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More about Route 66 Beer September 25, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food.

About a week ago, a new ad for Route 66 Beer showed up on the Internet:

Another ad was posted earlier in the month, although details were sketchy about the product — other than the company was based in London and the only place in the U.S. to buy the beer was New York City.

But Aaron Maughan, a public relations officer for London-based Protege International, found me. Protege is the marketer for Route 66 Beer, and Maughan told me this in an email:

Using a unique recipe and American ingredients (especially Yakima Valley cascade and cluster hops), Route 66 Beer is full bodied, bolder and more satisfying.

Distributed by Central States Beverages in Kansas and Missouri, Route 66 Beer is now available on draft in all the best bars in Kansas City (MO).

From November bottles will be available in Kansas City with Route 66’s eye-catching new label that represents the endless possibilities, the truly inspiring American experience that is the Mother Road, Route 66. This will be rolled out nationally. Keep a look out for it in a bar near you.

In a follow-up email, Maughan said Route 66 Beer is brewed in Wisconsin.

The website’s store locater still wasn’t updated as of this writing. But Maughan said the site would be refurbished in the coming weeks.

Illinois governor touts Route 66 as tourism destination for Brazilians September 25, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Road trips.
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On Monday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn extolled his state, including its section of Route 66, as a tourism destination during a trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

According to a news release, Quinn said:

“Illinois offers Brazilians an authentic American experience. Whether it is the world-class culture and scenic lakefront in Chicago, the history of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, the bluffs along the Mississippi River or the farmlands surrounding the historic Route 66 highway, Brazilian travelers will find plenty to enjoy in Illinois.”

That’s not just lip service Quinn is paying to the Mother Road and Brazil. Check out this data:

Governor Quinn’s effort to draw more Brazilian visitors to Illinois builds on recent tourism gains. Illinois welcomed 56,000 visitors from Brazil in 2011, making Brazilians the seventh largest group of overseas travelers to Illinois [my emphasis]. Inbound travel from Brazil to the U.S. is expected to grow 70 percent between 2011 and 2016.

The data matches anecdotal evidence from business owners and tourism officials about a surge in Brazilian travelers on Route 66.

It’s been apparent the number of Chinese tourists would see a big upswing in the coming years because of that country’s massive population and its fast-rising middle class. Businesses on the Mother Road are seeing Brazilians for many of the same reasons, and should continue to do so for the rest of the decade.

Springfield festival sees bigger numbers September 24, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events.
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The just-completed International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in downtown Springfield, Ill., saw higher numbers in both attendance and classic-car entrants, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Kim Rosendahl, president of the festival, said there were about 1,100 cars on display compared to fewer than 1,000 last year.

Estimates also had more people at this year’s show.

“I checked with the police. They thought the crowds were really good. The last couple years it has been 70,000 to 80,000 for the weekend, and they thought probably closer to 80,000 this year. The streets were packed,” Rosendahl said.

Next year’s festival is Sept. 27-29. The festival became an annual event after Springfield hosted the International Route 66 Festival in 2002.

Bridge plan threatens three historic Oklahoma Route 66 bridges September 24, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.

A recently updated eight-year plan for bad bridges in Oklahoma targets three Route 66 bridges for replacement, including the famous Pony Bridge near Bridgeport.

The initial news release about the bridge plan said spans would be replaced or rehabilitated. However, Kenna Mitchell, a member of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Media and Public Relations Division, confirmed in an email that three prominent Route 66 bridges would be replaced, not repaired.

The three bridges you cite below are scheduled for replacement at this time. […] While the department certainly recognizes the historic nature and the public interest in these bridges, we also have to balance those concerns with the continued safety of these structures and of the travelling public.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for those bridges. More on that later.

The bridges are:

  • The Captain Creek Bridge, built in 1932 on Oklahoma Highway 66B in Wellston, replaced for $2.37 million by 2019. It was repaired as recently as 2006.
  • The Timber Creek Bridge, built in 1926 on a south frontage road (aka Route 66) of Interstate 40 northeast of Sayre, replaced for $1.9 million by 2019 
  • The Pony Bridge, aka U.S. 281 bridge, built in 1933 over the South Canadian River, replaced for $10.66 million by 2016

The loss of the Pony Bridge would deal a huge loss to Route 66 tourism in western Oklahoma. The unique span, which features 38 “pony” trusses, has been featured in countless magazines and videos, including this one:

Also, the scene where Grandpa is buried in the Oscar-winning movie “The Grapes of Wrath” was shot near the west end of the Pony Bridge. At the time, the bridge was only six years old.

One wild card that may favorably affect plans on those bridges is an ODOT memorandum of agreement “for highway improvement projects [including bridges] along the Route 66 corridor” that Mitchell said will be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office by the end of the week. The MOA was required after the state replaced the 1936 Bird Creek Bridge, also on Route 66 near Catoosa, last year.

Mitchell acknowledged in the email that plans for those bridges “are not yet finalized as to the scope of the work or to preservation efforts.”

Strangely, Melveena Heisch, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, said in an email Friday she was unaware of the MOA’s imminent arrival to her office, nor was she aware of its contents.

Interestingly, Mitchell said the memorandum’s author is ODOT engineer Dawn Sullivan, who said at one of the Bird Creek Bridge hearings the Pony Bridge would be preserved.

“We know it’s the crown jewel of Route 66 in Oklahoma,” she said at the time.

Also, the stated cost of $10.66 million for the Pony Bridge seems insufficient for replacement. The new Bird Creek Bridge, about 800 feet long, cost $5.4 million. The Pony Bridge spans nearly 4,000 feet over the volatile South Canadian River — five times longer than the Bird Creek Bridge.

I urge that you contact the Oklahoma Department of Transportation at odotinfo(at)odot(dot)org and ask it to repair, not replace, the bridges. Also, Gov. Mary Fallin, who has stated her support for tourism, should be contacted at info(at)gov(dot)ok(dot)gov about this crisis for Route 66 bridges.

As Heisch said in her email:

I can tell you that the only way we can have success preserving historic bridges is when local citizens let ODOT know they want the bridges retained and used. They have to speak up and write letters too. To paraphrase a famous congressman, all preservation is local.

UPDATE 9/27/2012: In a comment, Oklahoma Route 66 historian Jim Ross contacted a source at ODOT, and has this to report:

Only one bridge is currently in peril and it is none of the three under discussion. It is the Warren pony truss on Pryor Creek at Chelsea, which will be “let” for replacement in July of 2013. It may be too late to save it, but we can try.

Captain Creek Bridge at Wellston: this is not a repair or replace plan, but a “right of way plan” scheduled for November 2014. According to my source, being a “right of way plan” strongly suggests they will go around the existing bridge. Replacements rarely involve altering the right of way.

Timber Creek Bridge: 2017 – this project specifies “Bridge and Approach.” Since it does not use the word “replace,” the project most likely involves a new bridge on an altered alignment, hence the “Approach” part of the plan. This one, however, needs to be watched closely.

Pony Bridge: At this point the only entry is for a new right of way plan, once again strongly suggesting a new bridge on a new alignment, probably to the west of the current bridge. They are aware that this bridge is on the National Register, and as such cannot be destroyed as part of a Federal Aid Project.

Coney Island restaurant moves into Springfield’s Sonrise Donuts building September 23, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Restaurants, Signs.

The historic Coney Island restaurant in Springfield, Ill., has reopened in the equally historic Sonrise Donuts building, according to the Springfield State Journal-Register. Both restaurants boasted long tenures on Route 66.

Emilio and Rosa Lomeli reopened The New Coney Island this month at Sonrise Donut at 1101 S. Ninth St. (aka Route 66).

It is at least the fourth stop for the Coney Island name since the restaurant left 114 N. Sixth St. in 2000 to clear the way for construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. […]

The Sonrise Donut building has been vacant for nearly two years. The Lomelis said they plan to keep the history of both restaurants, including a menu that combines corn dogs, burgers and fries and Mexican-American fare. […]

The Lomelis said the vintage Sonrise Donut signage, old-style Formica counter, bright red counter stools and the interior design will remain. They also plan to add The New Coney Island signage.

Alas, no doughnuts are being served yet. Hours at the restaurant are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Coney Island dates to 1919 in Springfield, with most of its years on 114 N. Sixth St. I had the pleasure of eating those coney dogs during the International Route 66 Festival in 2002.

Sonrise Donuts opened in 1947 and closed in 1998 after the owner’s death.

The State Journal-Register also provided this other newsworthy tidbit from Atlanta, Ill.:

The commission and a local contractor are working on restoration of a home that served as a Route 66 rooming house in the 1940s. Plans are to reopen next summer.

“It will be operated as a rooming house,” Thomas said, “if you want to come and experience a night along the road before the days of motels.”

Mother Road music on tap September 23, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.

Here’s a sing-and-tap version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ by Merry Lou Metzger and Jack Imel on a 1980 episode of “The Lawrence Welk Show.”

That’ll never be as surreal as this moment from the Welk show.

Route 66 Interpretive Plaza in Tulsa is finished September 22, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Gas stations, Highways, History, Maps, Motels.
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Travelers on Route 66 in Tulsa now have a new, short side trip to check out — the Route 66 Interpretive Plaza near 11th Street and Mingo Road.

The sign in a median at that intersection that directs you to the plaza and the two Route 66 alignments in Tulsa was finished months ago.

However, the plaques that explained key elements of Route 66’s history in Tulsa were installed just a few days ago. The plaza sits a short distance south of 11th Street in the J.D. Metcalfe Flood Control and Recreation Area, created about two decades ago after a catastrophic flood in 1984.

As the area’s name implies, it’s a spot for walkers, picnickers, and fishermen in addition to flood retention.

But don’t worry too much if you decide to visit the Route 66 Interpretive Plaza after a rainstorm. It lies near the highest point of the flood-control area.

Each of the plaques is mounted on this concrete monolith emblazoned with the Route 66 shield.

The biggest plaque shows a map of Route 66 in Tulsa County, with the two alignments and points of interest. (You can click each photo of the plaques to enlarge them.)


One of the plaques delves into the Avery Tourist Camp, owned by Tulsa resident Cyrus “The Father of Route 66″ Avery.


Another plaque describes the two alignments of Route 66 — Admiral Place in 1926-32, and 11th Street in 1932-1973.


Another tells the history of Route 66 motor courts in Tulsa, citing the Campbell Hotel, Oasis Motel, Desert Hills Motel, and Brookshire Motel as surviving examples.


Finally, the last plaque describes the Whittier Square District, best known for the historic Circle Cinema.


The Interpretive Plaza seems somewhat low-key in its presentation and design. But it provides valuable context for novice Route 66 travelers, at a convenient location.

UPDATE: A few folks were having problems seeing the plaque photos, so I reduced them to thumbnail size. You can still click on the photos to enlarge them.

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