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Happy New Year from Seligman Sundries December 31, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Restaurants.
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The good folks at Historic Seligman Sundries in Seligman, Ariz., wish a happy New Year to Route 66 fans in more than a dozen countries:

I wonder how many bottles of wine were consumed in making the video.

A visit to the Comet II Drive-In December 31, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants.
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Continuing KOB-TV’s series on iconic New Mexico restaurants, here’s a look at the Comet II Drive-In in Santa Rosa, N.M.

More about the PDL chile from the City of Santa Rosa website:

Puerto de Luna is also famous for “PDL Chile” a unique strain of chile that has been cultivated here for over 100 years. Look for specials on local restaurant marquees or menus boasting PDL Chile.

That also tells me that if you’re in the Santa Rosa area sometime around Labor Day, you’d better pick up some of those green chiles. They’re fresh out of the fields that time of year.

I also recommend the pie at the Comet II as well.

(Image of the Comet II Drive-In by Pete Zarria via Flickr)

A visit to Joseph’s Bar and Grill December 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Television.
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KOB-TV in Albuquerque continued its visits to iconic restaurants in New Mexico. One of them is Joseph’s Bar and Grill in Santa Rosa, N.M.

A true story: I was exiting Joseph’s after breakfast there, when I saw dark blue swallows flying and playing around the outside of the restaurant. I had just spent overnight at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M. I always had thought its blue swallow was a myth, until I saw them there that morning.

(Nighttime image of Joseph’s by Jake Slagle via Flickr)

Andy Granatelli, race car owner and Route 66 Hall of Famer, dies December 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Sports.
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Andy Granatelli, who became famous as an owner of a winning Indianapolis 500 race car and as a CEO of STP motor oil, died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., at age 90 of congestive heart failure, according to varying media outlets, including the New York Times.

Granatelli also was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cruisin’ Hall of Fame at the Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2002.

He is most well-known for his racing career, which the Associated Press summarized as follows:

Andy Granatelli’s cars nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in 1967 and ’68 with turbine engines. He broke through in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving his winning car with a conventional engine. Granatelli kissing Andretti on the cheek in Victory Lane is one of the most famous images in Indy history.

In 1973, Gordon Johncock gave Granatelli another Indy 500 victory.

But, as late author Tom Teague explained, Granatelli started his racing and entrepreneurial career on Route 66 in the Chicago area:

Andy’s first trip on 66 came when the family drove to Chicago to live with relatives. Their apartment was at 5200 North Winthrop. During the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933-34, the first great festival of the Route 66 era, Andy and his brothers would walk all the way downtown to collect soda pop bottles discarded by fairgoers. Then they’d trudge back home and “return” the bottles to neighborhood grocers.

In 1937 when work proved too scarce in Chicago, Vincent Granatelli drove his family to California. There he hoped to find farm work. Their car was an over-the-hill ’32 Oldsmobile as heavily laden as any Okie family’s. When the job hunt was unsuccessful, the family returned to Chicago. There Andy delivered bags of coal up the steps of tenements. With Joe and Vince he sold vegetables door to door along North Halsted from the trunk of a Buick. The three also become expert mechanics. Often they would fix cars right on the street. If they needed to use a power tool, they’d just knock at the door of a first-floor apartment and ask to pass a cord in. Later Andy would attend Weaver Alignment School in Springfield. But essentially his formal education ended when he was 14. All the rest came from under the hood or behind the wheel.

When a housing shortage hit the west coast early in World War II, Andy and Joe set record after record for towing house trailers from Chicago to Glendale, California, on 66. Joe drove a 1940 Mercury and Andy had a 1940 Ford. Both cars had souped up engines and could hit 100 miles an hour with a trailer in tow. Often Andy would get right behind Joe and ride in his slipstream. For a few extra dollars they took on soldiers and other people as passengers. But Andy can’t remember any of those folks lasting past St. Louis.

Granatelli started racing cars after World War II, including at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. He also brought hot-rod racing all over the Chicago area. Teague wrote:

The Indianapolis 500 proved to be the magnificent obsession in Andy’s life. He won it twice as an owner. But Route 66 also continued to weave in and out of his life. He drove or sponsored races in more than a dozen cities and towns along the road. He had his famous but illfated Novi engines built in Glendale, California, on 66. He ran the STP Corporation from Des Plaines, just a few miles north of 66. He’s worked and lived in the 66 cities of Chicago, Joliet, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. He even got married near the start of 66 and spent his wedding night in Joliet.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced this tribute to Granatelli before his death:

The Speedway issued this statement today:

“Andy Granatelli – appropriately known to many of us as ‘Mister 500′ – understood better than anyone the spirit and challenge of the Indianapolis 500 and had a remarkable ability to combine innovative technologies with talented race car drivers to make his cars a threat to win at Indianapolis every year,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS. “Andy leaves a legacy of historic moments that will live forever in Indianapolis 500 lore including his famous turbine that dominated the 1967 Indianapolis 500, the Lotus 56 of 1968, and giving the great Mario Andretti a kiss on the cheek in victory lane after his 1969 win. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy’s family, friends and legion of fans.”

More about Granatelli can be found at his Wikipedia page.

(Hat tip to Pat Bremer; image of Granatelli’s 1969 Indy 500-winning car by Daniel Incandela via Flickr)

Santa Rosa talks about “the bypass” December 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Television, Towns.
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KOB-TV in Albuquerque, in the wake of its story about the Silver Moon Cafe, filed this report on the impact of Interstate 40 on the Route 66 town of Santa Rosa, N.M.:

The report was mostly well-done, but context and other notes are in order:

— KOB makes it sound as if the I-40 bypass is fairly new, when Santa Rosa was bypassed in 1972. If businesses are closing now because of the bypass, that’s a really delayed reaction. That does not mitigate the economic effect when the bypass did occur 40 years ago, however.

— The recent Great Recession has indeed been tough on Santa Rosa and everyone else. Various data show the downturn that started in 2008 was the worst since the Depression. (Having experienced the rough early 1980s, that’s saying something.) So it was inevitable the economic fallout would impact small towns on the route. The Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa reported the closing of at least four landmark businesses in recent years.

— The town is impacted by the ongoing emptying-out of the Great Plains. One may argue Santa Rosa lies outside of the Plains, but it’s close enough its effects are being felt. If children grow up in Santa Rosa, the vast majority move away. I’m not sure what anyone can do about that.

— Santa Rosa is beset by bad leadership in local government. Perhaps it’s a chronic problem in small towns magnified by the excellent reporting of the Guadalupe County Communicator. Regardless, Santa Rosa has dealt with silly and often-avoidable crises that would give little confidence to prospective outside employers.

— I wasn’t aware the Breezy Rain Cafe, formerly El Comedor de Anayas, had closed in recent weeks. Its Facebook page had seen activity as recently as Thanksgiving. Phone calls to the restaurant’s phone number at midday Saturday were not answered. The restaurant had changed hands less than a year ago; the new operators apparently couldn’t keep it going.

(Sign from the long-closed Club Cafe in Santa Rosa, N.M., by velo_city via Flickr)

Groups seek Route 66 Art Trail in New Mexico December 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Towns.
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Two groups may join forces to seek a state grant to help set up a Route 66 Art Trail in central New Mexico, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

Officials from RETRO-Relive the Route, which aims to revitalize 25 miles of Route 66 between Tijeras and Moriarty, and the fledgling Route 66 Arts Alliance recently met with New Mexico Arts.

As part of the effort to encourage bringing tourists to artists rather than the other way around, New Mexico Arts offers a grant for communities to develop an Arts Trail. Sherry Abraham from the Route 66 Arts Alliance said the grant is promising for the towns east of the Sandia Mountains. The maximum grant a group can ask for is $20,000.

“If everyone worked together, we could get something going along the 57 miles from Santa Rosa to Rio Puerco,” Abraham said. “That’s quite a stretch.” […]

Three business owners in Moriarty and Edgewood have already offered spaces for artists wishing to display their craft. Weisman said trails throughout the state incorporate 16 to 20 artist locations.

This is a good idea. Santa Fe draws a disproportionate amount of art-seekers in New Mexico. There’s no reason an art trail along the old Route 66 corridor couldn’t thrive — especially nestled in the picaresque Sandia Mountains and places such as the Tijeras Arts Market. And an additional attraction would bring more customers to historic businesses such the Breezy Rain Cafe, formerly El Comedor, in Moriarty.

(Image of El Comedor by Dennis Dixson via Flickr)

Old Cathedral in St. Louis undergoing restoration December 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, History, Preservation.
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The Old Cathedral in St. Louis, located next to the Gateway Arch grounds, is undergoing a privately funded $10 million restoration, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The newspaper detailed what will happen to the 1834 church, also known as the Basilica of St. Louis King of France:

[T]he Old Cathedral will have new windows, air-conditioning and lighting, and a new sound system.

Construction crews are replacing damaged exterior stonework. The wooden floors, pews and altar rails will be sanded down to their original finish. Worn-out carpeting has been stripped away to reveal the intricate pattern of English tiles installed in the sanctuary floor in the 1850s.

“Once the restoration is complete, you’ll see a church that would look familiar to the people who attended Mass the night the manger scene was first set up,” Quirk said.

Part of the restoration will include the church’s cast iron nativity that dates to 1866. The nativity is on display through Jan. 6; there’s nothing like it anywhere. But instead of being shown for just a few weeks each year, the nativity eventually will go on display year-round in the church museum.

A photo gallery of the church’s restoration is here.

Although the church isn’t on Route 66, it’s often visited because travelers detour a few blocks from the Mother Road to check out the adjacent Gateway Arch.

I hold a great fondness for the Old Cathedral. Catholics in the area often cite the newer and more ornate Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis further west, as they should. But I always liked the simplicity of the Old Cathedral more. It bet Pope Francis, who seems to value humility more than grandiosity, would cherish it if he ever came to visit.

I’m also fond of the Old Cathedral because I visited it at the start of my very first Route 66 trip in the late 1990s. A crude Route 66 map in hand from a QuikTrip convenience store to guide me, I knelt in front of dozens of lighted candles and said a prayer for safety before my journey. Little did I know that trip would change my life.

(Image of the Old Cathedral and Gateway Arch by Steven Martin via Flickr)

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