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Powerhouse earns federal grant October 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Museums.
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The Powerhouse Visitors Center on Route 66 in Kingman, Ariz., earned a $220,241 federal grant to renovate and reorganize the facility, reports the Kingman Daily Miner.

Another $55,000 will come from the local Economic Tourism and Development Commission and the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona for the project.

These changes include moving the visitors’ service desk to the front doors away from the corner it currently occupies, expanding the Powerhouse’s literature racks, adding a 24-hour information kiosk outside, and constructing an exterior shaded canopy and rest area, among others.

“They’re looking at redoing the signage, both interior and exterior – banners, directional signage,” said Rob Owen, Kingman’s Public Works director.

“They’re looking at new display units for local businesses, tour information, all that kind of stuff. The whole purpose of the grant is to improve the visitor experience.”

The improvements will also add a café/rest area to the Powerhouse complete with seating and vending machines for tourists, as well as new countertops and desktops. Museum displays will also be added or retooled to focus more on Kingman’s heritage, as well as its relationship with historic Route 66.

The project is expected to begin in as little as six months.

UPDATE: I received an update about other federal money affecting Route 66 sites in Arizona. John Murphey of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program said a grant will be used to assess a preservation plan for the Navajo County Courthouse in Holbrook, plus develop a Byways plan for the route.

Bob Waldmire saying goodbye October 28, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Movies, People, Publications.

Bob Waldmire, with his Volkswagen minibus, visits with Afton Station co-owner Laurel Kane at the 2008 Route 66 Festival in Litchfield, Ill.

Artist Bob Waldmire, famous for his intricate Route 66-inspired artwork and being the unofficial inspiration to hippie van Fillmore in the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars,” has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, reports Dave Bakke of the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register.

Waldmire, 64, usually lives in the southern Arizona mountains during the wintertime and spends the rest of the year peddling his artwork at festivals and to scores of stores along the Mother Road. But this winter, he’s hunkering down in a converted school bus in near his hometown of Springfield, outfitted with a wood stove, so he can get his affairs in order and be near family members.

That family includes former sister-in-law Sue Waldmire, who operates the Cozy Dog Drive-In on Route 66 in Springfield. Bob’s father, Ed Waldmire, perfected the corn dog, which is still being served by the Cozy Dog to this day. Bob is hoping to finish a short book about his father.

In the meantime, he’s been greeting a steady stream of Route 66ers and friends, and will likely do so in the next several months.

Martin Lathrop arrived Monday from Terre Haute to spend the night with his old friend. “He’s one of a kind, an artistic genius,” says Lathrop.

For many years, Bob and Martin have shared a connection to an American highway, a strip of road that shaped Bob’s life.

“Anywhere along Route 66,” says Lathrop, “you stop and ask if Bob’s been there lately, they all know Bob. They’ll say, ‘Yeah, he was just by a month ago’ or something like that.”

Ron Jones drove here from Oklahoma to knock on the door of the bus. Jones’ upper body is covered with Route 66-themed tattoos. He removes his shirt to display them at various festivals devoted to the highway.

I’d known for a week or so of Bob Waldmire’s diagnosis, but had planned to delay reporting it out of respect for his wishes until later, when a letter he wrote to the Route 66 Pulse would be published in late November. But the unofficial embargo has been broken, and here we are.

Waldmire, a devoted hippie, implores travelers to look out for animals on the road while traveling Route 66. He either drove a early 1970s Volkswagen minibus (with a solar panel for electricity, natch) or a 1965 Ford Mustang across the country. He turned down a licensing offer from Disney-Pixar because Fillmore toys would have been sold with McDonald’s hamburgers, violating his longtime vegetarian principles.

One of Bob Waldmire's art prints, of the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla.

A few years ago, Waldmire won the coveted Steinbeck Award for his exemplary service to Route 66.

But it’s probably Waldmire’s artwork that will serve as his most lasting legacy. His pen-and-ink drawings bear a resemblance to Robert Crumb‘s style. But even Crumb probably would blanch at the intricacy and patience it took for Walmire to finish many of his creations. Waldmire’s best work deserves to be displayed permanently in a gallery somewhere, and I suspect efforts are being made to do so.

If the worst happens as predicted, many in the Route 66 community will mourn Waldmire. But I suspect he’d implore roadies to not shed many tears. After all, he did what he wanted to do for many years, was independent, traveled when he pleased, and met a lot of friends along the way. He’s lived a life that many would envy.

UPDATE: A Bob Waldmire appreciation group has been set up on Flickr.

Documentary film crew stops in Tucumcari October 27, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Movies, People, Road trips, Vehicles.
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A crew for the documentary “Alfred & Jakobine” stopped Sunday on Route 66 in Tucumcari, N.M., in the early stages of production for the film, reported Richard Talley of the Motel Safari in town.

Here’s a blog entry from the filmmakers about their pit stop in Tucumcari, with lots of photos.

The film is a bit hard to summarize, but here goes: In 1955, Alfred and Jakobine spent their honeymoon circling the globe in a 1935 Austin London taxi. After the trek, they eventually separated. But Alfred never forgot Jakobine, and now he’s driving a 1935 London taxi from his home in northern New Mexico east 2,500 miles to his former wife’s home in New York. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Here’s the trailer for the still-in-production film:

UPDATE: Here’s a story about the film by The Journal of Martinsburg, W.Va.

(Hat tip: Richard Talley)

Lounging around Route 66 October 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Martin Denny, the king of lounge music during the 1950s and ’60s, recorded this variation of Nelson Riddle’s instrumental, “Route 66.” Dig those vibraphones.

Route 66 documentary to be screened at Coleman Theatre October 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Highways, History, Movies, Theaters.
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“Bones of the Old Road,” a documentary about exploring obscure alignments of Route 66, will be screened at the historic Coleman Theatre in Miami, Okla., at 7 p.m. Nov. 24.

The film’s hosts, Route 66 researchers Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan, along with “Bones of the Old Road” camera operator, producer and editor Kathy Anderson, will answer questions from the audience. They also will discuss with Dr. Andrew Vassar of Northeastern State University the significance of this documentary from an historical and sociological perspective.

This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the We the People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This screening also is part of a larger project involving a traveling Smithsonian exhibit called “Journey Stories.”

Our Lady of the Highways marks 50th year October 26, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, History, Religion.
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The Shrine of Our Lady of the Highways, located off old Route 66 near Raymond, Ill., marked its 50th year with a Mass and rededication of the monument on Sunday.

Illinois Route 66er was there and had this to report in an e-mail:

We had probably in the area of 200 people, maybe a few more, on hand for the mass and rededication of the Shrine. The weather was fantastic, with only a spot of sprinkles around the time of the dedication, but lots of sun early on and no steady rain.  Many of the original CYC members who established the Shrine were on hand, including Loretta Ludek, Francis Marten’s eldest daughter.  In fact, all of Francis’ surviving children were on hand for the day.

Along with the ceremony, a new kiosk has been installed on the south side of the Shrine between the statue and the Hail Mary signs with a locking glass case to put information and memorabilia in.  Long term plans call for a map of local Route 66 landmarks to be added to the Shrine information, along with a donation box and guestbook.

The Litchfield Deanery’s Catholic Youth Council began raising money for the shrine in 1958, and the statue was dedicated on Oct. 25, 1959, at the edge of Francis Marten’s farm. The marble statue of Blessed Virgin Mary was imported from Italy; local kids built the wooden alcove, a brick base, a cobblestone walkway and lights around the statue. Total cost at the time was $900.

Francis Marten died in 2002, but his family continues to maintain the site.

(Photos courtesy of Peter Stork.)

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