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Route 66′s lifeguard March 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, People.
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The Bloomington Pantagraph recently published a profile about longtime Illinois state trooper Chester Henry, who patrolled Route 66 and Interstate 55 in the Pontiac area for more than 25 years and wrote an estimated 50,000 speeding tickets.

Henry, now 84, has been retired for about 30 years. He still drives his old beat from time to time.

Some tidbits from the Pantagraph’s story:


  • He once wrote 238 tickets in one month.
  • His record for issuing speeding tickets in one day was 45, just before Thanksgiving.
  • Over the years, he walked a total of 150 miles walking the distance from his squad car to the front window of the vehicles he stopped.
  • Some days were so busy, Henry and his partner would prefill parts the tickets to save time.


Henry didn’t write all those tickets just to be a stickler, either:

Patrolling a stretch of asphalt that was so accident-marred in the post-war dawn of the super highway that it became known in this area as “Bloody 66,” a key part of Chester’s job was simply this: cut down on death by trying to curb the speed-demons who were taking kindly to the new, wider, smoother, more open roads.

“We didn’t waste much time on motorists who were only going 10 (mph) over,” says Chester. “There was enough traffic out there that we could wait for the better ones.”

Until the ’70s, highways like Route 66 cut through hundreds of small towns, wedged amid a patchwork of family-owned gas stations, diners and Howard Johnsons. [...]

Highways, Chester says, were a much more personal, friendly place. He knew all the great places to dine, sleep, take a break and he told anyone who asked.

In a way, he was like a Route 66 lifeguard — friendly, helpful but also stern and mindful.

“Everything went up and down the road,” says Chester, “but it was always the people that made the work enjoyable.”

Henry is the member of two halls of fame, including the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. He was inducted there in 1993.

Australia highway wants to use Route 66 to rebrand itself March 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways.
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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, Route 66 should be very flattered indeed by what certain highway boosters are wanting to do in Australia.

We’ll let The Australian newspaper explain:

Grain silos rising from flat terrain vie with open-cut mines for the attention of truckers who use the 660-mile Newell Highway. A kangaroo occasionally jumps across the arrow-straight road. Among the most unfortunately named districts hereabouts is Bland Shire.

Jeff Stien has a plan to change things. A member of the Newell Highway Promotions Committee, he wants to rebrand the road, which motorists think is one of eastern Australia’s worst, as Route 66 and make it a destination for lovers of Americana.

The committee is seeking government funding to promote the road, which connects the southern state of Victoria with Queensland in the northeast, as a tourist highway, complete with brand-new Route 66 signage, hoping to shake its image as a service road for travellers headed elsewhere. [...]

If all goes well, drivers will be stopping at an observatory that helped broadcast the Apollo moon landings, seeking relics of one of the biggest U.S. Pacific air bases in World War II and breaking out their blue suede shoes next January at a festival for Elvis Presley’s birthday.

Apparently the small towns along this mostly rural road have met hard times because of drought and a drop in commodity prices. The  New South Wales Parliament will decide on the proposal next month.

The Newell Highway has its own tourist-friendly website here. And this video provides a nice overview:

This effort makes one wonder whether the highway’s expanses — “dull” is a word that often comes to mind from its travelers — would cast the real Route 66 in a none-too-flattering light. Then again, the idea of faux Route 66 road signs Down Under might inspire Australians to seek out the genuine article.

(Image of Australia’s Newell Highway near West Wyalong via Wikimedia Commons)

A trip down Memory Lane in a 1950 Hudson February 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Highways, History, Vehicles.
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Here’s a nearly quarter-century-old video from Dan Uscian cruising Route 66 near Lexington, Ill., in his 1950 Hudson, including a 1926 alignment now called Memory Lane that includes re-creations of vintage billboards.

The original stretch of Route 66 in Lexington is open for pedestrians or cycling, but townsfolk reopen it for vehicular traffic on special occasions.

Here’s Uscian’s description of the video:

The initial scenes here were video taped in July of 1991 from the interior of my 1950 Hudson Pacemaker Deluxe sedan (since sold as I upgraded to a 1953 Hudson Super Wasp!).

We start out traveling along former Illinois Route 66, parallel to Interstate 55, about two miles outside of Lexington, IL (Lexington is a small town community about 15 miles north of Bloomington, IL). We then turn off the 2nd generation of Rt 66 onto the orignal 1st generation of Rt 66 into Lexington. This two lane road has been closed for decades, but about 1990, the town of Lexington reopened for a few days about a mile of the “Mother Road” north of the town seen here complete with vintage billboards from Coppertone (Don’t Be a Paleface!) to the War Fund to two seperate sets of Burma Shave signs. You’ll also hear the sounds of a southbound Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) freight train as it rolls through Lexington.

After the road trip we’re at what Lexington, IL use to celebrate for a number of years, the “Taste of Country Fair”. Lastly, we see the lineup of cars, including my Hudson again, that were paraded down the main drag in Lexington for the delight of the townsfolk and visitors.

Oh yes, one other thing, my Hudson was still under the power of its original Hudson 232 6 cylinder L-head engine. No small block Chevy engine here!

Remember, this video was shot barely a year after the publication of Michael Wallis’ best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road.” This was at the beginning of Route 66′s renaissance.

(Image of Memory Lane of Route 66 in 2013 near Lexington, Ill., by Larry Myhre via Flickr)

Public meetings set for California Route 66 management plan February 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Highways, History, Preservation.
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The Bureau of Land Management and the California Historic Route 66 Association are scheduling two public hearings later this month about a proposed Route 66 Corridor Management Plan from the western edge of Barstow, Calif., to the Colorado River in Needles, Calif.

All members of the public are invited to these meetings:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Harvey House Railroad Depot, 681 N. First Ave., Barstow, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 27, Needles High School cafeteria, 1600 Washington St., Needles, 6 to 8 p.m.

And for folks who can’t travel that far, a one-hour California Route 66 seminar will be held online at 1 p.m. Pacific time Thursday, Feb. 27, at a link at the California association’s home page. You also can listen in to the presentation at that time at 1-855-244-8681.

Written comments also may be submitted by mail to Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects, 815 N. Royal St., Suite 200, Attn: Route 66 CMP, Alexandria, VA, 22314, or email at cart66cmp(at)lardnerklein(dot)com. Comments must be received no later than 30 days after Feb. 27.

And what’s the purpose of the plan?:

The effort will also look for ways to increase economic activity through enhanced recreation and heritage tourism opportunities for visitors to its gateway communities. [...]

Upon completion of the (Corridor Management Plan), the BLM will submit a nomination to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation for consideration to designate the California segment of Route 66 a National Scenic Byway.

A good two-page overview of the plan can be downloaded here.

(Image of Roy’s in Amboy, Calif., by Slideshow Bruce via Flickr)

Pasadena may narrow Colorado Boulevard January 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, Highways, Motels, Towns.
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The city of Pasadena, Calif., may narrow Colorado Boulevard (aka Route 66) to make it more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Pasadena is considering plans to narrow portions of Colorado by as much as two lanes and use that space to widen sidewalks and create tiny parks with seating and greenery. The proposal has generated wide support among some city leaders and is expected to go before the City Council soon. [...]

The effort to put Colorado on what some planners call a street “diet” reflects a transformation that began a decade ago. Once largely a retail strip, the boulevard, especially in Pasadena, has seen an influx of apartment and condominium complexes, with more than 1,000 residential units added along Colorado since 2003 and an additional 2,000 within three blocks.

And more is on the way, including several hotels. A 175-room hotel has been proposed for the site of the empty Macy’s at the Paseo Colorado and 500 hotel rooms on two sites previously used as a Ford dealership at Colorado and Hill Avenue. Also in the works is a $75-million to $100-million renovation of the 155-room, 1920s-era Constance Hotel at Colorado and Mentor Avenue.

City leaders say that with this development, Colorado needs to better balance the car and the pedestrian.

Narrowing streets for pedestrian and bicycle use has become a trend in many large cities in America. The idea is that such street structures actually boost businesses there because it encourages more walkers who shop. But Pasadenans also are concerned a narrowed street would cause traffic jams.

The key to success for this proposal is to ensure steadier traffic flow. Colorado Boulevard right now is a series of stop lights. If you’re going to build a narrower street, you’d better install roundabouts that would improve flow and compensate for the loss of lanes. I’m not sure whether Pasadena’s city fathers have this in mind.

Incidentally, this report was the first I’ve heard about the renovations of the Constance Hotel, built in 1926 — the same year Route 66 was federally certified. Its website remains rudimentary, but it posted this computer animation of what the fixed-up hotel will look like:

(Image of Colorado Boulevard in downtown Pasadena, Calif., by Matt’ Johnson via Flickr)

Old road west of Glenrio November 13, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.
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Rich Dinkela posted this video of an old and hard-to-access piece of Route 66 west of the ghost town of Glenrio in New Mexico. This old road carried Route 66 from the 1950s to the early 1970s and runs up to the current Russell’s Travel Center.

You can see the old road on satellite imagry here:

View Larger Map

I’ve walked that portion just west of Glenrio, but not the one that stretches north of the interstate. Fascinating.

Biography about Cyrus Avery coming next year November 1, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Highways, History, People.
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Susan Croce Kelly, well-known among Route 66 fans for co-writing “Route 66: The Highway and Its People” with photographer Quinta Scott in 1988, will publish a biography about Cyrus Avery, the so-called Father of Route 66, in 2014.

The Avery book will be published by University of Oklahoma Press. Asked to describe her forthcoming volume, Kelly wrote in an email:

… [T]he book traces the life of this highway pioneer from his birth in Pennsylvania, boyhood in Indian Territory, and adult life as a Tulsa real estate mogul, oil man, politician, and road builder. A true man of his times, Avery did many things as he helped bring the trans-Mississippi west into the 20th century, but the book, like his life, zeroes in on his interest in roads and how he created America’s highway.

Kelly wasn’t sure on a publication date, but said it likely would reach bookstores by fall — in time for Christmas.

I was always a bit mystified why a book hadn’t been published before about Avery, with his colorful background, his key role in creating the world’s most famous highway, and his stature continuing to grow with Route 66′s renaissance. The fact the first Cyrus Avery biography will be written by Kelly, who wrote one of the first books about Route 66 after its decertification, is a very enticing prospect indeed.

(Portrait of a middle-aged Cyrus Avery via Oklahoma State University-Tulsa)

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