A recent letter to the editor in the Kingman Daily Miner struck a chord. It wasn’t because I was called out by name, after all I am a writer that lives in Kingman, Arizona and as a result am accustomed to slings and arrows, the harsh reviews of critics, and rejection letters from publishers.
No, this letter struck a chord because to a degree the writer is correct. I am not happy with Kingman as it is.
However, I am not envisioning “young and modern”. No, my vision leans more toward vibrant and thriving, a town where the atmosphere is electrified by a palpable sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the cities past, and how that past can play a role in its future.
That vision is encapsulated in the theme for the forthcoming Route 66 International Festival – Kingman, and Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future. And that theme is being made manifest through participation by hot road and classic car enthusiasts, as well as proponents of electric vehicles of the past, present, and future.
This event is but one manifestation of the Kingman I envision. Others include the changing face of Beale Street, the sense of community that flows through the historic district during the monthly Saturday evening Chillin’ on Beale, and the annual Route 66 Fun Run.
Kingman suffers from a common malady. In the rush to embrace the new, the modern, the Walmart and McDonalds, the Pizza Hut and Tractor Supply Store, we neglected our past, our historic heart, the essence of what makes this community unique.
And so the bane of suburbia in all its generic glory swept across the wide Hualapai Valley transforming Kingman into Phoenix or Dallas, Flagstaff or Sierra Vista. Without the historic core a community becomes an imitation, a caricature.
A community needs to embrace the modern but it also needs to be rooted in its past. That is what makes a community unique, colorful, and enticing.
In Kingman, as with many communities, people question the spending of monies to develop tourism related infrastructure or promotion when there are so many needs. What is often overlooked is the fact that in the process of transforming a community into a place people want to visit, you transform it into a place people want to live, to open businesses, and to raise families.
To accomplish the tedious and thankless task of creating a sense of community purpose requires vision. There also needs to be leadership that inspires, leadership that ignites a passion to transform the vision into a reality.
Over the years Kingman, as with many communities, has missed countless opportunities resultant of misplaced trust in inept leaders who lacked the tenacity to see a project through to completion, or that were self serving. Apathy and division fostered by a poorly articulated vision for the future, and failed attempts to make effectual change have also played a role.
Change is in the wind. Just cruise Beale Street on a Friday or Saturday night. Sample the goods at the new bakery and ice cream parlor on Andy Devine.
Still, timidity, apathy, and complacency hinder or stifle the transformation of Kingman into a destination for visitors. The festival as an opportunity to introduce an international audience to the wonders of Kingman, and as a showcase to present it as a progressive community with an electric vehicle museum and Tesla charging station is almost upon us.
It looks as though Kingman may have some leadership at the helm so lets hope that this is an opportunity that is not squandered. Lets hope that this is the event that casts aside the pall of apathy and optimistic pessimism that dictates the conviction that nothing will ever change in Kingman.
Perhaps the time has come for people to inspire the leaders. Perhaps the time has come to write a few letters to the editor.
It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood. The weather is warm with a slight breeze, the barbershop was finishing with the only customer as I walked in the door, for supporting a grocery store with better quality and slightly higher prices than Walmart we received a forty cent per gallon discount on gasoline, and I found the “Kwik Wood” by JB Weld to repair cracks in my dearest friends walking stick (a souvenir from Crown King) as soon as I walked in the door of the hardware store.
It has the makings to be a most interesting weekend with a list of things to be resolved that includes preparing the tax return, with check for payment, for mailing on Monday, preparing a package for our oldest granddaughter, sending out requests for assistance as the research for the new book begins in earnest, filling out forms for a passport, replacing a rake handle, answering a wide array of correspondence pertaining to the festival, forwarding these requests for information to the proper people, and finalizing arrangements for several speaking engagements as well as interviews.
Author Jim Hinckley speaking at a meeting of Westerners International in Flagstaff.
In regard to the latter, at this point the schedule looks to be full through May. I never could have imagined so many folks would want to hear me beat my gums, or that some folks would even pay me to do so.
It should be noted that October is already looking full (Cuba Fest, a possible engagement at Route 66 State Park for a fund raiser, and then meeting with three tour groups). Between May and October, aside from meeting with numerous tour groups and four speaking engagements the calendar looks open.
For 2015, well there is the distinct possibility that the year will start with a bang. Details will be provided as soon as possible but suffice to say a new chapter in our Route 66 adventures is unfolding.
Now, as per popular demand, here are a few updates on the Route 66 International Festival as well as key contacts if you require more information.
The primary contact is the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce
Next, TNT Automotive will be hosting a huge Bugfest (VW’s) during the festival. As this is where Bob Waldmire often had his van repaired, and as he created a mural for this company, they have made arrangement with Buzz Waldmire to showcase an exhibition of his work. Here is the contact information (James or Julie)(928)753-1477.
The theme for the festival is Kingman, and Route 66, as the crossroads of the past and future. A key component is electric vehicles and related infrastructure.
The National Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation has voted unanimously to attend and will be showcasing a number of historically significant electric vehicles. This organization is also working with the chamber of commerce to establish a temporary electric vehicle museum that can open during the festival.
Another electric vehicle proponent that is organizing a cruise to the festival is Jerry Asher. If your interested in joining in the fun, the contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Route 66 conference is scheduled as a key component of the festival. This will include representatives from state associations as well as individuals involved with aspects of Route 66 development and electric vehicles and related infrastructure development. The chamber of commerce would be a primary contact for more information.
A film festival featuring leading independent film makers of Route 66 documentaries as well as classic feature films shot in Kingman or along Route 66 will also be an important part of this years festival. If your a film producer interested in participating, or your would like additional information, the organizer for this event is Rob Chilcoate at email@example.com
The walk of fame honoring people key to the development of Route 66 originally promoted is still under development but I do not have details. The chamber of commerce would be the best ones to talk with on this.
I spoke with Rick Freeland of the Route 66 Alliance yesterday. There will be an awards banquet but details are still pending.
Rick Zimmer initiated a fund raising campaign to get Joe Loesch and the Road Crew to Kingman. He is working with Kristi Turman in Kingman. To donate there is a link in the upper right corner.
Acclaimed children’s author Anne Slanina (Annie Mouse on Route 66) will be in attendance. An Annie Mouse Party is under development.
There will be two evenings of Chillin on Beale, a low key event that involves cars, music, and food in the historic district. This event is held on the third Saturday evening of each month from April through October.
The chamber of commerce is he primary contact.
The artists, authors, collectors, and associations exhibition may be the largest to date. Joe Sonderman and Chery Eichar Jett will be in attendance showcasing new books, indications are that each state association will have a table and display, Chris Robleski of Fading Nostalgia (an award winning photographer) has expressed interest in participating as well as hosting a series of classes, and Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association will be in attendance.
The chamber of commerce is the contact for more information about participating in the exhibition. If your a vendor and wish to participate in the festival contact Mohave Promotions – http://www.mohavepromotions.com/
Bob “Boze” Bell of True West magazine will be in attendance. He is finishing an illustrated book about being a kid on Route 66 in Kingman. His father owned several service stations in the area along Route 66 during the 1940’s and 1950’s. He may also get his band from the 1960s together for a performance.
Kathleen Smith of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce is spearheading development of an event for the weekend before the festival. The office number is 928-524-6227 for more information.
Now, all we need is to find a creative way to ensure every community on Route 66 can play a role in the festival, and that you can take a timely tip and motor west, or east, to Kingman.
As our life is quite intertwined with Route 66, there is a general lull that commences in November and continues into March. However, with each passing year that lull becomes shorter in duration and the Route 66 adventures in that period of time become more intimate.
The newest work from the pen of Jim Hinckley.
This year we enjoyed two delightful adventures during the slow season. One was a wonderful dinner with KC Keefer and Nancy Barlow (the creative team behind the Genuine Route 66 Life video series) that included stimulating conversation and a bit of laughter.
The second was a long anticipated visit from Jeroen and Maggie Boersma of the Netherlands that included an opportunity for us to play tour guide. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new year.
The greatest reward from living a Route 66 centered life isn’t the accolades or awards that come from my writings, books, or speaking engagements, it is the people we meet and the friendships made through our journeys or theirs. It never ceases to amaze me that a forlorn strip of old asphalt, the course for a highway that officially ceased to exist more than two decades ago, could serve as a catalyst for international friendships.
Author Jim Hinckley signing books for an Australian tour group.
In the coming months we will be meeting with tour groups, and visiting with friends, from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Canada, and England. We will also have opportunities for visiting with friends from most every state in the union.
Then there is also the distinct possibility that our winter lull this year could include the greatest Route 66 adventure to date, and a most exciting opportunity for visiting with friends. Stay tuned for details.
I am rather certain that if a person searches for adventure, they will find it. On Route 66, however, that search won’t take very long or require a great deal of effort.
Route 66 adventures are found on social media sites, in travel books, in text messages, and in emails. And if your fortunate enough to reside in a community where Route 66 serves as Main Street, then adventures can be found at the park, in the super market or coffee shop, or at the gas station. If you meet someone reading about Route 66 or driving Route 66 on purpose, or if they talk about Route 66 with passionate, animated, excitement, it would be safe to assume that the individual has discovered the infectious stimulation of a Route 66 experience. When it comes to adventure and inspiring people to embrace life with passion, there is truly something magic about this old road. Perfectly respectable and normal people from all walks of life will spend hours under a desert sun seeking a forlorn, forgotten remnant of the old double six, have fun doing it, and with Youtube videos or Facebook postings inspire others to plan an entire vacation around similar pursuits.
Others abandon most everything to live a dream, to inspire others to pursue theirs, and to discover the joy of living. They restore vintage motels, cafes, or trading posts in obscure dusty communities, fill their days with long hours of hard work for little financial gain, meet with enthusiastic travelers and adventurers from all over the world, and develop an almost permanent smile. Soon that obscure, time worn, forgotten little community becomes a destination. Other dreamers join them. Then the curtain that separates past from present parts, and time is rolled back as long darkened neon again glows bright, weed strewn parking lots fill with cars, shuttered cafes again teem with life, and a sense of excitement, hope, and enthusiasm sweeps through the community replacing despair and apathy. It transforms people in other ways as well. Once experienced it becomes difficult to enjoy or appreciate the normal or the mundane, the drudgery of a nine to five job void of a future, or the mind numbing daily routine that erodes the precious finite gift of time. Route 66 is more than a mere highway. It is inspiration and a magic elixir. It is a bridge that spans gaps of culture and language, as well as the past, present, and future. It is the stuff of dreams and the inspiration to live life rather than endure it.
I am most fortunate to be blessed with an adventuresome wife. Thankfully she is also patient.
Both of these attributes have been put to the test on more than one occasion. And on more than one occasion her adventuresome displays, such as the recent birthday request for a back country adventure to Crown King, have even surprised me.
Still, this year is shaping up to be one for the books. A few of the pending Route 66 adventures will be way beyond anything previously experienced. Suffice to say, Nancy Mueller isn’t the only one with a Route 66 secret.
From our earliest dates (stories that are best left to her for telling) normal was a setting on a dryer and a mythical place like the land of Oz. At the time my daily transportation was a well worn ’46 GMC, double dates with friends included trips to the drive in an an equally worn ’49 GMC stake bed or a ’26 Ford touring car.
She was even game enough to accept my invitation for dinner knowing that it was my cooking, that it required a twenty mile drive on a gravel road each way, that we would be dining by coal oil lamps, that dinner would be cooked on a wood burning stove, and that Critter would be our dining companion.
Fast forward thirty plus years. The ’46 GMC has been replaced by a ’68 Dodge pickup and a ’98 Jeep. Most of the old friends, including Critter, have moved on or passed on. We are grandparents, the homestead is only a few blocks from the supermarket, lights come on with the flip of a switch instead of the flip of a match, and with her encouragement, the quest to become a writer when I grow up is well underway.
The common thread tying all of this together is the old road signed with a pair of sixes. That is also the road that is linked to the pending adventures.
There was an interview with Rudy Maxa, a pending one with Frommer’s, and another with National Geographic Explorer. A major book signing(again, details not available quite yet) that if it comes together, would be nothing short of astounding even though it would again require fighting our way through LA traffic.
Lets see, there is the pending Route 66 International Festival, an eagerly anticipated opportunity to share Kingman with our friends from all over the world. Tied to this is an interesting venture in Holbrook (another subject for future discussion) that will be our contribution to ensuring the cities Route 66 festival scheduled for the weekend before the one in Kingman is a success.
Then there is the pending adventure that will require a passport, which in turn requires the adventure of obtaining a passport. This too will be the subject of future postings.
The long and short story of this mornings post which appears to have developed into a series of teasers is that my dearest friend will have an almost endless opportunity for giving free reign to the adventuresome spirit. Meanwhile, I am off to see wait new adventures unfold today.