ROUTE 66, BLUEBERRY PIE, AND SUNNY DAYS

With the dawn of a new year fast approaching there is an increasing awareness that 2012, the year the world ends, again, is about to become history. What an incredible year it has been.
Once again the thread that seems to tie it all together was an old highway signed with two sixes. As I look back over the years, that old road seems to be the stage for the unfolding of almost my entire life story, at least since 1966.
The first quarter of the year 2012 was dominated with the demands imposed by a litany of editorial issues on The Route 66 Encyclopedia project that required resolution. First I wrote the captions, over 20,000 words, for the images selected by the editor in charge of this project. Then I received an apology and notice that the pictures that I wrote captions for were from the cull list. So, I wrote another 20,000 plus words of captions for the book.
Then the editor I was working with left the company. The new editor assigned to the project came in green and wanted to tweak the layout.

With the publication deadline looming on the horizon, there was a last minute request to write captions for twenty additional images – by the following morning. This was followed by a request to assist in finding ways to trim twenty pages.
In spite of the frustrations, missteps, and other issues the book came out nicely. So, I would be quite remiss if you were left with the impression the project was an editorial disaster. With that said I tip my hat to the editorial and layout staff for a job well done.
The final request for major adjustments to the book was mere days before the annual Route 66 Fun Run. As it turns out, in recent years the event has taken on a quite enjoyable international flavor for my dearest friend and I.
Beginning in 2011, I agreed to meet with Dale Butel’s tour group from Australia and New Zealand during the event and speak about this highways colorful history in western Arizona. This year there were two additional perks, both with an international touch.
One was an interview with Mark Fletcher, an Australian television personality, with the ruins of Cadiz Summit in California as a backdrop. The second was a surprise visit from Mark and Jo, Route 66 friends from England.
As it turned out, all of this was but a preview of a very interesting summer and fall. It was also a mere hint of just how far reaching the allure of Route 66 is, and how this old road is fast becoming a linear community that stretches from the inland sea at Chicago to the shores of the Pacific at Santa Monica. 
As you may imagine, completion of the encyclopedia project resulted in a very big sigh of relief. There was, however, little time for contemplative reflection as we had promised the Mueller’s of the Blue Swallow Motel that we would come to Tucumcari for the Wheels on 66 event. This was ten days after receipt of notification that the encyclopedia was going to print.

Author Jim Hinckley with an Australian tour
group at the ruins of Cadiz Summit along Route
66 in California.

For the second time in a row there were last minute issues at the office that left the vacation to Tucumcari in limbo until mere days before we were scheduled to leave even though a request had been submitted the previous October. Needless to say, this frustration coupled with possible job loss anxieties weren’t overly conducive to kicking the grand adventure off on a relaxed note. 
This, however, was a Route 66 adventure, and so the concerns and worries were quickly pushed to the dark recesses of the mind as the miles ticked by. By the time  my dearest friend and I were enjoying lunch at the La Posada in Winslow our thoughts were filled with eager anticipation of the discoveries awaiting us on the road to Tucumcari.
As it turned out the event did not quite go as planned but the opportunity to share the passion for the wonders of this old road with fellow enthusiasts such as Joe Sonderman, Jim Ross, Jerry McClanahan, Shellee Graham, Chris Robleski, and Katie Nelson over a pleasant fireside dinner, courtesy of the Mueller’s, at the Blue Swallow Motel more than made up for the anemic turn out. 

In looking back on that most wonderful evening, I now see that this event also foreshadowed the rest of the summer and fall. It also solidified the ever growing conviction that Route 66 is a community unto itself where barriers of language and custom fall by the wayside. 
Counted among the many blessings derived from the continuing pursuit of the childhood dream of becoming a writer when I grow up is the opportunities it presents for sharing the wonders of Route 66, the southwest, and my adopted hometown, Kingman. So, imagine the fun I had this summer when there was an opportunity to play tour guide for friends and visitors almost every day.
Dries Bessels, a friend from Amsterdam, was able to adjust his schedule allowing time for us to show him the old wagon road, the site of Fort Beale, the Silver Bell Mine, and the Hualapai Mountain Lodge. This was followed by another  visit with a tour led by Dale Butel.
Then we were asked to assist in the organization of a lunch for a group touring the old road from China. As a bonus their guide was Bob Lile, a friend from Amarillo. 

There was an opportunity to give the benediction for the Ride to Relay tour led by Roger Fox, a most enchanting dinner with Hanneke Wiersma, and Karel Kuperus, friends from Holland leading a tour,  a surprise visit from Geri Linda Metterle, an accomplished photographer, and her husband, Harald Jungbauer, and a very interesting breakfast at Dora’s Beale Street Deli shared with Zdnek Jurasek and his group from the Czech Republic.
The International Roue 66 Festival in Victorville fell far short of projected expectations but once again it proved to be a delightful opportunity to visit with friends, to make new ones, and to share the wonders of Route 66 with an international cast of enthusiasts including Anja and Wolfgang Werz of Germany, and Michael Wallis, the voice of Route 66. 
Overshadowing the exciting summer were last minute issues at the office that left vacation in limbo, again, mere days before we were to leave for Cuba, Missouri where we were to introduce The Route 66 Encyclopedia. Compounding these frustrations were a string of delayed release dates resultant of the editorial issues from the previous spring. 
One week before we were to leave, notification came that the book would be released in a couple of days. This meant I would take to the road with one book, and a promise that the rest would be sent directly to our motel in Cuba with a promised delivery date of the 19th of October. Cuba Fest, the venue for the books kick off was the 20th!
With but three days remaining before we were to hit the road, final approval for the vacation was granted. Again, however, we left with the shadow of possible job loss looming over our heads. 

Cuba Fest was truly a delight. As a bonus we were able to share it with a wide array of friends including Tom Dion, John and Judy Springs, Rich Henry, Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Buzz Waldmire, Bob Swengrosh, and a few dozen other adventurers who made the trek to Cuba for the weekend festival. 
As with our odyssey in June, the pleasures of being on the road helped cast aside the deep grey skies of job anxieties. So, we were able to focus on the adventure, and opportunities to visit with friends as well as the delightful people found along Route 66, such as Harley and Annabell in Erick, Oklahoma, and unwind as we traveled along legendary U.S. 66.
To say the very least, this year has truly been the best of times and the worst of times. Still, I would be hard pressed to change anything about it. 
Now the focus is on 2013, a year that promises an even wilder ride. I currently am contracted for two books, one with a deadline of December 31, have committed to supplying David and Kathy Alexander of Legends of America with at least one feature per month (a deal made over an excellent breakfast at Shelly’s in Cuba), have promised to assist Sam Frisher with the development of his Kingman area day tours from the El Trovatore Motel, am working on the photography that will accompany the opening of our shop in the renovated Brunswick Hotel, and am still facing a very uncertain future at the office. 
This sets the stage for the recent holiday weekend. As often happens in my world, yesterday there were fewer hours than projects to fill them. Still, I was able to finish the third chapter on one book, and an article for Legends of America.
And for the second time in two days, I had the opportunity to indulge in a number of my favorite things – a long walk in the desert under sunny skies with my dearest friend, an over sized piece of blueberry pie along the way, a short cruise down Route 66, and lots of time for writing. 
In looking back over he past few months there is really only one thing I can say. Okay, I am spoiled and will readily admit it.

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