Yesterday, I passed a very memorable personal milestone in the form of a 120,000 word count for the text of the rough draft. The target goal is 150,000 words and then will begin the work to ensure it is a bit more presentable which will be followed by submitting it to a number of Route 66 experts such as Scott Piotrowski, Jim Ross, Dave, Clark, and Joe Sonderman to ensure accuracy.
This project, a Route 66 encyclopedia, is by far the largest, most daunting, and most humbling endeavor ever undertaken. In scope and size it dramatically dwarfs The Big Book of Car Culture, a massive tome that chronicled all aspects of our automotive culture and its evolution that I penned with Jon Robinson.
With that book there was a near constant challenge to separate fact from fiction on topics as diverse as crash test dummies and stoplights but with the Route 66 encyclopedia the daunting task is in sifting through eighty years of hand me down stories and newspaper clippings to discover the origins of a one pump gas station that morphed into a full roadside complex. Then there is the growing sense that in spite of having thousands of entries I will overlook something, not have room to profile a person or place of importance, or that I will be in error on a date.
The humbling aspect of the project is in the subject itself. It is almost as though I have been entrusted with the task of writing a fully accurate, all encompassing biography of George Washington, Saint Paul, or the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
I am quite sure that to discover, and write about, an affair George Washington had with his wife’s sister (if she had a sister) would really stir up a bit of controversy. As it is now quite popular to paint the founders as self serving, hypocritical, rich white men there would be those who would herald the book a revelation but there would also be a grand opportunity for a rope salesman as the lynch mob would be forming in front of my house.
Likewise with this book, a chronicle of the eighty-five year history of Route 66. I am quite sure inclusion of things such as the Green Book for the Negro Motorist or Murray’s Dude Ranch, billed as The World’s Largest Negro Dude Ranch, will create a bit of stir. Likewise with Ed Waldmire’s refusal to adhere to accepted segregation rules by seating one and all at the Cozy Dog. 
Then there are those items that will raise an eyebrow or two, such as the illegal still operated under the parking lot of the White Rock Court in Kingman, and another motel where the owner built the complex specifically for his voyeuristic pleasures – in the 1930s. No rose colored glasses were used in this project.
I am quite happy to report, however, that according to my research things such as this were the exception rather than the rule. From its inception Route 66 represented opportunity, either as the road to somewhere better or the chance to make a fine living by taking care of the folks headed for that better place.
That spirit continues today. In fact, in recent discussions with Jay Leno, I noted that this legendary highway may just be the last bastion of the American entrepreneurial spirit made manifest in mom and pop shops.
Just look at Connie Echols and the Wigwam Motel, or the Muellers with the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, or Dan Rice with 66-to-Cali, the dreamers who give life to America’s most famous highway. Only on Route 66 will the Holiday Inn or Burger King be given a run for their money.
The illustrations will be a relatively easy endeavor compared to the writing of the captions. Mike Ward, Joe Sonderman, and a few other time capsule keepers are graciously opening their collections to me. Kerrick James, the artistic master that has partnered with me on four previous projects, will also be contributing.
For the remainder of the illustrations, my dearest friend and I will serve as the primary photographers. That will serve as the principle reason behind our trip east on Route 66 to Chicago in early October.
This is one of the more exciting aspects of the Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas. We have supplied illustrated material for a wide array of feature articles written. We also supplied the cover shot for Backroads of Route 66, and a number of photos for Ghost Towns of Route 66, but this will be our first major endeavor as a team.
I always claim books written are a team effort as it is my dearest friend that provides the support, the encouragement, ideas, direction, and an occasional sandwich when I become to engrossed in the work. This time the term team effort takes on a whole new meaning.
On a final note, I may not have the name recognition of Michael Wallis or Newt Gingrich but if my presence would be of asssitance for drawing attention to an event, a fund raiser, or your business in October, please let me know. It would be my pleasure to help keep the dream alive.


On more than one occasion I have noted that in my world there is a certain disconnect between Jim Hinckley, the writer, and Jim Hinckley, the former rounder turned respectable citizen and hardworking family man. Simply put, I find it difficult to see myself in the individual on stage and in the spotlight.
After more than twenty years of sharing my adventures on the road less traveled by trading the written word for cash, or a wiring harness for the truck, or two tickets to San Francisco or … I have become accustomed to seeing my name in a byline even in somewhat prestigious publications. But in the past year or so those occasions when the flash of the spotlight leaves me standing like a deer staring into headlights are becoming more common but this has not made it any easier to merge the two Jim’s.
Last year it was interviews with Jay Leno, with Tonya Mock on AM Arizona, with National Public Radio, and the BBC. This year it is Michael Wallis asking for an autographed copy of my book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, and people from Switzerland stopping by the office to have me sign their book as well as t-shirt.
Then, today, I picked up the August issue of True West magazine. Yes, I had advance knowledge that they were going to excerpt selections from Ghost Towns of Route 66, my fourth project with Kerrick James, photographic artist as partner, and yes, I saw the PDF proofs upon my return from Amarillo. 
Still, nothing prepared me for the superb layout featuring text from the introduction of the book and select images, as well as a slick map of Route 66 highlighting points of interest such as the museum in Clinton, Oklahoma, and the museum in Pontiac, Illinois, and a time line of key events in the highways history. Giving this an even more dreamlike feel is the fact that I used to buy this magazine withhard earned allowance money at Desert Drug, the same place Bob Bell, Executive Editor of True West, purchased his copies as a kid.
Another delightful surprise was the discovery that I was not alone in representing Route 66 in this issue of that publication. On page 82, was a very favorable review of Joe Sonderman’s book, Route 66 Missourihttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0764334131&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr.
For those who are unfamiliar with Joe or his work, he is the author of several excellent books as well as the gate keeper for a vast repository of Route 66 time capsules in the form of post cards. His generosity in allowing authors to access his collection, including me, have meant the difference between bland, dead books, and books that grab the attention and entice the reader to turn pages.
However, what truly left me speechless wasn’t the fact I had received such accolades from a publication admired since childhood, or to find I was in very good company, it was the caption that accompanied a thumb nail image of the books cover. “This article is excerpted from Ghost Towns of Route 66, written by Jim Hinckley with photography by Kerrick James. Both are recipients of True West’s 2011 Best Photographers of the Year honor.”
This was not something I had prior knowledge of. I was learning this along with everyone else who picked up a copy.
Over the years I have managed, with a certain degree of success, to imitate a mechanic, powder man, jack leg operator, cowboy, manager, repossessor, truck driver, preacher, and writer without being caught or causing undue injury to myself or anyone else. Now I am being called out for imitating a photographer! Wow!