The Lope: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


We couldn't let July pass without a mention of the 60th anniversary of the Roswell, NM incident.

What happened? Well, maybe a UFO crashed near Roswell and maybe it didn't. Who knows. If you want to know more, use the internet; it was made for stuff like this.

If it happened, we think the discovery by US military personnel of the crashed saucer and aliens might have looked something like this...or it might not have.

By sheer coincidence, we assure you, we happened to have been shooting photos on Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio earlier this month. The hanger shown is the one in which relics from the crash were supposedly eventually sent, if they existed...which we're not saying they did.

In fact, we at the The Lope deny any knowledge of UFO crashes or of the infiltration of the U.S. military at the highest levels by the shadowy underground jackalope network.

We furthermore deny that said network used technology back-engineered from any sort of UFO to perfect jackalope disguise techniques.

Go back to your homes, surfing for porn and conspiracy theories...there's nothing to see here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Lincoln Highway

Michael Wallis looks pleasantly bemused as he poses for us. He's just come in from celebrity duties in the sweltering humidity of a too-wet Oklahoma summer at the 2007 National Route 66 Festival in Clinton, Oklahoma and the "roadie" subcultural guru will soon be receiving more fans at his desk. Wallis' credits are numerous and varied, but at this festival he wears two hats...

...or rather, a hat and a siren - as the author of the seminal Route 66: The Mother Road (now available as Route 66: The Mother Road 75th Anniversary Edition) and more recently, as the voice of the Sheriff in Disney/Pixar's "Cars". Wallis' bailiwick in "Cars" is Radiator Springs, a fictional composite Route 66 town. (image from "Cars" is property of Disney/Pixar)

Eventually, Hollywood may cobble a Lincoln Highway version of Radiator Springs if Wallis' newest book (with photographer Michael S. Williamson), The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate is similarly catalytic to travel on "The Father Road."

Wallis' book lives up to the prose he is known for, and paints a seductive image of the first American coast-to-coast highway. It's written as a travelogue and emphasizes local color over maps and navigational details. As such, it's a record of how it feels to travel the highway, strewn with examples of the sorts of people, buildings and settings that make blue highway junkies need a fix.

Pulitzer winner Michael Williamson's photographs serve the book well, and the selection includes atmospheric environmental portraits of personalities along the highway, skillful architectural images hip to the tastes of the roadside attractions buff (i.e. muffler men) and photos of structures original to the period of the highway. Thus, it covers the post-Lincoln Highway relics of the various roads which had been linked under that name.

I must admit that I'd never heard of the Lincoln Highway before a year ago when I found out it crossed Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois, as I toured that city. Joliet is the only Lincoln Highway city (from the official route, that is) in which I've taken photos, so here are a few.

In addition to being the "city of spires" due to the high concentration of churches, Joliet has nice Americana along with roadside architecture, such as the portico on this gas station turned dry cleaners.

It also has a reputation as a prison city. Remember the Blues Brothers movie? The prison scenes were filmed here.

The jewel of the city is probably the Rialto Square Theatre, built in 1926. The theatre is on Route 66 and is less than a block from the Lincoln Highway.

Near Joliet, the Lincoln Highway meets Route 66 again, this time sharing three blocks of road in Plainfield, IL.

And this brings up the inevitable comparison of The Lincoln Highway with Route 66. First off, back when the Lincoln Highway was formed in 1913, such highways were named, not numbered. This continued until the 1920's. Route 66, created in 1926, was always a numbered highway even though it carries other honorary and sentimental monikers such as the "Will Rogers Highway" (from a re-dedication in 1952) and the "Mother Road."

The Lincoln Highway is about 3,400 miles long (much longer if you count route changes over the years) and actually runs coast-to-coast, going through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, (Colorado, sort of - more about that later), Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.

Route 66 is about 2,500 miles long (like the LH, more if you count all the changes) and is not a coast-to-coast highway. It runs through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The Lincoln Highway lost its official status in 1928; Route 66 lasted much longer - all the way through the post-war car-crazy days - and finally gave its last official gasp in 1985. The longevity of 66 and its presence in living memory of so much of our population probably accounts for its momentum as more of as high profile nostalgia juggernaut. But the Lincoln Highway has its devotees and proponents, both organizational and touristic. We'll hear more about it, believe me.

The bottom line is that both roads have done an Obi Wan, and are alive and well long after their "demise."

Both also have an important pairing of factors - for me, anyway - to really inspire road trip. Two of Ace's rules of trip potential:

1. Enough published information to seduce and inspire and enough map data to plan a trip.

2. A large enough area, with a sufficient rate of change to leave me feeling that there's still something for me discover.

In other words, I have to know beforehand that things like the wigwam motels (Route 66) or The Lincoln Theatre (Lincoln Highway) exist so I can plan to see/eat/stay/photograph them when visible/open/vacant/neon-lit, etc. But there must also be sufficient growth and vitality that I can expect to run across surprises like a newly rejuvenated business or a restored sign.

It would still be nice to find a Lincoln Highway equivalent of Jerry McClanahan's very thorough and user-friendly Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers.

The publication of Wallis' book means we now have at least two good Coffee table/road trip planner books on the Lincoln Highway, by authors who are so cooperative with each other as to have contributed praise-filled blurbs for each other's book jackets. As a matter of fact, they're even on tour together in some cities.

The other author is one of Ace's readers, Brian Butko, who published his own Lincoln Highway book in 2005: Greetings From The Lincoln Highway: America's First Coast-to Coast Road.

Butko's book contains more history and fewer character portraits than does Wallis'. It does have the detailed state maps that I feel Wallis' book could benefit from.

I asked Butko to write a bit about the differences between Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway; he responded:

"You see a lot of America along both roads, from busy cities to small towns to lonely desert stretches, but since the Lincoln Highway goes coast-to-coast, you can experience more of how the country unfolds. Driving east to west, New York City and much of New Jersey is dense urban driving. Farms and industry mix across Pennsylvania, then the land opens up across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Most early drivers thought the West began after Chicago, and it still seems like that's where you leave the cities behind. Iowa is filled with corn, but as you cross Nebraska, crops change and even livestock changes from dairy to beef cows. A dip down to Denver on the Colorado Loop is often along dusty farm roads, and back on the main route across Wyoming, the Rockies are crossed on high plains. After Salt Lake City, the original road skirts the Great Salt Lake and then the Salt Lake Desert on roads that never have been paved. Crossing Nevada is a constant up-and-down over mountain folds, and then the California border brings Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas. Mountains of pine trees are the first greenery in a long time, then its downhill into Sacramento and on to San Francisco."

You can see the course of the Lincoln Highway on the back of Butko's Book.

Here it is on the cover of Wallis' book. Notice that the Colorado loop is missing; thereby hangs a tale.

Wallis sticks with the official route of Lincoln Highway for his book, which does not include Colorado, whereas Butko includes an entire chapter detailing Colorado's involvement, which caused "so much regret, difficulty and trouble."

In 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association sought the straightest, most level path possible, and a path through Wyoming rather than Colorado was more logical and better for the cars of the day. So far, so good - but of course communities along several possible routes all wanted a piece of the commerce that such a highway would bring, and courted the LHA appropriately. Only the advocates for a Colorado loop of the highway were successful; and such a loop was announced in the Proclamation of the Lincoln Highway in 1913.

That didn't go over well with various by-passed towns, including some in Colorado which were left off the loop. It was immediately obvious that deviating from the straight and level had been a mistake - a mistake which was rectified by the Spring of 1915 when the first official Lincoln Highway guidebook omitted the Colorado loop.

Colorado was not happy about this, and a small billboard war ensued at the divergent point in Nebraska, with Colorado attempting to send cars southward onto the loop that wasn't. This was countered by a billboard pointing to the official route through Wyoming.

Denver may not have been part of the eventual official route, but I was there on business in March and just happen to have shot a few photos along the short-lived loop.

The Denver part of the defunct route through Colorado skirted the edge of the state capitol grounds on Colfax.

Then it headed northwest up 15th where is passed the Gas and Electric Building which was brand spankin' new, having been built in 1910, reportedly as a promotional tool. It still features its 13,000 electric light bulbs arrayed in geometric patterns.

Modern travellers of the "loop that wasn't" can see a nice bit of Denver googie at Sam's No. 3, A former White Spot coffee shop at 15th and Curtis streets. It was designed by Armet and Davis, who virtually defined the mid-20th century "googie" genre of space-age architecture with their many Southern California coffee shop designs.

And back in the historical period of the Lincoln Highway, Denver's Union Station is just a block north of the route, and quite visible. It was built in 1914 - right in the middle of the Colorado loop controversy - to replace a previous structure which was no longer large enough to accommodate traffic and tourism Denver wanted even more of, via the Lincoln Highway.

I've seen bits of the highway in several other states, but would not have identified them as such, and that's part of the value of these two books: to help understand the context of what one is seeing. Which one should you buy? Since when do travel devotees keep only one book on a given topic?

Michael Wallis will be on tour promoting his book and attending Lincoln Highway events through early August. He will be joined by Brian Butko at some venues; I have noted those. There is a blog of the tour, here. Of course, you should always call and/or check the tour website before planning a road trip around such events:

Today, Saturday, July 28, the book tour will be at the Joliet Area Historical Museum at 9 AM. This is very near an intersection of Route 66 with the Lincoln Highway.

Brian Butko will also attend and will give a PowerPoint presentation. This is where I bought his book, along with all the other stuff pictured (except Ace.)

I still remember the very photogenic lady in the gift shop. The address is ll204 N Ottawa St. Phone: (815) 723-520

Here's the rest of the tour, starting with more appearances today:

Franklin Grove, Illinois
Franklin Grove Public Library, at 2 PM (Butko's schedule lists it as 1 PM)
223 N. Elm Street
Phone: 815-456-2823
This will be a Meet and Greet and book signing.
Brian Butko will do a PowerPoint presentation.

Clinton, Iowa
Clinton County Historical Society, at 4:30 PM
601 South First Street
Phone: 563-242-1201

Sunday July 29
Kearney, Nebraska
The Great Platte River Road Archway, at 2 PM
3060 East 1st Street
Phone: 308-237-1000

Monday, July 30
North Platte, Nebraska
Fort Cody Trading Post, at noon
US Hwy 83 and Interstate 80
Phone: 308-532-8081
View full event details

Paxton, Nebraska
Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge, at 6 PM
113 N Oak St.
Phone: 308-239-4500

Tuesday July 31
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne Depot Museum, at 6:30 PM
121 W 15th St # 300
Phone: 307-632-3905

Wednesday, August 1
Rock Springs, Wyoming
Flaming Gorge Harley-Davidson, at 4 PM
2401 Foothill Blvd
Phone: 307-382-9099

Thursday, August 2
Park City, Utah
Park City Historical Society & Museum, at noon
528 Main St.
Phone: 435-649-7457

Salt Lake City, Utah
The King's English Bookshop, at 7 PM
1511 South 1500 East
Phone: 801-484-9100

Friday, August 3
Loneliest Road Tour across Highway 50

Saturday, August 4
Reno, Nevada
Sundance Bookstore, at 11 AM
1155 W 4th St # 106
Phone: 775-786-1188

Truckee, California
Bookshelf, at 4 PM
11310 Donner Pass Rd # A2
Phone: 530-582-0515

Sunday, August 5
Sacramento, California
Towe Auto Museum, at 2 PM
2200 Front Street
Phone: 916-442-6802

Monday, August 6
San Francisco, California
Bookpassage, at 7 PM
1 Ferry Building, #42
Phone: 415-835-1020

(Update, November 7, 2007: Brian Butko now has a Lincoln Highway News blog. Check it out for useful news and features about the road.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Go Away, Muggles...I'm Reading

Sometimes it's fun to catch a fever. We did just that Friday night and joined the throng of midnight muggles waiting to buy "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", the final book in J. K. Rowling's seven-book series.

There had been a costume contest earlier at this Hastings book and video store in Hutchinson, Kansas. This young Harry Potter waits to change cash into the answers to so many mysteries.

Luna Lovegood poses with a cardboard Harry and an Ace Jackalope.

Ravenclaw was represented as well.

Mad-Eye Mooney has obviously taken a youth potion.

Ace gravitated to mature female students and witches. Go figure. The witch on the right recognized him through his wizard disguise. I wonder what gave him away?

Customers began reading as soon as they left the cash register.

Ace's pals from previous adventures, Joey and Jesse Bribiesca, emerged victorious with a book, an empty box and licensed toys and hats for the kids.

People waiting for friends or for rides began reading hungrily. I remember the alarm these books once caused in certain circles. Young people reading...can't have that now, can we?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Walking in Distant Footprints

Today - in 1969 - kids got out their Apollo toys and play-enacted to the "beep...beep...beep" of NASA audio while history was beamed into their living rooms.

As commemorated in this plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins and lunar module pilot
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin successfully got Armstrong and Aldrin onto the lunar surface. Armstrong insists that he actually said "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" and that the "a" was obscured in the recording. Others believe he simply flubbed it. Personally, I don't care; I was just happy to be allowed to stay up late and hear it on TV with the rest of the country.

One of the fun things about being an adult baby-boomer is that you can visit the icons of your youth. I caught up to the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia in the Milestones of Flight gallery at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, back in 1980.

Here's a closer look.

To commemorate the 38th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, we recently paid a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS.

One of the Cosmosphere's artifacts is this "white room", from which the astronauts transitioned from the gantry to the command modules.

A helpful photo at the Cosmosphere shows how it worked, 320 feet above the ground.

Visitors are allowed inside, and your "inner eight-year-old" can imagine the curved hatch of a command module instead of the view of the floor. This is one of three white rooms, and there is no available record of which rooms were used on which missions, but according to the signage here, this one would have been used for about 1/3 of the Apollo missions.

Outside the white room is this actual console from one of the two original mission control rooms in Houston. This particular one was used by the flight surgeon to monitor astronaut physiological signs on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.

The Cosmosphere has some artifacts specific to Apollo 11, like these neoprene gloves, used by Aldrin and Armstrong on the mission. They were worn during their moon walk, but with an outer protective glove. I believe that the Cosmosphere also has at least one of the parachutes that brought the command module to splashdown, but they are not on display in the museum.

A few years ago, it was my pleasure to meet Buzz Aldrin. If my memory serves correctly, he mentioned he was actually urinating in his suit in this photo. The Cosmosphere has a nice display of astronaut...uh...waste management stuff.

The Cosmosphere also has a moon rock collected by Apollo 11.

As to the records of that historic moon walk, I recently learned that many of the original higher-resolution tapes of the Apollo missions have been misplaced.

To me, the centerpiece of the Cosmosphere's Apollo collection is this Lunar Module. It was built as an engineering test model by Grumman, the company that made the Lunar Modules used on the missions, and was restored by the Cosmosphere using many flight-ready parts. I miss the days when it was displayed in the round, in a previous museum configuration.

It does occasionally cross my mind that while I'm shooting pictures with Ace, security folks are watching.

Outside the building, Ace pays tribute to this statue of astronaut Eugene "Gene" Cernan, seen also in the top photo of this post. Cernan was actually the last man to walk on the moon, on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

I'm no car enthusiast, but reader email suggests that lots of you are. So, I should mention that the Cosmosphere currently has Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean's gold and black special edition 1969 Corvette Stingray on exhibit. Bean never actually owned the car; three such 'vettes were leased for $1 a year to he and the other two Apollo 12 astronauts. In the early 1970's, the cars were returned to Houston dealer Jim Rathmann, and were sold. Collector Danny Reed bought this one; signs at the Cosmosphere state that the whereabouts of the other two are unknown.

The "LMP" on the custom decal stood for Lunar Module Pilot, Bean's position. Each astronaut had a color and Bean's was blue, hence the placement.

What times we have seen.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Eight-legged Roadie

I've been on a trip-o-ganza that started with a visit to the National Route 66 Festival in Clinton, Oklahoma, then took me to Central Kansas, Kansas City, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio, Kansas City again, Joplin, Hutchinson KS and back to Joplin at present for a day or so. I'm working on a Clinton post as time is available. Until then, here's something that just doesn't fit into the rest of the Clinton coverage.

After a failed trip to have dessert with two friends at the White Dog restaurant on my last night in Clinton (White Dog closed early due to plumbing problems), I dropped my passengers back at their cars in Clinton and hurried back to White Dog Hill to catch the twilight behind this old Ford truck.

I'd been there three nights before, so I knew it had potential.

I found more than I'd hoped when I saw this Tarantula crossing Route 66 near the White Dog's driveway.

I wasn't worried about having my fingers this close, as the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is barely venomous; its bite is less potent than a bee sting. It's not inclined to bite a human anyway, unless it has no alternative. I hope it enjoys the texture of the old road as much as I do.

These are flash pictures; I could barely see the thing half the time. Luckily, the road was deserted.

I shot my pictures, then chased it off the pavement, thinking it'd be safer that way. It did not like the proximity of my herding feet and I successfully annoyed it onto the shoulder of the road.

However, as I passed the same spot after a trip to the all-night Subway sandwich shop in Love's convenience store just down the road, the spider was back in the middle. Female Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas live up to 35 years and males up to 12 years; I do hope this one changes its habits for greatest longevity.

All of this to roam over, and it picks the road. The ways of spiders are strange to me.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today is 7-7-07.

We hold no numerological beliefs that the laws of chance will warp on this date, but we'll enjoy writing it on documents a few times, anyway. Heck, it might even add a wee bit of fun to writing checks.

(Photo from Ace's trip to the Summit Inn on California Route 66.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ah, That Smell

July 4 - that special day when we shell out hard-earned bucks in exchange for cheaply made and semi-reliable explosives made by Chinese workers of questionable age.

When men of the USA are united in our manifest destiny to blow up stuff.

We here at The Lope embrace this destiny, and perhaps even as you read this, will be setting punk to fuse and savoring that acrid sulphurous smell.

We'll be thinking not only of our forefathers but of their pop-cultured fiberglass descendants.

...and of all the delights of the blue highways that make us love our country - despite its flaws - every single star-spangled, oil-stained, character-filled, over-hyphenated mile. Happy 4th of July everyone!

picture locations -

Fireworks are vended in Clinton, OK, June 21, 2007 along Route 66. We were there for the Route 66 Festival (I'm still editing and writing that post).

One of Ace's friends in a place where fireworks are illegal, July 4, 2006. That's not to say we used them. You can't prove that and anyone who says they can is a stinkin' liar.

Ace celebrates...uhh...somewhere (we ain't sayin' where), July 4, 2006.

Fiberglass Uncle Sam atop the Great American Car Wash in Terre Haute, Indiana, July 1, 2006.

Lauterbach Tire's lumberjack "muffler man" carries a flag in Springfield, Illinois, July 9, 2006, on Route 66.

See our previous 4th of July stuff here and here.