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Don’t argue with the driver April 25, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Religion.
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Here’s the latest of “Route 66: A Road Trip through the Bible,” starring Habukkuk.

I saw the punchline coming from a mile away.

Journalist dies in train-car crash near Amboy April 25, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Railroad.
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I saw a story in the San Bernardino County Sun yesterday in which a man from Las Vegas had been traveling Route 66 west of Amboy, Calif., and suddenly stopped his car on the railroad tracks, where he died when a freight train hit it.

The article didn’t mention it at the time, but the circumstances screamed “suicide.”

We find out today that the deceased individual was Warren Bates, 49, an assistant city editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. And the California Highway Patrol indeed is considering it a suicide.

And it’s apparent he didn’t choose at random the location of his final moments of life:

In 1999, he traveled to one of his favorite places, the Mojave National Preserve, for a feature story on a solitary pay phone booth, describing it as “a lonely sentry at the end of a string of telephone poles about 75 miles southeast of Las Vegas and 10 digits away from anyone who wants to reach out and see if there’s life in the middle of the desert.” […]

Bates drove out on Route 66 to take photos of Amboy, the town where his life ended, to illustrate a story Review-Journal reporter Henry Brean wrote about the deserted place.

“He went out and took pictures himself —  that is what he did,” Brean said Saturday. “He went out and shot pictures of the desert, of ghost towns and old railroad crossings. He would go and find these little out of the way places. We used to harass him and say he ought to write a book.”

Instead, Bates developed a website, www.roadtozzyzx.com, titled “where ruin is reborn” that featured his photos as well as stories about his extensive travels and lines from his favorite poems. […]

“I love getting out of Las Vegas. I love the desert,” he said, calling what he finds to shoot modern ruins. “These were people’s dreams at one point. I still think there is some beauty in that.”

If it’s true he decided to kill himself, it came abruptly. On Thursday, he told a colleague “I’ll be there” for a Sunday poker game with other co-workers. Bates called in sick on Friday, and he was dead by 5 p.m. that day.

Maybe Bates just received a diagnosis of a deadly disease. Maybe he learned he was on a list for possible job cuts. Regardless, if he felt like killing himself, he should have gotten professional help, pronto.

Yes, his story is sad. But Bates’ abrupt decision also caused a lot of pain for his co-workers, family and especially the train engineer.

A “green” refueling stop April 23, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations.
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Urban Tulsa published a long, wide-ranging article about Michael Wallis, Tulsa and the Route 66 Alliance, and two guys who want to drive Route 66 this summer in a 1966 GTO that’s been converted to run on compressed natural gas.

But the most newsworthy part of the article is Albert “Albee” Thomas’ plans for building alternative-fuels refilling stations along Route 66:

In addition to offering alternative fuel pumps, each Green Choice 66 station eventually will feature a restaurant and an interactive Route 66 exhibit featuring vintage cars and electronic media. That’s where the “linear experience” part of the name comes in — each station will present a different part of the Route 66 story, with the idea that motorists will be led to visit each one along their trip. That way, each station becomes a destination.

Each station would range in size from 4,500 to 6,900 square feet and offer three to nine alternative fuel pumps. The buildings would be designed employing sustainable techniques, with electricity for the fuel pumps, recharge stations and the building itself coming from the sun’s energy, produced by photovoltaic panels on the roof and adjacent PV power farm.

Beyond that, Thomas said, he hopes to create the Route 66 Institute, a clearinghouse of information about the roadway and alternative fuels that will begin as a Web site before evolving into an actual building. The institute is designed to promote the creation of an alternative fuels network across the country.

According to Thomas’ new plan, Americana Fuel Centers is aiming for an August 2011 launch date.

Thomas is lining up investors for the plan. The Route 66 Alliance is no longer involved with Thomas’ proposal, but give him its blessing.

The story behind Ozark Trail obelisks April 23, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, History, Signs.
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The Plainview (Texas) Daily Herald posted a fascinating story about the obelisks that once dotted the length of the Ozark Trail highway system, which parts of which became early alignments of Route 66.

According to the Drive The Old Spanish Trail Web site (www.drivetheost.com), various trail associations were formed early in the 20th century to encourage local communities to improve and maintain roadways and to aid travelers in finding their way. One of those groups was the Ozark Trail Association which employed a green-and-white paint scheme to mark its path.

Rather than a single roadway, the Ozark Trail had several principal branches and generally followed a line from St. Louis, Mo., to Santa Fe., N.M. […]

At first the group simply painted a green “OT” between two green stripes against a white background on telephone poles, boulders, barns and just about anything that could hold paint.

However, in 1913, organization founder and Arkansas resort owner William Hope “Coin” Harvey suggested erecting “white pillars bearing the inscription ‘Ozark Trails.’ ”

According to the article, only seven such obelisks are known to have survived. One is southwest of Stroud, Okla., on a lonely gravel road that once was the Ozark Trail and, later on, Route 66. The story says the Stroud obelisk had been moved, although that is in dispute.

Miami, Okla., plans on building a replica of the obelisk at Route 66 and Central Street.

Next on the Mother Road April 23, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Fashion, Music, Road trips, Television.
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Next, a fashion website based in Great Britain, recently had a film shoot on Route 66 in West Hollywood to the Mojave Desert. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video:

Here’s the finished product:

Dig the soundtrack by the Dandy Warhols.

Catching up on my biblical road trips April 22, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Religion.
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A reader noted that I’d missed a couple of new installments of “Route 66: A Road Trip through the Bible.” The first is about the Book of Micah, in which God must be one heck of an accountant:

The second is a hep-cat installment from the Book of Nahum. It reminds me why many people don’t think highly of beat poetry:

Notes from the road April 22, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, Events, Motels, Movies, Museums, People, Road trips, Signs, Web sites.
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Richard Talley of the Motel Safari in Tucumcari, N.M., says a lot has been happening in his town lately. Here’s what he said by e-mail (with some minor editing):

Here’s a shot of the new AutoPros auto care center across the street from us on Route 66 (used to be Tucumcari Tire Co., closed for years). They just had their grand opening this week, and are already booked up with business.

La Cita’s Mexican Restaurant on Route 66, has also recently opened a new flower shop out of the restaurant and it seems to be booming, too. So that’s a lot of NEW activity on Route 66 here in Tucumcari this year!

Yvette and Yvonne, who own Del’s and Kix on 66 restaurants, bought the old Dean’s restaurant earlier this year on Route 66, and have reopened it as the Rocking Y’s Roadhouse.

Doug and Sharon Quarles have opened an art gallery on Route 66 as well this year. Things has moved across the street on Route 66, to the old Ranch House Café building, and there’s a few more businesses coming in on Route 66 this summer.

So Route 66 is looking up in Tucumcari, now let’s keep those volcano ashes away!

— The Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow, Calif., now has a Facebook page.

— Michael Wallis, author of “Route 66: The Mother Road” and the voice of the Sheriff in the movie “Cars,” tells me he will be heading into the studio “in the near future” to reprise his role for “Cars 2,” the sequel that will be in theaters in summer 2011. He said he’s also lent his Sheriff voice for the Cars Land amusement park that’s being built at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

— The Community News of Pontiac, Ill., has announced the events planned for the Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival on May 1-2, which runs from Joliet to Towanda, Ill. Among them are the opening of the New International Walldog Mural & Sign Art Museum in Pontiac and book-signings by photographer Michael Campanelli at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. A full listing of the festival’s events is here.

— The McElroy Tire building on 1545 E. 11th St. in Tulsa is being torn down this week. The business closed late last year after more than 70 years, having been squeezed by the national auto-repair chains. There’s been no word on what will happen to its distinctive blue and yellow sign.

— Megan Gist has begun her quest to travel 1,400 miles on horseback — much of it on Route 66 — to the Mississippi River in St. Louis. At last report, she was heading east from Claremore, Okla. Her blog is here.

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