My dearest friend with Jay Leno at our Saturday book signing.
As is often the case with me, the primary schedule for this past weekend seemed simple enough; drive to Burbank, sign books at Auto Books – Aero Books, drive to the Autry National Center, sign books in their gift shop, sign books at the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, meet with Scott Piotrowski (tour guide and historian), get a preview of the landscape that he envisions will serve as the stage for the 90th anniversary celebration of Route 66 in 2016 at 7th and Broadway in Los Angeles, the original western terminus of that highway and a detailed tour of the many faces of Route 66 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In my world seldom do things go as planned or even as envisioned. For that, I am usually quite grateful. The first of my carefully laid plans fell by the wayside before hitting the road. Last minute issues at the office translated into a late rental car pick up (I determined fuel savings over use of the Jeep would pay for the rental car). So, instead of being on the road by 16:00 hours, we left Kingman long after the sun had bid adios for the day. Stop one, dinner at the Wagon Wheel restaurant in Needles. This old gem, complete with Bob Waldmire art work menus, is showing its age but the food was adequate and the staff friendly as well as polite. Prices do not constitute a bargain but dinner won’t break the bank. By the time we made Barstow the sixteen hour day was taking a bit of a toll and so we decided to call it a day, and plan for an early start on Saturday. Rest proved elusive as highway and train noise ensured that sleep was fitful. The next morning we availed ourselves of the basic breakfast available in the lobby, and set out for Burbank. As traffic was light we made excellent time, and with an hour to spare decided to sample the goods at a charming coffee shop in the neighborhood (Details on this and our motels as well as restaurants will be provided in forthcoming posts) Dating to 1953, Auto Books – Aero Books at 2900 Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank is a true gem. Shelves brim with books and magazines, new and used, about every aspect and topic of possible interest (from biographies to brand histories, from travel books to automotive repair) represented by the stores name. As a result, a book signing here is always a rewarding adventure. First, it provides me with an opportunity to support a classic mom and pop book store. Second, because of its extensive inventory, the store attracts the most interesting clientele which in turn leads to fascinating conversations. Third, those folks often arrive in interesting automobiles. This past Saturday the entire experience was greatly enhanced by visits from friends old and new. As a bonus, Jay Leno stopped by in a gorgeous 1931 Bentley.
Author Jim Hinckley talks with Jay Leno at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank. (john Springs)
During an interview in his garage in 2010, he had teased me about the eclectic nature of my book that profiled the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. So, it seemed only appropriate that I inform him of the current project, a book profiling the history of the American taxi industry. There was also an opportunity to follow up on correspondence about the electric vehicle museum under development in Kingman. After the official signing I added an autograph to books in inventory to ensure the store has a little something special to sell during the holidays. Then we joined John and Judy Springs for a trip to the Autry National Center, exploration of the museums excellent Route 66 exhibit, and the signing of books in the gift shop. Afterwards, as we and the Springs were staying at the same motel, they gamely allowed me to play chauffeur as we set out for a dinner at Casa Bianca with Scott Piotrowski, his charming wife, and young master Sam, their delightful son. After a delightful game of seek that parking space, we settled in for an evening of excellent food spiced with wonderful conversation. It proved to be a perfect end for a most fascinating day. Eager anticipation for the long overdue exploration of the many faces of Route 66 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area with tour guide extraordinaire Scott Piotrowski leading the way ensured that I was up and ready to roll long before the sun. So, as a result we arrived at Auntie Em’s Kitchen, our rendezvous almost an hour before they opened, which provided time to explore the neighborhood.
Anna Grechiskina, the intrepid young lady traveling the world solo by motorcycle at Auto Books – Aero Books.
Barred windows, signs in Korean, and a sea of graffiti made it quite clear that my dearest friend and I were not in Kingman, Kansas or Arizona. Still, the multitude of historic gems hidden in plain site, the palm trees, and the fascinating nature of the neighborhood fueled the building anticipation for the adventure awaiting us. The breakfast, shared with Scott, Anna (the intrepid explorer), and her friend was superb and as unique and interesting as the neighborhood. What better way to start the day than thick black coffee from Trinidad, lightly seasoned corn cakes, smoked salmon, fresh salsa, and potatoes fried in a stimulating mix of spices. Professor Nick Gerlich often refers to individuals enamored with vintage signs, specifically of the neon variety as sign geeks. The various alignments of Route 66 in the LA area is truly a sign geek paradise. The imagination staggers at the thought of how bright and colorful the nights once were in some of these neighborhoods. I find it rather ironic that, perhaps, the most unexplored segments of Route 66 are not found in the deserts of Arizona or New Mexico. Nor are they hidden by the encroaching forest in Missouri. They are hidden in plain sight in the largest metropolitan area in America and Scott Piotrowski knows each of them intimately. Without reservation I can honestly say that if you have any interest in the exploration of obscure alignments of Route 66, a fascination for urban exploration, or are simply intrigued with forgotten and overlooked history, you owe it to yourself to arrange for a tour led by Scott. We spent more than four hours winding through neighborhoods and the city center. There were fascinating little detours and side trips where we were awarded near perfect locations to photograph Route 66 treasures. We were introduced to intriguing stores, architectural gems, and obscure historical treasures. In short, the adventure was nothing short of astounding. At this point I need to provide you with a bit information about some exciting Route 66 developments in the coming year, and a bit of insight about the plans for a 90th anniversary celebration of that highway at its original western terminus in LA. First, Cheryl Eichar Jett has shared some interesting news on her blog, Route 66 Chick about developments in Edwardsville. This includes the conference and Route 66 related activities next October. Now, about the proposed event in 2016. When Scott first approached me about the idea I was intrigued. Route 66 in the LA area is often overlooked by all but the most ardent Route 66 enthusiasts, and to the best of my knowledge a major Route 66 event hasn’t taken place in a large metropolitan area in decades. I know that Scott has been laying the groundwork for this incredible event for more than a decade but it still seemed like a daunting task. Now that I have been to the proposed ground zero, now that I have a more personal understanding of logistics and transportation, now that I have experienced Scott’s passion and enthusiasm for the project in person, I am quite confident that it will take place, and that it will be an unprecedented event in the highways history. He is building an impressive coalition of support, and has carefully evaluated ways to address two of the primary concerns (lodging costs and transportation) expressed about the event taking place at the heart of a major city. Neither of these are as daunting as one might think.
For sign geeks everywhere.
As but one example, in the surrounding area (Pasadena, Eagle Rock, etc.) there are an array of lodging options that range from upscale to moderate, and even a few Route 66 classics such as the Saga Motor Hotel in Pasadena. As an example, during our weekend visit we stayed at the centrally located Eagle Rock Best Western. Even though the price ($98 per night with AAA discount) was higher than the Chalet Inn in Groom, it was less than similar motels encountered in Oklahoma City or Amarillo. It was also clean, quiet, and is managed by a friendly helpful staff. A number of these lodging choices in neighboring communities are mere blocks from access to a superb light rail system, much of which parallels an alignment of Route 66, that will whisk you to within blocks of the area proposed for the event in less than a half hour. It should be duly noted that Scott is also evaluating the possibility and is working on arrangements for a host hotel in the historic heart of the city. It should also be noted that he still has almost two years to go!
Ground zero for a proposed 90th anniversary celebration of Route 66 in 2016.
Now, as it looks as though I am almost out of time for today’s post, let me share one more little item from from our recent adventure. In forthcoming posts I will close out the story of our recent California adventure and provide detailed information and recommendations, as well as reviews of restaurants and motels. It should also be noted that I may not be posting between Wednesday and Saturday this week resultant of my attendance at the meeting of the World Monuments Fund steering committee in Albuquerque. Okay, after an unfortunate incident at Fair Oaks Pharmacy in Pasadena, we were forced to forgo lunch and hit the road. As a result, by late afternoon hunger was starting to dominate my thoughts. So, we set our sites on a few Route 66 classics on our way to Rialto where I was to sign books for the gift shop at the Wigwam Motel. Option one did not open for Sunday dinner until 5:00 PM, it was 4:30. Option two did not begin serving diner until 6:00, it was 5:30.
The Route 66 corridor in the heart of historic LA.
So, being the adventuresome folks that we are, we decided to give Boba Planet a shot. It was a bit over priced but the food was good, nutritious and filling even though it was basic. The drink department was where things got a bit strange. Have you ever tried an iced chai tea smoothie, sipped through over sized straws to accommodate boba balls? Interesting, most interesting.
As I gaze toward the future, especially the next ninety days, there is a sense of being hung up and trying to ride it out until the pick up men can save my backside. This is shaping up to be one heck of a ride.
Late yesterday afternoon I attended an interesting meeting with an array of business and community leaders to discuss the expansion of Andy Devine Days activities. The basic idea is to link the celebration of Kingman’s frontier and western heritage with its Route 66 association.
Interestingly enough, there is already an historic precedent for linking the two in a reference by Jack Rittenhouse in his now classic A Guide Book to Highway 66 penned in 1946. “Each September, the citizens of Kingman celebrate their famous “Dig-N-Dogie Days” in a rodeo which combines cowboy contests with miners events.”
With the push to commemorate Kingman’s famous son by renaming the Route 66 corridor Andy Devine Avenue in the 1950s, this event became Andy Devine Days. Plans for the 2015 event scheduled for September 25 through the September 27 include the traditional rodeo, a greatly expanded version of the parade (Bob Boze Bell, expect a phone call),an array of musical entertainment, Native American participation, and a huge car show.
There will also be the second annual induction of nominees into the Route 66 Walk of Fame. This honorarium for folks who have contributed to the transformation of Route 66 from a highway into an icon was unveiled during the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
If you plan on being in the neighborhood next year, or have interest in participating, please drop me a note. I will have you added to a mailing list for regular updates.
Today it is another day at the office, and then this evening we turn care of the homestead over to our son, and drive to Barstow to get a bit of a jump on the weekend. On Saturday, between 10:00 and 2:00 I will be signing books at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank, California (2900 W. Magnolia Blvd.) during their Memories of the Road and Road Trips Day.
The intrepid Anna Grechishkina, the young lady from the Ukraine that is riding a motorcycle around the world solo will be stopping by. Ester Brym will be hosting a showing of her acclaimed film, Autumn of Route 66. Scott Piotrowski, the historian and tour guide that is spearheading the development of the 90th anniversary celebration of Route 66, and a related convention, at the original western terminus of Route 66 in downtown Los Angeles in 2016 will also be stopping by. So, it should be a most interesting day.
Then I will be stopping by the Autry National Center to sign books in their gift shop. This will be followed by dinner and informal brain storming session about development of the 2016 event with Scott Piotrowski and associates, and a few friends.
On Sunday morning my dearest friend I will be privileged to experience a Mr. Piotrowski led tour in the district embracing the original western terminus of Route 66 at 7th and Broadway in Los Angeles. If the day goes as planned, we will close out the California visit with a stop at the historic Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena, and then make the long drive home.
Next week, bright and early on Wednesday morning, I head east for Albuquerque to attend the eagerly anticipated meeting of the World Monuments Fund Steering Committee. On one leg of the journey plans call for visiting with David Heward in Holbrook to discuss developments in that city, and to offer my assistance. Perhaps, if time allows, I can take him up on the offer of an inside tour of area historic sites.
The downside to this adventure is that it will be a long and empty drive as I will be flying solo without my sidekick. When traveling without my dearest friend there is a sense that I left home without my pants, the left front wheel, and that there is a heavy winter chill. In short, things just seem askew in the world without my dearest friend.
All of this is to be followed by the push to meet the History Press deadline, and the continuance of planning for the trip to the Netherlands in January. Details on the latter will be provided soon but I hope we will be able to visit our European friends at the travel fair in Utrecht.
The final items for the day are a bit of shameless self promotion but I think you might find interest in them.
Arrangements are being finalized for a way to enhance visits to Kingman for tour groups. Customized packages that include historic district tours, and catered dinners with local entertainment or historic presentations should ready to unveil by December.
Last but not least, my Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future presentations are gaining in popularity if inquiries are any indication. In essence the program consists of my dry wit laced commentary coupled to an old fashioned slide show featuring historic images and our award winning photography. In short, the entire package becomes a virtual tour along Route 66 from end to end, and from present to distant past.
For more information about any of these developments or programs, please drop a note. Meanwhile, see you in Burbank.
The year was 1990. With gentle encouragement from my dearest friend, I took the first tentative steps toward fulfilling a childhood goal of becoming a writer (this is someone who derives their entire income from writing and that can still afford to eat every other day). As I was only 33 years old, it was a bit early for a mid life crisis and so instead, it was envisioned as pursuit of a potentially profitable, and fulfilling hobby.
Author Jim Hinckley signing books for an Australian tour group.
Fast forward twenty-four years. The fulfilling and potentially profitable hobby, the quest has now morphed into an often fun filled adventure along twisted trails peppered with enticing, often distracting crossroads, and colorful people. It is now a full time job with minimal financial return but rewards of incalculable value in the form of friendships, previously unimaginable opportunities, and lots of travel with my dearest friend.
Some folks turn forty-five and set out on a tragically comedic quest to fool themselves into believing youth is restored with the purchase of a red Corvette convertible and a bottle of dye. The pursuit of fading youth has never been a concern in my world as ma said that I was born ninety and never aged.
If, however, there is a magic elixir that preserves youth, it is in acceptance of the fact that aging and the inevitable conclusion are an important part of the life experience. Harness the mid life crisis, at any age, by using the dawning realization that life is fleeting as incentive to sharpen the focus on the pursuit of dreams. Fraught with frustrations of the self induced kind, and plagued by the trials, tribulations, and consequences of choices made that are as a much a part of life as breathing, the pursuit of the dream has been an adventure beyond anything that could have been imagined when it began. I am writing this today with thoughts about an acquaintance in Texas, a talented young man who in the pursuit of a similar dream recently had a head on collision with the frustrating world of the publisher. Hang in there, amigo. This is just part of the adventure you have chosen. Besides, if you decide on pursuing a career in stand up comedy, you will have ample material. Granted, I lack experience in the real world of publishing and publishing profitably. Still, I find it odd that the plug would be pulled on a poorly selling book mere weeks before an interview with Jay Leno. Likewise, I find it strange that a company would lay off people do to sluggish sales while waiting for the monthly marketing meeting to determine if a book that enters a second printing in less than three months should be reprinted again. Did I mention that this was just weeks before the Christmas season that followed on the heels of major promotion? Did I mention that once the green light was given, it would be a minimum of sixty days before books would be available resultant of the delay?
Still, the pursuit of the dream continues. After the penning of a dozen books, and hundreds of feature articles, and countless associated adventures, I look back on the journey and shake my head in wonder, and toward the future with eager anticipation. As I rush to beat the clock on another fast approaching deadline, and to sell a publisher on the next project, the intertwined frustration and anxiety leave me wondering if, perhaps, it is to late in life to begin pursuit of my other childhood dream; owning a ranch in southern New Mexico, and pursuing the life of my high riding heroes. Then I give thought to the friends made on my quest over the years. I give thought to the adventures past, and the adventures to come, such as the fast approaching trip to the Netherlands. I reflect on the people that have been encouraged to explore the road less traveled, and make memories of their own because of something I wrote. Then I gaze into the gentle and loving face of my dearest friend, the one that encouraged me to pursue the dream, the one that has shared the adventures and the frustrations, the triumphs and disappointments, and I know that this quest has just begun. Then I reflect on the message learned on countless adventures on Route 66 – a journey should never be tainted with a myopic focus on the destination, it should be savored and enjoyed with friends.
With one day left to go, I can say with all honesty that so far this has been the most fascinating and fun filled weekend since our return from Cuba Fest. As an added bonus there were Route 66 related aspects, and it was also a bit productive and educational.
It kicked off late Friday evening with dinner and stimulating conversation at the Dambar in Kingman as we met with yet another tour group. With Route 66 guidance provided by Gary Fleshman, Pamela Baker of Event Spectrum Incorporated was leading an eclectic group of Canadian journalists down the old double six on an adventure sponsored by Nissan.
As many of our visitors were automotive journalists, it was an evening to talk old cars, automotive history, and Route 66. That, my friends, is a near perfect trifecta for dinner conversations.
This morning, after a 6:00 AM haircut and assorted errands, my dearest friend and I set out on a journalistic quest. The first of two assignments was to evaluate an ultra rare 1916 Galloway tractor for possible inclusion in a future publication of Antique Power.
This story includes a multifaceted twist of fate that is still unfolding. Several years ago Brad Bowling assumed the editorial helm of this publication and immediately contacted me with a request to provide regular submissions.
Now, some of my earliest published work was for Old Cars Weekly. At that time Brad Bowling was serving as the editor.
Then when he moved on to Amos Publishing and assumed the editorial position for the venerable magazine Cars and Parts, he contacted me and after lengthy discussion as well as negotiation, I put on the associate editor hat and penned a monthly column entitled The Independent Thinker.
Abruptly, after decades of publication and providing service to the classic car community, Amos Publishing pulled the plug and Cars and Parts became an historic footnote as the last issue rolled from the press. Brad and I parted ways until he went to work for an automotive auction company, and he asked me to write entries for the catalogs.
When Brad asked me to provide material for Antique Power, it was the first time in twenty years that I was unable to provide assistance. Simply put, Kingman, Arizona isn’t a hot bed of vintage tractor restoration or collecting.
Enter Buddie Knutson, an Arizona transplant from the wheat fields of Montana. Mr. Knutson represents a generation that is fast fading from the American landscape. In addition to serving as the custodian for more than a century of family heirlooms associated with farming and homesteading in Montana, he is a humble man that transforms wreckage into treasure, and hunks of cold steel into functioning parts that give vintage equipment a new lease on life. Scattered throughout his cavernous workshop is a 1940’s International pick up purchased new by an uncle that is undergoing a frame off restoration, the Galloway purchased by family in 1926, and an array of similar items. O
1916 Galloway tractor.
utside, awaiting the attention of this amazing craftsman are a 1941 Dodge dump truck purchased new by his father, Buddie’s first car (a T model Ford of unknown vintage), and a 1963 Ford truck, also purchased new by family.
The Galloway was dismantled sometime around World War II with plans to sell it for scrap. Instead, it remained in a heap exposed to the harsh winters of Montana until the late 1990’s. As my knowledge about vintage tractors and their manufacture is rather limited, as we photographed the old workhorse we also received an education.
A wheel made from scrap metal.
As the number or remaining Galloway manufactured tractors, and trucks, is so small you can count them without taking off shoes and socks, an owner either restores components or he is forced to make them. The latter first requires making the equipment and machinery needed to reproduce the parts. As a case in point, the brass hand pump to pressurize the fuel tank, magneto switch, a rear fender and a front wheel were among the missing components on this tractor. So, after evaluating pictures, and taking painstaking measurements from existing models, Buddie made the machinery that allowed him to make the missing pieces. In talking with Buddie the idea that in 2015, the City of Kingman needs to host a vintage tractor and engine show began to develop. Not surprisingly, he belongs to a club for similar enthusiasts and a number of them live near Jerome. Our second assignment was for Angelo VanBogart, the current editor of Old Cars Weekly. The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation museum in the Powerhouse that debuted during the Route 66 International Festival is garnering a wide array of attention even though the official opening is still weeks away. My job is to provide additional exposure for thus museum and subsequently Route 66.
An ultra rare 1957 Electric Shopper.
The foundation is in the process of acquiring a number of significant vehicles that will be added to the museum soon, and is searching for other suitable donations. The end result will be an eclectic collection as well as a new destination for automotive and Route 66 enthusiasts. It will also add to the idea that this storied old highway is truly the crossroads of the past and future. After photographing the entire collection from every conceivable angle, my dearest friend surprised me with an offer to buy lunch at Redneck’s Southern pit Barbecue. Good food and a date with a gorgeous woman who also happens to be my best friend plus two assignments, could a Saturday get any better?
A 1905 electric truck.
Yes, it can. Our delightful lunch date was followed by a pleasant walk encouraged by unseasonably warm temperatures along the Beale Street corridor that is becoming vibrant once more. I closed it out with a shared pizza and a bottle of wine, work on the current book, and a movie. With less than two months to go until deadline, the pressure is mounting and I am still in need of illustrations. Adding to the building anxiety is the fact that next weekend we will be in Burbank for a Saturday morning book signing at Auto Books Aero Books, and, on Sunday, a tour of ground zero for the proposed 90th anniversary celebration of Route 66 in 2016 at the highways original western terminus. The following week is the first meeting for the World Monuments Fund steering committee in Albuquerque. The focus will be to build on the two conference calls and attempt to draft a template for cohesive and unified Route 66 development. This would have been a near perfect weekend in any case. As it served as an interlude in a very busy, very high pressure schedule, it was a wonderful respite. Today’s assignment, meet with a German television crew and focus on the book.
In our last post I hinted that exciting things were unfolding and that 2015 would mark the dawn of a new era on the historic double six. Well, here we go!
Ron Hart of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the studios of Joe Loesch, has completed a short but charming public service announcement that captures the essence of an historic old road that has become America’s longest attraction. Route 66 News posted a story about the development of the video. Grassroots endeavors such as these are the very foundation of the Route 66 renaissance and exemplify the type of people that give this road its unique and colorful vitality.
My hope is that the initiative being facilitated by the World Monuments Fund will harness this grassroots passion and vision, and unify these type of endeavors. I can only imagine what the impact would be if these creative projects were magnified through development of an entity that fosters a unified sense of purpose and direction.
Meanwhile, communities large and small from Chicago to Santa Monica are looking toward Route 66 as a catalyst for development or redevelopment. In the process they are rolling back time and ensuring that this highway becomes a linear version of Colonial Williamsburg or Dearborn’s Greenfield Village, a living breathing time capsule where the entire societal evolution of 20th century America is preserved for future generations.
The City of Albuquerque has released a Route 66 Action Plan that could serve as a template for corridor development in other communities. A story about the action plan, with link to access the entire 122 page report is available on Route 66 News.
The action plan is a logical step for a city that grasped the potential of Route 66 quite some time ago. The cities official tourism website page gives the double six top billing.
The City of Kingman is moving forward on development of a second Route 66 event. With the annual Route 66 Fun Run in the spring, the fall event that would blend the cities western heritage with its Route 66 association would bracket the tourism season.
This morning Richard Moeur, a participant at this year Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future and avid proponent for bicycle tourism shared an economic impact study that should provided added incentive for cities to develop their Route 66 corridor in a manner that bridges the past and future. Dare to imagine what we can do if all of these initiatives are tied together as a comprehensive package!
Holbrook is shaking off the dust and reawakening from a very long slumber. David Heward recently announced that the second Route 66 Relics tour has been scheduled for 2015. This is the cornerstone for the development of an annual Route 66 themed event that will showcase the gems and treasures awaiting resurrection in this historic community. For far to long the contributions of Native Americans and other minorities to Route 66 history was being overlooked. That too is being rectified and I am most excited about these developments as well since they will add color and vibrancy to the Route 66 experience.
In Tucumcari the annual Rockabilly event continues to grow in popularity. This year visitors will have an additional lodging choice in the form of the Roadrunner Lodge, an historic property on the fast track to oblivion until the Brenner’s rolled up their sleeves and gave it a new lease on life. Dora Meroney, and Croc Lile, are working to draw the world’s attention to the charming and often overlooked 6th Street corridor in Amarillo that once funneled Route 66 traffic through the city. Plans are underway for a huge celebration in the summer of 2015. All of these developments and more set the stage for what could very well be the largest Route 66 celebration yet in 2016 at the original western terminus of the historic highway. That should ignite some excitement and spark the imagination for communities large and small as they plan for centennial celebrations in 2026. Route 66 may not be the nations most historic or most scenic highway. However, it is the most famous. It also the Main Street of America, an incredible place where dreams are born, where dreams come true, and where everyone can experience the thrill of discovery.