As our schedule didn’t allow for participating in the scheduled Sunday activities after the Miles of Possibilities Conference, my dearest friend and I left Edwardsville bright and early that morning and headed north to explore a bit of Route 66 in the land of Lincoln. Initially the plan was to travel as far as the eastern terminus in Chicago, but as I was to meet a Norwegian tour group in Arizona on Friday, and needed be in Jefferson City, Missouri on Monday evening, it was impossible to travel further than Wilmington.
We had a delightful time, made some great discoveries, visited with friends and acquaintances, met fascinating people, and enjoyed delicious meals. However, as with so many Route 66 travelers, we missed the hidden gems and overlooked treasures of Chicago.
After photographing old segments of Route 66 framed by fall colors at sunrise around Edwardsville, we continued north, made a stop at the Rabbit Ranch to see Rich Henry, and then stopped at the Ariston Cafe to have coffee and visit with Nick Adams.
Author Jim Hinckley with Nick Adams. Judy Hinckley
This set the stage for the rest of the day; pop in and out of the car taking photos, visit a bit, drive, and stop to take more photos. In short, it was a most enjoyable day.
A highlight of the day had to be our stop in Elkhart. The historic district that consists of about one block of century old brick buildings just across the tracks from Route 66 should not be overlooked. If for no other reason than an opportunity to enjoy a dinner or desert at the Wild Hare Cafe you should make this a destination.
Housed in an historic bank building, the cafe itself is nestled at the rear of the building which means you must first negotiate your way through an eclectic antique store, past the displays of jars of fresh jams, jellies, and similar items, and a former walk in vault turned dining room complete with stunning wall mural. The little cafe is nothing short of charming.
A four berry desert at the Wild Hare Cafe.
Mismatched vintage china set on antique tables adorned with linen table cloths and season specific centerpieces, quaint wall murals, and lots of darkly stained wood trim and shelving make for a rather pleasant ambiance. The smell of delicious foods and fresh baked pies stimulate the appetite.
The menu offerings are basic, but as the owners use only locally grown produce, and the chef is rather talented, the food is superb. Prices are quite reasonable with most offerings being under $10.
The owner is a local artist, Andrea, and her husband Peter Niehaus from the village of Maasgricht in the Netherlands who has a passion for woodworking. The towering shelves that serve as the portal to the restaurant were salvaged during the demolition of the old school in Lincoln, and restored by Peter.
Accidentally I made another discovery across the street; a second hand store housed in a former cafe and soda fountain where all of the furnishings from at least a century ago are still in place. This includes the high backed oak booths, the marble counters, and a stunning oak back bar with beveled glass mirror, and leaded glass back lit posts that could very well be a Tiffany creation.
We closed out the day at the Braidwood Motel in Braidwood, and with plans for breakfast the following morning in Wilmington before heading home via Jefferson City, Missouri. If your in need of basic but clean and reasonably priced lodging, I can highly recommend this motel.
The primary complaint was room size. You have to go outside to change your mind but for $45 per night, …
Before closing this out today, I wanted to highlight a comment received on a recent post and see if we could initiate some productive discussion.
” If a 90th anniversary rally is planned, I hope it doesn’t do what all the other rallies and tours do, namely give short shrift to Chicago as the Eastern terminus. I find that most people skip over the Chicago-to-Joliet segment, thinking that the ‘real’ Route 66 doesn’t start until you get south of I-80, which is hogwash: Chicago and L.A. are the two big reasons the route exists in the first place. Anybody who begins the tour in Chicago and only stops at Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast is missing a *lot* — so far, my fellow co-authors and I have found more than 150 points of interest along Route 66 between downtown Chicago and downtown Joliet that were there in or before 1926, and we’re not done researching the original 1926 alignment yet. Who *are* these people who only want to see the Sears Tower, Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park (or worse, Navy Pier, which is nowhere near the route) and then move on??? Nobody skips over Santa Monica like that at the other end, so why is everyone in such a hurry to skim over metro Chicago to ‘hurry up and get on the road’? (Could it be that the idiot city government and its tourism office, Choose Chicago, does nothing to recognize or market Route 66 in Chicago? We think so.) Even worse, tours led by downstaters and the state association itself intentionally ignore Chicago, not realizing that by working together they’d get far more international tourists who happen to be in Chicago to go further down the route in state. It’s a very disruptive and counterproductive situation, and it needs to change (even the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway folks admit this privately). But it won’t change while folks like the organizers of the Edwardsville event ignore the 1,200-pound gorilla at the other end of the state (and while Chicago’s mayor doesn’t care, being distracted with budget problems). A very stupid situation indeed. A national organization might actually encopurage the two sides to cooperate. I await that day, but meanwhile I’m not holding my breath.”
The frustration expressed in this note mirrors that from Route 66 business owners and enthusiasts in Amarillo, Tulsa, Los Angeles, and the major metropolitan areas along the Route 66 corridor. As I said to Scott Piotrowski during a recent Route 66 tour in Los Angeles, the cities are the most overlooked and least explored segments of this historic highway.
Albuquerque may be the one exception but even in that city people cruise the Central Avenue corridor and overlook the earlier alignment on Fourth Street. And as overlooked as Chicago and Los Angeles are, in my opinion St. Louis receives even less attention.
There are a multitude of reasons for this. For tours the urban congestion can create an array of issues that company owners prefer to avoid.
Another issue is time. Our recent trip was a perfect example. First, we didn’t have enough time to even drive as far as Joiliet and second, there are so many things to see in the cities that it would be easy to consume an entire week or two.
On a more personal note, I find all of Route 66 an endless source of fascination. However, I am most comfortable in towns like Elkhart, Atlanta, Spencer, Avila, or even Glenrio and Texola.
So, what is the answer? My thoughts run like this; first, accept the fact that tour companies will most likely continue skipping large segments of urban areas. Next, work at the local level to generate awareness and spur development that creates the attraction.
Then bite the lip and network to promote and market, and work to overcome preconceived ideas pertaining to (fill in the blank). Scott Piotrowski is doing this by introducing Los Angeles visitors to the light rail system, and by developing the festival.
The need to generate interest in Route 66 at the local level, and the need to introduce the Route 66 enthusiast to overlooked treasures found along the urban corridor is one reason I am so supportive of Scott Piotrowski’s initiative to develop a 90th anniversary festival at the highways western terminus.
Perhaps the folks in Chicago could organize a similar event two weeks prior. These events could serve as the anchor points for the rally being developed by Open Road Productions, or anyone else wanting to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the most famous highway in America with a cruise from end to end.
After a late lunch at the Lewis Cafe in St. Clair, my dearest friend and I rolled into Edwardsville with just enough time to check into the hotel and register for the Miles of Possibilities Conference before the pub crawl commenced. This event complete with eye patches provided by David Wickline set the mood and made it quite evident that this Route 66 event was going to be unique.
After a bit of exploration in the historic district, and a beer with dinner and laughter at Stagger Inn Again, we called it a day. After five days on the road and a bit of cavern exploration we were ready for a good nights sleep.
The following morning we gathered for breakfast at the hotel with a few of the roads biggest fans and celebrities, and then set out for the historic Wildey Theater to set up our display. What an ideal and beautiful location for a multifaceted event such as the Miles of Possibilities Conference.
Cheryl Jett, the organizers, the volunteers, and the City of Edwardsville did an excellent job even though the event got off to a very rocky start.
It was that rocky start in Edwardsville, which almost resulted in cancellation, as well as the issues associated with development of the 2014 Route 66 International Festival in Kingman that solidified my belief that a representative national organization such as the old U.S. Highway 66 is sorely needed. Festivals are great and we need more of them. However, there is also a need for an annual convention where the business of Route 66 is intertwined with the fun of Route 66.
courtesy K.C. Keefer
It is my sincere hope that Scott Piotrowski and his team of organizers can refine what began in Kingman and Edwardsville, and make the developing event in Los Angeles more than a mere 90th anniversary celebration. I hope that he and his team can move the Route 66 community closer toward that annual convention.
I am also hoping that the developing Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative can spearhead establishment of an actual convention complete with roadie bash, parade, and festivities can be tied to a full blown conference with workshops. My suggested location for such an historic event would be Elk City in Oklahoma, site of the 1931 convention that attracted an estimated 20,000 participants.
At the events in Edwardsville, the top floor of the theater was set aside for exhibits; collectors, authors, artists, Route 66 association representatives, and similar displays. My display table with books and an array of promotional materials from Kingman and locations along Route 66 was next to that for Open Road Productions, a Michigan based company that first delved into Route 66 tours with development of tours for GM China.
In addition to offering fully customized tours to Route 66, in sections or its entirety, they are in the initial stages of planning a 90th anniversary rally from Chicago that will culminate at the big international Route 66 festival in Los Angeles. For more information about their services, or to inquire about the rally, here is the link to their website – Open Road Productions.
The second floor was utilized for the catered dinner on Friday evening, two days of tightly focused interactive conferences, and the e-group breakfast. If your not familiar with the Yahoo Route 66 e-group, I suggest that you check it out and sign up. In addition to providing some great information and updates, the free membership entitles you to some great benefits such as the annual breakfast.
The theater itself served as the primary location for the conferences. It was also the venue for the showcasing of K.C. Keefer’s latest film, Exit Zero, the story of Glenrio, and a performance by the Road Crew.
George Game of the Canadian Route 66 Association
All in all it was a most enjoyable as well as productive weekend. To close things out, at least for us as we were not able to participate in the activities planned for Sunday, there was a most interesting Halloween themed “roadie bash” hosted by “Roamin” Rich Dinkela and Dr. Nick Gerlich. This was an event that will go down in the annals of Route 66 history.
Suffice to say, a good time was had by one and all.
In the next posting I will share a bit from from our adventures north into Illinois, and then on the road home. Meanwhile, here are some photos from the roadie bash, the exhibition, and the pub crawl.
Okay, before continuing the story of our recent Route 66 adventure, and a few more restaurant recommendations it seemed a good idea to provide a few updates that might be of interest.
I will be working on publication of the ebook version this week but the print copy of Jim Hinckley’s America, volume one, is now available for order on Amazon.com. The book is a walking guide to the Kingman historic district with three suggested short but interesting detours, as well as an historic overview of Route 66 between Seligman and Topock.
As envisioned this will become a series of small, narrow focused guide books. It represents the next step in making Jim Hinckley’s America your one stop shop for Route 66 and southwest travel information or tours.
To date we have the books, presentations, blog, and customized speaking engagements. Through Ramada Kingman, customized tours of the local area are also available. In conjunction with Open Road Productions, the company developing a Mother Road Memories Rally from Chicago to the 90th anniversary celebration at the highways original western terminus in Los Angeles next year, customized tours on Route 66 and in the southwest are available.
The podcast is simmering on the back burner, negotiations are underway to resurrect the long dormant video project, and today I start moving a few things into my office at Dunton Motors Dream Machines next to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner where I can meet with media or tour groups, and perhaps, sell a few classic cars. As a side note, this is also the location of the offices for the Route 66 Association of Kingman.
It looks as though I will be staving off boredom, and possible starvation, for another winter. Did I mention that another book contract has been finalized?
Missouri Hick in Cuba
Okay, now let’s continue with the story about the recent road trip. There is something truly special about Cuba, Missouri. Every time we stop for a visit our thoughts seem to drift toward life lived among the trees rather than the stone spires, desert plains, and deep canyons. For a couple of desert dwellers these are rather surprising thoughts.
On this trip we arrived shortly before sunrise, engaged in a bit of photography, checked into the roadside oasis that is the Wagon Wheel Motel, visited with Connie Echols for a bit, and then set out for another dinner at Missouri Hick. We have yet to find cause for disappointment with the motel or restaurant and in fact find it difficult to imagine a Route 66 adventure without a stop at either one.
This time I tried the smoked turkey dinner. The word superb is the best I can find to describe it. Enhancing the meal was a cold bottle of pumpkin cider. As a fan of hard apple cider, I was most impressed.
As another favorite stop of ours was closed (the Belmont Winery in nearby Leasburg) I had ordered a bottle of their wonderful pink dogwood wine as a surprise for my dearest friend.
As it turned out we had to save that bottle for later. Upon our return to the motel, we found that Connie had arranged for an impromptu reception. So we enjoyed refreshments and some lively, laughter punctuated conversation late into the evening with Connie, her sister Riva, and Jane Reed.
As is our tradition when in Cuba, we started the next day off shortly before sunrise with a hearty breakfast at Shelly’s, another highly recommended stop. It was there that we met with Dr. Alan Berman and his wife, they had checked into the Wagon Wheel Motel during the reception but did not have the opportunity to talk.
Over breakfast we learned that he will be providing service in Supai soon. As I have a few contacts in that village an offer was made to assist upon our return to Arizona, and then he followed us back to the motel where he purchased books that I signed.
Before I forget, signed copies of my books are again available at a couple of locations along Route 66. These include the Ariston Cafe, the National Route 66 Museum, the Wagon Wheel Motel, Enchanted Trails Trading Post, Jack Rabbit Trading Post, La Posada, and the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.
After exploring Cuba and its colorful murals, we stopped at the Hayes Shoe Store as I was in need of a new pair of boots. What a treat to shop in a store that has served the local community since 1953. As a bonus they had an interesting historic display, the shoes belonging to Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man.
As the days destination of Edwardsville was but a short drive, we planned to explore a bit of St. Louis, specifically the often overlooked Forest Park section of early Route 66. Like so many aspects of our trip, that didn’t happen.
Instead, on a whim we decided that a tour of Meramec Caverns was in order. This was my dearest friend’s first visit to this Route 66 classic attraction (my last visit was something like 50 years ago).
Even if you don’t take the tour, I suggest making the drive. The detour drive is beautiful and there are several places that are “picture perfect” picnic spots.
Instead of a picnic, however, we set our sights on the Lewis Cafe in St. Clair, another recommendation for lunch, breakfast, or dinner. Frustrating and maddening road construction necessitated detours couldn’t deter us from the quest.
This wonderful little restaurant has been in business since 1938. The claim to fame, aside from excellent food and friendly service from a staff that includes waitresses on the job for more than 20 years, and timeless ambiance, is locally raised beef. It really does make a difference.
In the next installment, the wonders of Edwardsville and the delights of the Miles of Possibilities conference.
Plans and schedules seldom work when it comes to Route 66 adventures. Our recent trip to the Miles of Possibilities events in Illinois was no exception.
The initial idea was to hopscotch along Route 66 and catch what we missed on the return trip. The carefully scripted itinerary worked quite well until the second day.
The first delay resulted from light traffic on Central Avenue in Albuquerque as well as picture perfect clouds and lighting for photography. The second delay was a need for breakfast and the discovery of Kaps near the historic Tewa Lodge.
The absolutely gorgeous weather, the blue skies sprinkled with clouds, and delightfully warm temperature that begged for a picnic as well as numerous stops to distribute promotional materials and take photographs magnified the delays. So, by 1:00 or so we had made it only as far as Santa Rosa and the beautiful Blue Hole, site of our picnic.
My dearest friend with our trusty picnic basket at the Blue Hole.
This pattern of frequent stops continued and soon I noticed that the sun was nearing the western horizon. As a result, there was a need to hit I-40 shortly west of Tucumcari as our destination for the evening was Shamrock, Texas.
After checking into the Western Hotel (highly recommended) we spent some time photographing the classic glow of the U Drop Inn and the adjoining Tesla station, and then enjoyed a refreshing bottle of Lone Star and another excellent dinner at Big Vern’s Steakhouse. Thanks to Larry Clonts and his team, Shamrock is about to become a major destination for Route 66 enthusiasts.
We kicked off day three of the adventure with a bit of sunrise photography, and a visit with Larry Clonts, who was getting ready to head for Edwardsville, and Brenda Dyson. Then it was off to Texola and Waterhole Number 2 for breakfast, at least that was the plan.
We did get to visit with intrepid Masel but breakfast had to wait until we got to Sayre. That is where we discovered the Grill (after negotiating our way through a few construction forced detours), a gem of a restaurant that will soon be added to our page for recommended restaurants and motels.
In between Texola and Sayre were numerous stops for photography, and a missed visit with Harley in Erick. By this time the schedule was but a distant memory. After all of these years, it seems as though I would learn that on Route 66, schedules have no place.
In Elk City we paid Maxine at the National Route 66 Museum a visit, distributed some promotional materials, signed books, and played tourist. We followed this with more photography, more exploration, and a stop at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton and a visit with Pat Smith.
The National Route 66 Museum
Once again time seemed to slip away as it has a tendency to do on Route 66 and by late afternoon we were still west of Oklahoma City. As our destination was the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa where we had a dinner appointment with Rhys Martin of Cloudless Lens Photography, and his charming wife Samantha, it was once again time to hit the interstate.
Unfortunately Laurel Kane of Afton Station was unable to join us for dinner. That as well as a very noisy and rude hotel guest were the only blemish on an otherwise perfect evening in Tulsa.
The following morning was chilly and foggy with a drizzling rain. Still, we sought the Blue Dome District and continued with our photographic safari along Route 66.
The pattern of frequent stops and visits continued. Likewise with missing Laurel Kane, this time during a stop at Afton Station.
The plan called for saving Kansas for the return trip, and focusing on bits of Missouri. The days destination was the Wagon Wheel Motel and Cuba, with dinner at Missouri Hick and a bottle of pink dogwood wine from Belmont Winery, another place that should be added to your travel plans.
Maxine at the National Route 66 Museum
The sun was quickly sinking in the west as we arrived at the beautiful Devils Elbow Bridge where we had a most interesting encounter. Two couples, one traveling from Virginia to California via Route 66 from Chicago in a restored VW bus, and one headed home to Chicago after a trip to California were also photographing the bridge.
As this was Route 66, the tenor of their conversation and the laughter gave the impression that they were life long friends even though they had just met. After introductions I was included in the conversation that centered on difficulties associated with locating Route 66 in some locations.
I noted that we never travel the double six without Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide. One couple noted that they had an excellent guide book that they were really enjoying but it lacked maps.
I retrieved my copy of the EZ Guide to show them, and they showed me the book they were using. It was my book Travel Route 66! Well that started an entirely new conversation that included the sharing of promotional materials from the Kingman area, and the provision of a list of recommended stops.
Once again, we arrived at our destination just as the sun was sinking into the west. That provided an excellent opportunity for even more photography. The gallery at Legends of America will be getting some new additions soon.
“Roamin” Rich Dinkela in an awkward moment at the events in Edwardsville.
The primary destination for our latest adventure (a journey of 3,761 miles) was the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Edwardsville, Illinois, the latest evolutionary step in the rebirth of the historic Route 66 conventions. As usual it was a grand adventure.
That is usually the case with any odyssey that involves Route 66 and the people who give it such a sense of infectious vibrancy. This one, however, was quite special indeed as it involved the making of new friends, time well spent with old friends, a bit of old fashioned marketing, costumes, meetings that held the promise of exciting developments for 2016, the discovery of fascinating new restaurants, pirates, the music of the Road Crew, and lots of laughter.
Our adventure kicked off with a maddening array of last minute details and a schedule that included back to back obligations. On Friday, I picked up some promotional materials from the Hualapai tribe, had a telephone conference call with the various Route 66: The Road Ahead committee members, finalized arrangements with the caretaker of the homestead in our absence, and attended to some last minute family issues.
On Saturday morning we picked up the rental car (a Subaru Outback) and commenced packing it with luggage, snacks and water, the Garmin, books to sell, camera gear, computer equipment, gifts, picnic supplies, and the Kingman area promotional materials to be distributed at the conference as well as along the Route 66 corridor. Then, after weeks of frustrating delays and assorted issues, I finally completed the long overdue self publishing endeavor and volume one of Jim Hinckley’s America, a guide to the Kingman area, was added to the list of my books that are available on Amazon. The ebook version will follow shortly, and I am still working on the podcast.
Saturday evening I served as a guide for an Adventures Caravan tour that was in Kingman for the weekend. On Sunday morning, long before sunrise, we were on the road as I was scheduled to speak with Dale Butel’s fall Route 66 tour, and sign books, at the La Posada in Winslow by 8:00.
That set the pace for most of the rest of the trip. Still, the busiest or worst day on Route 66 is better than any day spent (fill in the blank).
A visit with the owners of the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, the distribution of promotional materials, and the gathering of new photos for the Jim Hinckley’s America Gallery at Legends of America consumed the rest of the morning so we stopped at the El Rancho in Gallup for a late lunch.
There is something truly special about Mexican food in New Mexico and this this was our first opportunity to savor the unique cuisine. The second opportunity took place at La Hacienda Restaurant in the Old Town district of Albuquerque.
After a stop at the Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park, we closed out the first day of the adventure at the Monterrey Non Smokers Motel on Central Avenue, located a short distance from Old Town and the zoo. This historic old property has evolved with Route 66 and remains as the best lodging bargain in the city. Don’t let the looks of the neighborhood after dark deter you; this is an excellent oasis complete with laundry facilities, central location, pool, and friendly owners who run a very tight ship.
Our second day on the road commenced with some sunrise photography, and a superb breakfast at Kaps. This excellent little restaurant is located toward the east end of Central Avenue next to the historic Tewa Lodge.
Breakfast and our morning excursion along Central Avenue set the stage for what proved to be a most delightful day. After a long morning of stops for visits, for the distribution of materials, and for photography, my dearest friend suggested a picnic at the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa as the weather was almost picture perfect.
On Route 66 you are never far from friends, even if you have yet to meet. In this case our new found friends from Germany, Nicole Jens and Raab Hanneman, were contemplating a swim as the day was remarkably warm. The water temperature, however, deterred them.
Day two of the adventure ended in the pleasing glow at the U Drop Inn in Shamrock, an excellent dinner at Big Vern’s Steakhouse, and a restful evening at the Western Motel. Did I mention that a Tesla station has been added to the U Drop since our last visit?
Apparently Route 66 is truly the crossroads of the past and future.