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A pink Elvis cycles down Route 66 November 24, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bicycling, People, Road trips.
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No, you haven’t had too much to drink. That is a pink Elvis on Route 66.

We encounter many stories about folks pulling all sorts of endurance stunts on Route 66 for charity. However, we couldn’t put this one in the “seen that already” pile — a pink jumpsuit-clad Elvis Presley impersonator riding his bicycle down the Mother Road to raise money for the American Cancer Society and other cancer charities.

According to a report by KOLR-TV in Springfield, Mo., Elvis’ real name is Joe Fors. He started his trek in Chicago on Election Day (Nov. 6), and made it to Springfield on Friday.

“Lost my stepmother to cancer last December and I thought I’d try to do a little bit of my part,” he says. “So I dreamed up this quirky idea of putting on a pink Elvis jumpsuit and takin’ Route 66 out to LA.” […]

Fors, who runs the website ElvisRides.com, says the response has been overwhelming.

“I get 13-year breast cancer survivors coming out in their pink t-shirts to take pictures with me. People stopping on the road to take pictures.”

Indeed, you can see dozens of photos that Fors and other people took on the Elvis Rides Facebook page, including this image from the Fanning 66 Outpost in Fanning, Mo.

Fors says he hopes to wrap up his bicycle trip in about a month, which would be before Christmas.

His website indicates that Fors was originally going to start his journey in New York City, but that leg was canceled “due to weather” — probably the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.

Funds donated to Fors will be given to the American Cancer Society, Feel Your Boobies Foundation, and Rush University Medical Center.

Fors also can be followed on Twitter.

Mexican restaurant planned in Aztec Hotel November 24, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Restaurants.
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Owners of historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, Calif., plan to convert the establishment’s Brass Elephant bar into a Mexican restaurant, according to a report by the Monrovia Planning Commission.

The owners also want to offer alcoholic beverages and live music, but the commission tabled that request until the neighborhood’s concerns can be heard. According to a report in the Monrovia Patch:

“The property owner of an apartment building on Melrose Avenue that is directly north of the Aztec Hotels parking lot attended the meeting,” the report reads. “The property owner expressed concern that she did not want to see a repeat of what happened in the past when the Brass Elephant occupied the restaurant space before it changed to the Mayan Room restaurant. The Brass Elephant had evolved from a restaurant to a nightclub/bar use that created late night problems for her tenants and the neighborhood.”

The Commission pushed back the public hearing until its December meeting and directed city staff to “bring back conditions of approval to allow entertainment on a very limited basis,” according to commission’s development blog.

According to the Patch report, Jacky Chan is the owner of the Aztec. However, a previous report said the hotel was bought by a Chinese group, which has performed a lot of rehab work on the structure.

Regardless of the fate of the live-music request, the idea of a Mexican restaurant makes a lot of sense with the unique, Mayan-themed architecture of the building.

The Aztec Hotel opened in 1925 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It sits along an older Foothill Boulevard alignment of Route 66.

Book review: “The Route 66 Encyclopedia” November 23, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History.
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Readers of this website may be surprised to know there are folks out there who scoff at Route 66’s history and its current-day attractions. They insist it’s an “old, dead road,” and claim its history is as colorless as the interstates that replaced it.

The next time you run into someone like that, show them a copy of this book.

Jim Hinckley’s “Route 66 Encyclopedia” serves very well its basic purpose as a one-stop reference guide for the world’s most famous highway. But its 288 pages also show how interesting, how colorful, how vital the Mother Road has been and remains. And, bear in mind, this vast array of material comes from a highway that is less than a century old.

Hinckley arranged the entries alphabetically on Route 66’s history, towns, landmarks, people, and culture. He sprinkled the pages with almost 600 images of photographs from his personal collection, or memorabilia from longtime roadies Joe Sonderman, Steve Rider, Mike Ward, and others. (Disclosure: I proof-read a small section of Hinckley’s early manuscript, and the book has a short entry about Route 66 News.)

Hinckley obviously put a lot of diligent research into “The Route 66 Encyclopedia.” Even the most well-read Route 66 aficionados likely will find a tidbit that escaped their notice. For instance, did you know about Hodge, Calif., a settlement between Barstow and Victorville? Did you know there once was a motel, gas station, and store complex called the McHat Inn, east of Williams, Ariz.? You’ll probably learn something new with each turned page.

As befits a reference book, Hinckley doesn’t allow flowery language or tangents. The text remains necessarily lean, allowing him to shoehorn as much information as possible.

Space limitations also undoubtedly forced Hinckley to combine some potential entries into others. For instance, if you’re looking for the Blue Whale in the book, you’ll find it in the “Catoosa, Oklahoma” section, along with another Hugh Davis creation, The Ark. Fortunately, Hinckley included an index in the back of the book to help readers track down items.

Hinckley doesn’t shy away from what might be controversial elements. In the Tulsa entry, he summarizes the Tulsa Race Riot that laid waste to a vast African-American neighborhood and scarred the city to this day. He also provided a generous entry to Victor H. Green, publisher of “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guide for Negro-friendly businesses and lodging, from 1936 to 1964. One excerpt conveys why the guidebook was deemed important:

An article in The Albuquerque Tribune, dated August 16, 1955, quotes a spokesman for the NAACP who lays the blame of a fatigue-related accident near Clines Corners on the lack of available lodging for blacks in New Mexico. “Mr. Boyd said a recent survey by his committee showed that less than six percent of more than 100 motels and tourist courts on U.S. 66 in Albuquerque were accepting Negro tourists.”

Obviously, America and Route 66 have come a long way since those Jim Crow days.

But “The Route 66 Encyclopedia’s” most important asset is its sheer amount of information. The section on the “Cars” movie will settle a lot of arguments about the Disney-Pixar film’s Route 66 inspirations. The entry about Route 66 icon Arthur Nelson (perhaps best-known for his Nelson Dream Village in Lebanon, Mo.) is as complete as any I’ve read. And it’s gratifying to see a few paragraphs devoted to even itty-bitty towns such as Dilia, N.M., and Phelps, Mo., and forgotten establishments such as the Motel Royal in St. Louis.

Hinckley also has pledged to post clarifications or updates to “The Route 66 Encyclopedia” on his website. In fact, he’s already posted about the “East Meets West” statue installed in Tulsa less than a month ago. Smartphone users also can reach the website by scanning a QR code on the book’s back cover.

Instead of devouring the book’s sprawling contents in one sitting, “The Route 66 Encyclopedia” probably is best digested a few pages at a time. But even a random perusal will fascinate and even enthrall.

Highly recommended and essential.

Thankful for an Angel November 21, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, People.
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Earlier today, this interview by photographer Jim Luning of Route 66 icon Angel Delgadillo was uploaded to Vimeo. This segment was the best thing in Luning’s 2010 documentary “Route 66 – Ten Years Later,” and is well worth your time.

It seems proper the clip was posted just a few hours from Thanksgiving — a time when folks across America will give thanks to their families and good fortune.

But, watching this video, I’m also thankful that a seemingly simple, middle-aged barber in a small Arizona town saw the value of Route 66 and his community, and decided to fight for both. I’m thankful Delgadillo helped found the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, and the other Route 66 associations it spawned. And I’m thankful for the wisdom and contentment that Delgadillo obviously conveys. May we all be so lucky.

Angel Delgadillo – Route 66 Icon Interview from Luning Photo on Vimeo.

Luning says in the video’s description:

Angel Delgadillo could without any argument be called the face of Route 66. People come literally from around the world to see him in person or be one of the very few lucky enough to get a old fashioned barber shave at his shop in sleepy Seligman Arizona.

This interview is part of my film “Route 66 – Ten Years Later” based on Tim Steil’s book “Route 66″. Tim and I have been blessed with two one on one sittings with Angel, and 4 shaves between us. Angel, who’s name perfectly sums him up, is an inspiring figure, the biggest Route 66 cheerleader and all around wonderful person.

The movie cost me about $15,000 of my own (chase credit card) money … Vimeo has a tip jar now, if you’re so inclined, please drop some coins in there, I’d appreciate it. Or email me through luningphoto.com to purchase a complete DVD of the film for $12 shipped.

Test results close chapter in Times Beach saga November 20, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Restaurants, Towns.

The U.S. EPA announced that recent soil tests at Route 66 State Park near Eureka, Mo., showed remnants of dioxin are at a safe level for visitors and park rangers — effectively closing a chapter of the long and tragic saga of the now-extinct Route 66 town of Times Beach.

According to a news release from the agency Monday:

Dioxin soil sampling in June 2012, conducted at the request of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), which owns the park, confirms that park visitors and employees are not being exposed to significant health risks. The sampling was part of an EPA Region 7 study to apply newly developed science to test for very small, or trace, amounts of dioxin in soil at the park.

“This is good news for the thousands of people who visit Route 66 State Park each year, and good news for the state employees and others who earn their living there,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said. “It confirms that the work EPA and MDNR did in the 1990s to clean up this site continues to provide a safe recreational area for the public.” […]

EPA collected surface soils from a variety of representative locations, including trails, shelters, picnic areas, the playground, the proposed location for an off-leash dog park, underground utility line installation areas, former roadways and residential lots, and two outfalls near the Meramec River.

Detailed reports of the soil testing can be read here.

Times Beach was bought out by the federal government and evacuated in 1983 after dioxin contamination was found throughout the town. A contractor had spread dioxin-laced waste oil on the town’s streets to keep down dust, and a flood from the nearby Meramec River exacerbated the problem. Dioxin is a carcinogen and notoriously toxic.

After the evacuation, the government incinerated as much of the contaminated soil as possible. After that, the state opened Route 66 State Park at the site. The park’s office is at the old Steiny’s Inn restaurant, located off old Route 66, and contains memorabilia about the town and the Mother Road.

The old Route 66 bridge at the park remains closed because of its deteriorated state, but it’s hoped it can be repaired and reopened as a pedestrian span.

More about Times Beach can be read at the Legends of America website. Norma Maret Bolin also provided a lot of detail about the saga in her well-researched “Route 66 St. Louis” book.

Route 66 Marathon becoming a big-time event November 19, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Sports.
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It’s been about 24 hours since the Williams Route 66 Marathon finished in Tulsa. The event is less than a decade old, but it’s become huge. The evidence:

  • It sold out weeks before the starting gun, and the total number of participants was in the thousands.
  • Tonight, the event already will be taking registrations for the 2013 race, which is Nov. 23-24.
  • The overall winner — Curtis Huffman of Wessington Springs, S.D., in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 24 seconds — and a quick perusal of the finishers showed the marathon has attracted runners from all over the country.
  • An apparent world record was set during Sunday’s big race. Camille Herron of Warr Acres, Okla., ran the entire 26.2-mile course in a head-to-foot Spider-Man costume. Not only did her time of 2:48:51 break the costumed-marathon record by 20 minutes, but she was the first female finisher in the Tulsa race.
  • Even slowpokes in the event get a big welcome at the finish line.

The marathon course, if you’re wondering, includes small portions of 11th Street, Southwest Boulevard, and Second Street — which which were alignments of Route 66. The course itself is a great way to see Tulsa in general.

UPDATE 11/22/2012: Here’a a video produced by Fleet Feet Sports of Tulsa:

Hitch a ride with the Four King Sisters November 19, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s something I haven’t seen before — the Four King Sisters performing “Route 66″ with Alvino Rey and His Orchestra, circa 1952.

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