Neon, Tail Fins & Murder

In the era of renaissance, Route 66 is a destination, a

linear theme park stretching from the shores of Lake Michigan to the pier in Santa Monica. There was, however, a time when U.S. 66, in spite of the hype, was a highway, an artery of commerce. It was also a road of flight, for people seeking a new life, and for people fleeing from the law. Serial killers and bank robbers shared the road with truckers and vacationing families in station wagons.

In 1935, the National Guard set up check points along Route 66 in Galena, Kansas as labor violence escalated. Photo Steve Rider.

After going AWOL from Fort Hood in May 1961, eighteen year old George York, and nineteen year old James Latham set out on a cross country crime spree. On June 8, 1961, at a service station on Route 66 in Edwardsville, Illinois, York and Latham stopped for gas, robbed the station, and executed the attendant, Martin Drenovac.

The murderous pair was arrested in Tooele, Utah on June 10. As an historic footnote, after being charged with murder, sexual assault, and robbery in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas, they were charged with murder in Kansas and sentenced to the correctional facility in Lansing, Kansas. It was there that they developed a friendship of sorts with Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers profiled in the Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. 

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I no longer keep track of how many times the questions is asked, “What is all of the hype about Route 66?” I always respond but no longer give a great deal of thought to the possibility there might be a language barrier that would prevent understanding of that response as the majority of these inquiries are, surprisingly, from Americans.
The Europeans are well informed about this iconic highway and the charm that defies description or explanation. Likewise with the Japanese, and Australians, as evidenced by the comments received by Route 66 Tours, a company based in Brendale, Queensland.
In recent years this company, operated by Dale and Kristi-Anne Butel, has experienced an increase in business that mirrors the rising popularity of the old road, and the resultant refurbishment of historic properties on Route 66. Their 2012 schedule offers just a glimpse of how deep the fascination for this historic highway is as there are companies and associations in Germany, England, Holland, France, Norway, and even Czechoslovakia with planned tours booked months in advance.
From Route 66 Tours website –
2012 Spring Tour – April 19 to May 9 *** Sold Call or Email for Wait List ***- Enjoy the “Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona’s 3 Day Fun Run”. This is a fantastic Tour coinciding with the 3 day Fun Run that attracts over 800 Classic Cars, Hot Rods & Bikes rolling with us along the longest continuous stretch of historic 66 left in the US. With the country side, including the desert, in bloom spring is a fantastic time to road trip Route 66. The Fun Run is just a Bonus at the end of our regular Route 66 Tour. Drive a Mustang* or ride a Harley, after your tour on Historic Route 66 your will never be the same. Spring is the coolest time of the year for our tours. (20 night Tour)

2012 Summer Tour – July 12 to 31 *** Over 40% Sold ***- Do you want to escape the winter in OZ or NZ, then the Summer Tour is the one for you. On a bike however this tour is not for the faint hearted as it can be extremely hot. If air-con is more your speed then feel free to take the car option. Just let us know your preference and we will endeavour to get the bike of your dreams or set you up in a Mustang*. The bikes run the same basic itinerary as the cars but with their own guide and backup van. Effectively we have 2 tours in one on every trip. (19 night Tour)
2012 Sturgis with a taste of 66 – July 30 to August 19 *** Over 40% Sold *** – Join us as we take you on a magical road trip through some of the world’s most beautiful National Parks. Ride the Rocky Mountains to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where we will take in one of the biggest bike festivals of all time. The 72nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a bike lovers dream. This Vegas to Vegas round trip includes some of the best Route 66 found in the state of Arizona, along with the magnificent Grand Canyon. With 15 days of riding and 4 nights in Sturgis, this tour holds an amazing balance and is one not to miss. (20 night Tour) email us for info
2012 Fall Tour – October 13 to November 1 *** 70% Sold ***- The Fall colours will be out as we take to the Mother Road in October 2011. Some say October is the best month to Road Trip old Route 66. It is just another chance to enjoy a classic road trip vacation, and at the same time see the Fall splendour in the North and enjoy the Desert as we journey West. This is a mild time of year & can be enjoyed on either a bike or in a car. (19 night Tour)
So, for those who wonder what all of the hype is about, my suggestion is to plan on driving all or part of this storied highway in 2012. I would also suggest you plan that adventure to coincide with one or more of the delightful festivals held all along Route 66.
One of the oldest festivals, and one of the earliest in the year, is the annual Route 66 Fun Run. More than 180 miles of historic Route 66, some of the most stunning scenery found anywhere along that highway, activities in towns all along the way, a major auto show, and hundreds upon hundreds of automotive enthusiasts from throughout the world make this the ultimate celebration of the American love affair with the automobile, the road trip, and Route 66.
In early June the entire course of Route 66 through New Mexico from the Texas state line to the Arizona state line will be transformed into a living time capsule from the era when Route 66 truly was the Main Street of America. I received this from Richard Talley, owner of the Motel Safari in Tucucmcari, today.
“The overall event will be blanketed as the “Wheels on 66” festival in Tucumcari, NM. but will include at least 3 events during that same time period, June 7th – 9th!
There will be the NM Route 66 Motor Tour – – which include lots of cars coming and gathering on Thursday, a book signing set up for all you guys, artists and some sort of cruise event that night, plus there will be some vintage RV’s arriving that day and some motorcycles.
We’ll have some musical entertainment as well, we just don’t have all the details finalized as of yet. Friday morning, approximately 9am, there will be a full blown parade down Route 66, ending at the Convention Center by our Route 66 Monument sculpture, and then the NM Route 66 Motor Tour will continue it’s journey along Historic Route 66 to Albuquerque for the night, stopping at places like the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa, the Antique Auto Museum in Moriarty and ending up at the Enchanted Trails RV Park with Vickie Ashcraft (President – NM Route 66 Assoc.) and a classic Drive-In movie.Each of the eight states through which the highway passes has an association or associations that organize and promote these events. Most maintain a regularly updated calendar of events. The best source of contact information for these associations, as well as current news about the many facets of this old road, is Route 66 News.
In Tucumcari on Friday, will start our own local annual Mother Road Rally – – which will also be in the parade with their motorcycles, and then they begin their 2 day event locally, with Biker Games, a Poker Run, Cash Raffle, vendors, music and other entertainment.
Saturday the Mother Road Rally continues locally, and the NM Route 66 Motor Tour starts at the Route 66 Casino and continues their journey along Historic Route 66 westward, stopping in Grants, and ending in Gallup with a dinner and Awards Banquet.
So that’s 3 days of cars, bikes, vintage RV’s, music, Route 66 roadies, authors & artists and more – all 3 days, either locally in Tucumcari on Route 66 or across the entire state of New Mexico!”

Topping our list of exciting events to attend in 2012 is Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. On our last trip we fell in love with Cuba and are quite excited about the opportunity to experience the beautiful little community when it pulls out all stops to celebrate its association with Route 66. This event has been selected as the venue for the debut of my latest book, Route 66 Encyclopedia & Atlas.
So, if you wonder what all of the hype is, perhaps 2012 should be your year of discovery. Share in the excitement of witnessing this old road, like the Phoenix of mythology, rise from the ashes.


In my corner of Route 66 it is a cold, wet day with snow dusting the mountains and hillsides. Still, in the past six hours or so there have been so many exciting developments it is almost as though bright rays of sunshine are piercing the winter gloom.
I do not have details as of yet but Josh Noble, the area tourism director, has informed me that work is now underway on the El Trovatore Motel, a Route 66 landmark since 1939. Apparently this restoration will include the towering neon sign on the bluff behind the motel. Details will be provided as soon as they become available.
Mr. Noble is also spearheading an exciting geocache program along Route 66 from the New Mexico border to the Colorado River. This will be part of a series of Arizona centennial projects.
For several weeks I have alluded to a photography assignment for a tourism center. This morning the project received final approval and as a result, I can now provide a bit more detail.
The Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman will be transforming much of the second floor mezzanine into an interactive photo exhibit that will serve as a virtual tour of Route 66 in Mohave County. I am both humbled and honored to announce that my dearest friend and I have been selected as the photographers for the project.
The scheduled date for completion has not been established but a tentative time frame would be early summer. In the mean time, the exhibit will be displayed in stages as it progresses with much of it being in place by the time of the annual Route 66 Fun Run.
Not all news received this morning was good. One little item matched the weather perfectly, the announcement that a pending book deal is on hold until the end of the month or the first of the year. So, that leaves me with two writing assignments this month, one for Old Cars Weekly and one for 66 The Mother Road, the new online magazine.
At some point in the not to distant future I will be working my way through the final edit for the Route 66 encyclopedia and writing the captions for something close to 1,000 images. I am quite sure that will keep me busy for a bit.
Plans for this books initial release are still in the works. As a result little can be said with certainty but work is moving toward having the debut for the book at the annual Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. As they become available details will be shared.
Attendance at two other major events, one in Tucumcari in June and the international Route 66 festival in Victorville, is also in the works. These would be to promote Ghost Towns of Route 66, Route 66 Backroads, and Ghost Towns of the Southwest. As is my custom the promotion of the books would also serve to promote the event, the road, and the people who make it such a special treasure. Details for these events will be posted as soon as they become available.
One more Kingman related note of interest. I have it from a reliable source that the 2012 season of Chillin on Beale Street, an event held on the third Saturday evening of each month from March until October, will be the most exciting yet. Again, stay tuned for details.


As the title for this post implies, it has been a rather interesting weekend. Saturday morning at the office was spent in valiant efforts to find amicable solutions to real problems with unreasonable customers. A portion of the afternoon was spent rectifying a shocking oversight.
For the umteenth time I was going through the text for the Route 66 encyclopedia to satisfy my paranoia about having transposed a date and to find a way to sneak in more information without adding to the overall word count as a promise had been made to send it to the publisher on Monday. As it turned out the paranoid was justified, I had inadvertently skipped writing the entry for Boise or Washburn in Texas.
After resolving this problem I wrote the acknowledgements, the bibliography, dedication, and authors biography. Now, on Monday morning the whole package can be sent to the editor.
That leaves me a full week to finalize the illustration file. With that complete I can send a copy of the text file and a copy of the illustration file to the publisher. Then, with the exception of final edit and caption writing after the photo selection, I can take a deep breath and set my eyes on promotion of the final product.
This morning, with storm clouds looming and a cold desert wind blowing, my dearest friend and I set out to gather a few final images for the project. The goal was something to illustrate the entry on Lt. Beale, Beale Springs, and the Kingman Army Airfield.
On Monday afternoon, if time allows, I will post a few photos from our endeavor. As I have been playing with black and white photography a bit lately a few might have dramatic overtones.

The header photo for the blog is from last weeks excursion into the Black Mountains. Here is another from that odyssey.
Upon our return we replied to an inquiry requesting additional photos for evaluation. This is for a proposed Arizona centennial project chronicling Route 66 in Mohave County for the tourism center.
Then it was time for Sunday dinner with my son and his family. The grandson, now one year of age, has discovered the joy of food and wants to try everything. The granddaughter, age four, wants to skip dinner and go for the pie or cake. It makes for a lively dinner table.
This evening I compiled a dozen or so photos that exemplify the modern era on Route 66. These are to accompany my interview tomorrow morning for a local tristate cable television program.
The afternoon should be rather exciting as well. The pipe dream of taking to Route 66 in promotion of the new book and the road itself behind the wheel of a vintage car is on the fast track to becoming a reality.
On Monday, I will be discussing this with a couple of potential sponsors, composing a program to be pitched to schools along the road, and checking on two vehicles that fit the bill quite well, both Nash built products, one in 1948 and the other in 1950.
As they say, stay tuned for details. If you are interested in tagging along perhaps we can turn this venture into a veritable convoy of automotive history on America’s most famous highway.
Another exciting development pertains to a permanent gallery location. We took another step forward with this and hope to have an answer before Christmas. This would for allow for development before the 2012 season on Route 66 kicks off.
And that about sums up my weekend. As for the rest of the week, well it looks as though it be just about as busy.
Before I forget, be sure to check out my annual Thanksgiving post. This one will be a bit different and as a result the “America is a secular nation” crowd and the rabid Christian community may very well find common ground in looking for rope, a tall tree, and my address.


This posting will also be a bit brief. Before launching into the tale of how my weekend went, a somewhat dry little tale unless you lean toward the voyeuristic side of life, I had best let you know the latest issue of 66 The Mother Road is now available on line.
The weekend was spent in that strange world between full speed ahead and stop. After work on Saturday my son and I picked a new old table, a gift from a friend whose father recently passed away, and then my dearest friend and I took advantage of the delightful fall weather with a short hike along the Beale Springs loop trail.
The remainder of the afternoon, and most of the evening, were spent evaluating the stunning images supplied by collectors Steve Rider, Joe Sonderman, and Mike Ward, as well as those acquired on our various trips along Route 66 this past couple of years that will make this book a true time capsule. This aspect of the project fueled my excitement about what I hope will be a valuable asset to the Route 66 community.
With that said there are still a couple of holes that need to be filled. Does anyone have information about the Hilltop Restaurant located east of Kingman on El Travatore Hill, the origins of the Beacon Hill Motel in Missouri, or the demise of the Meteor Crater Observatory?
The publisher has set a tentative date for release as October 2012. Now in my way of thinking that fits quite nicely with the Cuba Fest celebration so that might be the ideal venue for the books debut.
For good reason Sunday is often my favorite day of the week. This past Sunday started with a bit of a devotional, correspondence, and a hearty breakfast followed by a long hike into the Cerbat Mountains with my dearest friend. Pictures are forthcoming.
Then it was back to the grind stone as the deadline for the encyclopedia is December 1. After pouring over the text in search of errors, and tweaking things a bit with information obtained on the excursion to Chicago, my son and his family arrived for dinner.
Monday, my official day off, was consumed with a few issues at the office, chasing the next book contract, work on the encyclopedia, a shopping excursion, more correspondence, chasing approval for two magazine features, and a bit of “light reading” from a new book, Crimes & Misdeeds: Headlines from Arizona’s Past. Interesting stuff to say the least – lesbian love triangles and a torrid love affair with a leading businessman in Phoenix that ends with murder, a badly bungled attempt at train robbery, a kidnapping hoax, the murder of a woman’s husband and her kidnapping, as well as torture, that leads to a lynching, and a running, literally, gun battle between a leading doctor and famous attorney. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these sordid stories is that they took place between 1909 and 1935!
Even though I manage to keep busy, and even though there are more than a few projects simmering on the back burner – completion of the office remodel, the long overdue floor installation in the living room, the kitchen remodel, work on the Dodge, and a few other items – I really don’t do the stop at the end of a book project very well. That is the primary reason for the antsy quest for another project.
Oh, one more item. Don’t forget about the big wing ding to celebrate the anniversay of Route 66 in Needles coming up in just over a week. For more information contact Linda at 928-768-3855.