|Barney the wonder truck at Cool Springs|
Well, yesterday Norm Fisk, the producer from Diamond Valley Productions, and I finished the first installment of Jim Hinckley’s America. Now all that remains is the final edit and, perhaps, a few retakes.
I am rather excited about getting the first video into the market place as it will provide a new venue for me to share a bit of the history behind my favorite places on the road less traveled. As envisioned this will be an entire series profiling Route 66 locations as well others well off the beaten path.
The first installment will focus on my adopted hometown, Kingman, Arizona. Plans are to make Prescott, Arizona the center of focus for the second installment.
Equally as exciting, even if I am not involved, is another project under development by Diamond Valley Productions. This will be a documentary about Kenny Howard, aka Von Dutch.
In an unrelated note it would seem I have stumped the fans of the double six. As we did not have a winner with the second series of the Ultimate Route 66 contest we will start fresh next Friday evening. This time there will be two prizes at stake.
Overall the past couple of weekends have been rather productive. The current project, a Route 66 historic atlas, is moving forward at a slow but steady pace.
While we are on that subject, if you happen to have any ideas or information pertaining to crime scenes or movie related sites, or with celebrity association on Route 66, I would sure enjoy hearing about them. As with the encyclopedia the challenge with this book is fast becoming what to include, what to exclude, and how to be concise without being sterile.
After a long hiatus Barney the wonder truck, our tried, true, and tired 1968 Dodge Adventurer is back on the road, sort of. It would seem the time has come for something a bit more extensive than a tune up, carburetor repair, and grease. Still, it should get me back and forth to work for a while without a worry.
I am not at liberty to provide full disclosure at this time but a very major event is shaping up for western Arizona in 2014. Advertisers and sponsors will be needed but I can assure extensive international exposure in return for the investment. Please drop a note to discuss details.
The deadline for the second grand adventure of 2013 (the first was to Kelso in the Mojave Desert) is fast approaching. On Saturday, April 6, my dearest friend and I will venture into the very belly of the beast for a very exciting book signing at Auto Books-Aero Books in Burbank. We are quite excited to be a part of this multi author event promoted as The Great America Road Trip.
I am hoping our loyal old Jeep will be ready in time as we this stalwart companion fits us like a well worn pair of leather gloves. We are again experiencing a most frustrating issue with a rear brake, and this is after replacing the drums, rebuilding the entire rear differential, and replacing every brake component, some more than once.
I just received notice that Ron Jones, the legendary tattoo man of Route 66 has been hospitalized. I am quite sure a phone call or two from fans of the double six would brighten his day. The phone number is 918-331-1585 and he is in room number 585. If you call please tell him Jim says hello.
As a final note the tours often alluded to are now available. Currently I am serving as a guide for two Route 66 related tours, this adventure through Oatman and along the Colorado River, and the day trip being offered as part of a package through the historic El Trovatore Motel.
Currently under development is an adjustable schedule, and distance, walking tour of the Route 66 corridor in Kingman. It will include an often overlooked, pristine and scenic segment of the pre 1920 alignment of the National Old Trails Highway.
You have my personal guarantee this will be a most memorable experience for movie buffs as well as fans of the old double six. Inquire for more information or stay tuned for details.
From the venerable old Hackberry General Store iconic Route 66 sweeps onto the broad Hualapai Valley. At the old Lake Mead Rancheros Café where a misplaced Easter Island head casts long morning shadows, the dusty tracks of the National Old Trails Highway have been transformed into a ribbon of blacktop that points straight as an arrow toward the Cerbat Mountainson the distant horizon.
A hint of urban sprawl, a few dusty remnants from the era of the tail fin and Edsel, and an old Stuckey’s are the only clue that this is the 21st century. At the first stop light, where the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park masks the old Kingman Army Airfield commemorated by a pair of memorials to war time tragedy and an original control tower at the terminal, Route 66 assumes the persona of the interstate that eclipsed it and continues its course into Kingman as a four lane highway.
Interestingly enough, Route 66 slices through Kingman with an odd sort of chronological precision. First there is a touch of urban sprawl circa 1960s that engulfs the forlorn vestiges of when this was still the Main Street of America.
Next, where the cold and impersonal interstate highway casts its dark shadow over the old road, there is a sea of generic motels, restaurants, and stores, a reflection of the American roadside for most of the past half century. As the interstate fades from view in the mirror the modern and almost modern intermingle.
Here a NAPA store has replaced a Whiting Brothers station, the last remnant of the Hobbs Truck Stop masquerades as a Penske truck leasing office, and a long dusty strip of empty stands in mute testimony to the horrendous propane explosion that erased the businesses along this section of highway in the early 1970s. A desert oasis in the form of a city park draws the eye from the old crossing that funneled the National Old Trails Highwayinto Kingman through Slaughterhouse Canyon, and U.S. 93 around the HualapaiMountains on its southerly course to Phoenix. .
A few down at the heels vestiges of glory days on the double six crowd together just before the venerable old highway is bisected by a modern thoroughfare. Behind the facade of Lomeli’s Garden Arts hides Art Bell’s Flying A station, the towering shell of the sign that once lured the weary traveler with a promise of a good night sleep at the Kingman Motel looms across the now empty Denny’s that awaits its turn to rise from the ashes of abandonment like the mythical Phoenix.
Here motels from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s provide a tangible link to better times along the old double six. In the shadow of the cold glow of the Walgreens sign where the City Café once stood, and the circa 1929 Siesta Motel slumbers in obscurity. Even fans of the double six overlook this roadside time capsule that rose from the rocky desert soil at the dawning of the Great Depression.
Where the trains rumble through the canyon as they have for more than a century, time is being turned back at the historic El Trovatore Motel and the neon again glows bright. Ensuring the illusion of time travel is the neon glow of the Hilltop Motel on the north side of the highway.
It was here in the era of I Like Ike buttons Route 66 that mimicked the cold, soulless interstate that replaced it, first with the transformation of the El Trovatore from a resort into a motel and then in the red cinder hill of the same name halved by mechanical monsters that straightened the kinks of the narrow old highway that had coursed down the hill on what is now Chadwick Drive.
Today that savage cut is as a portal into a lost world. As Route 66 courses west through the historic heart of Kingman, one can almost sense the ghosts of the past in the swirling dust.
There is the corner where Pamela Anderson was arrested for indecent exposure during a Playboy magazine shoot in 1992. This is the intersection where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard crossed their tracks onto Fourth Street in their race to the courthouse for a marriage license before closing time on that early spring day in 1939.
In 1927 a car load of hired thugs sped south through this intersection as they made their getaway after murdering Tom King at the American Kitchen next to the Hotel Beale. Twenty years later, Tap Duncan a pioneering rancher, a friend of Tom Mix’s, and a man linked to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid through mistaken identity died here after being struck by a distracted driver.
That forlorn old hotel that bears the name of the man who led a camel caravan across northern Arizona before the advent of the Civil War was home to Andy Devine, Kingman’s favorite son, and a haven for Charles Lindbergh during his stay to oversee construction of the airfield that would serve as an important link in the revolutionary TAT Airline that combined air and rail travel for unprecedented coast to coast time.
Route 66 rolls past the venerable old Kimo Café masquerading as Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, the monument to a time when the railroad was king in the form of a 1920s era Baldwin Mountain Locomotive, and the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Unlike the landscapes that embraced the highway on the east side of town, on the west it is squeezed into a canyon shared by more than 100 years of railroading, and the course of the National Old Trails Highway that also carried Route 66 traffic until 1937.
To follow Route 66 through Kingman is to experience why this old road once labeled as the Main Street of America is now known around the world as the highway of dreams. To follow Route 66 through Kingman is to experience a bit of Jim Hinckley’s America.
There I was, minding my own business (sort of)when a friend sent an email with a link and note asking if my thoughts had ever turned to showing people around the neighborhood, roughly the area from Kingman to Oatman and down to Topock. I have already committed to helping Sam at the El Trovatore Motel develop his Route 66 adventure tours (www.eltrovatore.com) which covers Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman.
I also meet with a wide array of tour groups as they stop in Kingman. As a number of these tour company owners look me up every year, my assumption is that what I offer enhances their adventures on the old double six.
This coupled with the fact that I really enjoying sharing the history and wonders of my neighborhood, and that more than a few folks over the years have noted that I seem to have a God given gift for telling people where to go, a great deal of thought has been given to just such an idea.
After a bit of deliberation, and a great deal of thinking, I decided to submit my proposal and see what the response was. Well, it was approved and so I am now officially in a position to add some zest to the Route 66 experience in western Arizona.
Back in the summer of ’66, who could have guessed that scrawny kid pedaling the old bicycle along the broken asphalt in the shadow of the Black Mountains would someday be referred to as “Mr. Route 66?”
Before signing out this afternoon I have a bit of venting to do. In our historic district we have one huge building that has the potential to serve as the hinge pin for revitalization of the area.
The main section is massive with a pair of sweeping stair cases, a row of windows along the upper mezzanine, large display windows, a massive cellar with freight elevator, and a stunning old wood paneled office with walk in safe. There are three other smaller store fronts in this building, and three operational businesses (Wine Cellar, Redneck’s Barbecue, and Beale Street Brews & Gallery) are key components in area development. And this is what is envisioned for the property…
Letters to the editor anyone?
After discussions about the marketing and promotion of Route 66 beyond the Route 66 community with Michael Wallis on Saturday, my thoughts drifted toward Ned Jordan and his artistically crafted “Somewhere West of Laramie” and other promotions for the Jordan. In turn this led to meditations about other visionary promotional campaigns designed during the formative years of the American auto industry as well as Route 66 promotions past, present, and future.
The Calkins & Holden ad agency created innovative and art quality promotional pieces for the now legendary Pierce Arrow in the years before World War I that have endured the test of time and even outlived the company they were designed to promote.
In stark contrast to the dry, word heavy promotions that dominated automotive promotion in the period, work from this agency was vibrant, and colorful with little or no text. They accomplished this by hiring leading illustrators and artists of the day – Louis Fancher, Edward Borein, Newell Wyeth, and Ludwig Hohlwien.
I wonder what the response would be to Route 66 promotional posters featuring the work of craftsman such as Jerry McClanahan or Chris Robleski displayed in airports, at bus stops, and locations far removed from that highway? Imagine just one example of these artists work with the simple slogan “The Dream is Alive – Route 66.”
Route 66 is a living, breathing time capsule, an opportunity to experience the best of American life from the era before the Internet, before cell phones, before the interstate highway and yet much of the promotion and many of the festivals are crafted in a “preach to the choir” sort of manner.
Before Calkins & Holden a great deal of automotive advertisement as well as promotion targeted the automotive enthusiast rather than the vast untapped market of people still running the roads and highways in a horse and buggy. Yes, the Pierce Arrow was a limited production and expensive automobile that depended on snob appeal for sales but the advertisements produced for that company led other manufacturers to create similar promotional pieces that targeted a wider audience.
Marketing Route 66 requires the latter rather than the former. Those who insist on five star accommodations and the most modern of amenities will never be satisfied with the simple pleasures of an evening at the Blue Swallow Motel or Motel Safari.
There is a hunger in this nation for tangible links to what is perceived as simpler times, for an opportunity to escape the confusion, the worries, and the stress of the modern era. There is an international hunger for the romanticized perception of America and that is encapsulated all along the Route 66 corridor.
Harnessing this hunger is key to the survival, the evolution, and the development of Route 66. The challenge to the Route 66 community is finding ways to promote its wonder, its charm, its unique culture to wider audience.
There is little doubt that spring has arrived in our corner of the world. Fruit trees are in blossom, temperatures hover near eighty degrees, and the bees in the rosemary and sage greet me every morning.
As a result, it is almost painful to address indoor projects even if they have pressing deadlines, such as the first segment of the Route 66 historic atlas due by April 1, or taxes, which are painful regardless of weather. As always, my dearest friend knew exactly what to do.
I was lost in the world of chronicling mayhem and larceny along Route 66 in the 1920s and 1930s when she surprised me with a carefully crafted picnic lunch that included fresh baked banana muffins. So, I saved my work, made the short drive to Beale Springs, found a little dirt road, and had a most delightful tailgate lunch, followed by a short walk.
Marring the delightful respite from work was a brake issue with the Jeep, again. On the way home I noticed the left rear was locking up at stops. At home I confirmed my worst fears as the drum was almost smoking hot.
To be honest, I am at a complete loss. This issue started last summer just before I was to meet with Dale Butel’s summer tour group from Australia at the ruins of Cadiz Summit in California.
Since then I have had the Jeep to two different shops, including a Jeep specialist with thirty yeas of experience. The entire rear differential has been rebuilt, brake drums replaced (several times), wheel cylinders replaced, brake lines replaced, master cylinder checked, and the proportioning valve replaced. I am quite sure the shop will be glad to hear from me in the morning.
Meanwhile, I am awaiting approval in regard to commencement of local tours, in addition to those being offered as part of a package from the owners of the El Trovatore Motel, and am finalizing plans for the trip to California on April 6. Then I can begin making plans for the trip to Albuquerque in June.
As a new day dawns, I wonder what surprises await me today.