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‘Top Gear’ begins Route 66 trip this week July 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications, Road trips, Television, Vehicles.
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“Top Gear,” the popular British television series about driving cars, began a 2,400-mile road trip this week on Route 66 in a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse — a convertible version of what is considered the fastest sports car in history.

From the first day of the show’s Route 66 diary:

You want numbers? 1200bhp of quad-turbo, W16 engine, over 1100 torques, four-wheel drive and a top speed of 260mph. Enough, it’s safe to say, to keep up with American traffic. Oh, and an asking price somewhere north of two million quid, which makes dicing with traffic in Chicago’s rush hour something of a puckering experience.

No one has ever done anything like this with a Veyron before. And they won’t again. With Veyron production ending next year before Bugatti opens a new chapter in its Going Faster history, this is it: the last, the ultimate Veyron road trip.

Which is why it had to be Route 66, the Illinois-to-California highway John Steinbeck christened ‘The Mother Road’.

The crew apparently went from Chicago to St. Louis on the first day, although details about that leg are scant, save for a few photos.

During Day Two, the crew took the Bugatti from St. Louis to Oklahoma City.

I don’t care how fast the car is — 500 miles on an old road makes for a long day.

In the coming days, “Top Gear” says it will reveal the publication date of the sale of its “Adventures” issue of its magazine that will feature Route 66. In the meantime, it will post new roadtrip photos daily on its website.

UPDATE 7/16/2014: Top Gear magazine, featuring an article about the Route 66 trip, is on sale worldwide today. The promotional story about the issue notes the Bugatti required 840 gallons of fuel. That’s less than three miles per gallon. Oy.

(Screen shot of “Top Gear’s” Bugatti at the 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Missouri)

You’ll flip over this custom pickup truck July 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Vehicles.
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A few weeks ago, I noticed a very odd sight in a YouTube video shot during the recent Illinois Route 66 Motor Tour. Alas, the video contained no information, and I’ve been unable to track down that clip again.

However, this popped up on YouTube in recent days. You’ll just have to see it:

The truck has gained attention all over central Illinois and the Internet worldwide. This week, the Bloomington Pantagraph tracked down its owner — it’s Rick Sullivan, who owns Kathy’s Collision in Clinton, Illinois.

Sullivan told the newspaper he got the idea after receiving a call to transport a Ford Ranger pickup that had overturned.

In its simplest form, “this one” is a 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck with a 1995 F-150 pickup truck body placed over the top — upside down — complete with spinning tires. At first glance, it looks like a red and white Ford pickup on its roof.

“I’ve seen it a couple of times now, and saw a picture of it online,” said Clinton resident Tim Hudson. “But I never get tired of staring at it. It feels like your brain is trying to play tricks on you.”

Sullivan said it took about six months and help from two employees to put it together. And, yes, it’s street-legal.

News of the truck went viral after its appearance at the Route 66 motor tour:

Three days later, someone called him.

“They said I needed to Google ‘upside down Ford F-150 pickup truck,’ ” he said. “I did and found that an Australian newspaper ran an article featuring a picture and information about the truck through some Australian tourists that had seen it.”

It didn’t take long for the truck to become a hit on social media; it’s received more than 111,000 “likes” on the Facebook page of Stacey David, the host of the TV series, GearZ on MavTV.

Naturally, the truck gets all sorts of attention wherever it goes, and wins trophies at car shows, to boot.

It’s not Sullivan’s first crazy custom job. He also built a large, driveable Radio Flyer wagon.

Sullivan says he has another project he’s working on, but is keeping it a secret for now.

Harley begins Route 66 tour with its electric motorcycle July 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motorcycles, Road trips.
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Harley-Davidson announced about a week ago it would begin a Route 66 tour with its Project LiveWire electric motorcycle — a prototype that’s not yet for sale.

Apparently the tour has begun. Although Harley’s website doesn’t have a schedule posted online, a photo was posted Tuesday of the motorcycles at the eastern beginning of Route 66 in Chicago:

And a tweet indicates the tour was in Kirkwood, Missouri, today:

And WGN-TV in Chicago also did this segment about the new motorcycle:

The video is helpful in that you learn a few things during the interview with the Harley rep:

  • The motorcycle’s top speed is 92 mph, but goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds.
  • The motorcycle gets about 60 miles on a charge, but Harley cautions it’s just a prototype — implying an actual production motorcycle would get more.
  • The motorcycle indeed sounds different, like a turbine, instead of the ultra-noisy “Hog” mufflers.

You can follow some of the tour’s progress on Twitter through the #ProjectLiveWire hashtag.

Photographer wants to document America’s neon signs June 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Road trips, Signs.
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San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet is traveling all over the United States the next four months so she can artistically document vintage neon signs, including on Route 66.

Here’s the video that comes with her Kickstarter fundraiser:

Poteet writes about her quest:

These signs and the places they were built for are an integral part of our history. Mom and pop motels, one of a kind diners and family owned businesses built this nation. They gave us reasons to explore Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Tamiami Trail.

These signs are beautiful and unique. They are art and hard work and hours of labor. These signs matter, and they are quickly disappearing from our landscape.

I want to encourage people to see, appreciate and preserve these pieces of Americana. I want to document as many signs as possible before they are lost from our roadsides and our memories. I want to spend 112 days chasing neon so future generations can stand in front of places like the Blue Swallow Motel and stare in awe.

Poteet said she fell in love with neon sign after seeing the Supai Motel sign on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona.

Poteet hopes to raise $10,000 by July 22 to help cover some of her expenses. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her blog.

The Griswolds will take a Route 66 trip next month June 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Road trips, Vehicles.
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No, we’re not talking about the fictional family as depicted in the 1983 road-trip comedy film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

No, this is a real-life family in Georgia that has Griswold as its surname. Better yet, Steve and Lisa Griswold took a 1984 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and modified it to look exactly like the ultra-ugly and fuel-inefficient Family Truckster as shown in the movie.

The Griswolds recently announced they’re taking the Truckster and their two daughters on a Route 66 road trip from July 20 to July 30, with the final destination of Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, to ride the Colossus, the wooden roller coaster depicted in the Wally World amusement park in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” The Griswolds hope to be at Six Flags Magic Mountain by July 31, which is the 31st anniversary of the movie. Alas, the Colossus is scheduled to be closed for good in August.

The Griswolds posted on their website:

The biggest concern is will we make it?  10 days on Route 66 is a long time in the heat of summer with such an old original car.  But we think the truckster is up for it and we are up for the adventure. [...]

We will then be heading on Route 66, which none of us have ever been on before, and we are very excited to see all the classic tourist attractions, diners, and hotels along the way.

We want to surprise you with the stops we will be making along the way, but  I can say we will be stopping at the Grand Canyon, and some historic spots, and some new more modern Route 66 attractions. [...]

We will be posting our road trip adventure LIVE as it happens on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Also at the conclusion of our road trip we will be putting together some fun Griswold webisodes that you can watch right here on our www.GriswoldFamilyVacations.com website.

The Griswolds ought to make sure Magic Mountain is open first:

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” was based on “Vacation ’58,” a short story by John Hughes.

Returning to the scene of the crime June 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Road trips, Towns.
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The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper relayed this story about Hubert Denk, a German journalist who was traveling Route 66 on assignment in 1994 when he was attacked by a group of thugs in Santa Fe who robbed him and broke his kneecap.

Last week, Denk decided to return to the exact spot — on East Alameda Street near Inn at the Loretto — where he’d been attacked. He found it, and gave the Santa Fe newspaper his account of what happened 20 years ago.

Denk needed surgery for his injury, and acknowledged the knee still gives him trouble. But there’s this unexpected part of the story:

At the time, there was fear in Santa Fe that the city’s reputation would be tarnished in Germany after Denk’s newspaper reported on the attack.

At the same time, Denk said, people from all across the city, including then-Gov. Bruce King, representatives of the Santa Fe County Chamber of Commerce and members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, sent letters of support. One young girl, he said, even sent him $5. In a letter to The New Mexican, Denk responded to his well-wishers, assuring them that Bild Zeitung had not written about him or his attack — though a smaller paper did — and he praised the residents of Santa Fe.

“Never before in my life have I experienced so much charity,” he wrote in the letter. “Isn’t it wonderful? The attackers have stopped haunting my dreams, but the people of Santa Fe have found a place in my heart.”

Denk added after visiting the spot: “The more often you tell it, the more you can put away the trauma.”

The outpouring of concern for Denk after his attack was remarkable. It’s doubtful officials or residents from St. Louis, Chicago, Oklahoma City or Albuquerque would do something like that. But one should remember Santa Fe in 1994 was barely 50,000 people — it was a relatively small city, and still is.

Denk also remarked he didn’t believe Santa Fe was dangerous anymore. The facts make his perception considerably more difficult to find out.

Santa Fe continues to grow, and its poverty rate remains less than the state average. The violent crime rate in Santa Fe remains above the national average, as it has for many years. But crime in Santa Fe has been trending down, which follows a 20-year trend in the United States. It’s hard to believe for many, but the violent crime rate in the United States is as low as it’s been in more than 40 years. According to Uniform Crime Reporting Data, you have to go back to 1970 to find a violent crime rate as low as it was in 2012 — the latest data available.

So, in many ways, now is as safe of a time to travel Route 66 since the highway was decertified.

(Image of the Inn at Loretto in Santa Fe by Richie Diesterheft via Flickr)

Harley’s rollout of electric motorcycle includes Route 66 tour June 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Motorcycles, Road trips.
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Harley-Davidson Motor Company Side View

Harley Davidson this week announced it’s created a prototype electric motorcycle, called Project LiveWire, that will be touring the country — including Route 66 — so riders can see it, ride it, and offer feedback to the company.

… The Project LiveWire Experience invites customers to test ride, provide feedback and learn more about the story of the motorcycle. Even those who don’t yet ride will have the opportunity to feel the power of Project LiveWire through Jumpstart – a simulated riding experience.

A 2014 U.S. tour – kicking off with a journey down Route 66 – will visit more than 30 Harley-Davidson dealerships now through the end of the year. In 2015, the Project LiveWire Experience will continue in the U.S. and expand into Canada and Europe.

Harley’s website, the full U.S. tour schedule for LiveWire will be announced next week.

The motorcycle will not yet be offered for sale, nor have any specs been released about the motorcycle. But an article in Yahoo! Finance provides some helpful perspective:

… An electric street bike from Mission Motorcycles with a range of 140 miles and a top speed of 150 miles an hour sells for $59,000, but you can pay $75,000 if you’re so inclined. It is not unrealistic to think that a Harley electric would cost somewhere around that price.

If there is any single thing that defines a Harley, it is the bike’s rumbly, throaty sound, but the company is not going to try to replicate that on the electric version. Instead, the company’s chief marketing officer said, “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market.”

Harley also produced this teaser video of LiveWire:

(Image courtesy of Harley Davidson)

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