A Fourth of July gathering of automotive enthusiasts at Ramada Kingman.
About six or seven weeks ago I noted that a podcast and self published guidebook to Kingman were under development. In fact, I prematurely indicated that both projects were nearing completion. That was Life Lesson number 1,437; wait until a project is finished before making an announcement.
As I recall, I first learned that lesson in about 1970 and relearned it during the Carter administration. I learned it again on several occasions during the 1980’s, three or four times in the 1990’s, and at least a half dozen times since then.
With that said, the travel guide is finished, with exception of some proofreading, final edit, and illustrations. An explanation for the podcast is a bit more complicated. An illness in May that left me with a hoarse, squeaky voice that faded in and out for several weeks was the first delay. Patiently Gary Cron of Baby Boomer Radio who had offered editorial assistance waited.
Author Jim Hinckley sits for an interview by William Shatner at Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner in Kingman. (Judy Hinckley)
Frustration mounted as an array of opportunities for fascinating interviews came and went. Then the project was placed on hold resultant of a pressing deadline. In turn, this was followed by a delay masked as opportunity. Before working to develop the podcast an attempt had been made to revive an old idea and market an actual radio program entitled Jim Hinckley’s America. That endeavor hit a block wall until a couple of weeks ago when not one but two radio stations, with Internet streaming programming, decided to discuss development in earnest. Next is the hammering out of a details and the search for sponsors. A corporate sponsor would be ideal but any business owner who wants some international exposure, and who is willing to take a gamble, please drop me a note. So, the guidebook will be available soon. A radio program and/or podcast is looming on the horizon. Meanwhile I continue to donate time as a developmental consultant for the Route 66 Association of Kingman, and work with the owners of the Ramada Kingman to develop area tour and promotional packages. Last year I entered into a limited partnership with Open Road Productions for developmental assistance of customized tours of Route 66 or in the southwest. Professor Nick Gerlich is also a part of this team.
An Open Road Productions tour for Route 66 enthusiasts from China.
Well, in June that arrangement took an interesting turn. The owners of the company are now evaluating development of an exclusive, limited participation Route 66 tour in 2016 with yours truly as the guide. This too is an old idea that has been given a new lease on life. If ideas and projects were pennies, I could give Mr. Gates a run for his money. While all of this is swirling about, a few writing projects are also underway. First, I have been assisting Joe Sonderman who is working on a most fascinating new book. My dearest friend and I, as well as Jeroen and Maggie Boersma, are also supplying photographs for illustrations. Also vying for my time is the long overdue revised edition of Backroads of Arizona that has an August deadline. Pending approval is another project, one that I am quite excited about, Jim Hinckley’s Route 66. As envisioned this would be one part travel guide and two parts travelogue. The focus would be the people and places that give Route 66 an infectious sense of vibrancy and excitement. These diverse endeavors may appear as though I am attempting to juggle chainsaws and wildcats. In actuality it is little more than a valiant effort to find ways to share the Route 66 experience while continuing to eat on a regular basis. Meanwhile, somewhere on Route 66 …
The first project launched by the Route 66 Association of Kingman, Inc.
Bobby Troup took a bit of artistic license in his now catchy tune, Get Your Kicks on Route 66. For those unfamiliar with the road itself, Winona is east of Flagstaff.
In either case, the next city noted in the now classic anthem is Kingman. Even in the 1940’s the city was often viewed as a stop on the way to somewhere a bit more exciting. That is about to change in a very, very big way.
In Arizona spring rains transform the stark desert into a sea of flowers as colorful as a garish casino carpet. That, amigos, is a rather apt analogy of how the 2014 Route 66 International Festival has transformed Kingman.
In 1994, Scott Dunton asked me to assist in the establishment of the Route 66 Association of Kingman. For the most part the endeavor was stillborn. There were a multitude of reasons for why the organization withered and languished but with the luxury of hindsight I now see that the primary problem was simply the fact that the time wasn’t right. So, until it was fanned into a blaze, the association survived as a glowing ember. On occasion there would a public display of life such as with establishment of Chillin’ on Beale during the administration of Chris Durkin.
Last month Scott Dunton, Keith Walker, and Craig Graves revived the 501c3 association, and asked that I serve as a consultant. To maintain neutrality and avoid any possible conflict of interest, with respect the request that I serve on the board of directors was declined.
Apparently the timing is right. In less than than thirty days the association has made tremendous strides toward transforming an embarrassing eyesore into a landmark. Demolition of long abandoned ruins, the addition of colorful murals funded by Ramada Kingman, are only the first stage in the corners transformation.
During the block party celebration on the streets surrounding the city complex on the evening of the Fourth of July, the corner will serve as the staging area for Model T Ford rides through the historic district. There will also be an array of patriotic presentations here as well. This is but a small taste of what the association envisions.
Even though the associations Facebook page and website is still under development, a membership drive to raise funds as well as awareness launched this week. James Martin of Kingman signed up as member number one but inquiries pertaining to membership are being received from throughout the United States and Canada. That is but one more indication that the timing is right. Here are the details I have at this time. The annual membership fee is $100, of which every dime will be used for development, promotion, or preservation. In exchange for this sum, you will receive a pretty slick metal plaque (thank you for the photo Rob Medlin), invitation to a monthly open house, a regular newsletter with event information and updates in Kingman as well as internationally that have a bearing on our 160-miles of smiles. You will also derive the satisfaction of helping transform the City of Kingman. Several local business people will have membership applications including yours truly. I will provide a list of these people as soon as its available. However, Like James Martin, you may also stop by the historic Dunton Motors dealership at 119 E. Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) in Kingman. For additional information the phone number is (928)753-1314. The reorganization of the association is but one manifestation of the changes taking place in the cities historic district and along the Route 66 corridor.
The suites at the Brunswick Hotel. (Judy Hinckley)
In the block along Andy Devine Avenue dominated by an historic territorial era saloon turned neighborhood tavern, a row of empty storefronts, the forlorn shell of the Hotel Beale, and Brunswick Hotel, a century old nondescript garage, and a parking lot with bus stop and informational kiosk, Werner Fleishman has transformed a vintage dealership showroom turned antique store into Route 66 Ice Cream Parlor and the Vita Bella Deli and Cafe. Hidden behind the Brunswick Hotel in a pleasant courtyard are two delightfully charming suites. Currently for rent to visitors staying in the Kingman area for several days, they offer a glimpse into Werner’s vision for the historic Brunswick Hotel.
Almost an entire block on Beale Street between Fourth Street and Fifth Street is pulsating with vibrancy; an art center, the Wine Cellar, Redneck’s Southern Pit Barbecue, Black Bridge Brewery, Siren’s, and Beale Street Brews Coffee Shop and Roasting Company are the ghost of Christmas future in the historic district. The Garlic Clove restaurant is one block east. Immediately to the west, the Kingman Club sign again lights the night and crowds that gather here at night provide another indication that the winds of change are sweeping the city. The changes, however, are not confined to just the historic district, they are sweeping along the entire Route 66 corridor. Originally a Denny’s several decades ago, Rutherford’s 66 Family Dineris also thriving. William Shatner stopped here on his recent trip westward, and the owner is making plans for a most exciting remodel. Across the street, the circa 1945 Bell Motel with its charming stone facade is being given a new lease on life. This could make Kingman a truly unique Route 66 community with four renovated vintage motels; one from the 1930’s, one from the 1940’s, one from the 1950’s, and one from the 1960’s. The El Trovatore Motel, 1939, is thriving. The Hill Top Motel, 1956, is thriving. Mow the former Holiday Inn, the pride of Kingman in the 1960’s, is being reborn as the Ramada Kingman, the cities only Route 66 resort and it is thriving. The owners of the Ramada are quite serious about seeing Kingman and their hotel transformed into a destination. In addition to colorful murals, a large Route 66 themed swimming pool, renovated rooms, lounge, and restaurant, and landscaped grounds, they are working hand in hand with area businesses to develop coordinated marketing and promotion.
An example of the type of vehicles the Ramada owners are considering for their proposed tours. (Joel Zubaid)
Now there are plans afoot to offer area tours in the city and along our 160-miles of smiles. To ensure these are a memorable and unique experience for visitors, rolling time capsules will be the mode of transport. To these exciting changes and developments we can add eager anticipation for what is coming soon at Grand Canyon Caverns. in 18 to 24 months, new levels with truly unique formations will be open to the public. This is in addition to the newly added trail rides and miniature golf course. To all of this we can add the regularly scheduled events such as Sounds of Kingman, Chillin’ on Beale and the Route 66 Fun Run, and a few new ones currently under development; the Fourth of July block party, the Route 66 Walk of Fame induction ceremony, and Best of the West on 66. Kingman, Arizona, a stop on the road to somewhere else and a destination. This city truly is at the crossroads of the past and future.