May 112014
 
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Two Route 66 landmarks in Springfield face an uncertain future.
Hours at Shea’s Route 66 Museum, 2075 Peoria Road, ended following the 2012 death of founder Bill Shea Sr., whose name was synonymous with the museum and Route 66. Family members are considering what to do next.

A “closed for repairs” sign went up more than two weeks ago at Joe Rogers’ The Den Chili Parlor, 820 S. Ninth St.

Shea’s and Joe Rogers’ are fixtures in local, state and national tourism promotions of the Route 66 experience in Illinois. Both are on the Ninth Street-Peoria Road corridor that was among the routes followed through Springfield by the historic road.
“It’s such an important part of our marketing, including international marketing,” said Gina Gemberling, acting director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Gemberling said word of the uncertainty facing Shea’s spread quickly among Route 66 communities and preservation groups.
“They are continually asking us, ‘What’s going to happen toB?’” Gemberling said.

Considering options
“I hate for anything on Route 66 to close,” said Bill Shea Jr., who now watches over the Shea’s Route 66 Museum operated for decades by his father.
William “Bill” Shea Sr., who died in 2012 at age 91, was as much an attraction on Route 66 as his gas station-museum. The visitor logbook contained signatures from across the globe.

Dressed in his vintage Marathon attendant uniform, Shea walked visitors through life on Route 66 when the road was dotted by service stations that still checked oil and cleaned windshields, all night café-diners and neon-lit, mom-and-pop hotels.
He was inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993. The building is packed with Route 66 memorabilia.
Shea Jr. said the property went to probate court after his father’s death and that it could take until this fall to resolve legal issues. While regular hours ended in 2012, the younger Shea said he occasionally hosts special visitors. A group from Germany was scheduled to visit last week.

“I finished up all the appointments that he had,” said Shea, who is 65 and retired. “People were still coming by the bus loads.”
He said he has no specific plans for the museum while probate continues, but that there have been offers for pieces of his dad’s Route 66 collection. Shea said his preference is to keep the building and the collection together.
“I’d like to see it turned into a Route 66 visitors center,” said Shea, “and maybe have my dad’s name on it.”
There have been informal discussions, said Gemberling. But as with past ideas for a Route 66 visitor center, there is no money.
“It comes down to funding,” Gemberling said. “We know how important it is (Shea’s). We’d like to save it, but where are the dollars coming from?”

Joe Rogers’ The Den Chili Parlor has been closed for two weeks, with no indication of when, or if, it might reopen. Owners Ric and Rose Hamilton didn’t return calls requesting information about the status of the business.
Efforts to reach Marianne Rogers — daughter of Joe Rogers, who founded the chili parlor in 1945 — also were unsuccessful. Rogers has proprietary rights to the special spice blend used in the chili.

Emilio Lomeli knows a business can’t run on nostalgia alone.
Lomeli and his wife, Rosa, blended two Springfield greasy-spoon legends — The Coney Island and Sonrise Donuts — in 2012.
The Coney IslandSpringfield’s second-oldest restaurant — operated from the 100 block of North Sixth Street from 1919 to 2000. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum now occupies its original site.
The Lomelis moved the business to 1101 S. Ninth St., the home of Sonrise Donuts. The diner with its original Formica counter and red stools opened in 1947 as Springfield’s first doughnut shop with a coffee counter.
The hybrid — now known as Emilio’s New Coney Island — blends menus and motifs from both businesses, as well as the Lomelis’ own Mexican dishes.
“We try to keep the spirit of The Coney Island alive,” Lomeli said. “But we need the people to help us, keep coming. Many still don’t know we’re here. They’ll see me at the store and say, ‘When are you opening?’
“I’m open now.”

Lomeli said business has picked up a bit since The Den has been closed.
“We’re not really competition. Some people go there, some here,” he said. “I try to help them for now. Maybe they’ll go back when it reopens. We’ll wait and see what happens.”
Bill Klein is another person waiting.
He has spent the past two Saturdays discombobulated. The landmark chili parlor has been Klein’s Saturday lunch haunt for four decades.
“This has created a devastating hole in my Saturday because, as night follows day, I could be found at The Den on Saturday at noon,” he said. “I’ve watched kids grow up, talked about marriages. I send chili to my son in Tampa, (Fla.). When someone comes home for the holidays, it’s a tradition to go to Joe Rogers for chili.
“I hope they open soon.”

Pontiac ‘Hall of Fame’
Operators of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac are among those watching Shea’s from afar.
The community is on a section of old Route 66 about 100 miles north of Springfield.
“We’d be honored to have some of the pieces in our museum,” said museum treasurer Martin Blitstein, who lives in Tinley Park. “They (the Shea family) are personal friends of ours and of the corridor.”

As in Springfield, said Blitstein, money is the issue. The Pontiac museum relies on donations, including for Route 66 collections. He said the museum drew at least 50,000 visitors in 2013.
Lillian Ford, owner of Ray’s Route 66 Family Diner in Sherman, said she could attest to the drawing power of Route 66.
“We have people from Australia, England, Ireland, Brazil and China,” said Ford. “They come from all over the world.”
Sherman is working on its own promotions of Route 66 connections, including a wayside park and exhibit at the north edge of the community.
“We get car and motorcycle tours,” Ford said. “There are so many things to make it popular. It’s the ‘Mother Road.’
Bill Shea Jr. said, in addition to resolving the probate case, he must have the museum property appraised before making decisions. But he said he remains hopeful of maintaining at least a piece of his father’s Route 66 legacy.
“I’d like to have it there in memory of my dad,” Shea said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Route 66 landmarks
* Shea’s Route 66 Gas Station and Museum, 2075 Peoria Road: Named for Bill Shea. Shea, who was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993, worked in the Springfield gas-station business for nearly 50 years before converting the Marathon station to a Route 66 museum. Regular hours ended following Shea’s death in 2012 at age 91.
* Joe Rogers’ Den Chili Parlor, 820 S. Ninth St. Joe Rogers opened the original chili parlor in 1945 at 1125 South Grand Ave. E. Became known for “Firebrand” chili and allowing customers to custom-order. Moved to Ninth Street location in 1997. Rogers family sold to current owners, Ric and Rose Hamilton, in 2008.

Sources: Illinois Route 66 Associaton; archives of The State Journal-Register

May 032014
 
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Route 66 Preservationist Ed Klein announced today he is to author a book about Route 66 through the state of Kansas. The approval for the book came from Arcadia Publishing who has over 9,000 books in their catalog, most written by locals and first time authors. The book will be titled ‘Route 66 in Kansas’ which will be part of their ‘Images of America’ series and is due for release mid 2015. It will cover the early mining days of southeast Kansas through present day Route 66.

Ed Klein is the owner of the website Route 66 World (www.route66world.com) which is dedicated to the preservation, restoration and education of Route 66. He was researching information on several projects with locations ranging from Joplin, a building in Kansas and another project in Oklahoma.

“I scoured the internet and finding the information for Joplin and Oklahoma was much easier than finding certain bits and pieces about a location in Kansas I was working on. I then checked to see if there were actually any books written about Route 66 in Kansas and to my surprise, there were none.”

Klein contacted Arcadia Publishing to check to see if there were any books in the works for Route 66 in the state of Kansas, and they responded with a ‘no, but what do you think about writing a book about the route in Kansas?’

Kansas has the shortest stretch of Route 66 of all the eight states it runs through. Less than thirteen miles connects Kansas from Joplin Missouri to Quapaw Oklahoma, two towns which have been affected by tornadoes and in both occasions, Klein has helped by donating much needed funds to local relief efforts.

Route 66 is not only about the old motels, the diners and the gift shops, it is also about saving history and places so many travelers around the world come to see and experience. It is very easy to have a business close down or suffer a catastrophic loss like this, keeping them open is the hard part!” Klein adds.

Apr 092014
 
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Construction is progressing on a project to rehabilitate the aging, historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge in rural Pulaski County.

“This is a project that began 10 or 11 years ago, and we are finally seeing the construction phase, so its very exciting,” Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk said. “It’s moving right along, and, so far, it’s been very smooth.”

The Pulaski County Commission took note of the bridge’s deteriorating condition—including severe rusting, cracked substructure and considerable soil loss near the south abutment—several years ago and began working to secure funding for a $1.3 million restoration project.

The funding for the project was found last year when the county commission was able to combine Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) and MoDOT’s Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds with a mixture of grant funds awarded.

MoDOT BRO and STP funds are covering 80 percent of the project, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program along with a small grant from the National Parks Service and a local match from Pulaski County make up the remaining project funding.

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) helped prepare the CDBG, STP and National Park Service grant applications and is serving as the administrator for the $250,000 CDBG grant awarded.
Not only will the rehabilitation of the project address safety issues, but it also maintains the historic significance of the structure.

“We have so many people from all over the country who come down to the bridge while traveling Route 66 because it is historic,” Newkirk said. “Many pictures have been taken of that bridge, and many people in our local communities, too, have pictures taken on that bridge from many, many years ago.”

The pages of the nearby Elbow Inn guestbook indicate that the picturesque place not only draws travelers from other states but from several other countries as well. Entries have included guests from France, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Australia to name a few.

“We are very fortunate here in Pulaski County to have 33 original miles of Route 66, and we are internationally known for that,” Pulaski County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Wiles said, noting that the stretch is also known as one of the most beautiful in the country.

“They look at Route 66 as that key component of America,” Wiles said of the international travelers.
The influx of tourists seeking a part of American history is greatest from April through October, and brings tourism dollars not just to businesses near the bridge like the Elbow Inn, but also into the cities of Waynesville and St. Robert.

Built in 1923, the bridge was part of the original Route 66. The portion of the nostalgic highway that passes through Devil’s Elbow, however, proved to be dangerous and soon came to be called “Bloody 66.”

As a result, the Hooker Cut realignment took place in 1940, bypassing the bridge. At that time, it was the deepest rock cut in the country.
According to the HAER Bridge Inventory, a list of historic bridges in Missouri, the Devil’s Elbow Bridge may be eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is believed to be one of the earliest examples of Missouri State Highway Department long-span truss design still in existence.

Additionally, Newkirk noted it is also one of only two remaining bridges in the state containing a curve. The second is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which was recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. Wiles added that it is the only curved bridge on the original Route 66 still open to traffic.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the rehabilitation project was held in October, and, by the end of March, the 400-foot deck of the bridge began to retake its original shape.

The framing of the new deck is in place and half of the decking concrete has been poured with the remaining half expected to be poured by mid to late April. Once the remaining portion of the deck has been poured, the bridge will be painted and additional structural work will be completed.

Engineering services for the project have been provided by Great River Engineering out of Springfield, Mo. The engineer currently supervising the project, Steve Brown, expects it to be re-opened to traffic by August at the latest. Phillips Hardy, Inc., out of Columbia, is the general contractor for the project. The contractor was selected through a competitive bid process.

For individuals interested in touring the 33-mile stretch of Route 66 in Pulaski County, a turn-by-turn brochure is available for download at visitpulaskicounty.org. Alternately, the brochure is available in audio format for listening as you drive the route.

By Rolla Daily News

Mar 202014
 
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Runners, joggers, walkers, and strollers will all hit the pavement for the Sixth Annual “Race to the Rocker” at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 22 in Cuba. The four-mile, straight-shot run starts at the Mizell Funeral Home at 904 W. Washington and heads out to the unique 42-foot-tall steel rocking chair that sits next to historic Route 66 at the Fanning 66 Outpost.

Anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate or attend this event, sponsored by JOG, Inc. (Joggers of God, In Cuba). The race from historic uptown Cuba to the site of the World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning is one that has steadily grown in popularity for a variety of reasons, with both new and old participants taking part each year. Proceeds from the event go to support local charities each year.

But it’s not only the running and the gifts to charities that make this a special event in Crawford County. As the race has continued to grow, organizers have heard stories about how deeply it has affected some of the individual participants. So, this year, they sent out a call for personal accounts of what the “Race to the Rocker” has meant to them.
These inspirational stories of personal triumph, dogged determination, and life-changing decisions have been shared as the race approaches. These stories are written by the participants, so readers can hear, in their own words, the impact of this event on their lives. Organizers hope that this year’s event will inspire new stories for the future.
Registration information and additional details about the event are available on the organization’s website at www.jog-inc.com.

Don and Lesa Mizell: Proud to Be the Starting Line
Mizell Funeral Home has been the meeting, registration, and beginning place of the Race to the Rocker for the last five years, and it will be again this year.
Having the opportunity to watch the amount of people growe each year has been amazing. “Not even sleet keeps them away.”
The first year, getting everyone a chance to the restroom was hectic, but with the Cuba United Methodist Church’s help and portable potties delivered, that issue was solved.

Parking was the second hurdle that had to be addressed, for there isn’t a big enough parking lot to park everyone. But with the buses picking most of the runners up at the Cuba High School, that issue was solved.
The committee that works year round on the Race to the Rocker does a great job making sure everyone is taken care of and any issues this year are resolved by the next year.
To be the place that everyone starts arriving at on a Saturday morning in March, before the sun rises, is just a great opportunity to give back to the community. We feel proud to be the starting point for the Race to the Rocker.

Dan Sanazaro: The Man with the Finish Line
In the fall of 2008, Brad Austin of JOG, Inc. approached me about a race that would finish at the rocker. I said, “Sounds great. Let’s do it.” That was the birth of the “Race to the Rocker” as far as Fanning 66 Outpost was concerned.
I thought to myself that it was really nice of him to end this race at our store. Then he told me what our portion of the donation would be. That’s when I figured out it was a community event that would help make lots of things happen for different programs.

We are glad to be a part of this great event as a sponsor and finish line. The rocker is owned by Fanning 66 Outpost, but it belongs to Route 66 and the community. I don’t know if it will always be the largest in the world, but it will always be the Route 66 Rocker.
It’s been fun to watch the race over the years—all the different people, costumes and teams. My favorite so far was the firemen running in full gear. That was impressive! It’s inspiring to see the people who finish the race that maybe all along the way had to keep telling themselves they could make it. I see a lot of people who have done it every year, but there are also new faces.
JOG, Inc. is a great group to work with. They set this race up and break it down fast. By one in the afternoon, you can’t even tell they were here. Brad Austin leads his group well, but one little known fact about Brad is that he cannot back up a trailer. It’s kind of funny to watch him. In fact, the whole Friday set up and Saturday race is fun to watch.

In the summer of 2015, the rocker is going to get a new paint job, and we are considering a contest of some kind of who can come up with the new look. So, while you’re here at the outpost this year, run some ideas in your head and look for the contest to begin early in 2015.

By Amy England – Cuba News

Dec 172013
 

nick-gerlich-route-66









Is there a doctor on the route?!?

Nick Gerlich is really one of a kind Route 66 roadie. Most of us know him, a lot of us have traveled part of the route with him, and not too many can claim the dedication on tracking and mapping of the old(er) sections of Route 66.

I met Nick like most folks: Via Social Media. I actually met Nick in person for the first time in Las Vegas totally by chance as we found out each of us would be there, the same day for different events. So naturally we set up a time and met for a beer (or three) and talked about one thing: Route 66.

From there out Nick and I have become close ‘roadies’ and we share in each others passion. ANYTHING I need to know about Route 66 throughout Texas, I know I can ask him.

I have traveled parts of the route in Texas with Nick (3) times now and each time all for different reasons. I always try my best to see Nick if I know either one of us are within a few hundred miles from each other.

He has such a vast knowledge of everything Route 66 and his intentions are nothing but pure, and I admire that.

He is a fellow lecturer, has been on TV and in print as well as many other formats to share his passion for the route, so it almost seems he and I are running parallel lives (if not missions) for Route 66.

And he seems to always have his mountain bike in the back of his van to hit the parts of the route when a car just simply won’t do!

You can check out his website at www.drgerlich.com or his Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/nickgerlich

Dec 162013
 

missouri-hick-bbq








Missouri Hick BBQ

I kept driving by this place for the past few years wanting to stop in – but never had the chance.
Then earlier this year, I decided to bite the bullet (or the beef rib!) and stop in – and I am glad I did!!

I love BBQ and will eat it any chance I can get. The three times I have been there this year (actually 3 times in 4 months) I always have the ribs – and they are just that good!

The food is great – the service is almost too quick! As soon as you order, the food is pretty much ready.
Twice I ate on the patio and once inside the diner area – and all three times it was busy.
A nice added bonus – the Wagon Wheel Motel is right next door! So I decided to stay at the Wagon Wheel AND walk next door to grab a beer and, of course, more BBQ!

Another bonus is it is in Cuba MO and while there – make sure you check out the great murals they have throughout town.

I would recommend this place to ANY Route 66 traveler, so time it so you can stop in for lunch or dinner.

You can check out their website by going to www.missourihick.com

Dec 152013
 

galena-sign








The Town of Galena Kansas

There are only a few towns where I have spent several days total and really get to know and see the town.

I have spent most of my time in Bloomington IL, then Tucumcari NM and a close third would be Galena KS.
I have had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time in the Cars on the Route, the new Bordello, the Howard Litch Memorial Park, the Galena Mining and Historical Museum, the Streetcar Station and XTreme Wingz for some pretty good sandwiches.

I have also had the privilege of seeing a lot of other buildings either in their remodel phase, or even when they were sitting empty or not being used for anything that anyone would stop in and see.

I had the honor to get driven around Galena in a 1919 Ford Model T for about an hour – and was shown a few historical sites in town.

I do know the town is planning on continuing their streetscape plan which the northern part of Route 66 in town has been part of the first phase.

They have a great new mural now and are still planning on growing the town to make it a ‘destination’ versus a photo op.

You can check out their Facebook site by clicking the link https://www.facebook.com/Route66GalenaKS

Dec 142013
 

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The original Route 66 brick road in Auburn

I have traveled the Illinois section of Route 66 literally dozens and dozens of times. I am guilty of taking the section running along I-55 to St. Louis all the time and always bypassing the ‘other‘ route.

Boy I am glad I decided to go this way!

It is a 1.4 mile long piece of restored hand-laid brick road which was done in 1931 and it is placed over a concrete roadbed. The Illinois Route 66 Association keeps it up to good condition and to drive on it just puts you back into the 1930′s.

The great thing about it is you also get to go through other Route 66 towns which one would normally pass through and it is a must see for everyone who is driving the route in Illinois.

Also, it passes RIGHT in front of Becky’s Barn which I did have a chance to stop at and visit Becky and Rick and showed me around and talked shop – Check them out at http://www.beckysbarn.com

So next time you are planning a trip on the route in Illinois – take a moment and plan on hitting this historical part of Route 66!!

Dec 132013
 

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RETRO – Relive the Route

This is one group who are taking preservation to the next level.

I have had the pleasure to spend time with Roger Holden in and around Moriarty NM. Not only did we speak via Email, Facebook and phone calls, he invited me to stop out when I was coming back from Chicago and gave me a personal tour of all the projects they were working on.

We spent about 4 hours together first meeting at an antique car museum, heading over to the Whiting Bros. Gas Station they are helping with the restoration of the 2 signs, then over to the Midway Trading Post to walk around the property and he showed me what the plans are. We stopped out for lunch to talk preservation and then he told me about a Valentine Diner which was sitting off of the route.

Well, we had to check it out.

These folks are doing GREAT work preserving and growing Route 66 on their stretch of New Mexico.

Visit them on their Face book page at https://www.facebook.com/Relivetheroute

Dec 122013
 

rancho-cucamongo-preservation









The preservation of the Richfield Gas Station in Rancho Cucamongo CA.

I posted back in March of this year the work to restore the historic Cucamonga Service Station on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga CA.

The Route 66 Inland Empire California nonprofit group owns the propery after it was deeded to them by the Lamar sign company.

The nonprofit was formed to save the structure and members intend to renovate and rebuild the gas station to what it looked like during its business heyday in the first part of the 20th century.

“It’s really exciting to see the community want to see this gas station, this service station, come back to its golden years,” said Anthony Gonzalez, president of the Route 66 IECA.

A main goal of the organization is to turn the site of the old Richfield service station into a landmark Rancho Cucamonga tourist destination and museum for Route 66 fans and travelers from all over the world.

Known as the Cucamonga Service Station, it opened in the 1910s and provided service up to the 1970s.

The group plans to bring back the old gravity-fed pumps from the 1930s, and possibly have old signs, oil cans, souvenirs, and literature related to Route 66 for visitors and the community.

The group’s members had been concerned about the fate of the old building in recent years. A larger adjoining garage in the rear had been demolished in the recent past.

Group members say the plan is raise money with the help of the public to restore the gas station and rebuild the demolished garage. The hope is to have something open by 2015 in time for the 100 year anniversary of the station.

Lamar has donated the land to the nonprofit, and the company should get a tax break from the deal.

The group will also look to the state and federal government to assist in available grants.

I am so happy to see another historic property being not only saved – but restored to its former glory.

As we all know – I am about preserving history! ESPECIALLY Route 66 history…

 

You can visit their website at http://route66ieca.org/ or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Route66IECA