Category Archives: Route 66

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily

Loss

One day about 14 years ago, the then-president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association asked me to interview a fellow Route 66 enthusiast who had just moved from Darien, Connecticut, to Afton, Oklahoma, to restore an old D-X gas station and turn it into a sort of mini-museum and Route 66 visitors’ center.

During the interview, the station owner mentioned she’d procured the old condom machine that used to hang in the restroom at the late, great Buffalo Ranch in Afton, and she was contemplating whether to install it in the restroom at her gas-station-turned-Packard-and-postcard-museum.

I laughed, because at the time, I was in the middle of redecorating my bathroom in a gas-station theme, and among the many decorations I’d hung on the wall was a glow-in-the-dark-condom dispenser.

She was delighted and asked what else I’d put in there. I mentioned the dashboard-hula-girl shower curtain and the Texaco “Registered Rest Room” sign and told her I was planning to order a set of pink plastic Cadillac fins from Archie McPhee to install on the toilet tank.

“Oh, don’t buy those yet,” she said. “I think I’ve got a spare set in one of these boxes I haven’t unpacked yet.”

A spare set.

Not just a set. A SPARE set.

In that moment, I knew Laurel Kane and I would be friends forever.

Over the years, Laurel and I bonded over our shared fondness for good margaritas, bad kitsch and outrageously inappropriate jokes. Every time we got together, we found another strange little quirk we had in common.

We both loved sushi, papasan chairs, and mild spring evenings spent sitting on wide front porches with cold drinks in hand. She lived in a cute Craftsman bungalow in a quiet neighborhood a block off a busy street in Tulsa; when we left Tulsa, I wound up living in a cute Craftsman bungalow in a quiet neighborhood a block off a busy street in Cape. This house felt safe and familiar the minute I walked in — perhaps because, at some subconscious level, the wide front porch and hardwood floors reminded me of Laurel’s house.

Laurel and I have both been known to decorate with tumbleweeds collected from barbed-wire fences somewhere on Route 66. We’ve both tried our hand at vermicomposting and fungiculture at various points in our lives. We were both raised by Christian Scientists. And Laurel held the distinction of being one of the only three people Scout ever befriended at first sight.

We got word yesterday that Laurel had died a few hours earlier as the result of a fall. When Ron texted to tell me, the first thing that popped in my mind was an exuberant rat terrier barreling toward a golden gate, stubby tail wagging furiously, warbling an excited greeting to her old friend.

That thought has stuck with me all day.

I miss you already, Laurel. Save me a margarita, and don’t let Scout eat all the eel rolls before I catch up.

Love,
Emily

P.S.: The picture above was shot at Afton Station during the 2003 Hampton Inns Save-A-Landmark Caravan. The penguin is Tripper, a Route 66-themed entry in the Penguins on Parade fundraiser for the Tulsa Zoo, which Laurel ended up buying to use as a sort of mascot for Afton Station. Tripper is flanked by Laurel on the left and our friend Guy Randall on the right.

Tee Pee Curios mural

tepeeday1
All in a day’s work. This was about four or five hours into the project. Love, love, love how that turquoise note turned out.

As promised a couple of weeks ago, here are photos from the mural I completed in October on the east side of Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I still can’t get over how fast and easy that neon technique is.

koko4
All done; just waiting for the scaffold to come down.
koko3
Detail shot.
koko2
Gar wanted a mural that would catch the eye of passers-by. Even on a cloudy afternoon, I think this pops out nicely.
souvenirs
I picked up a souvenir while I was in town. This great hoodie came from the Dollar General store in Tucumcari. I have matching sweatpants I bought on the same trip. I wear them all the time.

Spending a couple of weeks in Tucumcari this year has confirmed some things for us. First, it showed us we’re definitely on the right track with our long-term goal, which is to build a tiny house in northeastern New Mexico and retire there. The people in that area seem really nice, and the town is just about perfect in terms of size and proximity to larger cities and wilderness areas.

Second, the enthusiastic responses I’ve gotten to my murals have shown me this might make a nice cottage industry, so after New Year’s, I’m planning to take out an ad in the service directory part of the paper and see if I can rustle up a few mural-painting gigs in Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois. Even small projects would bring in a nice chunk of extra income to save toward the tiny house of my dreams.

It’s good to have a long-term goal and a specific plan for reaching it. Even if something happens to throw us off-track, there’s never a down side to retiring debts as quickly as possible, learning new skills, or saving money for things you really need.

One day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll share our six-year plan for paying off our debts and putting ourselves in a position to make our very specific dreams come true. It’s a pretty good to-do list, even if you’re not planning to build a micro-house in the high desert.

Emily

My novel is out!

So this happened:

bookfront

bookback

Can we just talk about how excited I am to have this in my hands at last? I’ve been working on this book for five years, not counting the 19 years I spent before that with the main character in my head, trying to figure out what to do with her.

It’s available to order now. Click here for the Kindle version; click here to order it in paperback.

Is it any good? I think it is, but I’m hardly an objective critic. I wrote a novel I wanted to read, set in a town where I’d like to live and populated with people I’d like to meet. It’s hard to be objective about something you’ve been working on for years, but I’ll put it this way: The writing process being what it is, by my most conservative estimate, I’d say I’ve read most of this novel at least two dozen times, and yet I still enjoy reading it, and every time I do, I still find something that feels new — some detail I’d forgotten I wrote, or some flourish that resonates differently now than it did the last time I looked at it. When I sat down with the printed proof a couple of nights ago to look for printing issues and any other little concerns I might have missed, I thought, “I’m really looking forward to reading this just for the fun of it.”

If I can edit a book 24 times and still look forward to reading it just for the sheer enjoyment of the finished product, I feel fairly safe in assuming the average reader will enjoy reading it at least once or twice.

I feel light this afternoon. And free. And at the same time, a little lost. I don’t remember what it’s like to wake up without Sierra in my head, demanding to be written. She’s been part of my consciousness since 1991. But finishing her story has silenced the irrational but persistent fear in the back of my mind: What if I die before I finish my novel? It’s a relief to know I don’t have to worry about that any more, but it’s also a little strange to be finished with what I always assumed was my life’s work. I’m only 40. What now? I’ve got other projects going, of course — I’ve always got projects going, and plenty of them — but nothing as all-consuming as this book.

What will rise to take its place? I’m waiting to see. It’s strange to swap a bucket list for a blank sheet of paper and a couple of Pinterest boards, but it’s kind of exciting, too.

Emily

 

More artwork

It’s been an artsy sort of weekend. I made a double batch of hot-process soap yesterday and had enough time left to paint the prototype for my next mural, which is going on the side of Tee Pee Curios on Route 66 in Tucumcari the first week in October:

kokopelli

I’m looking forward to that project, although I’m a little antsy about having to work so high up off the ground. This mural is going on the side of a building that’s quite a bit taller than the garage walls I painted last spring. We’ll see if the magic of New Mexico is powerful enough to override my acrophobia.

I’ve also been using every spare minute to add more book illustrations. I’m looking at about 28 images by the time I finish. Here are the most recent ones:

officeweb

journalweb

letterweb

laundryweb

pickweb

smokeweb

scoutsweb

milagroweb

dianaweb

snakeweb

cellsweb

monolithweb

Each image precedes a chapter and represents something significant from that chapter. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what a neon sign, a journal, a letter on motel stationery, a clothesline, a guitar pick, a burning cigarette, a snow cone, a milagro, a toy camera, a gopher snake, a seventh-grader’s biology assignment and a replica of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey have to do with the story.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’m about four illustrations away from being able to submit this thing for publication, although I’m sure I’ll spend at least another week fussing over it before I work up the nerve to send it out into the world.

Emily

I’ve been busy.

Yes, I’ve subjected this blog to a shameful degree of neglect this summer. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

That’s right, kids. I’m about an eyelash away from being ready to publish Greetings from Coldwater. I’m anticipating a fall release on the Kindle version and — God willing — a paperback edition in time for Christmas. I shot the trailer above on and around Route 66 in New Mexico last spring, and I’ve been dinking with the novel ever since we got back.

frontcoldwatercover

When I started this project, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish, but the publishing industry has changed so much since then that self-publishing now requires less financial risk and far less annoyance than shopping a manuscript. I can go through Amazon to self-publish electronic and paperback editions without spending a dime. All I’m out is time — and less of it than I’d spend writing queries and copying manuscripts and standing in line at the post office to send them to people who may not bother reading them anyway. A big publishing house could probably sell more copies, but I don’t have the patience to read a thousand rejection slips before I find the right publisher. If some big-deal publisher reads it and likes it, we’ll talk.

I’ve spent most of the past 24 hours formatting the manuscript to Amazon’s specs, designing a cover, reskinning TumbleweedMotel.com, printing a proof, and uploading the trailer to YouTube.

I’ve also been busy drawing illustrations for the past couple of weeks:

 

freedsgarageweb

swinneysweb

graveweb

milagromirrorweb

tumbleweedweb

fridgeweb

shrineweb

jackrabbitweb

signsweb

casadejesusweb

Watch this space. I’ll keep you posted on the process and all the stuff I learn as I go.

 

Emily

An announcement

If you’re thinking of buying Route 66 for Kids for your Kindle, wait a couple of days for me to post the new edition. I couldn’t find the option to upload the new edition, and in the process of looking for it, I republished the current edition under a description that makes it sound as if I’ve updated it. Amazon has to review and approve things before you’re allowed to go back in and edit them, so I have to wait 12 to 48 hours to fix the problem — and then another 12 to 48 hours to get the fix approved. If you accidentally buy a copy that claims to be the fifth edition in the description, but the copyright date isn’t 2015, email me, and I’ll send you the corrected edition as either a Word file or a PDF.

In related news, as soon as I get this crap sorted out, I’ll have a new edition of Route 66 for Kids available on Amazon. I’ll blog and tweet something as soon as the real update goes live.

Vegetarian Friday and my latest Lent items coming shortly. It’s been a week.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Pesto pasta

From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.

This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.

Ingredients
Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles

Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)

Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.

In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:

lent3

I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)

Emily

When you see it …

coralcourt

So I’m just cruising down Route 66 on Google Maps, playing with an idea for a project I’m considering, when I notice something unexpected on the satellite view.

Apparently somebody at Google isn’t any happier than I am about the travesty that occurred in 1995 in Marlborough, Mo.

God bless you, anonymous cartographer. You are my hero forever and always for this. And I’m sure Shellee Graham approves, too.

Emily