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Road-weary Route 66 turns 80

Old U.S. Highway 66 is marking its 80th anniversary, and even though the roadway has been decommissioned for two decades and has fallen into disrepair in some places, efforts to preserve its spirit continue.

The National Park Service has a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.

Representatives from the eight states through which the highway travels - Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California - met in Oklahoma City in mid November to visit two projects being funded with federal cost-share grants, according to the Oklahoman newspaper.

The grants say, "This is an important property on Route 66. This is a stamp of approval," said Michael Taylor, a representative of the federal Route 66 preservation program.

Next time, stay in a caboose

If you could, would you stay in a caboose or a windmill on your next vacation? How about a tepee? A new Web site, HomeAway.com, lists more than 60,000 vacation home properties across 90 countries. In addition to the above mentioned, you'll find a barn, bungalow, cabin, castle, chalet, chateau, condo, cottage, house, houseboat, mansion, villa, yacht and yurt.

HomeAway.com provides photos, property descriptions, pricing and booking information. Weekly rates range from $200 for a rustic cabin in North Carolina to $45,000 for a lavish estate in Jamaica.

New ships set to sail

All but one of seven new cruise ships - each carrying more than 2,000 passengers - debuting in the next year will look familiar. That's because six of the seven are clones of existing ships.

Interest is high in Cunard's newest ship, Queen Victoria, which will debut in December 2007. Innovations include a two-story, 6,000-volume library with a spiral staircase, private loge boxes in the theater and an alfresco dining venue.

Other new ships:

* Norwegian Cruise's Norwegian Pearl makes its first voyage this month from Miami. It will boast the first bowling alley at sea. The line's other new ship, the Norwegian Gem, is a clone of the Pearl and will enter service late next year.

* Royal Caribbean is bringing another sea-going behemoth on line next year. Liberty of the Seas will start sailing from Miami in late spring.

* Carnival's Carnival Freedom will stay a full summer in Europe after it enters service in March, then be based year-round in Miami.

* Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess enters service this spring in the Mediterranean, but comes to Fort Lauderdale next October for a winter of Southern Caribbean sailings.

* Costa brings its Costa Serena on line in Europe in May and the ship will remain there year-round.

Fido on the road

The most accommodating cities for travelers with pets, from AAA:

1. Houston

2. San Antonio, Texas

3. Austin, Texas

4. Albuquerque, N.M.

5. Phoenix

6. Dallas

7. New York City

8. Orlando

9. Nashville

10. Tucson, Ariz.

The anti-guide book

In The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America by David Gilmartin (Thomas Dunne Books; $14.95 hardcover), a poison-pen letter of where not to go, the quotes are never so clever as when bemoaning the negative. "I had to go to Carson City (Nev.) for a wedding once, and I can honestly say that nothing prepared me for how awful the place is," goes part of one entry.

Another warns of Detroit: "When you cross the city line coming in from the suburbs, you'll swear you made a wrong turn into Fallujah." In all, 50 towns make the list, and they range from Barstow, Calif., and Gary, Ind., to the surprising Greeley, Colo., and Seattle, of all places.

Where words alone fail, graphs and charts take over. One pie chart shows how Minnesota students responded to the question "Is your bachelor degree worth four years in St. Cloud?" The answers: 61 percent said no; 9 percent said yes; 11 percent were not sure; 18 percent said they "finished in three years just to escape sooner"; and 1 percent said, "I'm from D.C., so this place isn't so bad."

Compiled by Janet K. Keeler from Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune and McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers.

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