Traditionally the weekend is split between mundane chores and good times shared with friends. On Route 66 this, as well most everything else, is magnified into something dramatic and spectacular. The weekend kicked 0ff with a little overtime at the office, polishing a new feature article for66 The Mother Road,finishing the rough draft of chapter three for the new book, and a movie (Square) shared with my dearest friend. As it turns out the excellent Australian film was ideal for setting the stage for the rest of the weekend. Saturday morning was spent at the office in a four hour marathon of conflict resolution, inventory issues, and prep work for Monday morning. This was followed by an on site visit with mural artist Sandy Rusinko who will be submitting proposals for the west wall of the historic Old Trails Garage (1915).
Author Jim Hinckley at his office that doubles as a small museum.
This was followed by a quick lunch with my dearest friend and a return trip to the office. As I am on a six day work schedule, and as we close at noon on Saturday, the office that is a museum of sorts seemed the perfect venue for the surprise Dale Butel of Route 66 Tours had planned for his summer group. At about 2:00 a small herd of rented muscle cars and motorcycles arrived, and the group of excited Aussies and Kiwi’s filled my office with a sense of eager anticipation. I spoke on the history of Route 66 for about twenty minutes, answered questions, and then distributed copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66 signed as souvenirs of their summer tour. I bid the group farewell, apologized for not being able to follow them through Oatman, and promised to make myself available to answer questions that evening at the Avi Casino and Resort in Laughlin, Nevada. The next few hours were spent answering correspondence and adjusting the Monday schedule. We had three options for our trip to Laughlin but we selected our favorite, the drive along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 through the Black Mountains. I have been traveling over this old road since 1966 and never tire of it. As a bonus it was remarkeably cool for late July on the west side of the mountains and in the Colorado River Valley (109 versus the usual 120 plus degrees).
A traffic jam in Oatman on Route 66.
After check in we met with John and Judy Springs (66 The Mother Road), Dale Butel, and a few delightful folks from Australia to discuss business, the wonders of Route 66, and what makes our respective countries special. The hours flew by and as this was a casino with no clocks or closing time, before we knew it the midnight hour came and went. After only a few hours of sleep we joined our new found friends from the land down under for breakfast and a send off as they continued their westward journey along Route 66. It was only 9:00 in the morning but the temperature was already closing in on one hundred degrees as we began our climb into the Black Mountains from the Colorado River Valley. We had planned on beating a path through Oatman before the afternoon flood of visitors constricted main street (Route 66) into an almost impassable corridor. We accomplished our goal but were still caught up in the early morning traffic jam Oatman style. On the way home we made but one stop. A some point in our travels I came up with the idea of providing a mystery photo. Can anyone tell me where this site is located, and what business was located here?
Route 66 is often referred to as a community, a 2,000 plus mile time capsule where every day is small town America circa 1955. Route 66 is a community, it is also a time capsule but what is preserved is not small town America circa 1955 but what we imagine that time and place was like. In that sense it is a great deal like the mythical Mayberry where Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and a host of colorful characters are as familiar to us as our neighbors and as welcoming as a reunion of long lost friends. It is the neighborhood of our childhood complete with local barber, town drunk, apple trees to climb, tire swing, and swimming hole.
Left to right, Dale Butel, Route 66 Tours, Judy and John Springs, 66 The Mother Road.
Counted among the many things that fascinate me about this highway is how something so purely American can hold sway, and inspire memories as well as dreams in people from every corner of the globe. Several weeks ago we had dinner with a group from Holland, Germany, and Austria led by Dries Bessels of Amsterdam. Last night we met with a group from Australia and New Zealand led by Dale Butel, owner of Route 66 Tours. Route 66 bridged every barrier of language and culture. Route 66, a highway that, technically, ceased to exist decades ago made us a community, a tight knit friendly neighborhood. That, in my humble opinion, is the key to understanding the ever growing popularity of this truncated and segmented old road. On Route 66 the sense of comforting familiarity, of shared experience, and child like excitement for the journey itself is somehow distilled into a magic elixir that blinds us to the fact some of the towns through which the old highway passes are a bit worn down at the heel and that makes everyone met along the way a friend or neighbor. For those of us fortunate enough to live along this magical old highway there is an almost endless opportunity to “chew the fat” with neighbors, to meet with old friends, and to make new acquaintances. Every day is another opportunity to hang around the fishing hole, to swap stories at the barber shop, and talk sports over coffee and pie at the corner diner. To live along America’s longest neighborhood is as close as we can come to whiling away the hours in Mayberry.
Well, the technical difficulties with the blog post on Tuesday that manifested as white lines is rather interesting. Would anyone care to chime in and explain this? So, we begin with a quick recap for those who missed the reprinted post on Facebook. First were my thoughts on the escapades of Nancy and Kevin Mueller (owners of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari). The air conditioning quit during their crossing of the Mojave Desert which resulted in them experiencing the Route 66 of the 1950s. In spite of the major setback they still managed to enjoy the trip and that epitomizes the spirit of the adventurer on Route 66. For those who travel Route 66 on purpose mishaps such as these are often seen as an opportunity to stop at places unplanned, which in turn leads to meeting fascinating and interesting people. Of course issues on the road like that encountered by Kevin and Nancy Mueller also increase the odds of meeting an opportunist with a face like a butt doctors test dummy but that too is a part of the adventurer package. The flip side is the group who would never dream of deviating from a well laid course between point “A” and point “B” as they are myopically focused on the destination. They will plan a trip with meticulous detail to ensure joy, anticipation of what awaits over the next hill, or the excitement of discovery does not taint their journey. For these folks an incident like the demise of the air conditioner would deemed a world ending event, a vast conspiracy contrived solely for their inconvenience and discomfort. I often refer to such individuals as terrarium people. Additional notes in yesterdays blog pertained to a meeting with the new owner of the historic Brunswick Hotel, a delightful gentleman from Switzerland, and another opportunity to meet with Dale Butel who is leading another merry group from the land down under along Route 66. Last but not least, I noted a bit about our plans to attend the International Route 66 Festival In Victorville on August 10. If you happen to be attending, and have a copy of one of my books or print from the Jim Hinckley Studio (see the link at the top of this post), please stop by booth. It would be my pleasure to sign these for you. Now, lets move on to new business. On the 16th of August, around noon, a group from GM will be stopping by Kingman during their Route 66 tour. We are hoping to create a time capsule feel to the area of the Powerhouse Visitor during the visit. To that end the owners of several vintage Cadillac’s (1911, 1953 convertible, 1957, and 1969) will be displaying their cars. We have also invited local car clubs to cruise even though it is sure to be a hot day. If you would like to join in on the fun, simply stop by.
Today’s post is a series of updates and notes rather than a cohesive story. Hence the title as it seemed the best descriptor for a disjointed batch of odds and ends.
The owners of the iconic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, Nancy and Kevin Mueller, seem to have taken their west bound vacation slash fact finding and promotional tour to the extreme, unintentionally. Somewhere between Kingman and the depths of the Mojave desert the air conditioning gave up the ghost on their Mustang which immediately transported them to the world of summer travel on Route 66 circa 1955.
Judging by posts and photos on Facebook, in spite of this setback they seem to be enjoying the trip. That epitomizes the spirit that separates the Route 66 adventurer from the average interstate highway traveler.
One group endures the trials and tribulations associated with a road trip. They even see it as part of the adventure as well as an opportunity, for in situations such as these you often meet the nicest and most fascinating people in places you would probably never have stopped at. Of course you will also increase the odds of meeting an opportunist with a face like a butt doctors test dummy.
The other group chooses to insulate themselves from the word around them, focus myopically on the destination, and will work tirelessly to ensure joy, anticipation, or excitement does not taint their journey. If confronted with anything that derails their carefully crafted time table or schedule the incident will be seen in the context of a world ending event, a vast conspiracy contrived solely to inconvenience them.
While we are the subject of travelers, Dale Butel, and his wife Kristi Anne, are leading another merry group from down under along Route 66. If you happen to see them give a friendly wave.
We always delight in meeting with Dale’s groups. They are always fascinating, inquisitive, and fun. The plan is to meet up with them on Saturday as they motor through Kingman, tag along through Oatman, and spend the evening with them in Laughlin.
This past Friday evening we met with the new owner of the historic Brunswick Hotel in Kingman (a delightful gentleman from Switzerland) and the contractor assigned the task of infusing the old hotel with new life. At the very least it was quite inspirational. I was left with the distinct impression this could very well be the project that stems the tide of apathy, indifference, and divisive attitudes that has kept Kingman from fully utilizing the resurgent interest in Route 66 as a catalyst for transformation.
On the weekend of August 10th, we will head west. At some point around midnight, we will turn the homestead over to my son, and entrust the neighbors as well as the Kingman Police Department (who will be notified of our departure) to watch over it with vigilance, and motor west to Victorville, California for the annual International Route 66 Festival.
The following Thursday, as per request, I will be hosting a group of GM executives and accompanying journalists when they stop in Kingman on their Route 66 tour. We would like a nice display of old cars (with the emphasis on Cadillac) at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Would you care to join us?
Schedule tentatively for the evening of the 20th is the next installment for what has become a series of meetings about the resurgent interest in Route 66, what communities are doing to utilize interest in that road as a catalyst for development, and what we can do in Kingman.
For this meeting the focus will narrow as we work out details on the creation of the World’s Largest Route 66 Museum and the transformation of the Old Trails Garage. If you would like details about the projects or the meeting, drop me a note.
That about covers it for today. Tomorrow, however …
One final note, if you have a copy of any of my books, or have ordered photographs from the Jim Hinckley Studio (see the link at the top of this column), and are going to be in Victorville for the big event, please look me up as I would be pleased to sign them. The signature isn’t worth much on checks but …
Yesterday morning was consumed with the various tasks, trials, and tribulations associated with the management of a truck leasing office. Then it was the weekly trip to Walmart where we battled our way through a sea of bargain hunters and folks looking for a place to beat the heat just to restock the pantry.
Nancy and Kevin Mueller at the Hilltop Motel in Kingman.
Counted among the many rewards derived from our various writing and photographic endeavors is the people we meet, the opportunity to share the wonders of my adopted hometown, and learning that our work served as a catalyst for someones grand adventure on Route 66 and the road less traveled. Last evening, after a long and frustrating week, the reward was made manifest in a visit with Kevin and Nancy Mueller, the proprietors of the iconic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico who were on a westward vacation/fact finding tour. We met them last fall during our whirlwind trip along Route 66, and enjoyed their hospitality at the Blue Swallow Motel during the Wheels on 66 event in June. We were quite pleased to reciprocate and honored to serve as their tour guide to the overlooked treasures in Kingman.
Right to left, Kevin Mueller, Nancy Mueller, and author Jim Hinckley at Redneck’s in Kingman, Arizona.
Counted among those often overlooked gems isRedneck’s Southern Pit BBQ, one of several excellent restaurants on Beale Street (one block north of Route 66) and in the historic district. We always enjoy sharing this place with guests from out of town but last evening we had the added bonus of watching the cars cruise by during the month installment of Chillin’ on Beale. We were fortunate to have a summer storm blow through. These storms with their fierce clouds add unbelievable depth and contrast to the awe inspiring landscapes that cradle Kingman. One of the best places for enjoying these storms is near Fort Beale where the vast network of Cerbat foothills trails begin. This is just off of US 93 at the edge of the city limits. Here there is a sense of wilderness even though the traffic flowing between Las Vegas and Kingman is hidden behind a low ridge and the historic district of Kingman is almost within spitting distance. During the months of fall, spring, and winter my dearest friend retreat to these trails often when we need some time to simply restore the mind with a bit of solitude and stunning desert landscapes. All to quickly the time came to bid adios and so a delightful evening drew to a close with the promise we would see the Muellers in October as we motor east to debut the Route 66 encyclopedia at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. Next week the reward will be made manifest in meeting with Dale Butel and his tour group from Australia. Then it is off to Victorville for the International Route 66 Festival.