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California Route 66 association opposed solar plant near Helendale April 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Weather.
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The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors rejected an appeal from the California Historic Route 66 Association to halt the building of a 20-megawatt solar plant near Helendale, Calif, reported several media outlets.

The Victorville Daily Press initially reported Monday about the appeal:

The California Historic Route 66 Association is appealing the approval of the facility proposed on six parcels of land, 3 miles north of Oro Grande and 3.5 miles south of Helendale, on the grounds it violates the California Environmental Quality Act and officials failed to provide proper notice of the project, a county staff report shows.

But county officials say the application by Arizona-based Alamo Solar, LLC was processed in compliance with CEQA laws and a project notice was mailed to surrounding property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed facility’s boundaries. They also argue that, prior to a Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 6, a notice was mailed to those property owners, advertised in the Daily Press and posted outside of the San Bernardino and High Desert government centers, according to the staff report.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved the project despite the appeal, reported the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. I tried to contact someone from the association to elaborate about its opposition, but an email was not returned. However, the newspaper reported what an association member said at the meeting:

Ted Stimpful, a Newberry Springs resident and member of the California Historic Route 66 Association’s board of directors, said he was highly opposed to the project without an environmental impact report being conducted. The association has been trying to negotiate an agreement with E-on and Alamo Solar, LLC. for the last month to avert the appeal of the project and a potential lawsuit, but negotiations have been fruitless, he said.

“Alamo Solar offered a cash payment to us to withdraw our appeal, but we rejected that offer. We did not oppose the project to make money,” Stimpful told supervisors during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Stimpful said the project would be an eyesore and erode the character of the old stretch of Route 66. He said the solar panels would create glint and glare, thus posing a public safety issue.

The county’s Planning Department determined Route 66 was barely visible from the site, with its southerly end about 2,000 feet from the highway. An environmental consultant also said the site would be on a stretch of the highway that was not a historically significant segment and affected no “cultural resources.”

The plant will be surrounded by fence up to 8 feet tall, with electricity-producing solar panels up to 10 feet tall.

I am neither opposed nor supportive to the solar plant in that area. It’s akin to other industrial areas along the Route 66 corridor, such as oil refineries in Tulsa and the cattle feed lots near Amarillo. Not everything on the Mother Road is a scenic vista, nor does it have to be.

(Image of a solar farm in California by Sarah Swenty / USFWS via Flickr)

World’s Largest Covered Wagon repaired April 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation, Weather.
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The World’s Largest Covered Wagon, aka the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, in Lincoln, Ill., has been repaired in time for tourism season after a severe windstorm damaged it in January.

The Bloomington Pantagraph reported:

“It was a challenge, and because it is in the Guinness Book of World Records, we had to make sure that we rebuilt it exactly as it was,” said Matthews Construction owner Brad Matthews, whose company completed the repair work.

“We called them a few times just to ensure we didn’t do anything differently that might jeopardize that, but we have it back exactly the way it needs to be.”

The Pantagraph also posted several photos of the wagon being fixed.

The job, which was completed Friday, also was helped by good weather in recent weeks. David Bentley, who built the structure in 2001, was a consultant on the rebuild.

Gusts of 50 mph collapsed the wheels on one side of the wagon and ripped off the canvas the night of Jan. 26. (Strangely enough, the Abraham Lincoln statue remained seated on the wagon the entire time.)

Insurance covered most of the repair cost, with a $500 grant from the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association covering the deductible.

The wagon once was along Route 66 in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau in Logan County, Ill., led the way in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007. It sits in front of Route 66 at 1750 Fifth St. at the Best Western Lincoln Inn.

The wagon weighs 10,000 pounds and measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The fiberglass statue of Abraham Lincoln, seated in the front, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall.

(Image of the World’s Largest Covered Wagon by yooperann via Flickr)

“The Grapes of Wrath” was published 75 years ago today April 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History, Movies, Weather.
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John Steinbeck’s famous novel about the Great Depression and a family’s Moses-like journey on Route 66, “The Grapes of Wrath,” was published 75 years ago today.

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., is marking the anniversary all year, and I’ll post a review of a new book about the writing of the novel when I’m done reading it.

In the meantime, NPR today posted a six-minute segment about the book and its impact on American culture and America in general.

A print article of the NPR segment is here.

The Telegraph newspaper in England also posted “10 Surprising Facts” about Steinbeck’s novel. One of the excerpts:

In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck became the first writer to refer to Route 66 – the two-lane, 2,448-mile-road that connects Chicago to Los Angeles – as the “Mother Road”. In doing so, he helped capture the road’s image of redemption and turn it into a cultural icon. The fictional Joad family of the novel was an example of the thousands of people migrating to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl states, and many used Route 66. “66 is the mother road,” Steinbeck wrote, “the road of flight.”

Steinbeck also reportedly adored Henry Fonda’s portrayal of Tom Joad in the film version of his book, as he should.

The definitive nonfiction book about the Dust Bowl is Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time,” which I recommend for its eye-popping accounts as well as its graceful writing. Strangely enough, it took more than 70 years after the disaster for someone to write a truly great account of the event.

Lest you think an environmental disaster such as the Dust Bowl won’t happen again, I’ve read reports on Facebook almost weekly of dust storms in eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. And, in an ironic twist, California — where the Joads journeyed to escape the dust — is suffering from a historic drought of its own.

(An image of the cover of a 1945 edition of “The Grapes of Wrath” by Make It Old via Flickr)

World’s Largest Covered Wagon will be repaired by late April March 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, Weather.
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The World’s Largest Covered Wagon, located along Route 66 in Lincoln, Ill., will be repaired by April 30 after it was heavily damaged in windstorm a few weeks ago, reported the Lincoln Daily News.

A storm on Jan. 26 with 50 mph wind gusts broke two of the wagon’s wheels, making the wagon list precariously on one side. The wagon cover also was ripped away.

A number of Route 66 aficionados expressed concern the wagon would be totaled by its insurer and the Logan County Tourism Bureau would take a cash settlement. However, the bureau gave assurances the wagon would be repaired. Last week, that faith was rewarded:

During a Tuesday evening meeting, the board of the Logan County Tourism Bureau awarded a $15,328.87 contract for repair work to Matthews Construction of Lincoln. Company owner Brad Matthews did some repair work on the wagon late last year.

Matthews’ contract stipulates that the wagon will be returned to an upright position no later than March 14 and that the repair work will be completed by April 30, in time for the 2014 tourist season. [...]

Their work will include removing the 350-pound fiberglass statue of Abraham Lincoln from the driver’s seat and repainting it. [...]

When repairs are completed, the 5-ton wagon will face in a north/south position in an effort to reduce wind resistance and possible future wind damage.

Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association, also offered the bureau a $500 grant to cover the insurance deductible. Members of the Illinois Route Association and original builder David Bentley also offered help in rebuilding.

The wagon, also called the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, once was in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau, was instrumental in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007.

The wagon measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The statue of Lincoln, seated in the front while reading a book, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall. The wagon was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s at the Best Western Lincoln Inn at 1750 Fifth St. in Lincoln.

(Photos by WLCN radio and Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County via Geoff Ladd)

Route 66 Wind project east of Amarillo secures financing February 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Weather.
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Boston-based First Wind announced Wednesday it had obtained $206 million in financing for its Route 66 Wind energy project in Armstrong and Carson counties near Amarillo, according to a news release from the company.

First Wind obtained financing help from Morgan Stanley and Santander Bank. The new wind farm will be capable of generating 150 megawatts, which can power up to 60,000 homes.

According to the release:

Construction work began in late 2013, and is expected to create hundreds of jobs in the state of Texas. M.A. Mortenson is acting as the prime contractor. [...] Vestas will supply 75 V110 turbines with a capacity of 2 megawatts (MW) each to the project near Amarillo, Texas.

Armstrong and Carson counties are immediately east of Amarillo. So the landscape in that area will change fairly rapidly.

A wind farm already operates north of Vega, Texas, which is west of Amarillo. Another wind farm is scheduled to be built west of Adrian, Texas. Other prominent wind farms along the Route 66 corridor sit in Weatherford, Okla., and south of San Jon, N.M.

There’s gold in them thar windy plains.

(Image of wind turbines near Vega, Texas, by Larry Myhre via Flickr)

Arcadia in high-risk situation if nearby dam fails February 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Towns, Weather.
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Reports from television sometimes tend to get a little hyperbolic. But this one from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City about the Route 66 town of Arcadia, Okla., brings a new angle to the state’s newfound earthquake problem I hadn’t considered.

The gist: The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is increasingly concerned about earthquakes’ effects on nearby Arcadia Lake Dam and other dams. If the “high hazard” earthen dam in Arcadia Lake fails, there would be a “a probable loss of human life” and widespread property damage.

An Oklahoma County report also said the nearby Route 66 town of Luther also would be flooded.

When the dam was built in 1986, its designers didn’t consider the 4.0- and even 5.0-magnitude earthquakes that have plagued central Oklahoma shortly after injection wells started pumping used fracking fluids deep underground. It’s these injection wells that have drawn increasing blame for Oklahoma earthquakes.

Oklahoma once averaged just 50 earthquakes a year. In 2013, the number was more than 2,600.

In response to the new problem, KFOR reported:

Last year, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board passed a new rule requiring an unscheduled dam inspection if a magnitude 5.0 earthquake strikes within 50 miles of any dam structure.

Earthquakes also are the big reason I hold reservations about the running of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Oklahoma, including under the Route 66 town of Stroud. Keystone’s own risk-assessment report from 2006 didn’t inspire much confidence. It said Oklahoma was not a “high earthquake hazard area” — something folks in Lincoln County would very likely dispute.

I’m not sure how much an Arcadia Dam failure would affect the town’s two biggest attractions — POPS and the 1898 Round Barn. During an 8- to 10-inch rainstorm a few years ago that flooded almost the entire valley, both POPS and the barn were on high enough ground they weren’t directly affected. But a dam failure is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

(Image of Arcadia’s Round Barn by Travel Aficionado via Flickr)

Wind storm damages World’s Largest Covered Wagon January 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, Weather.
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A wind storm Sunday night severely damaged the World’s Largest Covered Wagon next to Route 66 in Lincoln, Ill., that features a statue of a sitting Abraham Lincoln, reported the Lincoln Courier.

The newspaper detailed the damage:

The wind blew the wagon and its rider, Abraham Lincoln, nearly onto its side. Though the statue of the 16th president sustained very little damage, and in fact stayed firmly in place, many parts of the wagon were badly damaged.

The two left wagon wheels were crushed by the wagon’s fall, and the right-front wheel was damaged. The tarpaulin that covers the wagon was badly ripped and nearly torn off, and there was damage to the suspension and wheels axles.

Nancy Saul, interim director at the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, said the wagon is insured and plans for its future will be discussed at a special board meeting Monday evening.

Wind gusts of 50 mph and higher were reported by the National Weather Service all over Illinois that evening.

The wagon, also called the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, once was in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau, was instrumental in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007.

The wagon weighs 10,000 pounds and measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The statue of Lincoln, seated in the front, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall. It was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s at the Best Western Lincoln Inn at 1750 Fifth St. in Lincoln.

UPDATE: A follow-up story in the Lincoln Courier reported that a commitment has been made to fully repair the wagon:

Interim Director Nancy Saul said that, while many details are still uncertain, every effort will be made to restore the wagon.

“We’re talking to some people, and considering bids,” said Saul.

“And we hope to have it fixed in time for the 2014 tourism season.”

Saul also responded saying the Tourism Bureau was offered assistance by several Route 66 associations to help repair the wagon.

“They said, ‘Whatever you need, we’ll see what we can do,’” said Saul.

(Photos by WLCN radio and Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County via Geoff Ladd)

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