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TOURS, TOURISTS, AND TOURING

After more than a full year filled with frustrations, false starts, bad luck, problems, and disasters of a near epic nature, tenacious Sam Murray of Gilligan’s Wild West Tours, and the irrepressible “Croc” Lile, are on the road with the companies first successful Route 66 tour. Judging by Laurel Kane’s blog post from Afton Station, everyone is having a great time.
The one and only Bob Lile at his gallery on the oftenoverlooked Sixth Avenue alignment of Route 66in Amarillo.
On Saturday, I spoke with Craig Parish and answered a few of his questions pertaining to traveling Route 66 in Arizona. His National Route 66 Motor Tour that kicks off in just over a week looks as though it will be a major event.
On his heels will be Dale Butel’s fall tour. Dale and Kristi-Anne of Australian based Route 66 Tours have transformed adventures on Route 66 into an art form through their intimate, personal relationship with the Route 66 community.
Author Jim Hinckley signing books for a Dale Butel led Route 66 tour.
There was a time not so long ago when the big season on the double six commenced sometime around mid May and wound down in late September. Indicative of the growing popularity of Route 66 is the fact that major tours are still on the road into late October and even early November. This year we were meeting with travelers in January!
Soon we will take our turn at playing tourist with an adventure on Route 66, and a detour into Kansas on U.S. 54. Even though we had a chance to visit with friends and our Route 66 “family” during the Route 66 International Festival, there is just something special about visiting with them in their native habitat.
I have a tendency to prepare for every trip as though it is a safari deep into the outback of Australia. On our adventure to Crown King last spring I had enough gear and food to survive most any conceivable disaster for several days.
Route 66 east of Seligman, reason number 72 to be prepared when traveling.

Over the years I have honed this to an art form. This includes the acquisition of a variety of military surplus, aluminum and steel watertight containers of various sizes that stack within the confines of the Jeep.

No only does this allow us to meet any contingency ranging from the need for a cork screw, taking an unplanned detour on a whim that ends in camping, following an interesting dirt road that results in digging the Jeep out of the sand, or having an impromptu picnic that includes something warm like a cup of tea with honey to wash down a sandwich, it also allows us to cut the travel budget rather dramatically. After this years adventure I will provide a break down on expenses incurred.
To a degree traveling in this manner is a throwback to childhood adventures and epic coast to coast odysseys on U.S. 66, U.S. 6, U.S. 127, U.S. 40 and countless other two lane highways. In those halcyon days a lot of families ate and slept along the road, something my dad developed into a crude art form.
Seldom did we travel without a box of corn flakes, jar of sugar, spoons, and tin cups that doubled as bowls. A simple stop at a roadside store for a quart of milk, and muffins or fruit, and we had breakfast.
A homemade wire basket for the manifold guaranteed a warm can of beans for lunch with canned fruit cocktail for desert. A tarp transformed a picnic table into a tent.
Resultant of a lifetime spent planning adventures as though they were epic safaris is a difficult habit to overcome. So, a trip to the Netherlands that will prohibit carrying a pocket knife as I have done most every day for more than forty years should present a few challenges.
In preparation of our forthcoming road trip to Cuba Fest, I spent some time yesterday setting the GPS, checking gear, and making a check list for us as well as the master of the castle in our absence, our son. So, come zero four hundred hours on the day of departure, I should be able to have all gear on board within 15 minutes. 
Now, the countdown begins –      
   
 
  
    
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PROGRESS, FRUSTRATION, EXCITING UPDATES, AND AN INTERESTING TURN OF EVENTS

It has been a most interesting week, to say the very least. A detailed proposal for a tour guide and history of the National Old Trails Highway went down in flames when the acquisition committee deemed the topic was “to narrow in scope.” 
On Wednesday, I received notice that there were unexpected shipping delays and as a result, The Illustrated Route 66 Historical Atlas scheduled to ship on September 30, may be delayed by seven days. This presents a slight problem. It also moves the stress meter a bit closer to the “red” as we are scheduled to kick off the promotional tour on the 14th. 
So, we may be moving to plan “B” which is a rewriting of the Route 66 leg of the promotional appearance schedule, with the exception of Cuba Fest and the open house at Route 66 State Park scheduled for Sunday, October 19. This would also entail shipping the books directly to Connie at the wagon Wheel Motel, and me traveling with one copy of the book for show and tell.
Courtesy of the Oklahoma Route66 Museum.

Meanwhile, the first organizational meeting for the Route 66 conference and event that will take place in Edwardsville, Illinois in October 2015 is now history. Cheryl Eichar Jett has officially assumed the position of head pinata. 

On a more serious note, I was quite honored to be asked to serve on the conference and event planning committee. For more details here is a link to Cheryl’s blog, the clearing house for information until a website and Facebook page are developed.
The 2014 Route 66 International Festival in Kingman seems to have accomplished two of the primary goals, which was the fostering of a sense of community and community purpose in Kingman as well as along the entire Route 66 corridor. The developing conference in Edwardsville, and Scott Piotrowski’s initiatives for Los Angeles to serve as the host city in 2016 is one manifestation. 
Another is development of a coalition in Kingman to create an annual Route 66 festival. The idea is to have the event take place in September or October. With the annual Route 66 Fun Run at the start of the tourism season, and this event at the end, and Chillin’ on Beale as a monthly event that takes place between April and October, Kingman could be a very busy, very exciting place as well as a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts. 
As these activities would be a tremendous catalyst for revitalization of the historic district, and as we have a unified sense of community as never before, I am quite excited by these developments.
On numerous occasions friends have strongly hinted that I suffer from a highly developed case of Don Quixote syndrome. A compulsion to joust at windmills is a primary symptom. 
With that said, as we are talking about developments on Route 66, I would be remiss if the Route 66 The Road Ahead Steering Committee, a contentious point in the Route 66 community wasn’t discussed. 
As I have yet to receive additional detail from World Monuments Fund, there is little to add in regard to views on whether this will be beneficial or detrimental to the Route 66 community. However, the discussions and correspondence I have had with Route 66 associations in regard to the committee has been most enlightening. 
With that said, to everyone who took time to talk with me, or drop a note, thank you for the input. Your honesty without sugar coating was most appreciated (“The steering committee steered into the ditch when it didn’t include representation from Texas or Kansas”). 
I sincerely hope that it will be possible to address your concerns, as well as share your ideas and suggestions with this steering committee. I am also hoping that each state and European association will participate inn the conference in Edwardsville.
These discussions, the Crossroads of the Past and Future Festival in Kinmgan, the developing conference in Edwardsville and similar initiatives, and occasionally heated discussions about the needs of the Route 66 community and how best to meet them  served as a sort of kick in the pants to move forward on a project that has been gathering dust. The short version of a long story is that rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought it might be a good idea to evaluate how the original U.S. Highway 66 Association served the Route 66 community for more than a half century, how they were structured, how they dealt with opposition within the community, and what the annual conventions focused on, and then share that information to further advance development of a sense of community and community purpose. Correspondence with Jim Ross led to discussions with Pat Smith at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. In turn there is now ongoing correspondence with Casey Garrett, an archivist at the museum.Casey’s mining of the past has provided a bonus of sorts in the form of delightful photographs. The photo below shows the Route 66 caravan sponsored by the U.S. Highway 66 Association at the Chain of Rocks Bridge. In addition to sharing  information about exciting developments, I will be mingling a bit of fascinating history and trivia, as well as information about the international nature of Route 66, and the contributions of the U.S. Highway 66 Association in my Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future presentation at the open house at Route 66 State Park on October 19. There are still a few slots open on the October tour if this presentation would be of interest to your organization.For details, or to schedule an appearance, and to discuss costs, please send an email with contact information.To wrap things up this morning, I have two questions. One, what are your thoughts about inclusion of an awards dinner on the slate of scheduled activities with the annual conference?Two, what topics of interest would you like to see addressed in workshops developed around the conference?   
     

EDWARDSVILLE, THE ROAD AHEAD, AND GRAND ADVENTURES

As plans for the forthcoming October promotional tour for the latest book, The Illustrated Route 66 Historic Atlas, gel, I am able to finalize arrangements and develop a clearer picture of the unfolding adventure. Even though it will be another of our now famous whirlwind endeavors I am reminded of the old adage that any adventure is better than no adventure.
An added bonus on this trip is an opportunity to introduce my dearest friend to a few new surprises. Topping that list will be the Lake of the Ozarks, a childhood favorite of mine.
This was on the list for years but we couldn’t find a way to work it into the schedule. Adding to the frustration was an invitation from Bob Swengrosh, and his wife, Robin, to visit their historic motel (Waters Edge Motel) in Gravois Mills, Missouri.
The focal point for this trip is Cuba Fest where I will officially introduce the new book. My dearest friend and I so enjoy this delightful festival. Enhancing the event this year will be an opportunity to visit with friends from all along Route 66, and another evening enjoying music from the Road Crew.
Before beginning the journey home, on Sunday, the 19th of October, I am scheduled to make a presentation on Route 66 as the Crossroads of the Past and Future at the open house at Route 66 State Park.
The original plans were for us to then continue east to Edwardsville, Illinois and meet with the organizers of next years Route 66 conference, a weekend of events to supplant the suspended Route 66 International Festival. However, as we were unable to coordinate schedules, conference calls and emails will have to suffice for now.
Until an official website and/or Facebook page is established, updates are being posted on author Cheryl Eichar Jett’s blog Chicks on 66. Here is a the link.
In addition to providing a forum to the Route 66 associations, the festivities will continue many of the traditions associated with the popular Route 66 International Festival. In short, it will be a family reunion for Route 66 enthusiasts as well as an opportunity to disseminate information and develop cooperative partnerships.
With that said, I can’t provide answers to questions about the annual Route 66 International Festival that have been received  in recent weeks. That event was developed by the Route 66 Alliance in recent years but as an array of issues prevented in depth involvement with this years festival in Kingman, that organization announced an indefinite postponement.
As the Route 66 community is facing an array of challenges quite similar to those faced in the highways infancy, research is underway to evaluate the structure of the original U.S. Highway 66 Association, and how they were able to address these problems. I will keep you apprised as the research unfolds.
Perhaps this will spark a few innovative ideas. Perhaps it will be the catalyst for reviving that organization to meet the needs of a new generation.     

SOMWHERE WEST OF THE CROSSROADS AND EAST OF THE LAST PLACE I RECOGNIZED

Well, the crossroads is fading from view in the rear view mirror. I don’t see any familiar landmarks. Still, as long as the world isn’t really flat, and we don’t drive off the edge, this could be a most interesting adventure.
I am assisting Rich Dinkela who is creating a tremendous Route 66 website, Events on Route 66, envisioned as central clearing house for travel planning and a promotional tool for event developers. I will also continue adding events to the What’s Happening on Route 66 tab at the top of this page.
Brad Nickson of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association sent a list of events yesterday. These were forwarded to Rich, and will be posted here later today.
During the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman a promise was made to maintain open and regular communication with Route 66 associations in the hopes of building upon the cooperative partnerships made manifest in the internationally televised conference. The centralized promotion of events is but one step.
To date, assistance has been provided in the development and facilitation of these partnerships between state associations. Now, the hope is to encourage similar endeavors with Route 66 associations in the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic. I would like to see their Route 66 related events promoted as well.
I am rather confident that we will see tremendous developments along the Route 66 corridor in the next eighteen months as the folks behind these associations are quite amazing. In my dealings with Glen Duncan, Vickie Ashcraft, Larry Clounts, Brad Nickson, Renee Charles, tommy and Glenda Pike, Dora Meroney, and others who work tirelessly in these state Route 66 associations, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we still had the U.S. Highway 66 Association to bolster and coordinate their endeavors.
On a more personal note, it appears as though the curtain is about to draw to a close in an important aspect of our lives. Is anyone out there interested in hiring a thick skinned, professional gum beater, who has a tendency to joust at windmills with a great deal of passion?
I should have thought of including a plug sooner but better late than never. If your looking for the perfect Route 66 cruiser, or just an old car for local cruise nights, or are simply fasicinated by automotive curiosities and time capsules, and like a bit of vintage music, peruse Cort Steven’s Old Cars, Strong Hearts Facebook page.
Cort regularly posts interesting findings from Craigslist. In recent weeks he has uncovered an ultra rare 1936 Pierce Arrow with V-12 in mid restoration, an original ’51 Fraser, a 1951 Hudson Commodore ($2,500), a low mileage 1976 Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo parts, and a wide array of seldom seen automotive treasures.
As noted on several occasions my dearest friend I will be on the road in mid October. The primary destination is Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri to keep off the latest book, and then Route 66 State Park for an open house on the 19th where I will sign books as well as speak on Route 66 as the Crossroads of the past and future. 
The final schedule with appearance times and locations should be available this week, I hope. At this time it looks as though there will be a deviation from recent adventures as I am to stop in Wichita, Kansas. 
So, it looks like Route 66 to Tucumcari, U.S. 54 into Kansas, and Route 66 home will be the primary route for this adventure. This will provide an excuse to share the beauty of the Lake of the Ozarks, framed with fall colors, with my dearest friend and, of course, the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well.  
On our last visit to Cuba Fest, we detoured south of St. James for a visit to Meramec Springs State Park. The fall colors transformed this beautiful place into a photographers paradise!
As always, regardless of course followed, I quite positive that it will be a grand adventure. Will you be joining us (as well as “Croc” Lile, the Road Crew, Joe Sonderman, Cheryl Eichar Jett, …) in Cuba?
Meramec Springs State Park
 
 
 
 
   
  
 

MORE TWISTS AND TURNS THAN THE ROAD TO OATMAN

The twisted course of Route 66 through the Black Mountains of western Arizona is more than a stunning drive or the neighborhood where I grew up. It is also a fitting portrayal of my life in general.
The course I have followed through life is marked with twists and turns that quicken the spirit and ignite the imagination, it has seldom been boring, and even on stormy days, there is a raw and powerful beauty. Needless to say, all of this has been magnified and enhanced because I have been blessed with a dear friend to share the adventure with.
As each year draws to a close I look back in amazement. It seldom turned out as planned. The highs and lows were usually more extreme than anticipated, it went way to fast, and it was filled with unexpected surprises both good and bad.
Taking a peak through the mist that hides the future, the indications are that the year will end with a bang, and kick off with an unprecedented adventure that includes an opportunity to take Route 66 to Europe.
The weekend was consumed with what seems to have become an annual  late summer/early fall tradition – striving to beat a deadline and an attempt to sell a publisher on the merits of a proposed project. In between I played a few games of chess, grilled some buffalo burgers with onions and garlic, enjoyed a movie with my dearest friend, and fielded an array of inquiries about my appointment to a World Monuments Fund steering committee on Route 66 development. 
The latter was fraught with frustration. Discussions on social media sites about the committee are mostly constructive, creative, curious, and concerned. Unfortunately they are also often tinged with disinformation and open attempts to discredit the endeavor before it commences. 
I learned long ago to deal with the slings and arrows. Still, it bothers me no end as the Route 66 community deserves better.
The current book project for History Press chronicling the often violent evolution of the American taxi industry has proven to be a real challenge when it comes to research. However, in all honesty, these challenges were compounded  by a rather intense schedule this past few months.
Proposals being discussed for future projects are quite varied. There are two at the top of my list that I hope to bring to fruition.
One would be a travel guide to, and history of, the National Old Trails Highway. I have toyed with this idea for quite sometime but the recent adventure to Chevelon Canyon really provided some inspiration for transforming the idea into a book.
The second would be an ethnic history of Route 66. I harbor no illusions about the difficulties of the project and have concerns about how it would be received. Still, it is a chapter in the history of Route 66 that needs to be written.
Meanwhile, arrangements are being finalized for the forthcoming trip to Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri where I will introduce the latest book. Then on the 19th of October, I will speak on Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future at an open house at Route 66 State Park.
There are an array of pending appearances and engagements associated with the trip. I am hoping to have all of these confirmed and arrangements made before the end of the week.
On the 15th of November, I will be at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank, California. The publicist is also working to set up an appearance at the Autry as well. It should be a full weekend as we also plan on seeing Scott Piotrowski to discuss plans for 2016, and to explore a bit of the original western terminus of Route 66.
Then in January, Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht, Netherlands. Plans are developing and a few things need to be confirmed but indications are that, courtesy of U.S. Bikers, we will be taking Route 66 to Europe. Stay tuned for details –     
 
  
     

THE ENTERTAINMENT, PROFIT, AND EDUCATION BUSINESS OF ROUTE 66

In response to a question pertaining to an historical comparison for the current state of the Route 66 community and the various endeavors to bring diverse elements together for the common good, I quipped that the challenges faced by the Continental Congress came to mind. Did I mention that the fellow I was speaking with had a distinctly British accent?
On a more serious note, the Route 66 community has reached a most interesting impasse. The international fascination and popularity of Route 66 is growing exponentially. The multifaceted endeavors of entrepreneurs to profit from that popularity are only limited by the imagination. 
Meanwhile, the need to educate people about the roads history, the importance of blending preservation with meeting the projected needs of future enthusiasts, and the opportunities to utilize this resurgent interest as a catalyst for community development or redevelopment is unprecedented. In response, a wide array of grass roots initiatives ranging from establishment of Route 66 associations internationally to Ron Hart’s expansive Route 66 Chamber of Commerce website, from Kumar Patel’s media presence to development of Route 66 themed events in communities large and small are transforming the landscape while working to meet the needs and fill a void. 
From its inception Route 66 was never able to evolve fast enough to meet the rapidly developing transportation needs of the country. Likewise with these grassroots efforts and the rapidly changing needs of the Route 66 community.
In spite of tremendous successes made manifest in the rebirth of Galena, Kansas, the transformation of Pontiac, Illinois, or the preservation of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, fragmented initiatives can only result in fragmented success. 
Michael Wallis of the Route 66 Alliance refers to Route 66 as a linear community. Expanding on this analogy, each city, town, and village along the Route 66 corridor then becomes a quirky, colorful, unique neighborhood in that community.
The future preservation and development of Route 66 hinges on our ability as a community to link individual and community initiatives into an unbreakable chain that stretches from Santa Monica to Chicago. It is imperative that we move beyond myopic focus on events or developments as a local issue if Route 66 and its unique culture are to be preserved for future generations.  
https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/x_P_U5tW29c&source=udsThe 2013 Route 66 International Festival in Joplin is one example of how to foster a unified sense of community as well as community purpose. Rather than simply utilize the event to showcase the attributes of that one city to an international audience, resources were pooled and the focus was expanded to include Carthage, Webb City, and Galena in Kansas. 
The two day Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference in Kingman during the 2014 Route 66 International Festival would be another excellent example. Diverse interests represented by individuals that are often in disagreement temporarily put aside differences to provide an international audience with a multi dimensional portrait of the entire Route 66 community. 
Ed Klein of Route 66 World provided expertise derived from real world business experience. Representatives from state Route 66 associations presented an overview of issues and developments on their section of the highway. Representatives European Route 66 associations such as Dries Bessels provided important insight into the Route 66 community from an international perspective. 
Important people associated with the electric vehicle community presented a vision of the future. They also provided the Route 66 community with invaluable information about how to tap into this emerging market.
In addition to expanding our focus, it is imperative we utilize all existent resources. It is also imperative that we as a community maintain respective dialogue in regard to the evaluation of potential opportunities.
Several years ago Rutgers University, in conjunction with World Monuments Fund, released an expansive Route 66 economic impact report that proved to be invaluable developmental tool. Last November a symposium in Anaheim facilitated by this organization fostered unprecedented opportunities for bringing diverse elements of the Route 66 community together for discussion, and the building of cooperative partnerships.
This conference also sparked some very constructive debate, as well as non constructive diatribes that muted and even negated some of the benefits derived from the event. Now, World Monuments Fund, and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has followed through on their promises and announced development of a steering community.
As with the Anaheim conference, this has sparked healthy debate and discussion within the Route 66 community as well as inflammatory discourse that is either void of fact, or that is premature in its evaluation. 
An excellent example of the latter are claims that the steering committee is merely the latest manifestation of a Route 66 clique bent on excluding those who have differing opinions. As I was selected to serve on this steering committee, my first course of action was to evaluate what the matrix of the committee was.
In their own words, “A steering committee has now been formed to represent key affinity groups (e.g., tourism, business, transportation, preservation, economic development, and advocacy); geographic regions; public/private interests; and sector knowledge.”
It was not devised to include or exclude any state or international Route 66 association nor was it devised to dominate any aspect of future developments. Apparently a primary purpose is to evaluate the road in its entirety, and devise a proposal for building a Route 66 community capable of meeting future needs.
My personal suggestion at this juncture is to move forward with local and private initiatives but with a focus on how these developments can benefit neighboring communities, and the Route 66 community as a whole.
Next, as noted on numerous occasions, provide input as well as assistance in development of the event in Edwardsville next October. In so doing ask yourself how this event can be utilized to further foster development of a unified sense of community.
Then, evaluate contributions or offers of assistance from the World Monuments Fund, the Route 66 Alliance, the National Historic Route 66 Federation or any other organization based on track record, facts, and the potential benefit to the community as a whole.
As I have received a number of inquiries pertaining to the Steering Committee, this is the list of participants that I received.   
 

  

Route 66: The Road Ahead

 

 

Steering Committee

David Bricker

 

Deputy District Director, California Department of Transportation

San Bernardino, CA

 

John Conoboy

 

National Park Service (retired)

Albuquerque, NM

 

David Dunaway

 

Professor, University of New Mexico

Facilitator, Route 66 Archives and Research Collaboration

Albuquerque, NM

 

Sharlene Fouser

 

Executive Director, Arizona Route 66 All American Road/Rte 66 Assoc.

Flagstaff, AZ

 

Melvena Heisch

 

Deputy SHPO, Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office

Oklahoma City, OK

 

Jim Hinckley

 

Author, Jim Hinckley’s America

Kingman, AZ

 

Jen Hoelzle

 

Director, Illinois Office of Tourism

Springfield, IL

 

Bill Kelly

 

Executive Director, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway

Springfield, IL

 

David Knudson

 

President, National Historic Route 66 Federation

Lake Arrowhead, CA

 

Kevin Mueller

Owner, Blue Swallow Motel

Tucumcari, NM

 

Tommy Pike

 

President, Missouri Route 66 Association

Springfield, MO

 

Dan Rice

 

Owner, 66 to Cali, Inc.

Executive Director Designate, Route 66 Alliance

Santa Monica, CA

 

Bob Russell

 

Mayor, City of Pontiac

Pontiac, IL

 

Katie Steele Danner

 

Director, Missouri State Tourism Office

Board member, Mississippi Parkway Commission

Jefferson City, MO

 

Bill Thomas

 

Community organizer, Village of Atlanta

Atlanta, IL

 

Amy Webb

 

Field Director, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Denver, CO

 

Rich Williams

 

Director, New Mexico Main Street Program

Santa Fe, NM

 

David Zimmerman

 

Historic Preservation Specialist, Arizona Department of Transportation

Phoenix, AZ

 
 
  
           
 

EVOLUTION OF A RENAISSANCE

The dark ages on Route 66 commenced in the mid 1960’s. As development of the interstate highway system replaced long segments of U.S. 66, road side businesses turned toward meeting the needs of a more centralized local market to survive. Compounding the problems these struggling businesses faced was the rise of chain restaurants and motels, and an evolving American society that was more interested in the destination than the journey.
The downward spiral continued through the 1970’s and 1980’s. The American roadside was transformed into a generic, bland world of chain restaurants that mimicked classic road side diners, or pirate ships at Disneyland. Hotels and motels offered cookie cutter amenities that provided travelers with assurance of standards but further watered down the thrill of adventure that had been the hallmark of the classic American road trip. Even the service station experience evolved from that of an interactive business to a cold, impersonal self service transaction.
For all of its problems, warts, and associated dangers, the essence of travel on Route 66 was interaction with fellow travelers, the locals in towns large and small, and business owners. In 1959 a trip from Chicago to Santa Monica on the double six was fraught with white knuckle driving, bad food, good food, lumpy mattresses, neon lit nights, flat tires, sweat soaked shirts, cold soda pop, ringing gas station bells, quirky attractions, traffic, trucks, narrow bridges, strings of stop lights, accidents, laughter, and memory making adventure. 
In 1979 a trip from Chicago to Santa Monica was usually made in an air conditioned cocoon. Days were spent driving as a herd along a safe but bland four lane track. Evenings were spent huddled around a television watching the same programs watched at home in a room no different from the room where you watched television the evening before.
Dinner usually consisted of burgers from a sterile industrial type facility identical to the restaurant you stopped at in Joliet or Tulsa, and you never had to leave the car. If by chance you decided on a more traditional dinner, chances are you would have the menu memorized by the end of the trip as the one in LA was identical to the one in Kingman or Albuquerque.
Fast forward a couple of decades plus a year or two. Route 66, a highway that doesn’t technically exist any longer, has morphed into a living, breathing time capsule as well as America’s longest attraction. Legions upon legions of international adventurers in search of an authentic American experience flock to a dusty Arizona town to bask in the warm smile of a humble barber. In the tarnished old mining town of Galena, a fast talking, always smiling spitfire of a gal is a celebrity known throughout the world. A stretch of brick covered highway in Illinois is a destination. Likewise with a ghost town astride the Texas and New Mexico border, a neon framed motel in Tucumcari, a hippies school  bus turned home in Pontiac, a bridge on the Mississippi River, and a family run cafe in Oklahoma.  Thousands of enthusiasts from most every corner of the globe descend on Kingman, Arizona, in August, for an oversize family reunion, a party, and a bit of Route 66 business. A Norman Rockwell portrait of small town America made manifest in a quaint festival in a town named Cuba attracts people from Texas and Arizona, Massachusetts and California.The Route 66 renaissance is unfolding with blinding speed. But with the rebirth, with the tsunami of fascination that translates to a crush of visitors and travelers there are challenges, pitfalls, and problems that threaten the old roads future. How do you preserve the authentic American experience but cater to an international fan base? How do you maintain the historic infrastructure integral to the roads character but ensure safety? How do you meet the future needs of travelers but preserve the essence of a road trip on Route 66 during its golden years? How do you bridge the chasm that is the diversity of communities and their needs? It begins at the grassroots, just as it did during the creation of the National Old Trails Highway, establishment of the various Route 66 associations, and the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman. Now, however, if the renaissance is to flourish we need to harness the power of that grass roots movement and to build a community with a unified sense of purpose. Examples of fledgling efforts to accomplish this abound. There was the World Monument Fund symposium in Anaheim last November. There was the unprecedented Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference during the 2014 Route 66 International festival. There is Rich Dinkela’s donation in the form of the Events on Route 66 website (under development). Now, the World Monument Fund has facilitated establishment of a steering committee to evaluate means for further development of this unified sense of community to ensure the essence of Route 66 survives to the highways centennial and beyond.From its inception Route 66 has been an ever evolving highway. In the past that evolution never was fast enough to keep pace with changing needs. Will that historic trend with the evolution of the renaissance?  
       
      

EXCITING NEWS AND DEVELOPMENTS ON ROUTE 66

The ground breaking conference in Anaheim last November followed by the internationally televised Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference at the 2014 Route 66 International Festival were initial steps with far reaching implications. Now we have another opportunity to foster development of a sense of community and community purpose along the Route 66 corridor by promoting events internationally.
Rich Dinkela has invested in the development of a well designed website (Events on Route 66) that will provide communities and event developers with an unprecedented promotional opportunity. In addition, it will enable travelers to better plan their adventures, and provide communities with tools to develop coordinated events.
Please note, the above link is functional. The website, however, is only showing samples and examples at this time. The official debut will most likely be made within the coming weeks.
I have offered to assist Rich in the sites development by creating an initial list of events on Route 66 occurring in the next eighteen months. The listing of events is free. However, if you have need of artwork to accompany the site, there will be costs incurred. That aspect is currently under development.
So, please send me information about any event in communities along Route 66, and accompanying art work. It can be a car show or rodeo, air show or art walk, or even a Route 66 celebration or Route 66 related meeting or conference. The idea is to create a centralized clearing house for information about all events taking place along Route 66.
I will also post links as well as basic information on this blog on the page under the “What’s Happening on Route 66” tab at the top of this post. 
Next, Open Road Productions is now offering customized  Route 66 tours with an emphasis on the American southwest. Professor Nick Gerlich and I are committed to assisting the company in the development of these tours to ensure that they provide clients with the best possible Route 66 experience. For more information contact Rick Thomas at (248)561-5506.
In addition to the debut of my new book at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri on October 18, I will be kicking off my fall speaking tour entitled Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future. The first presentation takes place at Route 66 State Park open house at noon on Sunday, October 19.
The schedule is still under development. These presentations are free for museums or non profit organizations. To schedule an appearance, or discuss financial compensation for an appearance at a corporate function, please drop me a note or contact publicist Steve Roth at (612)344-8156.
To close out this mornings report, I have a request. Sam Murray of Gilligan’s Wild West Tours will be kicking off his fall Route 66 tour this week.
This is a fledgling opportunity but Sam Murray has a passion for Route 66, and to share its wonders with clients from New Zealand. Lets help him make the tour a success, and lets roll out the red carpet for his clients.
If you wonder just how passionate Sam is about Route 66, he recently purchased the Frontier Motel and Restaurant in Truxton. Now, Stacy and Allen Greer are passionately giving it a new lease on life. 
     

GETTING AN EARLY START FOR THANKSGIVING RATHER THAN CHRISTMAS

Am I the only one that thinks setting up displays of Christmas items in stores, in mid September, dilutes the holiday to the point that it is little more than a white sale at Penny’s or blue light special at Kmart? Perhaps we should get a head start on Thanksgiving instead.
I will start my early celebration of Thanksgiving with reflections on the current employment situation. Simply put, praise the Lord I have a job to complain about.
It helps put beans on the table, gas in the tank, and tires on the Jeep after an off road adventure. On occasion it also supports the writing habit.
I am really grateful for the Route 66 community and their inspirational passion, their hard work, their dedication, their vision, and their support. Even though they frustrate me to know end, I am even grateful for those in the Route 66 community that seem Hell bent on creating divisions and drawing attention to folks shortcomings rather than their accomplishments. Without the rabble rousers, how many of us would be stirred to action if for no other reason than to prove them wrong?
Our transportation needs are met by two well worn road warriors that would never win awards based on appearance. Still, both are paid for, both are dependable and durable, and both are practical, at least in regard to meeting our needs.
I jokingly refer to the need to have a day job to support the writing habit. Still, even though the childhood goal of becoming a writer when I grow up is still looming somewhere on the horizon, I am very thankful for the rewards of the quest.
My published work has encouraged countless people to explore the wonders of Route 66 and the road less traveled. It has also opened doors that run the gamut from a visit to Jay Leno’s Garage to an invitation to speak on Route 66 at the Vakantiebeurs (travel fair) in Utrecht, The Netherlands. 
An even greater reward is the friends made along the way. Of course it is impossible to reflect on friends and not give thought to my dearest friend, a partner in all things and a travel companion for the road as well as for the adventure of life itself.
When all is said and done, I have a lot to complain about. However, in all honesty, I am a pretty fortunate man, all things considered.        

OF ANNIVERSARIES, ROAD TRIPS, ASSIGNMENTS, CHAOTIC SCHEDULES, AND A WEEKEND OF ADVENTURE

Frank Kocevar, left, and author Jim Hinckley.
A myriad of issues associated with development and promotion of the 2014 Route 66 International Festival, a variety of employment related issues, book promotions, looming deadlines, home repairs, storm damage, family issues, and a few other items consumed the year 2014 like a ravenous wolf.
As a result, my dearest friend and I have experienced a road trip and adventure drought that is almost unprecedented. In fact, our last grand outing was a weekend adventure to Crown King in early spring.
So, on Saturday morning we set out on a whirlwind adventure across northern Arizona. The catalyst for the outing was the need to  celebrate a milestone anniversary. A small photo project provided the excuse. Our destination was the quiet places we so enjoy – those empty places where you can think, meditate on a year seasoned with opportunities to visit with friends, make memories with a friend that will put smiles on our faces in the years to come, and simply reflect on the years gone by while peering into the mist shrouded future without the jangling of cell phones, the unrelenting tick of the clock, or a pressing schedule intruding.
As we had but one appointment to keep, we zipped by the Hackberry General Store, and Stacy and Allen’s place in Truxton with a wave even though we eagerly wanted to see the latest improvements at the Frontier (the friendly invite on the signboard is a nice touch). Our first stop was in Seligman where we hoped to catch the Kocevar’s of Seligman Sundries to personally thank them for their contributions and years of service to the Route 66 community. As it turned out, not only did we have an opportunity to visit with Frank, but we also met the new owners, and learned that Mr. Kocevar is planning on attending Cuba Fest in October.
Our plans also included stopping to see the one and only Angel to thank him for coming to Kingman, and for helping make the opening reception for the Route 66 International Festival such a success. If possible, a haircut was also on the agenda. However, as often happens during the months of summer, his barbershop was swamped with visitors so we simply continued our eastward journey hoping to see him on the return trip.
West of Ash Fork, we made our first foray into the quiet places and stopped to watch a herd of pronghorn antelope as they moved along the broken red asphalt that marked the course of Route 66 in its infancy. In an instant the stillness of the Arizona outback, and the quiet so complete you could hear hoof beats on the stones in the meadow, a year of rushing to meet schedules and deadlines, to fulfill obligations or keep appointments seemed to melt away.As we bounced along the broken asphalt, and over the old Partridge Creek Bridge, I-40 engulfed all traces of Route 66 and we were left to negotiate a rutted road that on occasion imitated a goat trail as we picked our way across the plains toward Ash Fork. Sadly, fences and gates forced us to retrace our steps all the way to Crookton Road. 

The signing of books at the visitor center in Williams, and answering questions from a legion of international fans of the double six, was followed with a walk though town to document the opening of some new restaurants since our last visit and a late lunch at the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams (always excellent). We were in such a good mood even the flat tire on the Jeep discovered upon our return to the visitor center couldn’t dampen our sense of eager anticipation for the journey ahead.It wasn’t my best record and I surely won’t asked to join a professional pit crew but we were back on the road in twenty minutes. The next stop was a tire shop in Flagstaff.This year we tapped the anniversary celebration fund for an evening at the La Posada, our first stay at this wonderful roadside gem. We strolled the grounds, watched a few trains, and explored the hotel from top to bottom.

The historic La Posada inWinslow, Arizona. 

I remember stopping here during he 1970’s when this building housed the railroad offices. What a difference, passion, enthusiasm vision, and a whole lot of money can make! Needless to see, we are eager to see what magic Mr. Afedlt and his wife can bring to the recently purchased historic properties in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Tire changing and exploration work wonders for stimulating appetites and so we set out in search of dinner long after the sun sank in the west. As we were most definitely in a Route 66 frame of mind, we decided that the Falcon Restaurant, a fixture on the Route 66 landscape for sixty years.The old place is starting to show its age. Still, the food was good if basic. The prices were just north of moderate (a hair over $25.00 for our dinner). Still, there is something about the atmosphere in a restaurant where the locals gather, and travelers have stopped for decades, that seems invigorating.After a relaxing nightcap at the La Posada, my dearest friend and I retired to the oasis of the sunken garden where we basked in the warm desert air, and a bit of memory laden conversation. It was a delightful stroll down memory lane that spanned more than three adventuresome decades.We kicked Sunday off with an interesting breakfast at the La Posada. Then there was the signing of books, and we were off on another adventure, this time to McHood Park, and the 1913 bridge spanning Chevelon Canyon on the National Old Trails Highway (Mr. Heward, we ran out of time and didn’t drive all the way to Holbrook).     

McHood Park near Winslow, Arizona. 

McHood Park, just a few miles southeast of Winslow, is one of those special places that are often missed in the need to keep our Route 66 adventure neatly sandwiched between bookend dates. This truly is an oasis tailor made for a relaxing picnic or overnight camping, especially in the months of late spring or early fall. If the schedule allows, bring a canoe or kayak. My understanding is that there are stunning natural wonders just a short distance down stream. Original plans called for following the circa 1913 alignment of the National Old Trails Road (now Territorial and McLaws Road) from highway 99 to Holbrook, but we became so immersed in our explorations that we back tracked from Chevelon Canyon to ensure we were home by 5:00.

Chevlon Canyon, Arizona. 

The recently refurbished bridge is already being targeted by taggers but it is an incredible time capsule framed by stunning landscapes. Climbing into the rocks to photograph the bridge from different angles soon made it quite evident that the foot had yet to fully heel.As I perched high on the rocks above the canyon floor, looking down on the bridge, I could almost hear the squeaks and rattles, and distinctive clatter of a T Model Ford on the gentle desert breeze. Enhancing the illusion of peering into the past was a bit a graffiti carved into the soft stone by previous visitors in 1919, 1920, and 1924 who had shared my rocky perch.Embraced by the solitude and raw beauty of the desert landscapes, I think we could have stayed for a week but the clouds building over the distant San Francisco Peaks, and the lengthening shadows were clear indication that the time had come to set our course for home. The drive westward through intermittent showers was festive but with solemn overtones as with the passing of each mile, we knew that our brief respite from schedules, deadlines, and obligations was drawing to a close. Still, we made time to explore Bookman’s in Flagstaff, and for a pleasant lunch at Miz Zip’s.

The 1913 bridge over Chevelon Canyon. 

Even though we have a grand adventure on Route 66 developing for October, and an opportunity to visit with our Route 66 family at Cuba Fest, our thoughts are on the next anniversary adventure.  

     

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