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Get your kicks in a Lincoln hybrid September 30, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, People, Vehicles.
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Here is a combination I never thought I’d see together: a 1959 Lincoln Continental, hybrid technology and rock musician Neil Young.

But it’s happening. Undercover.com reports that the Lincvolt is a new project by Young’s Shakey Pictures.

Together, they are transforming the engine of a 1959 Lincoln Continental Mk IV convertible into a new series hybrid system. […]

“Neil’s whole thing is big people and a big country need a big car”, L.A. Johnson told Undercover during his recent visit to Adelaide. “If we can get a car to do 100mpg what is the difference? Why have a little car that weighs nothing that you can hardly get into? It is not about size, it is about efficiency,”

“Some of the experimenting we are doing is building this engine that is going to have a turbine on it,” he said. “It is going to generate the power to generate the battery, but there is a guy in Adelaide who has found a way to eliminate batteries which is a whole other thing”.

Once they finish in the shop, “the plan is to drive the car to Detroit where the car was made originally,” he says. “We are going to take the car back to the empty shutdown plant where it was born. The car goes back to its homeland, then it goes back to Wichita and then Neil and I will drive it on the same road we drove it from San Francisco to Wichita back on Route 66.”

The Lincvolt Web site is here. Here’s a live Webcam in Lincvolt’s garage in Wichita, Kan.

Here’s a video with Young and two of the developers. It sounds like the Lincoln will be running on a combination of compressed natural gas, ethanol and a third fuel source that will be revealed later. It also contains an electric turbine.

I read a biography of Young a few years ago, and he’s serious in his love of Route 66, the environment and classic cars. (He has a full-time classic-car restorer on his staff.) So this seems to be a natural outlet for him.

A hike up Tucumcari Mountain September 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Movies.
An image of Tucumcari Mountain from an old postcard.

An image of Tucumcari Mountain from an old postcard.

Tucumcari Mountain, near Tucumcari, N.M., has long been one of the Mother Road’s most-recognized natural landmarks.

It was first mentioned in journals in the 1700s, and can be seen for miles from Route 66 and Interstate 40. For the weary traveler looking forward to a night’s sleep in Tucumcari, the sight of the mountain has served as a beacon. And the legend of how the mountain got its name is entertaining, if highly unlikely.

The Radiator Springs mountain in the movie Cars.

The Radiator Springs mountain in the movie "Cars."

Tucumcari Mountain even served as an inspiration for the mesa seen in the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs in the movie “Cars” — right down to the “RS” letters on the side of the mountain instead of the real-life “T.”

Tucumcari Mountain sports a distinctive look because it looks like two mesas that were plopped on top of each other. According to MountainZone.com, Tucumcari Mountain stands at 4,951 feet above sea level, nearly 1,000 feet above the city for which it’s named.

I’ve been somewhat surprised to see no previous online journals from others who have hiked the mountain. Tucumcari Mountain is dotted with numerous radio and cell-phone towers, which means maintenance trucks have to get up there some way.

It turns out it’s not that easy. First, Tucumcari Mountain is on private property, so there’s always the danger of being caught trespassing. Second, the base of the mountain is 1 1/2 miles down a primitive dirt road, even before you start climbing. Third, hiking the mountain itself can be strenuous, especially when dealing with iffy footing, no water facilities and New Mexico’s intense sun.

Without delving too much into the details, I made arrangements with a local resident, who contacted one of Tucumcari Mountain’s owners to give us permission to hike the mountain, and gave us a ride in his pickup truck to the mountain’s base, sparing us a lot of additional walking.

Emily and I decided to hike up Tucumcari Mountain to see what’s there. We also wanted to share our experience with Route 66ers who would be unable to do this themselves.

The trail at the base of Tucumcari Mountain.

The trail at the base of Tucumcari Mountain.

The trail going up the mountain is a primitive dirt and gravel road only wide enough for one truck. The image above conveys a gentle grade, but that would change quickly.

Looking back north from the Tucumcari Mountain trail.

Looking out from the Tucumcari Mountain trail.

Hiking up the mountain to its first “level” requires a few switchbacks.

One of the mountain trails switchbacks.

One of the mountain trail's switchbacks.

We obviously weren’t the first sightseers. This chiseled graffiti looks quite old.



When hiking up Tucumcari Mountain, there is another hazard that becomes apparent — erosion. Here’s a huge boulder that eventually will tumble onto the trail.

Boulder hanging over the trail.

Boulder hanging over the trail.

On our way down, we encountered a few rocks that had come loose and tumbled onto the trail less than an hour before. One of the rocks was the size of a basketball.

Small rockslide.

Small rockslide.

On the first level of the mountain are several radio and cell towers.

Cell towers and radio towers on Tucumcari Mountains first level.

Cell towers and radio towers on Tucumcari Mountain's first level.

Nearby is the big “T,” for Tucumcari, halfway up the mountainside. The rocks and boulders that form the letter are whitewashed each year by the local high-schoolers.

Tucumcari Mountains big T.

Tucumcari Mountain's big "T."

In fact, the mops and buckets that were used for the whitewashing were left near a big bush. I guess they’ll use them again next year.

Mops and buckets left near the big T.

Mops and buckets left near the big "T."

And here’s what the rest of Tucumcari Mountain looks like, from near the first level.

Tucumcari Mountain, seen from halfway up.

Tucumcari Mountain, seen from halfway up.

Hiking to Tucumcari Mountain’s uppermost peak was particularly strenuous. The footing on the trail was looser, the grade steeper. We were really sucking air going up the last leg.

There’s a gate to keep unauthorized vehicles from going to the top, but it can be easily walked around.

A switchback near the top of the mountain.

A switchback near the top of the mountain.

At a switchback on the south side of the mountain, you get this spectacular view of Bulldog Mesa in the foreground and the massive Mesa Redonda in the distance.

Near the peak of Tucumcari Mountain, looking south.

Near the peak of Tucumcari Mountain, looking south. That's Bulldog Mesa in the foreground, framed by lots of wild sunflowers.

The hike to the top is the toughest. This gap between the rocks appears natural, but it may have been partly blasted through, too.

Emily hiking up the final leg of the Tucumcari Mountain trail.

Emily hiking up the final leg of the Tucumcari Mountain trail.

The peak of Tucumcari Mountain is about 125 yards wide and flat, just like a mesa. And, of course, there are radio and cell-phone towers, too.

Transmitter on top of Tucumcari Mountain.

Transmitter on top of Tucumcari Mountain.

Towers on top of Tucumcari Mountain.

Towers on top of Tucumcari Mountain.

And here’s a view from the top of Tucumcari Mountain, overlooking Tucumcari.

The view from the top of Tucumcari Mountain, looking north-northeast.

The view from the top of Tucumcari Mountain, looking north-northwest.

And here’s a 360-degree video from the peak.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the hike was observing the foliage and insects. You wouldn’t think such a rocky environment would support much. But we saw lots of colorful cacti, scrub brush and succulents — many of them in bloom after recent monsoon rains.

Many of the insects were colorful as well. We saw a shiny-blue fly on a flower, and plenty of locusts with bright orange or vivid blue wings. Fortunately, we didn’t see (or hear) any rattlesnakes.

(More photos from Tucumcari Mountain can be seen here.)

More of this, please September 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways.
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CBS4.com in Florida is reporting that a group is pushing for historic designation of U.S. Highway 1.

The Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance is a volunteer group that thinks the Key’s portion of U.S.1 should be on the list of historic highways. CBS4’s news partners at the Miami Herald report the group has spent more than a year preparing their proposal as to why the 106 mile Overseas Highway, which strings together the islands that make up the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West should be on the list. This is the first time a bid will be made to have the highway listed.

It’s good to see the historic highways movement continue to gain traction. U.S. 1 is a terrific route — it goes through 15 states and 2,300 miles through varied terrain and has the added advantage of never being decertified.

Attendance at Springfield festival remains stable September 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events.
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Crowd numbers at the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield, Ill., this past weekend were about the same as last year, reports the Springfield Journal-Register.

The three-day event, which ended Sunday, had an attendance of about 70,000 people, with 847 paid, registered cars on display and more than 1,000 vehicles participating in the Friday night parade, he added.

“In this season of car shows and gas prices, there have been up to 30 percent less attendance at car shows across the country,” he said. “We feel really good that we’re close to last year with participants.”

You can click on the newspaper’s link to check out the winners of the car shows.

And a longtime roadie, Roadmaven, posted a video from the festival’s cruise:

‘That’s a really good sandwich’ September 29, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Food.
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A couple of fellows hear about a sandwich-maker at the historic Star Cash Grocery on old Route 66 in Commerce, Okla., who’s been there for 66 years. The two decide to hit to road to order one.

They came away impressed.

Note: There also are really good hand-made sandwiches at Eisler Bros. Store in Riverton, Kan., which is less than a half-hour away, also on Route 66.

For more about the Star Cash Grocery, go here.

“Never Been to Spain” September 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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But I’ve been to Oklahoma. And Needles, too.

This is Elvis Presley, in 1972.

Paul Newman, R.I.P September 27, 2008

Posted by redforkhippie in Movies, People, Sports, Vehicles.
Doc Hudson, as voiced by Paul Newman.

Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman.

Here’s a startling fact about actor Paul Newman, who died Friday of cancer at the age of 83.

“Cars,” the hit Disney-Pixar animated film in 2006 that helped spur new interest in Route 66, wound up being Newman’s last acting film role.

Not long after that film’s release (plus a “Cars” short titled “Mater and the Ghost Light”), Newman announced he was giving up acting because he felt he could no longer perform at his best.

Around the time of the release of “Cars,” Newman explained why he accepted the role of Doc Hudson, the mayor of the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs.

It was quite a casting coup for the folks at Pixar. Not only did it gain a 10-time Oscar nominee for a crucial character as the town’s grizzled and grouchy patriarch, but Newman’s extensive racing background gave the role a lot of credibility as well.

Former professional racer Darrell Waltrip, who has a role in “Cars” as a television announcer, has quite a story about Newman during the film’s premiere at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

My favorite Newman roles were as a drunken lawyer in “The Verdict” and as a crusty blue-collar worker in “Nobody’s Fool.” He had about 50 films to his credit, which isn’t a high number for a man who worked for so long. But he chose his roles so well, he made an indelible impression on Hollywood anyway.

But Newman’s lasting legacy will be his Newman’s Own, a food company which has given hundreds of millions of dollars to countless charities.

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