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Big Friendly Jazz Orchestra March 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.

BFJO is based in Japan, and does a version of “Route 66.” Apparently a guest pianist sat in during this session (you’ll see him later in the video), but the regular pianist is pretty good, too.

Michael Wallis takes Disney Imagineers down Mother Road March 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Motels, Movies, Restaurants, Road trips.

Taking Hollywood types on a tour down historic Route 66 is getting to be old hat for best-selling nonfiction author Michael Wallis

He hasn’t been guiding just Tinseltown actors, however. The first two tours Wallis guided were for employees of Pixar Animation Studios, who were researching the Mother Road for the 2006 summer hit movie, “Cars.” Wallis became technical adviser for the film, and was cast as the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in the movie.

Recently, Wallis guided a crew of Disney “Imagineers” — architects, artists and producers — who are assigned with designing the Cars Land amusement park at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. Cars Land, part of a massive $1 billion expansion, is slated to be finished by 2012. One report said the Radiator Springs Racers feature itself will cost $200 million.

“The main purpose of this trip,” Wallis said during a phone interview this week, “was to give them an up-close and personal view of the ‘footprint’ of the mythical Radiator Springs, which I tell people is between Gallup (N.M.) and Winslow (Ariz.). But the influence is from the entire length of the road.

“It was a totally successful trip. These men and women just ate it up.”

The Disney crew and Wallis flew in to Amarillo, Texas. There, they were given a big “howdy” by the Big Texan Steak Ranch in town.

“The trip started out so well … we were greeted by a pair of Big Texan limos, complete with the longhorn horns affixed to the hood,” Wallis recalled. “They had some Big Texan cowboys driving, and Becky Ransom, who I call the Hostess of the Highway, was there to meet us. We immediately took them on a detailed tour of the urban old road through Amarillo.”

Wallis also took the Disney bunch to the Cadillac Ranch west of town before settling in at the Big Texan for supper.

“I was even able to entice these folks, who’d never experienced this before, to try calf fries. They thought they were most exotic,” he chuckled.

Wallis said he was also grateful to Ransom and the Big Texan for the gift bags they left for their Disney guests in the Big Texan’s hotel rooms. Bags were filled with “Cars” memorabilia and useful travel items.

The next day, Wallis and the Disney crew went back east in Oklahoma to immerse themselves in the music and comedy experience that is Harley and Annabelle Russell, aka the Mediocre Music Makers, at their Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick. Incidentally, Harley Russell (right) is a significant influence to the Mater character in “Cars.”

“I’ve never seen Harley and Annabelle better. They were out there, waving flags and wearing their ‘redneck tuxedos.’ It was quite a visit there,” Wallis said.

After that, the entourage headed west on the Mother Road. Among the many sites they visited were the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, Texas; La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.; the ghost town of Glenrio; the Aztec and El Vado motels in Albuquerque; Joe and Aggie’s Cafe in Holbrook, Ariz.; Teepee Curios in Tucumcari, N.M.; La Fonda in Santa Fe; U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas; Jackrabbit Trading Post in Jackrabbit, Ariz.; El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, N.M.; and the wild-burro haven of Oatman, Ariz.

Wallis also took the crew to obscure spots, such as old dirt-road alignments of Route 66 and the former site of the Regal Reptile Ranch in Texas.

The Route 66 trip ended at the Arizona-California border after eight days. The Disney people then flew home from Las Vegas.

He said the Disney Imagineers agreed that one of the trip’s biggest highlights was at a little diner in Adrian, Texas.

“They were blown away by the Midpoint Cafe,” Wallis said. “Out of all the meals we had on the road — and we had great food all the way — the bottom line was that their favorite meal was at the Midpoint. All of us had burgers and fries and ugly-crust pie. The burgers were cooked to perfection … and then we had a whole medley of ugly-crust pies. I mean, it was pie heaven. But it wasn’t just the great food — it was the whole atmosphere, making everyone feel good.”

Wallis said the warmth of Route 66’s people made an impression on the group.

“I think what they really got out of this trip was how grateful people were on the road that this movie was made,” he said. “What impressed them the most was the overall attitude and demeanor of the people on the road.

“All along the way, people are coming up to me and getting Sheriff autographs,” Wallis added. “We ran into a lot of tourists with kids and early spring-breakers. We get these testimonials from them about why they’re out on the road, and a lot of them were because of ‘Cars.’ ”

Wallis thinks Cars Land will be an excellent addition for future Route 66 travelers.

“Now we have a place where people can start their journey if they’re going east,” he said, “and a good place to end their journey if they’re going west.”

(Top image: Artist’s conception of Cars Land, courtesy of Disney.)

Restaurant will use old Phillips 66 station for catering March 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants.
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Cheever’s Cafe in Oklahoma City needed more catering space. So the owners purchased a cottage-style Phillips 66 gas station at 401 Northwest 23rd (aka Route 66) and are converting it, reports the Daily Oklahoman.

The onetime Phillips 66 station — one of only two of the original designs left in the city — was bought by the couple last year for $128,000. They are spending another $100,000 restoring the station to its original appearance with plans to open “Market C” — home to an upscale market and the Pauls’ catering operations.

Robert Black, chef at Cheever’s, said the old gasoline station is ideally set up for the catering operation thanks to a garage door facing Hudson Avenue that will allow quick loading of vehicles. […]

While the catering will move from Cheever’s kitchen to the back section of the old gasoline station, the front section will feature a market that will offer fresh cuts of steaks sold at the Pauls’ restaurants, salad dressings, sauces, fruits, drinks and bakery items.

According to the article, the station was built in 1935.

Parts line takes inspiration from Route 66 March 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Vehicles.
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Navistar has introduced a new line of trucking parts called Lonestar DoubleSix Customs that takes its inspiration from the Mother Road, the company said in a news release today.

The initial offering for LoneStar will feature 23 exterior parts and 17 interior parts — including custom sunvisors, light bars and panels, exhaust, shifter accessories, door handles, and much more.

“The name of this new parts line derives from the importance of Route 66 to the American trucker,” Miranda said. “On Route 66, there was no doubt who owned the road. We think DoubleSix will speak to the very heart of the driving professional who wants to stand out from the crowd.”

The DoubleSix site is here.

(Via Truck.net)

Cow Bop doing another Route 66 tour March 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music.
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The “cowboy jazz” band Cow Bop is doing another Route 66 Challenge tour, from Chicago to Los Angeles starting May 12. Cow Bop has done two other Route 66 tours for charity.
It says on the band’s Web site:

Not willing to rest on the laurels of their past trips, they are once again proving their commitment to music and the future of our culture. Unlike previous trips (where the band departed with a mere $100 and no scheduled gigs, playing, begging and bartering their way to the West Coast), this time they’ll be playing concerts along with spontaneous troubadour-style “hits” and celebrating the release of their new CD, “Route 66,” along the 2,500-mile journey. All proceeds from per-mile pledges, concerts and street performances will ensure that music performance remains a vital part in lives’ of young people.

Proceeds will go to the Jazzmasters Workshop, a music outreach program for kids. There’s a donation button on the Route 66 Challenge main page.

Band member Bruce Forman also told me that the band will maintain a blog and post a few videos during the tour. Gig venues and other details about the tour will be forthcoming on the challenge site.

Tourism guide gets kicks with Abe March 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Publications.
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Logan County, Ill., has a new tourism guide coming out soon, and it features both Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln on the cover, reports the Lincoln (Ill.) Courier.

The logo was designed by McDaniels’ Marketing in Pekin. It shows Abe Lincoln tipping his top hat as he drives Illinois U.S. Route 66 in a red convertible.

Bureau director Geoff Ladd said the logo, which features the main themes of tourism in Logan County, will be used in future marketing campaigns.

“We needed to update our offerings and do it in a fun and visually exciting way,” Ladd said. “The logo, the imagery, the organization of the guide — all were designed to get the tourists’ interest and give them everything they need and keep them smiling, too.”

The 47-page guide, also designed by McDaniels’, replaces the Historic Lincoln/Logan County brochure. It includes the main tourism attractions and events in the area. […]
The new booklet includes an updated shopping and dining guide; a calendar of events for 2008 and 2009; more pictures of attractions emphasizing the rich history and bright future of Logan County; and GPS coordinates for many locations (especially hard-to-find attractions).

The guide will be distributed to tourism centers throughout the state and at hotels and at tourism attractions in the region.

You also can request the tourism guide to be mailed to you through this online form here, but only to those in the United States.  But even if you’re in a foreign country, don’t fret. The guide will be available for download in PDF form on April 1.

NPS honors Atlanta’s Route 66 efforts March 27, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Preservation, Restaurants, Towns.
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Two program managers for the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, under the auspices of the National Park Service, honored the town of Atlanta, Ill., for its ongoing Route 66 preservation efforts regarding the  historic Palms Grill, reported the Lincoln (Ill.) Courier.

“When Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985,” a Park Service brochure explains, “many of the mom-and-pop establishments that comprised the soul of the highway fell on hard times as traffic and customers were diverted to the interstates.

“Today, significant buildings and businesses are threatened by economic hardship, deferred maintenance, development pressures and a lack of awareness of the importance of these recent-past resources.”

Atlanta – with an appreciation of its buildings and ongoing community preservation projects – is an exception. That’s why its Palms Grill project, which includes restoration of a 1930s café and added space to house a museum, is so important.

“We saw this building before you stated working on it,” Barthuli said following a tour. “This is a Cinderella story.”

This isn’t a one-time thing. Atlanta has been a model for years in regards to historic preservation and Route 66 promotions. Check out its Web site as an example.

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