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Roads to Lincoln February 25, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History.

A lot of people are going to explore Illinois this year because this is the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. During a recent presentation, Chicago Route 66 expert David G. Clark explained how to get the most mileage out checking historical sites within the Land of Lincoln, according to Shopper Source Online:

By following Route 66, The Great River Road and Route 30 you can see many places that Lincoln traveled. A portion of Route 66 was the corridor that was blazed by the Chicago and Alton railroad, the railroad that brought the funeral train to Chicago and down to Springfield. Along the Illinois river was where he took flat boats to New Orleans. In the western part of the state you can go across from west to east on Lincoln Highway, one of the first trans continental highways.

The town of Lincoln was named in his honor in 1853 long before he made his mark in politics. Lincoln had been the lawyer for the people who founded the town. In Springfield you can visit the only house that Lincoln would ever own, and downtown Springfield you will find one of his original law offices as well as the presidential library museum. Inside the train station there is an exhibit about the funeral train. In Alton you can see Lincoln Douglas Square, the site of the final debate that has lifelike statutes of the two. In Galesburg on the side of the Great River Road is the old main building of Knox College, the only building still standing from the Lincoln/Douglas debates.

In Dixon you can see the former Nachusa House Hotel next to the court in which many presidents had stayed. Traveling along Route 30 in New Lenox at Lincolnway High School you can see one of the remaining Lincoln Highway markers placed there in 1928 by the Boy Scouts on top of which is a likeness of Lincoln for whom the school was named. New Lenox was also home to an old brick tavern often used for lodging that predated the railroads. Only a small brick monument remains.

Clark ended the journey in Chicago Heights where the Lincoln Highway crosses Dixie Highway which ran from Chicago to Florida. This area is known as the crossroads of the nation. Lincoln Highway symbolizes the corridors of commerce that Abraham Lincoln strove for during his political and legal career. Clark called Dixie Highway a sort of a reunification of north and south that happened when Lincoln was president. At the southwest corner of that intersection is fountain likeness of Lincoln. Across the street they put up another monument. This is the only one of him smiling as he accepts flowers from young girls.

The cities of Springfield and Lincoln are both on Route 66. Springfield in particular is loaded with Lincoln historical sites, more than what Clark likely could recount here. The presidential library, which I had the privilege of seeing shortly after it opened a few years ago, is especially eye-popping.

Bid approved to move historic depot February 25, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Railroad.
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A bid of $25,000 from Odie Construction of Kankakee, Ill., was approved by the City of Braidwood, Ill., to move its 1867 historic railroad depot to Main and Center streets this spring, reported the Joliet Herald News.

The depot had been at Route 66 and Illinois 113, but a nearby grocery store wanted the property the depot was on for additional parking. The depot’s new site won’t be on Route 66 anymore, but it will be only a block or two away (map here).

Also, during the city council’s meeting, the Braidwood Area Historical Society provided a $5,000 donation to help defray some of the costs of the depot’s move. Said society President Dee deGroh:

“We’re all about preserving the history of Braidwood,” she said after the meeting. “What better building than the depot? We feel that by making this donation, it states we are certainly behind the city’s decision to keep the building, and move it, and put it in a nice prominent spot.”

Smithsonian takes a dour look at the Mother Road February 24, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Businesses, History, Movies, Preservation, Restaurants.

Megan Gambino in the March issue of Smithsonian magazine takes a somewhat dour look at the Mother Road.

Here’s an excerpt:

Writing about the Joad family’s journey from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma to the promised land of California in The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck famously called Route 66 the “mother road.” But today it’s more of an impoverished great-grandmother.

The 2,400-mile highway, which starts in Chicago and passes through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Los Angeles, will turn 83 this year—and it’s not aging gracefully. Derelict gas stations, restaurants and trading posts, often vandalized, line its rural stretches, their neon signs long since dimmed. Developers are bulldozing quirky motels to make room for generic high-rises.

I don’t deny that Route 66 has experienced losses in recent years from development, neglect or old age. And though the article leavens its pessimism with examples of preservation, it fails to mention one crucial part of the big picture — new businesses springing up that pay tribute to the old road while bringing a new twist.

Route 66 was losing businesses at a much faster rate 15 years ago. Michael Wallis’ bestselling book “Route 66: The Mother Road” helped stem the tide somewhat, and Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” from 2006 is attracting new generations of travelers. And Route 66 is dotted with success stories that would have been nearly unthinkable a decade ago, such as POPS in Arcadia, Okla., Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford, Okla.; and 4 Women on the Route in Galena, Kan.

Sure, there’s plenty of work to be done. But the Main Street of America resembles more of a road that’s evolving, not dying.

(Hat tip: Ron McCoy)

Lonely Planet to issue new guidebooks February 24, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Road trips.
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The Lonely Planet, long respected in the travel industry, is launching a new series of guidebooks next month called “Trips.” And one of them includes Route 66 as an itinerary, according to the Associated Press.

The first six titles in the series are “California,” “Pacific Northwest,” “Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon,” “New York, Washington DC & the Mid-Atlantic,” “The Carolinas, Georgia & the South,” and “New England.”

Each $20 paperback offers 50 to 68 itineraries and more than 1,000 places to see, organized by themes like “Food & Drink,” “Outdoors,” “History & Culture,” “Offbeat” and “City.”

The books also outline trips by season, trips that can be done any time of year, “iconic” trips, day trips from cities, and classic routes. Routes outlined in the Arizona and New Mexico guide include Route 66, the “Turquoise Trail” between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway, a 105-mile trip between Truth or Consequences and Silver City, N.M.

The “Arizona, New Mexico and the Grand Canyon” book can be ordered here. It’s $19.99, and is expected to be in stock on March 10.

A really bad idea February 23, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels.

At a time when the economy is struggling, Route 66 motels in New Mexico sure don’t need this.

According to the New Mexico Business Weekly, state Sens. George K. Munoz, D-Cibola and McKinley, and John M. Sapien, D-Sandoval, have introduced a bill to impose a 10 percent lodging tax across the board on all lodging in the state, including RV parks.

Naturally, the state’s lodging and innkeepers associations are opposing it:

The groups claim that if the bill became law, it would place New Mexico at the top of the 50 states relative to local taxes paid. In Albuquerque, those staying in lodging properties would pay 16 percent in lodgers taxes, plus 6.75 percent in gross receipts taxes. In Santa Fe, consumers would pay 17 percent in lodgers taxes and 7.9 percent in gross receipts and other taxes.

The trade associations argue that there is a misconceptions that lodgers taxes are paid by those living outside New Mexico, but they said more than a third of lodgers taxes are paid by New Mexico residents traveling within the state (my emphasis).

So the notion that a lodging tax will affect only out-of-state travelers doesn’t wash with the facts.

You also have a fair number of poor people who use motels as long-term lodging. So it would hit them hard economically, too.

I’ve been unable to find any information about the bill’s prospects in the Legislature. But it would be best for it to die a quick death. This is simply bad policy.

Hello from Russia February 22, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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This is Dmitry Novokolsky, laying down a bluesy groove with several other good pickers during Bobby Troup’s “Route 66.”

Film footage of Route 66 from the 1950s February 21, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Movies, Road trips.
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Here’s a find: film footage of Route 66 during the 1950s. You’ll see a lot of stuff that’s changed or gone in those two minutes.

It’s owned by FootageWorld.com, which specializes in stock footage for license for telecasts, film and the like.

More footage can be seen here (QuickTime is required to view).

It’s a fun site to surf around and see a lot of vintage material.

UPDATE: An e-mail from David Fishbein at FootageWorld.com informs me that the total Route 66 footage is 13 minutes.

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