My dearest friend and I always try to kick off the new year with an interesting adventure, a little of the out with old in with the new sort of thing. It is often just a short drive, a bit of a hike, and the meeting of new people to quicken the spirit, clear the head, inspire fresh thoughts, and ensure some delightful memories for the years to come.
Some folks prefer the polar bear club. We lean more toward the climbing of Amboy Crater or a trip to Kelso.
For 2015 that little new year celebration seems to have morphed into a month long odyssey of unprecedented proportions. There are even indications that it may last until sometime around November!
Dominating the month, and setting the standard for future adventures quite high was the trip to the Netherlands. My dearest friend and I find ourselves staring at the photos to reassure ourselves that it wasn’t all a most incredible dream.
With the exception of a bout of flu, the weeks since our return have been filled with a tantalizing string of activities that hint this year will be a most amazing one for us as well as the Route 66 community. Even better, there is the distinct possibility that all of this will only set the stage for an even more amazing 2016 that includes the international gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts at the original western terminus of the highway in Los Angeles (thank you, Scott Piotrowski).
The sprint to the finish for the current book was given added incentive with receipt of a proposal for another project. In addition to being a subject of interest it represents an opportunity to partner with an esteemed colleague and very good friend.
Cheryl Jett informs me that even though progress has been slow and frustrating, the events being developed in Edwardsville for the weekend of October 31 are starting to shape up. I can relate to the trials and tribulations she and the community face. In a more perfect world there would be an organization such as the old U.S. Route 66 Association in place that could provide assistance, support, and a developmental template.
The list of tour groups that we will be meeting with in coming months as they travel along Route 66 continues to grow. That is always a highlight of our year.
Kathy and David Alexander of Legends of America are currently on the road. I am quite eager to meet with them this weekend as that will ensure an interesting project or two.
The long anticipated exploration of Two Guns with Sean Evans as our intrepid guide is now confirmed. Even better, we will be sharing that adventure with some dear friends from the Netherlands.
David Heward informs me that two very exciting events are shaping up in Holbrook. I am unsure if we can participate in them both. However, we fully intend to partake in the summer get together and share some table space with Mike Ward.
The folks here in Kingman are cooking up an interesting event, Best of The West on 66. Blending the best of the traditional western events including a rodeo that is the cities historic Andy Devine Days celebration with a celebration of Route 66 including additional inductions into the Route 66 Walk of Fame has the potential to be something truly spectacular.
I am unsure how we could dovetail it into the schedule or budget, but including Cuba Fest in the years activity. That is an event that every Route 66 enthusiast needs to experience my friends.
Yep, it looks as though January opened the door on a most interesting year. Now, if I can just figure out how to deal with the fact that we are feeling a bit homesick for Amsterdam (there is an unexpected twist) this could be a year like no other.
In recent years it has become popular and fashionable to refer to Route 66 as a linear community. I would be hard pressed to find a better analogy, especially in light of a few developments this month.
At its core most every community, unless it is a place like Glenrio or Amboy, functions in about the same manner. The folks who call it home all play their part.
You have the good ole boys who feel a God given right to dictate policy based upon past accomplishments or something their grandfather did. The worst of this breed are those who would rather derail the train than share control of the locomotive with anyone else.
The tragedy is that more often than not, these folks once made tremendous contributions to the community. Now, instead of providing leadership based on wisdom gained only with the experience of years, they worry over their legacy and see progress as a personal threat because it represents a future in which they may not be remembered.
As they shuffle along with an ever increasing surliness and bitterness, a youngster eager to cling tight to their coat tails filled with the hope that someday they will inherit the kingdom through association rather than accomplishment will join in their parade of self absorbed tragedy. These tragic folks are easy to spot, even coated in the dust that comes from riding tail.
They puff up their chest like a bantam rooster, crow as though they are the cock of the walk in a valiant effort to drown out competition real or perceived, lack original ideas, and carry an air of imagined importance as they whisper honey dipped words in their benefactors ear. They are a dangerous and pitiful lot.
The size of the wake of destruction they leave behind is usually in direct correlation to the frustration and bitterness that engulfs them when the respect they covet but refuse to earn proves elusive.
Then you have the folks that are generous to a fault. Their motivation is opposite that of those who glide through life on gilded coattails. Rather than preface every action and word with thoughts of what the benefit may be, they instead give without reservation.
Idealists and visionaries who dream big and never tire of chasing rainbows and unicorns are the ones that determine if a community thrives or withers on the vine, but only if the passions can be harnessed by an individual capable of transforming them into realities by inspiring a legion of folks who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
The people who stop by to enjoy a fun filled holiday or a bit of history seldom peek behind the curtain to see the battle for balance that makes it a place they wish to visit. That is as it should be.
The things and attributes that make a community a place where people want to live and visit, a place that people describe with words like charming and special, are fragile and fleeting. If that community is to thrive or even survive care must be taken, the understanding that it is unique and special must be nurtured, and progress needs to be charted with one eye on the future and one on the past. The community of Route 66 is no exception and that is a very hard, cold fact that I hope we never forget.
Next year the world will celebrate the 90th anniversary of this storied old highway with passion. Whether this amazing old road, the vibrant, exciting, alluring, and fascinating community of Route 66 is celebrated with similar zeal during its centennial will depend on the stewardship give it this year and int he year to come.
In seven days, one short week in an almost ninety year history, the first month of the new year will become a part of the past. In this brief moment in time Route 66 and its community has changed dramatically and that is the subject of todays somber tinged musings.
At a small, relatively obscure roadside junction in the Ozark Mountains the entire evolution to date of the storied double six is encapsulated. As of this past week, it is also a window into that highways future.
By 1872, just two years after its formal founding, Paris Springs, Missouri, just a short distance from Paris Springs Junction, was a thriving community with a very bright future. In that year founder Eli Paris opened a hotel and spa to capitalize on the fad of basking in mineral rich spring water for better health.
The prosperous little community also supported a wagon manufacturing company and a broom factory. In the two decades since O.P. Johnson established Johnson Mills at Chaleybeate Springs on this site, a great deal had changed.
It was an attempt to decipher the history of Paris Springs and Paris Springs Junction during the research phase of The Route 66 Encyclopedia that first led me to Gary Turner and that subsequently led to a few fascinating and lengthy conversations.
We did not know Gary Turner of Paris Springs Junction station, a forgotten roadside oasis from the earliest days of Route 66 turned icon, well enough to call him friend even though he had a way of making everybody feel like one on the very first visit. Tragically, as often is the case, the daily schedule as well as distance prohibited visiting as often as we would have liked. Still, our lives were enriched by the short stops on our journey west that often turned to hour long visits, and the memories of fascinating phone calls intertwined with subtle words of encouragement as we talked history.
We lost Gary Turner this past week. Our condolences go out to Lena, his wife, his son Steve, and their family.
Gary, however, was a man of sincerity, a man of unpretentious warmth possessed of a charming dry wit. He was also a man with a dream that was transformed into reality in an obscure place named Paris Springs Junction, Missouri.
A man like Gary could never go through life in obscurity even if he transformed his dream into a reality in Vandercook Lake, Michigan or Wikieup, Arizona. Men like Gary change lives. The fact that his dream was linked to Route 66 enabled him to change and touch lives on an international scale.
Gary was not the only loss to the Route 66 community in the opening weeks of 2015. We also lost the irrepressible Becky of Becky’s Barn, who with her husband Rick linked a hobby and a dream to Route 66 and in the process created a landmark, a fun filled destination for a legion of international travelers.
Ironically, a topic of discussion with enthusiasts during our European adventure was the people that make Route 66 something more than just a mere highway with an interesting history. These would be the people that exude a vibrancy, an honest and sincere passion for the road, its culture, its history, and the people who travel this storied old highway, people like Gary Turner.
Even though they are more commonly found along Route 66 than almost any other road in the nation they are still a relative rarity. Without them Route 66 would be, at best, an interesting and perhaps fascinating old road that coursed through the heartland of America.
In the closing months of 2014, a battle to save the Gasconade River Bridge commenced. A number of bridges and other historic landmarks that ensure a sense of timelessness when motoring along the old double six are also endangered. However, I propose that the greatest threat to ensuring Route 66 remains a colorful, vibrant, exciting, fascinating, alluring, and intoxicating linear time capsule for future generations are the loss of people like Gary Turner.
Many of these individuals, the living icons of the road, are now quite advanced in age or are in poor health. Who will fill their shoes? Who can transform nothing into a destination by filling it with a tangible sense of their passion, their spirit, and their love for the people that travel the road as Gary and Lena Turner did?
Perhaps a vision of the roads future, and an answer to those questions, can be found in looking toward the Patel family in Rialto, the Engman and Mueller family in Tucumcari, the Greer’s in Truxton, and Melba and her family in Galena.
Adios, Gary and Becky. Thank you for your contributions toward ensuring this amazing old road remained a destination as well as an adventure.
Left to right, author Jim Hinckley, Judy Hinckley (aka my dearest friend), and Mirjam van Ravenhorst who presented a gift on behalf of the Dutch Route 66 Association. (Photo courtesy the Dutch Route 66 Association)
We arrived home from the Netherlands about midnight on Monday none the worse for wear except for being tired and with a touch of the flu. It was truly a grand adventure, and as a bonus, it was an educational one as well. Even with heavy grey skies, wind, and a fine misty rain the Netherlands is a beautiful country. However, as with Route 66, it was the warmth and generosity of the people met in our travels that gave the country a truly memorable vibrancy. In the coming weeks I will share details and photos of the adventure, and insights about Route 66 garnered during our visit. As I am still playing catch up on projects as well as rest, and as we have not had an opportunity to download photos (somewhere in the vicinity of 6,000), a brief summary will have to suffice today. We left long before the sun had begun to chase the darkness from the winter sky on the 7th of January, drove to Las Vegas, ran the gauntlet that is airport security, and began the adventure with a flight to Minneapolis. After a two hour layover, we were on our way to Amsterdam. Complaint one – Delta Airlines needs more comfortable seats for long flights. We had yet to set out over the Atlantic and my backside was already numb. Fortunately pillows were provided but don’t think they were intended for the use I found for it.
Willem Bor, Judy Hinckley, Jim Hinckley, and Monique Bor (couresy Dries Bessels)
The flight and clearing customs at Schiphol in Amsterdam went without a hitch. We made up for that on the return flight. On arrival I filled my pockets with Euros, made our first purchase with said currency (coffee), and deciphered the method of using a payphone as Dries Bessels and I had our wires crossed about where to meet. Then in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were at Dries and Marion’s comfortable home where we proceeded to enter a state of unintended unconsciousness for several hours. Somewhat rested, we set our for a delightful evening of good food and delightful conversation at the home of Willem and Monique Bor. Over a delicious dinner of kip (chicken) and curry rice we discussed Route 66, its charm, its future, the recent merger between the Route 66 Alliance and and the National Historic Route 66 Federation, and a wide array of topics. Willem is best known to the Route 66 community for his incredibly well detailed models of iconic landmarks and we were truly honored by this charming couples dinner invitation, and a chance to see his latest project that is under construction. That set the theme for the coming week.
Jim and Judy Hinckley, Hanneke Wiersma, and Karel Kuperus (photographer) in beautiful and blustery Groningen.
The following day we set out with Karel Kuperus and Hanneke Wiersma for a journey to Noordhorn that included extensive site seeing along the way. On this journey we found time for enjoying tea in a most charming canal side cafe, a bit of whimsical house shopping in the stunning village of Garnwerd Groningen, and lunch in historic Groningen. We closed out the day at an Italian restaurant where we savored excellent food enhanced by friends and heart warming conversations. The next day we returned to Amsterdam after a bit of site seeing that included the tour of an historic windmill that is still in operation arranged by Karel. As exciting, fun, enjoyable, and fascinating as all of this was, a highlight of that Saturday was a delightful and energized gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts at de Prael in the heart of the historic city. Attendees included Wolfgang Werz of the German Route 66 Association, Dries and Marion Bessels as well as members of the Dutch Route 66 Association, Swa Frantzen from Belgium, the owners of U.S. Bikers and USA Holiday (Jan and Henk Kuperus), friends, and a score or two of fans of the old double six. Beer and book signings, lively conversation and excellent food ensured it was a most delightful evening. The following day there was more site seeing, this time with Jeroen and Maggie Boersma as our guides. This too was a most fascinating and fun filled adventure (details to follow) that included a tour of a wooden shoe museum. Before you laugh, consider the fact there is a very popular and very interesting barbed wire museum in Texas. The day closed with another delicious home cooked meal (thank you, Marion) and delightful conversation.
A bit of house shopping.
Then it was off to Belgium with Dries for visiting some World I related sites in the Ypres area. The nightly Last Post memorial service in Menin Gate would have been moving at any time of the year but with a cold misty rain it was most somber. It is nothing short of amazing to consider that the names inscribed on the walls are of those men from the British empire whose bodies were never recovered. It was in Ypres that we experienced our first bad meal. It would be difficult to describe the food or service at Old Tom Restaurant as even mediocre but it did provide adequate fodder for jokes about Belgian chicken. We chased away the chill and washed down the meal with a few beers, and a shot of Hexengeist at Old Bill Pub. What a charming old place! It definitely shows its age but the new owners opened on January 2nd and they exude excitement for their venture. We closed out this day at the modern and restful Novetel Leper Centrum. Aside from some issues involved with decoding the combination for the light switches, it was a nice hotel. A cold, drizzly rain accompanied us on the return trip to Amsterdam that included stops at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, and the Sanctuary Wood Museum at Hill 62. The latter was most intriguing. At first glance it appeared to be little more than a Route 66 type mom and pop museum of odds and ends collected from area farm fields, and a place to grab a beer and sandwich. First impressions should not always be trusted. The collection of artifacts and photographs were stunning and mood setting for what awaited us in the forest outside. With a cold misty rain swirling around us, we stepped from the world of history into a time when that history was made. Preserved here are trenches and shell craters, bunkers and remnants from a time of unimaginable horror. The shivers that ran along my spine were not the result of the cold rain or the water I sloshed through in the trenches, it was that the weather had completely cut me off from the present and returned me to a time when a British soldier lost his life every forty five seconds in these damp, muddy mazes. We closed out this chapter of the European adventure with another delightful dinner courtesy of Marion, several beers, and even more stimulating conversation. Wednesday and Thursday were an absolute kaleidoscope of sensory experiences that ranged from historic sites, exploration of historic Amsterdam with Dries as our guide, excellent food, finding a store that sold my books, our first visit to the Holiday Fair in Utrecht, and an evening boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam with Dries, Marion, Jeroen, and Maggie. The only fly in the ointment was that our state of exhaustion and the curse of the Belgian chicken prevented us from enjoying dinner with Jeroen and Maggie in Amsterdam. There will be more details on these adventures as well but suffice to say it was a most overwhelming and exciting couple of days.
courtesy Dries Bessels
Our last days in the Netherlands were consumed by the holiday fair, and evenings of shared conversation, excellent food, and cold beer at a cabin in a forested resort near Utrecht shared with the owners of U.S Bikers and USA Holidays and a few of their employees. The holiday fair was an extraordinary event that pulsed with excitement. I made three presentations about Route 66 (two of which went well and one that wasn’t very pretty resultant of an array of technical difficulties), and answered questions about that famous highway as well as Kingman at the booth for U.S. Bikers and USA Holidays until my throat was raw .
Courtesy U.S. Bikers
Our visit to this charming country closed with another excellent dinner courtesy of Marion, and conversation that went well into the evening. The following day it was a quick breakfast, a trip to the airport, and an adios to our dear friend Mr. Bessels. The flight home was, well, interesting. It started with a weather delay that left us trapped on board and on the tarmac for almost two hours. The cold I felt coming on early Saturday morning was beginning to manifest in spades. The delay in take off from Schiphol resulted in a late arrival in Detroit. This coupled with an hour at customs resulted in the missing of our connecting flight to Las Vegas. The airline booked us on another flight – at 8:30 the following morning. Instead, I went gate to gate in search of Las Vegas bound flights, pleaded my case, and was rewarded with a flight leaving at 6:00 PM. To say this grand adventure was a life changing endeavor would be akin to saying Minneapolis is cold in January (guess how cold it was when we landed there). To our European friends and neighbors that displayed such open generosity and warmth, thank you. To our Dutch friends new and old, thank you. To the owners of U.S. Bikers and USA Holidays, thank you. Can we do this again next year?
Yesterday, it was announced that the long discussed and long rumored merger of the Route 66 Alliance and the National Historic Route 66 Association were about to become fact. It was also announced that the entity created from the merger would be operating under the name U.S. 66 Highway Association and that the new organization was registering the names Route 66 Association and Highway 66 Association.
At this juncture I would be quite remiss if a bit of clarification wasn’t provided. First, I can not and will not speak on behalf of the steering committee.
Second, even though this merger has been the topic of discussion for quite some time, and even though two individuals involved with the merger are are also serving on the steering committee facilitated by the World Monuments Fund and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, that committee played no role in this merger. In fact, in conversations with a few steering committee members I spoke with this morning it became apparent that the Route 66 community learned of the merger at the same time.
Obviously the resultant conflict of interest could become an issue. At this time, however, it appears that the steering committee will move forward with plans to finalize the unanimously approved draft statement of mission and goals crafted in Albuquerque for the establishment of “…one professionally led, representative body.”
As noted previously, the steering committee is not to serve as that organization, it is merely meant as the means to facilitate its creation, organization, and development. This includes face-to-face forums, stakeholder meetings within the Route 66 community, and public discussions to ensure transparency.
A schedule for those meetings and public discussions will be finalized shortly. The delay was resultant of the holidays and the need to ensure the committee approved of the final statement pertaining to the creation of a new, representative organization derived from the meeting in Albuquerque.
This takes me to two of the most often asked questions since the release of the statement about the merger. The first of these is a recurrent question pertaining to the make up of the steering committee.
The simple answer is this; to ensure the past and future needs of the Route 66 community were considered in the development of the drafting of a mission and goals statement for the creation of an organization built on a clean foundation, representatives from a diverse spectrum of interests ranging from state, federal, and local government to tourism, business interests, and non profit organizations associated with historic preservation were selected.
The second question is also a recurring one. However, the recent closure of the Gasconade Bridge in Missouri enables me to answer it in the form of an illustrated lesson.
As envisioned this newly minted organization would facilitate grass roots initiatives such as the Gasconade Bridge preservation endeavor, and provide assistance to those individually developed. It would also streamline those initiatives to maximum resources, and provide organizational assistance.
In addition, this organization should be proactive instead of reactive. As an example, endeavors to preserve endangered bridges should commence before, not after, closure.
That is but one example of why an umbrella organization that can provide an array of assistance to the Route 66 community is needed. Finally, this new entity is envisioned as a resource, not a replacement, for existing Route 66 associations or the organization created through the merger of the Route 66 Alliance and National Historic Route 66 Federation. It is also supposed to be a resource for tourism offices, tour companies, media, state and local governments, and the international Route 66 community.
As always, I would like to hear your thoughts ideas and suggestions. I will respond but there may be a bit of a delay. Until the 20th of this month we will be on the road.