William Shatner accepts an honorary membership into the Route 66 Association of Kingman. (Judy Hinckley)
Okay, here is a riddle. What is the link between the chicken man, William Shatner, vintage cars, exhaustion, and Route 66 adventures? The answer, just another week in Jim Hinckley’s America.
On numerous occasions I have hinted that my dearest friend and I live in a sort of surreal world one step removed from the wonderland discovered by Alice. The past five days were not an exception.
This particular series of adventures commenced early on Thursday evening when I addressed an audience of media, business, and community leaders at the Ramada Kingman. The primary topic was Route 66 and harnessing the highways renaissance as a catalyst for development.
Sharing the road with rolling time capsules on the way to California.
The exciting 160-Miles of Smiles promotional campaign was introduced, including a short video by Michael Perez, and details were provided about the forthcoming Route 66: The Road Ahead workshops facilitated by the National Park Service. After a rather lengthy and occasionally raucous round of discussions, my dearest friend and I enjoyed a late but leisurely dinner with Stacy and Allen Greer, proprietors of the Frontier Motel and Restaurant in Truxton, and Sam and Monica Frisher, owners of the El Trovatore Motel.
Friday was a blur; picking up a rental car, a litany of phone calls and correspondence, scheduling for the coming week or so, phone conferences, etc.
A conversation with Scott Dunton, President of the Route 66 Association of Kingman, kicked off Saturday morning. This was followed by tossing gear into the rental car, bidding adios to my dearest friend, and heading west; destination San Bernardino.
This roaring beast passed me somewhere near Ludlow.
Several weeks ago I had committed to signing books at Kumar Patel’s Wigwam Motel booth during the big shindig built around the Great Race. As things had changed a bit since making that promise, this presented a few problems as I needed to be back in Kingman by early Sunday morning.
Even though the schedule and road closures necessitated that I follow I-40 westward, it was a rather enjoyable trip as rolling time capsules shared the road. On occasion one of those little gems would zip past me even though I was holding a speed just a hair over the posted limits.
As expected, the traffic in the Cajon Pass alternated somewhere between parking lot speeds and adrenaline rushes that made me feel as though I was on the track at Indianapolis. So, at Cleghorn Road a slight detour onto Route 66 was made and as it turned out, I had the road entirely to myself.
A 1930 bridge in Cajon Pass.
Amply seasoned with an array of vintage touches and pleasant scenery, this drive often provides a welcome respite from the mayhem of the interstate. In less than five miles I could feel the tension melt away as the road gently carried me into the metropolis.
Even though attendance of the event in San Bernardino fell short of projections, it still provided a veritable cornucopia of American automotive culture.
Almost any wheeled contraption you can imagine was on display or parading down the streets; traditional styled low riders, full classics, muscle cars, outrageous customs, antiques, trucks, station wagons, convertibles, hot rods, product mobiles, and even cars from television and movies.
Scott Piotrowski, left, and Efren Lopez.
Of course, as with Route 66 itself, it is the people that make such events memorable. There was opportunity to visit with old friends such as Jim Conkle and Penny Black, Scott Piotrowski and the chicken man himself, Albert Okura (who graciously provided lunch from Juan Pollo).
Such events also lend themselves toward the making of new friends and meeting the most fascinating people. On this trip Efren Lopez topped that list.
A former combat photographer employed by the United States Army, Efren is now turning his lens toward Route 66. Even more exciting, he plans on developing a long overdue Route 66 guide in Spanish.
Jim Conkle greets a WWII veteran during the parade.
Late in the afternoon, shortly after a touching rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, a parade of historic military vehicles passed by in review. What would a military tribute parade be without veterans of every war since WWII?
This was soon followed by the participants of the Great Race, an anuual timed rally for vintage vehicles. This year the selected course was Route 66 from Kirkwood, Missouri to Santa Monica Pier.
Choosing a favorite from the dozens upon dozens of entries is almost an impossibility for someone such as myself who considers a copy of Hemmings Classic Car to be one step above Playboy magazine.
The legendary Green Dragon.
A few, however, were nothing short of stunning. Case in point, the legendary Green Dragon, a 1917 Peerless racer that dominated the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the late teens.
The festivities were scheduled to continue well into the evening but with reluctance as well as an eagerness to see my dearest friend, I bid adios around six and headed for home.
In Barstow after topping off the tank, I set my sights on dinner. As a few of the old favorites were closed I decided to give Jenny’s Grill a try.
There was no disappointment here. The place is worn a bit at the heel but the food was good, the service friendly and attentive, and the prices reasonable. What more can you ask?
One of the most beautiful cars ever manufactured – a 1932 Chevrolet.
Plan “A” was to drive straight through and be at home around ten o’clock. I knew this wasn’t likely as the day had kicked off at 4:30. So, plan “B” was to try the Ludlow Motel, something I have meant to do for quite sometime.
Instead, however, I succumbed to very old habits, found a quite road into the desert, set the seat back, put the windows down, let the warm breeze lull me into slumber, and dozed under a stunning starlit desert sky. A short nap and then finishing the trip had me home by about 1:00 in the morning.
Sunday was a relatively leisurely but busy day. There was the first birthday celebration for a grandson, and work on Joe Sonderman’s forthcoming book, a project I am providing assistance with.
That takes us to today, and what a day it was. The highlight was supposed to be lunch with William Shatner whose team had used a couple of my books to plan the trip.
At 8:35, I received a call. The desert heat had forced a change in plans, the lunch interview was now scheduled for 9:00 at Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner.
This prevented a few problems; I needed to pick up my dearest friend, I had been working outside all morning and was soaked with sweat, I had other appointments scheduled.
So, I called my dearest friend and asked that she lay out a clean shirt, called the mayor to inform him of the schedule change, called Ryan Abella at the Kingman Daily Miner, praised the Lord for a smartphone as I juggled driving, traffic, and appointment changes, and somehow made it to the restaurant only five minutes late. Mr. Shatner, however, was twenty minutes late. Then the circus commenced.
Mayor Anderson of Kingman presents William Shatner with a certificate and key to the city.
The word spread, the diner filled with people, the film crew jockeyed for position, the mayor arrived and presented Mr. Shatner with a certificate and a key to the city, I sat down for an interview and then found myself trapped as the crowd continued to swell.
Spotting an ebb in the flow of people taking pictures, on behalf of the Route 66 Association of Kingman, I presented a plaque and a complimentary membership. Then in what seemed the blink of an eye, the party moved to the parking lot as William Shatner and his crew prepared to drive to Las Vegas.
Author Jim Hinckley sits with William Shatner for an interview.
This was only part one of a press filled day. Mr. Shatner was most likely somewhere near Hoover Dam when I began answering questions about my interview with William Shatner, the meeting Thursday evening, the stunning speed of transitions being brought about by the Route 66 Association of Kingman, thoughts on my books being used by the Shatner team, and Route 66 related topics in general posed by Ryan Abella of the Kingman Daily Miner.
That takes us to the last part of the title for this evenings post. On that note, good night, amigos.
Project one from the Route 66 Association of Kingman.
The Route 66 of 1926 was quite different from the Route 66 of 1950, or even 1960. The highways renaissance, however, is truly a unique period in U.S. 66 history.
Today the old road has a distinctly international character that adds a uniquely vibrant and colorful feel to a Route 66 adventure. The road is a living, breathing time capsule with a thin Disneyland type veneer. Route 66 is a destination as well as America’s longest attraction.
The Great Race with dozens of vintage cars is currently following Route 66 west toward Santa Monica Pier. William Shatner is on the road with a futuristic motorcycle. In coming weeks groups from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, and New Zealand will be enjoying their Route 66 adventure.
Last year during the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman, Arizona the Route 66 Walk of Fame was unveiled. Conceived as a means of honoring the individuals who played a role in transforming the highway into an icon, inductees included John and Lenore Weiss, Michael Wallis and Angel Delgadillo.
This year the induction ceremony will take place during the annual Best of the West on Route 66 Festival on the weekend of September 25. Even though Jerry McClanahan, a pioneer in the Route 66 renaissance movement will be honored with inclusion, most of this years nominees reflect the international nature of Route 66 in the 21st century; Dale and Kristi-Anne Butel, Dries and Marion Bessels, Zdnek and Eva Jurasek. The festival in Kingman seems to have been the tipping point. The city has moved from talking about harnessing the Route 66 renaissance to doing it. The 1945 Bell Motel that has hung precariously in limbo for more than a decade is being given a new lease on life. The unsightly mess on the corner of Forth Street and Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) has been cleaned up and today paving will begin. This is the first and most visible project undertaken by Scott Dunton and newly reorganized Route 66 Association of Kingman, Inc. That association has yet to establish a website but for membership information, or information about current projects the contact phone number is (928)753-1314. The 160 Miles of Smiles promotional project shifts gears tonight at a meeting scheduled for 6:00 PM at the Ramada Kingman. In addition to presenting information about the Route 66: The Road Ahead initiative, the talented development team of Brian Zimmerman, Michael Perez, and Donald Gialanella will provide a video teaser for the project that will also showcase the potential in professional video presentations for the marketing of a community or event. Gialanella is a talented sculpture who worked as television producer in a previous life. Check out his website and imagine the possibilities.
Photo courtesy Ramada Kingman, smoky skies courtesy fires in the strip country.
Perez is a talented young man looking to establish a reputation. To say he is gifted as a videographer and editor would be akin to referring to Duluth as chilly in January. In addition to the miles of smiles campaign, the team will accept new clients who looking to add vibrancy to their marketing and promotional endeavors. While Sam Frisher at the El Trovatore Motel continues the work that is transforming a derelict roadside artifact from 1939 into a destination, and the owners of the historic Hill Top Motel serve as loving stewards and make creature comfort improvements, the former Holiday Inn, now the Ramada Kingman continues to morph into the cities first full fledged Route 66 resort. In addition to renovated rooms, restaurant, and lounge, and a new pool, colorful murals are being added and a children’s play area is under construction. Next on the owners list of improvements; comedy club nights and the development of day trip tours of the Kingman area. Chillin’ on Beale that takes place on the third Saturday evening of each month, April through October, continues to gain in popularity. Enhancing the event is the opening of new restaurants, micro breweries, and the restoration of vintage signage along the historic Beale Street corridor.
The renovation of the 1946 Dunton Motors dealership complex is moving forward. Details are thin but the advertisement campaign to promote Big All is well underway. My understanding is that Big Al will be on display by the Fourth of July. That is but one of several attractions that will transform this classic automobile dealership into a new Kingman destination. A delightful ice cream parlor and bakery in the shadow of the Brunswick Hotel, planning sessions pertaining to the relighting of the Hotel Beale neon, the Stetson Winery, and an array of events under development are all clear indications that Kingman, Arizona is awakening to the possibilities that abound when a community harness the Route 66 renaissance as a catalyst for transformation.
Here I sit in Kingman, just about forty miles from the middle of nowhere. Between the summer of 1966 and today, this has been home for a sum total of thirty-seven years.
I am firmly rooted in the rural Arizona of 1966, which was only slightly removed from the Arizona of 1920 or even 1900. As a result, dust covered wide brimmed hats, faded jeans, scuffed boots, and sun bleached, long sleeved denim shirts are still suitable attire for most any occasion, summer or winter.
Weathered old trucks with a gun rack for hanging tack or ropes and mud spattered Jeeps trump shiny SUV’s or econo boxes for daily transportation. Air conditioning is still considered a luxury rather than a necessity.
Resultant of this modern Amish persona and the penning of a few books on Route 66 as well as the desert southwest, I have become an attraction of sorts. Any day now I expect a local promoter to post Burma Shave type signs along the highway, “STOP! SEE LIVE REDNECK” or “ARIZONA REDNECK IN HIS NATIVE HABITAT – ONE MILE.”
On a fairly regular basis I find myself staring in amazement at the souvenirs and gifts that fill our home. At some point in time this old Arizona redneck embarked upon an international odyssey without really trying. The latest bout of reflection was sparked by a box of delicious confections given as a gift by a friend from Turkey. Swiss and German chocolates, hagelslag, Dutch candies, and Japanese treats most definitely add a bit of international flavor to our lives. They are also reminders of how fortunate we are to have friends from throughout the world. All of these treats and the friendships also serve as reminder that U.S. 66, once just a mere highway, is now a destination for legions of enthusiasts searching for authentic American experiences.
The international nature of Route 66 will be made manifest at this years Best of The West on 66 festival in Kingman. I can’t give to many details at this time but of the four inductees for inclusion in the Route 66 Walk of Fame this year, only one lives in the United States. The walk of fame was conceived as a means to honor the individuals that have played a role in the transformation of Route 66 from highway into icon. Unveiled during the Route 66 International Festival in 2014, four new inductees will be added each year during the Best of the West on 66 Festival. The following year those inductees will be honored as King of the Road during the festival. In addition to serving as grand marshals in the parade, they will be treated as kings for the weekend. I will keep you apprised of developments. A press release should be forthcoming. Meanwhile, my personal international odyssey continues. Plans are being made to attend the European Route 66 Festival next year in Germany. We are eagerly looking forward to meeting with groups and friends from Australia and Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand in the coming weeks. Interesting times indeed.
The essence of what makes Route 66 special and unique is the people. It is the legion of passionate enthusiasts, the sincerity and heartfelt love for the Route 66 community displayed by business owners from Chicago to Santa Monica, and the camaraderie that transforms a cup of coffee at a time worn cafe into a family reunion that ensure a drive along this storied old highway will be memory filled, life changing event.
The Parks, Arizona store predates Route 66.
To say Holbrook is a bit worn at the heel is akin to saying Amboy is a bit warm this time of year. Within one year of the opening of I-40 and the bypass of the city in 1981, forty-five businesses closed. Steeped in history, the town never recovered. Still, a few hearty souls held on and in the Route 66 renaissance, they found hope. The second annual Route 66 Festival which took place last weekend is indicative of what promises the rising tide of interest in Route 66 holds for forgotten, bypassed Route 66 communities. It also exemplified the spirit of the Route 66 enthusiast. My journey to Holbrook was a bittersweet adventure. With the exception of the road between Kingman and Seligman, a late start necessitated a long, boring drive along sterile I-40. Still, it was a road trip and those are always invigorating but a few last minute issues kept my dearest friend from going with me. So, it was a long, memory filled drive.
The breakfast room at the Globetrotter Lodge.
I arrived at the Globetrotter Lodge, my home away from home for the weekend, early on Friday evening. This is more than an oasis for weary travelers and another old motel that has been given a new lease on life. It exemplifies what just may be the most exciting chapter yet in the highways ninety year history. Formerly of Austria, Mona and Peter Hoeller, have lovingly transformed a forlorn, empty relic into a destination. Blending the attributes of an historic mom and pop motel during the “glory days” of Route 66 with custom touches and European hospitality the Hoeller’s have created a roadside masterpiece. Exemplifying the hospitality and special touches is the breakfast room; linen napkins, real table ware, no plastic, and a silver holder with room number and flag from the guests home state or country of origin.
Holbrook street scene.
After checking in and visiting with Peter it was off to dinner with friends at the Butterfield Stage Company Steakhouse. This restaurant is clean and features a tasteful western ambiance. It is a roadside classic. There the compliments must end as the food was average at best and highly over priced. Still, that didn’t dampen the lively conversation or stifle the laughter. How could it when your dining with folks like Mike and Sharon Ward, Dean Kennedy, Brenda St. Clair, and Rhys Martin (author of the delightful Rhys’ Pieces)? The lively conversation continued late into the evening poolside at the Globetrotter Lodge. That night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful with a hint of tangible excitement in the air. After a pleasant breakfast shared with a fascinating couple from Germany, I set out for the historic Navajo County Courthouse, now a museum, where I was to sign books and answer questions pertaining to Route 66. The old courthouse reminds me of a vast attic in a grandparents home. Every nook and closet presents a new opportunity for an intriguing and interesting discovery. Topping my list of highlights was the old jail. Built in St. Louis and shipped by rail, it was installed during courthouse construction in 1898, and used until 1976. Throughout the day there was an ebb and flow of folks but about noon I took a break to check out the festivities in the park, and to grab a Navajo taco from a vendor. The palpable sense of enthusiasm at the small event leads me to believe that in the years to come this festival will become an annual destination for many Route 66 enthusiasts. Organizers have embraced the fact that Route 66 is the pathway for bringing people to visit Holbrook but if those tourists are going to stay for a weekend, if this is going to become a destination, they need to showcase the communities unique attributes. Native Americans performing traditional dances in the park was one way of focusing attention on what makes this city unique. The Relics Tour, however, is a key component. This inspired idea represents a partnership with the national Park Service. In addition to showcasing the natural wonders that embrace Holbrook, it provides Route 66 enthusiasts with a very rare opportunity to explore forgotten alignments and roadside treasures including the Painted Desert Trading Post, arguably the crown jewel for fans of the double six. A hint of just how popular these tours could become is found in the people that attended. As an example, Heather Petry flew from Texas to Phoenix, and rented a car to drive to Holbrook solely for the festival that included this tour. I met with Frank and Lynn Kocevar, formerly of Seligman Suundries, for some conversation, exploring and the recording of a fun little video. Frank is currently working to develop a most fascinating and informative Route 66 website. Here is the link. My time at the courthouse ended at 3:00 and after picking up a few items at Safeway, I returned to the Globetrotter Lodge with the intent of writing a blog post about the adventure from the poolside. In the past a variety of technological impairments prevented such endeavors but that has since been rectified. What prevented a posting from the road this time was something much more interesting; in depth conversation with Rhys Martin, an interesting gentlemen whose blog has piqued my interest for quite some time, and discussions about how to transform Holbrook with local business owners.
Route 66 Festival in Holbrook.
The evening gathering of enthusiasts for dinner at Romo’s Cafe was a lively and interesting bunch. As always the food was excellent (it is hard to go wrong anyplace where the tortillas are homemade). The conversation continued late into the evening, first with some poolside conversation, and then as the crowd thinned out, to a motel room with Stacey Greer, the Mays, and Dean Kennedy. It was a great way to end a weekend on Route 66, and to plan new adventures. In fact, with the exception of missing my sidekick, it was a near perfect adventure. On Sunday, after another wonderful breakfast, I bid adios to Peter and his family, and began to motor west. This was a more leisurely drive with stops for a bit of exploration, to sign books at the La Posada and the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, and lunch at Parks General Store. Hats off to David Heward, Kathleen Smith, and the organizers of this great event. Here is to hoping next year is even bigger and better. I close the story of this adventure with a few views from the road.
“Captain Kirk, Big Al is waiting for you.” This is the first in a series of innovate slogans that the Route 66 Association of Kingman will be using to capitalize on William Shatner’s forthcoming Route 66 adventure. Building on the success of historic roadside promotional campaigns for Burma Shave, Rock City, and Wall Drug, the association is launching the campaign to entice Mr. Shatner as well as Route 66 enthusiasts to stop and discover Kingman.
Additional slogans planned for distribution along the Route 66 corridor include, “Mr. Shatner, you may have gone where no man has gone before but wait until you see Big Al”; “You’ve seen the Grand Canyon but wait until you see Big Al”, and “The 43rd wonder of the world, Big Al.”
The promotional endeavor that centers on Big Al, which will be housed at 119 E. Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) next to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, is step one in a multifaceted campaign to promote the City of Kingman’s central location on “162 Mile of Smiles” which is the longest uninterrupted section of iconic Route 66 remaining. The restructured Route 66 Association of Kingman that dates to 1994 has a goal of facilitating and assisting with the development of marketing for the Kingman area and the Route 66 corridor between Seligman and Topock.
With Scott Dunton as President, Keith Walker as Secretary, and Craig Graves as Treasurer, the restructured Route 66 Association of Kingman is spearheading development of a multifaceted promotional campaign that manifests the vision of the revitalized organization. Building upon the cities centralized location on the longest remaining uninterrupted section of Route 66 that stretches from the Crookton Road exit east of Seligman to Topock on the Colorado River, the “162 Miles of Smiles” campaign will highlight the vast array of attractions and sites along the Route 66 corridor in western Arizona as well as in the Kingman area.
In addition to this being one of the most scenic sections of Route 66, the corridor features an array of iconic and natural attractions including the historic Hackberry General Store, Grand Canyon Caverns Resort, and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, the cities historic district is the venue for an array of events, and a number of businesses associated with Route 66 including motels and cafes are undergoing renovation.
To assist in the development of this multifaceted promotional campaign, the association is retaining the services of internationally acclaimed author and lecturer Jim Hinckley to serve as a consultant. In addition to developing the 162-Miles of Smiles campaign, Hinckley is the published author of more than twelve books including Travel Route 66, Ghost Towns of Route66, The Route 66 Encyclopedia, and The Illustrated Route66 Historic Atlas. He is also a member of the Route 66 economic development committee that is a part of the Route 66: The Road Ahead initiative facilitated by the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.