ROUTE THE MAGAZINE THAT CELEBRATES ROAD TRAVEL, VINTAGE AMERICANA AND ROUTE 66
Magazine THE DARK TALE BEHIND
THE CORAL COURT
THE STORY TOLD LIKE NEVER BEFORE ARTIST JERRY McCLANAHAN
ACTOR GARY SINISEâ€™S FIGHT TO SUPPORT VETERANS
THE BIZARRE SIDE OF ROUTE 66
COME DINE WITH A
1309 South Agnew • 1st Light South of I-40 Located in Historic Stockyards City.
405.236.0416 • CattlemensRestaurant.com
Open 6am Every Day
ii ROUTE Magazine
DISCOVER ARIZONA’S WEST COAST Just a Short Drive from Route 66
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year — and a unique mix of tranquil waters, rugged mountains, and tons of fun — it’s hard to stay inside. Discover Lake Havasu City — just a short drive from Route 66 — and play like you mean it.®
Grand Canyon National Park
Las Vegas Oatman Needles 40
Call (800) 242-8278 to request your free Visitors Guide. Los Angeles
Play Like You Mean It® and the Lake Havasu City logo are registered marks of Lake Havasu Tourism Bureau Inc dba Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau.
CALIFORNIA Pacific Ocean
Lake Havasu City
San Diego Mexico
ROUTE Magazine 1
Chelsea – Ed Galloway Park will thrill your soul... With the world’s largest concrete totem pole!
Sapulpa – See gleaming hotrods, dragsters and gems, at the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum.
Catoosa – Love quirky
landmarks? Here’s a real treat. A giant blue whale that spans 80 feet!
Pops 66 Soda Ranch
Restaurants, photo ops, Mother Road tips… At Travel
Miami – Watch opera, cinema, ballet, and jazz... The Coleman Theater’s got vintage pizazz.
Commerce – Eat Dairy King’s burgers with frosty root beer. No wonder Mickey Mantle was a regular here.
.com, plan your trip!
A Lonely Road in Antares, Arizona. Photograph: Brennen Matthews.
16 A Stylish Lair
58 Texan Style
24 KA-CHOW!! The Cars Story
65 The Clown Motel
The Coral Court Motel was as famous for its streamlined art deco architecture as for its reputation as a haven for criminals and adulterers. Author Shellee Graham takes us through the salacious life and history of the St. Louis landmark, and its mysterious owner John Carr. Nick Gerlich recounts the true story of Pixar’s seminal Route 66 film, Cars, from director John Lasseter’s first journey down the Mother Road to the film’s smashing success and enduring impact on the highway. You’ve not heard this tale before.
34 In the Fight: Gary Sinise
ROUTE Magazine sits down with actor Gary Sinise, renowned for his work in film and television, and delves into his Oscar-nominated turn as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, and how it inspired his unwavering commitment to America’s injured veterans. Sinise’s is a story worth reading.
From the oversized boot in the parking lot to its ��- ounce steaks, The Big Texan Steak Ranch proves that everything really is bigger in Texas. Melanee Morin tells the story of the family who built it and their enduring legacy on Amarillo’s enviable stretch of Route 66. Against the backdrop of an old graveyard, The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV, is a colorful enclave of eerie cheerfulness. Alex Salles dives into the history of this horror fan hotspot.
68 Parting Shot: Dawn Welch
Route 66 Icon Dawn Welch, immovable owner of the Rock Cafe and the inspiration for Sally Carrera in Cars, weighs in on eating minnows, time travel and her favorite spots along Old 66.
40 A Different Perspective
Photographer Wes Pope shares a surreal perspective of the Mother Road through the lens of his homemade pop-can pinhole camera. His warped black and white photographs, collected over an odyssey of twenty years, capture Route 66 landmarks and personalities in a whole new light.
50 Bringing the Route to Life:
One of the most respected voices on 66, Jerry McClanahan opens up to ROUTE Magazine about his long-time connection to the Mother Road, his artistic and historical contributions to the highway, and why he decided to settle down in Chandler, Oklahoma. 6 ROUTE Magazine
ON THE COVER The Wigwam Motel in Rialto, CA.
Some people reminisce
About the past.
Some people get out and
iT! Relive it!
Experience a classic car parade down Route 66, concerts, booths, great food and other fun during the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival August 10-11, 2018.
Find out more at
(On Old Route 66 in Downtown Springfield) Open Mon. - Fri., 8am - 5pm ROUTE Magazine 7
CONNECT WITH DESTINATION MAGAZINE
ROUTE 8 ROUTE Magazine
ROUTE Magazine 9
EDITORIAL Summertime is finally here! It has been a long winter and a cooler than usual Spring, but now the long sunny days are back, and with them the positivity and upbeat attitude and carefree outlook that defines summer. It also means that the highways are going to be pretty busy folks - a recent survey by AAA found that approximately 8�% of respondents were planning to take a road trip this summer - so plan well and be safe out there while exploring the amazing diversity of the United States. In this issue, we are super excited to bring you some of our favorite stories connected to Route 66. To start the issue off, Shellee Graham takes us into the murky world of the Coral Court Motel and its founder, Jack Carr. The venue is no longer in actual existence, but its story lives on in the annals of history and via a single unit of the colorful venue, that has found a home in the Museum of Transportation, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is a tale that is both titillating and unexpected and the shadowy character of both venue and proprietor will likely fascinate and intrigue you. The ���5, Disney-Pixar film Cars is a movie that a lot of people have seen, or at least know about, but how many of you know the real backstory and the film’s undeniable impact on Route 66’s resurgence? In this terrific article, academic scholar and road warrior Nick Gerlich spends some valuable time with Pixar executives and Route 66 personalities to get a fuller understanding of the real story behind the hit movie. If you are a fan of Cars, or simply love the allure and romance of the old road, you are going to enjoy this story. One of the most fun parts of working with ROUTE is getting to meet so many talented, intriguing people, and having the honor of getting to tell their stories. This time around we feature one of the Mother Road’s most beloved artists and boosters, Jerry McClanahan. In this fast-paced, diverse interview, McClanahan takes us through history and time, via HIS Route 66. One of the road’s more well-known personalities, I am positive that many of you will be surprised by how much you discover about the author of the bestselling Route 66: EZ Guide. And if these stories were not enough, we have an awesome look into The Big Texan and the Lee family who still stand firmly behind their unique, quirky venue and continue to draw visitors from near and far to Amarillo, Texas. ROUTE showcases the photography of Wes Pope as he captures the old road in black and white via his pop can camera. What is a pop can camera, you ask? Take a look at Wes’ pictorial and you will soon find out. He offers a whole new take on the haunting imagery that defines the Mother Road. How many of you know about the infamous and deciding Civil War battle at Glorieta Pass in New Mexico? And what do you know about the early days of famed outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde? Read on to find out. This issue is jam packed with fascinating stories that are sure to entertain and inform. We are super excited to share them with you. Please remember to let your friends and family know about ROUTE Magazine and if you haven’t already, why not subscribe to the magazine and have it delivered right to your door? We would love to have you join us on this journey. Please be sure to follow us on social media: Facebook (routemagazine) and, Twitter (routemagazine66) and definitely visit with our amazing advertising partners. They all have such terrific products to offer. Enjoy your travels this summer and if you happen to see any of us ROUTE people out on Route 66, be sure to stop and say hello. Travel safe, travel well. Brennen Matthews Editor
10 ROUTE Magazine
ROUTE PUBLISHER Thin Tread Media EDITOR Brennen Matthews DEPUTY EDITOR Kate Wambui ASSOCIATE EDITOR Melanee Morin LAYOUT AND DESIGN Tom Heffron EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Cecil Stehelin Gwyneth Davis Katherine McLaughlin DIGITAL Matthew Alves CONTRIBUTORS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS Alex Salles Audrey DeVere Domenick D’Andrea Jenny Mallon Jerry McClanahan Melissa Whitney Nick Gerlich Pixar Animation Studios Shellee Graham Wes Pope Veterans United
Editorial submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org To subscribe visit www.routemagazine.us. Advertising enquiries should be sent to advertising@routemagazine. us or call ��� ��� ����. ROUTE is published six times per year by Thin Tread Media. No part of this publication may be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher. The views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher, editor or staff. ROUTE does not take any responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photography.
ROUTE Magazine 11
ROUTE REPORT While the route is steeped in history, it is also constantly changing, and we’re here to bring you all the latest news: what’s happening, who’s driving the future of the Mother Road, and why it all matters. World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Comes to an End The annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Birthday Party & Car Show in Collinsville, Illinois, is ending after the long-time co-organizers announced that they had decided to “move on to do other things.” Co-organizer Mike Gassman elaborated on his decision to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April �3rd: “Last year was so big and so fun we felt like we couldn’t top it again. There’s three of us on the executive committee, and we finally said that we were just done and ready to move on to do other things. We thought we’d go out on a high note, but it’s going to be a different summer that’s for sure.” The ���� event they oversaw drew up to 5,��� people. The ���-foot-tall World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits near the site of a former Brooks Catsup factory. The ���,���-gallon water tower was built in ����. The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits about two miles south of the nearest alignment of Route 66 at Beltline Road in Collinsville, but it remains a favorite side trip for Route 66 travelers. Planet Prancer: Man Dances across America An Englishman plans to dance the length of Route 66 and beyond in order to raise money for a charity that fights slavery and human trafficking. Ben Hammond, ��, aka Planet Dancer, is a lecturer and teacher at UCL Institute of Education in London. He began his journey March �8 from the Santa Monica Pier and is dancing his way east to the East Coast. According to a live feed from his website, he was in Barstow, California, on April ��th and will return to England for a while after dancing to the remote Mojave Desert ghost town of Amboy, California. He told the Victorville Daily Press he would return to California in July or August to finish his trek in the Golden State. He plans to follow much of Route 66 to Chicago, then on to New York City. He acknowledged that dancing across America might take years. Hammond is raising money for Anti-Slavery International. He’s raised two-thirds of his goal of 5,��� British pounds. Cadiz Water Pipeline Threatens Bonanza Springs Wildlife Area For years, Cadiz Inc. has sought to pump tens of billions of gallons of underground water from the Mojave Desert and pipe it to thirsty southern Californians. Now, experts have told The Desert Sun in Palm Springs that the Cadiz Inc. project could endanger a rare, spring-fed oasis called Bonanza Springs just a few miles north of Route 66 near Essex, California. Cadiz Inc. is proposing to pump an average of �6.3 billion gallons of water each year for 5� years. The company says that the project won’t harm any of the springs in the area, and that it recently presented a study in which researchers concluded that Bonanza Spring wouldn’t be affected by its groundwater pumping. Now, other researchers have come to the opposite conclusion, noting in a new study that Bonanza Springs is likely connected to the same aquifer where the company plans to draw water from wells and that the project would put the spring at risk of drying up. The spring in question is Bonanza Springs Watchable Wildlife Area, which is under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It may take years in courtrooms to sort out this issue. In the meantime, enjoy the springs while you can. Bonanza Springs Watchable Wildlife Area is about �� miles west of the Mountain Springs Road exit from Interstate ��, then another three miles north on Danby Road. All news and copy for this page has been sourced, created and written by www.route66news.com. Revisions to text have been made in some instances by ROUTE Magazine. 12 ROUTE Magazine
Picture yourself on the sidewalks of Route 66
lley soline A Bobâ€™s Ga nly O t intmen By Appo
Cuba,Missouri on Historic Rte. 66
14 Murals Four Motels Museum Winery Restaurants Antique Mall Largest Rocking Chair
www.visitcubamo.com ROUTE Magazine 13
THE YEAR OF 1926
THE LIVES OF BONNIE AND CLYDE
Mother Road enthusiasts fondly think of ���� as the golden year that birthed the legendary Route 66. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of ����, and the US Highway 66 was established later that year on November ��th. But what else was happening in ����? This series takes a look at the cultural and social milieu from which Route 66 emerged - the famous, the infamous, the inventions, and the scandals that marked ���� as a pivotal year. In this issue, we bring you the story of the notorious gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde.
n ����, Route 66 would officially receive its numerical designation. Also in ���6, just shy of her sixteenth birthday, Texas high school student Bonnie Parker would drop out of school to marry her classmate, Roy Thornton. They would separate shortly after, but never officially divorce. That same year, ��-year-old Clyde Barrow would be incarcerated for the first time for fleeing police after failing to return a rental car. Clyde, who up to that point had aspirations of becoming a musician, was influenced to take up a life of crime by his older brother, Buck. Clyde’s second arrest for stealing turkeys followed soon after his first. Clyde’s incarceration would set him on a course to a lifelong vendetta against law enforcement officers, which would lead to his and Bonnie’s eventual downfall. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met in ���� through a mutual friend. Immediately smitten, their fledgling relationship was soon interrupted by Clyde’s incarceration at Eastham State Prison Farm. Eager to begin her new life with Clyde, Bonnie smuggled a gun into the prison, with which Clyde managed to escape. Clyde was soon recaptured and would not be paroled until ����. Clyde Barrow emerged from the brutal prison a hardened ex-con with a chip on his shoulder towards law enforcement. Bonnie and Clyde, aided by a rotating group of accomplices, cut a swath through the US, using and even being photographed in front of, a Route 66 highway shield. It was in Joplin, Missouri, a town which has three intersections to Route 66, at a modest apartment over a 14 ROUTE Magazine
garage at ���� ½ Oakridge Drive, where the gang was forced to leave behind most of their possessions, after fleeing from the police. Among the lost possessions were several of Bonnie’s handwritten poems and a camera containing the now famous picture of Bonnie with a cigar protruding rakishly from her teeth and a pistol in her hand. Despite the fact that Bonnie and Clyde avoided killing whenever possible, instead, taking prisoners and often releasing their hostages with enough money to get home, by ����, public opinion of the couple had soured. Due to their many narrow escapes, law enforcement efforts intensified and a trap was laid. Bonnie and Clyde were finally ambushed in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, by officers hiding in the bushes, who didn’t give the couple an opportunity to surrender. The coroner reported seventeen entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and twenty-six on Parker’s. Soon after their deaths, a crowd gathered to collect grisly souvenirs, including bloody locks of Parker’s hair and pieces from her dress. An onlooker was interrupted attempting to sever the trigger finger from Barrow’s corpse. Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled Ford became a traveling attraction known as “The Death Car.” At the time people could pay a dollar to sit in it and take pictures. Today, it is on display in Whiskey Pete’s casino in Primm, Nevada. Just as Route 66 became a symbol of hope for those making the trek from Oklahoma to California during The Great Depression, lovely poet Bonnie and her outlaw lover Clyde became a symbol of rebellion for those who perceived themselves failed by the establishment.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.
By Gwyneth Davis
ROUTE Magazine 15
16 ROUTE Magazine
LAIR By Shellee Graham
“John Carr was perhaps the most intimidating, charming, secretive, generous, and potentially dangerous character the route has known.” From Secret Route 66: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure The Coral Court in the early 1990s. Author Photograph. ROUTE Magazine 17
rom the day construction was completed until the day the wrecking ball cast it asunder fiftyfour years later, the Coral Court Motel stood as both an architectural masterpiece and a place of mystery and nefarious activities. Its reputation was brought to bear by the shadowy John Carr, who owned and operated it for forty-three of those years. Carr, an ex-con, purchased property along Watson Road (U.S 66) in the suburban village of Marlborough around ����. How the motel was financed is unknown, but Carr spared no expense in its construction, hiring architect Adolph Struebig in ����, to grace the pastoral property with an incomparable motor lodge. Built in the Streamline Moderne style of the era, the Coral Court featured curved walls and an array of glass blocks and colored tile bricks. And each room came with a private garage. The original plans called for ten two-unit bungalows, a modest beginning that would be expanded in the years to come. The completed complex was without equal in terms of curb appeal. Its uniquely designed rooms in the eight-acre park-like setting were shaded by beautiful pin oaks on a slightly sloping hillside facing the Mother Road. It is believed that Carr named the motel after a coral business investment he had in Mexico. He also had a home in Siesta Key, Florida, near Sarasota. The Coral Court was an instant hit with the motoring public. Carr kept the grounds manicured and insisted that every aspect of the operation be perfect. Not so much as a gum wrapper was left on the ground, and repairs were done immediately without regard to cost. Tourists found it to be the cat’s meow, and it provided lifelong memories, especially for World War II brides who honeymooned there, some of whom never saw their husbands again. Because of the unending stream of customers supplied by the Mother Road, the motel stayed booked far in advance. Yet, almost from the beginning, there were hints of a dark undercurrent to John Carr’s high profile motel.
The Man behind the Mystery John Henry Carr was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on June ��, ����. As a young man, he migrated to Ohio, where records show that in ���� he married Pearl Miller, who gave birth to Anna Pearl Carr in ����. After his wife became pregnant again, the story goes that the two were fighting, and she fell (or was possibly pushed) down a flight of stairs to her death. Carr had done hard time. Records are sketchy, but he was incarcerated at Leavenworth, Kansas, at least once and possibly twice (documents show he entered there in ���� as Inmate #�����). It is known that he was charged in Toledo, Ohio, for violating the Mann Act (transporting a female across state lines for the purpose of prostitution). His seedy dealings got him chased out of Ohio by the Detroit mob, who frowned on his growing infringement on the Motor City sex trade. During the ����s, Carr ran at least one brothel in St. Louis, located in the Mid-Town area at Theresa and Lucas Avenues. Carr was tall and thin with rugged good looks and steely blue eyes. An old friend once described him as “Dapper, orderly, handsome. He was a smooth talker and the ‘king of control.’ He would have no trouble killing someone or having it arranged.” There is little doubt that ulterior 18 ROUTE Magazine
motives played into Carr’s decision to create a cash-based business, conveniently situated just one mile outside the St. Louis city limits. Later, it became generally known that Carr carried the Marlborough police department in his hip pocket. In ����, twenty-three more two-unit cottages were added, designed by architect Harold Tyrer, and by ��5�, three twostory units in more traditional styling were in place at the rear of the property. That same year, Carr married former prostitute Jessie Hughes, possibly from his own stable of soiled doves. Safe to say it was not a romance born in paradise, as we shall see. Around ����, the motel’s original neon sign was replaced, further enhancing the motel’s visibility. Still unknown to most, the Coral Court secretly percolated with illegal gambling and call-girl activity. As part of the expansion, Carr included at least one underground room (beneath bungalow No. ��), as well as an escape tunnel that extended from one unit’s closet to near the pool, where it masqueraded as a drainage outlet. Rumor had it that another tunnel ran beneath Watson Road to a business that oddly was never open. More obvious were the comings and goings for one-night stands by locals, which over time would contribute to the Coral Court’s ruin. In September ����, headlines exploded with the kidnapping of six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, son of a wealthy Kansas City Cadillac dealer, who was snatched by bumbling, low-life amateur criminals Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady. They killed the child, and then collected $6��,��� in ransom. Arriving in St. Louis, Hall flashed money around town, then rented a room at the Coral Court. He and Heady were quickly collared—conveniently arrested by corrupt St. Louis police lieutenant Lou Shoulders, who had ties to mobster Joe Costello, a friend of John Carr. Approximately half of the ransom money was never recovered, and many still believe that the likely recipient of the loot was John Carr, even though he was cleared following an investigation. Hall and Heady fessed up to the kidnapping, and in a case of lightning-swift justice, the pair was executed (side by side) in the Missouri State Penitentiary’s gas chamber on December ��, ��53, only twenty-nine days after sentence was passed. The marriage of John and Jessie proved somewhat volatile, and in ���� they divorced. Jessie promptly ran off with desk clerk and ex-con Julian Stewart, taking along a briefcase full of incriminating documents and one of
John Carr’s Leavenworth Penitentiary mug shot from 1933. National Archives.
The bungalows at the Coral Court made great photo subjects, as seen here in this image from the 1980s. Esley Hamilton Photograph.
John Carr’s Cadillacs. Jessie and Stewart were found to be married and living in Florida when Carr finally tracked them down two years later. Two of his friends were dispatched to send Stewart packing and bring Jessie back to St. Louis. Jessie, the briefcase, and the Cadillac were returned without incident. Three years later, John and Jessie remarried. John Carr had two distinct personalities. On the upside, motel staff spoke of his kindness and generosity. He was known to help employees, sometimes handing out cash or appliances and furniture when updating the units. Local business owners considered him a gentleman. One story tells of a poor family brought to the motel by the highway patrol after their car broke down. Carr put them up, fed them, bought them winter coats, and had the manager slip them a shoebox full of cash. Having grown up poor, he had a soft spot for those down on their luck. John Dover, Carr’s grandson, stated, “My grandfather was the type of person who would pull out his wallet and hand $5�� to a complete stranger that he felt bad about.” Dover is the son of Anna Pearl Carr, daughter of Carr’s ill-fated first wife, Pearl Miller. The other side of Carr could be downright scary. John Carr was not one to cross, and he demanded obedience. His son from a previous relationship decided to do a bit of freelancing in the East St. Louis, Illinois underworld, but not for long. In July of ��55, the body of Bobby Gene Carr, age ��, was found stabbed and shot in the trunk of his car in Williamson, Illinois. When an acquaintance offered condolences, John Carr seized him by the throat and yelled, “That was not my son; I never had a son!” Coral Court employees were uniformly loyal, though an underlying fear of their boss no doubt played into it. Carr had considerable reach and powerful friends. John Dover says his grandfather “was paying off the policemen to look the other way.” St. Louis news reporter John Auble once stated that “(Carr) had close ties with Buster Wortman, the mafia boss from East St. Louis. He had an underground
room where he played cards with hoodlums, most notably Bugsy Seigel.” The popularity of the Coral Court during its glory years occasionally brought celebrity guests such as Danny Thomas, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, and others. By the ��6�s, getting a room there became the ultimate cool thing for area youngsters. It was often the site of after-prom parties and otherwise considered a rite of passage to stay at the Coral Court. Naturally, doing so required lifting a souvenir ashtray or matchbook as proof of one’s bold escapade. The inevitable and irreversible downhill slide began following completion of I-��, which forced even more reliance on “no-tell” clients. A room could be rented by the hour or the week, and management didn’t care what you did behind pulled drapes as long as you didn’t spoil it for
The Coral Court was popular with tourists during its best years. Here, Brothers David and John Sznek pose outside their room in 1956. Author’s Collection. ROUTE Magazine 19
Jessie and John Carr next to his Cadillac, circa 1956. Courtesy of John Dover.
Spirtas Wrecking installed this sign as demolition began. For years, the Coral Court had been a subject of controversy in metropolitan St. Louis. Author’s Photograph.
anybody else. Still, business declined, as did public opinion about what was going on there. Curious tourists and roadside photographers wandering the grounds were often met by unfriendly staff and told to leave. Money for maintenance was drying up, as was (apparently) John Carr’s other sources of income. “John knew it was coming to an end, but he would not let the place die,” according to former employee ‘L.G.’ “He was going to do whatever it took. He may have spent his whole fortune keeping the place going. He would never let it go or sell it. (The motel) was his life and he really loved that place.” John Carr finally did let it go. He died in ����, taking his secrets to the grave and sealing the motel’s fate. The current manager, Bob Williams, became Jessie’s next husband, and he made no effort to stop the motel’s deterioration. In ����, the last of the U.S. 66 shields came off the famous highway, completing its decertification. Eight years later, on August ��, ����, the Coral Court closed its doors for good. By then, the Mother Road renaissance was well underway, and preservationists became anxious about the motel’s future, from both an architectural and Route 66 perspective. The Coral Court could easily have been repurposed, but the asking price of $�.� million plus the cost of renovations
was too steep for preservation-minded buyers. In spite of continued and passionate efforts to save it, the motel was sold to a housing developer, and demolition was set for early summer, ����. For Jessie Carr, burdened with bad memories, the Coral Court was a millstone to be cast off. Once the sale was finalized, she had the sign covered up and later ordered it destroyed rather than sold or otherwise preserved. Jessie Carr Williams had her revenge before passing away on October ��, ���6. In a brilliant move, the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis County made arrangements with the demolition contractor, Spirtas Wrecking, to dismantle and reassemble one of the bungalows for a permanent museum display. For several weeks, museum employees, retired masons, Navy Seabees and many other volunteers painstakingly removed bricks and glass blocks to make this possible. Spirtas reported getting more calls about the Coral Court demolition than when they had razed entire city blocks. This prompted them to erect a large sign that read, “It’s Check-Out Time at Coral Court—No More One Night Stands.” The sign evoked anger in some, but others saw it as the contractor’s way of recognizing its notoriety, while paying tribute to its iconic status. To their credit, the developers left the stone walls of the former entrance in place, which still remain visible on Watson Road. Over its lifespan, the Coral Court symbolized the true essence of Route 66 and embedded itself into the memories of thousands. A night at the Coral Court was a classic St. Louis and Route 66 experience. While its loss was a heavy blow to the route and to vintage roadside architecture, the Coral Court maintains its presence. Since its demise, it has been the subject of a play— Kid Peculiar at the Coral Court Motel, a book, a documentary film, and has been featured in dozens of publications. The legendary Coral Court may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.
The secretive John Carr, owner of the legendary Coral Court. Author’s Collection. 20 ROUTE Magazine
Shellee Graham is a photographer, preservationist, and Route 66 historian. She is the author or co-author of five books, including Tales from the Coral Court: Photos and Stories of a Lost Route 66 Landmark (Virginia Publishing, 2000). In 2004, she co-produced (with Bill Boll) an award-winning documentary film, Built for Speed: The Coral Court Motel, based on her book. She lives on the old road near Arcadia, Oklahoma.
HOTEL Va c a n c y
Some folks say it’s all about the journey. We think the stops along the way can be pretty great, too. The call of the open road, it’s almost magical, and very American. Yet this is no ordinary road trip. This is the Mother Road—the highway that’s the best. A page torn from American history when cars were bigger and life was simpler. We know when you get off the road, you want to feel like you’re home. We’ll have a warm chocolate chip DoubleTree Cookie waiting for you.
The Doubletree by Hilton has all the amenities you’ve come to expect from modern life, including wi-fi, fitness room, pool, and hot tub. If you want to stay in for the evening, we have an on-property bar and restaurant. (And local shuttle service if you decide you don’t.) Since your four-legged friends may be with you for your journey, we’re a pet-friendly hotel, too. Get a great night’s rest on our Sweet Dreams bedding and fuel up on our breakfast before cruising out.
(309) 664 6446 www.Bloomington.DoubleTree.com 10 Brickyard Drive, Bloomington, IL 61701 ROUTE Magazine 21
FROM THE ROAD
Route 66 Road Trip Essentials Our Top 9 Must Visit Roadside Attractions GEM I NI GIANT
Standing ��-feet tall and named for the Gemini space program, the Giant directs travelers to the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, Illinois. It is perhaps the most famous “Muffler Man” along Route 66.
THE BLUE WHALE OF CATOOSA
Along the highway east of Catoosa, Oklahoma, an ��-foot long concrete whale floats in a shaded swimming hole. Equally bizarre and charming, it was built in the early ��s by Zoo director Hugh Davis as an anniversary present for his wife who was an avid collector of whale figurines.
WOR LD’S L ARGEST CONCRETE TOTEM POLE
A few miles east of Foyil, Oklahoma, is “Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park.” Former art teacher, Ed Galloway, began creating a totem pole out of scrap metal and concrete as a way to keep occupied after retirement. It stands ��-feet tall with colorful Native American style reliefs wrapped around the entire length.
“HERE IT IS” SIGN
The Jack Rabbit Trading Post, a slight distance west of Joseph City, Arizona, has been in operation since the ����s, surviving the rise and fall of the highway. This is partly due to their iconic “Here It Is” sign and giant fiberglass rabbit. At one time this was the culmination of a Route 66-wide advertising campaign. The trading post and sign have become essential route icons.
GIGANTICUS HEADICUS Created by artist Gregg Arnold in ���� in Antares, Arizona, on the site of the abandoned Ranchero Motel. At ��-feet high and
22 ROUTE Magazine
painted bright green, its whimsical eccentricity sticks out against the backdrop of the desert terrain and wide open skies.
CONOCO TOWER STATION
This unusual art deco themed gas station in Shamrock, Texas, is dominated by two flared towers. In the same building is the “U-Drop Inn” cafe, a favorite stop for travelers since it was first built in ����. Be sure to stop by in the evening to catch the building’s beautiful neon lighting as it bursts through the dark Texan night.
POPS GIANT NEON BOTTLE
A relatively modern attraction first built in ����, POPS in Arcadia, Oklahoma, with its sleek ultra-modern construction, echoes the spirit of the Mother Road’s classic gas stations. Every night the 66-foot tall neon pop bottle cycles through the colors of the more than ��� flavors of soda offered at the restaurant.
ARCADIA’S ROUND BAR N
Built in ���� by farmer William Harrison Odor, the unique shape of the barn was achieved by soaking and moulding the lumber while it was still green. The barn has two levels, the lower level was the corral, while the upper level was used for dances and social gatherings. It is listed on the U.S National Register of Historic Places.
NATIONAL ROUTE 66 MUSEUM
Located in Elk City, Oklahoma, the National Route 66 Museum preserves artifacts from all 8 states traversed by the Mother Road. Through vignettes depicting famous people and places, visitors can experience every era of the highway’s history. Also, be sure to check out the Transportation Museum located in the same complex.
ROUTE Magazine 23
KA-CHOW!! THE CA R S 24 ROUTE Magazine
here is perhaps no better, no more powerful metaphor of human progress than that of the windshield. That wide piece of glass is our eyes not only to what lays ahead, but also what lays within. It took a harried Pixar executive loading up his family for a cross-country road trip to figure this out and share the undeniable truth with the rest of us: life is a highway.
Hot on the heels of blockbuster hits like Toy Story, A Bugâ€™s Life and Toy Story 2, Director John Lasseter found himself in need of a new tale to tell. It took the stress of overlapping release and production schedules to cause his wife, Nancy, to insist that John slow down and enjoy his kids, before he woke-up one day and found them all grown.
By Nick Gerlich ROUTE Magazine 25
So, Lasseter took off the summer of ����, bought a motorhome, loaded up his wife and kids, and headed east on a two-month-long journey, but not before touching their toes in the Pacific Ocean. It was to be a road trip that set the tone for his life for the next six years and beyond. Not having a set schedule allowed the Lasseter clan to meander slowly and experience America one day at a time. The Atlantic Ocean was but a mere target, and as Lasseter soon discovered while looking through that wide windshield, that the journey was the destination, not the other way around. Upon his return from that epic summer trip, it set in motion a team of producers, writers, animators and others to use Route 66 as a conduit for telling a story, another metaphor of the broader narrative that our car culture begat. The result was the first Cars movie that hit screens nationwide in ���6. Lasseter was intrigued by Route 66, how it was the model for the way businesses used to look and function before the introduction of the Interstate. As soon as the Interstate went in, towns were bypassed, and some died on the vine. Jay Ward, Creative Director for the Cars movie franchise, explained: “It was an analogy for Lightning McQueen, who was a car going so fast through life. He would have taken the Interstate every time. [Yet,] once he was forced into the little town of Radiator Springs, he was forced to slow down and see things in a new light, and see things through their perspective.” There was never any doubt in John’s mind that autos themselves would play every role. Lasseter loved cars and car culture, perhaps influenced by his father being a parts manager at a Chevy dealership, and perhaps shaped by having grown-up in southern California’s car culture. Pixar has anthropomorphized everything from toys to insects in bringing its stories to life, quite handily making them appeal not only to kids in theaters, but also to the adults who share in their experience. And it didn’t take much discussing to decide that the eyes of these cars had to be the windshield, rather than the headlamps. As Lasseter describes, it was critically important early on to determine what and where the face would be, as it is a window to the soul. A goal of animation is for a character to move such that it looks like it is the result of its own thought processes. Lasseter took his cues from one of his favorite animations, Disney’s ����, Susie The Little Blue Coupe, whose eyes were the windshield. “Cars are characters first, that happen to be people,” Ward stressed. The pecking order in this relationship, though, was always clear. The story behind the story however is just as epic as the one seen in the theater. While the story was Lasseter’s, central to it was none other than Michael Wallis. Lasseter may have experienced it, but it was Wallis who made sure all the signposts were in a row.
Getting the Story Straight Quickly upon Lasseter’s return to California, storyboards were created to illustrate the basic story concept, and then the research began. “Everything we do in our films is rooted in authenticity. That’s a really big word with us,” said Ward. And according to John Lasseter, the Pixar team did more research for Cars than on any other project to date at 26 ROUTE Magazine
that point, as he quickly learned that the spirit of Route 66 is in the details. Mark Nielsen, Story Department Manager on the first Cars film, relates that Pixar executives read every book and watched every video that they could find about Route 66. And in the process, they stumbled into Michael Wallis’ book, Route 66: The Mother Road, and they knew that they had to reach out to him. Wallis was quickly hired as chief consultant and tour guide for what would be a multi-year ride down the Mother Road with a handpicked team of Pixar employees. His task was to ensure that they experienced the road. His road. “What Pixar wanted to do was make a movie about a hotshot race car who was full of himself, and have him get lost on an old road. He learned the lesson that it’s great to be a race car, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s good to slow
John Lasseter with a Collection of Pixar Characters.
down and just cruise. That’s when Lasseter said: ‘This has to take place on your road … Route 66,’” Wallis reminisced. Wallis was invited to visit Pixar in California, and as his visit drew to a close, he was asked if he would speak to just a few more people before dinner. He was escorted into a room, and there were �� people there. He sat down, and was given some water. “John Lasseter leaned over and said to me, ‘Just tell us a story about Route 66.’ So I did. ‘Tell us another,’ Lasseter said. After about an hour and a half, I had to call time-out.” Starting in the summer of ����, and again the next summer, Wallis rode shotgun in a small fleet of Cadillacs traveling up and down 66, connected by radios and his wry storytelling that left the Pixar team wondering where the next stop would be, who the next person was that they would meet, and when would they ever get there. He went
along on several shorter trips in the years that followed, escorting smaller groups of Pixar writers. “We loaded into three big rental Cadillacs. We called them Detroit Sleds. And we just cruised the road. The Pixar group liked stopping, just like me. I always kid [that] I like to stop about every ��� yards.” And so they did. Nielsen was along for the second of the Wallis road trips. “We flew into Tulsa and rented three sedans. Michael was narrating the entire trip via walkie-talkie. He would talk to us and tell us stories while we were driving, and then every �-�� minutes it seemed we would stop somewhere significant. We’d get out of the car, and he’d huddle us all up, and he’d tell us a story. Then we’d all pile back into the cars and head off to the next destination.” “It wasn’t until they did those trips, where they met those people who make up the color and texture of the road … ROUTE Magazine 27
Jerome Ranft of Pixar Sculptures Sally.
that is what really informed them.” What people ultimately saw in the movie “…is a reflection of the people you meet on Route 66,” Ward explained. On those trips they stopped to smell wildflowers, help “legions of box turtles” cross the road, and even experience road kill. “I waded them through wheat and cotton fields, picked wild sunflowers, ate wild grapes, and just basically
Lightning McQueen is in the Lead.
28 ROUTE Magazine
prowled a lot of the ghost places where I knew they would find inspiration. I always say that I gave the Pixar team my road … OUR road. And they took it all in, in big gulps. They savored every delicious morsel,” Wallis said in his familiar baritone voice. Wallis continued, “We met road warriors and travelers from around the world, but best of all, I was able to introduce
Cars Modeling and Articulation Artist Andrew Schmidt as He Creates Sally.
them to people they never would have met, people eking out a living along the edges of the Mother Road.” Of all the locations Wallis had them visit, it was Glenrio, the twin-city ghost town on the Texas / New Mexico line, that had the greatest impact on Lasseter and his team. Elements of the dusty, windswept ruins found their way into Cars. The juxtaposition of old four-lane highway
with a concrete median, against the utter backdrop of abandonment, was not lost on them. They could imagine thousands of cars once creeping through town, stopping for gas, food, and lodging at the Last/First Motel and Longhorn Cafe, slowing down to take a look-see before crossing the state line. It was heartbreaking to the extent that the scene with Sally and Lightning stopping at the Wheel Well Motel was inspired completely by Glenrio. The Pixar team was inspired by many people Wallis introduced them to, but what stuck out most were those who were passionate about preservation. Ward went on, “A lot of the time, the people who cared the most were those who came later and said, ‘Don’t you know what gems you have? We have to save this stuff!’” Nielsen elaborated, “Michael was incredible. He is the ultimate storyteller. He was born to do that. It was like being with a celebrity, because everywhere we went, everyone seemed to know him and knew who he was. He was kind of like the King of Route 66. He built connections between our little group and the people we met along the road.”
Cast of Characters Creating characters and casting involved Pixar selecting actors that naturally fit the characters, and not the other way around as some studios have done. In some cases, though, characters were created based on the folks that Wallis introduced to the Pixar team on those two long trips. After ����, once the main characters had been decided upon, Pixar sent out teams of writers for several more trips to once again interview the key players. The goal was to make sure that they ‘had’ this Route 66 thing, and its personalities, down cold. Nothing was left to chance; even inside jokes in the film reflect this painstaking attention to detail. The best example of art imitating life came with Sally, the blue Porsche Carrera in the film. Her inspiration was Dawn Welch, proprietor of the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma. ROUTE Magazine 29
Wallis had been dragging the team down 66 that day at a snail’s pace when they finally got to Stroud. “The evening went like this. They were to arrive much earlier, like 6pm, and they didn’t arrive until 9pm. We were already closed. And that’s because, you know how Michael Wallis is when he travels down the road, you can’t keep a schedule,” Welch laughed. “When they finally did arrive, they were hungry, of course, and they ordered one of everything on the menu.” Welch only had one person still on the clock, and started to go to the kitchen to help prepare all of the food. “‘No, no, no, you’re just going to sit down with us. We don’t care how long it takes her to cook. We’re going to sit down and talk with you.’ And that took about four hours.” Lasseter and crew proceeded to ask Welch questions about her life, how she wound up at the Rock Cafe, and many nuances of her backstory. “What I didn’t know is that they were already developing characters off of people.” Welch relates the story of how Bonnie Hunt, who had been in other Lasseter films, landed the role of Sally. He had always promised her a strong female part. “As Bonnie later told me, after John left that night, he called her right away and told her he had finally found her part.” And thus Sally was born, a woman who had skated some rough patches, and had the wisdom of a seasoned veteran of survival. Sally’s past (a lawyer in LA) and her embodiment (a Porsche) reflected Welch’s journey in life, if not specifically, then at least symbolically. A couple of references in the movie to things that had “recently been refurbished” were, in Welch’s own words, a friendly poke to things she kept saying about her cafe. Other well-known Route 66 residents provided character inspirations as well, including Fran Houser of Adrian, Texas, Dean Walker of Riverton, Kansas, and the late Bob Waldmire, then running the Hackberry (AZ) General Store. Houser, who at the time was proprietor of the Mid-Point Cafe, went on to become Flo, operator of Flo’s V8 Cafe. The ebullient Houser laughs as she describes how she was portrayed in the film: “I guess they depicted me the way they saw me. I can be very entertaining at times.” Asked by a Pixar team member what she thought the movie would do, Houser added, “Well, it will depict a way of life that is no longer available to most people. We won’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been.” Add “insightful” to that description, too, as her quote found its way into the movie. Walker, known as Crazy Legs for his uncanny ability to turn both feet around backwards, provided comic relief in the form of composite character Tow Mater (with bits of Harley Russell and non-66er Douglas Keever). References in the movie to “driving backwards” are no doubt related to Walker, who recalls, “Wallis showed up with a fleet of limos and took me out to the Rainbow Bridge (in Riverton, Kansas) for five hours.” Wallis cued him to turn his feet backwards and, “The fellow behind the camera, he said, ‘I can’t look at this anymore!’” Nielsen confirmed similarly, “That was something that amazed all of us.” Waldmire was the one who got away, as he opted to distance himself from the movie. A long-time vegetarian and opposed to corporate largesse, Waldmire submitted a handwritten letter to Pixar in which he politely declined any connection whatsoever to the film. He was 30 ROUTE Magazine
diametrically opposed to his likeness ever appearing in a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, and thus any payments or royalties thereof were foregone in favor of maintaining his highly principled life. However, Waldmire and Pixar did part on very good terms. And the sheriff? As Wallis aptly put it, “Well, every town has to have a sheriff!” He was a shoo-in with the Pixar team, who had fallen in love with him, his deep voice and his descriptive stories. “Michael Wallis had this amazing booming voice. I don’t know that we would have had a sheriff without Michael Wallis,” Ward remarked. As Nielsen recalled, “He was the ultimate guide and host, and it made perfect sense that he was later cast as the sheriff, because he kind of felt like the sheriff of Route 66 to us.” That leaves Lightning McQueen, who arguably has a lot of John Lasseter in him, the man living in the limelighted fast lane, too busy to catch his breath, much less acknowledge the people around him or able to enjoy simply being in the moment. It was during that ���� family trip that Lasseter came face to face with Lightning, an escape from deadlines that actually provided him with a far more important deadline. Owen Wilson was cast as McQueen, and it was Wilson himself who provided Lightning’s catch-phrase, not a writer. Lasseter recalls asking Wilson during a readthrough about his childhood, what his sound effect word was for lightning and thunder. Wilson wasted no time in responding, “Ka-Chow!” Just like that, the script was modified. Beyond Hunt and Wallis, casting was often a combination of fit, availability, and prior relationships.
“We pick people we feel embody the character,” Ward went on. Owen Wilson was a natural for Lightning, with his confident-yet-somewhat-aloof, devil-may-care delivery style that is his signature. Paul Newman as Doc Hudson was more than serendipitous, as it turned out to be his last movie before passing. Larry the Cable Guy was the embodiment of all three people in his composite Mater role, and sounds hauntingly similar to the colorful Harley Russell of Erick, Oklahoma, in real life. George Carlin, who appeared in one of his last movie roles, was a natural as Fillmore, the if-Waldmire-had-wheels VW microbus, as was Cheech Marin voicing Ramone, who had spent his career as a living stereotype of Latino culture. While some of the characters were based on the people they met along Route 66, others were from very different venues, each with a compelling story. Sarge, for example, sprang from the WWII-era Jeeps that provided bomb-proof transportation during the war, the personnel carriers that soldiers lived and died in. Car culture from the ����s, from custom paint jobs to pinstriping, inspired Ramone. “Every one of those cars had a cool cultural backstory,” Ward explained. “Doc Hudson was based on a 5�’ Hornet that really won three NASCAR championships. Every character in our films is predicated upon story. If you don’t have a great story, you don’t have a great film.” John Ratzenberg, forever typecast as Cliff in Cheers, recalls his role as Mack in the movie, and how they were filmed while recording their lines; pouring themselves into the characters was deemed necessary for the story arc. Little things like raised eyebrows on the voice actors were then added into the animations to make them as lifelike as possible. While the main characters were not written for
the actors per se, the actors wound up putting the finishing touches on them nonetheless. In a strange kind of way, art imitated life imitated art. Lasseter is quick to tell how some cars in the movie sprang from his deep and abiding personal interest in particular vehicles, but in other cases, the car was built around the character. McQueen’s and Flo’s personifications came after characterization, and to some extent, even Mater. Flo in particular evolved through several iterations, ultimately becoming a bit of a showgirl who fell in love with Ramone. The actors themselves collaborated in some cases for character development, such as how Wilson worked with Newman to finesse a scene in which McQueen was speaking to Doc Hudson. Other characters, albeit, those with cameo roles, were often created on a whim, and sometimes were nods to prior Pixar movies. Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Tom Hanks (Woody Car), Jay Leno (Jay Limo), Bob Costas (Bob Cutlass), and Billy Crystal (Mike Car) provided short, but comedic relief.
Route 66 Landmarks If it looks like Cars was set in the southwest, it is no mistake. Wallis’ travels with Pixar focused on areas west of Joplin. All of the art that became animation backdrop had visual elements of the southwest, from the Cadillac Ranch, to the pinnacles of the Mohave Mountain range near Needles, California, and the brilliant red cliffs on either side of the Continental Divide in New Mexico, all in hues unlike the greens found in the midwest. Specific 66 landmarks that provided inspiration for the film were also geographically focused, from the Tower ROUTE Magazine 31
Photographs courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios.
Lightning McQueen and Mater Enjoy a Ride Together.
Station in Shamrock, Texas, to the Cozy Cones Motel reflecting the Wigwams in Holbrook, Arizona, and Rialto, California, to Glenrio, Texas’ abandoned Little Juarez Diner that became the similarly abandoned Glenrio Motel in the movie. Even the human inspirations along Route 66 wound up featuring people that the Pixar crew met in the western half of the route. It’s not that Wallis or Pixar avoided the easternmost portion of the route, it’s just that Wallis introduced them to his favorite places and people, and many of these were west of Joplin. Perhaps one of the biggest fictions of the film is that Radiator Springs represents a real-life town along 66, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Radiator Springs is but an imaginary composite of a town that has nuances of many cities along 66. Features like a lone blinker light, mountain range backdrop, arroyos, old-road-done-beenbypassed could be said of many a small town on 66.
The Cars Effect As for Cars and working with Pixar, Houser said, “It has done wonderful things for the road. And with having Michael as the voice of the sheriff, it kind of transcended from his books. They were all just wonderful to work with.” Cars grossed $��� million worldwide at the Box Office that summer, and spawned another $�� billion in toy sales in the first five years. It is Pixar’s ��th most successful movie, producing a pair of sequels in ���� and ����. While a Cars 4 is uncertain at this time, one thing that is for sure is the level of detail that went into that first film. Lasseter’s initial family trip was but the tip of the iceberg. Ellie Alexander, Tourism Director in Pontiac, Illinois, reports that Cars has made a significant impact along the length and breadth of the Route, especially in her picturesque Route 66 town. Even though there is little if anything in Cars that resembles the cornfields of Illinois, Alexander attests to the popularity of the film and the number of people frequently inquiring about it. Waldmire’s VW microbus is housed in Pontiac’s Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, and according to Alexander: “Since we have the VW, there’s a lot of conversation about it. We have put in an exhibit, and in it is the letter that Pixar sent to Bob, as well as the one he sent back declining the offer. There was a time when Route 66 wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Route 66 has been a really big beneficiary.” Today, it is estimated that annually, over ���,��� tourists travel Route 66, and this is on top of the normal daily traffic that rolls along the remaining 85% of the Mother Road that is still drivable. Those tourists spend an estimated $��� million annually in Route 66 towns and cities. At the personal level, Houser’s café sprung to notoriety as a result of the film, as did the Ugly Crust pies for which her eatery became known. Although she sold the café in ����, she maintained a gift shop next door, and at the time of writing, has even mounted a campaign to run for mayor of her hometown Adrian. Welch likewise found business success, with a steady stream of tourists (many of which were parents with kids in tow) flocking to the Rock Cafe to meet “Sally.” So many fans recommended her café to Guy Fieri, of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, that he featured it on national television. A fire in ���8 was a significant setback, but like 32 ROUTE Magazine
the mythical Phoenix, she rose from the ashes, rebuilding within those remaining rock walls, where she and the cafe remain a popular roadside attraction to this day. As for Wallis, his popularity and highway authority had long been cemented, but Cars cast him in the unexpected role of voice actor, which he reprised in Cars 2 and Cars 3. He and his wife, Suzanne, also wrote The Art of Cars (����), which included hundreds of sketches and storyboards used to develop the film. Although all of the Route 66 inspirations were not able to make the premier or private screening, those who did recall it being a highly emotional event. Welch was succinct in telling her reaction: “I cried.” Another inspiration was neither human nor landmark, but just a rusting old pickup truck the Pixar team found parked in Galena, KS. Ranft in particular saw more than just a vehicle. He saw Mater. Today, that old truck attracts thousands of Route 66 travelers to Cars On The Route, a restored Kan-O-Tex gas station in Galena that is combination gift shop and soda fountain. In ����, Disney, who had bought Pixar in ����, christened an entire theme area of its California adventure park as Cars Land. As Ward said, “Our goal was to make it as immersive as possible.” He went on to add, “One of the things we try to do is make an immersive environment, that, when you go into there, you truly feel like you are in the town of Radiator Springs, not a little part of Disneyland. What we found was that when people come there, so many parents and kids just wanted to hang out there all day. It gives you a sense of peace, of grounding, a cool town you would want to hang out in.”
Through a Glass Clearly While Route 66 is certainly a key beneficiary of the movie, this was not the intended effect. In Ward’s words: “The movie is not about Route 66, but Route 66 is a very important part of the film.” It’s a movie about a man going too fast and needing to slow down, and going to this fictitious town on Route 66, but comes away a changed person because of it.” The entire Cars franchise, from the blockbuster first film, through two sequels, merchandise, and an amusement park theme area, is all the result of one road trip … a trip that came about because of a little spousal prodding, because of work interfering with life. That John Lasseter was even open to the idea speaks to his having ears to hear. Sally said it best to Lightning while ruing the coming of the Interstate: “Well, the road didn’t cut through land like that Interstate, it moved with the land, you know? It rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time, they drove on it to have a great time.” For Lasseter, the windshield of that giant RV became his eyes, not only to the landscape that followed his off-ramp, but also to his own soul. And he was kind enough to share his discovery with his colleagues at Pixar and the world. The result is what happens when a big city racecar takes a drive. He lost himself, and in the process, found himself in a new and better place, clear as a bell. As did we.
ROUTE Magazine 33
In the Fight GARY SINISE By Xxxxxxx BrennenXxxxxxxxx Matthews 34 ROUTE Magazine
Actor Gary Sinise is well-known for his films – Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and The Green Mile, to name a few, and television shows such as CSI: NY and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, but these days Sinise has been using his gifts, passions and notoriety to create a different type of project. Helming the Gary Sinise Foundation, the thespian devotes himself to his work to support veterans day in and day out, making sure that the men and women who choose to fight for America are receiving the support and gratitude that they deserve. You were born in Chicago, where Route 66 officially begins, and now you live in sunny California where the Route ends! I remember Route 66, you bet. I remember the TV series.
Well, now you’re dating yourself! (Laughs) I was a kid, but that show was on in black and white when I was a kid.
Your wife is from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois? Actually, she went to college there. She went to Illinois State, but she’s from Pontiac, Illinois.
Another great Route 66 town! Pontiac is such a great place. So, obviously you’ve driven down sections of 66 then? Oh yeah, years ago, but then they built the 55, and they built the freeways. And Route 66 just became, I don’t know, just became kind of the side street.
The next time you guys are visiting Illinois, you should use Route 66 instead of the Interstate. One of these days, yes I will, and that’ll be something that maybe I’ll do with my son sometime.
Your family has a very strong military history: your grandfather was in World War I, both your uncles were WWII veterans, and your dad served in the Navy? That’s all correct. My dad served in the Navy in the early 5�s during the Korean War, and then his two older brothers are both World War II veterans. One, my uncle Jack, [was] on a crew for a B-�� out of Kimbolton in England. The bomb group was the 3�� Bomb Group, and he personally did �� missions over Europe as a navigator. And then his younger brother, the middle brother, my uncle Jerry - my dad’s the youngest - was on a landing ship … tank ... and it was called LST, and they would hit the shore and the ramps would come down, and tanks would roll out of the ship. He was in the Pacific at the tail end of World War II, probably for the last six months of the war, part of the invasions of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. He was part of the occupation of Japan for a while, after the surrender. And then my dad, he was in the Navy for four years from ’�� to ’��. And I was born right at the tail end of his service, when he was still serving in Washington, DC. I was born just about a week before my dad got out of the Navy.
Did you find that growing up in a family of war veterans shaped you in any way? In those early years, I can’t say that it did, because I don’t remember my dad, my grandfather, or my uncles talking much about their service. When I was a young guy in elementary school or [during] my high school years, they were kind of, well, beyond their service years by the time I was old enough to comprehend anything about that. And they just never talked about it. It was only later in life, as I started to get more and more involved with our service members, and support issues regarding veterans, that I spent more time, especially with my uncle Jack Sinise, who was the World War II veteran. I spent a lot of good quality time with him. And you know, I actually spent a good dozen years taking [him] to events with me, talking to him about his service. Probably from the time he was about in his late ��s, until he was about ��. He slowed down in his ��th year and passed away. But up until a year before he passed, he was still going on trips with me. I would take him to the National Memorial Day concert in Washington, DC; I was actually able to take him up and fly him around on a B-�� with some buddies who had a plane, which was very very interesting. He had not been on that airplane since his final mission in ����. So, I got to spend some good time with him. When I met my wife, she introduced me to her two older brothers, both of whom served in Vietnam. And her twin sister went off and joined the army. She met a Vietnam veteran who was in the army, a combat medic in Vietnam. I learned the difficulties that they had when they came home from Vietnam ... it was just a terrible time to be a veteran, because our country was so divided over what was going on in Vietnam. Whether we should have been there or not, all that. And Vietnam veterans were the ones who were kind of the victims of all that division here. I got a pretty good education early on when I was in my early twenties as to what it was like for them. To go off to war, to serve in that war, to get shot at, to see their buddies die, to get blown up and all of that and then to come home to a country that spit on them. [What I learned] really woke me up and awakened me. And that really manifested into a lot of the service work that I do now. I remember after September ��th, when we just started deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, the thought of our soldiers responding to the attack of September ��th by signing up, going to fight the bad guys who had attacked us on September ��th, and then coming home to a nation that spit on them, I just couldn’t stand the thought of something like that happening to this current active duty military service. So, I just started going out, trying to pitch in wherever I could, to make sure that they knew that I appreciated them. I wanted them to know that they were ROUTE Magazine 35
supported. And that all manifested itself into so much service work and a full-time foundation and all that.
One of your most iconic roles is of course Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump; a favorite character for everyone who really came of age with that film. Did your experience, having war veterans in the family, help you prepare for that role? Well, yes, in some ways. You know, having Vietnam veterans in my family, and having been involved with Vietnam veterans in the ��s, when the opportunity came in the mid-��s to play a Vietnam veteran in Forrest Gump, I very much wanted to do it. I wanted to get that part. I just felt very prepared to play the role. But you know, when you’re auditioning for a movie, [you] can’t get your hopes up too much. Because there’s only one part and there’s a thousand people trying out for it. So I went in, I auditioned for it, and I told my agent, “Boy, I hope I get this.” And then it was kind of quiet for a while, I didn’t hear anything. While I was hoping and praying that something good would happen with the part and that they would come back around and put me in it, I had to try and mentally put that out of my mind and move on. So, I went on to audition for other things, and got very close to being cast in a couple of other movies. Then all the sudden, I get this call that they had cast me as Lieutenant Dan, and I was thrilled!
Did you get much response from veterans after the movie came out? I did actually. About a month and a half after the movie opened, I was invited to go to the Disabled American Veterans [DAV] convention. This is a giant military support organization completely and totally devoted to injured veterans. At that time there were �.� million members, and these are all wounded veterans that are members. They invited me to come, and they presented me with an award for playing Lieutenant Dan, and I didn’t know what to expect when I went there. I didn’t know much about the DAV. I’d done some studying up on what it might be like to have a double amputation, be missing both legs. I did a little bit of research to get ready for that part of the role, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time with wounded veterans up until that point; compared to now where I’ve just spent countless hours. So, I had not had a lot of interactions with wounded veterans before this National Convention, and there’s �,��� injured veterans in there giving me an ovation for playing what they considered to be a wounded veteran in a positive way.
Why do you think people connected so much to Lieutenant Dan? If you look at the story of Lieutenant Dan, it’s a very positive story. He goes through all the natural despair and anguish, and heartbreak and confusion, and loss and guilt, and everything that he’s going through. He drinks himself under the table, he’s in a wheelchair and he secludes himself. I mean, what he’s dealing with is a lot of post-traumatic stress. He’s not only angry at Forrest Gump for rescuing him, because he felt like he should have died; he walked his men into an ambush in the jungle, and he felt responsible 36 ROUTE Magazine
for getting his men wounded and killed. And then he loses his legs, and he’s angry and cast out as a Vietnam veteran … things aren’t going well for him. Forrest Gump runs into him, in this seedy old room in a New York building, kind of a pretty cheap place, and he’s just barely making it. And all these years he’s wished that hadn’t happened, he didn’t want to be an injured veteran, he always wanted to be a military guy, and that got taken away from him. And by the end of the story, he’s kind of forgiven himself. He forgives Forrest, he thanks Forrest for saving his life. He’s at peace at the end. And what happens at the end of the story with Lieutenant Dan? He pulls up in a limousine and he’s a successful businessman, and he’s walking on new legs, he’s clean-cut looking and he’s married. He’s moving on with his life; things are very positive. And so, the members of the DAV invited me to come to their convention, because a story about a wounded veteran, especially a Vietnam veteran, had never been told like that before. There had never been a story that ended so positively for a wounded veteran as did the Lieutenant Dan story in Forrest Gump. DAV wanted to recognize that. And I was humbled and honored and choked up. And that began my relationship with them, which has lasted well over �� years, nearly �� now. And it also planted the early seeds of what would develop to a full-time commitment to support our wounded veterans, now through my foundation. We do all kinds of positive things to support men and women who have been injured in battle, trying to provide various services for them.
The Gary Sinise Foundation has had a huge effect on the lives of many wounded veterans. Can you give us an idea of what kind of impact something like improving mobility has on a wounded veteran’s life? Well, if you are missing your legs, your arms, all four limbs … If you have a traumatic brain injury that prohibits you from taking care of yourself, if you have severe burns, if you’re blind … you are going to have challenges for the rest of your life. And in some cases, when you are severely wounded like that, you become dependent on somebody else to assist you, to make things okay for you. And what we try to do through my foundation, through our home building efforts, through our mobility devices, specially adapted wheelchairs, specially adapted vehicles [that] somebody missing limbs can drive, all these things, is to empower the individual again to be more independent. These are people that prior to their injuries were used to taking care of themselves. Yeah, they take orders and this and that, but you know, they’re strong, they’re physically fit, and they’re mentally fit. They are tested all the time, and they rise to the challenge, and they take care of themselves, and they take care of their families. When they are injured, severely like this, all of a sudden they have to be taken care of, and that is disheartening, that is mentally stressful for an individual, especially if that individual has kids and a wife. All of a sudden, now the wife is not only taking care of the kids, and trying to make sure that they’re okay, but now the wife has to assist the physical needs of the injured soldier. And that can be very disheartening for somebody who’s used to being the provider. You know, when we provide these smart technology houses, for example, we put all kinds of things into these homes that will allow the service member who is injured to better care for themselves.
There’s a lot of wounded vets, and obviously, you can’t help every single person. How does the foundation determine who’s going to be supported? In the beginning, when I first started doing this, I used to meet these folks at the hospital, and then we would, you
know, get to know them and offer them the opportunity to have a home built or something like that. In fact, the first … I got into home building back in ���� and ����. The first soldier to survive a quadruple amputation, meaning he got both his legs and both his arms blown off and he survived, his name is Brendan Marrocco. I knew some firefighters in New York; I had helped them after �/��, to build a memorial there and raise some money for some New York fire family foundations there. And I happened to be shooting an episode of CSI: New York when I was there. And the commissioner of the fire department came and talked to me about the soldier Brendan Marrocco, who was from Staten Island, and how they wanted to try and build him a house on Staten Island. You know, I’d seen Brendan six months before at Walter Reed (The Walter Reed Army Medical Center). So, I knew exactly who he was talking about, and I offered to do a concert to raise money for Brendan. And then we had another marine who came into the hospital not too long after that, and he was blown up, missing both his arms and both his legs, his name was Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, and so I offered to raise money with a concert for Todd. And that began this focus on home building. We’ve had five survived quadruple amputees; five guys who had both their legs and both their arms blown off and they all survived. We are completing a house for the 5th quadruple amputee; his name is Taylor Morris. So, we will have built homes for all five quadruple amputees. Taylor got blown up back in ����, but he’s been holding out for this piece of land that he wanted for years now. And we finally made the deal on the land, and we raised a bunch of money for him a while back, and held that money until we could make this deal on the land, we were able to do that. Now his house is almost complete and he and his wife, Danielle, will finally move in. ROUTE Magazine 37
Photographs courtesy of Veterans United.
Let’s say you’re stuck in this little house that you’ve rented and there is carpeting all over the floor and you’re confined to a wheelchair, and you can’t get into your closet because the doorways are too thin, and if you do get into your closet, you can’t reach up to get your clothes because the hanging rack is too high up there. And so things have to be adapted, and you either need to have somebody come in and remodel your existing home, which we do - we also do refurbishing on existing homes - or we build these houses from the ground up, and we specifically take into consideration the needs of every individual that we build for. And every one is different. But to be able to get into the bathroom, and get into the shower yourself, rather than having somebody else help you with the shower, and manoeuvre around the sink, and all these different things … It can be empowering, and all of a sudden self-respect comes back to that person who’s been limited because of his or her service to our country. They served, they got blown up, they got wounded, and they got things taken away from them. The Gary Sinise Foundation [has] many programs [that] can provide them a service that empowers them and gives them their self-respect, their dignity, their strength, all of that. It gives that back to them. Then we’ve done something for our country, we’ve helped that service member move on with life, look forward instead of looking back. And that’s a good feeling to be able to do that.
And so the home building stuff began addressing the needs of the guys who [had] lost both arms and both legs. And then we started building homes for triple amputees, many of them. We built homes for double amputees, traumatic brain injuries, guys that can’t take care of themselves at all because of their brain injuries. They are totally dependent on somebody helping them. We try to provide things in the homes … If you go to our website, you can go to our YouTube channel and see dozens of videos. It’ll show you the houses, and show you some of the difficulties that some of our guys have. It’ll show you some of the special equipment that we put into the homes for the families to be able to assist these people better. You know, it really can relieve the stress when all of a sudden, you can get around your house, and you can see your service member kind of push a button and make things happen that he wouldn’t have been able to do in a house that was not specifically designed for him.
It’s amazing, the spirit of the people who come through such tragedy and loss.. Oh yeah, it’s very very … I’ve been inspired thousands of times. I’ve met so many people in the military over the years. Some of my best friends are in the service. I’ve been inspired by just countless individuals who power through. If you go to our program page and you look at our Rise program, and you click on “Meet Our Heroes,” you can see almost �� guys on there that we have built houses for, or that are in the process of getting a home. Very moving, powerful stuff. I’ve had a lot of things in my life, I’ve had a lot of good fortune in my career and to take that and just push it towards people who need a little help … and we’re able to do that. I will say this, over the years, you know, I was the first donor of my foundation, I put in the start-up money and everything else at the beginning. But it was always my hope that our fellow citizens would see that we were a trusted way, a reliable way, to support the men and women who serve our country, and then they would support us in our work doing that. And so now we have over ��,��� donors. We have multiple companies that come in and help us build these houses. You know, we have to raise a certain amount of cash for each one of the houses, but we have a lot of great sponsors who will donate the floors and will donate the plumbing and the roofing, all the smart technology and all these different things. Great, wonderful organizations, people who just care about the troops and they want to do something they saw Gary Sinise doing it, and they said: “That sounds good to me, we’re gonna go support that.”
The foundation has an initiative called Education and Outreach. What is that all about? I always wanted to try and provide opportunities to educate our fellow citizens about military service, about sacrifice, about character. To inspire folks to, you know, that you can do something too and all that. We have various ways that we do that, one of them is we built the Center for Education and Outreach at the Gary Sinise Foundation. Last week we had a group of firefighters in there who were educating military veterans about the fire service, and the possibility that perhaps, once one is done with the military, going into 38 ROUTE Magazine
the fire service would be a next great step. We’ve had World War II veterans in the Center for Education and Outreach with high school students, imparting their wisdom about what the cost of freedom was, you know, �� some years ago. The price that was paid for that, and the residual effects of the outcome of that war that each one of these students lives today. I mean, just imagine if Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito, if [that] axis of powers would have been the victor instead of the Allied powers. All of us, everyone in the world would be living in a different way if we were under the Thousand Year Reich. You know, fascist Italy would have become a superpower or something like that. So, we are all the beneficiaries of the sacrifices that have been made by so many, not only great American heroes or western heroes, including our Canadian pals. There were so many sacrifices made during World War II that we all benefit from, all these years ago. I don’t think we can ever stress enough for high school students that freedom is very precious. It’s not something that we all get to just have, somebody usually has to fight for it.
What’s going on with Gary Sinise outside of the foundation? I’m spending all my time on the foundation [now]. We finished shooting Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders in December of ���� … You know, I’ve had great success, I was on television for nine years with CSI: New York and then another two years with Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. �� years on television has allowed me the opportunity to do some wonderful things. It has really provided me with great security for my family, and also the financial means to do something good. So, right now, I am very, very satisfied. I mean, over the years, my team added this up the other day, [I’ve done] over ��� concerts since ����. And that’s all part of my mission work; I don’t get paid for playing music, it’s something I do for the troops. The band I have (Lt. Dan Band) is something that I started to play for the military. Well, we have a few other concerts here and there, but the majority, ��% of the concerts, are devoted to the military. Either with the USO, or we’ve done many fundraising concerts - just donate the band to raise money to build a house. I can call up a military base and say, I have this date [available, do] you want a concert? ��% of the time they’ll say yes. And we offer the concert so that we can come and deliver a message of support and appreciation and give them a little bit of fun. That’s the blessing of the American people supporting my foundation, allowing me to direct their generosity to the right places.
For more information on the Gary Sinise Foundation visit: www.garysinisefoundation.org / Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCXpGxlBYagBuRkMLm0eMgxw
The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival AUGUST 10 th AND 11th
n the Woodruff Building on the northwest corner of St. Louis Street and Jefferson Avenue in Springfield, Missouri, Oklahoma oilman, Cyrus Avery, first proposed the number 66 to designate the new Chicago to Los Angeles highway. Avery was adamant that the road be given an even number, and after much debate 66 was finally selected. Avery felt that the double-digit number would make it easy to remember and “pleasant to say.” The date was August ��th, ����. Even now, �� years later, that fateful moment is remembered. The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, held in Springfield, is in its eighth year. The festivities will begin on Friday, August ��th at high-noon and end Saturday, August ��th at ��:�� PM. Springfield will be overtaken by cars and motorcycles as they roar down the streets alongside horses, floats, entertainers, and pennyfarthing high-wheeler bicycles. Parade goers toss candy from their windows at the cheering crowds as they make their way to Park Central Square where a plaque, gifted to the city by The Route 66 Association of Missouri, proudly commemorates the birthplace of Route 66. The festival’s two-day long vintage car show celebrates the inextricable link between American automobiles and Route 66. The aromas of popcorn and sunscreen mingle in the warm Ozark air as flip-flops tap concrete, its surface spotted with light from the candy-colored chrome fenders of a bygone era.
The painted tailfins, oversized bumpers, and antique automobiles gleam in the yellow August sun around downtown Springfield. Local vendors will be out both days displaying their wares: a wide variety of treasures from antique Route 66 postcards and other memorabilia, to contemporary jewelry and housewares. On Saturday, hundreds of motorcycles and thousands of riders will attend The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival Charity Bike Show to benefit The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. Kiosks of motorcycle gear and apparel will weave through the show so attendees can get their route themed leathers. Saturday also gives hardcore runners and casual walkers alike a chance to get their fitness on. The 6.6k and 3.3k walk/run, runs through the festival ground so you can admire the cars while working on your cardio. In the evening, festival-goers can take an air-conditioned break at the historic Gillioz Theater, opened the same year that Route 66 received its moniker, for a Friday night showing of Route 66 inspired film Cars. The musically inclined can take in shows at the festival’s two outdoor stages. Sway under starry skies to award-winning country acts such as The Mark Chapman Band or rock out to hairband covers by The Dirty Saints. The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the Mother Road, her unique history and the iconic vehicles that drove her, while also enjoying the best of summer. With something for everyone, you’re guaranteed to get your kicks in the womb of Route 66.
ROUTE Magazine 39
A DIFFERENT Many different things stand out to visitors on the Mother Road – the scenery, the history, the cuisine, the people – but for pretty much everyone, I firstthe created pop can pinhole cameras in impression. ���� while visiting my 66 mother’s neon my is something that leaves a lasting And Route has a fifth grade class in southern California. A pinhole camera uses a tiny round hole lot of it. Join Efren Lopez as he shares some of his vivid experiences with – literally pinhole –the to mesmerizing act as a lens to create an image on a piece film. Each us,acapturing neon on America’s most iconicofhighway.. of my cameras consists of two soda cans, with one sliding over the other to form a light-tight container. The pinhole is on one side of the can with the film curving around the opposite inside of the can. A paper flap slides over the hole to keep out the light until I am ready to make an image. I then hit the road to Chicago and used the cans to take photographs along the way. After �� years, I am finally publishing the project as a book, Route 66: A Pop Can Camera Odyssey. Utility poles and broken down concrete, the boarded up dreams of mom and pop castles. All put together, these little pieces add up to create the American Parthenon. And so I hope it goes with these photos. You plan and plan and then you start your exposure and see what happens.
Words and Photographs by Wes Pope
40 ROUTE Magazine
ROUTE Magazine 41
Route author Michael Wallis in his writing studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November ����. Wallis graciously wrote the intro for my book.
I took this portrait of Bill Shea outside his museum in Springfield, Illinois, in ����. It was a return trip to deliver some prints from my first visit a few years earlier. Bill passed away in December ����.
42 ROUTE Magazine
One of the starting points for Route 66 as marked by a sign on Adams Street in the Loop, Chicago. I took this one as part of the CITY ���� documentary project.
When I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, in ����, I wandered out to the now abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post, east of town.
In ����, I stopped to photograph the Kimo Theatre in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. ROUTE Magazine 43
Distortion from the curved film in my camera adds to the bendiness of the Bent Door Cafe in Adrian, Texas.
I found this happy used car lot on Route 66 near downtown Joplin, Missouri, in ����.
I visited the Twin Oaks Gas For Less sign near the east end of Chain of Rocks Bridge in Illinois in ����.
44 ROUTE Magazine
I took this photo of the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California, long before it served as an inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel in the film Cars.
I photographed this Glenrio, New Mexico, resident mowing her lawn in ����. Sadly, my notebook from this trip got lost along the way.
ROUTE Magazine 45
Bob Waldmire in his hand decorated ���� VW van outside his family’s Cozy Dog restaurant in Springfield, Illinois, in ����. Bob passed away in December ����.
The Route 66 Hall of Fame when it was located on the way to the bathrooms at Dixie Truck Stop in McLean, Illinois.
46 ROUTE Magazine
I took this exterior shot of Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after touring the inside with Michael and Suzanne Wallis in November ����.
A ���� portrait of Ved & Mridu Shandil, owners of the Route 66 Motel in Barstow, California.
ROUTE Magazine 47
A MOMENT IN ROUTE 66 ’s HISTORY
American Civil War Glorieta Pass Battle Just below the pavement along Route 66 near Santa Fe, New Mexico, lies the battleground of one of the most important and decisive encounters of the American Civil War: the Battle of Glorieta Pass (March �6-�8, �86�). What at first appeared to be a Confederate victory ended up being a decisive triumph for the Union, accomplished through bravery, cunning, and sheer blind luck.
By Audrey DeVere
ixty-four years before the creation of Route 66 and the countrywide unification it would bring, America was embroiled in a violent civil war over the most essential of issues: individual human rights and freedoms. The fate of America was also at hand; would the United States be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or unite as an indivisible nation with a national government. Without the success of the North, divisive issues like slavery would have continued to fracture the nation, and a unifying vision like Route 66 might have never been possible. We have all heard of the great battles at Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Antietam, with their tens of thousands of casualties and large political implications. However, two weeks before the Battle of Shiloh, Confederate and Union soldiers faced off in another key battle in New Mexico. The Battle of Glorieta Pass may have been smaller and less known, but it was, in fact, the key battle of the Civil War’s westernmost campaign. The day was March ��, ����, and the Confederate Government wanted to enforce its claim to the Confederate Arizona Territory with support from local secessionists, and capture New Mexico. The cashstrapped Confederacy also wanted to use the lucrative Western mines to fill their treasury. General Henry H. Sibley had already captured Sante Fe and Albuquerque, and next wanted to control the essential Santa Fe Trail. Spanish settlers at Santa Fe originally created the trail in ����, heading northeast through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to link with the French trading posts 48 ROUTE Magazine
in Louisiana (a route similar to the one Route 66 would take over a century later). Sibley wanted to control these important mountain passes, so he assigned his fellow Confederates in the area to take Glorieta Pass (situated at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains) - this group consisted of a few hundred volunteers from Texas, commanded by Major Charles L. Pyron. Pyron’s force of ���-��� soldiers faced off against a ���-strong Union encampment at the pass. The Union soldiers were able to fend off Pyron’s advances, and eventually, Pyron retreated to regroup. Both sides called for reinforcements the following day; Lt. Col. William R. Scurry’s troops swelled the Rebel ranks to about �,���, while Union Col. John P. Slough arrived with about ��� men. Both leaders decided to attack early the following day, and Slough had engaged Scurry’s battle line in the canyon before ��:�� a.m. on March �8th. Scurry’s Confederate troops overwhelmed Slough’s forces and they retreated to the adobe buildings of Pigeon’s Ranch, a stagecoach stop on the Sante Fe Trail. After more than six hours of fighting, the Confederates were clearly winning, but nightfall halted their advance. Scurry considered the battle already won, but the Union forces had a trick, and a bit of luck, up their sleeve. Slough had sent a group of his men led by Major Chivington westwards toward Santa Fe, hoping to make a surprise flank attack, but instead, Chivington discovered the Confederate army’s supply train. Chivington and his men burned the Rebel’s supplies, destroying their food, ammunition, and animals. Having no supplies, Scurry and
Half a mile further east of this marker you will find the remains of Pigeon Ranch - the old Santa Fe Trail coach house, and where Slough’s overwhelmed Union forces retreated to. Nearby is the Pecos National Historical Park, a gorgeous natural park set in the woodlands of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Here, you’ll discover the remains of Indian pueblos, learn about past Spanish encounters in the area, and experience the history of America’s Civil War - they even hold an annual Civil War Encampment on the anniversary of the Battle of Glorieta’s Pass with live demonstrations. Route 66 is known for its colorful and fascinating history, but the ground beneath the pavement has a history as old as America itself. With the Battle of Glorieta’s Pass, we see the fascinating overlap of centuries of history: the Spanish Santa Fe Trail that parallels the cross-country transit of Route 66, the key battle that prevented the advance of Confederate forces to the southwest and helped lead to the victory that would unite the country, and the remnants of that incredible history that still lies by the roadway today, just waiting to be rediscovered. ROUTE Magazine 49
Illustration: Domenick D’Andrea, Colorado National Guard.
his Confederate forces were forced to retreat, first to Santa Fe and eventually to San Antonio, Texas. This decisive battle stopped further incursions into the Southwest and was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory. The significance of the Glorieta Pass Battle, commonly referred to as the “Gettysburg of the West,” was recognized as one of the most important battles of the Civil War by the government’s Civil War Sites Advisory Commission in ����. Of the approximate ��,5�� actions of the war, only �� battles, including that of Glorieta Pass, were labeled as priority I (class A) for their direct impact on the course of the war and the importance of their preservation. When Route 66 was originally laid out in New Mexico in ���6, it passed directly over the Glorieta Pass Battleground on its way to Santa Fe (it was later realigned in ���� further to the south, bypassing Glorieta Pass and Santa Fe completely). Today, there are numerous remnants of this important battle along the old track of Route 66. One mile south of the village of Glorieta, you’ll find the Historical Marker of the battle along the south side of the route.
BRINGING THE ROUTE TO LIFE By Cecil Stehelin
50 ROUTE Magazine
oute 66 has many supporters, or “boosters”, as proactive, dedicated individuals are lovingly referred to by passionate ‘road warriors’. It is exciting to witness all of the amazingly talented people who have devoted their lives and abilities to protecting, preserving and promoting the Mother Road. It is a cause that ROUTE stands firmly behind. And from amongst this eclectic group, it is quite common to hear one name referred to time and again: Jerry McClanahan. An Artist and author whose work has aided many travelers in both their experience on the Main Street of America and in falling in love with Route 66, McClanahan has developed a strong following and a respected voice. Jerry McClanahan’s relationship with the Mother Road began in ��5� at the age of two. Over the decades, and hundreds of trips that followed, McClanahan changed from a curious child with a fascination with maps, to one of today’s foremost experts on Route 66. McClanahan’s ���5 book, Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers, has become an indispensable part of every roadie’s toolkit, and his evocative paintings of classic cars and Route 66 landmarks are a favorite amongst collectors, both domestic and foreign. An artist with many diverse interests, McClanahan has spent many years scouring forgotten off-ramps and alignments of the old road, reclaiming them from obscurity, and in the company of other well-respected Route 66 personalities, leading the way in a massive scavenger hunt along the highway. McClanahan is also heavily involved with the route community. He is a member of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association and plays an active role in grassroots efforts to maintain the highway. Whether that means promoting the history, or organizing building restoration and road maintenance, he is a relentless advocate for the road. These days, McClanahan lives in Chandler, Oklahoma, his gallery located just about a block away from Route 66. We caught up with him to learn more about his artwork, his bestselling guidebook, and his lifelong passion for Route 66.
You’ve been traveling Route 66 since you were very young with your family. What are some of your earliest memories of the highway? Well, I was born in ’�� in Oklahoma. We moved to California in the fall of ’��. So, the fall of ’�� would have been the first time we came back to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Now, when we moved out to California, we didn’t take 66. We went down through Phoenix, so coming back in the fall of ’�� was my first Route 66 trip. And I don’t remember it, but we stopped at the 66 Courts in Groom, one of the few times we ever spent the night on the road, because dad liked to drive from southern California to Arkansas in one stretch. So, we stayed at the 66 Courts (closed now, only the sign was saved and is in the David Wickline collection) and they tell me I cried and cried, because I wanted to go see Grandma. But my memories are sitting in the backseat of a car looking at the billboards, wanting to stop at everything. Dad wouldn’t stop of course. I liked to watch the scenery go by. I liked the mountains. I had an atlas open that would tell you the name and elevation of the mountains. I would want to spot the next mountain ROUTE Magazine 51
Gary’s Gay Parita, Ash Grove, Missouri.
that came up on the horizon and see what its name was and how high it was. I remember one night we were in Arizona, I know that we were early in Arizona, and I asked them to wake me when we got to New Mexico because I liked seeing the cliffs and everything on the New Mexico state line. Well, of course, they did not wake me up, because when you got a sleeping kid, you’re not going to wake him up. I was in the back of the car as long as possible at night; I wanted to stay awake because I wanted to see that neon in the towns. And we’d be out in the middle of nowhere New Mexico where there’s a long way between towns. Sometimes, I could see it, but other times I would fall asleep. I remember that going to Albuquerque took forever. Before they bypassed Route 66 we had to sit at every traffic light for just about the whole �� miles. It drove dad nuts, but mom and I liked it because we got to see the people in the shops and stores, the people walking around, it was interesting. The year that dad was able to bypass Albuquerque, he was delighted. But I was talking to my mom about it and we were sad, because we missed it. And you know it’s stuff like that, the roadside frustration of not getting to stop, the fascination, it was just ... like when school had let out, we’d go to Arkansas first to visit my mother’s parents, and then head back to Oklahoma to see my father’s parents. You know, it was exciting. It was my vacation road.
For you, living on the route, was there a feeling of decline or change over the years? Well, I didn’t live on it. When we lived in southern California, we lived probably an hour from Victorville, and 52 ROUTE Magazine
that’s where we would hit Route 66. But well, seeing it during the 6�s, you know, ’�� to ’��, every year during the late sixties, I noticed that the trip was getting less interesting. I didn’t look forward to it as much because we were on more interstate every year. There was a fake cliff dwelling just east of the New Mexico State Line on the road to Manuelito. And I would look for that every year. One year I missed it. Where was it? Well, we were on the new I-��, and we were about a mile away from it. And there were constant construction zones. I could look off to the side and see an old section of 66 that still had the signs and curves, and I wanted those signs. Every year there was a little bit cut out on those trips. And then from ’�� until ’�� I had no connection with Route 66, no trips at all, because we moved back to Texas.
What caused you to reconnect with the Old Road? There was a book I got, about ����, Souvenirs from the Roadside West by Richard Ansaldi. I got this little book of things that he saw and photographed in the western United States, and a lot of it was on Route 66. And I’m looking at the Club Cafe in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and I’m looking at the Ella’s Frontier in Joseph City, and I’m looking at some others, and I remember those, it triggered those memories. While I was in Texas I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in painting and drawing. I’d always drawn since I was a child. I drew dinosaurs, I drew airplanes, and I drew trains. This was just how my brain worked as far as artwork. I had a vague idea about maybe breaking into comic books or something; I wasn’t happy with the art field. I didn’t like modern art. I ended up working at a camera store and
developed more of an interest in photography. I found the Ansaldi book. I [also] found one by Margulies about some of his roadside photos and that triggered a desire in me to start photographing these things. So, in ’�� my dad and I took a trip from Texas. We headed up to Shamrock, which is on Route 66, and got off at Victorville, California, because we went back to where we’d lived (Saugus, California). But that was my first adult Route 66 trip and the first trip where I photographed it.
How much of the highway had changed by that trip? Oh gosh, by that time, by ���� the only places that were still not bypassed was a section through McLean, Texas, and that was bypassed later that year I believe, and then the next year the section through Williams, Arizona, was bypassed. There was still a lot of Route 66 we could drive, but we would be going down the interstate, and I’d see another road or a line of telephone poles slanting away, and when I asked dad, “Is that Route 66?” he didn’t know. So, that’s why I started looking at the old highway maps from the ��s, ��s and ��s. I wanted to photograph Route 66, but I had to know which road it was first. And it was hard; there were no convenient Route 66 maps or guidebooks, I had to look at old road maps. I had to look at county maps, aerial photos. I had to go out and drive every exit in western Oklahoma. I would drive every Frontage Road in all directions until I would run out of concrete. Then I’d go and pick it up on the other side. Just adventures like that. So, it became a mission to find the road, photograph the road, and then paint the road.
What does it take to track down an abandoned roadway? Well, we’re still finding sections today. We use a lot of aerial photos. You know, Google Earth, the quality has gotten to where you can see individual culverts. You can see something you couldn’t see from the ground. Then you go out and if you can get to an exit, we go “boots on the ground” as Jim Ross would say, because you’re trying to determine, “Is this really a road, or is it a ditch, or a pipeline?” And there’s historic records. Jim had managed to get a lot of Highway Department Records from Oklahoma, which lead to his Oklahoma 66 book. We got records from Texas and from Missouri, but unfortunately, a lot of the places we definitely needed records from, like New Mexico and Arizona, are hard to find. So, it’s a combination of just whatever you can find that will give you a clue. You know, last year, I was driving through a part of Oklahoma that I’ve driven dozens of times, and it’s in the winter, and I look over here and bam! There’s a culvert that we didn’t know existed! And Jim looks at the records and says, “Oh yeah, that was bypassed in ����.” Things like that. It’s detective work.
section between McLean, Texas, and Groom, Texas. All sections of original dirt Route 66 that you can still drive as long as it’s not muddy.
You referred to Jim Ross earlier. You and Ross first combined your research in the Here It Is! map series in 1994. How did you two meet and when did you decide to collaborate on the map project? Well, there was a Route 66 publication, and ... I think that I wrote a letter to it and invited anybody who wanted to swap photos of Route 66 to write to me. So, Jim sent me some photos of things he had taken on the road. And I think I’d already picked up his Oklahoma Cruising Companion, his first little Route 66 Oklahoma book. And he called me up and asked what my favorite site on Route 66 was, and I said, “The Painted Desert Trading Post,” and he said, “Mine too.” I knew from then that we could work together. We were both researching Route 66, and we decided not to compete. We pooled our resources and brought out the map series, as you said, in ����. We shared the research; I drew it all and he did all the directions. And we’re continuing to work together. We’ve done Route 66 Sightings, we did Bones of the Old Road, that’s out of print. We’re still working together on researching a lot of old Route 66. He’s taken more of that over. I have to devote some more time on artwork and things now.
How do your paintings allow you to explore the route’s history and culture? Well, there’s a couple of different ways I paint. Sometimes I will paint something as it looks today. Rusty, weatherbeaten, textured, rough. Like an old regular gas pump I did from Oklahoma City. Other things, like with The Painted
What section are you most proud to have rediscovered? Probably the Jericho Gap [Texas], because that includes the section from Jericho to Groom, but it also includes the dirt roads that run from McLean to Alan Reed. Nobody knew those were still there. Even local experts thought that they were paved over or abandoned. I looked at old county maps, and I looked at new county maps, and I said, “Wait a minute, that all matches up!” I went out and drove it, compared all the mileages, and yeah, I found a whole
Richfield Service Station, Rancho Cucamonga, California. ROUTE Magazine 53
Desert Trading Post, I will restore how something used to look. I have a photo I took in the ��s, straight on of that old weather-beaten place. I found some old postcards and I found an old vacation movie taken, I guess in the late ��s, where someone had run out of fuel in an airplane, and they had to land on Route 66. They taxied up to the gas pumps and began filling up. [It was a] blurry thing. I went back and forth many times, and by comparing it with my gas pump books, I was able to tell which brands of gasoline and which pumps they used. I was able to restore that place on paper. With some things, I’m capturing the memory of something that you cannot see or photograph anymore. I was lucky taking photos in ’�� and ’�3 and ’86 and all these other years in the ��s and early ��s. I photographed things that just no longer exist, things that other roadies don’t even know about. Recently, there was a thread on Facebook about the diving girl neon on various old signs, you know, where you have your pool advertisement [with] a girl in neon diving off the diving board. Well, I had photographed one in ���� in Weatherford, Oklahoma, and it was for the Mark Motor Hotel (now a Best Western). And I dug that old Kodachrome up, and I scanned it, and nobody had seen it. It’s a shame that all my slides are so out of order, I’m sloppy. If I pull something out, it never goes back.
In your early days, business owners would be suspicious of your interest in photographing their establishments? I’ll give you an example: in ��83 I stopped in Newkirk, New Mexico, and there’s Wilkerson’s, an old country store. Next door was an old motor court and a little curio shop that had, so far, unbroken glass that said, “Figaro Bottles.” Now, this is an often photographed ruin; it’s an old adobe stucco thing crumbling to the dirt. But in ��83, it was still open, and I went inside to ask the people if I could photograph it. And there’s several people sitting there, all the shelves stocked with things. It was an old fashion country store. And they thought that I was with the government. They thought I was taking pictures because I wanted to shut them down. They thought I was with the EPA or something, they couldn’t understand why somebody would be out there in ��83 wanting to take a picture of their place that was bypassed, on an old highway that nobody cared about. One time in western Missouri, I think probably along a Highway �6 section now, between Carthage, Missouri, and Springfield, Missouri. There was an old gas station, and on the old pumps somebody had put up a sign that said: “Barbershop.” So, I stopped to ask the guy [for a picture], and he was really belligerent. He said, “I know you, you’re with the Russians! You’re trying to take pictures of the poor Americans for your Russian propaganda!” No kidding! I took the picture from across the street.
How has the route community evolved since then? In the early 8�s there really wasn’t a route community. All the newspaper articles and magazine articles just had eulogies saying Route 66 was dead, that it was grimy, it was rundown. If a newspaper reporter did a story about it, he would emphasize the sordidness. I think the turning point … of course you have Juan and Angel Delgadillo, and the Arizona Association and the Oklahoma Association, but 54 ROUTE Magazine
probably one of the big turning points was Michael Wallis’ book. When he brought out his Mother Road book, that brought a lot more attention to the route. And around the early ��s, there was more interest in it. There were more people that started to write about it and to photograph it and to drive it. I entered a Route 66 art exhibit in Gallup, New Mexico, about ’��, and I won a contest to design a mural for the Chamber of Commerce (Gallup). And after that it just started a momentum. Every time someone would write an article about it or publish something about 66, it grew. The state associations did tremendous work and still do. It’s all volunteer efforts. I’m on the board of the Oklahoma association. I’m the representative for Lincoln County, and we have quarterly meetings. We have done things like, we repainted the Lincoln Motel sign, trash pick-ups, sponsored events ... The other associations do their best too; it’s all these grassroots. And it’s a worldwide thing. Now we have Route 66 associations [across] Europe and in Japan. My wife ... I met Mariko because she bought my EZ66 Guide in about ���� in Victorville, at the California Route 66 Museum. We met on Facebook in ����, and got married a year ago in January. And maybe this June the timing will work out where she can get her green card and be over here. She’ll post a new Route 66 photo on about seven different pages; she posts a Route 66 blog every day. We have some projects planned, we have some Japanese projects and we’ll do some American things too. We would like to get a lot more Japanese people to do the whole route, not just the western part, you know, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and LA. We want them to do the whole route. And with her, I have a built-in translator. I want her to do her own book: it’s exciting. I had a couple from Norway yesterday; we get a tour from Norway every year. I get three tours from Dale Butell, an Australian tour guide, every year, and I get tours from others. So many people are doing the route, many people from overseas. And these are people that don’t have the nostalgia that I have as a child from discovering it. I ask why they come and they will tell me that they like American movies, they like American music, they like the West, and they want to come out and see the scenery. And sometimes they’ll tell me, “Well, I started researching what can I do in America, and I found Route 66.” What they discovered here is a road that goes to a lot of the places they want to see, and there’s plenty of books and maps and information on it. So instead of having to plan a trip across the country themselves, they latch onto Route 66.
Your EZ66 Guide was first published in 2005, and has been one of the best-selling route guides since. How has your life changed since it was released? Well, the royalties from that book allowed me to buy a house and a business property just off of Route 66 here in Chandler, Oklahoma. And since I was able to do that, I’ve been able to meet people from around the world. And because of the book, I met my wife, so yeah, it’s completely transformed my life. I think that the luckiest thing was meeting Jim Ross, because that led to the map series and articles I did for magazines, and to the Bones of the Old Road. So, when David Knudson [Director of the Route 66 Federation] wanted to bring out a guidebook, Jim was busy
Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, Missouri.
with another book, and he called me up and said, “Jerry, the road needs a good guidebook.” I said, “Okay!” It took me about two years to do it. For about a year-and-a-half of that all I did was work on the book, nothing else. There’s a couple hundred maps, there’s the eastbound, westbound directions, there’s attractions and options, and it was an undertaking. I need to drive as soon as possible this year. I’m waiting until Mariko can come, but I drove every bit of it in ���6, both directions, all alignments, over the course of six trips. I didn’t get to drive much last year because of three months I spent in Japan. I want to drive it fresh, so I can do a new edition. I can’t just trust my ���6 trip, you know? So many things change; I want to hit it and just see what I can do to make it even better.
How have you and Mariko dealt with the separation? Well, Mariko is much more independent and mature than I am, because she handles it pretty well. I would categorize her as this calm cat and I’m more of a slobbery puppy dog. So, for me, it’s been very rough being separated from her. We, of course, have Facebook Messenger so we can communicate every day. But it’s just not the same. I haven’t seen her since November �3rd. But I haven’t been able to go there this winter because I’ve had to be here to do different things for her immigration process. And I can’t really go this month because I have too many Route 66 obligations. So, it’s been difficult. She had to sell her condominium and move. She shipped �3 boxes of her possessions to me, by ship, you know? It takes a couple of months to get here. Then when she gets here, she wants to re-decorate. She says I must wait until she’s here. (Laughs) I’ve had this house for ten years, and I haven’t really done anything on the inside. When she visited me in
the fall of ���6, she painted the bathroom and bedroom, because she loves doing that type of thing. When she’s here, my whole lifestyle is going to change completely, and I’m all for it, because I was 5� before I ever got married. So yeah, Route 66 brought me something good. I just have to make it [through] the next couple of months. I’m glad I didn’t know how hard it would be, because I might have chickened out! And you know, you have to jump through hoops, there’s all these papers to sign and then there’s always questions about the papers. And [the] translation of her documents …
What have you learned about Route 66 via Mariko’s interests, or through her eyes? People from another culture see 66 differently than we do. Mariko will take photos of things that I haven’t photographed, because to me it’s like, maybe not as significant, or I’m just taking it for granted. I’m more into gas stations, motels, cafes, and Mariko is more into historic things, like a historic house in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She has opened me up to things in the corridor that aren’t so much travel-related, but they’re a part of the history that Route 66 is going through. It’s more [like] context. We spent several days on Route 66 between Pasadena and San Bernardino, California, in November of ���6, and we stayed at three different motels there on that section, while we explored (in-depth) all the historical places in downtown. She’s a good travel companion.
We hear that she is interested in graveyards? I am too, for sure. Gosh yeah! I’ve been photographing Route 66 graveyards forever, and there’s some that I haven’t ROUTE Magazine 55
hit yet, and that’s in our plans. We want to hit the one at Amboy, California. We want to photograph it.
What made you choose to settle in Chandler, Oklahoma? I was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, which is southwest of Oklahoma City, down towards Highway 8�. So, I was coming back to Oklahoma, but I had no roots in Chandler. But Jim Ross and Shellee Graham, my two best friends, live nearby, and they kept showing me houses. They’d send me emails: “Here is this house, you should look at this house, buy this house, and move to Route 66.” So, when they sent me this one, I said, “Okay, I’ll bite.” I moved here and I bought an acre of land from a former electrical shop that I turned into my gallery. It’s a big old house that’s been added onto since the ��s, so nothing quite lines up straight, but I’ve decided that’s quaint. My gallery is probably a block off of 66; I have a vacant lot next to my house that I own and my neighbor, his car is on the driveway, that driveway used to be �th Street. And that was the original Route 66 corner before they changed it slightly and built a new overpass in about ’�8 or ’��. So, if I go out to the back of my property, I can throw rocks and hit cars on Route 66, but I try not to do that. It’s a little inconvenient; I’m hard to find because I’m not right on the road, and the corners are all, like reverse Ys. I could get more customers if I was right on the road, but my friend Bob Waldmire, the late Bob Waldmire had his place right on Route 66 in Hackberry, and I think he got to the point where he didn’t like all the people stopping by. It’s hard for an artist to do work when you’re constantly interrupted. Now, during the season, sometimes there are days where it’s lunchtime and I don’t eat until 3 pm because people constantly come in. But the good thing is that the people who come to see me have my book. They’re not just casual people, they want to meet me. We have good conversations, and I can enjoy it. I would have to hire a shopkeeper if it was hundreds of people a
Jerry and Mariko and a Route 66 Wedding. 56 ROUTE Magazine
day. I would have to hire employees, you know? But this way it’s more laid-back, getting to visit [with] people from all over the world.
What are some of your favorite things to paint? Well, I like cars, of course, I’ve always been into cars since I was a kid, hot rods, and things. I used to have Studebakers, now I have a ’5� old Chevrolet station wagon, and it’s got four rotted tires on it because they’re ��-years-old. It’s on my to-do list. I love gas stations, motels, neon signs, all the stuff I saw when I was a kid. And I like old cars, so I’m lucky I get to paint and do artwork of things that I enjoy. I love the shapes of the old gas pumps and the different types of gasoline signs and brands, I like the neon sign reflections. I’m doing one that has Tucumcari Mountain in the background right now.
Do you think that American and global visitors have a different experience when traveling Route 66? Well, Americans, many of the Americans are baby boomers, like I am, who did similar trips when they were kids, or they like cars and the culture. Now, we do get younger Americans now because they saw Cars or they are interested in the culture like rockabilly, rock and roll, and things like that. Some of the younger people in America are picking up on that. The Europeans, they’re cued into some of the same things. They don’t have the traditions of long road trips like we do. The Australians do, the Australians know what I’m talking about when I’m talking about driving for days and days and days across the country. But somebody from Germany, they are here for the culture, they want to experience American culture. Now here is one difference: I’m at the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque, before it closed, and I’m talking to a guy from Germany, and he says, “You have this gas station from ���6, but I live in a house built in ����.” So, their perspective on what’s historic is different from ours, you know? We are a young country. Something that’s ��� years old can be historic to us, but to him, that’s like, new. So, there is a little difference there. Of course, by the time they get to me they’ve been almost halfway across 66, stopping in towns along the way. They say it’s changed their perspective on Americans. They think it’s going to be like what they hear about in L.A or New York; people are going to be rude, you’re going to get shot at, something like that. But by the time they’ve gotten through Chicago and down through the Midwest, and they’ve gone through Missouri and Oklahoma, they’ve met some of the friendliest people on the planet. I get that comment a lot: they can’t believe how friendly the people are on Route 66.
It’s not the alignments now; it’s not the gas stations, it’s the people that are really fueling this value and interest in Route 66. And we’re getting new people coming to it every year. People are investing in it and restoring old cafes. Some people just bought the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois, there’s the couple that is restoring Meteor City in Arizona. But I think the people on Route 66 are really ambassadors to the world. I think we’re showing the world more of a true picture of America and Americans. Not what they’re seeing by watching the news or in the papers or on the internet, you know? They’re seeing real people, real honest people. They go to a museum or an attraction, the people they meet are volunteers, and they are there to talk. They love their history, and they’re proud of their town, and they will talk your ears off. I talked to a gentleman from Europe who had been in a diner in Illinois. He was talking to the waitress, with his accent, and there was a couple at another table that left. When he went to pay his bill, they’d already paid for him. That happens a lot.
Well, if I’m headed out west, I will usually try to drive the original ��3� concrete from El Reno, Oklahoma, to at least Hydro, Oklahoma. That’s the section outside the old interstate [with] the old connection joints. You’ve got the Pony Bridge with its 3� truss expanse. It’s got many other concrete and metal bridges; it’s a time capsule. Sticking again with Oklahoma places, like the Blue Whale (Catoosa) and the Round Barn in Arcadia. Gosh, it’s like, which is my favorite grandchild? Going on there’s Sitgreaves Pass to Oatman, Arizona. Or places where there are people that I like. I always stop at Moriarty in New Mexico and the Sunset Motel, owned by the Pogue’s who have roots there and are active in preservation. Rich Henry at the Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois, Bob and Ramona at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri. It’s just like, family all up and down the route.
Who do you think is the most interesting person you know on Route 66? That’s kind of a toughy, I know a lot of interesting people. I know John Hargrove. I put him in the EZ Guide, because he has built a little Route 66 enclave on the side of the road, east of Arcadia, Oklahoma. He just carved it out of the woods. He has a huge shop building where he restores and upholsters old hot rods and cars. He has a ���� Model T. He has a three-wheeled car he built himself out of a Chevy Malibu. He is building a replica of an Indy car from the 3�s. He used to fly ultralight airplanes. He runs marathons. He’s older than I am, but he leaves his gate open, and people come and visit. He doesn’t charge admission. There are so many things … he’s just a face and a place along the road that’s just welcoming. Of course, there’s Angel Delgadillo in Seligman, Arizona. I always enjoy when I get the chance to run into him. I find the best time to visit with him is early in the morning before the crowds of tourists come. I was there one morning, people were out washing their driveways, and there was nobody. I had the whole town to myself. He was at his shop, and we just sat down on the
Hill Vette, McLean, Texas.
bench and talked. And it wasn’t long after that that there were two buses double parked in the street and hundreds of people just swarmed the town.
Do you have a favorite section of the route? Well, the one I mentioned earlier from El Reno to Hydro, Oklahoma, is one of my favorite sections. The road from Kingman, Arizona to Oatman, Arizona, is another favorite. It winds over Sitgreaves Pass, [its] a very scenic and historic road. Every state has a section I enjoy; every state has at least one really, really great section of road.
What do you think is the best route 66 state and why? Oklahoma, because I live here, and was born here of course! And I have friends here, and it’s got a lot of Route 66 towns and attractions and museums. It’s just packed full of goodness. Yeah, Oklahoma, you know, you start out at Miami, you have the Coleman Theater … Just about every town in Oklahoma has something cool. And we’ve got some unique things, like I said, we’ve got the Blue Whale and the Round Barn, those are unique. We’ve got two great museums in Clinton and Elk City. We’ve got great stretches of road, where you can drive a long way on original Route 66. You can drive almost all the way across the state without being on the freeway. There’s just a little section I guess, in Oklahoma City, where you have to hit a bit. But most of the time, you’re just on old Route 66. And I’m here, so you know …
What’s something that even people who know you well would be surprised to learn about you? Well, the weirdest thing about me is that I like translated Manga (Japanese comic books or graphic novels )and Anime (Japanese animation), but all my friends know about that.
If you find your way to Chandler, visit McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery at 306 Manvel Drive (Hwy 18) Chandler, OK, to catch up with Jerry. And don’t forget to take a look at his gallery and be sure not to leave without investing in a slice of Route 66 art. ROUTE Magazine 57
Photographs and paintings courtesy of Jerry McClanahan.
What are some can’t miss spots for you when you travel down the Mother Road?
TEXAN By Melanee Morin
Youâ€™re sitting at a cowhide table on a raised platform in front of two hundred other diners. In front of you is a perfectly grilled, sizzling 72-ounce steak, shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad, and a bread roll. A musician strums a guitar in the background, while a live rattlesnake and a 12-foot bear statue look on disinterestedly; theyâ€™ve seen this almost 100,000 times before.
The clock begins to count down, and you have an hour to eat what is on the table.
58 ROUTE Magazine
ROUTE Magazine 59
This is The Big Texan Steak Challenge, one of the most famous eating contests in America, and it has been enticing people from all over the world for over �� years. Some might say it’s just a kitschy tourist-trap, but behind The Big Texan’s bright yellow exterior and over-the-top persona lies a struggle for success, a tribute to Texas’ Western roots, and a family legacy tied to Route 66.
he Mother Road was aligned through The Lone Star state in ���6, running from Texola to Glenrio across the Texas Panhandle, with Amarillo at its heart. Unlike other Route 66 states that have jutting mountains and vast canyons, the panhandle is as flat as a pancake. But the wide-open plains and expansive blue skies have their own type of majesty; some claim that during an Amarillo sunrise and sunset you can see the curvature of the earth because of the almost limitless view afforded by the even terrain. Bob Lile, artist, historian, preservationist, and Vice President of the Historic 6th on Route 66 Association (they work to preserve the historic Route 66 district in Amarillo), notes that the Texas stretch of Route 66, the second shortest after Kansas at ��8 miles, might not have the prettiest scenery; “But, we’ve got the friendliest, best people along the whole route. And we’ve got some really good history too.” An important part of that history began, and still lives on, in Amarillo: the place Lile calls the unofficial capital of Route 66 in Texas. The southern plains meet the desert in Amarillo, and the wide-open spaces provided the perfect place to raise large amounts of cattle. In �8�3, Amarillo’s population was listed as “between 5��-6�� humans and 5�,��� head of cattle.” A few years later, Amarillo had become one of the world’s busiest cattle-shipping points, and that heritage lives on today; Amarillo is the beef capital of the world, with over � million head of cattle and many large ranches, including the still-running JA Ranch founded in �8��. Today, you can still find cowboys gathering their cattle by horseback. Eric Miller, Director of Communications at the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council, says the town is very proud of its Western heritage. “We really are the Texas that many people grow up thinking about, with ranches and cowboys and pickup trucks, horses, it all exists within �� miles of our downtown.” Route 66 helped bring visitors to Amarillo hoping to capture the authentic Texan experience, and The Big Texan Steak Ranch is a big part of that. Miller notes that Amarillo has � to 3 million visitors per year, and The Big Texan and Route 66 are two of the biggest draws. But originally, it began with a man wanting to make a better life for his family, taking America’s highway to Texas to experience true Western hospitality.
This was in ��6�, and the Mother Road’s revival hadn’t begun yet. For R.J., Route 66 was simply the highway that went through Amarillo, from which he could attract tourists. As Bobby Lee puts it, son of R.J. and Mary Ann and co-owner of The Big Texan today, if you’re in the boat business, you need to be on the Mississippi River. If you’re in the hospitality business, you need to be on the highway. But simply being located on Route 66 wasn’t enough; Lee had to offer visitors an authentic taste of Texas that would draw them in and keep them coming back. “My dad didn’t have a real good grip on what a real cowboy was or wasn’t until he started working with the area’s stockyard producers,” Bobby elaborates. R.J enticed local cowboys to stop in after work by offering big, juicy steaks and an icecold beer. He also knew that they would be the big draw for tourists, so he reserved a huge ��-person table for them in the middle of the dining room, centre stage for the cowboys to show off their bravado and antics to the other diners, while he plied them with excellent food and drink. Bobby adds, “I remember as a kid watching him see the reaction in the diners, how powerful it was whenever they would see a real cowboy ... That was the whole scheme behind The Big Texan originally. Bigger steaks and bigger cowboys.” Little did R.J. know just how big the steaks would get.
It All Started With a Dream(er)
The Birth of the Biggest Challenge Around
R.J. Lee was living with his wife, Mary Ann, and their young children in Kansas City, Missouri, when they decided to move to Amarillo in ��58. R.J. had grown up enthralled with Texan cowboys and ranchers, and with a young family to support, he saw Amarillo as the ideal place to experience the Lone Star atmosphere while laying down roots for the future. While Texas lived up to his dreams and more, the one disappointment he had was that he couldn’t find a first-class Texas-style steakhouse in the area. So, R.J. decided to build it himself, right on Route 66.
The cowboys at The Big Texan spent their evenings challenging each other’s virility – whether it was who ate the most food, drank the most beers, or had the bigger muscles, the cowboys loved a challenge. One Friday night in ��6�, R.J. pushed a few tables together in the middle of the dining room and challenged his favorite patrons to the ultimate contest. Whoever could eat the most one-pound steaks in an hour would win, and get his dinner for free. One ambitious hostler ate 4 and a half one pound steaks (�� ounces), and complained that he was still hungry, so R.J.
60 ROUTE Magazine
One of the Original Route 66 Billboards for Westbound Travelers.
brought him a baked potato, shrimp cocktail, salad, and a bread roll. This seemed to hit the spot, and when he was finished, R.J. announced that anyone who could eat what that cowboy just ate would get their meal for free. Bobby recalls, “My dad never thought he would have a taker, but the next week we had two cowboys come in wanting to try the thing, and the place went crazy!” Tourists were talking about it, the newspaper came out and took pictures, and an immemorial challenge was born. To the this day, The Big Texan gets three to four challengers a day, notes Danny Lee, co-owner of The Big Texan and younger brother to Bobby. They’re approaching ���,��� steaks served, and only about one out of every nine challengers finish the steak. The odds are better for women, about one in two, adds Bobby: less women overall take the challenge, but the ones that do are very confident, and not egged on by ego or dares. In fact, the record-holder, Molly Schuyler, a ���-pound mother of four, ate three of the ��-ounce steak dinners in twenty minutes. When asked if he had ever attempted the challenge himself, Danny admits, “When I attempted it, I failed miserably. Bobby ate it and we went out and played racquetball and he still beat me in the game.”
Home and Away Bobby and Danny spent their childhoods living and working at The Big Texan. In the early years, playpens and bassinets filled the kitchen, and when they got older, they were put to work. When they were four and five years old, they learned how to wrap baked potatoes, peel shrimp, and buss tables - all for a dollar a day. The first head chef, Mr. Vance, gave them kitchen assignments that they completed while standing on vegetable crates to reach the
Westbound Route 66 Big Texan Cowboy, 1961. He was named Bull, because his tobacco in his shirt pocket had a round tag that read Bull.
Newspaper Photo of the Lee Family, 1978 - (R-L) William, Diana, Danny, Bobby, RJ (Bob), Mary Ann, Teresa, Becky, Douglas and Richard. ROUTE Magazine 61
counters. All holidays were spent working at the restaurant, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Danny notes that, “Still to this day, my kids and my wife, Bob’s kids and Bob’s wife, we all go to work on holidays.” What is now a privilege and part of maintaining a legacy became a relentless chore for the young brothers. Bobby excelled in athletics so that he could go and play sports after school, instead of going to work at the restaurant, and both boys left Amarillo after high school, searching for purpose outside of the restaurant business. “The second I got a chance to get out of town, I got out of town, and stayed away,” recalls Bobby. He went to college and Danny got into electronics after graduating in ���� and worked for a big company in Dallas for a number of years. A similar uprooting happened to The Big Texan a decade earlier, when the Interstate Highway �� replaced Route 66 as the major thoroughfare of the country in ��68. Overnight, business at The Big Texan came to a halt. “One day he had a full dining room and the next day there were two people for the whole day,” says Bobby. But R.J. had eight kids to feed, and he had to adapt to survive. Unable to get a loan from the bank, R.J. took his sons out to an old army barracks they owned and they pulled it apart, piece by piece, preserving every scrap of lumber and nail to rebuild The Big Texan along the I-��. The new restaurant, where the current one stands today, was built out of love, tenacity, and desperation. Danny recalls his father driving by newspaper stands, asking if the local boys needed jobs, thus he rounded up a bunch of day laborers and built The Big Texan from the ground up. R.J.’s limitless reserves of tenacity were tested frequently: he attempted to open another restaurant in Lubbock, Texas, in ���� to appeal to the Texas Tech crowd, but it was unsuccessful and closed after two years; and, The Big Texan built out of scrap lumber, burned to the ground in a fire in ����, except for a banquet room that was built in ����. However, R.J. always adapted, and The Big Texan re-opened shortly after and continued to be a smashing success.
setbacks and pushing himself to succeed for the family he loved. “And he just, he just didn’t stop,” says Danny, “He didn’t stop.” When Bobby heard the news of his father’s passing, he decided to move his family back to Amarillo and continue his father’s legacy. Bobby and his seven brothers and sisters were consumed with grief and confusion after their father’s sudden death, making it difficult to know what needed to be done to preserve The Big Texan, so Bobby stepped into the leadership role. Knowing Danny’s extensive experience at the Savoy Grill, Bobby knew he could bring a lot to the table, and so Danny moved back to Amarillo to be co-owner of The Big Texan in ����.
Opposites Attract Bobby and Danny’s combined experience and distinct skill sets create a special sort of magic for The Big Texan, and the family legacy not only continued to succeed, but expanded and flourished under their leadership. And it was a key lesson Danny’s uncle had taught him at the Savoy that laid the groundwork for their unparalleled hospitality: “Always take care of the next person in the front door, and everything else will fall into place.” They may sometimes fight like brothers, but Bobby and Danny also succeed because they are opposites. Danny describes it as the combination of internal marketing and external marketing. Bobby focuses on promoting the restaurant and keeping the legend alive, whether it’s with billboards or social media. Meanwhile, Danny focuses on service, making sure salad plates are cold, dinner plates are hot, the steaks are aged properly, and bought at a
Passing the Torch After spending most of the 8�s in Dallas, Danny moved to his father’s hometown of Kansas City to work with his uncle at the Savoy Grill, an upscale dining landmark in the city since ���3. Danny had always loved working in the kitchen, and rediscovering his family’s roots caused him to fall back in love with the restaurant industry. On a cool Sunday afternoon in ����, February �th to be exact, Danny had gone to see a matinee movie with his wife, but he remembers feeling weird all day. He had an apartment in the Savoy Hotel above the restaurant, and the phone was ringing incessantly. He ignored the phone because he thought it was just another call about inventory, but finally someone came to his door to tell him that his mom was on the phone. R.J. and Mary Ann were in Hawaii on vacation with some fellow restaurateurs at the time. His mother told him that his father had died of a heart attack while swimming in the ocean, spending his last moments on earth enjoying the warm water, The Big Texan far from his mind. All of a sudden, Danny went from talking to his father on the phone every day to losing his father unexpectedly at the age of sixty. He believes that it was all the hard work that did his father in, the stress of numerous 62 ROUTE Magazine
competitive price. As they explain it, Bobby keeps them on the front page and Danny keeps them off the obituary. Ultimately, the foundation of their success is keeping alive the mystique of the cowboy that their father first started. “The cowboy never goes out of style,” remarks Danny, “and do we embellish about the cowboy and make it bigger than what it is? Hell yeah we do! You know, big steaks, we got a big boot that’s two stories tall, we have a rocking chair that you can get �� people into ... Do people get up on the table and drink whisky and dance? Well, if that’s what people want to see in Texas, then hell yeah we do it. You know, we give people kind of a blank canvas and let them draw in what they feel Texas is, and what we do is deliver it.” Or, as Bobby puts it, “It’s always the real deal and it’s cozy and right in your face with it.”
Original Route 66 Big Texan, 1965.
Ingenuity and Expansion first rung at the very bottom, then you go to the second rung and you go to the third one. Then, sometime you look down and you realize you could die if you let go. You know, you’re so high; you’re high enough where it’s dangerous. And you keep on climbing, and you just don’t look down and all of a sudden one day you happen to look around and you realize that you’re above the clouds. You can see forever. Then one day we realize we’re not really owners of this business, we’re curators.” As Bobby adds, “It’s a one of a kind place, you don’t see this kind of place very much and when you do, you get that feeling that it’s a landmark, you’re going to do something special.” And do something special they did.
To the Brink and Back After completing the ��oz Steak Challenge, winners get a chance to leave a comment for posterity, as recorded in the Hall of Fame on The Big Texan’s website. Some did it for family: “Father-in-law challenged me to do it.” (Chuck Barsness, ���5); “Had to call my mom to get encouragement.” (George Rutherford, ��88); “My son will be back in �� years.” (Greg Schrop, ����). Some became philosophical: “The will to succeed is the first condition of victory.” (Richard E. Primeau, ��8�); “You define the moment and the moment defines you.” (Paul B. Thacker, ���3); “Vedi, Vidi, Vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.).” (Jason Apodaca, ����). While others found a sense of humor: “A steady chew got me through!” (Ken Wareham, ���6); “I thought it would shrink when it was cooked.” (Steve Evans, ��8�). Many claimed to have turned vegetarian over the incident, and it provided a once in a lifetime experience for others. But, the most common comment has been, in fact, a question: What’s for dessert? ROUTE Magazine 63
Photographs supplied by Bobby Lee.
Bobby thinks that if his father could see what The Big Texan has become today, he would be really surprised at the national and international audience it has developed, as well as how much the business has expanded. The Big Texan compound now includes a motel designed to look like an Old West main street, an RV park, an outdoor concert venue called Starlight Ranch, a brewery, and a fleet of limos to bring customers to the restaurant. It is this entrepreneurial ingenuity that keeps The Big Texan successful and ahead of its competitors. But while everything is changing, everything is also staying the same. “I remember as a kid the smell of the cocktail sauce,” says Bobby. “I remember the taste of the salad dressings and it’s still the same. Everything is expensive as hell to make, but you know, it’s about those people when they taste it, they say, ‘You know, this is exactly how I remember this thing.’” Keeping that original quality is one of the most rewarding parts of the business for the brothers, and it’s what keeps customers coming back. Bobby and Danny both have adult children of their own now, but they are not pressuring them to join the family business. Most important is allowing them to spread their wings and have new experiences like they did once, because a return home is all the sweeter when you’ve been away and choose to come back. But what does it really feel like to be a caretaker of an internationally-known Texas legend? “I’ll answer that in a strange way,” replies Danny. “Kansas City, this one kid that used to deliver food to us, he was a purveyor, and he told me one time that one of the jobs he had before was climbing those real tall radio towers and changing the light bulbs on top. And he said sometimes it’d take him three or four hours to climb all the way to the top, and then when he got to the top, the view was spectacular. And I always likened it to that, it’s a real tall ladder, and you start on the
64 ROUTE Magazine
CLOWN MOTEL T
onopah’s Clown Motel sits midway between Las Vegas and Reno, eerily cheerful against its muted desert backdrop. Clowns wave and smile strangely from the road; they line the lobby walls; they hang above the beds. An elephantine Ronald McDonald welcomes you at the check-in desk. Oh, and there’s a cemetery next door that’s home to ��� longdeceased miners. Tonopah originated circa ���� as a prosperous mining community. When real estate and gaming took over the Nevada market, gold and silver mining fell, and the population of ��,��� dwindled. The mysterious Tonopah Plague of ����, whose cause remains unknown, further diminished the resident count. Today, Tonopah supports travelers as a stopover site, and the majority of its �,��� residents are employed on an obscure nuclear bomb testing ground, the Tonopah Test Range. The Clown Motel was opened in ���� by siblings Leona and LeRoy David, who chose the location because their father was buried in the neighboring graveyard. The eclectic pair decorated the motel with their robust clown collection. Ten years later, they sold the place to state tourism official Bob Perchetti, who not only kept the clown motif, but added to the collection. Why? He loved clowns. The motel offers something unique, bizarre even and that’s precisely its appeal. The clown-obsessed and coulrophobic alike travel to the horror hotspot, sometimes fainting in the lobby, sometimes staying several nights. Some visitors go so far as to place towels over the clowns in their rooms to stave off nightmares.
In ����, the motel was featured on the TV show “Ghost Adventures”, where viewers were treated to footage of a clown mannequin moving of its own accord. Following the appearance, bookings skyrocketed. Perchetti, for his part, recognizes the Clown Motel’s novelty appeal, but insists that the motel’s rooms are as fit as any others in the country. “It’s like any other motel, except for the fact that it has been called the scariest motel in the United States,” Perchetti said. “They’re just nice rooms with two queen beds. We have clown pictures on the walls, we have wireless Internet, we have dish TV, we have coffee in the morning and we have happy clowns.” The clowns may be happy, but they’re frightening to a lot of people. A ���� Chapman University poll found that ��% of Americans are afraid of clowns - a number higher than terrorist attacks, family members dying, economic collapse, and biological warfare. Indeed, the Great Clown Scare of ����, where more than ��� ‘suspicious clown sightings’ were reported across the United States, is symptomatic of the collective social panic surrounding the makeup-caked performers. But in the sleepy desert town of Tonopah, the Clown Motel rests quietly, welcoming visitors throughout the year, and the drama that took place in ���6 across America is of little concern for the residents. Like all great venues that have a unique character, or a quirky backstory, the Clown Motel offers visitors exactly what they are coming to experience – a comfortable rest and a memorable stay that will keep them showing off their pictures for years to come. ROUTE Magazine 65
Photographs supplied by Melissa Whitney.
By Alex Sallas
Tonopah Cemetery Entrance.Â
Exterior of the Clown Motel and Adjacent Cemetery. 66 ROUTE Magazine
Inside of The Clown Motel.
STRANGE BUT TRUE The Far Side of Route 66
Route 66 may be one of the most well-known highways in the world, but beyond the thousands of miles of asphalt lie a plethora of the strange, the unusual, and the quirky. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, look no further. A road that sings, a body twisted in two, and a deep lagoon that links states are just some of the more obscure elements of the Mother Road. Read on and prepare to be intrigued. THE SI NGI NG H IGHWAY
If you want more from the pavement than just a smooth driving surface, head over to a stretch of Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras in New Mexico. In ����, the New Mexico Department of Transportation installed special grooves along the side of the road; if you drive over them at exactly the speed limit of �� mph, you can hear “America the Beautiful” play through the vibrations in your car’s wheels. Highways will never sound the same again.
HAUNTED H IGHWAY
If you prefer your highways to scream instead of sing, there are countless haunted areas along Route 66 that can appeal to a more macabre spirit. Just north of Eureka, MO, in the area of Wildwood outside St. Louis lies Zombie Road (real name: Lawler Ford Road). After traversing through two miles of woods, it comes to a dead end at an old rock quarry. The road’s name comes from a mysterious murderer known only as “The Zombie” who would attack those driving by. If that’s not enough, it is also the site of a large Native American burial mound, and there’s numerous stories of spectral American Indians and Confederate rebels, packs of child ghosts, and the tortured souls of working men killed in industrial accidents. Maybe you should stay on the main road.
THE MOVEABLE MAN
Dean Walker, a Kansas Route 66 advocate, is called “Crazy Legs” for a reason. He has the ability to turn both his legs completely backward - he can walk away from you while staring you in the face! This physical feat and Walker’s jovial personality have been entertaining Route 66 travelers for years. He was also one of the inspirations for the
character of Mater in the Disney/Pixar movie Cars - a tow truck known for his backward driving prowess.
BUR I ED TREASURE
Roy Gardner was once America’s most infamous criminal, a celebrated outlaw and escaped convict during the Roaring Twenties. He began his career as a train robber in Arizona and California, and a couple of days after a notable heist in ���� he was arrested. Attempting to reduce his long sentence, he offered to lead the officers to his stash, but instead, lead them on a wild goose chase claiming he forgot where he had buried it. An estimated $�5�,��� of his loot still remains hidden, but legend has it that he buried some $�6,��� in gold coins in the cone of an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona. Happy hunting!
THE BLUE L AGOON
Like a shimmering oasis in the desert, the Santa Rosa Blue Hole is a sapphire gem located along Route 66 between Amarillo and Albuquerque, New Mexico. This artesian well has crystal clear water that is continuously renewed, and is a mecca for scuba diving enthusiasts. But the real mystery surrounding the Blue Hole is how deep does it go? Below the main pool lies a labyrinth of tunnels and caverns over ��� ft deep - legend has it they lead as far as Texas. However, efforts to uncover the mysteries of the deep have been shrouded in tragedy. In ���6, two divers drowned while exploring the caves and the tunnels were closed for safety. The ADM Exploration Foundation was able to gain access to the tunnels in ���6, but tragically, one of their divers accidentally drowned. The mystery of the Blue Hole remains for now. ROUTE Magazine 67
WELCH Who is your favorite cartoon character and why? For obvious reasons, Sally Carrera. Super happy my message will be seen by future family members. Who do you admire the most? Bob Waldmire. He lived his truth. He would always admit fault. He was sweet, artistic, loved children, loved Route 66, and loved the world and all its creatures beyond measure. I still cry and am grateful for all my time spent with Bob. Favorite stretch of Route 66? The bit between I-�� and Indian Highway �8 to Havasupai. It’s so quiet, peaceful, and remote. Makes me envision what it was like in the ��s’ to drive Route 66. Plus, it keeps me connected to my American Indian roots, my passion for traveling, and Route 66. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Minnows in Turkey, which I fished for in the ocean with an elder Turkish fisherman. Considering we couldn’t speak to each other, I just followed him out and we caught the minnow like fish. What is one of your odd quirks? I don’t know my left from my right and I get so distracted in my thoughts while driving; I easily get lost. It’s tough for my passengers. If you could transport any Route 66 monument instantly to your front door, what would it be? I would transport Bob Waldmire’s van to the Rock Cafe. What qualities do you respect most in others? Honesty, compassion and passion. Those three things get me every time. What qualities do you like most about yourself? Honesty, compassion and passion. This equates to my favorite personal motto. WORK HARD, PLAY HARD. What compliment do people give you the most? They like my big eyes. LOL. They turn colors from green, hazel, and hints of blue depending on mood. Like a mood ring. What is the first thing you notice about someone when you first meet? Their smile. Hands down. What advice have you gotten that was most rewarding? Michael Wallis told an impressionable ��-year-old me to never give up on the Rock 68 ROUTE Magazine
Cafe and to learn everything about the history of Route 66 and the cafe. At the time, I had no idea about Route 66 or that the cafe was full of history, and on Route 66. If you had access to a time machine where and when would you go? ��36 and Stroud, Oklahoma. I would hang out until ����. I would love to watch the building of Rock Cafe and business through the generations up until the moment the Turner Turnpike killed the business. That part would be too sad to hang out and watch. Most underrated place on Route 66? Bridges. Nothing like wandering around an old bridge looking at details and chucking rocks into creeks from the perch. What is the most delightful word you can think of? SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS. What are you afraid of? Harm of any kind to come to my children, and my inability to get to them to save them. Which words or phrases do you overuse? WORK HARD PLAY HARD. What is the funniest joke you know by heart? Sadly, I can’t memorize jokes. One thing you would change about yourself? That’s easy. I say whatever comes to my mind before my mind stops me. What unwritten rules do you live by? Same thing as the one thing I would change. I can’t lie. Definition of a perfect Sunday? Perfect weather, the hum of motorcycles on Route 66, and a slamming busy day at the cafe. I love the chaos and smiles of pleasing people enjoying a Sunday Funday. Funniest person on Route 66? Hands down Emily Priddy. May not always agree with her, but she’s so funny and lives her truth. She’s got all those things I love - honesty, compassion, and passion, plus her delivery makes me laugh outloud. Most interesting person on Route 66? Harley. I send people to his shop to NOT buy things. Love saying that and it’s so true. What superpower would you like to possess? I would love to be able to fly. Best character in the film Cars? Duh! Everyone in Radiator Springs. And the song Our Town and Find Yourself, which I’m listening to now.
Illustration: Jenny Mallon.
Over the course of her ��-year tenure as the owner and operator of the historic Rock Cafe, Dawn Welch has been a tireless ambassador for her adopted community of Stroud, Oklahoma, and Route 66 in general. Her upbeat, witty and boisterous manner has enchanted thousands of travelers, making her restaurant an absolute must-stop for any roadie passing through Oklahoma. Her contributions to the Route’s revival have been immortalized by her big screen counterpart Sally in Disney Pixar’s Cars.
ROUTE Magazine 59
ROUTE Magazine 69
Take in one of the longest stretches of Route 66 and see the birthplace of the â€œMother Roadâ€? in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ranked at the top of historic things to do, Route 66 welcomes visitors, locals and travelers alike. Explore one of the longest stretches of Route 66 in Tulsa!
@Tulsa66Commission 70 ROUTE Magazine