THE BLOG © www.rt66pix.com     

 

Above:  Photographer Frank Gifford with AMERICA (SOLARIZED)

All images below appear full-size in one or more galleries.  Photography is discussed in the Tech section.  Permission is granted to link.  

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HERE'S THE ON-RAMP

 

                       HORSES & RIDERS (Rt 66 nr Bristow OK)

                                                                                         

                                                                                           

If you're just surfing--welcome!  You're about to explore and celebrate the American experience in images from Route 66 and many other places.

This is the largest site of its kind, with unique fine art photographs and photo-based artwork viewed in 100+ countries. 

The overarching theme is America--past and present--along historic transportation arteries including Rt 66, the National (Cumberland) Road, Lincoln Highway, Erie Canal, Natchez Trace, Pony Express route and historic rail sites.  There are galleries for selected cities including Denver, Memphis, Natchez and Santa Fe.  

Other images capture American life in out-of-the-way places. 

Looking is free at full-screen size and there's even a slideshow mode.  Most photographs are available for sale or licensing and ordering is secure.  We don't require registration, use pop-ups, send spam, or make you squint at a stamp-sized image.  Everything is here, not on Facebook etc.  The User Agreement is available at the bottom of this page and the Home Page.

For a refreshing break, check out the Fun!© section and test your new-found knowledge.   

There's lots to see and enjoy, and you can take your time.  So...Happy Trails and Happy Motoring!

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THIS ART COMES FROM LIFE

 

 

TUCKER AND PHOTOGRAPHER (Lincoln Highway Kearney NE)

 

 

Everything on rt66pix.com is first captured on a camera, as this man in a moving Tucker demonstrates.  (Although I much prefer my vantage point!)

Images are offered exclusively here as fine art photographs, or given an artistic treatment such as oil painting, watercolor...or even fresco.

 

BLUR ON 66 #28 (Rt 66 San Bernardino CA)

 

 

Various types of archival-quality prints are offered.  The photographs are real, not inkjets, on your choice of high-quality stock, up to 24 x 36-inches, from America's largest professional photography lab.  There are also canvas wraps, metal prints, glass prints, standouts, wall clings and personal merchandise.

The "Shopping Cart" is encrypted and secure.  Non-US orders are welcomed and may be handled by pro-labs in Canada, Europe or Australia.  

We never run sales or offer coupons etc.  The intrusive copyright symbol and website logo do not appear on prints or merchandise.

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HIGH RISK, LOW REWARD

 

 

A suggested Rt 66 Chicago detour has been added to the Travel page (under Crime and/or Evil) effective February 2017 until further notice.  Increasing drug and gang-related gun violence has been claiming innocent victims.

 

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Chicago suffered more killings in 2016 than the two larger US cities, New York and Los Angeles combined.  Although the downtown Loop is okay, the 4 mile (6.5 km) Ogden Avenue segment of Rt 66 goes right across a dangerous zone, North Lawndale.  In 2016 it was tied for the city's second-highest violent crime rate out of 77 districts.  282 people were shot here with a peak in summer. 

The only interesting thing on this grim stretch is the Castle Car Wash:

 

CASTLE CAR WASH (Rt 66 Chicago IL)CASTLE CAR WASH (Rt 66 Chicago IL)This former car wash/repair shop dates from the 1920s. Old paint on the stone has recently been removed.

Use caution in this urban area, especially if you photograph. See the Travel section.

 

 

And now you've seen it.  Other cities at least combine seedy with scenery.

Background data and 2017 updates:  http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/shootings/  

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SITE NEWS & NOTES

 

 

                                                                URBAN SCENE #17 (Madison IN)URBAN SCENE #17 (Madison IN)This single image is an outdoor reflection and indoor scene combined through the magic of glass. An embossed metal ceiling appears to transform into greenery and then into sky.      

                                                                    

.  A small Midwestern city was passed by for 100+ years after the Steamboat Era ended.  While stagnation kept most of the 20th century at bay downtown, floods helped remove the 19th century industrial waterfront--including slaughterhouses and a glue factory.  Good luck, good riddance and good planning created a preservation success story that deserves to be shared far beyond the region.  The new gallery "Madison IN: Preserved Ohio River City" has 100+ images.

 

 

BEALE STREET #58 (Memphis TN)BEALE STREET #58 (Memphis TN)

                             

                     

.  The gallery "Memphis: Beale Street & Beyond" explores a city with a huge presence in American history and culture, from King Cotton to William Faulkner, Dr. King and Elvis.  In recorded songs, Memphis apparently gets more mentions than any other city!  The 400+ images mix architectural preservation, urban revitalization and street photography.  More than 200 are unique scenes from famous Beale Street.  In the one above, the cafe provides memorable light near his mouth and eyes.

 

 

FIRE ESCAPE #2 (Lincoln Highway Greensburg PA)FIRE ESCAPE #2 (Lincoln Highway Greensburg PA)The circular fire escape on the front of a vacant old building appears in silhouette along with balconies, a contrail, and street lamp.

 

 

.  A new gallery collects more than 70 images of Fire Escapes, many taken along the Lincoln Highway in older eastern cities.  These unintended artworks (and their wonderful shadows!) are gradually disappearing--nearly all buildings from the past century have enclosed stairways.  

.  The new gallery "Preservation in Miscellaneous Places" collects images away from famous roads, showing adaptive reuse, restoration, or just a fresh coat of paint in places like Grand Cane LA, Port Huron MI and Chickasha OK.

 

 

BICYCLIST #1 (Natchez Trace Ridgeland MS)BICYCLIST #1 (Natchez Trace Ridgeland MS)The Parkway hugs the shore of a reservoir. He's southbound near sunset with the low sun outlining his helmet and legs.

 

 

.  The Natchez Trace is featured in a new gallery currently with 400+ images showing today's Parkway, the nearby traces (paths) that saw peak usage from 1790-1820, and neighboring cities of AL MS and TN.  

.  Cities at both ends of the Natchez Trace, Natchez MS and Nashville TN, have new galleries as well.  Each has more than 100 images.

.  The Pony Express has a new gallery with several dozen images and more photography scheduled.  The Lincoln Highway followed much of the route just over 50-years later and many related scenes appear in the Lincoln Highway galleries for NE CO WY UT and NV.

.  The Loneliest Road (US 50) through the middle of Nevada now has its own gallery with 100+ images.  The Fernley-Ely stretch of 275 miles (440 km) was the Lincoln Highway.  The old Lincoln Highway segment west of Austin (now NV Highway 722) is actually lonelier and more interesting.  Several images are from there as well.  More photography is scheduled.

.  NO has been given a separate gallery that includes NON and NOT.  Many of these signs also appear in the "Words, Phrases, Letters & Numbers" gallery.

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WORK IN PROGRESS

 

      DUNKLE'S GULF #2 (Lincoln Highway Bedford PA)DUNKLE'S GULF #2 (Lincoln Highway Bedford PA)The station reflects off polished metal of a gasoline pump before dawn. The ghostly Gulf street sign is reflected twice--off the center of the station window, then the pump. The illuminated clock is inside the building. And the moon appears left of the pump's lock cover.

                                                     

                                                       

CURRENT MEGA-PROJECT:  Photography in stages along America's first coast-to-coast road, the 3143-mile Lincoln Highway (New York to San Francisco). The project is perhaps 3/4 complete.  On-scene work is finished between Lancaster PA and Salt Lake City UT, with all images processed.  Some photography has been done in NV and a tiny bit in CA.  Again, the emphasis is on fresh and unique.  The image above is the famous 1933 Dunkle Gulf Station in Bedford PA reflected off a gasoline pump.  I hope to have everything completed by 2018 and will add a "Sampler Trip" gallery at that point. 

NEWEST ADDITIONS:  Images along the Natchez Trace Parkway and from Memphis TN.

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PENDING ADDITIONS (shot but not processed): 

.  Natchez Trace:  Images from MS AL and TN including the cities at both ends: Nashville and Natchez.

.  Memphis:  Street photography and downtown architectural scenes.

.  National Road:  Images of the 1893 Wheeling & Belmont Bridge at Bridgeport OH, captured on film (as a pedestrian-bridge) shortly before demolition. 

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STATUS OF THE MAJOR GALLERIES:

ROUTE 66:  Complete with 2300+ images and state galleries etc.  

NATIONAL (CUMBERLAND) ROAD:  Nearly complete with 600+ images and state galleries etc.  

LINCOLN HIGHWAY:  2800+ images are available from the mid-section.  The WV OH IN IL IA NE CO and WY galleries are complete, the PA NV and UT galleries are partially done.  The CA gallery has been started.  The rest of the road including NY and NJ will be photographed in 2017-2018.

ERIE CANAL:  Complete with 300+ images. 

NATCHEZ TRACE:  Begun with 300+ images.

PONY EXPRESS:  Begun with a handful of related images.

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REMEMBER THE ALAMO?

 

 

THE ALAMO #7 (San Antonio TX)THE ALAMO #7 (San Antonio TX)A linen postcard effect has been added.

 

 

Preservation can be a long and lonely effort.

San Antonio, where I photographed during Christmas weekend 2016, offers inspiration from a long-delayed preservation story, The Alamo, and a flood control project, the River Walk.  Both now seem so...obvious.  But they took decades to catch on.

"Remember the Alamo!" was used as a battle cry just six-weeks after the old mission fell to Mexican troops in 1836.  But physical preservation of the shrine to Texas independence took six-decades.  Meantime the scarred ruins served as an Army depot and wholesale grocery warehouse.  (The famous building above is the chapel, the entire complex included what is now this plaza and street--an irregular city block.)  

Today, more than 180 years after the famous battle, the site remains a work in progress.  There's tacky stuff right behind this vantage point and a bright sign desecrates the nighttime scene.

A couple blocks away is San Antonio's River Walk (Paseo del Rio), begun as a downtown flood control project after a deadly 1921 storm.  The original plan was for a paved sewer!  While that tragically awful idea was flushed, the river still languished until much later.  It became a success story of development more than preservation, demonstrating that the two can be complementary.

 

 

URBAN SCENE #32 (San Antonio TX)URBAN SCENE #32 (San Antonio TX)

 

 

The first riverfront restaurant, one floor below street level, opened in 1946.  But it wasn't until the 1960s that paved walking paths, lighting, landscaping and other elements of the good life (like Tex-Mex food) really began attracting locals, and then tourists, to enjoy the river.

 

 

URBAN SCENE #7 (San Antonio TX)URBAN SCENE #7 (San Antonio TX)

 

 

These two legendary sites came about from determined efforts by lone individuals with vision.  The Alamo can be traced back to Clara Driscoll and the River Walk to H. H. Hugman.  (Their stories are readily available on-line.)  The causes they fought for are today among the nation's top tourist attractions with millions of visitors a year.  San Antonio is lucky, because the rest of downtown is nothing special.

We can't save everything.  But I'm broadly sympathetic to preserving the best.  The River Walk, especially, shows that new construction can improve, redefine and reinvigorate the past.  I hope some images in the various city galleries here will help inspire local causes.   

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NOT YOUR GRANDPAPPY'S LINCOLN HIGHWAY

 

 

URBAN SCENE #31 (Lincoln Highway Denver CO)URBAN SCENE #31 (Lincoln Highway Denver CO)

                                                       

                                                                               

Anyone expecting a documentary study of old concrete posts and Seedling Miles will be baffled by 100 Lincoln Highway images from Denver--including edgy street photographs and an Anime + Cosplay convention.  And yet this is the Lincoln Highway today. 

Camera-equipped travelers of a century ago enjoyed seeing, photographing, and thus preserving transitory Lincoln Highway scenes of their time, and I'm no different.  

Take the photograph above, where a young Orange American is living out The American Dream.  His "Pursuit of Happiness" involves dressing up in his best plastic pumpkin-head, ill-fitting dark suit and sneakers, and going out with a leggy faux-blonde.  This is precisely what the Founding Fathers intended!  (Well, maybe not precisely precisely--but you get the point.)  

Important societal clues are documented here too.  The young woman is confident enough not just to claim--but to exclaim--through long flowing locks, that she is now officially blonde.  Liberated by Steinem, empowered by Friedan, lightened by Clairol, and heightened by Platforms, she steps out with an exaggerated stride and takes the lead. 

And what about the guy?  The shadow captures him (and their relationship) especially well.  His jacket is way too long, and his sleeve is all bunched up.  He's a schmoe, a schlub...a man-child being dragged along by a dominant young woman. 

The Lincoln Highway can only gain from the attention and life they bring to it, and that's why this and other odd photographs are included.  They're also in the "Anime + Cosplay: Fantasy Worlds" gallery.  Participation in comic book and costume play greatly surpasses interest in this largely forgotten road, left behind by the same process that created Route 66. 

It's all good...so enjoy the show! 

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EYES ON THE (MOTHER) ROAD 

 

 

RUSTY IN A REARVIEW MIRROR (Rt 66 Santa Rosa NM)RUSTY IN A REARVIEW MIRROR (Rt 66 Santa Rosa NM)Faded neon tubing creates a 66 in his eyes. See the Blog entry for the story behind this image that hid in plain sight for six decades!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

Some images are offered only with an artistic treatment.  The original photograph is not shown.  Here to...uh...illustrate is Rusty the truck driver, the third image from the Home Page Slideshow.  

I had long wanted to bring this Santa Rosa NM truckstop mascot "to life" with a close-up showing his 1950s charm.  But the original shot languished in my files for 20 months.  It's a faded and rusted sign fragment taken in the shade.  Pretty dull stuff.

Rusty (my name for him) appears on both sides of this iconic sign.  On the often-photographed east side, neon on his face has been destroyed.  This shot is from the west side where much of the neon is intact, and where he faces left toward Rt 66. 

Using Photoshop on my shadow-free image, I defined the glass tubing against his faded metal skin a few inches away.  The result is very different from the original photograph, and I put it on the site as photo-based art.

I then wondered how Rusty would look in a car mirror--flipped horizontally.  Perhaps because I had been working close-up to highlight the neon, I was astonished to discover the 66 which had been unseen for six decades!  (On-scene, a rearview mirror would faintly capture this.)

Originally the "numbers" were reversed neon loops forming Rusty's eyes and eyebrows with sections between blacked-out.  The same tubing outlines his face and extends down to his chin.   

Artistic effects make this image work.  They bring out something that's real but not intended for viewing, likely unseen for six decades, and apparently never before photographed.

And my original?  It's back in the files where it belongs.  It's not much to look at...and everything's backward.

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SUCCESSFUL FAILURE

 

 

JOHN'S MODERN CABINS #48 (Rt 66 nr Arlington MO)JOHN'S MODERN CABINS #48 (Rt 66 nr Arlington MO)

 

 

Over the years, several groups tried but failed to preserve privately-owned John's Modern Cabins along Rt 66 in MO.  In early 2014, well aware of these efforts, I joined the list. 

By then the location had become hopeless from neglect, but one idea still had not been explored: off-site preservation of some key elements.  While less than ideal, "some" beats "none" by precisely 100%.  

And so I offered the absentee owner cash for two signs and rights to harvest part of a cabin, all for display elsewhere along Route 66.  He would receive an immediate payment for the signed contract (I even supplied a stamped envelope)...or no payment if he continued to let things rust and fall down.  He chose the latter!

I'm out $2 or so for phone calls, postage, paper and envelopes, but if all life's failures had a guaranteed maximum $2 downside I'd gladly fail more often.

Interestingly, digital cameras offer a similar risk-reward profile if you take enough shots.  The cost-per-failure goes way down and a success occasionally appears when you...push the envelope.

This image from John's is a successful failure.  Shot into the sun as a vertical, it originally included unnecessary flare, sky, trees, and foreground debris.  It was such an ugly and confusing mess that I went on to other images.  Months later I had another look.  Extensive cropping at top and bottom brought out this evocative shot. 

50 images of John's Modern Cabins may be overkill, but this place is vanishing.  Soon, failure will be a complete success.

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ROUTE 66: A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE

 

 

JESUS ON UNDER-CARRIAGE (Rt 66 Cadillac Ranch TX)JESUS ON UNDER-CARRIAGE (Rt 66 Cadillac Ranch TX)

                                        

                                                                            

A westbound trip on the Mother Road can be a spiritual journey for those prepared to look beyond literal meanings.

John Steinbeck's Route 66 novel The Grapes of Wrath contains many possible Biblical links, according to scholars.  This material is readily available but has not crossed the boundary to Route 66 travel literature.  I can't find even a single passing reference to it!  This is called a "silo effect" and what follows is a first effort to break it down.  

Steinbeck was raised as an Episcopalian and his adult views on religion reflected a great deal of searching.  He was exposed to Biblical stories from an early age and used this material in his works.  Simply Googling Bible Grapes of Wrath novel produces a wealth of material from many different viewpoints.

Here are just two examples: the Biblical Job becomes Steinbeck's Joad family, and Jesus Christ is mirrored in preacher Jim Casy.  

A westbound trip can also recall the Crucifixion, traditionally pictured in a mountainous desert.  Jesus was on the cross up to six-hours according to some accounts.  That was a typical driving time from the Colorado River bordering AZ--until a return to life with a dramatic green-up as migrants neared the coast or Central Valley.  

These similarities, and many others noted by scholars, would have occurred to Dust Bowl refugees, at least subconsciously, as they struggled through in the 1930s.  Nearly all were raised as Christians and their experience made Route 66 unique among American highways.

Some of this appears in both the book and movie versions of The Grapes of Wrath.  But to my knowledge, no Route 66 road or tourism material mentions any of it, even in passing.  In 15+ books, many promotional publications, and travel websites The Grapes of Wrath is simply the saga of the fictional Joad family in the Dust Bowl.    

A westbound trip on today's Rt 66 with its dramatic changes near the end could take on a great deal of additional meaning for Christians, especially those who read and contemplate the novel.

This may read like veiled Bible-thumping but my religious views are not expressed here, I'm simply respecting the faith of others.  (And wouldn't it be nice if everyone did unto their brethren this way amen and amen.)  Feel free to link or republish with attribution.  Government is properly barred from promotion of this kind, so the burden falls on individuals, associations, businesses, and religious groups.   

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ERIE CANAL GALLERY

 

 

SPILLWAY, RIDER & FLAG (Erie Canal Lockport NY)SPILLWAY, RIDER & FLAG (Erie Canal Lockport NY)The upper three of five former locks are lit by directional sun in autumn. Lock gates were removed creating this spillway a century ago.

This is 30% of the original 1817-1825 infrastructure, five locks in each direction separated by the stone stairway at left.

The two upper arched walkways are of tapered stone blocks mounted to metal. At the upper right corner a bike rider waves after a steep climb on the towpath, originally for animals pulling boats.

                                                                 

                                                                      

The Erie Canal is one of America's first significant transportation arteries--built contemporaneously with the National Road.  Without both, Route 66 might run from Chicago, Canada...to St. Louis, New France (or New Spain)...Amarillo, Republic of Texas...and Los Angeles, Mexico.

The Erie Canal was hacked through 363 miles (584 km) of upstate New York wilderness from 1817-1825.  Technology was from Roman Empire days, plus crude blasting powder for rock cuts.  The remaining hillside in this image (top right corner) is the formation that creates Niagara Falls some 20 miles (32 km) away.

The project was overseen by amateurs who improvised.  "Yankee ingenuity" they called it.  Amazingly, Federal funds were never offered so the State of New York built it alone!

The canal was instantly profitable and lowered shipping costs by more than 90%.  It also brought American settlers into new lands of the Midwest and well beyond--securing this rich vastness for the United States.

The Erie Canal and the National (Cumberland) Road both have galleries with hundreds of images.    

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DEPEW OK: THE ORIGINAL "RADIATOR SPRINGS"

 

                                       BYPASS VICTIM (Rt 66 Depew OK)

 

 

This is the lone gas station survivor from the Route 66 era in Depew OK.  The good times lasted just two-years.

In 1928, Depew became the first town or city anywhere on the Mother Road to be entirely bypassed.  The date was duly recorded as a dry fact, but the possible significance was never investigated--and so the real story went untold for 85-years.  While captioning this image I questioned the surprisingly early bypassing, verified it, then began work to rule out other contenders.   

Transportation Departments in six states have confirmed in writing that Depew was "first."  In MO and NM, confirmation is from my examination of official state highway maps and other research.  

This is the first significant new information about early Route 66 in decades.  A feature article appeared in the Winter 2013 Federation News published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation.  A summary is on the Yahoo Route 66 E-group as posting 80548 and links to 23-pages of documentation. 

Images are in the gallery "Depew: First Bypass Victim on Route 66." 

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ARTIFICE BEHIND THE ART

 

Good photographs tell or suggest stories.  They transcend location and time.  Equivalents in other fields include short fiction, poems and songs.  All deal in truth--but not necessarily whole or literal truth.

In photography truth may surface for the briefest fraction of a second through movement: a wind gust, a waving flag.  Ordinarily it would disappear unnoticed.  Sometimes it's captured only because of luck and a tripod.

An extreme example comes from a Route 66 car show in Springfield IL, where I shot vehicles in motion intending simply to capture artistic blur.  Here's a 57 Chevy towing a golf cart resembling...a 57 Chevy.  That's kind of interesting.  But look at the two American flags flying from the car.

                                                            

 

On both flags the top red stripe is hidden.  On the more-distant flag the second white stripe is advancing in the wind.  Zoom in and the flags flow together perfectly without visible support!  What are the odds of this happening, and being photographed with meaningful context around it?

Flipping the image horizontally puts the flags in traditional orientation, which is true in a sense.  Cropping removes extraneous people (sorry, lady), trees, sheet metal etc. making the important stuff much larger.  Everything's real, but now it's been highlighted and crafted.

                                                             BLUR ON 66 #12 (Rt 66 Springfield IL)

                                                                                                       

The magic of the flags is literally true--except now you can see it and enjoy it.  Perfectly choreographed flags suspended in mid-air, 57 Chevies in motion, and four Americans combine to make a unique image with many possible interpretations.  You can take it from there.

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UNLIKELY ICON 

 

 

CLASS OF 1957 (National Road Knightstown IN)CLASS OF 1957 (National Road Knightstown IN)A private showcase or museum, it apparently is not open to the public. Also housed here are two Pontiacs, a Ford, T-Bird and Metropolitan--all 1957s.

The Blog entry "Unlikely Icon" examines how the 57 Chevy eventually got put on a pedestal. One example is right here.

                                                                                                                                                                          

We take on the cosmic questions here at rt66pix.com:

.  Why does burnt coffee cost $4 a cup?

.  How come (name of celebrity) is rich and famous--yet has no discernable talent?

.  Why has the 57 Chevy become an icon?                                                                      

The first two stump us--so let's take a stab at the third.

While rivals Ford and Plymouth offered all-new sheet metal for 1957, Chevy was peddling a re-styled 1955 car.  Because of its advanced age the 57 Chevy was taller and boxier.  And attempts to make it look new were odd.  The his-and-her hood ornaments.  That now-famous fin with chrome on the edge and (on some models) anodized aluminum on the side.

The 55 and 56 models had pubescent fins with tail lights on the top corner--a pleasing, logical arrangement.  But on the 57s, the fin was just sheet metal with a single light, way down next to the bumper.  The light was in a little chrome pod, all by itself...and looked to be frowning!  The combination was awkward at first glance, especially against the "clean" look of rivals.

Plymouth was the styling leader that year with a windswept design ending in towering fins.  Ford was low and modern with never-before-seen canted fins.

Chevy stumbled badly in 1957--and that makes what happened later so interesting!  For the model-year, Ford jumped to #1, Chevy fell to #2.  Plymouth soared from #5 to #3.  The earth moved under Detroit when all that happened.

On the basis of market share (which adjusts for changing economic conditions), the 55, 56 and even the 58 Chevy were bigger hits with the public than the 57.  So what happened to create iconic status today for a car that was a big disappointment at the time?

First, failures by the competition.  The Fords were attractive and "of-the-moment" but rusted out.  The even more attractive Plymouths also rusted out...if they didn't fall apart first.  They were some of the worst cars ever produced.  The Chevies lasted if they were reasonably maintained.  Many parts carried over from 55 and 56.

Second, wacky styling for several years afterward.  It would be 1962 before Chevy offered a clean design.  And longer still before anybody's family-hauler rivaled the tri-fives (55, 56, 57) in value, respect and loyalty.

The 57 Chevy looks much better in retrospect.  The design was odd then--but not today--because we're used to it.  We've seen the future, and it's nothing like what anybody envisioned in 1957...in sheet metal or anything else.  Plus, unlike the main competition, it was a solid car.  Chevy delivered value that year.  To paraphrase William Faulkner: 57 Chevies did not merely endure, they prevailed. 

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YOU CAN'T GO BACK AGAIN...AND SHOULDN'T WANT TO

 

                     BUMPER CAR (Rt 66 Sapulpa OK)

                                                                                       

                                                                                       

Route 66 is being homogenized, pasteurized and sanitized for mass-consumption, both here and elsewhere.  I hate to contribute any images to this dumbing-down of American history--although that's exactly what's happening (see above).

So now that Disney has opened its Rt 66-based attraction in California, here's a reality check to counter the pretty pictures (both still and animated).

Interstate highways, fast food joints, and chain motels condemned today for their boring sameness are actually improvements.  We wanted them, we needed them, we got them, and we're better off for them.

Consider the realities of Rt 66 in, say, your new 1957 Chevy:

.  Many narrow and twisting two-lane sections were known as "Blood Alley."

.  The guy coming at you might be legally drinking and driving.

.  Nobody had seat belts, air bags, or other protection.

.  You sat on a bench seat without air conditioning or cruise control.

.  Open windows brought in noise, dust and insects.

.  Trucks and Greyhound buses filled oncoming lanes to the brim.

.  A good (but hard) day might be 300 miles.

Nostalgic yet?  But wait, there's more...

.  Although gas stations were branded, clean restrooms--or competent repairs--depended entirely on the owner.

.  Every restaurant was different--likely run by a local operator.  Every food stop required due diligence, first outside then inside (and a tip was expected).

.  Every motel was a one-off, requiring you to scrutinize the sign, then inspect the room, and finally haggle over the rate.

Today's self-service gas pumps, McDonald's and even Motel 6 actually represent improvements.  If not, they wouldn't have spread.  I value them for their efficiency if nothing else.  I wouldn't want to go back in time--and have to stay there. 

Route 66 makes for a great (and multiple-day) theme park experience, minus expensive tickets and long lines.  It's wonderful to enjoy the Mother Road...without trucks, Greyhounds, congested downtowns, leaded gasoline fumes, unpredictable food and bad motels.

In other words: without all that ugly reality!

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"FIN" MEANS "END" IN LATIN

 

Route 66 has its own Monument.  Made from steel, it's on the Mother Road in front of the Convention Center in Tucumcari NM:

                                        ROADSIDE ATTRACTION AT SUNSET (Rt 66 Tucumcari NM)

 

That's sculptor Tom Coffin's interpretation of a Chrysler Corporation fin...perhaps a 1958 DeSoto.  GM and Ford never had fins like this.

You rarely see late 50s Chrysler products (Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial) at Route 66 car shows.  They sold just fine, except for Imperial, but they were poorly-engineered rust-buckets.  The Walter P. Chrysler Museum outside Detroit tacitly admits this on an overhead sign:

                                       

 

Some sacrifice indeed!  The 57s were a rush job and hadn't been properly engineered.  Other accounts have these cars intended for 1959 or even 1960! 

When sales boomed, quality control suffered with assembly lines and suppliers running flat out.  The company paid a price--and buyers paid even more.  There was plenty of "sacrifice" to go around: 

"The 1957s started to rust within several months of being built.  They leaked water on both sides of the windshield posts on all models.  Torsion bars broke leaving cars looking like fallen over Towers of Pisa.  Upholstery split, seams tore, seat springs popped through, paint flaked off in huge chunks, hubcaps wouldn't stay on, rear view mirrors vibrated, door handles broke with ease, locks froze easily, and interior appliances fell off."  

--Curtis Redgap, Insider's History of Plymouth

This was an extremely short-sighted business decision, and a Tipping Point in American business.  Up till then, Chrysler had been known for solid engineering and boring styling.  But suddenly, the sizzle became more important than the steak.  The company's absolute top car for 1954, a Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe, is at left, while the entry-level Plymouth's top model, the Fury, is from 1957: 

                                        

                                                   

                              

Fins didn't last, but Chrysler's new-found reputation for problems did.  Warranties were only 90 days/4000 miles back then--but all the claims helped push Chrysler deep into the red for 1958.  Chrysler--always the swing producer--was in trouble again:

"The biggest problem is that (the 57 Plymouths) were the worst cars Chrysler ever made.  Quality was terrible so every car they sold made an enemy instead of a friend."  --Dave Holls, "Collectible Automobile"

Chrysler has had several boom-and-bust cycles and near-death experiences since then.  Lots of forgettable-or-worse vehicles too: Aspen, Volare, Aries, Reliant, Omni, Horizon, St. Regis, Sebring, Intrepid.  (Intrepid?!) 

Plymouth, #3 in 1957 behind Ford and Chevy, is gone now.  And we can't forget DeSoto either: The Fireflite, Firesweep and Firedome were all burnt toast by 1960 as the brand was extinguished.  

The fins that have come to symbolize Route 66 and "America at the top of its game" actually tell a very different...and very sad...tale.  One era had ended and another was underway.  From Value to Planned Obsolescence.  Steak to Sizzle.  American Steel to Rust-Bucket. 

Finis.

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CUSTOM T-SHIRTS

 

Maybe you'd like an existing clothing image...but with a special caption for your group's Route 66 tour or some other occasion.  Or maybe you're a Route 66 group, association, or business in need of special merchandise.     

All existing T-shirt images can be custom-captioned.  This version can then be listed on the site, ordered by your members, even bulk-shipped for a larger order.  The custom-caption is also available for sweatshirts, tanktops, mugs and other merchandise.

Custom-captioned merchandise is available at regular prices...without a captioning fee!  Wear custom T-shirts during your Route 66 trip...and continue the bonding experience with custom sweatshirts and coffee mugs for use back home next winter.  Remember our motto: "A Group Ordering Sweats Together, Sticks Together!"

Custom-captioning is available now for 2017, 2018 and 2019 trips.  Use the "Contact" feature at bottom to send an e-mail with your group's name and trip info.  There is a minimum order of ten items (in any combination) for custom-captioning.

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WHICH IS IT: rt66pix.com OR route66pix.com

 

In the greatest example of co-branding and synergy since Piggly hooked-up with Wiggly, both domain names are registered here to eliminate possible confusion.  Also competition.

There's one site and it has the shorter name: www.rt66pix.com which conveniently appears on Tee-shirts and related merchandise. 

Entering it on the keyboard either way will take you here.  Just remember the "pix" part.

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ROUTE 66, INTERSTATE 0

 

A Google search for this phrase on September 17, 2011 finds a single result--this website--so I'm assuming it's original.  I like it for the momentary confusion it causes before someone realizes: "Oh yeah, it's like a sports score of 66-0.  The Interstate can't compete because it doesn't have scenery."

I'm using "Route 66, Interstate 0" on several Tee-shirts but won't seek trademark protection.  The phrase is available to any Mother Road organization that wants to use it in promotions. 

Earlier versions of this idea come from novelist John Steinbeck in 1962 and journalist Charles Kuralt in 1990.  Their very similar quotes are about driving the Interstates without seeing anything.   A great summary is at www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/first.cfm.  (Thanks to Richard Weingroff)    

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NOT FOR SALE

 

Some images are not for sale as photographs or merchandise and unfortunately the list is growing.

In "Elvis, Marilyn & Shadows" dawn lighting on pop-culture statues creates potential meanings and insights far different than anyone intended.  (The silly caption may distract younger viewers--there really is a huge insect on his forehead.)   

"Bill's 57 Chevy & Movie Stars," "Tow Mater & Bill's 57 Chevy," "Tow Tater (Tow Mater) Mailbox," and "Easy Riders" also show contexts never intended by their creators.  Ditto for everything in the "TV: Toe Vision" gallery.  

In this image, Betty Boop (still being licensed but not to me!) appears three times including his tattoo:

 

CRUISIN' 66-STYLE #71 (Rt 66 San Bernardino CA)   

I believe all these images are "derivative and transformative works of art" that--in their new context--comment on the original figures or use them as surrogates.  I also believe that selling prints would qualify as "fair use" under US law.     

Unfortunately, the law is highly ambiguous and open to widely varying interpretations as several recent court cases have shown.  If you get sued by a Fortune 500 company, legal expenses alone make you a loser--regardless of what the court decides.  The law therefore subtly favors incumbent holders who realize the mere threat to sue is often enough to prevail.

So just enjoy these images for free, because you can't buy 'em.  (Is there a chill in here, or is it just me?)

More info: www.chillingeffects.org

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GUILTY, WITH AN EXPLANATION

 

Some things on rt66pix.com look better than you will see them on a typical Route 66 trip.

Take "USA Steel & Rust" from the opening slideshow.  Captioning indicates this was taken in strong sunlight after rain.  Directional sun creates all-important shadows, moisture creates deep coloring in the metal.  On an ordinary day, in ordinary light, the 1929 steel is almost as dull as the paint.  And letter "U" is very hard to spot without the shadow.

Many good photographs, both here and elsewhere, take advantage of unusual lighting and/or weather conditions.  Many are made within an hour of sunrise or sunset, even if the sun is not in the image.  Mid-day in mid-summer, the peak of Route 66 travel, is generally the worst time for photography--especially from OK westward.  There's just too much sun! 

Some scenes change over time or disappear.  Take an extreme case--the Sidewalk Highway around Afton and Narcissa OK.  During 2011 two things happened: (1) A lovely stone marker was installed describing the pavement's historic significance and (2) Nearly all the historic pavement was buried under dirt and stone, plus crude grading tore up chunks of original asphalt! 

So enjoy the pretty marker...because the Sidewalk Highway is now largely a dirt road.  (Two images on rt66pix.com were made before the desecration, and "Traffic on Sidewalk Highway" shows a short remaining paved section.)

In a more typical example, the 1949 Nash Airflyte that's the opening thumbnail for the "Rusted & Busted" gallery got hauled away.  So rt66pix.com is now inadvertently promoting something that's no longer there.  Other things fall down, get demolished or fenced off.  Some even get painted!  It's impossible to keep up with all of it.

So the plea is "Guilty, With an Explanation" for showing Route 66 and other locations better than you will likely see them.  This is neither fair nor balanced...but it can't be helped.