It has been a rather interesting week to say the very least. As is often the case it has also been a week tinged with frustration and a barely restrained excitement about the weeks to come.
In perusing Facebook this morning I found this picture from a holiday fair posted by Australian based Route 66 Tours. There is still an almost surreal feel to finding my books in a shop in Amsterdam, having people from France or Germany stop me on the street and ask that I sign their copy, or to see them on display in an international setting such as this.
Over the years it has often been said that I seem to have a gift for telling folks where to go. That was a catalyst for the penning of travel books and feature articles in addition to my original work that focused on the chronicling of the evolution of the American auto industry.
Now, it seems, I am encouraging an international audience to discover the adventure that is exploration of American two lane highways and dusty back roads. Judging by notes received, and comments made, they seem to be enjoying those adventures and that makes me quite happy indeed.
For my dearest friend and I, a highlight of every year is the meeting with the legions of Route 66 enthusiasts and friends from throughout the world as they pass through Kingman, answering their questions, sharing memories from more than a half century of life lived on that storied highway, and learning a bit about the world in the process. Usually we while away the months of winter eagerly counting down the days until spring when the season for travel commences in earnest. This year, however, was different as we were privileged with the opportunity to meet with fans of Route 66 in the Netherlands. Kicking off a new year with an a Route 66 related adventure of this magnitude was a real game changer. Needless to say, for a good old boy from a dusty Arizona backwater this is all rather amazing. Last year we met with a New Zealand tour group at the Hackberry General Store where I often stopped to gas up my ’46 GMC on the way into town from the ranch more years ago than I care to count. We often have lunch with friends and tours from Australia at the cafe where I ate Christmas dinner on my return to Kingman in 1976. When my dearest friend and I were courting, the Kingman Drug with Jan’s Soda Fountain was our hang out after a movie. Now its a Mexican restaurant where we shared a delightful dinner with Jeroen and Maggie, friends from the Netherlands. Angel in Seligman is an international celebrity, not just the small town barber that trimmed my hair when I came into town from Paulden and Drake. Ed’s Camp is a dusty, forlorn empty ruin that is a photographers destination, not the place where I bought tomatoes, or where I helped old man Edgerton run water lines. Times do change. Meanwhile, as we await the dawn of a new season, and plan new adventures, attentions are turned toward more immediate tasks; the adventure in self publishing, taxes, addressing a few of the ailments plaguing Barney the Wonder truck, home repairs, … To close this out today, I have a special offer to announce. Beginning on March 1, a limited edition souvenir from the 2014 Route 66 International Festival will be included with a book order (see ordering information at the top of the page). There is, however, a slight catch. This offer is limited to the first fifty orders received.
Well, the new adventure that is self publishing is now well underway. With the exception of illustrations and editing the first chapter (a detailed tour guide to the historic sites, points of interest, and Route 66 alignments in Kingman) is complete. As envisioned, the second chapter will add depth and context to the first with the reprinting of newspaper and magazine feature articles from the past century or so.
A detailed tour guide to Route 66 between Kingman and the Colorado River is the plan for the third chapter. Also planned for inclusion is a guide to the Williamson Valley Road and historic Prescott, Kingman area ghost towns, and old rail lines such as the Mill Town Railroad.
The site of Fig Springs Station 2014
Simply put, the first volume of the planned series will be a rather complete guide to the Kingman area. However, as often happens with similar endeavors, as the project progresses the vision of the finished product becomes sharper so there is the very distinct possibility that current plans are subject to change. In addition to this fascinating endeavor the joint project with archivist Joe Sonderman that was discussed previously has been approved. I am truly honored to be working with Joe and look forward to crafting another book that will chronicle a bit of obscure Route 66 history. Adding to the growing sense of eager anticipation for this project is the fact that this may provide the excuse (as though one is needed)to again attend Cuba Fest.
Cuba Fest 2014
There are still a few loose ends to tie up in regard to the book for History Press but for the most part it is ready to go. This book marks a return to my roots. The first published work was an article for Special Interest Autos, and the first book written was a profile of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. In a somewhat unrelated note, I would like to remind you that Rich Dinkela’s Events on Route 66 initiative is now active. This website has the potential to be a very valued tool for event planners, communities, and folks planning a trip on the old double six. It also represents a tremendous advertising value for business owners. All that is needed is your involvement and participation as it was designed to meets the needs of the Route 66 community. If you would prefer, send me event information and I will ensure it is added to the site. In addition, I will add these to the events page being developed for the blog. Speaking of events, in Kingman, plans are underway to add a new dimension to the cities Andy Devine Days celebration scheduled for the last weekend in September. In addition to the traditional PRCA rodeo, parade, and western heritage related events and entertainment, a Route 66 aspect is being added with a car show, and plans for an exhibition of artists.
A Holbrook landmark.
Another great event to add to your travel calendar is the 2nd annual Holbrook Route 66 Festival scheduled for the 13th of June. This is an embryonic event but it is growing by leaps and bounds. This year Mike Ward and I will be but two of the participants. In addition to enjoying a delightful weekend, I will be there to answer Route 66 questions, and to provide enthusiasts with signed copies of my travel guides. I will also be in attendance of the annual Route 66 Fun Run during the first weekend in May, and Chillin on Beale, held on the third Saturday evening of each month April through October, at least in April and May. Both events are held in Kingman. I hope to see you at one of these events!
The year 2015 is not quite two months old and already the face Route 66 experience has changed dramatically. This time it was with the announcement that Scott Cameron of Route 66 Sodas and Mr. C’s Routepost near Lebanon, Missouri had passed away.
Scott, however, was much more than just another passionate and friendly Route 66 business owner that extended a warm and welcome greeting to travelers. If your not familiar with his interesting story, Route 66 News posted a feature profiling a few of his accomplishments.
Even though we stayed in contact with an occasional phone call and by email, we met Scott but one time. My dearest friend and I were headed home on the final leg of a book signing and promotional tour that had taken us as far as Chicago, and that included a formal book signing at the museum in Lebanon.
On these ventures every effort is made to visit with the owner of mom and pop shops, and if they carry our books, sign them. This gives them and us a promotional boost as the publisher will advertise locations where signed copies are available, and I add that list to the blog.
As it turned out, the planned short introductory meeting and informal book signing morphed into a most fascinating conversation in which we lost track of time and derailed our schedule. On Scott’s insistence, we left with a six-pack of Route 66 soda. That afternoon rates quite high on our Route 66 experiences list.
The loss of Scott, as well as Gary Turner and Becky of Becky’s Barn, will dramatically change the face of Route 66. These losses will also cast a long shadow over adventures on Route 66 this year.
A bit closer to home, I attended a memorial for Peggy Dunton yesterday afternoon. Peggy was the matriarch of the Dunton clan, and the wife of Roy Dunton.
Outside of the Kingman area the family may not be very well known but they have an association with Route 66 development that stretches to the era of the National Old Trails Highway. From a garage in Goldroad to the establishment of Cool Springs, from the creation of Mr. D’z to an Edsel dealership that fronted Route 66, this family has been at center stage of Route 66 development in western Arizona since its inception.
For the most part Saturday was relatively low key. Breakfast with our son kicked off the day, and then I repaired a brake light on the Jeep, worked a bit on Barney the Wonder truck, our well worn but dependable work horse, and then turned my attentions toward tax preparation linked to valiant attempts to bring order to the office, and then the writing of a book review for True West. Watching The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart rounded things out rather nicely.
The review written was for a most fascinating and enthralling new book from University of Oklahoma Press, Motoring West, Volume 1 (a hopeful teaser that there is more to come). Simply put, this book is a richly detailed time capsule that is crafted from a compilation of carefully selected journal entries, magazine features from publications as diverse as Scientific American and Harpers, automobile manufacturing company promotional brochures, and newspaper articles that detail motoring adventures between 1900 and 1909. Engaging and insightful introductions by Editor Peter J. Blodgett round things out nicely.
This book will be a welcome addition to the nightstand as well as library if you have an interest in automotive history, or just enjoy tales of endurance, exploration, and the trials and tribulations of high adventure on the western frontier.
Here is an excerpt from Motoring West that presents a pretty clear picture of what it was like to own an automobile, and to attempt to drive it out of town, before 1909.
In describing a drive from San Francisco to Nevada in 1901, “Adobe roads when dry and hard hold out opportunities for good going, but when the sponge like soil is soaked with moisture, when your wheels cut in, spin around, slip and slide from the course and suddenly your machine is off the road and into the swamp ditch – buried to the axles in the soft “doby” – then the fun begins.
Pull out block and tackle, wade around in the mud, get soaked to the skin and chilled from the effects of the deluge, make fastenings to the fence or telephone post and pull. Pull hard, dig your heels into the mud, and exert every effort at command. The machine moves, your feet slip, and down in the mud you go full length. Repeat the dose and continue the operation until the machine is free from the ditch and again upon the road.”
Here is the line I liked best – “Slow work – not discouraging in the least, but a bit disagreeable, considering that it is the first day out and you are anxious to make a clever initial run.”
Why there is so little written about this fascinating period of history mystifies me. For just a moment consider this; Buffalo Bill bought a 1903 Michigan.
A few years later Geronimo posed in a Cadillac. On the Senator Highway in Arizona, the Palace Station maintained a blacksmith shop and auto repair facility in 1906, and automobiles and stagecoaches used that road at the same time. The last use of a horse mounted posse to capture cattle rustlers in New Mexico took place at Endee in 1909.
Today will be another relatively low key venture. There will be a bit of time devoted to taxes, attention given the self publishing endeavor (chapter one, a detailed guide to Kingman, is almost finished),and then a delightful luncheon shared with my dearest friend, and Mike and Sharon Ward.
That should set the stage for the coming week with a schedule that includes writing, meetings, and visits.
One month ago today my dearest friend and I were at Schiphol Airport bidding adios to a dear friend and the Netherlands as we closed out one of the most amazing adventures of our life. This morning as a stunning Technicolor Arizona sunrise unfolded over the shoulders of the Hualapai Mountains the anniversary of that odyssey promoted a bit of reflection and a longing that can only be described as a homesick feeling this morning .
For a man who has spent most of his life under western skies, and who is hopelessly in love with the vast empty places of the southwest where mountains frame the horizon, I am quite amazed that a rainy, damp, flat, emerald green country has grabbed my heart.
Interestingly enough, that trip also seems to have energized me. Since our return I completed the book for History Press, have embarked on a journey of self publishing, completed the first chapter for that project (a detailed guide to the sites of Kingman), negotiated a contract for a joint project with Joe Sonderman, crafted a few project ideas for the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative steering committee, and am eagerly pursuing various ideas for serving the Route 66 community and earning a living in the process.
Meanwhile incoming requests for meeting with tour groups and individuals traveling Route 66 continue to fill the calendar. This is always a highlight of our year, and for more reasons than one, am glad to see tour companies purchase my books as souvenirs for their clients. If you would like to arrange for me to meet with your or your group, please drop me a note. And if you just happen to stop in Kingman and would like me to sign a book for you, or arrange for a walking tour of the historic district my suggestion is to inquire at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. If I am in town they generally know how to contact me. Surprisingly the travel schedule for the year is relatively light. Of course it is only February and in my world this is subject to change at a moments notice as evidenced by the recent announcement that the conference in Edwardsville had been canceled which in turn altered our October plans. That leaves an even in Holbrook in March, and another in June. In April we have the Sean Evans guided tour of Two Guns that will be shared with friends from the Netherlands. None of this means we won’t be busy this year. On the Kingman events page you can see it will be quite busy in my neck of the woods this year. If the decision is made that we just have to have a Route 66 adventure, the Events on Route 66 website is morphing into quite a source of inspiration. To close this out, I thought sharing the theme song for today would be appropriate.
Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association, left, and Bob Lile, Amarillo artist with their “major” awards at the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
Yesterday afternoon I received notice from Cheryl Eichar Jett that the conference and workshops that were to take place at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville, Illinois this October are canceled. Needless to say, this was quite a disappointment.
I, for one, was quite excited about the potential of this endeavor as it represented the next evolutionary step in the building of a renewed sense of community as well as community purpose that commenced with the historic conference in Anaheim, and that continued with the Route 66 Crossroads of the past and Future conference at the 2014 Route 66 International Festival in Kingman, Arizona, and the creation of the steering committee.
The 2014 Route 66 International Festival last August exemplified the sense of community that is found among Route 66 enthusiasts. It was also an incredible manifestation of the passion, the spirit, and the dedication of the international Route 66 community.
Unfortunately, just as with the cancellation of the events in Edwardsville, it was also another glaring indictment of the inability of existent organizations to meet the multifaceted needs of the Route 66 community, or to provide the needed support structure. This is not to say that the individuals at the helm of most of those organizations lack passion and zeal for the Route 66 community. After all, a few of them have played instrumental roles in the launching of the Route 66 renaissance.
Simply put, for a wide array of reasons the organizations they created and that they lead are short staffed as well as under funded. Unfortunately, all to often these shortcomings are magnified by a severe case of overreach with the result being an inability to follow through on promises, which in turn fosters divisions. It also results in well intended initiatives that fall flat, which in turn leads to discouragement.
These are reasons why my hopes for the fostering of that sense of community rest on the steering committee facilitated by the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and the World Monuments Fund. Though my patience has been sorely tested by what appears to be a glacial speed of development, it has become increasingly apparent that the Route 66 community will be better served by an organization that is built on a solid foundation than one that is built on hollow promises, hopes, dreams, and good intentions.
I am quite confident that shortly after the steering committee meeting of February 24, you will see public demonstrations of intent and follow through that will justify my overall enthusiasm for this historic initiative. Meanwhile, I will be working on an idea for an alternative means of ensuring that the concepts and benefits of the cancelled conference is brought to fruition.