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Authentic American Spook Light August 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Ghosts and Mysteries, Magazines, Restaurants.
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Time magazine put out a list of 50 Authentic American Experiences 2009 — one from each state. The state-by-state listing can be seen browsed here. It’s a great list, with many obscure and quirky attractions.

One that made the cut was the mysterious Spook Light, which is a few miles off Route 66 in a very rural area near Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas borders. More about the Spook Light can be read here and here. No one is for sure whether Spook Light is a natural or paranormal phenomenon (although best-selling author William Least Heat-Moon says he solved the mystery in his latest book — with Route 66 playing a crucial role).

Whatever Spook Light is, it’s fascinated locals and tourists for many, many decades.

Time magazine puts Spook Light in Missouri. Trouble is, Spook Light is an Oklahoma phenomenon. It’s not across the Missouri line by much of a distance, but it’s definitely in the Sooner State. Waylan’s Ku-Ku restaurant on Route 66 in Miami, Okla., is the only place I know where you can acquire a map to the Spook Light, and it most certainly shows it in Oklahoma.

Route 66 documentary in the works August 27, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, Movies.
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California-based Waterline Entertainment is producing a historical documentary about Route 66 that is tentatively slated to be released sometime in 2011.

Geoff Foley, a writer and producer at Waterline, and I recently made connections through my Twitter account. He said the working title of the film is “Route 66: America’s Main Street.” His partner on the project, Anthony Boyer, envisions the documentary to be like Ken Burns‘ acclaimed historical films.

I e-mailed Foley a few questions about the project. The following are excerpts of his answers that should be self-explanatory:

The focus will be on the history of Route 66 and its impact on American culture through its heyday, and where it stands now. We want to show its history as well as the ghost towns that line the route in some places now. […]

We’re not sure what the running time will be yet. The editing on this project could take a year, given the scope Anthony has set.

We will complete the project and take it to the festival circuit first and then secure distribution. […]

We see three different aspects of the project at the moment. One will be a coffee table book documenting the many interviews we conduct along the journey, as well as the best of the thousands of photographs our photographer will take along the way. A second aspect might be a film edited together from the hundreds of hours of footage documenting the three week trip itself, acting as more of a “behind the scenes” look into the documentary. The third, and main, aspect of the project is the documentary itself. […]

I became involved in this project through my friend Anthony Boyer. It is his baby and we had casually talked about his wanting to do this some time in the next few years. Initially I wanted to go along for the ride as I have read about Route 66 for years and have always loved the idea of family road trips. My family never undertook such an adventure when I was a kid and I figured this would be as good a time as any to experience it.

If Waterline can create a documentary that evokes comparisons to Ken Burns’ work, I (and others, I’m certain) will be singing its praises for years to come.

A tour of Jim Ross’ property August 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Gas stations, People.
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Oklahoma Route 66 historian and author Jim Ross gives a tour of his house, the design which was inspired by Phillips 66 cottage-style gas stations from the 1930s.

Ross also built roadside-based guest cabin on his property, which sits on a piece of land where two alignments of Route 66 run nearby.

I’ve been to Ross’ house a few times, and I never knew the story about the ceiling beams, which are designed to look like old-time truss bridges you often see on the Mother Road.

Red rock country August 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motorcycles, Movies, Road trips.
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Here’s a nice video that popped up a few hours ago. This is Route 66 from about Laguna, N.M. You can even see Owl Rock near the beginning.

The music is part of the soundtrack from the “Cars” movie.

Woman soon will travel part of Route 66 on horseback August 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Road trips.
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Megan Carter soon will begin her Buffalo Moon Expedition — riding on horseback from southeastern Oklahoma to Chicago partly on Route 66.

Carter’s journey begins Sept. 1, but she reckons she won’t be on the Mother Road until later in the month. She figures she’ll be averaging about 10 miles a day. Carter’s blog is here, and she says she’ll make updates while traveling. Her route is here, although it may change.

If you want to help her, you can either be a host for a night or two, or make a donation to the The Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation.

New museum opening in St. James August 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums.
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If you’re in the area of St. James, Mo., tomorrow, it might be advisable to pull off that interstate and check out the new Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory Outlet holding its grand opening at 1:30 p.m. that day.

According to the Hit the Road blog of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The museum’s collection includes 500 vacuums spanning a century of progress, plus newspaper and magazine advertising from each decade.

Tom Gasko, musuem curator and a national authority on vacuums, donated his collection to the museum, which includes many from Stan Kann, the legendary organist from the Fox Theater in St. Louis, who also was an avid cleaner collector.

“Celebrity” vacuums on display include the official vacuum from Air Force One and the childhood vacuum of actor James Earl Jones.

The museum is just north of St. James Boulevard (aka Route 66) on Industry Drive on the east side of town. Map is here.

“Rhythms” still beating August 25, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Television.
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Remember “Rhythms of the Road”? That was the musical television series taped at several spots along the Mother Road in October 2008. It was tentatively set to air this spring or summer.

You can go here to see the trailer.

Now, we’re on the cusp of September, and no sighting of “Rhythms.” So what happened?

Brian Greene at Green HD Productions, which produced the program, said in an e-mail that it will be made into a DVD, and has a major distributor in Los Angeles lined up. He anticipates the DVD will be on the market by spring 2010 — in time for Route 66 tourism season.

As for television, Greene said the downturn in the economy starting last fall led to cutbacks by all the television networks, with “very little programming being purchased.” But he said that same L.A. distributor is still talking to VH1, History Channel, A&E, Discovery and PBS, to name a few. So there’s hope the series will eventually turn up on the on TV somewhere.

Interestingly, Greene had a few irked words about NBC’s recently completed reality series “The Great American Road Trip.” He agreed with me that the show’s effect on Route 66 will be benign at worst. But he said “Road Trip” has made it harder to pitch his show.

I was more than a little disappointed at the recent series on NBC … it was a dismal attempt.  Reviews and ratings reflect that in a big way.  Unfortunately it has made our job harder since a network series on Route 66 failed so badly in ratings.  What’s worse is that most of it had nothing to do with the route.  They milked the hype of the name and then gave nothing back.  All of the incredibly stupid challenges could have taken place at real Route 66 stops; such a missed opportunity.  None of which I would care so much about if it did not have a direct impact on broadcasters’ belief that shows on Route 66 may not attract the audience they thought it might before “Road Trip” was broadcast. […]

I agree that the effect “Road Trip” had on Route 66 related to tourists is virtually nil.  It could have increased tourism if it had been a big success, but I doubt it changed things much.  But in the world of television broadcast on other Route 66 shows, I think its bad ratings hurt interest from potential advertisers.  Television exists because of advertising; it’s all about ratings.  “Road Trip” certainly did not help things in any way.

On a related note, Greene’s “Route 66 — The Marathon Tour” is running in most cable markets on ALN, aka American Life Network.   Greene said it is getting good ratings there, and it plans on running the complete 14-part series several times between now and 2010.  It airs each Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern.

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