If I were allowed but one word to describe the July edition of Chillin on Beale Street, a salute to automotive orphans, it would be this. WOW!
The near record heat resulted in a slow start for the event but as the sun sank into the west behind the towering buttes and mesas of the Cerbat Mountains, the shadows cast by the historic buildings began to lengthen, and the temperatures began dropping, the streets filled with vehicles and the sidewalks with crowds. The theme for this event has always been “anything with wheels” and the diversity of vehicles on display and seen cruising the street exemplified this in spades.
The crudest rat rod sat sandwiched between a beautiful 1961 Chrysler 300 two door hard top and a fully restored military Jeep from World War II. A beautiful 1949 De Soto sedan with period accessories including spot lights and window cooler, gleamed in the sun next to a 1947 Hudson pick up and the ubiquitous 1957 Chevy hot rod.
There were also a few for sale signs to tempt the imagination. For me the deal of the day was a solid, good running 1939 Chevy 1 ton truck sporting a $2,000 price tag. However, the one that seemed to draw the most attention was a Humbug, a miniature Hummer kit on a VW chassis. There was that spring like sense of rebirth in the atmosphere as crowds ebbed and flowed through the shops, down the streets, participated in the poker walk, and savored a chilled glass of wine under the awning shaded sidewalk tables of the Wine Cellar. Locals and tourist from Holland, Germany, and other countries mingled and snapped photos of the automotive oddities and rarities framed against a backdrop of quintessential western scenery and century old buildings.
Topping my list for surprising finds was a wonderful 1948 Indian. The owner resurrected the motorcycle from basket case to road warrior and has ridden it through 48 states and several Canadian provinces. There was not one but three Nash Metropolitans and a 1947 Hudson pick up truck. A short wheel base 1946 Ford bus that now serves as a customized party crusier was another surprise.
Representatives of orphan brands included De Soto, one, Hudson, two, and Nash, three. There was also a foreign element in attendance including a rare VW pick up truck, a 1963 Triumph TR3, and a garishly painted MG coupe. There were also a number of modern orphans represented by Saturn, Pontiac, and a number of Oldsmobiles including a 1972 Olds 98 convertible.
Music, food, fun, and vintage cars. It has me looking forward to the August edition, a salute to Mopar, with an expanded venue that includes cruising and special evening hours for the Power House Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum. I have a feeling I am not the only one.
Well, another week is shot in the backside. As is usual in my world it was another one filled with interesting adventures. As a topper there is the Chillin on Beale Street event this evening, a salute to the automotive orphans, that Cars & Parts magazine.
Kingman is fast becoming a hot bed of family orientated activity, much of which centers around Route 66. To keep abreast of the happenings check out the calendar of events at Route 66 Info Center, our companion site, or become a member of Destination Kingman on Facebook, The week began with diligent focus on a goal to complete 12,000 words for the new project, a Route 66 Encyclopedia and atlas. I managed to reach that milestone late Monday afternoon so to wrap this project up that just leaves about 138,000 words, around 1,500 images, at least one trip to Chicago and another to Santa Monica to get those images, and then the writing of the corresponding captions. Much of the remaining free time this past week, as it has for the past couple of weeks, was spent with correspondence ( a formal plea for help as the scope of this project dawned on me). The response by Bill Cadenhead, Laurel Kane, Darlene Bitter, Ron “Tatoo Man” Jones, Debra Holden, Jerry McClanahan, Joe Sonderman, and countless other fans of the double six was overwhelming. For this I am truly grateful. There are two main objectives that I have for this work. One, provide an accurate history of the many facets of this iconic highway from Afton Station to the National Old Trails Highway, from the Harvey House chain to the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel. The second is to make it as current as possible to ensure travelers have the latest information and that those pouring their heart and souls into revitalization or preservation are not forgotten. Of course adequate sales would be nice. The publisher would like to turn a profit and I am not adverse to eating every day or being able to afford a road trip on occasion. I also penned a profile of Ross Judson and his creation, Continental Motors for the monthly column written for Cars & Parts magazine. Giving this gentleman a few minutes in the spot light exemplifies why I derive so much pleasure from writing The Independent Thinker. Mr. Judson is another one of those amazing figures in history that seems to have fallen through the cracks of history. An argument could easily be made that his contributions to the development of the American automobile industry were as great as Henry Ford or Horace Dodge.
The real job, the one that pays the bills, puts food on the table, and that keeps Barney the Wonder truck (seen here at Cool Springs on the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in western Arizona), as well as the Jeep, on the road, and that supports my writing habit, consumed much of the week. Still, it was not without adventure. We had a fellow show up with a truck overloaded by more than 3,000 pounds, not including the overloaded trailer he was pulling, with a complaint about overheating on the drive up from Needles where the temperatures were exceeding 115 degrees! It never cease to fill me with wonder how people can reach fifty or sixty years of age and still have the common sense of an 18 year old. Small adventures dominated the remainder of the week; working on details for the anniversary/photo safari to Prescott and Crown King in September, a California photo safari in early October, and the grand adventure – Amtrak to Chicago, visit my dad in Michigan, a photo safari along Route 66, and participation in the Route 66 festival in Amarillo. That one will most likely be the first week in June, 2011. Of course as most things are in my world, that is subject to change at less than a moments notice.
A header like this is a hard way to start a post. Some might even find it offensive. However, the answer has a direct bearing to the discussion of the day. It doesn’t matter what you call him, he will not come any way. For most of the past dozen years or so I have puzzled over the ever increasing popularity of legendary Route 66. I marveled at the intense, almost myopic focus instilled by this amazing old highway. Why has this highway transcended its original purpose to become an icon, a destination unto itself? Why has US 6 remained a virtual unknown entity even though it is more than 90% intact, is the highest US highway, and is lined with a staggering array of historic and scenic sites? The cold hard fact is this. Route 66 has had a head start in regards to the publicity needed for a highway, business, or person to become legendary. In fact, the publicity actually predates the creation of US 66 by a year or two. During the teens, the Lincoln Highway rose in popularity like a Roman candle on the Fourth of July but by 1936 it was on the fast track to becoming an historic footnote. Its fans, its supporters, unlike proponents of Route 66, were unable to keep it relevant to the times. As a result of this relevancy US 6 or US 50, or any of a dozen other highways, can only languish in the shadows. Even fans of the legendary, historic Lincoln Highway, a road once as famous and popular as the double six, can only hope that by emulating what made US 66 the Main Street of America can they siphon a bit of its fame and international acclaim. Michael Wallis, the author whose seminal work, Rhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0393059383&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifroute 66: The Mother Roadhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0312281617&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifris a foundational element in the resurgent interest in Route 66, recently turned his talents toward heralding the history and charms of the Lincoln Highway. There is no doubt this work kept the ember glowing, it might have even sparked a small flame of interest but still this wonderful old highway remains an after thought to many who seek the road less traveled. And so Route 66 continues to evolve, to become a 2,000 plus mile time capsule where the past, present, and future of the American love affair with the road trip and the automobile blend seamlessly. A near perfect example of this is found in Arcadia, Oklahoma where a century old round barn and a futuristic soda pop store firmly anchor the past and future to the ribbon of asphalt that connects them, Route 66. The Lincoln Highway is steeped in history, much of which predates the automobile by decades. It passes through some of the most majestic scenery in America. It is an historic highway that struggles for an identity in the modern era.
Route 66 is an historic highway. It is a relevant highway. Stop by Pops in Arcadia on a warm summer evening, feel the excitement as a new generation discovers its charm, and you will see the future of Route 66. The Lincoln Highway, like the Santa Fe Trail and Old Spanish Trail, are to often overlooked by those in search of the road less traveled. All are storied roads with much to offer but there is only one legendary Route 66. I suppose the upcoming Chillin’ on Beale Street in Kingman can serve as an excellent automotive analogy. For most old roads, time stopped around 1961 when they pulled the plug on the De Soto and Edsel. On Route 66 the orphan automobile includes the De Soto and the Edsel, the Packard and the Hudson, but it also includes the Saturn, Pontiac, Mercury, Plymouth, and Oldsmobile.
For Route 66 time did not stop in 1950, 1960, or 1982. It will not stop in 2010 or 2020. Vestiges of its past and vestiges of its predecessors will always be an important part of a tapestry that is never finished.
Time constraints make this a short post today. Some of this may seem like old news for regular followers of this blog but please bear with me or skip to the end for information about exciting new developments. Still , for those who enjoy vintage iron (driving or seeing), Route 66, or that great American past time that is the road trip, this post is for you. Our first item of the day is a quick note about the Donut Depot, another little treasure often missed by travelers. If you like a little vintage iron with your coffee, breakfast, or lunch, they are adding a gallery of photos showcasing the hot rods, custom cars, and classics that frequent this restaurant on Saturday, and now, Sunday mornings.
The Donut Depot is easy to find. From Route 66, Andy Devine Avenue, turn north on Stockton Hill Road directly across from the Dambar. It will be on the left side just past the cemetery, about a quarter mile.
The second item of the day is the July edition of Chillin on Beale Street scheduled for this coming Saturday evening. As noted previously the event is free for spectators or participants and is open to anything with wheels.
However, this edition will be unique in that it is the first with a theme – a salute to the automotive orphan. The organizers do not have limits on the number of vehicle entries but only the first two hundred orphans to arrive will receive a commemorative magnetic plaque.
The recent restructuring of the American automobile industry has added Mercury, Plymouth, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile to the list of automotive orphans. Add these to the possible representatives from more than 2,000 manufacturers and the potential for rare sightings, as well as for a very eclectic showing that could run the gamut from the Aztec and Pacer to Hudson Hornet and Studebaker Lark, rises exponentially. Now factor in vehicles from Europe. Wow!
I have no idea what to expect but the thought that Beale Street on Saturday night will be lined with a veritable parade of automotive history fills me with with eager anticipation.
On August 14TH, Martin Swanty Chrysler on Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) in Kingman will be hosting a huge blow out block party that includes cars, a Harley Davidson display, a book signing and Jeep promotion, burn out contests, and a pool party. Details are still to be confirmed but this looks like an event that should be filed under “DO NOT MISS!”
The 21ST of August is the next edition of Chillin on Beale Street. Again it is a free, anything with wheels event. However, the spotlight will shine on Mopar and a number of new activities are being added to the schedule of events including special hours at the Power House and Route 66 Museum. September 18. Mark your calendar, plan your trip, buy your train ticket. What ever it takes, be in Kingman on the 18TH of September. First, is the Mohave County Fair. In spite of the dramatic growth of the area during the past two decades the fair retains its rural atmosphere with an emphasis on livestock, crafts, and a carnival. The noon hour, as well as an hour or so on both sides, is scheduled for the annual Praise Chapel car show. The event takes place in the church parking lot just off Hualapai Mountain Road about six blocks south of Route 66. This event always attracts the local auto enthusiasts and as a result it is always a hit for those who enjoy vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles. That evening the September edition of Chillin of Beale Street sends summer out with a bang. In a recent discussion with the organizer it was noted that the planned theme will be a salute to the road trip. In the works – but not confirmed – is a road trip themed film festival, the car show, travel trailer/motor home display (new and old), and a Route 66 book show with an important twist, the world premier of an exciting new book, Greetings From Route 66http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=076033885X&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, that is scheduled for an October 1 release. On a personal note it looks as though we will again be taking to the road beginning in late September. Trip one a weekend photographic safari to the Prescott and then on to the historic mining town of Crown King via the astounding Senator Highway. Do not let the name fool you. This road is a highway in name only. In actuality it is a territorial era road that connects the mining camps of the Bradshaw Mountains with Prescott, the territorial capital. Trip two is another California adventure. The primary focus will be photography for the forthcoming Route 66 encyclopedia but it will also include a visit to my favorite book store – Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank. Stay tuned for exciting details!
Last year the Kingman Route 66 Association, in conjunction with the Kingman Downtown Merchants, hatched a simple idea to shine the spotlight on the Kingman historic district once a month, on the third Saturday night of the month, from April until September. Step one, invite area car clubs and enthusiasts to attend. Step two, get merchants to stay open. Step three, invite vendors or groups to attend. Step four, add music. Step five, promote, promote, promote. Now, for July, a new twist has been added. The theme of “anything with wheels” continues but beginning with the July 17TH event vehicles representing a particular manufacturer or group will be the celebrities of the evening.
For July it will be the orphans. So, the first two hundred owners of vehicles, regardless of condition, manufactured by Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Mercury, as well as Studebaker, Packard, Hudson, De Soto, Nash, Edsel, or one of the more than three thousand automobile manufacturers that have fallen by the wayside, will be awarded a special prize. There is no charge for entry of a vehicle or for spectators. The association funds the event through sponsorship designed advertising packages and the sale of vendor spaces. The event is much more than cars. There is a poker walk with a variety of prizes, games for the kids, and other activities that with past events have included belly dancers, bands, and a western gunfighter reenactment group. Evening temperatures in Kingman are often quite pleasant – 75 to eighty degrees – so this is a great way for residents of Lake Havasu City or Bullhead City to beat the heat. It is also a treat for those motoring west, or east, on legendary Route 66.
Organizers are not resting on their laurels. For August plans include a gala celebration of Mopar, cars and trucks, and special exhibits, as well as hours at the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum. In September, the hint was dropped that the event may include a “Salute to Route 66 and the road trip in film” film festival. Stay tuned for details.