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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.

Tesla supercharger added to La Posada grounds April 5, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Restaurants, Road trips, Vehicles.
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A supercharger for Telsa electric cars has been added to one of the parking lots of the historic La Posada hotel on Route 66 in Winslow, Ariz., according to the Casa Grande Dispatch.

The newspaper also said La Posada will add chargers for other electric cars, including Nissan, Toyota, Honda and GM. Hotel co-owner Allan Affeldt said adding the chargers is “the right thing to do,” and already has a large array of solar panels to generate electricity.

A remarkable coincidence recently occurred with the Tesla supercharger’s installation and Telsa Motors owner Elon Musk:

The need for a second Tesla supercharger came about when Affeldt learned that hotel reservations had been made by one noted billionaire, Elon Musk, and a large entourage to include three Model S Teslas. Apparently Musk was on a rare vacation with his wife, children, parents, brother and security team, taking in the Grand Canyon, Route 66 and other Southwestern sites.

As to how the Musk party happened to make reservations the very same week that Affeldt’s single supercharger was to be installed “is a mystery,” says Affeldt, but also a rare opportunity to have the first user of his system be Musk himself, the man who joined a struggling electric vehicle company several years ago and turned it into the global leader in e-car technology.

“Once I knew he was coming I added a second charger,” says Affeldt, “and my electrician worked every day to get the system up.” The system cost Affeldt over $10,000 for two 100-amp charging circuits, each requiring a 200-amp breaker, each drawing 80 amps per charge. The Tesla-badged EV charging stations are located just left of the main entrance on the Route 66 side of La Posada. One week ago Musk’s three Tesla sedans rotated through the chargers while he and family enjoyed the ambience, art and cuisine of Affeldt’s La Posada and Chef John Sharpe’s highly decorated Turquoise Room.

Affeldt thinks the hotel’s Turquoise Room restaurant was the original draw for Musk. The restaurant has been honored as one of the best in the Southwest.

Affeldt recently posted a photo on his Facebook account of him, his wife and Musk with two Teslas at the superchargers.

Telsa superchargers — which can provide 170 miles’ worth of charge in 30 minutes — are sprinkled along the Route 66 corridor in California and Arizona, including another recently added in Holbrook.

According to Tesla, by the end of the year, superchargers will be installed along Route 66 in New Mexico, Texas and the western half of Oklahoma. By the end of 2015, superchargers will be no more than 150 miles or so apart on the Mother Road.

On a related note, I’ve received word the National Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation is working to set up an electric vehicle museum in the Powerhouse Museum during the International Route 66 Festival in August in Kingman, Ariz.

Affeldt weeks ago made big news when he announced his intention to buy another historic Harvey House, Hotel Castaneda of Las Vegas, N.M. Affeldt said in a recent Facebook post he would take possession of that property April 8.

(Image of a Tesla Roadster by randychiu via Flickr)

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)

Suspected drunken driver crashes into Summit Inn March 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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A suspected car thief who allegedly was drunk crashed a minivan into Route 66′s iconic Summit Inn restaurant on the summit of Cajon Pass in Southern California, according to several media outlets.

According to the Press-Enterprise, Jayson Ernest Johnson, 37, of Riverside, Calif., was arrested Thursday on suspicion of being drunk in public, stealing a vehicle, possessing stolen property and drunken driving.

In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, Johnson was driving north on Interstate 15 in a silver 2002 Dodge Caravan — which had been reported stolen from an auto shop on Magnolia Avenue in Riverside, some 35-40 miles away — CHP Officer Leon Lopez said.

Just south of Oak Hill Road in the Cajon Pass, he careered off the freeway, plowed through a fence and smashed into the Summit Inn restaurant on Mariposa Road, Lopez said.

The crash was reported to the CHP about 4:15 a.m. When officers arrived, they found the car has destroyed a wall of the restaurant and came to rest completely inside the kitchen, Lopez said.

KCBS-TV in Los Angeles filed this video report.

Longtime roadie Jim Conkle emailed this photo of he and Summit Inn owner C.A. Stevens at the big hole the driver left behind:

The TV station said it may be weeks before the restaurant’s wall is repaired and it reopens.

The Summit Inn has operated at its present site since 1952, although its roots in the Cajon Pass area date to the late 1920s. Notable celebrities who’ve gone there include Elvis Presley, Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood and Danny Thomas.

UPDATE: According to a story in the Victorville Daily Press this morning, the restaurant suffered about $50,000 in damage, mostly to the kitchen area. The owner says it will take two weeks to get back open.

The crash also broke open gas lines in the kitchen. So it seems lucky the Summit Inn didn’t catch fire.

The Daily Press also posted this video:

(Image of the Summit Inn’s sign by Lynn Friedman via Flickr)

Tri-County Truck Stop will host ‘ghost hunt’ March 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Ghosts and Mysteries, History, Restaurants.
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The long-closed Tri-County Truck Stop along Route 66 in Villa Ridge, Mo., will host a “ghost hunt” by the Paranormal Task Force on Saturday night.

According to a report in the Washington Missourian, the interactive event begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 4 a.m. The cost is $50. Tickets may be bought here.

Tri-County Truck Stop has been featured on SyFy’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” segment “Truck Stop Terror,” in The Missourian, and on television news programs and in several books. [...]

The current building, built in 1950 after the previous building burnt to the ground in the late 1940s, became the Tri-County Restaurant and Truck Stop in 1970 after The Diamonds relocated to be nearer to the newly opened Interstate 44.

When the Tri-County still ran, we posted a story or two about its alleged paranormal past. A mysterious presence, nicknamed George by its staff, apparently got a little too fresh with the female help. The restaurant also was known for serving country ham.

The Tri-County Truck Stop closed in 2006, and the boarded-up structure looks a bit worse each time we go by. However, according to its Facebook page, the Paranormal Task Force spent time in recent weeks cleaning up the restaurant’s interior — good to see.

The task force also appears to be maintaining a Facebook page for the Tri-County Truck Stop as well. So it’s nice to see the restaurant get a little care. Hope springs eternal someone can buy and revive it.

(Image of the Tri-County Truck Stop in 2005 by Alan Berning via Flickr)

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)

Where are the surviving Green Book businesses? March 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, History, Motels, Publications, Restaurants.
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A historian with the National Park Service is searching for surviving buildings once listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Book” travel directory from 1936 to 1964, and he’s asking for roadies’ help in finding them along Route 66.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guidebook for black drivers during the Jim Crow era. Publisher Victor Green said the book would “give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” A 1949 edition of the travel guide may be perused online here.

Frank Norris, historian for the NPS, says he’s tracked down businesses or buildings that housed them in the largest cities of Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago. He’s compiled a list — with addresses — of Negro-affiliated businesses in the smaller towns in seven of Route 66′s eight states (apparently there were no such businesses in 13 miles of the Mother Road in Kansas). The list in a Word document may be downloaded here.

Norris wrote:

I would greatly appreciate your help in driving to the street addresses where these businesses were located. (Some of the addresses, as you’ll see, are more exact than others.) Please find out IF there is still a business – or at least a fairly old standing building – at that address. If there is still a historical reminder (in any form) for this building, please take a photograph of it. Then send this information back to me. I am REALLY looking forward to hearing from you about this!

Norris may be emailed at [email protected] or calling 505-988-6005.

Giving the list a once-over, surviving buildings seem to be slim pickings. I suspect many are long gone because of redevelopment. Many in Tulsa, for example, were in the Greenwood District that was mostly razed during the “urban renewal” days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Many of these Negro-sympathetic businesses also suffered, ironically, in the wake of desegregation. When black people on Route 66 finally could patronize whatever gas station, restaurant or motel they pleased after the Civil Rights Act, revenue for the Negro-sympathetic businesses plunged. And because those businesses served black people, a significant number of white people wouldn’t want to go there.

On a related note, “Route 66: The Mother Road” author Michael Wallis recently wrote a story for Oklahoma-based This Land Press about the Green Book, “The Other Mother Road,” that was posted online just a few days ago. Some choice excerpts:

As a boy, I saw the “No Colored” signs at gas stations on my Route 66 just as I did on the roads of the Deep South. I also saw signs in cafe windows declaring, “No dogs, No Bums, No Indians,” and only yards away a Native American craftsman sold his hand-fashioned art from the sidewalk. Black families traveling America’s byways packed their own food and often slept in their vehicles. They didn’t get their kicks on Route 66—or at least the kind of kicks I was getting as a youngster or a few years later as a hitchhiking Marine. At highway stops such as the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma, during the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and into the ‘60s, black travelers went to the backdoor to get their food to go. None of them walked inside. [...]

To many white, middle- and upper-class travelers, Route 66 symbolized the most positive aspects of American society—freedom, progress, and economic possibility. But to the minorities who encountered racism, prejudice, and exploitation along the road, Route 66 embodied a much darker version of American history. [...]

For many years, with Howard Johnson being the sole nationwide chain where blacks could eat and sleep, and Esso (later Exxon) being the only major fuel outlet actually offering franchises to blacks, the pickings were very slim. In 1955, for example, 3,500 white motels would allow dogs to stay in guest rooms, but less than 50 stated they would even consider housing any black travelers. During this same period, an Oklahoma motel operator reluctantly allowed a black family to stay at his motel for two days if they agreed to “pass” as Mexicans. There are several reports that in 1961 so many black tourists along Route 66 in Illinois were refused restaurant service that they took to bringing their own food and eating in their cars rather than chance being embarrassed. Undoubtedly, that accounts for why most editions of the Green Book listed nothing between Chicago and Springfield as well as nothing between Springfield and East St. Louis. There were also large gaps for Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico.

In the current age, Wallis decries the “American Owned” signs along the Mother Road, “signs erected by the small-minded and the mean-spirited, by those who wear their religion and their patriotism on their sleeve and on their bumper. Signs that serve no good purpose except to divide us and slap us in the face” because they primarily target Asian-American motel owners.

Wallis’ screed bears strong echos to the anti-discrimination speech he gave during Route 66 Magazine’s Roadie Gathering in Tucumcari, N.M., in 2002. The speech may be read here.

(Images of the Cactus Motel of Albuquerque and Will Rogers Motel of Santa Rosa, N.M., courtesy of 66Postcards.com. Both were listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.)

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