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East Route 66 gateway in Tulsa nearly done October 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Towns.
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The City of Tulsa began construction of its Route 66 gateway on the east side of the city earlier in the month.

Fewer than 10 days later, city planner Dennis Whitaker sent along these photos.

And longtime Route 66 afiscionado Brad Nickson put together this video of a drive-by of the gateway.

Tulsa Route 66 Gateway from Brad Nickson on Vimeo.

The east gateway is on on the north side of 11th Street (aka Route 66), just east of Interstate 44.

Crews now will start on the west gateway on Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) across from the Crystal City shopping center. That will require about a week of work.

Those are among the last Route 66 projects of Vision 2025 sales tax, approved in 2003. The last item will by the Route 66 Experience museum at the banks of the Arkansas River. The museum is planned as a public-private effort by the city and the Route 66 Alliance. The alliance will have to raise millions of dollars to cover its portion of the construction.

Route 66 gateways in Tulsa begin construction October 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Towns.
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By the end of October, Tulsa should have its Route 66 gateways on the east and west sides of the city completed, according to a news release.

Here are more artist’s renderings of the gateways:

Contractors started work Thursday on the east gateway on the north side of 11th Street, just east of Interstate 44. It should be done in about a week.

After that, crews will start on the west gateway on Southwest Boulevard across from the Crystal City shopping center. That, too, will take about a week of work.

Here’s a short video from a local TV station about the construction:

More details about the gateways, via city planner Dennis Whitaker:

Constructed of steel covered with aluminum, the gateways will be nearly 39 feet high and more than 48 feet wide, with an LED Route 66 shield and upward illumination at night. As visitors enter Tulsa, they will drive under the gateway. When visitors leave the city, they will see on the other side of the road an 8-foot-by-11-foot zigzag art deco structure with a Tulsa Route 66 shield, thanking them for visiting Tulsa.

“The design of the gateways combines elements of architectural significance from the art deco era, creating a notable iconic feature for heritage tourism in Tulsa,” said Dennis Whitaker, City of Tulsa planner for the Vision 2025 Route 66 projects. “The three main obelisks are the zigzag art deco style prominent in many urban areas and particularly in Tulsa. In addition, a sweeping streamline art deco feature extends from behind the curb line to the center line of the street, reminiscent of not only the streamline art deco era, but also the classic automobile styling of the 1950s.”

Whitaker continued, “The matching gateways will create a picture frame at the east and west sides of the city where the rural areas began to transition into the developed areas of Tulsa during the Route 66 era: 1926-1973.”

Total cost for this project is $930,000, including design by Dewberry and fabrication and installation by Claude Neon Federal Signs. The funding source is the Vision 2025 Tulsa County sales tax.

Those are among the last Route 66 projects of Vision 2025. The last piece of the puzzle will by the Route 66 Experience museum at the banks of the Arkansas River. As proposed, it would be a public-private effort by the city and the Route 66 Alliance. The alliance will have to raise millions of dollars to cover its part of the construction.

(Artist’s renderings of the Route 66 gateways via City of Tulsa)

Solutions for Joplin’s troubled golf course October 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Sports.
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A few days ago, the Joplin Globe published a long article about the financial issue about the city-owned Schifferdecker Golf Course, which is on Route 66 on the west side of Joplin, Missouri.

The golf course runs an annual deficit of about $140,000 a year, and it draws about half the users it did a decade ago. It’s still booking about 20,000 rounds a year, but the course is facing a lot of imminent issues with aging golf carts and mowing equipment. And revenues aren’t robust because the city tries to keep the green fees low.

One of the possible solutions is hiring a golf pro, which will cost a little more money but will likely generate a lot more revenue, including some from the PGA. I’ve read about other struggling golf courses improve cash flow by doing this.

However, one of the things that really stick out about Schifferdecker Golf Course is this:

It is the second oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River, and it is located on Route 66.

A lot of big names from the game’s golden era have played there.

One of Garrie’s favorite stories is about Ky Laffoon, who is said to have won a $50 bet against a golfer who didn’t recognize Laffoon.

Byron Nelson, Patty Berg, Hale Irwin and Payne Stewart have also been on Joplin’s local links.
Flatt recommended the city tout the course’s history to promote it as a place to play.

I’ve been interested in Route 66 for more than 15 years, and this is the first I’ve heard about Schifferdecker’s history or those Hall-of-Famers who’ve played there. No such information is on the course’s website.

Avid golfers have a good sense of history about their sport. They love to play at places such as Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, where Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods won major championships. Schifferdecker doesn’t have that major-championship allure, of course, but it will would be cool to play on the course where Irwin — who grew up in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas — cut his teeth.

And the notion of tourists going on a Route 66 tour of golf courses has appeal. Publications such as Golf Digest and a smattering of websites — such as this one — have taken that angle over the years.

But on its history, it seems the city of Joplin and Schifferdecker Golf Course are missing a big opportunity. They had better get on it.

(Image of Schifferdecker Golf Course entrance by Corliss Jahner via Flickr)

Proposed Chicago park may include Route 66 museum September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways, History, Museums.
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A small lot on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Chicago that’s planned as a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park may include a small Route 66 museum to recognize its location on Route 66, according to a story in DNAinfo.

The so-called pocket park would sit just west of the Chicago Symphony building. Vanessa Moss, the symphony’s vice president for orchestra and building operations, said the pocket park would be part of an overall plan to revitalize Wabash. According to the article:

Moss said Friday that the CSO could partner with Blue Plate catering to “enhance dining options there and create a really nice oasis for people in the city, and help bring more traffic to the CSO.”

She said the plaza could include a “Route 66 museum” that will explain the site’s historical significance. In 1926, Route 66 started down the street at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.

Officials didn’t elaborate on what they had planned for the museum, but a rendering did not appear to show a new building on the site. [...]

If funds can be raised on schedule, the CSO hopes to start construction in the early spring and open the park by summer 2015, Moss said.

Based on the artist’s rendering, I suspect it’s not an enclosed “museum” per se, but a few well designed kiosks to tell the Route 66 story in that area.

Swa Frantzen at Historic66.com explains the Route 66 path in that area:

The start of Route 66 has moved a few times. Originally, Route 66 began on Jackson Blvd. at Michigan Ave. In 1933, the start (and end) was moved east onto the reclaimed land for the world fair to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. In 1955, Jackson Blvd became one way west of Michigan Ave. and Adams St. became the westbound US-66. However the start of US-66 remained on Jackson at Lake Shore Drive.

So, even while currently Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 never departed from there.

A short distance away in 1977, city workers took down the Route 66 signs at the highway’s eastern terminus at Grant Park at Jackson Drive. Twenty-five years later, Route 66 signs were reinstalled on that spot.

Route 66 coloring book published September 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Books.
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“Route 66 Coloring Book” cover

The “Route 66 Coloring Book,” in conjunction with American Road magazine, was published a few weeks ago by creator Rich Newman, writers Dave and Laura Newman, and illustrator Abby Smith on the Coloring Books USA imprint.

Here’s a description of the book:

Route 66 is one of the country’s most traveled routes stretching from Illinois to California. Hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful and exciting things to see along the way. Teepees, museums, modernized old fashion motels and gas stations, and natural beauty unmatched anywhere in the world.

Our two characters take you on a personal tour from round barns to robot dinosaurs and so much more.

The 44-page book costs $4.95 and can be ordered directly from the website. If you fret over the lack of a gateway to get youngsters interested in Route 66, this book might serve as one solution.

Here are a couple of sample pages depicting Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois, and the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma:

A preview of more pages is here.

Another “Route 66 Coloring Book” was published in 2009 by Carole Marsh. That one is 24 pages, and, at last check, Amazon has just two left in stock.

(Page samples courtesy of Rich Newman)

A visit to Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch September 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, People.
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A lot of videos have made their way on the Internet about Elmer Long and his unique Bottle Tree Ranch along Route 66 near Oro Grande, Calif.

But this one by KCET-TV, a community station in Los Angeles, is the best. The interview delves into Long’s background. And, much to my relief, Long says his sons will continue running the site after he dies.

But, if I had my way, I’d declare the Bottle Tree Ranch a national monument so people can enjoy it in perpetuity.

Long undoubtedly took some inspiration from Miles Mahan’s Half Acre, also known as Hulaville, which had a few bottle trees along with other quirky stuff in nearby Hesperia, California. Mahan’s Half Acre was bulldozed shortly after his death in 1997, although a few artifacts from there are on display at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville.

(Image of Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch by Peer Lawther via Flickr)

Maple sirup and blue whales August 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, People.
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Since vacation, I’m getting caught up on KC Keefer’s latest videos on his Genuine Route 66 Life series. One that I missed was an interview with Glaida Funk, matriarch of the historic Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup business on Route 66 in Funks Grove, Illinois.

The second is an interview with Linda Hobbs, a volunteer at the gift shop for Route 66’s iconic Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. She details some of the restoration of the adjacent grounds that once housed a children’s zoo.

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