliest of his career — also will be displayed.

Waldmire’s legendary 1972 Volkswagen minibus still can be seen at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, along with a schoolbus he converted into living quarters for a time. And his intricate artwork can be bought here and at souvenir shops on the Mother Road. Waldmire also served as the indirect inspiration to the Fillmore VW minibus character in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” films.

The photography of Jeff Kunkle, co-founder of Vintage Roadside, also is featured in the gallery.

“The American Road” will run at the museum until Sept. 1.

(Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum; hat tip to Ace Jackalope)

A history of Cadillac Ranch July 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History, People, Vehicles.
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On Sunday, the Amarillo Globe-News published a well-researched story about the history of the Cadillac Ranch art installation just off Route 66.

Cadillac Ranch marked its 40th anniversary June 21 — four days after owner Stanley Marsh 3 died at age 76.

The story provides behind-the-scenes details about how Cadillac Ranch came about. I urge you to read the story in its entirety. A few highlights:

— The Ant Farm art collective, which came up with the idea, didn’t strictly have Amarillo on its radar. It compiled a list of millionaires who might be receptive to having the art installation on their land, and Marsh was on the list.

— Ant Farm member Hudson Marquez drew up Cadillac Ranch after seeing the book “The Look of Cars” in a bar near San Francisco. One section of the book dealt with the rise and fall of tail fins as a part of car design.

— Marquez and fellow Ant Farm members Chip Lord and Doug Michaels were paid $2,000 for the artwork and given a $3,000 budget to procure materials, including Cadillacs bought mostly from junkyards in the Texas Panhandle.

— The hard earth allowed the cars to keep the correct angle once they were lowered into the ground. A British artist working for Marsh on another project, whose name apparently is lost to history, proved vital in installing Cadillac Ranch.

— The newspaper estimated if Cadillac Ranch was visited by only 70 people a day, it would have totaled more than 1 million visitors. It’s safe to say the number is probably two to three times that.

— The Globe News published a letter from Marsh to the Ant Farm that posed questions about the project. One excerpt:

If we put the Cadillac Ranch on Highway 66, near my airport, would the bodies of the Cadillacs lean toward the highway? (south) or would they lean toward the prairie? (north). That’s an important consideration. Also, I’m worried about putting it overlooking the highway because I’m afraid some Ladybird-Johnson kind of ecology freak would claim that it was junk and not art and make me fence it off, so perhaps we would have to read the regulations concerning junk car lots in Amarillo, in Potter County, in Texas and on U.S. Interstates, and place it far enough back so that it would conform. Of course, it might be better fenced off from view.

After Marsh’s death last month, it was learned Cadillac Ranch was placed in a trust and that the installation would remain unchanged. That was doubtlessly done to protect Cadillac Ranch from a slew of lawsuits that allege Marsh committed sex acts with teenage boys in his Amarillo office.

Ordinarily, Cadillac Ranch would become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by 2024 — its 50th anniversary. But in 1997 Marsh moved Cadillac Ranch one mile from its original spot to escape Amarillo’s sprawl. That move damages its chances for National Register status, and likely would delay it to 2047.

(Sunrise image of Cadillac Ranch by Lotus Carroll 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)

Stanley Marsh 3, patriarch of Cadillac Ranch, dies June 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, People, Vehicles.
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Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric multimillionaire owner of the Cadillac Ranch art installation off Route 66 on the west edge of Amarillo, Texas, died Tuesday afternoon at age 76, according to several media outlets.

Marsh had been in poor health in recent years after a series of strokes. Recent photographs and video showed a frail man who needed the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.

The Amarillo Globe-News, one of the first media outlets to report his death, used the subhead “A Questionable Legacy” on the homepage of the newspaper’s website. (A lengthy and fair obituary by the newspaper is here.) The “questionable” part was because in the two years of his life, he was besieged by 14 criminal charges and 10 civil lawsuits over allegations he engaged in sex acts with teenage boys. Although he was dogged by similar rumors years before, he never was convicted in a court of law.

Regardless, Marsh will remain best-known for setting aside land near U.S. 66 in 1974 so the Ant Farm art collective from San Francisco could install 10 vintage Cadillac nose-down into the Texas soil. According to the Globe-News, Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the installation.

CBS News’ Charles Kuralt helped cement Cadillac Ranch’s fame by doing a segment about it shortly after its installation:

Over time, Marsh let visitors spray-paint the rusting Cadillacs. They probably now are covered with thousands of coats of Krylon. And when Amarillo’s urban sprawl began to encroach on the installation, Marsh in 1997 had the entire thing moved two miles to the west.

Save for possible exceptions of nearby Palo Duro Canyon and the Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant, it remains Amarillo’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s become a part of popular culture, from the popular “Cadillac Ranch” song by Bruce Springsteen, became an inspiration to the Cadillac Range mountains in the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” and has been featured in countless videos, photographs and television shows.

Marsh also became locally known for his irreverent stunts and quirky Dynamite Museum sign project. But it is Cadillac Ranch for which Marsh will be best-known internationally.

As for the future fate of Cadillac Ranch, Marsh’s longtime attorney Kelly Utsinger told the Los Angeles Times it’s not going anywhere.

The land on which it is built is owned by a trust, and the display itself is in the care of Ant Farm, the company Marsh commissioned to create it in the 1970s.

“It will continue, nothing will be done to it at all,” Utsinger said.

And a quote from Marsh almost 25 years ago indicates he was fine with letting those Cadillacs deteriorate from graffiti and the harsh Texas Panhandle weather.

“All that graffiti and vandalism gave them a real patina, like those Chinese vases that increase in value with each crack. … It shows people love their monuments.”

Decades from now, I suspect Cadillac Ranch will be like the many roadside ruins you see along Route 66. People will stop by, wonder what it was and wonder why people made such a fuss over it long ago. And that’s OK.

(Image of Cadillac Ranch by waxhawian via Flickr)

Illinois county taking next steps for establishing Route 66 corridor June 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Restaurants, Signs.
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Will County, Illinois, near Chicago, is about to take the next steps in transforming Illinois Highway 53 into more of an attraction for Route 66 tourists, reported Shaw Media.

The 20-mile stretch of Illinois 53 runs from about Interstate 80 in Joliet to Braidwood.

Larazza said more than 30 businesses and other stakeholders involved in the project will meet later this month to discuss next steps. That includes adding signage along Route 66, Interstate 80 and Interstate 57 to steer drivers toward key destinations. [...]

The county’s land use department also is in talks with BNSF Railway and the Illinois Department of Transportation seeking approval to paint a mural on one or two railroad overpasses along Route 53 to create a gateway to the road, Larazza said. [...]

New attractions would also be added. Some ideas include an observation tower for the Wilmington’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and a major bike trail connecting the Kankakee River Trail, Wauponsee Glacial Trail, the I&M Canal State Trail and Centennial Trail to one another.

The Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington and the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In restaurant in Braidwood were mentioned in the story as existing Route 66 attractions. County officials think adding attractions along the stretch would complement those landmarks and make Illinois 53 more attractive to tourists.

The county hasn’t come up with a name for the Illinois 53 corridor, although Will 66, Route 66 Prairies, Route 66 Stops and Prairies @ 66 have been suggested.

The story didn’t mention it, but I strongly suspect the Route 66 Economic Impact Study – namely, that Route 66 tourism creates $127 million in business annually — played a role in this proposal.

(Image of Brian Marsh at the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood, Illinois, via Flickr)

Tucumcari considers offering abandoned property to businesses at low cost May 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Businesses, Towns.
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The Quay County Sun newspaper reported a county commissioner is proposing that Tucumcari, New Mexico, essentially give away abandoned property to businesses.

Under the plan, the city would make some abandoned properties and buildings it owns available to new or expanding business at low or no cost, thus providing an incentive for businesses to grow or locate in Tucumcari, according to Fifth District Commissioner John Mihm, the idea’s chief promoter. [...]

Watson proposed a series of steps that the plan’s development could follow, including establishment of processes and procedures, program promotion and client recruitment, property development, setting commitments, goals and objectives and continuing management assistance.

She said the small-business center could help business owners who take advantage of the land offer with planning, forms and applications and counseling.

City officials seemed enthusiastic about the idea, but noted Local Economic Development Act restrictions could keep them from giving away property. So the city took no action.

It would seem prudent the city council find a way around those restrictions. It was noted at the meeting that Paducah, Kentucky, revitalized itself with a similar program in its historic Lowertown section. A brief description of the program:

While the financial incentives offered by the city were limited to dilapidated housing at little cost (often as low as $1) and professional design fee assistance of up to $2,500, the intrigue of becoming a part of a true art enclave proved irresistible.  To date, LowerTown artists/residents, primarily through a generous and innovative financing arrangement offered by community partner Paducah Bank, have invested over $30 million in restoring this model community to its previous glory.

Detroit is trying a similar program by offering houses in a historic neighborhood for $1,000 if they’re brought up to code in six months and the owner lives there. Detroit, with its myriad problems and a pending bankruptcy, is an extreme case. But the program is being met with a lot of enthusiasm.

In the case of Tucumcari, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how Route 66 could benefit from a similar program, especially if an artist’s enclave is set up in some of the abandoned motels along the corridor. Look no further than the photo at the top of this post.

In the same story, Rob Morper, who owns a real-estate brokerage, also said Tucumcari “is not even scratching the surface” of its tourism potential. That’s an issue for another time. But if Tucumcari adopts the Paducah model, the tourism problem would largely fix itself.

(Image of a Texaco station converted into a park in the Lowertown section of Paducah, Kentucky, by Joel Abroad via Flickr)

Artist dedicates Gay Parita painting at its namesake May 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Gas stations, People.
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Artist Jerry McClanahan is about to shake the hand of Gay Parita station owner Gary Turner as Curtis and Kath Gobeli watch during the dedication ceremony Saturday.

Artist Jerry McClanahan on Saturday unveiled a newly commissioned painting of Gary Turner’s Gay Parita gas station on Route 66 west of Halltown, Missouri, at the station itself.

A recent news release explained how the painting came to be:

On June 6 of 2013, Curtis Gobeli, celebrating having turned 66 years of age with a dream trip down Route 66, stopped at Gary Turner’s world-famous replica Sinclair Station while driving his immaculate 1966 Pontiac GTO. Meeting Jerry later at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, the two, inspired by the many examples of 66 embodied in Curtis’ visit to Gay Parita, conspired to create a highly detailed watercolor commemorating that visit, with the GTO posed in front of Gary’s eye-catching homage to the roadside past. In the sky above the scene float depictions of other Route 66 icons that Curtis and his wife Kath encountered on their cruise, as well as a map of 66 and a short prose history of the Route.

A few more photos from the ceremony:

And here’s a close-up image of the painting, along with an comparative image of the station itself:

Turner’s station is a recent re-creation of a gas station that stood at the site until it burned down in the 1950s. The site, along with Turner’s hospitality, has become a must-stop place for Route 66 travelers.

In addition to his paintings, McClanahan, who resides in the Route 66 town of Chandler, Oklahoma, also writes the “EZ 66 Guide” that provides turn-by-turn directions for following Route 66.

(Images courtesy of Jerry McClanahan, John Stiber and Kristy Stiber)

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