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Santa Fe may ban motor vehicles in its Plaza April 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Towns, Vehicles.
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Santa Fe, N.M., may curb motor vehicles in its downtown Plaza area, according to an op-ed piece written by former city councilor Frank Montano in the Albuquerque Journal.

The 1926-37 alignment of Route 66, aka the Santa Fe Loop, runs about a block south of the Plaza. However, El Camino Real – a road older than Route 66 — goes right by the Plaza, and would be of interest to many history-minded travelers.

Montano explained why cruising there is seen as a benefit:

This past Sunday, sitting on the Plaza, I saw six classic Corvairs traveling one behind the other on the roads of the Plaza. On that same Sunday, people of all ages drove the Plaza in their old classic cars, showing them off for all to see. In Santa Fe, at middle age, many people buy a Harley and cruise the Plaza. [...]

Last summer, a new tradition began when young ladies celebrating their Quinceanera began to stop on Lincoln Avenue in their rented stretch limos to walk to the Plaza Park and mingle with family, friends and other people. Photos were taken and people were curious as to what was happening.

During the holiday season, young families, seniors and people with disabilities travel the Plaza roads to admire the beautiful lights, the menorah and farolitos of the festive season.

Mayor Javier Gonzales submitted a proposal last week to close vehicular traffic in the Plaza by May 24. Montano says there’s been few public comments, despite the fact the plan has proceeded through two committees. And Montano, who operates a downtown tour business, claims tourists say the Plaza should stay open to traffic.

Montano encourages the public to give its opinion about closing the Plaza to cars. The emails to the mayor and councilors can be found here.

(Image of the Santa Fe Plaza by Don Graham via Flickr)

Miss Belvedere languishing in a warehouse April 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Vehicles.
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The 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, aka Miss Belvedere, that was unearthed from a Tulsa time capsule to much fanfare in 2007, is sitting in a New Jersey warehouse, apparently unwanted, according to a recent story in Hemmings Motor News.

Because water inundated the vault during its 50-year residence, rust and mud covered the Belvedere and rendered it inoperable. The good news is Ultra One, a rust-removal company, did a bang-up job ridding the grime and corrosion from the car’s body, as you can see in a series of photos here.

Despite the car’s improved looks, its poor condition is the primary reason no one wants it:

Late last year, news surfaced that Foster, with Carney’s permission, was attempting to donate the car to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. While it’s known as “America’s attic,” Smithsonian representatives told Foster that they do not see it as “America’s garage,” and the offer was rebuffed, leaving Foster in continued possession of the car. The city of Tulsa also turned down Foster’s request to send it back home for public display, noting that the cost to retrieve a rusted and useless car from an old tomb (and, presumably, the giant letdown experienced collectively by the town) still left a bitter taste in some residents’ mouths.

As Miss Belvedere sits today, its condition remains largely unchanged since 2009, with all of the reasonable preservation work done that could be done. From a distance, the car almost looks presentable, but up close it becomes evident that the damage is irreversible. Foster compares the car’s frame to papier mâché, admitting that “there are spots I could put my hand through if I’m not careful.” Utilizing the frame from the donor Plymouth Savoy would be an option if Miss Belvedere were stronger, but the car’s sheetmetal is in equally poor condition, especially in the rear. While the exterior has been cleaned, the interior of the body is still caked with mud, and as Foster said, “this is actually shoring up the body panels.” The car’s laminated safety glass is damaged beyond repair after water seeped between the glass and plastic layers during the car’s years in storage. While the steering was functional at first, the steering box is “melted inside,” the result of years of corrosion, and none of its electrical systems are even close to functioning. Even transporting the car to another location would be a major undertaking, given Miss Belvedere’s fragile condition.

The car remains in the custody of Robert Carney and two other relatives of Raymond Humbertson, who was the closest to guess Tulsa’s 2007 population 50 years ago and thus won the car (Humberton was deceased when the Belvedere was unearthing). Carney still holds hope he can find an Oklahoma museum to display it permanently.

Although many regarded the Belvedere reveal as a bust, it remains one of the biggest publicity stunts I’ve seen. Thousands of people descended on Tulsa to view it (and drove Route 66 while they were at it). Many more checked out the festivities and news stories online. I worked at the Tulsa World newspaper at the time, and online traffic taxed the company’s servers like no story had before. One reporter said memorably in a column: “This story didn’t have just legs; it had stilts.”

And just days after Hemmings published its story, it gained more than 240 comments from readers. Years later, the Belvedere is still a phenomenon.

The Hemmings story closes with this poignant observation:

Until Foster finds a museum or other sympathetic caretaker willing to embrace Miss Belvedere, however, it sits in a corner of the Ultra One warehouse, free from its watery tomb but no less trapped in time and place.

(Photos of Miss Belvedere by Todd Lappin and That Hartford Guy via Flickr)

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)

Antique truck show will feature Campbell 66 Express March 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, History, Vehicles.
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The American Truck Historical Society’s National Convention in Springfield, Mo., not only will feature cruises and speech on Route 66, but a speaker about the town’s long-closed Campbell 66 Express trucking firm, according to news release from the society and its website.

The convention, scheduled for May 29-31 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, will include speaker J. Bruce Crim talking about “Campbell 66 Express — 60 Years on Route 66 with ‘Humpin’ to Please’” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Crim was an employee at Campbell about 30 years until it closed in 1986, and he owns a large collection of its memorabilia.

Dave Faust, an employee there in the late 1970s, also owns an excellent collection he posted online, as does Jim Steele. And Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Ill., keeps a few Campbell 66 trailers on his property.

Because Campbell 66 Express’ headquarters was in Springfield, I suspect Crim’s presentation will attract a lot of interest. It’s good a few folks are keeping memories — including its trademark camel — of this unique trucking firm alive.

Tommy Pike, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, will talk about “Missouri 66″ from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. on those days.

The convention also will conduct a cruise of Route 66 from Springfield to Joplin, Mo., that includes tours of the Peterbilt truck facility, sellers and parts suppliers. It also will host an all-day “Mother Load to Mother Road Truck Cruise” on June 1 that goes on Route 66 from Springfield through Kansas and into Oklahoma.

Jerome Comcowich also will speak about “C.W. McCall’s “Convoy’, ‘Old Home Bread’ Commercials & Their Creator Bill Fries” from 9 to 10 a.m. those days. A history of Peterbilt trucks will be from 1 to 2 p.m.

You may register for the event online here.

(A 1960s image of a Campbell 66 Express truck by Allen via Flickr)

Joplin dedicates Route 66 Mural Park March 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Vehicles.
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Most of it has been up for months, but Joplin, Mo., dedicated its Route 66 Mural Park on Thursday night with a ribbon-cutting and other downtown events.

The park near at Seventh and Main — where two alignments of Route 66 intersect — features one-half of a 1964 Corvette embedded in a wall as a photo op and two tile murals as photo ops. The two Route 66-themed murals – “Cruisin’ into Joplin” and “The American Ribbon” — were created by Joplin-based Images in Tile.

Interesting excerpt from the Joplin Globe‘s report:

Josh Schmutz, 34, of Joplin, took the chance to get a picture of a replica 1964 Corvette anchored to the wall by the lower mural. He said the display helped his kids understand the road more — he noted that his daughter’s mother lives in Tulsa, Okla., which is named on the mural as one of the key stops along Route 66.

“She didn’t realize that Tulsa was on 66,” Schmutz said. “A lot of the younger generation don’t really know what an important asset the road was. It’s nice to see Joplin continue to associate itself with 66, because it’s helped make Joplin what it is today.”

Ron Hart of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce also supplied these photos from the event. Images include a Route 66 shield on a wall that’s backlit with blue neon; and a big 45 rpm record of “Route 66″ embedded in the concrete near the display:

KSN-TV reported from the event:

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.)

A word from our sponsor March 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Television, Vehicles.
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Here’s a 1961 television spot — nearly two minutes long — for Chevrolet.

Have you seen the USA — or Route 66 — in your Chevrolet?

And the folks who made that ad somehow wondered years later where psychedelia came from.

UPDATE: Apparently the link I had was taken down. However, I found a duplicate version.

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