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Putting their best clip forward April 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Towns.
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This video about the Route 66 town of Elk City, Okla., does a good job telling potential tourists about the city’s strengths:

Expect smart chambers of commerce to do a lot more of this in the future.

Maybe that’s not a good idea April 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Motorcycles.

The Route 66 town of Depew, Okla., is considering the annexation of 107 acres of land west of town that includes Charlie Elliott’s Route 66 Biker Park, according to the Sapulpa Daily Herald.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at the Depew Town Hall. Three of the town’s five trustees must vote in favor for the annexation to pass.

According to the newspaper, Mayor Robert Talley wants the annexation:

Talley is on record as supporting the annexation of the biker rally camp, noting the extra revenues from sales taxes the town would receive from events held on the Elliott property.

Perhaps that’s true. However, Talley and the trustees had better think long and hard about this.

Several years ago, Elliott’s Route 66 Biker Park hosted such raucous parties — including topless karaoke — that neighbors complained. (Elliott’s property sits in a rural area.) Creek County authorities stepped in and ended the big bashes there.

Elliott even made the highly dubious claim that his business was a church and that it wasn’t subject to county rules regarding large gatherings. He made equally dubious and outrageous claims against the county (this MySpace page will give you a taste).

Until they were banned, Elliott’s supporters showed up on this site and obnoxiously lambasted his critics.

So this proposal essentially would allow Elliott to skirt county rules, because his property would fall under Depew jurisdiction.

Yes, Depew might gain extra money from Elliott’s operations. But the town also would gain someone who’s been shown to be — at the least — a bad neighbor. One would have to question whether that’s a good trade-off.

Needles jumps onto the murals movement April 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Towns.

It looks like Needles, Calif., is the latest to use murals to beautify a Route 66 town and draw in tourists.

According to the Needles Desert Star, artist Dan Luden of nearby Chloride, Ariz., has completed murals at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant, Best Western Colorado River Inn, Gus’ Really Good Jerky building, and a Chevron gas station on Needles Highway. All of the murals depict Route 66 in various ways.

Luden recently finished a second mural for the Chevron gas station on Needles Highway with the help of Vicki Bowden, who has also helped with the other murals. The duo painted the first mural featuring “Peanuts” characters “Snoopy,” “Woodstock” and “Spike,” Snoopy’s brother and Needles resident and outlined the entire historic Route 66.

The second mural is more subdued in color, using a light blue background and old black and white photos as models. […]

The idea was to attract more customers using Route 66 as the attraction and thus far it’s been working, he continued. He’s had several travelers stop at the station to look around and get photos of the murals.

The project has provided such encouraging results, the Needles Downtown Business Alliance may hire Luden to paint a mural at a flood control spillway, between the East Broadway and J Street off Interstate 40. Luden also will paint a mural for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.

Murals have become a popular way to dress up Route 66 towns, including Cuba, Mo.; Tucumcari, N.M.; and Pontiac, Ill.

More teaser clips from KY3’s Route 66 special April 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Television.
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KY3, a television station based in Springfield, Mo., has posted short clips from its upcoming one-hour special about Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks.

More KY3 clips can be viewed here. The special will air at 7 p.m. Friday, and will be posted on the Internet at a later date.

Local officials keep closer watch on Luna Cafe April 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants.
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A few weeks ago, a woman was shot in the right ear during karaoke night at the historic Luna Cafe, along old Route 66 in Mitchell, Ill. I didn’t take much note of it, thinking it was random violence.

However, this report in the Edwardsville Intelligencer indicates the Luna may be attracting a nastier clientele. According to the newspaper, a woman was robbed at gunpoint in the tavern’s parking lot on March 19. In July, a man was stabbed in the parking lot during an argument.

The situation has gotten bad enough where Madison County officials talked of requiring the owners to buy surveillance cameras. But a sheriff’s Capt. Eric Decker said it’s not the only answer to quelling the violence:

“Unfortunately, it’s a case of having a bad element that patronizes the area and doesn’t behave well,” Decker said. “I don’t think there’s a magic wand you can wave that will make them follow the laws.”

Decker encouraged the committee to develop guidelines that discourage violent incidents, and said his department will work with them to enforce those recommendations. “Our concern is the safety of the citizens of Madison County while they’re in the establishment having a beer or grabbing a burger,” he said. “But if some of these establishments cannot provide that safety, then something has to be done.”

I covered county governments for newspapers for years. If the Luna Cafe doesn’t straighten up soon, Madison County will look seriously at yanking the tavern’s liquor license. Madison County officials didn’t say that publicly, but I guarantee they’re thinking it.

This saddens me. I’ve always regarded the Luna Cafe as a great blue-collar bar that’s equally hospitable to area steelworkers and Route 66 cruisers.  It’s a place where you can hear Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. on the jukebox, and the local favorite Stag beer is kept cold.

It’s hoped this uptick in violence proves to be an aberration. Or perhaps the Luna will crack down on the bad element, at least.

A note from the past April 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Motels, People, Restaurants, Road trips, Television.
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Greene HD Productions has posted another episode of “Route 66: The Marathon Tour.” This one, which starts in Chicago, is going to be bittersweet for a many longtime roadies.

First, it contains an interview with Zora Vidas, longtime owner of the historic Wishing Well Motel in Countryside, Ill. Vidas died a few years ago, and her motel is no more.

Second, it includes an interview with Bob Kraft at the Riviera Roadhouse in Gardner, Ill. Kraft is still alive, but his Riviera was destroyed in a fire last year.


Billy Connolly hits the Mother Road April 25, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Road trips, Television.
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Some months ago, we reported that Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly would be traveling Route 66 sometime in 2011 with a film crew in tow for a four-part television travel series. The working title is “Billy Connolly’s Route 66.”

Today, we received word that Connolly showed up in Pontiac, Ill. According to Ellie Alexander of Pontiac Tourism:

While in Pontiac, Connolly and his crew filmed at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, inside the Bob Waldmire school bus mobile home, and Connolly painted a portion of the Bob Waldmire Memorial Mural with Jane, Bill, Ben and Joe from Diaz Sign Art.  The Waldmire mural will be completed during the Red Carpet Corridor Festival, May 7 & 8, and the public is invited to help paint it.

Here’s a photo of Connolly with a portion of that mural:

So, if you see a silvery-haired gent riding a trike motorcycle along the Mother Road in the next few days, chances are good it’s Mr. Connolly. Make sure you give him a wave.

UPDATE 4/26/2011: The Pontiac Daily Leader published a story today about Connolly’s visit.

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