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Test flight with Luigi’s Flying Tires December 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Movies.
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Testing continues on the rides that will be offered at Cars Land of Disney California Adventure. A few days ago, the latest test was on the Luigi’s Flying Tires.

According to the Disney Parks Blog:

The vehicles have been made to look like oversized Fettuccini brand tires – the same tires Luigi proudly displays in his shop, Luigi’s Casa della Tires. Once guests are seated inside their tires, Luigi will direct Guido to turn on the air compressor. With that command, air will be pumped up through openings in the floor of the tire yard and the vehicles will begin to float and fly. With Luigi’s Flying Tires, the guest is really in control of the vehicle. By shifting your weight around, you can control the direction of your travel. And if that’s not enough fun, you can always turn a lever and make your tire spin!

“Cars” director John Lasseter recently came by to test one of the rides:

Cars Land is scheduled to open sometime in summer 2012.

By the way, the main Cars Land site contains a new video about the complex, which is a re-creation of the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs from the 2006 film.

A visit to Red Oak II December 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Preservation, Towns.
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This video by Steve Crutchfield shows and explains the Red Oak II complex off old Route 66 near Carthage, Mo.

For more, the Red Oak II official website is here.

Christmas Eve at the Wagon Wheel Motel December 24, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Weather.

One year ago today, I woke up to this at the lovingly restored Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Mo.

Music is “Song of Assisi,” by Marc Gunn.

Litchfield drive-in converting to digital December 23, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Television.
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The historic SkyView Drive-In theater along old Route 66 in Litchfield, Ill., soon will convert from 35mm film to a digital format, according to Sonic Equipment Co., a cinema equipment company that’s been hired to do the work.

This is only the third drive-in where the company has switched it to digital. The other two are in Texas, not near Route 66. Sonic Equipment is based in Iola, Kan., and has converted hundreds of movie screens to digital all over the country.

There are only two other drive-in theaters on or near Route 66 still operating. One is the historic 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Mo., and the other is the Route 66 Drive-In in Springfield, Ill. The Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa is closed after a fire destroyed its double screen, but it is scheduled to reopen in 2012.

Ron Hageman, installation supervisor at Sonic Equipment, says digital provides viewers a sharper picture on the screen, plus the format won’t get scratched or damaged like film.

The cost of converting a cinema to digital ranges from $60,000 to $100,000, Hageman says. He said about 50 percent of screens in the U.S. already have made the switchover, and that number will continue to rise.

Hageman said SkyView will get movies each week with a hard drive shipped to the premises. But he said the technology exists now where a theater operator can start to download a movie by satellite or high-speed Internet and project it on a screen within 10 to 20 minutes.

The implications of this new technology could be staggering. I foresee a day when independent cinemas could show a variety of films on the same screen in one day. One could screen the current black-and-white film “The Artist,” then 1942’s “Casablanca” on the next showing. Instead of a blizzard of previews, movie houses could instead show a 22-minute episode of “Cheers” or “I Love Lucy” before the main feature.

The current setup with film makes such a smorgasbord of entertainment extremely difficult or impossible. I hold no doubts the digital conversion will be difficult for many small-town or independent cinemas, and a number of them will perish. But this format also could be a marvelous opportunity for creative programmers.

A Santa Fe Christmas December 23, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns.
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Santa Fe’s history, architecture, and culture make it a unique place to visit during the holidays. This video by Ken Lord from a couple of years ago shows it:


Former Midway restaurant will be demolished December 22, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants.
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The building that once housed the Midway restaurant at old Route 66 and Missouri Highway 19 in Cuba, Mo., soon will be demolished, reported the Cuba Free Press.

The Midway started as a small cafe in the 1930s and kept expanding. The newspaper article makes it clear that the restaurant was a focal point of the community, and important to cross-country travelers as well.

An excerpt:

Mrs. Earls sold the restaurant to Dan Harris in 1974, so that she could travel with her husband. When the new owner asked for the keys, she said, “What keys?” The doors had never closed for 38 years, and there were no keys. Later, Harris sold the business to Junior Beers, who took over for a short time until St. Louis Blues hockey star Noel Picard and his family bought the business in 1976.

While Noel Picard and his wife Viviane owned the business it was visited by Blues players, as well as St. Louis football and baseball players. There was a cafeteria, dining room, cocktail lounge, and a meeting room. The Picard kids, Danny and Annie, often worked after school at the restaurant. The Picards hosted special events for the community and threw a New Year’s Eve party for 150 people.

The building was purchased in 1984 and converted into a business mall. The structure has sat empty for several years, mostly because of problems with mold and asbestos.

The Cuba Mural City blog contains plenty of history, too, as well as a bunch of vintage photographs and recent images of the building’s decline.

A final word from the Free Press about the Midway:

Many are sad to see the old building lose its way and be demolished, but many of the community were lucky enough to hear the music, drink the inexpensive cokes, and forge friendships and loves there that lasted a lifetime. The Midway will live on as long as there are people left to reminisce about what the old building meant to them.

Dec. 30 will be declared Bill Shea Day in Springfield December 22, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, History, Museums, People.

Bill Shea, longtime proprietor of a gas station museum along Route 66 in Springfield, Ill., turns 90 years old on Dec. 30, and is also marking his 66th year as a business owner on the Mother Road.

To mark the occasion, the City of Springfield is declaring Dec. 30 as Bill Shea Day, according to Alicia Erickson at the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Shea has been a great ambassador for Route 66 for many years, even though he’s never driven the length of the road. He’s in the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, and has been the subject of many Route 66 books and videos.

But what’s lesser-known is he’s also a veteran of the D-Day invasion in 1944. Longtime roadie RoadDog recently passed along this story that Shea told about his Omaha Beach experiences:

I mentioned about the LST-325 that is touring the Illinois River at the current time. Bill said he landed on Omaha Beach in a Higgins Boat, the one you see Tom Hanks on in “Saving Private Ryan.” He said that the guys running the boat would always drop that front end way out in the water so that the soldiers would be completely inundated when they stepped off it. That was particularly bad for him as he was short to begin with.

Making the disembarkation worse was that the Higgins Boat had stopped over some shell craters caused by the huge bombardment that preceded the landings.

He’ll never forget the guy from Louisiana who left the boat when he did. When the two managed to surface, the Louisianan sputtered, “This will be an even easier landing for the bastards behind us because I just drank half the channel.”

Mr. Shea still has sand taken from the beach on D-Day as well as some dragon teeth from an emblem from the German line and rocks from the cliff scaled by US forces at D-Day.

Shea’s military uniform also hangs at the museum. According to one blogger who interviewed him, that uniform also was worn by his son, his grandson, and even great grandson before they went off to the armed services.

A bunch more photos of Shea’s museum can be found here.

Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum also has a Facebook page here.

Here’s a video of the museum. Alas, Bill wasn’t there that day:

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