With but two months left in the year (and one of those months heavily scheduled) reflection on what was, and what is to come fills my thoughts when I sit down with a bottle of hard cider to unwind. To say the very least, it has been an amazing year.
Dinners and breakfasts shared with friends new and old from the Czech Republic and Holland, Germany and New Zealand, Australia and Missouri, England and Japan, and just about everyplace in between, were among the many highlights.
Road trips, as usual, were an important part of our year. There was a late winter exploration of the Mojave Desert that included a visit to Kelso and a grand adventure with my dearest friend on Route 66 in New Mexico. Close to the top of the list of the years adventures would be the trip to Joplin for the 2013 Route 66 International Festival. As always, the event was two parts family reunion and one part a celebration of America’s most famous highway. The top of the 2013 memorable adventure list is dominated by the September trip to Carlsbad, California. It included many of my favorite things – road trips, road trips in the desert, the discovery of new places and new restaurants, good food, and a smile on my dearest friends face over a candlelit dinner. Even better, it was an opportunity to express my gratitude to a very dear friend for thirty wonderful years. In a class by itself was the recent whirlwind trip from Chicago to Kingman via Route 66. It was a real treat to share the road with a few novices and watch their expressions as they saw the courthouse in Carthage, tasted the hospitality and good food at Missouri Hick in Cuba, and experienced the El Rancho for the first time. Another high point of the year was the multitude of opportunities made available to me for presenting the history and wonder of Route 66, and adventures on the road less traveled. Next week I will be speaking before members of Westerners International in Prescott, an excellent close out for the year. The last major commitment of the year is attendance of the Route 66 summit meeting in California hosted by the World Monument Fund. I was surprised and honored to receive an invitation, as well to be asked to represent Kingman at the event. Moving closer toward the childhood goal of becoming a writer when I grow up was another high point of the year. Manifestations of the steps taken toward achievement of that goal include the release of Route 66 Treasures, completion of Travel Route 66 (due for release next spring), and if all goes as planned, completion of the Route 66 Historic Atlas by the December 1 deadline. With that thought in mind it is not to late to share stories of mayhem and disaster, or celebrities on Route 66. I still have some room for inclusion of more stories in the atlas. That takes me to 2014. On the calendar for the new year is the release of the next book, plans to attend Cuba Fest in Cuba where the atlas will debut, the Route 66 Fun Run, and, of course, the 2014 Route 66 International Festival in Kingman. Still, what really has me looking toward the new year with eager anticipation is the opportunity to again meet with friends new and old.
Jury duty, that blessing/curse of life in America has reared its head again (for the third time in less than two years). Notification was received that I am on call for the entire month of November.
This presents a multitude of problems and frustrations. In the list of frustrations is the fact that this is for federal jury duty which means that if called, I would be spending at least a week in Prescott. There is also the matter of calling every Friday evening to see if I am exempt for the following week.
As I have the looming deadline for a book, have a scheduled speaking engagement, and am scheduled to be in Anaheim, California for the World Monument Fund Route 66 symposium, this really puts a kink in things and cranks the stress level up several notches. For the third time in two years, five weeks of life hangs in limbo.
Meanwhile, life goes on. Scheduled for this evening is the gala grand opening of the event center on Beale Street, the location for the artists, authors, and collectors exhibition during the Route 66 International Festival next August.
So, on this afternoons schedule is a refresher course in how tying a tie. This may come as a surprise but a tie and I have not crossed paths in at least thirty years.
Still, it is a worthy sacrifice. For years I have lamented the waste of a perfectly good historic district in Kingman and this could very well be a turning point.
As always, the weekend schedule ensures boredom will be held at bay. This weekend the Route 66 Atlas project will center on documenting the mayhem, landmarks, historic sites, and military locations in Kansas. If you ideas for inclusion, or information, please drop me a note.
Also on the list is preparation of the first draft for a speech. On November 7, I am scheduled to make a presentation, with slide show, about the evolution of Route 66 to the Westerners International in Prescott.
As I am waiting to hear from the editor about a possible change in format for the atlas that would translate into a massive cut and past operation for creation of an entirely new manuscript, there is a need to finish the photo file for the Arizona segment. The publisher wants to create a sample mock up in November and needs a large sampling of images.
While I am on the subject of books, I would be remiss if notification wasn’t given that Route 66 Treasures is now available (be sure to look for a surprise inside the back cover). I should also note that Travel Route 66 scheduled for release next March is available for preorder. Details will be forthcoming soon about exciting developments on Route 66. Suffice to say at this time, the kiwi’s are about to make Route 66 history as well as add some flavor to the Route 66 experience.
There is an old adage that confessions are good for the soul. Well, I have a confession to make.
I lean toward the redneck sort of life. Cool mountain mornings with a hint of wood smoke and coffee in the air, and a colorful sunrise over distant peaks quicken the spirit far more than the glitter and crowds of Fremont Street in Las Vegas.
Sharing this with my dearest friend or friends makes such an adventure more memorable than the most exciting day imaginable in the cacophony of the city.
The latest fashion trends leave me cold. I lean toward sturdy and durable for my attire, the vehicles I drive, and even the home furnishings.
Still, on occasion I will move from the comfort zone if the cause is worthy. This Saturday is one of those occasions, the grand opening for the Kingman event center in the former J.C. Penny building in the historic district. This building will serve as the venue for the artist, author, and collector exhibition during the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
I was quite honored to receive an invitation. Still, the notation of “business formal attire” gave me a reason to pause.
In my world the closest folks like me get to a tie is if someone braids it from rope and there are tall trees in the neighborhood. As upsetting folks to that degree is something from my misspent youth, a tie is almost beyond my imagination.
Still, I have been known to walk on the odd side. Besides, I have a dear friend for encouragement.
Looming on the horizon, invitations for foreign book signing and speaking engagements. I wonder if these can be attended in my native dress?
Don’t let the title fool you. This posting isn’t really about me, its about the people, the folks that add zest and seasoning, frustration and opportunity for reflection to my world, and that make my association with Route 66 such a delight. Its about how I somehow manage to crowd a week into five days, and the people that make it seem like a mere weekend.
Last Wednesday, the 16th, kicked off with the usual morning routine that includes a hearty breakfast with my dearest friend, answering correspondence pertaining to everything from fan mail to business related items, and international requests for Route 66 and Arizona information. Then a little time was spent scratching out a game plan for the day and a quick glance at headlines from various international sources before opening the office. The office routine was also typical which is a fancy way of saying chaotic; trucks dropped off overnight were blocking the drive way instead of being parked on the return lot, customers without reservations wanted immediate service even though it was ten minutes before we opened, customers with reservations patiently waited, and the phones (as in two) were ringing.
At about 9:00 it seemed as though I was in the eye of the hurricane. Standing in stark contrast to the first hours madness was an almost unnerving calm.
Then the phone rang. It was the manager of a local motel checking to see if I was available as they had a customer from Belgium traveling Route 66 that had a multitude of questions.
So, I filled the morning lull by spending time with a delightful gentleman from Antwerp who struggled with English but whose enthusiasm for the adventure of Route 66, and for life, was infectious. The rest of the day seemed to sail by as if I had been invigorated with a magic elixir.
Thursday morning started the same as Wednesday with the exception of the office. It started with a dead calm and ended in a chaotic symphony.
With my trusty protégé, Brittany, at the helm, I left the office a few hours early as the evening schedule included driving to Flagstaff to speak about the history of Kingman at that communities chapter of Westerners International. It was a most delightful evening of good food, excellent conversation, and an enthusiastic and curious audience.
We wrapped things up around 9:00, signed a few books, said our goodbyes, and set out for home. As the day had kicked off around 5:00 AM, I was one step beyond tired when we arrived home just after midnight.
Friday morning was a flurry of activity that required another 5:00 AM start, and that was before arriving at the office. As it turned out I was rather fortunate in that respect – Mr. Bill got the coffee, and the business was steady but not frantic.
I closed out the day by ignoring the work on the Route 66 historic atlas that was on my “to do” list, and instead decided that a quiet dinner and evening with my dearest friend was in order. As always it was the perfect end for the week.
Saturday morning started bright and early with office clean up projects, breakfast with my dearest friend, a visit from our son, and then hours of intense focus on pushing the atlas toward completion. I was really hitting a stride when my dearest friend noted that it was almost time to go. It was the final installment of Chillin’ on Beale for 2013 and I was scheduled to share the spotlight with Mike Wagner, and provide an update on the Route 66 International Festival. I was also to present a program, with slide show, about the history of Route 66 that was part of the Smithsonian Institute Journeys Stories series. As noted in a previous post, it was an adventure that tested my patience and professionalism. My gut instinct was to run and never look back. I survived, guests that turned out for the presentation were pleased, and I signed a few books. As a bonus I had a date with my dearest friend that included, as always, excellent food at Redneck’s Barbecue, and a surprise visit from Russ Rowen, a fellow desert explorer from my John Wayne period. On Sunday morning, after an extended version of breakfast with my dearest friend, I focused on the atlas with the myopic intensity of Jason in his search for the golden fleece. About mid morning there was an unexpected change in direction in the form of a surprise visit from our son, with the grandson who was celebrating his third birthday. As I result, my progress fell short of the goal set for the day. That, however, was of little consequence. Monday morning was steady but not harried. One by one the lengthy list of items to be finished were checked off as completed and then at 1:30, I received the expected call from Dale Butel.
Meeting with tour groups are one of the most rewarding perks derived from writing. I so enjoy sharing the history of Route 66, and my neck of the woods, with people who have a real heartfelt fascination for these stories. When I reflect on the fact that these opportunities allow me to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the Route 66 community as well as America, there is also a sense of awesome responsibility and humility that accompanies these ventures. Needless to say, it really provides me with a uniquely balanced perspective on life and the world in general. The bonus in this is that many of the tour group leaders have become friends, and a few of their clients have become electronic pen pals. All of this leads to reflections on just how fortunate I am. When I stop long enough to really reflect on my life, it becomes very hard to find things to complain about. Here I am staring sixty square in the eye, a small town fellow that lives in the outback, if you will. I am Jim Hinckley, the plain and simple working man who survived a wild and wooly youth of wasted years but yet I have friends to share a meal and a laugh with, friends like Dries and Marion, Karel and Hanneke, Dale and Kristi-Anne, Kevin and Nancy, Wolfgang and Anja, Zdnek and Eva, and so many more. I have a son, and grandchildren. I have a dear friend who has endured, enjoyed, and shared thirty years of adventures. I am blessed beyond measure. To each and everyone of you that we met with this year, thank you. It was truly our honor and pleasure to meet with you. Here is to 2014. A year filled with new adventures, old friends, new friends, and good times.
For fans of classic literature you may remember a certain character that spent a bit of time jousting with windmills. Well, on more than one occasion that sums up how I feel, and last evening was most definitely one of those occasions.
Case in point, last evening. I had two presentations to make on Saturday night and as the topic was Route 66 for both, in theory there should have been an easy flow.
It was the final edition of Chillin’ on Beale for the year. This event that is a no charge, low key get together in the historic district held on the third Saturday evening of each month from April until October seems to be growing in popularity.
Enhanced by the warm weather, last nights festivities were well attended. So, in theory the presentations should have played to a packed house.
I am quite confident they would have, if there was a functioning microphone, or if suitable arrangement had been made for the requested slide show, or if more thought and planning had gone into the location selected. Well, if nothing else I am flexible.
Having written almost a dozen books and several hundred feature articles in the past couple of decades I have improved upon my ability to roll with the punches, a valuable asset first learned during my John Wayne period. That, however, is a story for another day.
The first presentation was in conjunction with Mike Wagner, a primary organizer behind the 2014 Route 66 International Festival. Since we lacked a functioning microphone, Mike scrounged up a bull horn to round up a crowd.
Then we gathered in a tight circle that most likely looked like a lynch mob to those driving by, and we provided details about the forthcoming Route 66 International Festival, and issued a call for volunteers. I figured if Abraham Lincoln could address a crowd without electronic enhancement, I could too.
Of course I don’t think Mr. Lincoln was competing with passing trains, or a boisterous crowd, or music being played on the street a block away, or a parade of hot rods and motorcycles. Still, we soldiered on and held the attention of a crowd of about thirty that seemed quite inspired by what we had to say.
The second half of the evening was to be a presentation about the evolution of Route 66, complete with slide show, an installment in the Smithsonian Journeys series. When I agreed to do this, the venue had yet to be selected.
A couple of weeks ago I learned that the parking lot at Redneck’s Barbecue on Beale Street had been set aside for this so it would coincide with Chillin’ on Beale. My first thought was that this is going to be interesting. It was.
Details aren’t really important. They may be provided at a future date, once the shock wears off.
On a serious note, when it comes to obligations and commitments made, I adhere to the old adage that the show must go on even when absolutely everything goes wrong. I should correct that as not everything went wrong, it wasn’t raining.
If there was a silver lining to the debacle it would be that the restricted venue allowed for a more intense and personal one on one question and answer session (photo by Marilyn Moore). So, from that perspective, I feel it went rather well.
Next on the list, speaking with Dale Butel’s fall tour on Monday, a visit from Mark Powell, a friend from England, and speaking at Westerner’s International in Prescott. That should close out the year, at least as far as visits from international friends and speaking engagements go.
And that takes me to 2014, a year that is making me think that, perhaps, I need to learn how to juggle.