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Brand USA now focusing on Route 66 tourism in Missouri April 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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A recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirms what we’d suspected — that Brand USA next would be concentrating on promoting Route 66 in Missouri.

We’d noted a few weeks ago that Brand USA, aka DiscoverAmerica.com, had posted high-quality YouTube videos promoting parts of Route 66 in Illinois for potential British, Japanese and German tourists.

Now the Post-Dispatch says camera crews are shooting Route 66 sites in St. Louis, along with the Missouri Route 66 towns of Carthage and Springfield, in an effort to lure foreign travelers.

That effort focuses on the Big Three — Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom — that produce the most foreign tourism in St. Louis. About 87,000 travelers from those countries visited the area in 2013, according to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which helped pay for the two-minute videos that make up the new promotion.

Part of the effort is to get more foreign tourists to linger in St. Louis while following old Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Such trips already are popular with German and British visitors, said Brian Hall, the CVC’s chief marketing director.

Though the number of foreign tourists is a speck within the area’s visitor business (21.6 million annual visitors who spent $4.2 billion last year), tourists from outside the United States are cash-heavy, dropping about $4,000 per trip, Hall said. […]

A woman from Toronto, who lives now in Los Angeles, is the host of the St. Louis video meant for Canadians. A woman from East Sussex, England, who lives in Richmond, Va., hosts the video for the United Kingdom, while a Mexico City native hosts the Spanish-language video for the Mexican audience even though she, too, lives in LA. […]

Foreign viewers will see the speakers highlight St. Louis’ blues heritage while at the Broadway Oyster Bar downtown; show off the scene on Cherokee Street; point out places linked to Route 66; visit St. Charles and; of course, gaze at the Arch.

KTVI-TV in St. Louis also was on the scene during the production. You’ll have to go to the link to see it, because the station’s videos don’t embed well.

Discover America is public-private corporation that encourages travel in the United States. Its efforts to market Route 66 have become noticeably more aggressive in recent months.

(Image of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Route 66 in St. Louis by Philip Leara via Flickr)

Artist will hold public unveiling of Gay Parita painting April 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Books, Events, Gas stations.
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Route 66 artist Jerry McClanahan will have a public unveiling of his newest painting of Gary Turner’s Gay Parita gas station at the station near Halltown, Mo., on Saturday, May 17.

According to a news release from the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, a meet-and-greet with hot dogs and soda will be at noon, with the official unveiling at 1 p.m.

The news release explains how the painting came about:

On June 6 of 2013, Curtis Gobeli, celebrating having turned 66 years of age with a dream trip down Route 66, stopped at Gary Turner’s world-famous replica Sinclair Station while driving his immaculate 1966 Pontiac GTO. Meeting Jerry later at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, the two, inspired by the many examples of 66 embodied in Curtis’ visit to Gay Parita, conspired to create a highly detailed watercolor commemorating that visit, with the GTO posed in front of Gary’s eye-catching homage to the roadside past. In the sky above the scene float depictions of other Route 66 icons that Curtis and his wife Kath encountered on their cruise, as well as a map of 66 and a short prose history of the Route.

Organizers are asking attendees to RSVP (if possible) by emailing McClanahan at mcjerry(at)att(dot)net.

McClanahan, who resides in the Route 66 town of Chandler, Okla., also is the author of the “EZ 66 Guide” that provides turn-by-turn directions for following Route 66.

(Image of Gay Parita station by Mario Sainz Martinez via Flickr)

New office building goes up next to Lucille’s gas station April 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Motels, Restaurants.
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Ken Turmel of PostmarkArt fame recently was traveling old Route 66 in western Oklahoma and noted a new building had been constructed in place of the long-closed Hamons Court motel next to the historic Lucille’s gas station near Hydro.

He posted these photos of the new building on his Facebook page:

From this photo by Carleta Latham in 2006, you can see the motel to the right of the gas station:

An email to Rick Koch, owner of the property, went unanswered. However, an office worker at one of the businesses he owns told me the new building is being used for company offices, plus a few spaces are being rented out to other businesses.

Koch, president of Rick Koch Oil in nearby Weatherford, Okla., bought the Lucille’s property after longtime owner and operator Lucille Hamons died in 2000. He restored the gas station but never reopened it, leaving it as a photo op for Route 66 travelers. Koch also built the Lucille’s Roadhouse restaurant in Weatherford, inspired in its design by Lucille’s.

The motel was added shortly after the gas station was bought by W.O. and Ida Waldroup in 1934. Lucille and Carl Hamons acquired the property in 1941 and ran the motel until Interstate 40 opened during the early 1970s.

The motel had been closed and long-neglected for 40 years, and it was apparent long before that the building wasn’t salvageable. Its Hamons Court neon sign was donated by Lucille’s heirs 10 years ago to the Smithsonian Museum for its ongoing “America on the Move” exhibit.

Route 66 Arcade Museum opens Thursday April 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Preservation, Video games.
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If you’re old enough to remember pinball machines, coin-operated video games and brightly colored and noisy arcades, downtown Atlanta, Ill., has just the place for you.

The Route 66 Arcade Museum in Atlanta, Ill., is slated to open Thursday, according to a news release from Bill Thomas, the chief mover-and-shaker of the revitalization of Atlanta’s Route 66 corridor.

It’s at 114 SW Arch St. (map here), with its entrance around the corner on Race Street. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s free and open to the public, but donations to keep it running are appreciated.

The Route 66 Arcade Museum houses over 40 vintage pinball and video games, including a rare, circa 1936, flipperless, wooden-cased, pinball game, an original PacMan video game and many others. Nearly all the machines are operable and can be played for only a quarter. The Museum is decorated with several dozen framed, vintage pinball “back-glasses” that are colorful representations of this graphic art form.

The Route 66 Arcade Museum is available by reservation for birthday parties, family reunions, and other gatherings at no cost. Arrangements can also be made for dinner at the Palms Grill Café combined with a visit to the museum. Please call 217-648-5077 to make arrangements.

More photos from the museum, including that rare pinball machine:

The arcade machines are part of a collection by John Yates, who owns another museum of pre-1983 arcade machines in the Route 66 town of McLean, Ill.

(Photos courtesy of Bill Thomas)

Tornado kills at least one in Quapaw, Baxter Springs April 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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A tornado has killed at least two people one person and destroyed a fire station in the Route 66 town of Quapaw, Okla., near the Kansas border, according to the Tulsa World and other media outlets. One media outlet also reported a death in the nearby Route 66 town of Baxter Springs, Kan.

The twister hit the town of about 900 people about 5:30 p.m. today. The Cherokee County News-Advocate in nearby Kansas reports that roads leading to Quapaw are blocked by police. The newspaper said the town’s police station was heavily damaged as well and that the tornado went through the center of town.

The Joplin Globe reported the twister also caused “significant” damage to another Route 66 town, Baxter Springs, Kan., according to former city council member Gary Allen.

The Globe also posted a photo of the twister from a reader.

Andrea Hicks uploaded her son’s video of the tornado from nearby Galena, Kan. Caution: The clip contains adult language:

Severe storms had been forecast in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri for much of the weekend. Quapaw sits just a few miles from where a deadly tornado struck Picher, Okla., in 2008 and Joplin, Mo., in 2011.

We’ll post more information here as we get it.

UPDATE: The Tulsa World has posted a few photos from the scene in Quapaw.

UPDATE 4/28/2014: The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department lowered the death toll in Quapaw to one after initially reporting two deaths Sunday evening.

The Red Cross of Eastern Oklahoma has been providing relief to residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed. The Cherokee County News-Advocate reported in Baxter Springs one death, 25 injured, up to 70 homes destroyed and about 25 businesses destroyed.

The Joplin Globe reported that at least six people were hurt in Quapaw from the storm. According to several reports, the tornado that struck the town came with no warning. It remained uncertain whether the fatality in Quapaw was a local resident; he or she was in car when the twister struck.

A Kansas City television station filed this report Monday morning:

A station in northwest Arkansas also filed this report Monday from Quapaw:

UPDATE: A reader sent this before-and-after look of Quapaw:

A sneak peek of the Autry Museum’s Route 66 exhibit April 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Museums.
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The “Route 66: The Road and the Romance” exhibit at the Autry National Museum in Los Angeles won’t open until June 8.

However, Maren Dougherty, director of communications at the museum, sent images of some of the photographs, artwork and artifacts that will displayed. So here’s a bit of a preview of the exhibit.

Arthur Rothstein (1915–1985), Landscape with House, 1936, gelatin silver print. (Courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XP.1445.4).

Thomas Hart Benton (United States, 1889–1975), Boomtown, 1928, oil on canvas. (Courtesy of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester: Marion Stratton Gould Fund.) Art © T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Dorothea Lange (United States, 1895-1965), Human Erosion in California (Migrant Mother), 1936, gelatin silver print (13 7/16 x 10 9/16 inches) (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles).

Woody Guthrie’s Martin guitar, 1937. (Courtesy EMP Museum, Seattle).

66-to-Cali, Santa Monica Pier (Courtesy of the Autry National Center).

Author Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript for On the Road, 1951. (This manuscript is on loan from the collection of James S. Irsay. Photograph courtesy of Christie’s, New York. Copyright Estate of Anthony G. Sampatacacus and the Estate of Jan Kerouac).

Ed Ruscha (United States, born 1937), Dixie, Lupton, Arizona, 1962 (printed 2013). (Loan courtesy of the artist).

Jeff Brouws (United States, born 1955), Dixie, Lupton, Arizona, 1991 (printed 2013). (Courtesy of the artist and Craig Krull Gallery).

Route 66 postcard of Pasadena, Calif. (Courtesy of Joe Sonderman).

Route 66 postcard of Peach Springs, Ariz. (Courtesy of Joe Sonderman).

“Western Motel” neon sign, circa 1950. Collection of the Museum of Neon Art.

“Route 66: The Road and the Romance” runs from June 8 to Jan. 4. It will contain more than 200 artifacts “that trace the history of the route and its impact on American popular culture.”

The road ahead … and behind April 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Road trips.
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I’m closely following National Geographic writer Andrew Evans’ trip on Route 66. If you aren’t following his Twitter account and his real-time posts from the Mother Road, you should. By my reckoning, he’s fired off more than 200 tweets — most of them with photographs — and he hasn’t even made to the midpoint of his journey.

During a recent post on his Digital Nomad blog while driving across Missouri, he met people who remembered all too well why Route 66 also was called “Bloody 66.” One of his musings — that “Route 66 represents America’s adolescence, a time of exploring and trying new things and forming our personalities” — shows why the magazine keeps him on its payroll.

But what struck me most was this observation:

It’s an odd time on Route 66 — we live in a time when some folks are marking history with new signs, while others are still busy tearing down the originals. As I move across this bit of Missouri, I feel the push and pull of past versus present. The urge to memorialize the best of Route 66 conflicts with the need to live in the present.

A few Route 66 purists may complain about new elements mixing with the old. Even this website feels the tug of memorializing the road’s past, while feeling a keen obligation to report on the many things that are happening on Route 66 now.

But this tension between past and present shows the old highway probably is as healthy as it’s been since it was decommissioned during the 1980s. Yes, an occasional landmark is lost. But, in recent years, a great deal many were saved or revived. And new businesses — such as Fanning 66 Outpost in Missouri, Pops in Oklahoma and 66-to-Cali in California — have popped up.

When I started traveling Route 66 about 15 years ago, its future was much more clouded. Route 66 saw a resurgence with the publication of the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road” by Michael Wallis during the early 1990s, but few seemed certain whether the uptick was sustainable.

Ironically, one of the saviors of this antiquated road was the rise of the Internet. During the early days of the World Wide Web, a Google search of “Route 66″ produced fewer than 500,000 pages. Now it’s more than 75 million. The Net allowed people all over the globe to show and trade their photos, videos, stories, music and culture from the Main Street of America.

And I haven’t even delved into the significant impact of the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit movie “Cars” and the popular “Billy Connolly’s Route 66″ miniseries on British television in 2011.

Route 66’s enduring fascination brings to mind what Route 66 historian Jim Ross said a few years ago:

“I keep waiting for this whole craze to hit a plateau, level off and reach a point where people are sick of hearing the phrase ‘Route 66.’ But it’s not happening. I now believe it’s not going to happen. I believe people today look at Route 66 or regard Route 66 as they would a national park or national monument. It’s become so ingrained in our lexicon. People (say) ‘Someday I want to go to Yellowstone’ or ‘Someday I want to do Disney World.” It’s like that with Route 66 now. I think it’s here to stay.”

This notion that Route 66 will last — and how it will evolve in the 21st century it plods toward its centennial — are what motivates me each day to see what’s happening. Challenges for the preservation of the highway and its landmarks will remain. But I’ve operated Route 66 News for almost nine years, and I feel as good about the Mother Road’s future as I ever have.

(Image of sunset on Route 66 near Cardin, Okla., by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

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