After almost a year of digging into the hidden corners and lost worlds of Route 66, the rough draft for Ghost Towns of Route 66 is finished and its on to sorting out the material for illustrations. It has been a grand and wonderful adventure.
I have met some fascinating people, filled my “places to see” notebook with enough material to keep us busy for a decade or two, and have opened a Pandora’s box full of questions.
What happened to the money or the bandits that headed west on Route 66 after robbing the vending machine service comapny at the Kingman Army Airfield in 1943? Did Conrad Minka use the tunnels at the White Rock Court for illicit purposes? What happened to the B-17 City of Kingman? What did Clark Gable drive on his honeymoon adventure to Kingman and Oatman?
The town of Cotton Hill, Illinois, had withered on the vine and the post office closed in 1909. What was left along Route 66 when the town was razed in the early 1930s?
The origins of Albatross, Missouri, are tied to the Albatross Bus Line. How far reaching was this pioneering bus company?
Counted among the wonderful people met through this project would be Joe Sonderman. His contributions to preserving the history of Route 66 include a massive post card collection, a collection that he has graciously opened to me to ensure Ghost Towns of Route 66 is a colorful time capsule.
His website of Route 66 post cards is a wonderful excursion into the pregeneric era along America’s most famous highway. Joe is also a gifted author with numerous books to his credit.
His latest release chronicles the evolution of Route 66 through the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0738580295&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr He has also written on the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and Route 66 in St. Louis, Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks.
New business includes a wide array of indicators that in spite of an economic melt down that appears to be the beginning stage of the Great Depression Part Two, this summer will be a busy one on Route 66. Here, in Kingman, we have a wide array of events scheduled for stops.
Perhaps the most amazing will be a cross country motorcyle event with a twist. All participating motorcycles must have been manufactured before 1916!
A personal adventure looming on the horizon that has us quite excited is participation in Road Trip Day at Auto Books-AeroBooks in Burbank, California. As an added bonus this means I can give my dearest friend a real treat, a trip to the beach.
I hope that if your in the neighborhood time allows for taking in the festivities of Road Trip day. This little book store cast a big shadow and with events like this it becomes a combination car show, time capsule of Main Street America circa 1960, and old fashioned ice cream social.



The rough draft for Ghost Towns of Route 66 is finished! The next hurdle is to whittle the text down to 20,000 words without loosing some of the detail about Foss, a bump in the road that once was large in enough to support two banks.
As often happens with these projects, I continued to fret about progress until frustration led me to tie my back side to the chair and write. So, last week while my deaerst friend transformed the bedroom by removing carpet, laying tile, and painting, I dug through my reference material and worked to encapsulate the history of some of the most interesting people and places on Rouute 66.
Counted among the fascinating discoveries would be Don Trinidad Romero, namesake of Romeroville, New Mexico. What an amazing and inspirational story about rising above circumstances.

The next stage of this adventure is to pin down some historic photos and post cards for illustrations. These will be combined with photos from our adventures and the artisty of Kerrick James.
In a few unrelated notes our Route 66 adventure scheduled for late may is still on track. Having initially planned this for last fall it is long overdue.
The Road Trip Day at Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burabnk is really shaping up to be an interesting adventure. The store isn’t far from Pasadena and Route 66 making this a detour to consider.
My dilema with attendance is travel. It is a 350 mile drive and the kick off of the festivities is 10:00. Do we leave after work on Friday and stay in Victorville or Hesperia? Would it be better to hit the road at 3:00 or 4:00 on Saturday morning?
In either case taking to Route 66 just won’t be feasible, at least on our trip west. The return trip is another matter and we are already looking forward to climbing Amboy Crater.
The final note pertains to gasoline prices. Are the rising prices leading you to reconsider a Route 66 adventure?


In reviewing this past weeks posts it seems there is a recurrent theme of reflection. I am not sure if that is the result of recent discussions abut friends lost this past year or that another birthday is fast approaching, which means fifty is disappearing from view in the rear view mirror and sixty is looming at the top of the hill.
More than likely it is a combination of these things and the approaching completion of another book, my sixth. The only consistent theme of my childhood was books and a dream of some day being a writer and as a result the completion of each book and the publication of another article means I am one step closer to fulfilling that dream.
See, in my world a successful writer is one who derives their entire income from transforming mere words on paper into three dimensional pictures that enable the reader to see, touch, taste, and smell the subject. Another determination in what constitutes a successful writer is that with the income earned from these endeavors he, or she, is able to eat at least every other day. I still have a day job.
Now, I can expalin the title for today’s post in a manner that might make sense. Or it just might make you smile and be a little more thankful for the day job.
A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a writer. I think it started in about 1966 when we moved to the desert of Arizona.

Underlying the initial shock that came from being uprooted from the forests of Michigan and summers on family farms in Alabama was the feeling that I had been transported to that place warned about in Sunday school. To escape the heat and the strange surroundings I retreated to the library and books.
The books inspired curiosity about my new home and this in turn fueled a hunger for exploration. Exploration fueled my curiosity and led to a deeper dimension in my love of books by leading me to the people that had lived the history I was reading about. All of this led to a hunger for sharing these discoveries with others.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I am now writing on a wide array of topics and sharing stories gleaned from the books read, the people met, and the explorations that have led to so many amazing adventures.
I have long known this world is a very funny place if we will just take the time to look around us. However, it is as a writer, a starving artist on Route 66, that I have enjoyed my most humerous adventures.
My first submission was made without a formal proposal, a track record, or references. I simply called the editor of a prestigious national magazine and asked if they were interested in a story.
Much to my surprise, I received approval for submission. So, I dug out the 1948 Underwood typewriter and the $25 camera and went to work. This was in 1990.
Even more amazing was the receipt for a check in the amount of $250 eight weeks after submission. In an instant the childhood dream was reignited. Thoughts of quiting the day job danced, a mail box full of checks, and paid adventures to exotic places danced in my head.
Twelve months later the dream was on life support. I had collected fifty rejection slips and landed a weekly column for the local paper, a gig that paid $10 per week.
From that point in time to this day, I have written more than 500 feature articles, five books, almost finished a sixth, provided technical assistance for three others, and pushed the rejection letter count to something like 1,750. In spite of this “success” I still worry that someone will catch me imitating a writer, still find it very odd that someone would ask for my autograph, and find it surreal when I arrive at a book signing to find people waiting.
All of this creates a distorted, disjointed sort of view. In my minds eye I am just an average Joe, a working stiff with an ability to tell folks where to go that works long hours to keep beans on the table, gas in the tank, and the lights on at home.
I have not worn a tie in thirty years, own nothing but boots for foot wear, and prefer long walks in the desert with my dearest friend over a trip to Disneyland or Las Vegas. We enjoy the quiet places and finds towns with more than one stop light a bit uncomfortable.
Then someone from Finland or Boise will take a break from their Route 66 adventure, stop in the office, and ask that I sign a copy of a book. Then I will receive a request for an interview from a television producer or Esquire magazine. These are the things that bring me up short, these are the things that provide a deeper understanding of those who live a double life. These are the things that make me stop and say, “Who? Me?”
This takes me to one of the most important lessons I have learned on this grand adventure from geeky kid who dreamed of becoming a writer to an obscure, naive writer, to obscure writer. Life is an endless opportunity for a good laugh, provided we don’t take ourselves to seriously.
If I had not learned this lesson through things such as having a job where the port a john was repossessed for lack of payment how would I be able to laugh about missing a phone call from Jay Leno, three times. Without a sense of humor honed through years of odd ball twists and turns how would I be able to smile about finding two rejection notices and a new book contract in the same mail box?
The Jay Leno story is merely the latest in this joke with a never ending punch line. The first time he called was the day after I missed him at a book signing. When he called to thank me for a magazine, I was in Burbank.
The second time he called, my caller ID led me to believe it was my son’s mother in law, not a phone call I really wanted to take at 9:30 in the evening. The third call was missed as a series of unusual delays that resulted in getting home five hours late.
I have also learned that on occasion opportunity is persistent. In this case Mr. Leno and I finally talked and the offer was made to tape an interview for the book club segment of his Jay Leno’s Garage website. Now, we need to coordinate a schedule.

Well, as I often say at the end of a post, stay tuned for details. Meanwhile, the adventure into the unknown continues.
At this juncture, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for the encouragement, the ideas, the assistance, and the support. Thank you for sharing this grand adventure and helping to make a geeky kids dreams a reality.



As you may guess by today’s title post the primary topic of discussion is icons of Route 66. Specifically, two icons that have come to symbolize the modern incarnation of that legendary highway.

 Technically, Radiator Springs is not really a place on Route 66 but as many of the locations and sites on that highway served as models for the ones in the film, Cars, that is a moot point. This film has introduced a new generation to a highway that has entranced Americans for almost a century and in the process has become a modern classic.
The second icon of the modern era is the unique artistry of Bob Waldmire, from murals to post cards, the artist, and his internationally recognized VW bus. Henry David Thoreau would have approved of Bob and the simple life of a happy vagabond on the most famous highway in America.

When seen together we have a near perfect snapshot of Route 66 in this, the modern era. The old double six is no longer a highway that has to be driven and as a result it is now a destination. It is a whimsical blending of history, a romanticized vision of what once was, and an increasingly rare opportunity to step back from the hurried pace of modern society and savor the simple pleasures of life.
The movie Cars, and Bob Waldmire, capture the very essence of Route 66 today just as The Grapes of Wrathhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0143039431&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr did in the 1930s. This brings us to one of the most fascinating aspects of this amazing highway – its ability to evolve, to be something special for every generation.

That is why the highway continues to grow in popularity even though it is truncated and broken, lined with empty places and ruins, and, in places, is a series of dead end roads. That is why people buy condemned service stations in forgotten towns and transform them into colorful blendings of the historic and the romanticized. That is why places such as these can become internationally recognized destinations.
Perception shaped by icons such as Bob Waldmire and the movie Cars enable people to see somethig special in these things that are usually overlooked, or even avoided, if they were not associated with legendary 66. It is this ability to look beyond the faded facades, the darkened neon, and the narrow roadways with sharp curves and steep grades that make event such as the Route 66 so popular.
To say the very least, Route 66 is alive and well. It might even be said that it is more popular today than ever before.

Now two quick notes pertaining to an upcoming event that might be of interest and some breaking news for enthusiasts of legendary Route 66. The Beale Street Brews & Gallery will be hosting a Route 66 exhibt for the entire month of May and the featured artist will be Bob Waldmire.
Chris Durkin, president of the Kingman Downtown Merchants Association and member of the Kingman Route 66 Association, is currently working with the Waldmire family to obtain unique material for the showing. He is also in negotiation with Jim Conkle to have Bob’s legendary van displayed as well.
Needless to say this would add a unique dimension to the annual Route 66 Fun Run scheduled for the first weekend in May. It also exemplifies just how iconic Bob Waldmire and his work have become.
The final note is one we have long been waiting for – Jim Conkle is on the road and is distributing the latest issue of the Route 66 Pulse, a special edition that is a tribute to Bob Waldmire.



It has been a slower day than usual at the office which has provided numerous excuses for working outside and enjoying the seventy degree day. Now, with lunch I am contemplating a new display for the shadow box counter top.
The post yesterday and a customers comment about the counter top being a time capsule led to viewing my office/museum with a fresh perspective. So, as a first time customer I see a wide array of vintage hubcaps, framed automtoive advertisement from the 1920s and 1930s, a grill, a mural, shelves filled with things as diverse as antique roller skates and oil cans, and some original photos portraying scenes along Route 66.
The 3′ x 6.5′ counter top is our crown jewel if I do say so. Counted among the treasures are a book published by Good Housekeeping magazine in 1960 entitled, “Handbook for the Women Driver.”
I find it fascinating how much reaction this draws, some are offended and others simply laugh. None, however, are aware that it is a very benign, very practical book that covers a wide array of topics from how to check oil to avoid being ripped off by a garage.
The Kelly Blue Book from 1926 and the N.A.D.A. guide from 1948 also receive a wide array of comments and spark many question. For some it the memories invoked and for others it is astonishment at the prices.
As an example, in the 1948 guide a 1937 Dodge 1/2 ton pick up truck has a retail value of $425. The 1926 Blue Book indicates the factory list price for a 1920 Packard six-cylinder sedan was $4950 but the retail price was a mere $400.
Promotional material from long defunct companies such as Hupmobile REO, Mitchell, Nash, and Essex, also draws a great deal of comment and questions. Likewise with ones for the Gremlin, Lincoln V12, and Checker.
I have always found automotive advertisement to be quite fascinating. How do you convince a customer that a Ford is better than a Chevy or that there should be such a price difference between a Crown Victoria, Lincoln, or Mercury?
Older automotive promotional items are true time capsules that reflect many facets of society from fashion to technology. I have one for the Jaxon, a steam powered vehicle built in 1903, that reads, “So easy to operate a child, or even a women, can drive it!” Ouch!
On more than one occasion I have been asked by customers and visitors to the office, as well as those who read my books and feature articles, if my home office is as much a museum as this. The answer is yes and no. It is more like some deranged old uncle’s attic or shed.
Books are in piles and on shelves everywhere. Subjects run the gamut from a 1907 automobile repair guide and a Chilton’s guide for the 1998 Jeep, to the history of the medical profession in Nazi era Germany, the influenza epidemic of 1918, and a 1916 book by Emily Post about her cross country automotive adventure.
Perched on and behind these are enlarged covers of books I have written, big promotional posters for the Cadillac V16, a wide array of maps from a 1929 Rand McNally Atlas to a National Geographic map of historic trails in the United States.

In the midst of this is an island with my computer, printer, and scanner and a couple of small files. Most of the piles are kept behind wooden folding doors but on more than one occasion the creaking and groaning of wood gives cause to reflect on just how long they can be held at bay.
If there were a moral to this long winded tale it would be this, my world is truly a delicate balance between the past and present, an odd sort of place where the two not only meet but on occasion overlap. I suppose that is why topics pertaining to the good old days seasoned with praises for the conveniences of the modern era dominate so much of what is written by me.
On a final note, if you find yourself motoring west or east on the old double six. In addition to the ecclectic collection, I also have brochures from a number of Route 66 attractions and with a latent talent for telling folks where to go, lots of directions for places often overlooked.