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.
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.