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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.

Miniature created of 4 Women on the Route station August 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Gas stations.
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Willem Bor strikes again. The craftsman from the Netherlands, who has made miniature models of numerous Route 66 landmarks, created a new one of 4 Women on the Route 66 in Galena, Kansas, which now is known as Cars on the Route.

According to the Joplin Globe, the miniature was hand-delivered by fellow countryman and Route 66 aficionado Dries Bessels.

The model shows exactly how the attraction looked about two years ago, when the business was called 4 Women on the Route.

Located on the corner of Old Route 66 and Main Street, the former service station was transformed into a roadside diner and souvenir shop in 2007.

A yellow chair and a flower planter were placed in front of the red and white model building, and signs that were in the window also were added.

Melba Rigg, who manages the business, said she cried when she saw the model for the first time earlier this month in Kingman, Arizona, during the Route 66 International Festival.

KODE-TV also filed this report:

Bor’s blog also has a post and a photo from the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona, when the miniature was presented to Rigg.

More of Bor’s creations can be seen here.

Cars on the Route was a former Kan-0-Tex gas station that was converted into a small cafe and souvenir shop. But it’s biggest claim to fame is it has a 1951 International boom truck that served as the inspiration to the Tow Mater character in the 2006 Disney-Pixar movie “Cars.”

California Route 66′s declining condition will be discussed Thursday August 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways.
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The poor or deteriorating condition of roads or bridges along the Route 66 corridor in California will be part of an online discussion Thursday regarding the California Route 66 Management Plan from Barstow to Needles.

Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects, the contractor preparing the management plan, will host the webcast from 10:30 a.m. to noon Pacific time Thursday. It’s the third of four webcasts about the plan. The next webcast will be in October.

According to a news release:

The webcast agenda will include an update on the progress of the CMP, ideas for maintaining a safe and historic travel experience, and recommendations regarding how to preserve or maintain the roadway’s character-defining features. [...]

Anyone interested in participating in the web based meeting is requested to send an email to cart66cmp(at)lardnerklein(dot)com with the words “CART 66 WEB MEETING” in the subject line.
Participants are requested to RSVP prior to the webcast to ensure Lardner/Klein can plan for maximum effective public participation during the call.

Members of the public also may contact Lardner/Klein at 1-800-337-1370 to discuss transportation-related issues prior to or after the webcast.

Written comments may be submitted by mail to Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects, 815 North Royal Street, Suite 200, Attn: Route 66 CMP, Alexandria, VA, 22314. The public also may submit written comments by using the CHR66A website at http://www.route66ca.org.

In particular, it seems addressing Route 66′s road surface through the Mojave Desert is overdue. During a road trip earlier this month, I found the stretch west of Amboy to Ludlow as rough. And the stretch Newberry Springs to Ludlow was deemed all but undrivable in Jerry McClanahan’s “Route 66: EZ Guide for Travelers” book.

The problem is a borderline safety issue for motorists, especially on motorcycles. And it will have to be addressed before the route will be used with any regularity by cyclists — a growing segment in Route 66 tourism.

(Image of Route 66 in San Bernardino County, California, via Lynne Miller)

Long-delayed overpass project in Missouri may restart August 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Bridges.
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A long-dormant project to beautify a Route 66 overpass in Sunset Hills, Missouri, may be active again after a local group meets with the Missouri Department of Transportation, reported the South County Times.

The Sunset Hills Special Projects Committee, which met for the first time since 2008, met last week to talk about proposed improvements in the St. Louis suburb. Alderman Donna Ernst is leading the group.

Topics discussed ranged from the practical, like a simple concrete pad to support a trash barrel near a Lindbergh Boulevard bus stop, to the conspicuously ornate — a face-lift for the Route 66/Watson Road Overpass at Lindbergh Boulevard.

“It could become the jewel of the city, if it’s done right,” Ernst said of the overpass idea, which emerged as the committee’s early priority. “We have a huge shopping district. If we could make (the overpass) pedestrian-friendly with more sidewalks and a walk-over bridge, it would only enhance that.”

Ernst’s vision, based on a 50th anniversary calendar concept rendering, would expand sidewalks and add ornate light standards and granite accents to the bridge plus landscaping around its base.

A vintage image of the Watson Road and Lindbergh Boulevard overpass in that part of the St. Louis region is posted above, via 66Postcards.com. Whether that’s 100 percent what Ernst has in mind remains unknown. But even a close approximation of that appearance would be a very good thing indeed.

The interchange was part of the first cloverleaf west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1931. It was replaced in the 1980s by a diamond interchange.

MoDOT would have to approve any changes for the bridge.

National Trust wants Painted Desert facility restored August 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Preservation.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is lobbying to preserve and restore the nearly 50-year-old Painted Desert Community Complex inside the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The complex is the only building designed by acclaimed architect Richard Neutra in the National Park Service system. The building was brought a then-unusual Mid-Century Modern style to the park.

According to the Trust:

Sitting just steps from historic Route 66 and located inside one of Northern Arizona’s  most spectacular and scientifically significant natural landscapes, the Painted Desert Community Complex is an often overlooked Modern treasure. Noted Modern architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander carefully designed the collection of 36 steel, glass, and masonry buildings with flat roofs, low silhouettes, primary colors, and native plantings to harmonize with the stunning vistas that surround it. Neutra and Alexander’s bold design set a precedent for a new style of park architecture, which became known as “Park Service Modern.”

Today the Complex is one of the earliest and best examples of Modern architecture within the entire National Park system, and the only remaining example of a Neutra-designed building within the Park Service. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is on its way to becoming a National Historic Landmark. [...]

Virtually all of the original buildings remain, and they continue to serve many of the same functions today. But a perennial lack of funding for repairs and maintenance, combined with the harsh desert climate and earlier inappropriate alterations, have taken a serious toll on these dramatic Modern buildings and landscapes.

In a blog post, the Trust explained why it’s championing the Painted Desert Community Complex:

In April 2014 the National Trust designated Painted Desert as one of its National Treasures to recognize its unique role in the history of our National Parks and to draw attention to the need for funding and technical assistance to restore it as a beautiful and practical Modern icon that complements the stunning natural landscape around it. National Trust staff, including members of the Preservation Green Lab, are working closely with the Park Service and Superintendent Brad Traver, and Arizona partners Modern Phoenix and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, to raise awareness of and support for this little-known Modern landmark. Drawing on the expertise of well-known restoration and sustainability consultants, the National Trust hopes to provide critical guidance for a model restoration that will return the Complex to its original appearance, integrate sustainable materials and systems (and hopefully achieve net zero energy consumption), and serve as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 resources throughout the Park Service. With this kind of strong, cooperative effort focused on preservation, the public can look forward to another 50 years of service from these irreplaceable assets, each a part of the century-long story of our national parks.

The Trust has listed ways to help the complex, including donating to its campaign, signing a petition to encourage its restoration, and following it on social media. More photos of the complex may be seen here.

(Image of the Painted Desert Community Complex by Petrified Forest via Flickr)

New statues coming to Route 66 in Illinois August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History.
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A series of new statues and wayside kiosks will be erected in nine towns along Route 66 in Illinois, according to a news release.

The Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway project was paid for by grants from National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism. The new kiosks and statues add to the 31 wayside exhibits and 14 “experience hubs” already up on the Mother Road.

Two-dimensional iron structures, called “shadow statues,” show a scene from Route 66. They are:

  • Godley: Miner and Mule – An interpretation of strip-mining coal operations in Braidwood, Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, and Godley until the mid-1970s.
  • Elwood: Rosie the Riveter – A symbol of the female worker during World War II at the Elwood Arsenal factory.
  • Pontiac: Motorcycle Police – At the historic Illinois State Police headquarters building, the statue tells of the early days of the Illinois State Police motorcycle patrol (pictured above).
  • McLean: Dixie Gas Attendant – It interprets Illinois’ oldest truck stop, Dixie Truckers Home, that opened in 1928. It also features the McLean railroad depot.
  • Elkhart: Shirley Temple – It tells the story of actress Shirley Temple’s visit to the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938.
  • Sherman: Wayside Park – It depicts a picnic during Route 66′s heyday at one of its surviving wayside parks.
  • Gillespie: Miner – Another coal-mining town, it proved crucial to the development of labor unions.
  • Benld: Coliseum Ballroom Dancers – The biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis attracted large crowds, many of them top-name performers. The Coliseum burned down in 2011.
  • Staunton: Illinois Traction System – Electrified railways connected travelers before Route 66 became a major highway. The rail lines were phased out by the mid-1950s.

(Image of the Motorcycle Police statue that will be at the historic Illinois State Police headquarters on Route 66 in Pontiac, Illinois)

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