Paradise Lost, A Tale of Two Cities, And Jousting At Windmills

You can’t help but feel sorrow for the young man

that squanders his inheritance and becomes a derelict living on the street, the talented artist that in the depths of alcoholism trades works of art for the next drink, or the whiz kid in school that pursues a life of crime instead of grades in college.  There is something heart wrenching about the person who trades unlimited potential and opportunity for pursuit of self destruction, or short term gain. Compounding the tragedy are the people affected by the downward spiral. This analogy is never far from my mind when trying to understand why some communities succeed and others fail or languish as I prepare to speak on economic development.

This advertisement from 1917 hints at the progressive nature of Kingman, and the bright future envisioned in 1917. Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

How does a community with limited or few resources become a destination for travelers and business owners, and a community with boundless opportunity languish? In Arizona, Seligman has flourished in the era of Route 66 renaissance and Ash Fork withered. Why?

For more than ninety years Kingman, Arizona has been proclaimed a community with a bright and promising future. Still, even though there has been slow and steady growth, that community has largely been eclipsed by its neighbors to the west, relatively recent additions to the Arizona landscape. This is in spite of the fact that the climate in Kingman is more hospitable. Additionally, Kingman, unlike Bullhead City or Lake Havasu City, is a hub for interstate commerce, highway as well as rail, is centrally located to a staggering array of diverse all season attractions, has an industrial park that could be the envy of any community in the country, and an historic business district with tangible links to more than 100 years of film and celebrity association. As a bonus, Kingman was forever linked with Route 66 in the hit song about that highway recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946.

For just a moment consider a few of Kingman’s assets. Let’s start with the twelve month tourism season.  Then, within a radius of sixty miles, there is the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Caverns, opportunities to partner with neighboring communities and offer white water rafting as well as Native America cultural history, more than 100 miles of scenic Route 66, the Colorado River, Hualapai Mountain Park, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, wineries, award winning microbreweries, one of the best mountain bike trail systems in Arizona, the world’s only electric vehicle museum, an extensive film and celebrity history, a railroad history, WWII and aviation history, and critically acclaimed museums.

Tourism is but one component in building a long term economic development plan. As Bob Russell, mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, a community that has established a new standard in revitalization and development, says, “It is important to note, however, tourism without positive economic development does not work.  It has to result in economic development to be sustainable.”

Now, consider one of the communities primary assets, the industrial park. Created from a former military air base this incredible resource has an internal rail system recently modernized and upgraded by Patriot Rail, and it is located on a main east west rail line. Additionally, there is I-40, and soon, I-11.

When evaluating just the tourism potential, and the industrial park, the question must be asked. Why isn’t Kingman a major destination for tourists, for potential business owners, and for families?

It isn’t because the community, especially at the grassroots level, lacks passion. Opposition from an entrenched faction with a captive public bully pulpit have been largely negated by the Route 66 Association of Kingman that has slowly but steadily forged alliances with business and property owners, as well as the city, and worked to transform the historic business district and Route 66 corridor into a destination. Photo op signage, restored neon signage, and public art projects are some of the most notable endeavors.

The Promote Kingman initiative, through video, social media, and educational programs has worked diligently to “create a community of the future, one partnership at a time.” The recently established Kingman Progressive Alliance for Positive Change has made remarkable strides in fostering community awareness.  The Route 66 Cruizers is quick to assist with event development and provide charitable services.  The Kingman Center for the Arts, another newly formed organization, has made tremendous contributions in forging a sense of community, and contributing to the historic business district renaissance. The Arizona Main Street initiative is another manifestation of a passionate grassroots movement.

In stark contrast to the vibrant grassroots initiatives, and the young Turk entrepreneurs opening businesses in the historic business district or running for public office are the abandoned projects that once had such potential,  glaring manifestations of apathy, and people who simply never learned how to play well with others.

The Route 66 Walk of Fame, a brilliant low budget project that generated revenue, and international media attention,  became a destination in itself and fostered foot traffic along the Route 66 corridor was abandoned. This in spite of offers of assistance, including financial, from throughout the world.

Development of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, the only museum of its kind in the world, has languished.  With the exception of the annual Route 66 Fun Run, the state Route 66 association headquartered in Kingman has done little in regards to partnering with local organizations such as the Route 66 Association of Kingman on development of projects.  The industrial park, is at best, stagnant. Promotional assets are undervalued and underutilized.

As I prepare a series of presentations on heritage tourism and its role in sustainable economic development, it is impossible for thoughts to not turn toward my adopted home town, and its long history of flirting with fame and fortune.  In turn, these thoughts inspire reflection on my long history of jousting at windmills in Kingman. Though I am inspired by the passion of a new generation of grassroots organizers, my optimism is guarded. Time and again I have watched inspired and ambitious initiatives run aground, especially when the focus is on the symptoms, not the problem.

 

 

A Biergarten, Great Pie, Black Holes, and Assorted Notes

I have never hid my affection for great pie and judging

by recent photographs, attempts to hide that passion are futile unless more time is spent on walkabout. Compounding what appears to be a growing problem is my quest for good craft beers. With that as an introduction let me introduce you to a delightful new experience to enhance your Route 66 adventure – the Caverns Grotto.

The Caverns Grotto
A new addition to the venerable roadside attraction that is Grand Canyon Caverns.

The restaurant at Grand Canyon Caverns is a favorite stop of mine, and a place where I have been eating for at least fifty years. With all honesty, however, I can say that the food today is better than ever. As a bonus the fresh baked pies are superb.

Even though the Caverns Grotto doesn’t officially open for a couple of weeks, I took it for a spin last Sunday afternoon. Sylvia and Bernhard, dear friends of my wife and I, were visiting and as we were in the midst of a record breaking heat wave the caverns seemed an ideal destination, especially as the year round temperature is 61-degrees. This unique dining experience will be by reservation only but it should be added to any Route 66 adventure. Excellent food and a unique scenic setting ensures a memorable experience.

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Indicative of my affection for the caverns and their pie is inclusion in a new book, 100 Things to Do on Route 66 Before You Die. Scheduled for release on September 1, this book that highlights some of my favorite stops on Route 66 is available for preorder on Amazon. I should note that the book is not just about places where you can enjoy a slice of pie and coffee after a fine meal of Hualapai stew and fry bred. Also included are a few of my favorite quirky stops, great places to rest the head after a day of exploration, and scenic wonders where the challenge is to try and take a bad picture. As a result, it will be a welcome addition to your travel kit.

In a somewhat unrelated note, my association with the Promote Kingman initiative is providing new and wondrous opportunities for sharing some of my favorite places. Last month episode one of Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66, a new video series, was released to critical acclaim. In this episode, with photos from the Mohave Museum of History & Arts and a walk through the world’s only electric vehicle museum, I present Kingman, Arizona as the crossroads of the past and future. I still have a few copies on hand, and ordering information is in the right hand column. I checked this morning and Promote Kingman also has copies available. We do not expect issues such as informing customers that the DVD is on backorder as another order will be placed shortly.

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Episode two is scheduled for release by July 12. The focus of this episode is on two very unique Route 66 sites, both of which are sort of like the ghost of Christmas past and ghost of Christmas future – Antares Point Route 66 Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Caverns.

A bit narrower in focus than the video series are the walking tours, another Promote Kingman initiative. The tours are a relatively easy 2.5 miles and again, utilizing photos provided by the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, I make these an illustrated tour that allows people to see the evolution of Kingman. Along the way I share stories about topless celebrities (Pamela Anderson was introduced to the police during a Playboy photo shoot),  Louis Chevrolet, and a bit of mayhem. You can arrange for personal tour through Promote Kingman, or join in a scheduled tour. The schedule is posted on the Facebook pages for Jim Hinckley’s America as well as Promote Kingman.

The length of time for the walking tour varies as I stop at businesses along the way on request. And as it is summer, we usually stop for a question and answer session, and to wet the whistle, at one of the award winning breweries in the historic district. If your not a fan of beer or wine, I can highly recommend the non alcoholic, vintage recipe ginger ale at Black Bridge Brewery.

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Years ago, when folks said I had a gift for telling people where to go, I never imagined that this could be turned into a career!

 

 

A Survival Guide For The Modern Era

There is an old adage that the two certainties in life are

death and taxes. There are, however, two more adages that you can bank on. One, times change, whether we like it or not. Two, it is up to you to create the survival guide for the modern era and to keep it updated. In short, adapt and learn to adapt or face the consequences. You can bet money that the best blacksmith in town had fallen on hard times by 1915 if he hadn’t added automobile repair to the services offered.

Fred Harvey Company Touring Coach 1918
By 1918 the Fred Harvey had adapted to changing times by adding touring coaches as a means to ensure hotel properties remained profitable. Courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

The Fred Harvey Company pioneered development of hotel and restaurant chains. They didn’t, however, rest on their laurels after dominating the railroad hotel business in the southwest. They developed tours, added buses, and began marketing to tourists traveling by automobile.

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As an author I have, with a degree of success, made the transition from typewriter and carbon paper to word processor. Marketing, a crucial skill for the writer that is going to transition from hobbyist, is another matter. There are indications that I have been somewhat successful in regards to shameless self promotion. As an example, yesterday I learned that Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town is going into a second printing even though the book was released this past April.

Continue reading “A Survival Guide For The Modern Era”

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION, GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES, AND SHARING THE WEALTH

Before you ask, I haven’t won the lottery. An uncle did pass away last year

but he wan’t wealthy, and he didn’t include me in his will. As to treasure, last month I found a 1939 dime in my change, and acquired a promotional brochure for Dinosaur Caverns (now Grand Canyon Caverns). So, you may ask, how do I intend to share the wealth? What, exactly, are the golden opportunities alluded to? To explain that, I will need to start with a bit of shameless self promotion.

First, I am taking to the road again. On July 22, I will be signing books and the new DVD at Autobooks-Aerobooks, 2900 Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. There are other tentative appearances in southern California that bracket the one in Burbank but these are awaiting confirmation. I will provide dates, times, and locations as soon as possible. Also, please feel free to contact me to schedule an appearance; a book signing, a presentation, or both. For the 2017 season I have created a presentation entitled Kingman, Arizona: 120 Years of Tourism. 

The presentation may seem a bit narrow in scope. However, as it includes tales of Louis Chevrolet, Buster Keaton, and Clark Gable, political intrigue that resulted in the rerouting of a highway, and the arrest of a celebrity for indecent exposure, I am confident that you will find it interesting.

One more. In April, two new books with Jim Hinckley in the byline were released. To be a bit more specific, it was one new book, Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town, and an expanded version second edition, Ghost Towns of the West. In September, 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die is scheduled for release. At the end of May, the first DVD in a new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 was released. Signed copies of books are available through this blog, and the DVD, with autograph and Kingman, Arizona souvenir, is available through Promote Kingman. When inquiring about book orders include zip code, totals and payment options will be included in the response.  Continue reading “SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION, GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES, AND SHARING THE WEALTH”