Apr 152013
 





ATLANTA — A motorist traveling Route 66 in 1926, the year the highway was officially commissioned, might have had trouble finding a gas station.

“If you wanted gas for your automobile, you had to go to the local hardware or grocery store,” said Bill Thomas, director of the Atlanta Betterment Fund. “You would find a single gas pump the owner had put in to make a little cash.”

Times evolved to the point where automobile traffic increased and service stations were born — and historians point to the Original Mother Road as one of the reasons.

Now, Thomas says, Route 66 is poised to help create the next big transportation infrastructure development: charging stations for electric vehicles. Thomas believes Route 66 can once again lead the way.

With that in mind comes Illinois’ First Electric Vehicle Cruise-In, scheduled 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8 in Atlanta.

“It is a different spin on an old tradition,” said Joe Mikulecky, chairman of the Bloomington-Normal EVTown Task Force, which is assisting Thomas. “It should be a lot of fun and should draw attention to the goal of creating more charging stations along the Route 66 corridor.”

Thomas said discussion about an electric vehicle cruise-in started about two years ago.

Normal is doing a wonderful job of promoting electric vehicles and we really hope that this event will take it a step further for our efforts,” he said.

According to Mikulecky, there are 140 electric vehicle owners in the Central Illinois area; 18 charging stations will be available at the cruise-in for no fee. All electric and hybrid car owners are invited. There will be hourly door prize drawings, vintage music, food and information on how Atlanta is working to establish charging stations along Route 66.

“Everybody is invited no matter what they drive, but what I would really like to see is some thing different,” he said. “In the early 1900s, there were vehicles that had to be recharged. I am not sure exactly how it worked, but it would be fascinating to see something like that at the event.”

By Kevin Barlow – Pantagraph

Dec 282012
 




I spoke with Bill Thomas and he mentioned to me if anyone wantes to do this (which I am!) – should use ‘outdoor paint’ on these signs as they will – obviously – be displayed outside. I will let you know when I receive mine!

ATLANTA — As a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund, businessman Bill Thomas is a firm believer in holding brainstorming sessions and discussing ideas that could generate positive feedback for the Logan County community.

And almost always, Thomas said, the town’s connection to Route 66 tends to be the focus.

“We often take an idea, incorporate other ideas from projects that have worked either here or someplace else, and come up with a plan,” Thomas said.

The newest plan is based on Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” exhibit, a 1999 idea in which local artists, architects, photographers and designers painted, decorated and dressed up fiberglass cow statues and then displayed them around the city for several months.

The first Route 66 Reinterpreted” project will encourage artists to create their own take on the U.S. Route 66 Highway Shield. Each will be provided a blank 2- by 2-foot wooden cutout of the shield, painted white, which will become their personal canvas.

The only requirement is to incorporate the text “Illinois U.S. 66” somewhere on the face of the shield. The signs will be put on permanent display along the route.

“It is just a great way to get people to visit our town and see something different,” said Atlanta resident Dale Colaw, a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund board of directors. “It reminds me of the old Burma Shave signs we had out near the entrances to town which we had local artists do, but now those are so damaged and they don’t resemble what they once were.”

The project is open to anyone over age 16 and Thomas said up to 50 entries will be accepted. All entries will be displayed along Route 66 in downtown Atlanta from May through Aug. 31.

“This is a great way to bring national attention to Route 66,” said Geoff Ladd, President of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. “Stay tuned for this because once it is done, there will be big celebration and we will have some beautiful art to showcase when we do.”

The Atlanta Betterment Fund board will select 10 shields as finalists and the public can vote at selected Route 66 attractions or at www.atlantaillinois.org. Five winning shields, along with the names of the artists who created them, will be displayed permanently in the Atlanta Route 66 Park.

Completed applications, including a $25 entry fee, are due Feb. 1. More information is at www.atlantaillinois.org.

Kevin Barlow – Pantagraph.com

Aug 212012
 



 

It almost makes sense seeing the way the (electric) car is going – BUT it is VERY pricey to install each charging station….

ATLANTA — It’s back to the future for the village of Atlanta.

Route 66, which runs through the village of 1,600, was the impetus for the original development and growth of gasoline service stations, said Bill Thomas, a director for the Atlanta Betterment Fund, an economic development group based in Atlanta. Now, local leaders think they can jump-start a movement for the next wave of fueling stations, this time for electric cars.

“Prior to Route 66, there really was no established infrastructure of business at which the new traveling public could fill up their car with gas,” Thomas said. “All sorts of other businesses, like hardware stores, grocery stores and general stores, installed gas pumps in front of their establishments where motorists could fill up. What we think of as gas stations didn’t exist. They came when entrepreneurs recognized the need for them and built them as a way of making money from Route 66 travelers.”

The city has installed two EV (electric vehicle) charging stations in the city parking lot, just one-half block from Old Route 66. The charging stations will be available free of charge to the traveling public.

“We’re into the next evolution of Route 66, and we hope that it becomes an opportunity to promote tourism and what we have to offer here,” Mayor Fred Finchum said. “Every time you draw someone to your community, you have a chance of selling something. For a full charge on a car, it takes three to four hours, so people have time to eat, shop, and visit our downtown.”

Thomas and Finchum believe the highway may become a destination for travelers going from St. Louis to Chicago.

Atlanta is the perfect spot for a charging station because it is right in the middle of the state,” Thomas said.

The city purchased and installed the machines, but Finchum said he anticipates they will quickly pay for themselves.

“Our research indicates that the power it takes to charge a vehicle is really pennies on the dollar,” he said.

The machines will be dedicated during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Among the first people to take advantage of the charging stations will be Joe Mikulecky, the Bloomington-Normal Electric Vehicle Task Force chairman.

“For this to work, the timing has to be right,” Mikulecky said, “and I think Atlanta has some foresight to showcase their tourism trade. It’s about public perception and thinking ahead. Electric cars are the wave of the future, and I am anxious to see how this works.”

“What you have with electric vehicles is kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ argument,” said Bill Kelly, the executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Heritage Project. “Electric cars are coming, and Route 66 is a perfect venue for them, because they don’t go as fast as fuel-powered cars. But people need to have the confidence that they can find charging stations, and so the more power stations that are available, the more people will be willing to use the electric cars. It’s a great idea for Atlanta, and I believe it will work well.”

By KEVIN BARLOW – Lee News Service Writer

May 202012
 



I have said it before and I will say it again – the Illinois Route 66 Association gets it! They are the shining examples of how to keep not only the route alive – but to prosper from it.

ATLANTA — While Atlanta may have a small population, it boasts a pair of giant tourist attractions — Route 66 and a 19-foot-tall statue that looms over it.

More than a dozen volunteers came from Illinois and beyond Saturday to wash and paint Atlanta’s Bunyon’s Statue — a giant man holding a hot dog — to ensure it remains a Route 66 icon for years to come.

Similar statues were once popular and designed to attract people to businesses. Atlanta’s giant originally stood for 38 years on Route 66 in Cicero, drawing customers to Bunyon’s restaurant.

When it closed in 1993, the restaurant’s owners loaned the legendary figure to Atlanta, where it draws tourists to the town of nearly 1,700.

While the one-of-a-kind Route 66 icon draws smiles and laughter from visitors, he’s a “serious factor” when it comes to economic development. The statue draws thousands from all over the world each year, said Atlanta business owner Bill Thomas, who helped bring the attraction to the city.

“There’s no where else in the world you can have your photo taken with a 19-foot man holding a hot dog,” Thomas said.

Thomas was at the statue talking with a three-man film crew Friday afternoon when two carloads of people stopped to have their photo snapped.

“That happens time and time again,” Thomas said.

And it’s not just people from the Midwest.

Saturday morning, as volunteers refurbished the statue, two visitors from Odernheim, Germany, stopped on their way from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“It’s history and was a dream,” said Klaus Dreesbach of why he decided two years ago to plan the motorcycle trip on Route 66.

Dreesbach and friend Rolf Mau weren’t surprised to see the fiberglass giant.

“We have read in a trip book about them,” said Mau, who described Atlanta as a “nice, typical, western city.”

Restoration effort

The opportunity to help preserve the giant also drew enthusiasts from as far away as Iowa and Michigan.

“I’m impressed by what people want to do to help,” said John Weiss, chair of the preservation committee of the Route 66 Association of Illinois and organizer of the work day. Those who are interested in getting involved can visit www.il66assoc.org for more information.

“It’s my wife’s birthday and it’s what she wanted,” said Joe Foster, who traveled from Urbandale, Iowa, with wife, Kara, and daughter, Ella Hendricks, 8.

“Route 66 is my passion, and he’s grown to like it,” said Kara, who painted one of the statue’s arms and the mustard on the hot dog.

Bill Kelley, who grew up hearing stories of Route 66 from his parents, came from Eastpointe, Mich., to help.

“Disneyworld and Vegas aren’t for everybody,” said Kelley of his passion for Route 66.

Volunteer Jerry Law, of Wood River, agreed. “To me, Route 66 has everything I want.”

Feb 262011
 



Are you hungry for savory burgers seared on the grill, or freshly-scrambled eggs slathered in sweet tangy ketchup? The roadside diners of Historic Route 66 are just the place to satisfy your cravings.

If you are in the Land of Lincoln, come to the city where this byway begins its iconic westward trek — Chicago! Located right at the eastern start of the byway, Lou Mitchell’s Diner is an 85-year-old veteran of the highway .Their generous breakfast is surely a Chicago staple. Or drive the byway southwest past Bloomington, Illinois and try the Palm’s Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Illinois. You can’t miss the giant “Hot Dog Man” across the street. Originally opened in 1934, this café still bears a neon sign that diners once flipped on to signal approaching Greyhound buses that prospective passengers were eating inside. Before you leave, take a minute to imagine a Greyhound bus screeching to a stop, ready to take you on a journey across the country on one of our nation’s oldest highways.

Heading through northeastern Oklahoma? Stop at Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger, a local favorite in the town of Miami. The last remaining restaurant from an old Midwestern fast-food chain, Ku-Ku Burger is familiar to Route 66 enthusiasts for its hand-made burgers and its giant yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird, a Route 66 landmark. Soak up the ‘60s vibe and don’t forget to snap a picture of one of America’s oldest novelty restaurants.

Stop in New Mexico for a taste of Mexico at Joseph’s Bar and Grill, a Route 66 veteran that has been serving homemade Mexican food for over 50 years. Originally founded as La Fiesta by Jose Campos in 1956, the restaurant is now run by his son, and keeps locals and travelers alike coming back for the locally grown chiles, delicious enchiladas, and Southwestern atmosphere. This family-owned restaurant is a great place to spice up your Historic Route 66 tour. Joseph’s Bar and Grill is located at 1775 Historic Route 66 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

In Arizona, start off with a hot plate of Splatter Platter or Swirl of Squirrel at the Route 66 Roadkill Café, located in the town of Seligman, Arizona. Known for their burgers and their whimsical slogan (“You kill it and we grill it”), this fun-filled and family-friendly restaurant will keep you laughing. (Just to be clear, they don’t actually serve roadkill. Or squirrel.) After you eat, keep your eye on the ball with a game of pool before heading out for further adventures on the All-American Road segment of Historic Route 66.