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‘Top Gear’ begins Route 66 trip this week July 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications, Road trips, Television, Vehicles.
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“Top Gear,” the popular British television series about driving cars, began a 2,400-mile road trip this week on Route 66 in a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse — a convertible version of what is considered the fastest sports car in history.

From the first day of the show’s Route 66 diary:

You want numbers? 1200bhp of quad-turbo, W16 engine, over 1100 torques, four-wheel drive and a top speed of 260mph. Enough, it’s safe to say, to keep up with American traffic. Oh, and an asking price somewhere north of two million quid, which makes dicing with traffic in Chicago’s rush hour something of a puckering experience.

No one has ever done anything like this with a Veyron before. And they won’t again. With Veyron production ending next year before Bugatti opens a new chapter in its Going Faster history, this is it: the last, the ultimate Veyron road trip.

Which is why it had to be Route 66, the Illinois-to-California highway John Steinbeck christened ‘The Mother Road’.

The crew apparently went from Chicago to St. Louis on the first day, although details about that leg are scant, save for a few photos.

During Day Two, the crew took the Bugatti from St. Louis to Oklahoma City.

I don’t care how fast the car is — 500 miles on an old road makes for a long day.

In the coming days, “Top Gear” says it will reveal the publication date of the sale of its “Adventures” issue of its magazine that will feature Route 66. In the meantime, it will post new roadtrip photos daily on its website.

UPDATE 7/16/2014: Top Gear magazine, featuring an article about the Route 66 trip, is on sale worldwide today. The promotional story about the issue notes the Bugatti required 840 gallons of fuel. That’s less than three miles per gallon. Oy.

(Screen shot of “Top Gear’s” Bugatti at the 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Missouri)

Where are the surviving Green Book businesses? March 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, History, Motels, Publications, Restaurants.
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A historian with the National Park Service is searching for surviving buildings once listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Book” travel directory from 1936 to 1964, and he’s asking for roadies’ help in finding them along Route 66.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guidebook for black drivers during the Jim Crow era. Publisher Victor Green said the book would “give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” A 1949 edition of the travel guide may be perused online here.

Frank Norris, historian for the NPS, says he’s tracked down businesses or buildings that housed them in the largest cities of Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago. He’s compiled a list — with addresses — of Negro-affiliated businesses in the smaller towns in seven of Route 66’s eight states (apparently there were no such businesses in 13 miles of the Mother Road in Kansas). The list in a Word document may be downloaded here.

Norris wrote:

I would greatly appreciate your help in driving to the street addresses where these businesses were located. (Some of the addresses, as you’ll see, are more exact than others.) Please find out IF there is still a business – or at least a fairly old standing building – at that address. If there is still a historical reminder (in any form) for this building, please take a photograph of it. Then send this information back to me. I am REALLY looking forward to hearing from you about this!

Norris may be emailed at [email protected] or calling 505-988-6005.

Giving the list a once-over, surviving buildings seem to be slim pickings. I suspect many are long gone because of redevelopment. Many in Tulsa, for example, were in the Greenwood District that was mostly razed during the “urban renewal” days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Many of these Negro-sympathetic businesses also suffered, ironically, in the wake of desegregation. When black people on Route 66 finally could patronize whatever gas station, restaurant or motel they pleased after the Civil Rights Act, revenue for the Negro-sympathetic businesses plunged. And because those businesses served black people, a significant number of white people wouldn’t want to go there.

On a related note, “Route 66: The Mother Road” author Michael Wallis recently wrote a story for Oklahoma-based This Land Press about the Green Book, “The Other Mother Road,” that was posted online just a few days ago. Some choice excerpts:

As a boy, I saw the “No Colored” signs at gas stations on my Route 66 just as I did on the roads of the Deep South. I also saw signs in cafe windows declaring, “No dogs, No Bums, No Indians,” and only yards away a Native American craftsman sold his hand-fashioned art from the sidewalk. Black families traveling America’s byways packed their own food and often slept in their vehicles. They didn’t get their kicks on Route 66—or at least the kind of kicks I was getting as a youngster or a few years later as a hitchhiking Marine. At highway stops such as the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma, during the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and into the ‘60s, black travelers went to the backdoor to get their food to go. None of them walked inside. […]

To many white, middle- and upper-class travelers, Route 66 symbolized the most positive aspects of American society—freedom, progress, and economic possibility. But to the minorities who encountered racism, prejudice, and exploitation along the road, Route 66 embodied a much darker version of American history. […]

For many years, with Howard Johnson being the sole nationwide chain where blacks could eat and sleep, and Esso (later Exxon) being the only major fuel outlet actually offering franchises to blacks, the pickings were very slim. In 1955, for example, 3,500 white motels would allow dogs to stay in guest rooms, but less than 50 stated they would even consider housing any black travelers. During this same period, an Oklahoma motel operator reluctantly allowed a black family to stay at his motel for two days if they agreed to “pass” as Mexicans. There are several reports that in 1961 so many black tourists along Route 66 in Illinois were refused restaurant service that they took to bringing their own food and eating in their cars rather than chance being embarrassed. Undoubtedly, that accounts for why most editions of the Green Book listed nothing between Chicago and Springfield as well as nothing between Springfield and East St. Louis. There were also large gaps for Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico.

In the current age, Wallis decries the “American Owned” signs along the Mother Road, “signs erected by the small-minded and the mean-spirited, by those who wear their religion and their patriotism on their sleeve and on their bumper. Signs that serve no good purpose except to divide us and slap us in the face” because they primarily target Asian-American motel owners.

Wallis’ screed bears strong echos to the anti-discrimination speech he gave during Route 66 Magazine’s Roadie Gathering in Tucumcari, N.M., in 2002. The speech may be read here.

(Images of the Cactus Motel of Albuquerque and Will Rogers Motel of Santa Rosa, N.M., courtesy of 66Postcards.com. Both were listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.)

Revival of Route 66 Pulse newspaper planned March 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications.
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The long-dormant Route 66 Pulse newspaper will be revived in digital form soon, then in print later this summer, publisher Jim Conkle said in an email Friday.

Part of the email from Conkle at jimconkle(at)live.com:

We are looking for stories, photos and news worthy events to share with our readers.

Of course we are also looking for advertisers.

Let me also introduce you to Steve Pastis who is assisting me, tell the truth he is doing all the work, in making the Pulse again your source of news from the past, present and future.

We of course want to hear from those of you that have ides, suggestions and even advice on how we can make the Pulse a success.

No we are NOT replacing any of the blogs, current sources for news (in fact we use them too) or web sites that promote the road. Instead we will be promoting them.

Thanks to all of you that kept on me to bring the Route 66 Pulse back to life. I heard you.

Let’s make this another GREAT year for the road.

After launching in mid-2006, the quarterly Route 66 Pulse newspaper, with a peak circulation of 30,000 copies, ceased publication in the fall of 2008. Lack of advertising and the immense costs of distributing thousands of copies on 2,200 miles of the Mother Road were cited in its demise. It was briefly revived in 2009 with an environmental tack, but that eventually ceased as well. A companion website stuck around for a few months after the newspaper stopped printing for good, then vanished as well.

Conkle later launched a video-based Route 66 Pulse TV channel on the Internet, but no new content has been produced there for more than a year.

I hold little doubt the Pulse can be revived on the Internet. Anyone with nominal computer skills and a WordPress account can start such a publication with almost no money — much like Route 66 News started in October 2005.

I remain skeptical the Pulse can be revived in print form. The issues that caused its demise — lack of advertising and hefty distribution costs — will remain big issues today. Disclosure: I turned down a managing editor job offer from the Route 66 Pulse shortly before it launched in 2006 because of such concerns.

(An image of the cover of the Route 66 Pulse’s second issue in 2006.)

A gift that keeps giving August 13, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Publications, Towns, Web sites.
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In an effort to boost tourism in Kingman, Ariz., roadie Jim Hinckley and several city officials assembled a Route 66-themed gift basket worth $600 to be given away through 66: The Mother Road, an Internet-only magazine.

The Kingman Daily Miner reported:

Contents include a two-night stay at the El Trovatore Motel, gift certificates to local restaurants and cafés, three sets of tickets to Kingman museums, various pieces of memorabilia – including a framed Route 66 photo from the Miner’s own JC Amberlyn – a pound of coffee from Beale Street Brews and a necklace of Kingman turquoise. […]

There’s undeveloped tourist potential all along Route 66, Hinckley said. Herds of international travelers come through here, he said. The goal is to get them to stay for a bit when they pass through.

“Our community loves to share,” Hinckley said of the basket. “Whoever wins this gets to see Kingman through the eyes of the people.” […]

“Tourists come through here in droves,” (Councilwoman Carole Young) said. “Getting them to stop is another thing.”

John Springs, the publisher of 66: The Mother Road, told the Miner that the magazine also exists to give publicity to the Mother Road.

“If you’re a small business on Route 66, we’re going to make sure you get some exposure whether you can afford to pay for it or not,” he said. “Our goal is to help businesses out.”

In many ways, the couple has done that. The magazine is read in over 80 countries, he said, and it went from having 70 percent of advertisers getting exposure for free to 30 percent in its short lifespan. […]

The magazine is a one-stop shop for Route 66 enthusiasts to come together digitally and learn what’s out there, he said.

“We make it easy for everybody to get up and down the road and find these places,” Springs said.

More about The Big Palooza giveaway can be found on this page:

[issuu viewMode=singlePage width=420 height=272 embedBackground=%23000000 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120419142954-c61d741d8a204b7ca330fb855d9bbc3d name=bigpalooza username=springsproductions unit=px v=2]

The drawing will be Oct. 21-22 at the Wagon Wheel Motel during Cuba Fest in Cuba, Mo.

The gift basket is a terrific idea for businesses and towns seeking tourists and publicity. Kingman, in spite of a substantial population of about 30,000, tends to get overlooked by Route 66 travelers because of the ample attractions and colorful characters in tiny Seligman, Ariz. (pop. 450).

Still, Kingman is a far enough distance from Seligman, is a geographically natural overnight stop, and boasts a number of Route 66 attractions of its own. It ought to be doing better with Mother Road tourism. Perhaps the generous gift basket is a step in the right direction.

To & From the Mother Road August 7, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications, Road trips.

If you’ve got some time to kill, I recommend you sit back and peruse this online issue of To & From magazine, which devoted a special issue to Route 66. You can flip the pages right here, and enlarge them as well:

[issuu width=420 height=272 embedBackground=%23000000 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120805235656-d79333313e634ae18d3b353453ca7e88 name=route66_toandfrommagazine username=toandfrommag tag=mother%20road unit=px v=2]

Diana Nguyen, editor of the magazine, said the Route 66 issue “could have easily been more” than its 232 pages. She said the photographs and experiences came during her and her husband’s trip down Route 66 in June.

Santa Rosa newspaper makes a sequel November 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications, Sports.
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Last year about this time, the Guadalupe County Communicator newspaper, based in Santa Rosa, N.M., printed a special edition in case its local high-school football won the state championship.

To top it off, the newspaper timed it so the congratulatory edition would actually be distributed at the game the minute the state title was won. The publisher took a gamble, risking $700 in printing expenses that Santa Rosa would win. If the team lost, the special edition would be quietly tossed into a Dumpster.

On Saturday, Santa Rosa — and the Communicator —  did it again. The Lions defeated previously unbeaten Eunice 21-14, with the winning touchdown scored with less than a minute remaining. And a congratulatory edition was distributed immediately after the game.

You can see the front page of the special edition in this Facebook post.

And, at 3:35 in this video recap of the game, you can see a Santa Rosa player showing off that special edition:


The Communicator, as you may recall, is owned by M.E. Sprengelmeyer, who lost his job as a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News when the newspaper went belly-up in early 2009. He argued that newspapers could still be financially viable and took a gamble on a struggling weekly newspaper in Santa Rosa.

More than two years later, it appears he’s succeeding. The Communicator recently took home about two dozen awards at the state’s newspaper-excellence contest. His advertising percentages in the newspaper continue to hover at a healthy 50 percent level. And, with such stunts as Saturday’s, he’s adding excitement to the community.

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