Before we get into some interesting tid bits about steam cars, or my latest adventure in the Jay Leno saga lets start with the item of most interest to fans of Route 66 and iconic artist Bob Waldmire. The Waldmire families generosity in providing material for the memorial exhibit is nothing short of extraordinary. Here is a link to the official Bob Waldmire website and store. This will serve as an introduction, or refresher course, into Bob’s mastery with pen and ink. I have long admired Bob’s intricate artisty and as a result was quite humbled by a request from the exhibition organizer, Chris Durkin, for select pieces of our Route 66 photography to be used as backdrops for the Waldmire displays. An updated press release will be forthcoming but here is the initial one that provides detail on location and times.
Bob Waldmire exhibit
The Kingman Route 66 Association is pleased to announce the Waldmire family has graciously contributed a stunning collection of work by iconic artist Bob Waldmire for a month long memorial exhibit at Beale Street Gallery of Fine Arts. In addition to the richly detailed Route 66 post cards and maps that transformed an itinerant artist into an internationally recognized icon, and that played a key role in the resurgent interest in Route 66, the exhibit will also feature lesser known material such as drawings of vintage aircraft, as well as never before displayed original sketches on topics as diverse as coffee roasters and political satire. The exhibit opens at the gallery, inside Beale Street Brews Coffee House, located at 418 E. Beale St. in the heart of the Kingman historic district one block north of Route 66, in conjunction with the annual Route 66 Fun Run on April 30th. The exhibition will run through May 25th with a special First Friday Reception on the evening of May 7th. The hours for viewing are Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM and on Sundays from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. During the First Friday Reception the gallery will remain open until 100:00 PM. For more information about the artistry of Bob Waldmire the official website address is http://www.bobwaldmire.com/. For more information about tourism in Kingman, upcoming events in Kingman or the Kingman Route 66 Association – Destination Kingman on Facebook or http://www.route66infocenter.com/
Now lets talk steam cars. In particular lets talk about missing links in the history of steam cars. In the process of obtaining material for use as illustrations in The Big Book of Car Culture I purchased some interesting press photos and early photographs converted to slides at some point in the 1950s.
Among the later were a number of photographs of early steam powered race cars. One of the more famous was this White built vehicle promoted as Whistlin’ Billy. Amongst the former was a set of professional photos of a 1940 Packard converted to steam propulsion.http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760319650&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrNeedless to say, this really piqued my curisoity. I have long had a fascination with steam powered anything but this car was a mystery. Fast forward a few years. A friend in Wisconsin sent me a used book, Floyd Clymer’s Steam Car Scrapbook. There, on page 193, were photos of the same car including the identical photo of the interior that I used in my book! As it turns out the car was converted by a Mr. Marshall utilizing a 4 x 5 Stanley engine mounted to the Packard rear axle. The small article continues with much detail about the car. This led to the next question. Does the car still exist? As it turns out the answer is yes. After discussing the car on the AACA forum I received an email purporting to know the whereabouts of the vehicle. As it turns out Mr. Marshall’s son still owns the vehicle but he is not interested in selling it or having it photographed. Well, I am patient. The car has survived more than a half century as a steamer. When updates become available, I will post them. Okay, another surprise, for me as well as the publisher. It would seem that Ghost Towns of the Southwest http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrhas sold out the first printing in less than eight weeks! I am not sure how this will play out as far as money in my pocket but the accomplishment alone leaves me stunned. I knew ghost towns were a popular subject and I knew that the publisher did an excellent job in regards to format, size, editorial, and layout but very few books sell more than 500 copies per year. Backroads of Arizonahttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760326894&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrproved to be rather popular and still sells well. Still, it took 18 months for it to sell well enough to warrant a second printing. I have been assured that a second printing of Ghost Towns of the Southwest will be available soon. So, don’t be afraid to place an order (signed copies are available through the Kingman Route 66 Association) with Amazon.com or your local book store. I will update you on this as soon as more information is available. For the final item of the day I thought you might find some amusement in the latest chapter of my adventure with Jay Leno. For those unfamiliar with the story this adventure began in the fall of 2009 and a book signing at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank, California. Well, on May 1,next weekend I have another book signing at the same store and thought I should let Mr. Leno know as we have talked about steam powered vehicles on several occasions and have discussed the possibility of me examining his very rare Doble, but we have never met in person. I should note that initially the book signing was scheduled for the 24th of this month but conflicted schedules resulted in it being moved to the first of May. So, yesterday I spoke with Jay and yes he would like to meet, and yes he would be available to come by the store – on the 24th. On the first of May he will be out of town. The adventure continues.
If the title for today’s post does not grab your attention, I strongly suggest you check for a pulse. On a more serious note, we have an abreviated posting but with lots of interesting detail. First, this note from the Kingman Route 66 Association – The Kingman Route 66 Association is pleased to announce the Waldmire family has graciously contributed a stunning collection of work by iconic artist Bob Waldmire for a month long exhibit at Beale Street Gallery of Fine Arts. In addition to his world famous post cards and maps, the exhibit will also feature lesser known material such as drawings of vintage aircraft and original sketches on topics as diverse as coffee roasters and political satire. The exhibit opens at the gallery, inside Beale Street Brews Coffee House, located at 418 E. Beale St. in the Kingman historic district one block north of Route 66, in conjunction with the annual Route 66 Fun Run on April 30th. The exhibition will run through May 25th with a special First Friday Reception on the evening of May 7th. The hours for viewing are Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM and on Sundays from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. During the First Friday Reception the gallery will remain open until 100:00 PM. For more information about the artistry of Bob Waldmire the official website address is http://www.bobwaldmire.com/. Needless to say, this is a rather exciting development that will add a new dimension to this years Route 66 Fun Run. I had a sneak preview of some of the material and can promise even fans familiar with Bob’s work will be amazed. The next item on the agenda is the newest in a series of recalls by Toyota. For reasons unknown this sparked an odd but interesting train of thought about a new book chronicling the history of automotive recalls. Do you think there would be any interest in a book that began with the first major recall, an air cooled Chevrolet debacle in the early 1920s, and documented this history through the current situation with Toyota? http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1556527772&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrLast but not least is a little something about Harry Truman. This fascinating book adds a touch of personal insight into an often overlooked president. Did you know he was a fan of De Soto automobiles?
Wind is the dominate thought of the day. The winds of change and the howling desert winds of spring, currently exceeding 25 miles per hour here in Kingman, specifically. The desert winds are a given here. In fact the running joke for as long as I can remember is that Kingman was founded by folks who stopped to wait for the wind to quit blowing. Part two of the joke is that everyone else broke down here. There is seldom a day here without a slight breeze. That was another aspect of the Saturday evening Chillin’ on Beale Street that was so delightful, an absolutely calm evening with temperatures in the seventy degree range. That is also why even during the months of summer there is seldom a day that is truly so hot it is miserable. For the kind of torment folks associate with desert heat you have to drive about thrity miles to the west. There, in the Colorado River Valley the hottest temperatures in the nation are often set. The nights do cool down a bit. I remember coming home from a job on the river one night in early August and the digital temperature on the Riverside Casino read 110 degrees. That was at midnight! Now, lets talk about the winds of change. I initially began thinking about this topic as it pertains to Route 66 yesterday while adding a little polish to the new book. One aspect of Route 66 that is seldom touched upon pertains to how the perception of the highway has continued to change with the times since its opening in 1926. As a result, while other two lane highways that may have been popular during the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s are now little more than historic footnotes and empty county roads, Route 66 has actually grown in popularity. Manifestations of the new incarnation of Route 66 as a delighful blending of authentic road side Americana, fanciful recreations, and whimsical renditions that cater to the nostalgic minded are appearing along the route. From the Route 66 Museum in the Barstow Harvey House to Afton Station, from Gay Parita to Mr. D’z, from the Cozy Dog to 4 Women on the Route.
Additional glimpses of the new era on Route 66 are found in the wide array of products that are linked to Route 66 through advertisement and promotion. An excellent case study on this would be to see how many times in the past five years the Roy’s sign in Amboy has appeared in advertisements or how Harley Davidson has masterfully welded its iconic image with that of Route 66. Now, take a moment, give the imagination free reign, and envision the Route 66 of the next decade. Alternative energy vehicle rallies, vintage roadhouses transformed into internet cafes with juke boxes and historic service stations that now dispense hydrogen or plug in stations for electric vehicles. Narrow the focus and imagine the famous 180 mile section of Route 66 between Seligman and Topock in the 2020. The Snow Cap is unchanged but the old station across the street is now an internet cafe set amongst vintage vehicles and nostalgic displays. At the west of town is a fully restored time capsule of a gas station but now it dispenses hydrogen and includes a place for overnight guests to charge their electric vehicles with electricity supplied by solar panels on the roof of the old garage. Hyde Park has been given a new lease on life with vintage cabins, modern prefab units constructed of recycled materials sold through an enterprising company that provides the state of the art units with antique looking facades to property owners on historic highways. With solar power no place is now to remote for a modern motel, especially in the desert southwest. For the adventuresome bicyclist following the bicycle trail that parallels Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, and that utilizes old sections no longer passable by automobile, places like Hyde Park are welcom sites. The reproduced neon signs that light the night, powered by solar, are a warm welcome after a long day. The Grand Canyon Cavern remains a seemingly unchanged time capsule of the 1950s. Still, there have been a few changes such as hydrogen at the station and an experimental space station attraction deep in the cavern where food for the restaurant is grown hydroponically. Peach Springs is still Peach Springs but with one major change, a monorail to the Grand Canyon West and Skywalk. This modern contrivance stands in stark contrast to the historic Grand Canyon Railway in Williams. The Hackberry General Store has survived another decade seemingly unchanged. Of course hiding the solar panels enables that illusion. The Antares Point store with is faux Easter Island Head has a new attraction. High in the peak of the steep roof is an observatory where visitors can look across the wide Haluapai Valley towards Red Lake and the largest solar powered elctrical generating facility on the planet. In Kingman, the Fun Run, is still the premier event. Now, however, the Model T and the colorful deuce coupe share the road with vintage GM electrics of the 1990s, Citicars of the 1970s, and Prius cars with historic vehicle plates. Kingman has finally marshaled its vast Route 66 treasures. The entire south side of the highway in the historic district is lined with vintage neon now solar powered. A vintage trolly system serves tourist and locals alike in the historic district. The Beale Hotel was saved at the last minute with its facade and classic sky light preserved but the interior opened into a multi-storied convention center that includes the basement and historic Sump Bar below street level. One of the highlights to a Kingman visit is the automobile driving museum. In addition to the cars on static display, including early solar powered vehicles, visitors can register for daily drives south on Fourth Street and then into the canyon on the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66. Vehicles used for this are a diverse lot that encapsulate the history of the automobile. They run the gamut from a Model T and ’57 Chevy convertible to the latest factory hybrids and even solar powered vehicles. The drive to Topock has changed little since 2010, 1990 or even 1950. Perhaps the most interesting aspects now are the roadside markers that describe places and their historical importance via satelight to your MP3 player or in dash unit. Okay, I have a vey active imagination. Still, look how much Route 66 has changed in the past twenty or thirty years. Look at how popular the highway today is as a result of innovative change that blends the past, present, and future. So, why not dream big. Why not envision a new incarnation of Route 66, a Main Street of America for a new generation.
As I finished at the office quicker than expected it seemed a good idea to provide the promised details about the first Chillin’ on Beale Street of the season rather than wait until after my visit to the dentist office. I have a few other items to share that might also be of interest. One of the more interesting aspects of Route 66 is that the fascination with it is international and as a result it allows small town America to engage in an intimate cultural exchange with people from throughout the world. This was evidenced at Saturday evenings Chillin’ on Beale Street and the interaction with the group from Australia led by Dale Butel. I derive a great deal of pleasure in sharing Route 66 and the secrets of the desert southwest with others and from seeing these places from the perspective of those experiencing it for the first time. I also enjoy vintage cars, good friends, and friendly banter under a starlit desert sky. So, for me, Saturday evening was absolutely perfect.
As noted previously, I was amazed by the diversity of vehicles that were on display. There were several Model T Fords, the usual ’57 Chevies and hot rods, a 1960 El Camino, a beautiful 1950 Ford, and an even nicer De Soto sedan. With historic buildings as a backdrop and the scene framed by the stunning Kingman skyline and the last rays of an Arizona sunset glinting off vintage chrome the scene was picture perfect. Not captured by photos were the wonderful temperatures and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The next Chillin’ on Beale Street is scheduled for the evening of May 15. Needless to say, I am looking forward to that date with eager participation. An even more exciting event, the Route 66 Fun Run, kicks off on April 30. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting events on Route 66. This three day, 180 mile block party celebrates America’s love affair with the automobile on its most iconic highway, Route 66. One aspect of the event that I have always enjoyed is the diversity of vehicles cruising the double six during the event.
In years past I have watched a 1910 Cadillac climb Sitgreaves Pass, talked to folks who live in a converted Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, and another couple that drove a 1934 Chevrolet all the way from Vermont. Here are a couple of photos taken at the 2008 Fun Run. In an unrelated note, Route 66 News has been carrying several fascinating features about pedestrian tunnels under Route 66. Do you have any in your town? The final note of the day is more shameless self promotion. Ghost Towns of the Southwest is heaed for a second printing in May! To everyone who has purchased a copy, thank you. If time allows, I would be appreciative of shared impressions.
A more detailed posting about Saturday evenings Chillin’ on Beale Street, and details about forthcoming events, will follow this afternoons visit to the dentist. A quick summary is that a good time was had by one and all. As an added plus we were able to share the fun, the delightful weather, and a little Kingman hospitality with some fine folks from Australia as Dale Butel and his tour group arrived just as the festivities got under way. There were gun fighters, a wide array of vintage cars, music, and an overall pleasant evening
The wide array of vehicles on display was truly amazing. They ran the gamut from a new Challenger and Camaro, to a retractable hardtop Ford, motorcycles, vintage trucks, and even a De Soto and colorful hot rods. The next addition of Chillin’ on Beale Street is scheduled fort he evening of May 15. If your motoring east or west on the double six, I hope you will be able to join us. Now, an explanation for the title. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel and the bad apple that left a very sour taste with our visitors from down under was a very rude, and even abusive, service station attendant. On behalf of the people of Kingman, I apologize.