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Prominent National Geographic writer will travel Route 66 April 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Road trips, Web sites.
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Andrew Evans, a prominent writer for National Geographic with his Digital Nomad blog, in a matter of days will travel the full length of Route 66 for Brand USA, a public and private partnership that promotes international travel to the United States.

The announcement of the trip, made in Chicago this morning, contained these details:

For the last 126 years, National Geographic has helped Americans discover the rest of the world. This year, we’ll be helping the rest of the world discover America. This week, I embark on my first in a series of Great American Road Trips. I am especially thrilled to be driving the entire length of America’s Historic Route 66, from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles. The Mother Road represents the evolution of America as a nation, and I can’t think of a better way to see and experience my country then exploring this epic 2,488-mile highway.

I invite all of you to follow along (on this blog, and on Twitter) as I drive the entire length of Route 66, and then embark on a series of other Great American Road Trips in my own wonderful and exotic country, the big, bold and beautiful USA.

It’s going to be really fun.

In addition to his blog, you can follow Evans here on Twitter.

Last fall, Evans spent a few weeks traveling the state of his birthplace, Texas, for National Geographic. Stops in the Lone Star State included a vintage fashion store on Route 66 in Amarillo.

I’ve read a few of Evans’ blog posts in the past, and he’s ideal for this new assignment. He travels with open ears and eyes, with few apparent preconceptions.

As Evans’ blog noted, Brand USA will also publicize nine other road trips this year, including the Blues Highway, Great River Road, Oregon Trail and the Pacific Coast Highway.

A recent report said Brand USA’s efforts generated $7.4 billion (with a “b”) in economic impact and created more than 50,000 jobs in 2013. And in recent weeks, Brand USA has cranked up its promotional engine for Route 66 by releasing a series of videos in various languages.

(Image of Andrew Evans in the field by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr)

Magic on Route 66 April 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants, Road trips.
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Magician Justin Flom, who’s made a lot of appearances on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, apparently hit a lot of coffee shops during a trip on Route 66.

This engaging video consists of clips — and tricks — from that trip.

Go down memory lane to the Rock Cafe April 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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This video about the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla., by Jack Frank’s Tulsa Films is 10 years old, but a lot has happened since then.

The Rock Cafe was nearly destroyed by fire a few years later (and rebuilt), and owner Dawn Welch’s little girl, Alexis, is now college age. And the restaurant started to get really crowded in 2006 after the “Cars” movie was released.

Rock Cafe in Stroud from [email protected] on Vimeo.

The weird part is owner Dawn Welch is apparently ageless.

(Image of the Rock Cafe sign by Pete Zarria via Flickr)

The amazing story of Joe Bauman April 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, People, Sports.
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Famed sportswriter Joe Posnanski a few days ago wrote about Joe Bauman, who set a professional baseball record of 72 home runs in a season in 1954.

That record stood until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.

The hot, dry air of the region and smallish ballparks of the Longhorn League undoubtedly helped Bauman set the record.

But Bauman, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, didn’t hit many cheap home runs, either. He reportedly blasted a 500-footer during his big season that landed in the middle of an adjacent rodeo — sparking a lot of jubilant hollering from the cowboys. And he had other seasons in which he hit 48, 50 and 53 home runs.

In addition to those 72 homers, Bauman’s 1954 season featured 35 doubles, three triples, 224 RBI, 188 runs scored, a .400 batting average and an eye-popping .916 slugging average (which is higher than any major-league mark) in just 138 games. Bauman never made it to the major leagues, but his record season brought him national fame anyway.

The whole story by Posnanski is worth reading. A few tidbits to let you know why this is relevant to Route 66:

  • Bauman co-owned a Texaco gas station and tire shop on Route 66 for many years, and worked there during the off-season.
  • Bauman was born in Welch, Okla., close to Mickey Mantle’s Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Okla. He grew up in Oklahoma City.
  • His baseball career included stints in Amarillo and Elk City, Okla. And Albuquerque was part of the league in which Bauman played.

He finished his career — all in the minor leagues — with a .337 average, 337 home runs and an amazing .702 slugging average. Bauman died in Roswell, N.M., in 2005 at age 83.

Bauman’s Baseball Reference page is here. A more detailed biography can be found at the Society for American Baseball Research can be found here.

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.

A chat with a Texola business owner March 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Businesses, People, Restaurants.
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KC Keefer, as part of his ongoing “Genuine Route 66 Life” series, talks to Masel Zimmerman of the Tumbleweeds Grill and Country Store in the Route 66 ghost town of Texola, Okla.

About a year ago, Zimmerman took a 1930s building, Water Hole #2, and converted it into a personal art gallery, plus a convenience store and restaurant. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the area.

More about Texola may be read here. At one point during the 1930s, it had more than 500 residents. Save for a tiny increase in 2000, the town’s population has been declining pretty much ever since. In the 2010 census, Texola counted 36 residents.

(Worm’s eye view of Route 66 in Texola, Okla., by Phil via Flickr)

Southwest Missouri station puts Route 66 segments online March 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, History, Motels, People, Television, Vehicles.
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Years ago, KY3-TV reporter Ed Fillmer, a native of the Route 66 town of Marshfield, Mo., shot segments about Route 66 in Missouri.

Yesterday, the Springfield, Mo., station put those segments online. The video cannot be embedded, but I’ve provided direct links and descriptions of them.

Some of these videos date to the 1970s. I recommend you watch them; they’re not only well-done, but you’ll probably see a slice of history you haven’t seen before.

An interview with Glenn “Wrink” Wrinkle, longtime owner of Wrink’s Market in Lebanon, Mo. The market was celebrating its 50th anniversary during the segment in 2000. Wrinkle died a few years later, and the market is closed despite fitful attempts to keep it operating.

An interview with Thelma White, longtime co-operator of Whitehall Mercantile in Halltown, Mo. She co-founded the Route 66 Association of Missouri. White died in 2010.

A history of Route 66 State Park and the evacuated town of Times Beach, Mo. The Steiny’s Inn converted into a visitors center for the park is still there, but the bridge closed some years later, making it more difficult to use the rest of the park. The segment was shot in 1999.

A look at McDowell’s Garage in Strafford, Mo., which opened in 1924 and was still operating when the segment was shot. This looks like one of the 1970s segments.

A look at closed gas stations in the Missouri Ozarks, including one owner in Phillipsburg who had s a still-operating gravity-fed pump.

A look at old travel courts in the Ozarks, including the Abbylee Court and the still-operating Rest Haven Court.

A look at the “Route 66″ television show and Corvettes.

UPDATE 3/18/2014: The station added another segment — a 1990 interview with Harold and Pauline Armstrong, longtime owners of the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Mo. The Armstrongs died a few years ago, but Connie Echols bought the property and restored and improved it.

(A screen capture of Glenn Wrinkle from the Wrink’s Market segment.)

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