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 often
overlooked Sixth Avenue alignment of Route 66
in 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 –      
   
 
  
    

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 Route
66 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 –