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BLM wants man to remove veterans memorial August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People.
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A man who finished a small memorial to U.S. veterans three years ago just off Oatman Road (aka Route 66) near Oatman, Arizona, has been ordered to remove it by an official with the Bureau of Land Management, reported the Mohave Valley Daily News.

The veterans’ memorial is reached by a series of stone stairs leading up to two stone pedestals, one of which houses two flags — a solar-powered light illuminates the flags at night — and the other which holds the remains of a destroyed donation box Hicks cemented in place.

Over the past four years, the memorial has attracted traffic by word of mouth and on Internet sites such as the Arizona Office of Tourism and gokingman.com. Visitors post photos of their trip to the memorial on Flickr, Pinterest and their own blogs. Motorcycle clubs, veterans groups and individual travelers of Route 66 share directions to get to the structure, and businesses in Oatman sport photos of its construction.

But now the BLM has ordered the memorial off the site and onto private property, even though the agency knew about it when Hicks was still building it four years ago.

Hicks refused, and he’s probably got a good case on why he can — a recent battle over a war memorial in the Mojave National Preserve ended with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing it. Also, the newspaper explained:

Agencies like the BLM are required by law to balance the use of public lands — whether for activities like mining, maintaining roads and trails for recreation or providing opportunities for hunting and fishing — along with conserving land and water for wildlife and for the enjoyment of future generations.

The question of whether the agencies always find the right balance is an open one. They are, however, bound by laws in place to protect both the present and future needs of public interest and the natural resources the agencies manage.

“While the memorial is for veterans, it is important for all concerned to know that the Bureau of Land Management Kingman Field Office means no disrespect to veterans and fully understand that at times the public would like to construct a memorial or shrine to offer homage to those that have given their lives for the freedoms we all enjoy,” said Sanchez. “This is precisely why Congress approves memorials that represent the sentiments of this country for all our men and women in uniform.”

Individuals considering building a structure on BLM land would need to go to the BLM office with a proposal and apply for an authorization, said Sanchez. Such structures are guided by a federal land use permit under 43 Code of Federal Regulations 2920.

A bartender at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman has started a petition to stop the memorial’s destruction or movement. About 120 people had signed when the article was published, and more undoubtedly have been added to the list.

If I were the BLM, I never would have filed the objection. It’s a sincere, small and tasteful monument, and it’s earned respect from locals and tourism agencies. Hicks owns a sizable advantage of legal precedent. Even if he wanted to move it the stone and concrete structure, Hicks says his health now is too poor to do so.

And the BLM didn’t bother to check into the memorial when Hicks was building it four years ago. At the least, this seems like a “snooze, you lose” for the feds.

For the sake of good public relations and common sense, the BLM ought to quietly and promptly issue a press release allowing Hicks to keep his veterans monument and be done with it. Petty stuff like the current situation enlarges the already-large pile of stuff that gives the federal government a bad name.

(Image of the veterans memorial by Philip Lo Photography)

A visit to the Snow Cap Drive-In August 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Restaurants.
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Here’s a recent visit to the historic Snow Cap Drive-In restaurant that’s graced Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona, for more than 60 years.

Founder Juan Delgadillo died 10 years ago, but it’s apparent from this clip his family is keeping it going quite well.

For those who never met Juan, here he is in 1996, in all his irreverent glory.

(Image of the Snow Cap Drive-In by Brett Kiger via Flickr)

A profile of the Wigwam Motel’s Kumar Patel August 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People, Preservation.
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Wigwam Motel

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association recently posted a feature about Kumar Patel, the operator of the historic Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California.

Most stories focus on the motel, which was built along Route 66 in 1949 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. But this one focuses more about Patel himself.

A few tidbits from the story:

— Patel, the son of Indian immigrants, was in accounting before taking over the motel.

— The “rundown” motel – “The man who owned it before was renting rooms for $15 a night” – was bought for $1 million in 2003 and another $500,000 has been spent renovating it.

— Patel’s family also owns franchised motels, in addition to the Wigwam.

— Like many other Route 66 business owners, Patel’s connection with its people and history are what stands out:

“The biggest powerhouse tool I have is the connection I have made with the people along Route 66,” he said. “They are basically like a family now. I pack my car with all sorts of Wigwam [promotional] material, and I leave them at all these places along Route 66 at which the tourists are stopping.”

When he’s at the Wigwam, Patel will host fundraisers and concerts. He loves spending time with his guests, too, taking them out for breakfast, showing them historical sites or hosting a barbecue for them.

“Anything local to bring people in and show them the Wigwam is there, that it is a great place and that it is family oriented,” he said. “I don’t have millions of dollars to market, so I have to use all my energy and power to go out and get different ideas.” [...]

Patel wants more travelers to explore Route 66, even if they don’t always pick the Wigwam as their destination of choice.

“It’s OK that the money is not going to me. The money is going on Route 66. Route 66 is benefiting the hotel industry no matter what,” he said. “If I’m pushing Route 66 and [travelers] come out and they fly by me, I can’t feel bad about it because I love the road so much, and I just want to see people traveling it.”



Conferences at Route 66 festival will be streamed live August 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, People.
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A series of speeches for a two-day conference called “Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future” will be streamed over the Internet live on Friday and Saturday during the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona, it was announced Wednesday.

The video stream will be on Mohave County’s official channel on YouTube. In addition, the presentations will be posted on the channel after the festival.

So, if you can’t attend, the videos will likely be the next-best thing to being there.

Here is the schedule of speakers, so set your calendars if there is someone in particular you want to hear:

Friday, Aug. 15

  • 8:30 a.m., Michael Wallis, Route 66 Alliance
  • 9 a.m., Ron Hart, Route 66 Chamber of Commerce
  • 9:30 a.m., Sharlene Fouser, Arizona Route 66 Association
  • 10 a.m., Kaisa Barthuli, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
  • 10:30 a.m., Sean Evans, Northern Arizona University archivist
  • 11 a.m., Ed Klein, Route 66 World
  • 1 p.m., Richard Mouer, Route 66 bicycle corridor development
  • 1:30 p.m., Nick Gerlich, bicycle tourism
  • 2 p.m., James Thole, Route 66 Association of Missouri
  • 2:30 p.m., Larry Clounts, Texas Old Route 66 Association
  • 3 p.m., Glen Duncan, California Route 66 Association
  • 3:30 p.m., a representative from the New Mexico Route 66 Association
  • 4 p.m., Renee Charles, Kansas Route 66 Association
  • 4:30 p.m., Dries Bessel, Dutch Route 66 Association

Saturday, Aug. 16

  • 8:30 a.m., Roderick Wilde, Historic Electric Vehicle Association
  • 9 a.m., Tudor Melville, Tesla Owners Group
  • 9:30 a.m., Jerry Asher, Plugshare
  • 10 a.m., Rudy Garcia, EV Station Solutions
  • 10:30 a.m., Jim Ross, Route 66 historian
  • 11 a.m., Kathleen Smith, Holbrook Chamber of Commerce
  • 1 p.m., Kumar Patel, Wigwam Motel
  • 1:30 p.m., Scott Piotrowski, Route 66 in Los Angeles historian
  • 2 p.m., Roger Naylor, Arizona Route 66 author
  • 2:30 p.m., Bob Boze Bell, author
  • 3 p.m., Wolfgang Werz, German Route 66 Association
  • 3:30 p.m., Zdnek Jurasek, Czech Route 66 Association
  • 4 p.m., John Holod, Exploring Route 66 by RV
  • 4:30 p.m., Jim Farber, Route 66 exhibit at Autry National Center

A visit with Rich Henry August 5, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, People.
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KC Keefer continues his “Genuine Route 66 Life” video series with an interview of Rich Henry, owner of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch on a stretch of old Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois.

It’s good to see Henry breaking in a new bunny to greet tourists. He has to do that every few years because their life span is so short. Montana, who gained fame for president but died before Election Day, lived to age 7 — a very old age for domesticated rabbits.

(Image of one of the many residents at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch by Brian Marsh via Flickr)

The man behind Waylan’s Ku-Ku August 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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The Joplin Globe published a profile on Gene Waylan, the longtime owner and grill operator of the Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger restaurant along Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma.

What many people don’t know is the Ku-Ku is the last one of a chain that once boasted 200 restaurants across the Midwest during the 1960s. And the primary reason the restaurant has survived is Waylan himself, who’s owned it since 1973.

While other restaurants have come and gone on Miami’s two-mile long stretch of Route 66, he has continued to flourish thanks to a dedicated work ethic and community involvement that has caught the eye of major media throughout the country.

“I’ve been featured on the Food Channel. I’ve been in the New York Times and the New York Post,” Waylan said. “I’ve got a lot of people who have stopped in because they’ve seen me on television and they want to meet me. I always come out and say hi because that means a lot to me that they stopped here.” [...]

“We’re a made-to-order place and that means putting the kind of care into what people ask you for,” Waylan said. “Today, we are really busy behind here, but the other places aren’t. That’s because people want to come here because they know things are going to be done right. I’ll apologize to people when they come through when they know they have had to wait a little longer than I like, but a lot of times they are happy to wait because they know they are getting quality from me.”

Waylan closes his place only a few times for holidays. Also, when he was laid up after hip surgery a few years ago, he elected to close during that time. He’s the one behind the grill, and he wants to ensure everything is done right.

Fortunately for Route 66 tourists, he has no plans to retire. “I’m going to continue to serve here until I can’t do it anymore,” he told the Globe.

The Travel Channel produced a segment about Waylan and his restaurant:

(Nighttime image of the Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger sign by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

El Rey Inn’s commitment to its employees August 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People, Preservation.
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Nearly 35 years ago, the owner of the historic El Rey Inn on Route 66 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, instituted a profit-sharing plan for employees.

According to CNN Money, owner Terrell White has put $7 million into the plan and paid out $5 million over the years. The hotel has 26 employees, with many of them who’ve worked for White for decades.

Employees are 20% vested in the plan after two years and become fully vested after seven. The plan’s investments are overseen by White and are a mix of real estate holdings, rental properties, savings, bonds and stocks. He said the inn’s gain in profitability — which didn’t waver until the recession of 2008-2009 — meant that some employees were making as much in profit as they were in yearly earnings.

“I think this is a much better alternative than a hearty handshake and a gold watch,” he said.

Business dropped 30% during the recession, and while it continues to improve, White hasn’t been able to resume funding the profit-sharing plan. He hopes to start it up again this year, but he noted the plan has continued to earn 10% to 12% annually.

White said the plan is worth it because it fosters employee loyalty. On top of that, he provides all workers medical and dental benefits, up to three weeks of paid vacation, and regular raises.

El Rey Inn, built as the El Rey Court in 1936 just before Route 66 was realigned, has more than doubled in its capacity since White bought it in 1973. More than half of its overnight guests are repeat customers.

El Rey’s developer also built El Vado Motel in 1937 on Route 66 in Albuquerque. El Vado is closed, but the city is seeking to redevelop the property using its existing buildings.

(Image of one of the rooms at El Rey Inn in Santa Fe by cool.as.a.cucumber via Flickr)

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