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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!


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  1. As the 25th anniversary of the deletion (yes, that's official term) of U.S. Highway 66 from the National Highway System approached, many roadies were asked what this meant to the future of 66. From my perspective, there was no such thing historically as "Route 66"... but there is now, and so far it's alive and healthy but needing an update of its narrative and a revival of its icons--and soon. This will take place, I predict in two ways: First, looking backwards with the critical eye of scholarship to what U.S. Highway 66 really was--an honest-to-goodness history of 66, shorn of mythology and hype. Instead of comparing 66 to itself--a huge flaw in historical scholarship, leading to unfounded claims of 66 as the "first paved highway," the prime emigration route to California, etc.--it must be compared to other highways to understand its role in the larger national transportation network; the non-sexy work of historians and grad students. By doing so, stories and roadside resources will be "recovered" and ideally become subjecta of preservation efforts, such as the stolid work of State Historic Preservation Offices and the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. This will add depth to the Route 66 story, refreshing and widening the narrative, and potentially delivering an economic boost to communities who hold rediscovered resources. The other direction is to move fast-forward into the future to the "New 66," exemplified best by Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma. Pops is a place that takes its inspiration from the imagined Route 66, but in a direction of roadside hyperreality: a world of fantastic, over-the-top structures that never existed, but are the spirit of 66. Pops, with its huge sculptural, cantilevered canopied gas station and 66-foot-high, rainbow-hued "bottle" sets the bar for future roadside eye candy. (Interestingly, Pops has dispensed with the quaint, six-pointed "Route 66" shield, which through overexposure has wound up in the equivalent of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, joining the stamped John Deere and old-time Coca Cola signs). In the brave new world of New 66, taking the highway to the end of the Santa Monica pier, will be not be divisive, but considered an innovative--if not obvious way--to maximize the fun of the highway. My hope is these two movements, backwards and forwards, will extend the highway and its cultural vitality into the next 25 years and beyond. JWM
  2. Roberta Serface recently published a book on the Broadway of America, entitled Broadway of America: The Forgotten Highway. http://www.thebroadwayofamerica.com/home Serface, a former Lordsburg, New Mexico resident inherited the photographs of Col. Willard E. Holt, a Lordsburg booster. During the 1920s and 1930s, Holt, as a leader of the Lordsburg Chamber of Commerce, promoted the town vigorously. This included boosting highways that came through Lordsburg, including the Borderland and Old Spanish Trail, but with the most energy, the Broadway of America. Holt's photographs, many depicting the 1928 Broadway of America motorcade to Memphis, are priceless.
  3. I dug a little deeper: Warren apparently coordinated, but did not participate in the 1913 "Hoosier Tour" to the West Coast. Thanks. JWM
  4. Hello, I'm trying to establish if C. B. Warren, President of the Indianapolis Manufacturers' Association (1913), was in any way associated with the Lincoln Highway Association. Thanks. JWM
  5. Word from the highway is that the world-famous Blue Swallow Motel is now purple -- yes, purple walls with burgundy trim. No one knows its true colors, but the recent pink-and-blue color scheme dated to at least the early 1960s. Is Route 66 ready for the bold shades of eggplant, salvia and royal velvet? Sadder news: Albuquerque's Infill Solutions recently demolished all but two units of the former Horn Motor Lodge, a noteworthy gas-food-and-lodging business on Route 66. R.I.P.
  6. Rt. 66 Ghost Town Declared a National Historic District by Tom Drake Santa Fe -- Glenrio, a town fabricated by transportation and the needs of travelers, sits empty along an abandoned stretch of Route 66 on the Texas-New Mexico border. A modern-day ghost town, it has been declared a National Historic District by the National Park Service, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division announced today. The First in Texas/Last in Texas Motel, the Art Moderne-style Little Juarez Diner, and the ca. 1930 adobe State Line Bar and Motel on the New Mexico side all are vacant. Some are missing windows, others appear about to be overcome by nature and a few have morphed into out buildings. But to get off Interstate 40 and cruise Route 66 through Glenrio and across the border oddly evokes some of the excitement and sense of adventure motorists from decades ago felt when they traveled long stretches of two-lane blacktop through a lonely countryside. "Glenrio was a splash of bright lights, hot meals and a few western-themed motels, and after that all signs of civilization ended abruptly," said John Murphey, HPD State Register coordinator. "Not only was Glenrio the only town for miles around on Route 66, but its livelihood depended entirely on Route 66, and without it, it quickly became a mid-century ghost town." There was always a bit of artifice to Glenrio. The town originally called Rock Island in 1908 was renamed Glenrio by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, although there is no river or grassy valley for miles. Glenrio prospered and by 1915 a frame school was built to complement the small houses, town hall, Methodist Church, Glenrio Hotel, restaurants and new businesses mostly centered around the railroad and its new depot. It was the federal government's siting of a post office in Glenrio in 1916 that officially placed the town in New Mexico, although mail was delivered by train to the Texas side and brought over to New Mexico for delivery. By 1917, the hotel had numerous guests traveling the rough Ozark Trails by car. Automobile traffic increased as the dirt-road predecessor was officially designated Route 66 in 1926. Once a two-lane blacktop connected Chicago to Santa Monica, California, in the mid-1930s, Glenrio literally turned its back on its early railroad years and put its best face toward the new highway. Several gas stations, a new restaurant and a motel clustered along the north side of Route 66 by the early 1930s. A few buildings from Glenrio's rail-town past were moved up close to the new highway, but most of the rest were demolished or fell into ruin. Dry on the Deaf County, Texas, side most new businesses located in New Mexico's Quay County, which followed most of the nation in repealing Prohibition. Glenrio's peak period began in 1945 and lasted 30 years until Interstate 40 bypassed it, killing in two years the motels, restaurants, five gas stations and other businesses that thrived for decades -- many of them under family ownership. The relatives of Joseph Brownlee and Homer Ehresman who started many of the businesses recall when cars were lined up five deep waiting to fill up with gasoline. In 1955, Route 66 was widened to four lanes in town to accommodate the traffic. The Glenrio Historic District includes 17 buildings and structures, the Route 66 roadbed, and the one remaining home from its days as a rail town. Many of the buildings are small and boxy, made of adobe-and-frame construction covered in smooth plaster. The Little Juarez Diner built in 1952 was built of cinderblock and streamlined to resemble the popular small, one-man operated Valentine Diners, which were hauled into towns across the country on flatcars from Wichita, Kansas. Brownlee added the touch of painting his creation with green stripes to match his nearby Texaco gas station. Glenrio was one of the last Route 66 communities to be bypassed by an interstate, holding out well past when most of system was completed. For years, Interstate 40 stopped just east of town in Texas and motorists traveled the highway to Tucumcari. But eventually the new road came through, and today motorists mostly zip by Glenrio except for the Route 66 aficionados looking to recapture a roadtrip from a bygone era. -30- FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Drake, Public Relations Historic Preservation Division Department of Cultural Affairs Bataan Memorial Building 407 Galisteo St., Suite 236 Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505) 827-4067 tom.drake@state.nm.us www.nmhistoricpreservation.org
  7. The East Texas Tourism Association just released their 44th annual edition of the East Texas Vacation Guide. Over years, the guide has paid more attention to East Texas' historic and scenic byways, including US 80 -- they call it Route 80. Like the annual state guide, the East Texas publication is a glossy, magazine-style document. Free copies can be attained at the Texas Travel Information Centers, including the I-30 West location between State Line Avenue and Summerhill Road, plus at AAA clubs in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and New Mexico. Or: https://www.easttexasguide.com/orders.html
  8. At a busy intersection in St. Augustine, Fla., across the road from the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, sits a large boulder of coquina stone six feet in diameter. Few notice it today, but this rock marks the beginning of the Old Spanish Trail -- an early transcontinental highway that laid the groundwork for Interstates 8 and 10. This is our favorite time of year, but not because of the holidays. Right around now -- in fact tomorrow -- is another anniversary of the Old Spanish Trail. Traces of the trail still exist today, including the coquina monument in St. Augustine and a marker in San Diego at the trail's end. In between lie hundreds of miles of bypassed two-lane sections of U.S. 80, 90 and 290, each with small towns, mom-and-pop restaurants, and many of the same historical attractions advertised in the OST travel guides. The San Antonio-based OST 100 is planning a large cross-country motorcade in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Texas regrouping. Co-chair Charlotte Kahl hopes that the motorcade will lead people to "revitalize and preserve sections of the Old Spanish Trail." Just as decades ago, Kahl hopes the stories of the conquistadores and padres will inspire modern drivers to retrace the OST. We think she's right. Happy 91! JWM www.drivetheost.com
  9. Some of us hoard postcards; some of us so obsessively, we forgo food and new underwear. But postcards -- one could rationalize -- are of high educational value. Beyond the tinting, cosmetic enhancements and faked backgrounds, postcards give a sense of what the road looked like, even as gauzy versions of the real thing. Even more interesting are the traveler's notes on the back. True, 99.9% are of the "wish you here," "having a wonderful time," "will be home in three days" sentiment. But there are those rare postcards that capture the reality of the road -- the good, the bad and the boring. Last December we scooped up a collection of postcards written by a gentleman rambling around Florida in 1933. Like an amateur anthropologist, he observed that the "houses of Negroes or poor people are on up stilts of brick or stone." In St. Augustine, he stopped at the famed Fountain of Youth, but found the water "sulphur-like" and the admission too steep (80 cents). Billboards advertising "Good and Bad Furniture" perplexed him (and us, too). The postcards, among other things, documented the price of produce along the way. Apparently A&P's California green-top carrots were a steal at 3 for 25 cents. Wish you were here; the cauliflower is 3 pounds for 25 cents! We invite you to share your real road story postcards. JWM
  10. We wanted to wait until all the backslapping, high-fiving and media fawning for that other road faded. Now it's time to celebrate a few more birthdays. US 80- Hatched in 1914 as a Sunday drive across Georgia, the Dixie Overland Highway by 1926 had matured into a 2,600-mile broadway, hooking the Atlantic to the Pacific. Early on, its promoters promised, "the shortest, straightest, and only year round, ocean to ocean highway in the United States." And one of them, J.S. Blecker, felt no qualm in heralding it "the most important project that the people of the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts have ever cooperated in." Wow. Bonnie and Clyde used it as a getaway, Martin Luther King marched down it to Selma and Borat -- if you noticed -- drove its modern day equivalent to find Pamela in California. Cool fact: US 80's eastern terminus is actually an island -- Tybee Island, Georgia. (Did they ever find the bomb?) US 90- We find no hyperbole in calling it the toughest highway ever built. The Old Spanish Trail got a tough assignment from the go, needing to bridge nearly 300 miles of rivers, swamps and muck draining off from the mighty Mississippi. Other continental crusaders had an easier ride: simply stitching together existing roads, bridging the occasional river and finding a negotiable pass around the Rockies. By 1922, with an arm-twisted endorsement from the Acting Secretary of War, the OST was "essential" and catching up with its competitors to the north. Now we're catching up on building the expectations for these two cross-country wonders. There is a mountain of work to do, but folks in California and San Antonio are already brightening the way. US 80 and US 90, HAPPY 80TH! JWM
  11. Preservation Strong Along Route 66 Federal Advisory Group Sees Success in Oklahoma OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov. 11 -- For John Dunning, a wiry man with round glasses and a graying beard, the Owl Courts on Oklahoma City's Route 66 is a special place. "I loved this property since I was young, and dreamed about it all my life," said Dunning to the assembled members of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Advisory Council, who met for two days in this city to discuss the state of the road. The 1940s stone-built motel, cafe and gas station looked doomed three years ago. To most, the corner property harbored a haven of vice. "Nobody had a clue about its history," said Dunning. Hearing it was up for auction, he bid on the property, feeling even more motivated after competing bidders said they only wanted to demolish it. With luck, "dang it, I did get it," remembers Dunning. The first few months, Dunning dealt with his inherited tenants who were indeed "selling drugs, selling girls." Then one morning, he gathered a truck and some friends and awoke his last unwanted guest, driving him and his possessions across town to a new home. "And that was my last tenant," said Dunning. The National Park Service recently provided him a $10,000 cost-share grant to fix the motel's roof. But when work started, Dunning noticed the walls were out of whack and parts of the foundation were in trouble. The project soon morphed into an archaeological investigation, as he yanked away layers upon layers of building material. Poking around the site, Jim Conkle, an advisory council member and chairman of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, asked how soon he could make a reservation. Dunning laughed and reminded the group that its restoration is a long-term project. Although he's not sure he and his friends can get every part of the project done alone, "Whatever we do is positive," Dunning said as the sun set over his rambling dream. Big Signs Earlier, the advisory council toured the Tower Theatre, a 1937 movie palace whose exuberant neon sign was bashed in by a truck. A $15,000 NPS cost-share grant will go toward fixing and restoring the sign. Scott Fife, a partner in the Uptown Development Group that manages the theater, said the "first order of business is to fix the sign," which can be seen for a mile each direction from the theater. But at the sight of four garbage cans brimming with rainwater in the theater's auditorium, Fife quickly qualified: "followed by the next order of business, fixing the roof." The Uptown Development Group, a partnership of Oklahoma City residents Terri Sadler-Goad, Matt Goad, Marty Dillon and Fife, hope the sign will be up and shining again, becoming a "calling card for the area," within a few months. Other NPS cost-share work in Oklahoma includes a plan to rehabilitate the 1931 Vickery Phillips 66 Station in Tulsa for use by a car rental business. Motels Threatened Despite success stories in Oklahoma, mom-and-pop motels up and down Route 66 are increasingly threatened. Pressure from accelerating property values, soaring insurance rates, and a push for higher density redevelopment encourages mom-and-pop owners to sell. This summer, the City of Albuquerque approved demolition of the motel portion of the National Register-listed Horn Oil Lodge, in spite of a loud outcry from Route 66 preservationists and a neighborhood association. Even the iconic El Vado Motel, a National Register-listed and Albuquerque-designated property known throughout the Route 66 world, is on the edge, as its owner recently applied for its demolition. To meet the problem, the advisory council plans to elevate the discussion of motel preservation to a national level. Money Available The National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program awarded seven cost-share grant awards in 2006. Each grant represents an important new partnership that expands upon the growing revitalization and understanding of the Route 66 corridor. Grants awarded in 2006 include The Palms Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Ill.; Walter's Market in St. Louis; a gas station in Baxter Springs, Kansas; Joe and Aggie's Cafe in Holbrooke, Ariz.; the Winslow, Ariz. Historical Society Archives; along with the two Oklahoma City projects and the Vickery Phillips 66 Station in Tulsa. ### For information: http://www.cr.nps.gov/rt66/index.htm www.cr.nps.gov/rt66/news/FACA.htm posted by drivetheost.com KSJWM
  12. Jack- Great to see all this attention -- and good writing -- directed to old U.S. 80. One point of clarification: the Broadway of America did not follow U.S. 80 all the way to Savannah. The BOA traced U.S. 80 to Dallas, after which it headed off in a northeast direction, using 10 separate U.S. highways to end up on Broadway in NYC. Keep up the good work! JWM
  13. Alex- Thanks for the tip. We've come across loads of cross-country road races, but not this one. Claims of "first to" across the continent reached a high in the mid-teens. Skim any c.1915 newspaper and you'll be delighted to read about the first man to cross the country "witouth hands," etc. It almost reached the absurd. Fletcher and company made the run relatively unscathed. The Cadillac ran on Kelly-Springfield Balloon tires that were punctured three times by nails, but no blowouts. JWM
  14. Breaking All Records Eighty years ago this week, Col. Ed Fletcher broke the existing transcontinental speed record by 11 hours and 56 minutes. The cross-country race started as a dare by Fletcher's son, Ed Jr. But Fletcher raced for bigger reasons. As the Moses of Southern California's good roads movement, Fletcher boosted almost any highway that moved cars toward San Diego. The Dixie Overland Highway (DOH), a sunny diagonal between Savannah and San Diego, promised much but needed work to make it a sturdy all-weather highway. The cross-country run presented a perfect publicity stunt to bring attention to the fledgling road. The San Diego Chamber of Commerce offered to bankroll the trip, but Fletcher declined. With cash from the sale of his Henshaw Dam -- they didn't call him the "millionaire water king" for nothing -- Fletcher underwrote the race, saying it was his "personal contribution to Southern California's development." To make the run Fletcher looked no farther than his garage, selecting the old "family car," a Cadillac sedan with over 17,000 miles. The car carrying Fletcher, his son, Milton Jackson, LaVerne Kingsbury, and mechanic G.E. Graves, left San Diego on October 20, just a few hours before dawn. Wire reports of an approaching hurricane off the coast of Puerto Rico rushed them to early departure, and rain shadowed their trail all the way to the Atlantic. Averaging 50 mph, the car reached Phoenix in eight hours, later to get caught in a big cloudburst that knocked out bridges between Tucson and Bisbee. The race nearly came to a dead end when the racers hit the swirling San Pedro River near Wilcox. But with a telephone call four horses appeared to help the car cross the river. Wiring ahead, Fletcher got the OK from state, county and local police agencies to break all speed laws. Fort Worth gave him the green light to streak through their city at the unheard-of 55 mph. A crowd of 2,500 mobbed the Cadillac when it stopped in downtown Dallas for refueling. Three men pulled the crew out, and rushed them into a hotel for a shower, a rubdown and a meal -- all accomplished within 40 minutes. Fletcher's "race against time" ended when the speed demon, escorted by a column of motor cops, roared into Savannah at 3:15 am on October 23. Always willing to outsize his role in history, Fletcher believed the run brought federal attention to the DOH and led to its official recognition as U.S. 80. The Cadillac corporation liked the story and offered Fletcher a new seven-passenger sedan in exchange for the record-breaking family car. Fletcher, naturally, accepted. JWKSM
  15. Yet another linear garage sale -- but this one is looking to capture history. Howard W. Rosser, director of the East Texas Tourism Association told the Courier Gazette: "'We want people to cruise it, and write stories and songs about our own 'mother road.' What we are trying to do is push forward the preservation of this highway -- its roadside architecture, the old 'mom and pop' motels and service stations and all the things that relate to the 30s, 40s and 50s, as well as little remaining sections of the original road.'" Go here for the full story: http://www.courier-gazette.com/articles/20...ews/news_10.prt
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