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Snow of the century December 31, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Photographs.
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Albuquerque and much of the northern half of New Mexico experienced record snowfall with the latest winter storm.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque reported that 11.3 inches of snow fell in one day Friday, breaking the old one-day record of 9.3 inches, set in 1958, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

According to latest data from the NWS, parts of Albuquerque will end up with at least 26 inches of snow from this storm. Several parts of New Mexico, such as Clayton, have reported more than 30 inches and drifts up to 15 feet tall.

Much of Interstate 40, which shadows Route 66 in the region, was closed until Saturday clear to Amarillo.

At least one Route 66 motel in Tucumcari benefited from all the closed interstates, reported the Albuquerque Tribune.

Working the front desk at the Buckaroo Motel in Tucumcari, Amber Meguire said Friday that the motel has rented out eight of their nine rooms to stranded motorists, mainly from Amarillo.

“It’s snowing now, but it’s dangerous because (the roads) are starting to ice up,” said Meguire. “People have been coming in saying they’ve tried all the other places in town, looking for a room.”

Chantal at Duke City Fix made interesting observations about the record snowstorm. Also, the blog has pooled together excellent snow photos from its contributors.

UPDATE: Eastbound I-40 and northbound I-25 out of Albuquerque are still closed as of about noon Sunday, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports that Clayton, N.M., has four feet of snow on the ground from the storm. “There are drifts as high as buildings,” one person in Clayton told the reporter. Amarillo, however, avoided much of the heavy snowfall.

In the meantime, Duke City Fix compiled choice quotes from contributors about the historic winter storm.

UPDATE2: The Journal reports that eastbound I-40 travelers out of Albuquerque on Sunday night were being rerouted northward on I-25, then south on U.S. 84, where they would rejoin I-40 west of Santa Rosa. This is roughly the old alignment of Route 66 until the mid-1930s.

UPDATE3: I-40 was still closed east of Albuquerque because of a nasty 41-mile stretch east of Clines Corners, reported the Journal on Monday. Gov. Bill Richardson has declared it “the worst storm ever.” Few will disagree when they see the snowfall photos on the Journal’s main page.

According to today’s Amarillo Globe-News, the Route 66 towns of Adrian, Vega and Wildorado in the Texas Panhandle are without power. The sad part is some ranchers say they have cattle dying from the storm.

UPDATE4: I-40 from Albuquerque to the Texas line was reopened to traffic shortly before noon local time Monday, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Road conditions were described as only “fair,” however.

UPDATE5: The Quay County Sun in Tucumcari has a remarkably comprehensive story about how the Route 66 town’s businesses and motels coped with the stranded travelers.

Precious Moments park will close some attractions December 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses.
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The Joplin (Mo.) Globe reports today that the Precious Moments Inspiration Park, located in the Route 66 town of Carthage, Mo., announced it will close several attractions because of a steep decline in bus tours.

Among the attractions slated to close and likely won’t reopen are the Fountain of Angels, Wedding Island, an RV park and Super Sam’s Restaurant. The company says it instead will concentrate on “core operations,” including the Precious Moments Chapel.

Park attendance is down only about 1 percent, from 205,476 visitors through 2005, compared to 203,053 through Thursday in 2006.

But the number of motor-coach tours had dropped about 21 percent in the last year, while the number of tickets sold at the Fountain of Angels had declined by about 15 percent, according to information provided by the park.

“Our traffic historically consisted of bus tours and people driving in cars. The people in bus tours wanted sit-down meals and booked tickets to the Fountain of Angels,” Huwel said. “Those in cars wander the grounds, stop at the chapel and gift shop and leave. To eat, they would either want to just get a sandwich, or choose to go someplace else.”

In response to the changing patterns, Huwel said Precious Moments is shifting operations “to mark sure the parts of the park that are visited most often are well-maintained and supported.”

The Precious Moments park was created by Sam Butcher, who came up with the popular, angel-like child figurines during the 1970s. The park is not on Route 66, but it’s such a big attraction that it’s inextricably linked to the road.

My wife and I visited Precious Moments park a few years ago. I feel bad for the 11 full-time employees and 29 part-timers that will be laid off. But it struck me at the time that Sam Butcher’s park was way too sprawling for its own good. Does it really need two restaurants? And what red-blooded American male would want to get married at a Precious Moments Wedding Island?

Another problem is Precious Moments’ audience. By a wide margin, we were the youngest tourists at the complex. By our reckoning, most visitors are senior citizens, plus a small fraction who read the irreverent Roadside America and admire/mock Precious Moments for its tackiness and kitsch.

We didn’t see any Roadside America hipsters at Precious Moments the day we were there. That leads me to believe that the park’s audience is starting to die off, literally.

Another winter storm is wreaking havoc December 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events.
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KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports that a nasty winter storm has closed all or parts of Interstate 40 from the Duke City to the Texas line, but police are allowing some local traffic on Route 66.

Eastbound traffic is being stopped at Tramway Boulevard in Albuquerque, and unlike the last storm, Route 66 is only open to local traffic through the Tijeras Canyon, closing those drivers’ main alternate route.

Police are letting traffic onto Route 66 after checking IDs to make sure drivers actually live there.

Also, both directions of I-40 are closed between Tucumcari and the Texas state line.

Overnight, traffic on Interstate 25 was closed between Bernalillo and Las Vegas. It reopened early Friday morning, but officials say the road is still snowpacked and icy.

The Amarillo Globe-News (free registration required) also reports that the Texas Panhandle is bracing for three to six inches of snow after sunset today, with up to a foot in northern areas.

Like the last storm, the National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for much of New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. At the Oklahoma state line, however, it’s all rain.

UPDATE: As usual, the Duke City Fix photo pool has plenty of wintry images from the storm.

A thank-you from the Cancer Rider December 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in People.
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Now that she’s had a couple of days of rest from her cross-country bicycle trip on Route 66, Michelle Thompson has posted her post-ride thoughts and thank-yous on her Web site.

Battle of the books December 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books.
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Route 66 enthusiast Emily Priddy has announced that she’s going to update her parents’ guide to the Mother Road, “Route 66 for Kids,” on Feb. 1. The book has been available a free download as Adobe Acrobat or a Microsoft Word file from the Kids on 66 Web site since 2005, although it was initially self-published in 2003 and lightly updated in 2005.

“I’m really excited about this latest update, because it’s the first edition to come out since the release of Pixar’s ‘Cars,'” Priddy says in a media release. “I think you’re going to see a lot of families hitting the road next summer, trying to find all these places they saw in the movie, and I’m really looking forward to getting this new version of the book out there to help them plan their trips.”

In February 2006, another parents’ guide to the Mother Road, “Route 66 Road Trip Family Fun” by James H. Roche, was published. I decided to compare the two and found out interesting things about them.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am married to Emily. I’ve never met Roche, but we exchanged e-mails when he asked me in February to announce the publication of his book on Route 66 News, which I did.)

In comparing the books, here are the facts:

Cost: Roche’s book lists for $7.95 after going for $10.95 earlier in the year. Priddy’s book is a free download.

Content: Roche’s book lists 74 attractions on Route 66. Priddy’s book lists more than 160.

Roche’s book has large gaps between attractions, such as 240 miles between Stanton, Mo., and Riverton, Kan., and 244 miles from Albuquerque, N.M., to Joseph City, Ariz. Gaps in Priddy’s book never exceed 100 miles.

Both books contain several spots not on Route 66. Priddy’s book has a key that indicates which attractions are not actually on the Mother Road to help travelers avoid confusion. Roche’s book does not.

Roche’s book lists Web addresses, phone numbers and addresses. Priddy’s book lists Web addresses, phone numbers, addresses, admission prices and hours of operation.

Illustrations: Roche’s book has several dozen photographs and line drawings that were converted from photographs. Priddy’s book, save for the cover, is not illustrated, but she has drawn 17 coloring-book illustrations that can be downloaded from her site.

Text: More than one-fourth of the sentences in Roche’s 2006 book are similar or identical to the text in Priddy’s 2003 book.

Here’s one passage about Winslow, Ariz., from Roche’s 2006 book:

“Standin’ on a Corner … You know the rest. The hit song by Jackson Brown [sic] has given Winslow its musical claim to fame and a reason to construct a small park on Route 66 in downtown. Anyone who cares to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona can do so at the Standin’ on a Corner Park, a brick-paved corner lot on eastbound Route 66 featuring a bronze statue of a guy with a guitar case at his feet and a mural painted on a nearby wall, depicting a large window in which we see the reflection of a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at all the tourists who stop for this irresistible photo.”

Here’s what Priddy wrote in 2003:

“Standin’ on a Corner … You know the rest. Winslow has used its musical claim to fame as the inspiration for a small park on Route 66. Anyone who cares to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona can do so at the Standin’ on a Corner Park, a brick-paved corner lot on eastbound Route 66 featuring a bronze statue of a guy with a guitar case at his feet and a tromp l’oeil mural painted on the side of a nearby building, depicting a large window in which we see the reflection of a girl (my Lord!) in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at all the tourists who stop for this irresistible photo op. The only down side is that you end up humming ‘Take It Easy’ all the way to Winona. But you’d probably do that anyway, right? Come on, baby….”

Here’s what Roche has about Funks Grove Maple Sirup in Shirley, Ill.:

“Heading down RT 66 between McLean and Towanda, you’ll see a large sign at the side of the road advertising ‘MAPLE SIRUP.’ (Yes, it is spelled that way on purpose.) Follow the arrow to a small building in the middle of a group of maple trees, where the Funk family produces its famous maple sirup. The spelling is correct: Maple ‘syrup,’ with a ‘y’ in the middle, contains added sugar. Maple ‘sirup,’ with an ‘I,’ is pancake topping in its purest form, its sweetness the result of natural maple sugar, its flavor both rich and delicate. The shop is open whenever the Funks have sirup, maple cream or their exquisite chocolate-covered maple truffles to sell; when they run out, the shop closes. The land has been in the family since 1824.”

Here is what Priddy wrote:

“Driving down 66 between McLean and Towanda, you’ll see a large sign at the side of the road advertising ‘MAPLE SIRUP.’ Follow the arrow to a little building in the middle of a stand of maple trees, where the Funk family produces its famous maple sirup. The spelling is correct: Maple ‘syrup,’ with a ‘y’ in the middle, contains added sugar. Maple ‘sirup,’ with an ‘i,’ is pancake topping in its purest form, its sweetness the result of natural maple sugar, its flavor both rich and delicate. The shop is open whenever the Funks have sirup, maple cream or their exquisite chocolate-covered maple truffles to sell; when they run out, the shop closes. Come out in the early spring and buy some of that naturally sweet ambrosia before supplies run out. For more information, check online at www.route66.com/FunksGrove or call (309) 874-3360.”

Here’s what Roche has to say about the Jackrabbit Trading Post in Arizona:

“‘HERE IT IS’: The most photographed billboard on Route 66. The Jack Rabbit advertises its presence with bright yellow billboards along 66 and I-40 emblazoned with a black silhouette of a jackrabbit and the mileage to the trading post. Upon reaching the store, tourists are greeted by a final billboard that proclaims, in large, red letters, ‘HERE IT IS.’ Besides its famous billboard, the trading post is known for its giant fiberglass jackrabbit wearing a saddle, which visitors can sit on for photos. Store offers a huge assortment of Route 66, Arizona and jack rabbit-themed souvenirs as well as snacks and gasoline.”

Here’s what Priddy wrote in 2003:

“HERE IT IS: the most photographed billboard on Route 66. The Jack Rabbit advertises its presence with bright yellow billboards along 66 and I-40 emblazoned with a black silhouette of a jack rabbit and the mileage to the trading post. Upon reaching the business, visitors are greeted by a final billboard that proclaims, in large red letters, ‘HERE IT IS.’ Besides its famous billboard, the trading post is known for its sweet cherry cider (pleasantly reminiscent of Kool-Aid) and its giant fiberglass jack rabbit wearing a saddle, which visitors can sit on for photo ops. Store offers a huge assortment of Route 66, Arizona and jack rabbit-themed souvenirs as well as snacks and gasoline. Open 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to sunset Sunday. For more information, visit www.jackrabbit-tradingpost.com or call (928) 288-3230.”

Roche has offered no explanation on why the text in his 2006 book is so similar to the text in Priddy’s 2003 book. He did not answer my e-mailed questions about this issue. And Priddy is not credited in Roche’s book.

To recap:

Roche’s book contains more illustrations, but lists fewer attractions and less information about them, and is available for $7.95.

Priddy’s book doesn’t have any illustrations in it, but some illustrations are available online. The book lists more attractions and more information about them, and it’s free to anyone with a computer.

An addition to a list December 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in People.
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From KCAL-TV, a CBS affiliate:

GLENDORA, Calif. – A 27-year-old Army specialist from Glendora who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Saturday became the San Gabriel Valley’s 22nd death in the war, it was reported Thursday.

Army Spc. Elias Elias is believed to be the first casualty from Glendora, where he has a yellow banner in his name near old Route 66 and Barranca Avenue. The city’s Yellow Ribbon Committee put up the banners to honor locals serving in Iraq, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

My list of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead from Route 66 towns is here.

It was first posted on Veterans Day. I’ve added about one a week since then.

UPDATE: The San Gabriel Valley Tribune has an update on the Glendora soldier and the banner dedicated to him that was hung on Route 66:

They tied the red, white and blue-flowered wreath to the flagpole with a long yellow ribbon that whipped in the wind. Two yellow roses – one for Elias and one to honor the soldiers who continue to serve, Davis explained – also had to be tied down after the wind threatened to blow them away.

The strong gusts had already ripped down a banner with Elias’ name on it early Thursday. Glendora’s Yellow Ribbon Committee has posted banners on city lampposts to honor Glendorans serving in the military. Elias’ banner has been re-hung near Route 66 and Barranca Avenue, said committee co-chair Meg Everton.

“When we were putting that banner back up, I was crying,” she said. “We get really attached to our soldiers, and it’s really really hard for us to know that one of ours is lost.”

UPDATE2: The San Bernardino County Sun has a follow-up story about Elias.

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