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Stop dreaming February 25, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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It’s a slow news day, so here’s a video from one of Billy Ocean‘s biggest hits, “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car.”

Impatience grows over Eagle Hotel February 24, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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A recent report in the Joliet Herald News indicates that members of the Wilmington (Ill.) City Council are growing weary about the lack of progress in the rehabilitation of the 171-year-old Eagle Hotel on Route 66 in Wilmington.

Owner Bill Scales wants to convert the historic hotel into an upscale restaurant and hotel. He says he’s used $500,000 in labor and materials on the project, and needs another $1 million to finish.

The problem is that Scales has been counting grants to fund the rest of the project — grants that have not materialized. Meanwhile, it’s been seven years since the city has turned over the building to Scales, and he’s wanting another 18-month extension. City officials want the Eagle Hotel rehabbed, but are balking over Scales’ lack of progress.

“The problem is realistically, it has been seven years and if we add another 18 months, it will be nine if Mr. Scales cannot finish it,” said Mayor Roy Strong. “We need to keep the pressure on him to finish the building.”

Strong said the people he has talked to are tired of waiting and feel that the project is never going to happen.

Some officials said they would like Scales to simply pay back the $45,000 he owes so he can own the building outright and do whatever he wants with it.

“This has been going on way too long,” said Alderman Helen Hoppe.

Others are worried that the building, with outside walls that are visibly being propped up by boards, is unsafe and an accident waiting to happen. Strong said there also have been other parties voicing interests in restoring the building that feel the finances would not be such a problem.

I’m as preservation-minded as they come. But I admit I’m on that city’s side with this. Seven years is beyond patient. Heck, the ongoing fight with El Vado Motel in Albuquerque has been going on for nearly 2 1/2 years, and I’m growing tired of it myself. With the Eagle Motel, take that situation times three.

Scales’ mistake was he counted on grants to finish his project. When considering funding sources for a preservation project, grants should be almost gravy. Competition for grants is fierce, even with a relatively small program like the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get one. And, of course, shortfalls in federal and state budgets can adversely affect such programs.

I’ve been told that Scales is now seeking private investors for Eagle Hotel, something he should have done in the first place. He’d also be well-advised to use more volunteer help, including the energetic members of the Illinois Route 66 Association.

(Photo courtesy of Guy Randall.) 

‘They’re looking for that Route 66 experience’ February 23, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways.
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The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the University of Oklahoma have been scheduling meetings around the state to get public input on how to promote Route 66, which is applying for national recognition as a Scenic Byway.

Many of these stories run the usual gamut of opinions. But this story by the Edmond Sun contained a few interesting tidbits from an OU survey of thousands of households:

“The survey indicated we need to educate people about the value of Route 66,” said Pam Lewis, University of Oklahoma Outreach contract manager for the state Scenic Byways program. […]

“We have to begin to think about the next generation traveler,” Lewis said. “How do we get in the technology where people are talking in an electronic mode.”

When asked which activities attract out-of-state travelers, only 1.1 percent of survey respondents mentioned Route 66 and 80.6 percent did not mention it at all. [My emphasis.] When asked if they thought out-of-state travelers would be interested in Route 66, 61.3 of respondents believed they would be very to somewhat interested while 38.7 said not at all interested or they didn’t know.

Lewis said the State Byways Program came up with some ideas to promote Route 66 and encourage economic development, which included forming a Leadership Development Council that would meet six to seven times and releasing a podcast series, “Audio 66,” that captures the history of Oklahoma and Route 66.

“About 75 percent of our downtown visitors are not Edmondites,” O’Neil said. “They’re looking for that Route 66 experience.”

It’s interesting to see how many Oklahomans are unaware of the potential right in their back yards.

Book details Ash Fork’s history February 23, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History, Towns.

Using the recent release of Marshall Trimble’s “Images of America: Ash Fork” by Arcadia Publishing as a jumping-off point, the Prescott (Ariz.) Daily Courier also does a pretty good job of laying out the Route 66 town’s history.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a burg with as much bad luck as Ash Fork:

But within three decades, the series of economic blows hit town.

The railroad company moved its main route north of town in the late 1950s to avoid a steep climb to Williams. […]

Ironically, even though it was one of the few historic structures to survive numerous fires, the railroad tore down the Escalante (Harvey House, built in 1907) in 1968.

Hume begged then-Gov. Jack Williams, whose father worked at the Escalante, to save it.

“He said, ‘It’s their property and they can do whatever they want,'” Hume recalled. “I just wanted him to at least talk to them.”

Ash Fork lost nearly all that was left of its original Route 66 business district in 1977 to the “Big Fire” and then to another multi-structure blaze in 1987.

The final major blow to Ash Fork’s existing economy came in 1979 when the Interstate 40 bypass south of town was complete.

The Arizona Department of Transportation closed its major Ash Fork maintenance facility that same year.

But Ash Fork is still there, and it’s now known as the Flagstone Capital of the World.

Route 66 is still there, too.

Webb City revitalization ideas unveiled February 23, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Towns.
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On Friday, architecture students from Drury University provided their ideas on how to revamp the downtown area of Webb City, Mo.

The Joplin Globe reported:

The Drury students have envisioned turning the Main Street and Highway 171 junction into a key welcoming entrance to draw cars into downtown. Further on, the group is toying with the idea of a roundabout and green space/park area near City Hall to provide a transitional section into the downtown shop area. A similar transitional space would buffer the commercial/industrial part of downtown from the residential part of North Main Street.

In between the transitional spaces, the group envisions an “urban village” feel that has the intensity of a city with the intimacy of a village. To accomplish that, they recommend the city widen its sidewalks, connect the different parts of downtown and add landscaping and benches.

In the middle of the “urban village,” the students want to play up the junction of Route 66 and Main Street with a decorative Route 66 medallion inset in the road and a concentration of Route 66-related services. The four- to five-block area around that intersection could become an entertainment destination point for festivals, car shows and theatrical presentations.

Garrott said emphasizing Webb City’s Route 66 heritage could bring in tourists as well as identify some sources of funding to renovate buildings along the historic road.

A lot of interesting ideas. We’ll see what the city does with it when the final plan is finished in May.

Czech this out February 22, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Route 66 Associations.
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Some folks in the Czech Republic held its first Czech Route 66 Association Convention last weekend.

Yes, you read that right — the Czech Republic. And tickets to the event were sold out weeks in advance.

Here’s a news release about the event (lightly edited for clarity).

More than 150 Route 66 fans from the Czech Republic and Slovakia (bikers, U.S. cars lovers and other Mother Road-loving people) applauded to Mr. Frantisek Sestak, who obtained the first Czech Route 66 Association (CAR66) Award.

The annual CAR66 Award has been established to appreciate the best achievement in Route 66 publicity in the Czech Republic.

To celebrate his 66th birthday in 2007 Frantisek Sestak traveled the entire Route 66 on a bicycle. After his return to the Czech Republic most of the Czech media informed about this heroic trip. […]

Zdenek Jurasek, a president of CAR66, introduced activities and targets of the Association, such as the broadcast of a dedicated internet RADIO 66 (you can listen to it if you click on a “Radio 66 button” at www.r66.cz), release of the first Czech Route 66 calendar for 2009 (this calendar was introduced at the convention - see samples HERE), reconstruction of a Route 66-styled weekend house in Slovakia, etc.

We also discussed the first CAR66 Route 66 trip which starts on April 26 in Chicago (another trips will follow in June and September).

I am sure that the first Czech Route 66 Association Convention was very successful and I hope that this success will improve (the) popularity of Route 66 in our country.

And here’s a videotaped message to the convention-goers from David Knudson of the National Historic Route 66 Federation, Tommy Pike of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, Rich Henry of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Ill., Paul Taylor of Route 66 Magazine and Joe Sonderman of 66Postcards.com. (Sonderman’s voice is overdubbed for some reason.)

Never knew lonely until Vega February 22, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Music.
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This is a video by Oklahoma native Vince Gill of his 1990 hit song, “Never Knew Lonely.”

Much of it was shot in a room at the Vega Motel on Route 66 in Vega, Texas. If you ever get the notion to stay there, ask Harry or Tresa for the “Vince Gill Room.”

(Apologies for the sound being out of sync, but this is only YouTube clip available of the song.)

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