My dearest friend, Sylvia, Bernhard, and Cowboy Dave.
Thanksgiving rates at the top of my favorite holidays list, not because of fond childhood memories as our family wasn’t much for big family gatherings or nostalgia tinged reflection on historic tradition. There is just something special about the concept of setting aside a day to take a deep breath and reflect on how fortunate we are. Now you know why we refuse to partake in the Black Friday related madness.
Over the course of several decades, my dearest friend and I have gathered quite a treasure chest of fond Thanksgiving memories. This year we combined the very best of what makes any holiday special; a bit of a road trip, a little adventure, and very good food all shared with friends. As a bonus, the weather was near perfect with clear blue skies and cool temperatures.
We kicked it all off by picking up Sylvia and Bernhard at their hotel in Kingman and then heading north on Stockton Hill Road along the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains through the Hualapai Valley. Our destination was Grand Canyon Western Ranch, a dude ranch that is steeped in history, for some good traditional food, and a bit of serenading by Cowboy Dave.
Oddly enough, more years ago than I care to count, when this was a working cattle ranch, I worked there for a short period of time. Thanksgiving is a day for reflection.
The conversation and laughter flowed easily as we discussed Route 66, travel and its challenges, language related bloopers, and food. Of course the pending European Route 66 Festival that is scheduled to take place in Germany next was also a subject of eager discussion.
My only regret with holidays such as this is that they end far to quickly. This Thanksgiving was no exception.
Our holiday weekend will continue through Sunday. Toshi Goto may be stopping in Kingman for dinner, and there is a birthday celebration for our son. So, it will be a most memorable holiday weekend indeed.
Now, lets talk about a few coming attractions, both good and bad. First, on December 2, at 5:30 PM, the Kingman Downtown Merchants Association has facilitated a meeting with the the church that is looking to utilize the historic Central Commercial Building, the very cornerstone of the revitalization of the cities historic commercial district.
Obviously this is a rather contentious issue. It is also one that, regretfully, seems to be indicative to the Walmart approach to Christianity that is the American corporate church. I will keep you apprised of developments.
Next, the Route 66 Association of Kingman will be hosting a reception for local car clubs that have played such an important role in the development of a sense of community this past year. This is another manifestation of the associations leadership in regard to the transformation of the historic district and the Route 66 corridor.
The self publishing endeavor continues (thank you Mr. Keppel). The struggle now is in regard to the ebook version of Jim Hinckley’s America, volume one. I am truly hoping to have this finalized within the week. Meanwhile, the print version is currently available on Amazon.com.
On January 16, at Beale Celebrations in downtown Kingman, I will be making a Route 66 presentation. This will be a fund raiser for the Route 66 Association of Kingman’s neon sign renovation project. Tentative plans are for this to be followed by a Kingman Downtown Merchants Association sponsored pub crawl. For more information or tickets contact Just Marketing as seating will be limited.
After weeks of intense negotiations I have accepted a new book contract. The general topic is the Route 66 renaissance. I will provide a few details soon as your input would be greatly appreciated.
To gather images for the new book we will be traveling to California in late January. Ideally we can also attend an organizational meeting for the 2016 90th anniversary Route 66 festival being spearheaded by Scott Piotrowski.
Last but not least, there are two more projects simmering on the back burner. One is a book on two lane adventures in New Mexico that will be a joint project with photographer Kerrick James.
The second is another self published title; Bathtubs, Birdcages and Chevrolet. Would anyone care to guess the subject mater or the origins for the title?
Irony was the hallmark of the last two days of the return trip from Edwardsville. With the exception of some chilly, rainy days during the conference itself, the temperatures for most of the trip were delightfully warm. In fact, my dearest friend and I even had an opportunity to dust off the old picnic basket.
That all changed when we got to New Mexico. After a restful night at the Roadrunner Lodge, our morning in Tucumcari kicked off with some sunrise photography, a bit of exploration, and a stiffening breeze that had a very definite chill. Next came some breakfast and conversation shared with Kevin Mueller of the Blue Swallow Motel (Nancy had to cancel resultant of customer issues) at Kix on 66, and a cruise through town in his Model A Ford truck.
Afterwards we rolled west into a brutal headwind that grew in intensity with the passing of every mile. In spite of the winds we kept a leisurely pace and made a few stops for photography.
However, by the time we made Clines Corner the wind was howling. With the temperature hovering just below the freezing mark, the chill factor had to be near zero. That provided a bit of incentive for foregoing stops for pictures and simply driving, at least until we arrived in Albuquerque where it was just a bit warmer.
After another cruise along Central Avenue, and a stop for lunch at Loyola’s, we continued the homeward cruise. The days destination was Holbrook and the Globetrotter Lodge, another one of our favorite roadside oasis.
As we motored west from the Rio Grande Valley our interest in photography declined in direct correlation to the falling temperatures and the amount of snow on the ground as we neared Grants. What is wrong with this picture? On our last day in Illinois it was seventy degrees!
With the exception of a few icy patches the road was clear and dry. Still as we neared the Arizona line, and the snow blanketed the ground rather than nestled in the shadows, I found myself longing for our trusty old Jeep.
As had become our custom on this trip, we arrived at the Globetrotter Lodge as the last light of the day was fading from the sky. After visiting with Peter, the charming proprietor, and checking in, we set out in search of some Mexican food at Romos Cafe.
Even though we had spent most of the day on the sterile old four lane highway, this was still a Route 66 adventure. So, surprises were to be expected.
In this instance it was a chance meeting with David Heward, and some of his amigos who stopped in for dinner. Before I forget, thank you Eddison for dinner. Conversation, a beer or two, and some excellent food brought the day to a close.
The following morning dawned clear, and cold, with the temperature just south of 20 degrees. As it was November, winter weather was to be expected but that didn’t mean that I had to enjoy it. From Holbrook west, we had but one option as I was scheduled to meet a group from Hop a Long Tours, a Norway based company, at noon n Kingman. That left us with but one option, I-40. Still, we did take the time for a very brief stop at Two Guns for some photos with the snow capped San Francisco Peaks as a backdrop. Overall it was a delightful adventure. As always, we didn’t have time to visit with all of the friends made over the years in our Route 66 travels, and we weren’t able to stop at each of our favorite places. That provides ample excuse for another road trip. Likewise with the fact that we discovered new places well worth a return trip, and made a few new friends. To everyone that we missed, we will catch you on the next trip, unless you stop in Kingman first.
Once again our homeward journey from Edwardsville kicked off under cloudy skies that hinted strongly of a pending storm. That, however, did not deter us from a bit of exciting sunrise exploration in architecturally stunning historic district in Guthrie. This a bit north of Route 66, but not by much, and the old city is well worth the detour.
A short time later we rolled through heavy morning traffic and into Oklahoma City. The first destination was the state capital grounds. Photography for two new projects required the gathering of suitable images come rain or shine.
One of these was the gathering of “selfies”, not of us but of the Ben-Gil tiger that is the mascot of the Ben-Gil Elementary School in Gillespie, Illinois. As part of their “Read for Kicks on Route 66” project, we had been asked to photograph the mascot at locations along Route 66, and to send the class notes from the tiger.
It was a fun project that we were delighted to assist with. It will continue when we make a trip to Los Angeles in January.
The historic Lake Overholser Bridge.
Once again we got caught up in our urban explorations that included frustrations with road construction and it was late morning before we crossed the beautiful old Lake Overholser Bridge, and stopped for the gathering of some photographs. As the days final destination was the Roadrunner Lodge in distant Tucumcari, New Mexico it was becoming increasingly apparent that we needed to pick up the pace just a bit.
So, we reversed the pattern of the east bound trip and used the interstate highway to access portions of Route 66 previously skipped. Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford beckoned around lunch time, and we crossed into the Panhandle by late afternoon.
It was there we slowed the pace rather dramatically. So much so that we ended up spending more than a hour cruising the streets of McLean.
A colorful mural in McLean, Texas.
Personally I find this forlorn old Texas Panhandle town with a very colorful history to be quite interesting. Even to the casual eye it is painfully obvious that the town has seen better times.
Still, scattered throughout town, there is clear evidence that it is still alive. There are still people living here who love the old town. They add colorful murals and other touches that stand in dramatic contrast to the empty store fronts, the weeds growing through the pavement, and the ruins. I know of far more prosperous communities that show less resolve and spunk.
Of course spending time in McLean meant that we have to forgo Glenrio, and cut our time short in Amarillo. So, we ended up missing Bob Lile and seeing what was new at his gallery, as well as an opportunity for having a snack at the Golden Light.
We topped off the tank at Russell’s just west of the New Mexico state line, played phone tag with Kevin Mueller at the Blue Swallow Motel as a result of poor reception, and hit the neon lit main drag of Tucumcari well past dark. As it turned out, the Mueller’s were delayed and so there was still an opportunity for dinner at the Pow Wow.
First, however, we checked into the Roadrunner Lodge. This was something we had been looking forward to since hearing of the Brenner’s transformation of the property. When we last had spent the night in Tucumcari this motel was a forlorn old wreck of a place.
What a delight! As with the Motel Safari, it cannot be compared to the Blue Swallow Motel. That, however, is merely an apples and oranges sort of comparison.
The Roadrunner Lodge is an absolute delight, a 1960’s time capsule. From the moment you enter the lobby there is awareness that this is a very special place and that the owners have a passion for this endeavor.
With a bit of leadership and vision displayed by the city manager, mayor, and other officials, and an expansion of the cooperative spirit displayed by most business owners, Tucumcari could very well become a major destination, especially for Route 66 enthusiasts. That is a transformation I am eager to see.
Dinner at the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge was was rather enjoyable even though we were mere minutes or miles from exhaustion. Of course, as with Route 66 itself, it is the people that make such mundane things memorable.
The second day of the journey homeward from Edwardsville and the Miles of Possibilities Conference started under grey skies in Jefferson City, Missouri. Our destination was Guthrie, Oklahoma but there were a few stops to make along the way.
Our morning commute from Jefferson City.
The first of these was in the picturesque wide spot in the road that is High Point, Missouri. More on the town and reasons for stopping in future posts but this was related to some ongoing research pertaining to a bit of western history.
As the morning wasn’t exactly picture perfect (the fog was just a bit thick) we abandoned that prospect. Instead we dodged a few horse drawn buggies on the highway, and people driving with their lights off, and headed straight for some warm coffee and an ever so brief visit with our friends Bob and Robin at the Water’s Edge Motel on the Lake of the Ozarks. During late spring, summer, or early fall, if the opportunity presents itself, I highly recommend a stay at this delightful little lakeside jewel.
Bob and Ramona Lehman, proprietors of the Munger Moss Motel for more than forty years.
Next we paid a surprise visit to Bob and Ramona at the Munger Moss Motel. Not that we ever need an excuse to visit but there was the need to deliver another Kingman promotional package. As often happens on a Route 66 odyssey, our visit just happen to coincide with Penny Black and her companion checking out. They had been at the conference and related Route 66 events in Edwardsville and were homeward bound for California.
As with our stop at Bob and Robin’s, the visit at the Munger Moss Ramona’s was all to brief and soon we were back on the road. The next stop, aside from the continuing impression of a jack in the box as we popped in and out of the car photographs, was Springfield.
An attempt to photograph sites in Springfield’s historic district were thwarted by maddening construction that necessitated ludicrous detours (two lanes of traffic down and alley!) and the loss of time that we didn’t have to spare. So we grabbed a less than memorable lunch well worn old diner and took the road again.
It became rather obvious that it was going to be another late arrival at the hotel as the countdown to sunset marked by lengthening shadows commenced on the courthouse square in Carthage. On the square we had another of those coincidental encounters, this time with Tommy and Glenda Pike of the Route 66 Association of Missouri who just happened to be in town as part of their car clubs cruise to Red Oak II.
Even though there was a great deal to talk about, our visit was abbreviated resultant of the fact that sunset was imminent and yet we still had a long drive ahead of us. Reluctantly we put wheels on the interstate and headed west a steady clip.
Even with a tight schedule a road trip can be exciting, enjoyable and memorable, provided an individual is willing to try something different, is open to a bit of adventure regardless of the later hour, and is willing to abandon the time table on occasion. In this instance the something different led to abandoning any pretense of a schedule and a wonderful little discovery.
It was well past supper time and the stomach was beginning to do a bit more than growl as we rolled through the dark night. So, in every hamlet that we cruised through there was a search for food. As we had not reached the point of desperation, the standard fast food fare was out of the question. Then, in Cushing, Oklahoma, we discovered Naifeh’s Deli and Grill.
What a delightful surprise! Traditional burgers, southwest burgers, patty melts, onion burgers, and traditional burgers with a twist (tobouly, hummus, and provolone cheese) teased the taste buds as I perused the menu before settling on a Mediterranean turkey sandwich; shaved turkey, tabouly, black olives, red onion, sliced pepperoncini, feta cheese and lemon oil dressing on a toasted honey wheat hoagie.
The service was beyond horrible, almost forty minutes for a sandwich. This frustration also had a silver lining, we met Brianna Toll.
This charming young lady was working the late shift. It was her first job. After serving us with an embarrassed look in her eye, she retreated to the kitchen. A few minutes latter she returned, apologized for misplacing our order, and offered to buy desert on her dime. That is honest service, that is a young lady with a promising future.
We arrived in Guthrie shortly before the witching hour, settled in for the night, and slept the night away with turkey and tobouly inspired dreams dancing in my head.
The sign for the Mill Restaurant that currently being refurbished.
The well laid plans of mice and men, and all of that…
When planning for the adventure to the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Edwardsvcille, Illinois commenced a month or so ago, it included driving north through Joliet to Chicago and the eastern terminus of the double six. At some point in our planning the acquisition of some 3,000 Route 66 photographs for the portfolio was added to the list of tasks associated with the trip as there was a need to expand the offerings available through the Jim Hinckley’s America Gallery at Legends of America.
When plans center on a Route 66 adventure you can be assured that the schedule will be relegated to the trash bin rather quickly. This trip was no exception.
One of the historic swinging bridges in Pontiac.
After a pleasant and restful evening at the Braidwood Motel with its doll house sized rooms, we reluctantly made the decision the pressing schedule prohibited venturing further than Wilmington for breakfast at the Wilmington Family House Restaurant (another recommended stop).
The destination for the first day of the return trip was Jefferson City in Missouri, a slight but scenic Route 66 detour along U.S. 54. First, however, was a bit of photography along the double six in the land of Lincoln.
This included a stop to look for buffalo at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, to photograph sites in historic Wilmington, to check on the progress at the historic Mill Restaurant, a search for Bob Russell and a thorough but rushed exploration of Pontiac, and lunch at the Palms Grill as well as a bit of exploration in Atlanta.
Route 66, especially in the era of renaissance, is a highway full of surprises, chance encounters, and delightful delays.
Case in point, our stop in Atlanta. As it turned out, also dining at the Palms Grill was Tom Cotter, author of Cobra in the Barn. He too was on a Route 66 odyssey but his search was for forgotten automobiles hidden in barns and garages along the old double six.
As it turned out, he was using a copy of my book Travel Route 66 to plan out his daily adventures. This as well as the previous brief meeting during an interview at Jay Leno’s Garage led to some lively discussion, and the provision of an autograph.
We also had a brief visit with Bill Thomas, the mastermind behind the exciting transformation of Atlanta and the details guy behind the transition of the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative into a 501c3 representative organization. As luck would have it, he had driven his 1940 Plymouth to work that day and as a result, we were provided with an excellent prop for our photos.
The sun was sinking fast behind the forest that loomed on the western horizon when we crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri on the beautiful steel truss bridge that carries U.S. 54. This meant that we still had miles to go before calling it a day.
Still, we couldn’t resist exploring Louisiana, Missouri. Add this community to your list if your into a bit of historic urban exploration. Evidence abounds that this faded and tarnished old river town was once a very prosperous community in the era of Mark Twain.
The drive to Jefferson City was reminiscent of those I remember on Route 66 four or five decades ago. A slow moving truck kept the speed from seldom exceeding forty five miles per hour, and the hills and curves kept the truck from moving any faster. As it turned this was a blessing in disguise.
After passing the truck I topped a rise and dropped into a hollow with a sharp curve at the bottom. A thick misty fog was settling deep and my guess is that we missed the deer in the road by a coat of paint or two. That got the blood to flowing.
We arrived in Jefferson City a bit late but still, after checking into the hotel, we set out to photograph the capital. And then we topped off the day with a delightful dinner at Madison’s Cafe.