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Ride across the river August 30, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, Bridges.
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A cyclist takes us all the way across the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which once carried Route 66 over the Mississippi River. It’s now open to pedestrians and cyclists only.

In it, you’ll see the St. Louis skyline in the distance, the water intake towers, and several Route 66-related displays.

The cyclist is sucking wind in parts of the video, but the bridge remains deceptively steep in parts.

Bible journey is back on the road August 29, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Religion.
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After a summer hiatus, the “Route 66: A Road Trip through the Bible” is back this week, with an entry from the first book of John.

It shows once again why folks nowadays don’t pick up hitchhikers.

Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que damaged by fire August 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.

The popular Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que restaurant along Route 66 in Cuba, Mo., was severely damaged in a fire late Saturday or early Sunday, according varying accounts from Cuba residents on Facebook.

The restaurant isn’t historic, but remains notable for its hillbilly-style cedar decor and furniture, in addition to its much-praised barbecue. It’s a prime example of a relatively news establishment that’s embraced the Mother Road’s old-time quirkiness and hospitality.

It’s been listed for years on the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide, and is a member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

The Missouri Hick also sits just east of the historic and restored Wagon Wheel Motel. Its overnight guests often ate their supper there.

Here’s a video shot last year about the Missouri Hick, during the Route 66 by the Cars for a Grand folks:

I’ll track down more information about the blaze and post it here …

UPDATE: A blog post by Jane Reed at Cuba Murals had some details about the fire at Dennis Meiser’s restaurant:

A group of dispirited employess were sitting on the front porch. Doors to the building were propped open. Other than telling me not to go into the building, they didn’t have much to say. It was plain that the fire had saddened them. One employee said that the fire department may have been alerted by the fire alarm system during the middle of the night. No employees were on site when the fire started, and Meiser had been out of town. The employees said that he was on his way back to Cuba.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that while both floors of the dining areas are smoke-damaged, they are intact. The outside of the building on the front and sides look about the same. Most of the damage was in the kitchen although the front door was cracked.

We have not talked to the fire department or Dennis, but we hope this popular eatery is soon reopened.

Reed also posted some photos from the fire scene. The damage to the restaurant is not readily apparent. So perhaps the Missouri Hick will reopen quickly after repairs are made.

UPDATE 8/31/2011: The Cuba Free Press posted a report. An alert state trooper on patrol saw the fire in its early stages, thus preventing it from becoming a lot more damaging.

Fire officials think the restaurant could reopen within 30 days.

UPDATE 9/21/2011: Meiser said today the restaurant would reopen by mid- to late October.

UPDATE 10/24/2011: Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que has reopened. Here’s the report from the Cuba Murals blog.

Food magazine devotes entire issue to Route 66 August 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Food, Magazines, Restaurants, Road trips, Web sites.

Popular Plates magazine is devoting its current issue to food and restaurants along Route 66. This particular magazine boasts the added cachet of employing Michael and Jane Stern, authors of the popular “Roadfood” book and website, as the editors.

The magazine is 96 pages and costs $9.99. It will be on sale at bookstores and other retailers (I found it Saturday in a grocery) through Oct. 3.

The magazine’s content includes a forward written by the Sterns, a history and overview of Route 66, 12 must-stop dining places on the Mother Road, an advertorial about a trip on Route 66 in three General Motors vehicles, specific food specialties from Chicago to Los Angeles, and more than 75 recipes inspired by Route 66’s regions.

The last part contains how-to-make instructions on cowboy caviar, Navajo lamb and hominy chili, horseshoe sandwiches, buttermilk pie, and even an old-fashioned beer-battered brain sandwich.

The magazine is sprinkled with short sidebar stories about Route attractions. And the photography is gorgeous and even scrumptious. I nearly groaned with hunger when I saw a close-up image of a slice of Texas pecan pie.

An inside look at Popular Plates' Route 66 issue.

Some of the content from the Route 66 issue can be found online here. But the dead-tree issue is worth your money and time — especially with longtime road warriors such as the Sterns guiding the way.

You also can order the Route 66 issue from Popular Plates here.

Billy Connolly rolls out publicity for Route 66 series August 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Road trips, Television.

Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly has been making the publicity rounds this week ahead of a Route 66 travelogue that’s set to air on ITV next month.

Most of his interviews center around his motorcycle accident during the trip. His trike ran over him on a incline near Flagstaff, Ariz. He broke a rib, gashed his knee, and spent a week in a hospital before resuming — and finishing — his Mother Road journey.

He told TV Biz: “It was my own fault. We came to a part of Route 66 which was hard with gravel and scooped up. The camera car was in front of me and took it easily, but my bike has got three wheels and I went up and round.

“I had a thing for cruise control on the throttle and it jammed on and I slipped the clutch and the trike came over on top of me and broke my rib. I have got a rather glamorous purple patch on my knee which you will only see when I wear my kilt. I will lie about it though, God damn those Germans and their shrapnel!”

As for Route 66 itself, Connolly told The Sun of London:

Billy said his favourite stop on the tour was a tiny place where there was just ONE woman. He said: “I could deal with a town like that as I’m always in trouble with women. One at a time!”

That must have been the Texas-New Mexico border town of Glenrio.

He told the Daily Record about collecting souvenirs along the Mother Road:

“My trip to America meant travelling the length of Route 66 on my trike and I think I must have stopped at every souvenir shop on the way to buy things for my grandchildren,” he said.

“And, let me tell you, there are a lot of souvenir shops on Route 66. But I had to do it. My grandchildren collect keyrings and badges, and one of my daughters collects teaspoons.

“The bill for sending that lot home via FedEx was enormous but, of course, worth every penny.

“I didn’t want to let them down. I love being a dad and a grandad and would do anything for my children and grandchildren.”

And he also said this about the Mother Road itself:

“I was keen to make the series because the route is a particular favourite of mine. I think it’s sad how American people don’t appear to care too much for it.

“In Scotland, we’ve got the West Highland Way which is just a path, with no history, and yet people guard it with their lives and volunteer to keep it in good shape.

“With Route 66, there’s none of that and it’s sad because it’s magnificent.”

He also told the Daily Mail:

He recently said: ‘How many other roads do you know that people sing about? It is just one of those places you long to see.

‘Ever since I was a wee boy in Glasgow, I have fantasised about getting my kicks on Route 66.

‘This will be a tale in tarmac of presidents and paupers, cowboys and Indians, diners and drive-throughs, framed in a landscape from 100 movies with a soundtrack of the greatest music in the world – rock and roll.’

In England, “Billy Connolly’s Route 66″ starts on STV on Sept. 15 and runs for four weeks.

Show-Me Missouri magazine creates a tourism app August 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Maps, Web sites.
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Show-Me Missouri, a travel magazine, this week released a Show-Me Missouri travel app for Apple iPhones, iTouches and iPads.

According to the Apple app store, the application contains more than 200 entries and 1,000 photographs. It costs $2.99, and updates are free. The app is compatible with iOS systems of 3.0 and up.

And the app includes Route 66 as one of the categories that users can explore.

The Daily Dunklin Democrat spoke with Show-Me Missouri Publisher Gary Figgins about the app:

The Show-Me Missouri app project has been more than a year in the making, and it is a work-in-progress, as additional entires are already being compiled for future updates, said Figgins. The Show-Me Missouri app is not an electronic version of the quarterly full-color travel magazine, but is, instead, a travel assistant that provides in-depth information on a wide range of attractions and destinations in the state. […] Each listing includes an in-depth description, admission cost and hours. Users can visit attraction websites and call for more information, all from within the app.

Attractions are cross-referenced in 17 different categories: Art & Architecture, Caves, Child Friendly, Civil War, Distinctly Missouri, Famous Faces, Fun On The Water, Great Photo Ops, Highway 36, Historic Places, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Museums, Naturally Missouri, Route 66, State/National Parks and Theme Parks & Zoos. The listings can be sorted by name, distance from current location, cost and region. With iPhone or iPad “Location Services” activated, directions can be generated for each listing using the internal map on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Somewhat different from a regular GPS, “lesser-known” attractions without actual street addresses are plotted on the device’s map, allowing directions to be generated even without an address.

Here are a couple of screen shots from the app:

Using the app, I saw less than two dozen attractions listed for Route 66. A lot of restaurants and motels are left off, although the Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q in Cuba and the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon made the cut.

Sadly, the marvelously restored Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba was omitted. And the app includes an embarrassing photo — a car driving across the Meramec River Bridge at Route 66 State Park, a feat which is no longer possible since the closing of the bridge in 2009.

It’s not a bad app for someone seeking major attractions or side trips from the Mother Road. And don’t be surprised if state tourism agencies and other big-time travel magazines get into the act.

But better travel apps exist out there for roadies, include Roadside America’s, River Pilot’s Route 66 Attractions app for Garmin GPS, and Kelly Ludwig’s Road Trip 66.

Restoration work begins on Luna Cafe sign August 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Signs.

Restoration work on the vintage neon sign at the Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Ill., began Thursday when it was removed and taken to a restoration shop in St. Charles, Mo.

Jim Thole of the Route 66 Association of Missouri says it will take six to eight weeks to restore the sign. He thinks a relighting ceremony will be scheduled in mid-October.

The Luna Cafe received an $11,000 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore the sign. Here’s what the program said about the business and the sign:

The Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois was built in 1926, the same year Route 66 was commissioned as a highway. With over 85 years of continuous service, the Luna has reportedly had many famous visitors including Al Capone, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Sr., and Ike & Tina Turner. Local memory recalls it serving variously as a Route 66 cafe, piano bar, boarding house, brothel, upscale restaurant, and meeting spot for gangsters. The neon sign with its iconic ruby red cherries lit up the night for over 40 years before going dark in the 1990s. The Missouri and Illinois Route 66 Associations are partnering with the owner of the Luna to oversee the restoration of the sign.

Back in the old days, the red cherries in the martini glass reputedly were lighted only when the “working girls” in the brothel were, ahem, available for business.

(Photos courtesy of Jim Thole)

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