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.