Christmas, 2011, is now history and the last week of the year is unfolding. That means we (my dearest friend and I) are less than seven days away from our annual excursion into the desert for reflection, mediation, celebration and picnic, our way of closing out one year and welcoming in another.  
This year we decided to combine our sojourn with a bit of a Route 66 road trip. So, by next Tuesday we should be able to scratch “climb the crater at Amboy” from our list.
To say the very least, in our relationship that has spanned almost three decades the months between November 2010, and December 2011 have been the most exciting, most rewarding, and most challenging yet encountered. But our trials pale in comparison to what many of our friends and acquaintances have endured. 

Author and historian David Clark, and Jim Hinckley,
at the Route 66 Museum in Berwyn, Illinois.

The high points of the year are numerous and include the first road trip on Route 66 east of Springfield, Missouri with my dearest friend, and meeting some amazing and wonderful people along the way such as Connie Echols and Jane Reed in Cuba, the Mueller’s in Tucumcari, Michael Wallis in Amarillo, Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Mark Spangler, and Dave Clark in Chicago. The low points include a few health issues that magnified the increasing awareness I have passed the half way point in this thing we call life, the loss of two immediate family members in the space of two weeks, the loss of a very good friend, and the deepening divisions in this great nation that cast a pallor over 2012.
Like breaking rays of the sun through storm clouds were the visits with friends old and new throughout the year. We were fortunate to have several opportunities for sharing a meal with Dale Butel of Route 66 Tours from Australia, as well as with fascinating members of his tour groups, and a delightful dinner with Dries and Marion Bessels from Holland, their group, my son, his wife, and our grand kids at Redneck’s.  
Mirroring the personal life was the writing and photography career in 2011. The triumphs and frustrations were many in 2011, but in more than twenty years of striving toward the goal of becoming a writer when I grow up, it was the most rewarding.
In November of 2010, a two year game of phone tag and schedule changes culminated in two interviews with Jay Leno, and a visit to his incredible mechanical menagerie. Promotion for the latest book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, kicked off at the International Route 66 Festival in Amarillo in June, and went into a second printing in October.
I beat the deadline for the grueling Route 66 Encyclopedia & Atlas project by ten days and, after almost six months or preparation and negotiation, had the two book deal for 2012 shelved until further notice as a result of the current economic climate. I received notification of this, as well as a summons for jury duty at the federal court in Prescott, in the days and weeks before Christmas.
In November, notification was received that my dearest friend and I had been selected as the photographers for the Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit, a state centennial project being developed for the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman. Earlier, I had received notification of nomination as photographer of the year for True West magazine.
A bittersweet episode on our Route 66 adventure in October encapsulates the year quite well. My dearest friend, Dean Kennedy, Rich Dinkella, author and historian Joe Sonderman, and I were enjoying a delightful breakfast seasoned with animated conversation at Zeno’s, a Route 66 institution. 

From left to right, Dean Kennedy, Rich Dinkella, Jim
Hinckley, and Joe Sonderman at Zeno’s.

Permeating the entire meal was a sense of loss resultant of the knowledge that Zeno’s was closing its doors in a few short weeks. The meal ended in somber tones after an emotional visit with the owner.
A quick peek into the crystal ball provides mist shrouded hints that the year 2012 will be more of the same, though I hope we may avoid the depths of sadness that accompanies the loss of friends and family. There is the excitement of an Albuquerque book signing in January that will will entail a train trip and an almost twenty four day of being on the go overshadowed by the spectre of jury duty that could derail my carefully crafted spring schedule.
This is till the daunting task of the final edit, and caption writing, for the Route 66 encyclopedia but the reward with be an opportunity to use the books debut and promotion to shine light on the city of Cuba in Missouri and their inspirational efforts to transform the community by building on the resurgent interest in Route 66. Of course, that means we will have to endure the trials and tribulations associated with a delightful fall journey along Route 66, something we will strive to do without to big of a grin.
In June we have been invited to Tucumcari to participate in that cities celebrations, a part of the New Mexico Motor Tour on Route 66. Now, if I can just figure out how to make the slightest of detours for a visit with Fran at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas, fit into that schedule, we will have a perfect road trip.
I suppose the old literary line, the best of times, the worst of times, will suffice as a descriptor for 2011, and, quite possibly, 2012.