Kingman circa 1952, courtesy Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
The end of the week is often a time of reflection. More often than not this is accompanied by a sense of amazement as I seem to have spent my days here, there, and everywhere, and yet things were accomplished.
In seven days, one short week, I drove a few hundred miles on various Route 66 related adventures, met with some of the most fascinating people, attended several relatively productive meetings, acquired a layout designer for the self publishing endeavor (thank you Anne Slanina), negotiated the contract for revising Backroads of Arizona, added a few more appearances to the schedule, and provided a bit of assistance to the folks organizing the Route 66 Association of Kingman. The Route 66 Association of Kingman has its origins in the establishment of still born organization in 1994. The goal at that time was to assist in the development of the Route 66 corridor as a catalyst for transforming Kingman into a destination. That goal remains the same. To that has been added a loftier vision; promoting “160 Miles of Smiles” between Topock and the Route 66/I-40 junction east of Seligman with Kingman at its center. The attorney is still working on details and formalities as well as the establishment of the organization as a 501c3. The board of directors and overall structure has yet to be finalized. Still, the core of association organizers is taking the proverbial bull by the horns. First, there was the long overdue clean up on the corner of Fourth Street and Andy Devine Avenue. Yesterday the task was refreshing the logos on the cities landmark water towers, a throwback to the era of steam engines on the railroad. Last years Route 66 International Festival seems to have ignited a simmering revival. Kingman is about to become a destination instead of a stop on the way to some place else. The “160 Miles of Smiles” promotional campaign sharpens that focus. Kingman is honestly at the very center of an astounding vacation paradise. However, to a large degree only a few people are aware of it.
Consider the Grand Canyon Caverns Resort, our latest sponsor. On last weeks expedition I was privileged with the opportunity to explore the access structures built in the caverns during the 1930’s long before installation of the elevator. Did you know that the wood for the stairs and the swinging bridge were originally forms used in the construction of Hoover Dam? Did you know there are still traces of concrete on the wood? Today the caverns is undergoing a stunning transformation that makes it a near perfect blending of Route 66 time capsule and attraction for a new generation. In addition to the caverns themselves, soon to be expanded resultant of the discovery of additional deeper levels, there is also an award winning RV park, a miniature golf course, a riding stables with trail rides, two restaurants, a lounge, and a motel currently undergoing a full renovation.
Mountain biking or hiking to stunning locations where a one eyed blind man would have trouble taking a bad photo, no problem. Pine forested Hualapai Mountain Park is laced with trails. There is also the extensive trail system in the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains near Beale Springs and the site of historic Fort Beale. Museums, yep we have those two. These include an award winning Route 66 museum and the world’s first electric vehicle museum. Meanwhile, as Kingman transforms into your destination for 160 miles of smiles, my schedule calls for me to be here, there, and everywhere. Next week there are several meetings related to the transformation of Kingman, my adopted home town, and a trip to Holbrook for the Route 66 Festival. The following week is a meeting of the Route 66: The Road Ahead initiative and an eagerly anticipated dinner with Greg Hasman. The following week its off to San Bernardino for their big event that will center on the Great Race. Boredom and Route 66 just don’t seem compatible. Come, join me for the adventure.
Good times and the double six, they go hand in glove as iconic Route 66 is far more than a mere highway. The old U.S. 66 is now a road where dreams come true, memories are made, and friends gather to share the adventure.
This weekend the memory making fun with friends, the adventure, and the focus will all center on the City of Tucumcari. The third annual Rockabilly on the Route Festival has lured fans of the double six and music from as far away as Japan and South Africa.
Next weekend the spotlight moves west as Holbrook hosts the cities second annual Route 66 Festival. We weren’t able to work the events in Tucumcari into the schedule but my dearest friend and I, as well as Mike and Sharon Ward, will be in Holbrook.
From Chicago to Santa Monica communities large and small are creating festivals as unique and as diverse as the Route 66 community. What better way can you think of for adding zest to the Route 66 experience?
Meanwhile, here in Kingman, things are methodically moving forward which gives me a bit of hope that the city will in time live up to the slogan coined some years ago; the Heart of Route 66. The Route 66 Association of Kingman is another step closer to reality. In September the traditional Andy Devine Days celebration of western heritage will be linked to the cities Route 66 history in an event labeled Best of the West on 66.
In the last posting I noted a few of the exciting developments at the Grand Canyon Caverns. Now, I am quite pleased to announce that they are the latest sponsor of Route 66 Chronicles. Look for their advertisement soon, and add a stop at the caverns to your travel plans. Over the course of the past few months we have touched on the possibility of tours being offered in the Kingman area several times. Well, recently this idea moved closer to fruition.
Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association and author Jim Hinckley on the old wagon road near Kingman, Arizona.
So, just out of curiosity, who would be interested in a one of a kind tour along Route 66 and sections of the National Old Trails Highway from Kingman to Seligman with yours truly as the guide? Who might have interest in a customized tour of the seldom explored Kingman historic district as well as the cities Route 66 corridor, including segments of the National Old Trails Highway, celebrity associated sites, and the former Kingman Army Airfield? To eliminate any confusion it should be noted that I am still working with Rick Thomas of Open Road Productionsto develop custom tours. This, however, is for the development of customized tours on Route 66 or in the southwest. For my dearest friend and I, the absolute highlight of our Route adventures is the people we meet along the way, friends we share those odysseys with, and opportunities for seeing the road anew through the eyes of visitors. As an example, last Sunday we were privileged with an opportunity to share a lunch and lively conversation with Slyvia and Bernhard Hohn.
Judy Hinckley, Jim Hinckley courtesy Sylvia Hohn.
What a charming, enthusiastic, and adventuresome couple. We are looking forward to seeing them next summer during the European Route 66 Festival in Germany. In addition to a new found friendship, they blessed us with some excellent German sweet treats. Sylvia also shared this photo as a souvenir of our lunch together. Good times on the old double six, you betcha!
Curious adventures seem to be an almost daily occurrence in my world. However, even by my standards the adventures currently unfolding may just turn out to be the most curious of all. The story begins about four weeks ago. Scott Dunton, owner of Dunton Motors Dream Machines and Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner met with me to discuss the various Kingman related promotional endeavors I have been involved with over the course of the last year or two, and ones that I have simmering on the back burner. That led to the offer of an office in the historic Dunton Motors building, after completion of renovations. In turn Scott facilitated a meeting with Noble and Joel Zubaid, the dynamic developers that are transforming the historic Holiday Inn into the Ramada Kingman, a full service (refurbished rooms, dining, lounge, etc.) facility that is fast becoming a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts stopping in Kingman.
Courtesy Judy Hinckley
The renovation of the property means that Kingman now offers three excellent vintage Route 66 lodging options from three different eras; the Ramada and Canyon 66 Restaurant and Lounge representing the 1960’s, the 1956 Hilltop Motel, and the El Trovatore Motel that dates to 1939. Joel and Noble were Route 66 novices unfamiliar with that highways renaissance when they opened the hotel. However, with the Route 66 tourism picking up steam by the day that is now changing at a very rapid pace.
Left to right, John McEnulty and Jim Hinckley courtesy Judy Hinckley
After a series of meetings and discussions about the resurgent interest in Route 66 they offered to become the first major sponsor for Route 66 Chronicles and Jim Hinckley’s America. As strong community supporters they also offered to subside a portion of my promotional endeavors. New developments followed in rapid succession. As I write this attorneys are currently laying out the foundations for the Route 66 Association of Kingman, and the first draft for the associations missions and goals statement is awaiting approval. On Thursday evening an embryonic meeting of enthusiastic local Route 66 enthusiasts came together to discuss ways of promoting Kingman as a destination. For interested parties our next meeting is schedule for June 25, 6:00 PM at the Ramada. Yesterday my dearest friend and I shared a delightful breakfast and lively conversation with John McEnulty, the infectiously enthusiastic owner of the Grand Canyon Caverns. Later I was quite privileged with an opportunity to play guide for Joel and Noble on Route 66 east of Kingman, and introduce them to the charms of both the caverns and John. The caverns are in the most literal sense of the word, an honest to goodness Route 66 time capsule. A few years ago there was the very distinct possibility that resultant of neglect this roadside treasure with origins dating to 1926 would close its doors. Now, however, the entire resort complex is being reborn and the result is a roadside attraction that is a portal into another time. Enter John McEnulty. Both restaurants are now open as is the bar. The motel is being fully renovated. The cavern tours are about to be expanded. Miniature golf and trail rides along sections of the National Old Trails Highway are but two of the new additions. The RV Park has garnered accolades from Good Sam. The caverns are once again becoming a Route 66 destination. As a bit of historic trivia, at one time the divided highway in front of the caverns was the only four lane section of U.S. 66 in Arizona aside from those in Williams, Winslow, and a few other communities. This was necessitated by the popularity of the caverns that was at one time only second to the Grand Canyon in popularity of attractions in the state.
Left to right, Judy and Jim Hinckley, Sylvia and Bernhard Hohn at Mr. D’z.
After a stimulating lunch and discussions about future plans for the caverns complex, and a tour of the caverns themselves, Joel, Noble, and I commenced the return journey with a stop to sign books at the Hackberry General Store. The dominating topic of conversation on the homeward journey centered on the development of Kingman centered tours, an idea I have envisioned for quite sometime. Now, a plan for development of such tours is underway. Today was quickly consumed with a mad dash to complete the guide to the Kingman area, and to get the first podcast broadcast ready for editing. All work and no play is counterproductive. So, late this afternoon we took time out to meet with Bernhard and Sylvia Hohn from Germany, a long and eagerly anticipated visit. That was a suitable note for ending a very interesting week. All of this seems to be setting the stage for a new chapter in the curious adventures of Jim Hinckley. A serious opportunity for sharing the hidden places along my corner of Route 66 is looming on the horizon. Likewise with a podcast and the first endeavor with self publishing. The City of Kingman is on the cusp of dramatic transition and it looks as though I may have a role to play. And a European Route 66 Festival that will take place in just over a year is being held just a few miles from the home of our new found friends Sylvia and Bernhard. Yes, my friends, this is becoming quite the curious adventure.