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Please don’t feed the burros August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Attractions, Towns.

Emily feeding one of the Oatman burros before the BLM directive.

For years, tourists to the Route 66 town of Oatman, Ariz., have been allowed to feed the wild burros that wander through the streets. Many of Oatman’s merchants sell carrots for these critters, which are descendants of the animals that once toiled in the gold mines. The Oatman burros are a major draw for a tiny town that boasts 500,000 visitors a year.

But now, according to the Associated Press (via MSNBC), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is urging merchants and tourists to not feed the burros because they’re overweight.

The agency, which manages the burros, has launched a campaign it hopes will eventually steer the burros back into the desert to forage for grass and shrubs — and get them back into shape. […]

The BLM acknowledges that its campaign to stop feeding the burros will be a hard sell but likens it to when Yellowstone National Park told visitors there to stop feeding the bears. “As the feed is diminished over time, I think they’ll start wandering out and remember what’s out there for dinner,” Oyler said.

Oatman storekeepers have been asked to stop feeding the burros or providing the treats the animals are so accustomed to. The BLM also has drafted scripts for gunfighters and shop owners that tell tourists quite bluntly that the burros are fat and are being loved to death.

Some slogans that could end up on posters or signs around town include, “No Diet-Busting Cubes or Carrots — Please!” “Keep Oatman Burros Happy and Healthy — No Extra Food,” and “Give Burros Care, not Carrots.”The BLM says the burros that don’t come into town are a lot healthier and don’t have behavioral problems or pain caused by their hooves growing to a thickness that makes it hard for them to walk.

I doubt this is going to work. I think a few burros will give up and start foraging in the wild again. But the more-stubborn animals will wait around for the local merchants to sell carrots under the table, or tourists will start bringing their own.

Maybe scheduled, rationed feedings of the burros, where tourists can participate, is a sensible solution. But if the burros disappear from the streets of Oatman, you’re going to see a severe drop-off of visitors. Tourism is about the only thing keeping the tiny town viable these days.

Cyclists urge construction of Route 66 bike path August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, Road trips.
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A group of several dozen bicyclists are riding on or near Route 66 from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge near St. Louis to Chicago to have fun. But they’re also doing it to drum up support to build a bike path along the Mother Road in Illinois, reports the Bloomington Pantagraph.

Their goal is to promote efforts to build the Route 66 Trail, a paved bike path running the length of the highway’s right-of-way across the state. About 25 miles are completed, according to League of Illinois Bicyclists vice president Doug Oehler of Bloomington. A majority of those lie in McLean County in Towanda, Chenoa and Lexington.

Oehler and McLean County assistant county administrator Bill Wasson said the county, Bloomington and Normal are awaiting word on a federal grant to fund 80 percent of the path’s construction from Bloomington to Funks Grove. The communities and the county would provide the rest. Both men said the international tourist interest and the potential recreational opportunities justify the investment.

More about the current Route 66 Bike Trail can be found here.

I know that government money is tight right now because of the recession. But having at least a partial Route 66 Bike Trail of a hundred miles or so makes a lot of sense, in that it would open up a whole new avenue of tourism. That would give a slew of domestic and foreign travelers a way to explore the Mother Road in a new — and safe — way.

UPDATE: The Pontiac Daily Leader has a story about the bike ride.

Crazy cars August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Vehicles.
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Here’s Nat King Cole‘s version of “Route 66,” accompanying a collection of the craziest-looking cars you’ll ever see.

66 Bowl marks 50th year August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Signs, Sports.
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The Oklahoman has a feature article about 66 Bowl in Oklahoma City, which is marking its 50th year.

Owner Jim Haynes, 77, a former bowling supply salesman, bought the bowling alley in 1978.

“I see people all the time out there who take pictures of the sign and they do come in and talk,” Haynes said as a group of older adults bowled on a recent weekday morning.

In July, three people in their 30s showed up from Finland. “They mentioned that this was on the list of things to do if you came to the United States. I was very flattered.”

It’s a more sedate and enjoyable place, but the 66 Bowl went through a nasty labor dispute when it was being built, and someone tried to burn it down later that same year. And 66 Bowl, for a few years, was open 24 hours a day for kegglers who wanted to work on their games. The alley has survived several robberies and another fire in 2005.

One of the 66 Bowl’s customers is trying to get the facility designated as a city historic landmark. Let’s hope she succeeds.

Here’s a video from this year’s Okie Twist-Off, a punk-rockabilly music festival and car show that the 66 Bowl hosted. The clip shows off the old facility pretty well, including its neon sign:

Twin Arrows namesake gets a face-lift August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation.

The famed giant arrows at the defunct Twin Arrows Trading Post east of Flagstaff, Ariz., recently were refurbished after years of deterioration and neglect.

Longtime roadie Carol Major reported a few days ago to the Route 66 yahoogroup:

… On my 66 trip from Topock to Oklahoma City last week, I went by Twin Arrows Trading Post and noticed some workers fixing up the arrows! I stopped and talked to Reggie Fauser, who said they were getting the place ready for a 66 event coming up in the next few weeks. I’ll post some pictures if I can . . . I was really excited to see the arrows like they were brand-new again!

Major sent me photos of the workers laboring over those big arrows. The arrows obviously were repainted, and the fletching, which had fallen off at least one of the arrows, had been rebuilt. This photo shows how bad the arrows looked before the recent intervention.

An agreement was struck between the state and the Hopi Indian tribe last year to eventually reinvigorate the property, and it’s thrilling there finally seems to be activity. The Route 66 festival in Flagstaff has a preservation work day scheduled at the site next month; maybe the Twin Arrows buildings will get some TLC as well.

According to Russell Olsen’s “Route 66 Lost and Found,” the Twin Arrows complex started as the Canyon Padre Trading Post about 1949. It became Twin Arrows Trading Post during the 1950s, and the 20-foot-high arrows were erected near the main buildings. It closed in the late 1990s.

(Photos courtesy of Carol Major)

Route 66 runner under scrutiny August 31, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, People, Road trips.
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Tellman Knudson, the Internet tycoon who plans to run barefoot on Route 66 and across the country next month for charity, has run into a thicket of questions from the attorney general’s office in his home state of Vermont.

According to a well-researched article in the Times Argus of Montpelier, Vt., the problems for Knudson arise after people click onto his fundraising site, runtellmanrun.com:

But people who click on the page are immediately asked to give Knudson their names and e-mail addresses. And that’s sparking questions from some users of his business sites — registered and run in Vermont as Overcome Everything Inc. — who complain of receiving endless appeals seeking credit-card numbers for what many call “too-good-to-be-true” offers.

Log onto www.overcomeeverything.com last week, for example, and Knudson offered a free “Instant Money Button” compact disc “guaranteed to stuff six-figures into your bank account in the next year.” To receive the otherwise unidentified product, people were told they needed only to type in their credit-card number to cover a $7.95 shipping fee.

But read the fine print — tiny and in the lightest of grays at the bottom of the white screen — and you’d find a disclaimer that said “there is no guarantee that you will earn any money” and, in fact, the “CD purchase automatically renews to a recurring charge of $97 a month.”

Many recipients complain, particularly in online forums, that they either didn’t know about the $97 charge until they saw it on their credit-card bills or had read how they could cancel “for a full 7 days” and “you won’t be charged a single penny.” But when they tried to opt out, they couldn’t easily contact Knudson’s Brattleboro office — a delay that added to their monthly fees.

These complaints — which number in the dozens,  before Knudson’s journey even begins on Sept. 9 — have gotten the attention of the state attorney general’s office, which is investigating whether the charity setup is lawful or deceitful.

And reading on in the story, Knudson’s own vague and evasive comments about himself and his company are troubling. And the fact he wants to raise an astounding $100 million for charity during a poor economy seems terribly unrealistic.

So … if you decide to go online and give to Knudson’s charity, make sure you read the fine print first.

Not in my Valle Vista, Part 2 August 30, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns.

The Guardian newspaper of London continues its series on retracing the path the Joads took in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Sunday finds the series in Valle Vista, a subdivision north of Kingman, Ariz., on Route 66. This section of the article stuck out like a bald head in the Arizona sun for too long:

Of nearly 900 properties at Valle Vista, more than 100 have been seized by the banks, or abandoned along with the mortgages, or, left only half built, the money for construction having run out.

“People are moving out of their homes and taking all of the fixtures, anything they can take out of the house,” says Andi Martin. “That’s unusual. Stripping the houses when they leave. Plumbing, toilets, carpets. So the banks are left with these houses that aren’t very marketable.”

A number of half-built properties will almost certainly have to be torn down. Four-bedroom houses with magnificent views of the mountains have been abandoned with roofs incomplete. The rain has worked into unprotected insulation and inner walls.

No wonder Valle Vistans are ticked off about a biodiesel plant and a solar-energy complex being built nearby. They residents are so crabby as this point, they’d probably oppose a monastery being constructed in their subdivision.

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