For all intents and purposes the two and a half week odyssey through the southwest and the heartland of America, with a brief foray into the land of Dixie was a business trip.
Presentations, education, and Kingman area marketing were the foundation for this truly epic adventure that spanned twelve states and almost 5,000 miles.
I have slowly built a coalition of organizations and business owners that see value in my ability to promote the Kingman area, as well as Route 66. This particular trip was sponsored by Kari Jo Hill, the Promote Kingman initiative (the host for an exciting event that will take place on November 19), Savon Bath Treats, Grand Canyon Caverns, MyMarketing Designs, the Hualapai Tribe, and the Route 66 Association of Kingman.
As I truly enjoy the new job and the latest chapter in life shared with my dearest friend, there are no complaints even though at times the schedule was rather grueling.
In coming weeks I will be sharing details and suggestions for great restaurants, unique lodging experiences, sites to see, festivals to add to the calendar, and a review of the new Chevy Cruze, a vehicle that was thoroughly tested on this trip. I will also provide details of what was garnered from meetings with business owners, tourism and economic development directors, city managers, Main Street Program directors, and attendance of the Miles of Possibilities Conference.
Today, however, I will give just a few of the highlights from what was a most memorable odyssey made even more enjoyable by the people and friends met along the way.
The first and last days were the most difficult as both required the covering of many miles, which meant that there was little time for dawdling, seeing the sites, or a great deal of visitation. Still, the landscapes traversed are among the most beautiful in the world and we did find time, on the first day for a few minutes with David Heward of Holbrook, and a lunch shared with Rhys and Sam Martin in Gallup.
The charming Rhys and Sam Martin
Day two was long and tiring; a drive from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Shamrock, Texas with a couple of meetings along the way. We missed the Mueller’s in Tucumcari but did enjoy lunch with David Brenner of the Roadrunner Lodge (Amanda was out of town).
Then we slowed the pace rather dramatically; the next day was a leisurely drive to Claremore, and the day after, only as far as Joplin via 13.5 miles of Route 66 in Kansas. We played tourist with stops at places like Red Oak II, made a few new discoveries, attended more meetings, had dinner with friends and associates, met some interesting people, talked with old friends, missed a few others, and distributed promotional materials from the Kingman area. This theme continued for the remainder of the trip.
There were stops at the Coleman Theater where we listened to music from the Phantom of the Opera played on the vintage Wurlitzer organ during a raging thunderstorm, and a somber visit to a German military cemetery in Oklahoma.
One evening included hugs from Ramona at the Munger Moss Motel where we shared dinner on a rather chilly evening with a tour group from Australia. Another was seasoned with the music of the Road Crew and the laughter of friends at Belmont Winery during Cuba Fest.
On another stormy night filled with roaring thunder and flashes of lightening bright enough to read by, my dearest friend and I were snuggled deep in a century old bed at the historic Corner George Inn, an 1880’s hotel and saloon in the charming village of Maeystown in Illinois that is accessed by crossing a stone bridge built in the 1850’s.
Another delightful little oasis for the weary traveler was found in Cortez, Colorado on the return trip. The Retro Inn that dates to 1953 is exactly what the name implies, a courtyard lined with time capsules. Clean, reasonable rates, and an attention to detail in presenting the illusion in each room that it is 1958 or 1960 place this motel on our favorites list.
Another historic chapter in the Route 66 story was the Miles of Possibilities Conference that took place in Bloomington, Illinois. The organizers should be proud of a job well done. I was quite honored by the opportunity to speak about the Route 66 renaissance, with Kingman as an example, at the event, and a great deal was learned from attending a few of the presentations. As a bonus there was ample opportunity to visit with old friends, and the event was designed to showcase the charms of historic Bloomington/Normal.
Forest Park in St. Louis.
I was also quite honored by an opportunity to speak about 90 years of adventures on Route 66, and the history of that storied old highway in the southwest at the beautiful Missouri History Museum located in Forest Park. Even though an early alignment of Route 66 passes through a corner of this beautiful park, many enthusiasts miss it when cruising through St. Louis.
The museum is hosting a superb Route 66 exhibit through next summer. In addition, to touring the museum and exhibit, we had the privilege of enjoying an orphan car show that was taking place on the same day as my presentation.
Food is always a big part of our adventures be they here in Arizona or to Europe. We revel in the discovery of historic, quirky, or fascinating restaurants and new taste sensations.
This trip was no exception. One rainy afternoon we enjoyed a superb beef stew at Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita, followed by apple cobbler. On another day it was an excellent Shepherd’s Pie and pleasant conversation with Nick Adam at the Ariston Cafe. In Colorado we discovered a quirky named restaurant where the food was marginal at best. In Cuba, Missouri we sampled the lamb burger with a Greek touch at the new Four Way Restaurant and was pleasantly surprised. In short, it was a successful and fun filled adventure. Those who invested in my promotional endeavors should be pleased. As noted, in coming weeks I will provide more detail. Moreover, as I will be attending the events in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks, there will be even more to share.
Since leaving home almost two weeks ago, with the exception of two days in the mountains of Kentucky without Internet service, it has been a before sunrise to long after dark schedule. This isn’t to say that it hasn’t been fun. After all, the worst day working along Route 66 is better than the best day at a nine to five.
Along the way have been festivals, museums, good friends, new discoveries, and good food. In short, my dearest friend and I have another grand adventure to add to the memory book.
Day one was a six hundred mile run to the original Las Vegas, a magical place that seems suspended in time. Day two was filled with meetings in Las Vegas and Tucumcari, followed by a drive to Shamrock, Texas.
And so it went. Meetings, driving, visits with friends, good food, tour groups, book signings, presentations, distributing promotional materials from Kingman as well as from sponsors of Jim Hinckley’s America, and new discoveries. Check out the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page for details, updates and morning walkabout videos from the road. We will be home next week and I can share some of our discoveries with more frequent posts.
The countdown has commenced and the pressure is on. Departure for another epic adventure is a mere two days away and as usual, there are a multitude of last minute details to be resolved in a very short amount of time.
The pantry is stocked for the keeper of the castle during our absence (aka our son) and latter today, or first thing in the morning, I will winterize the swamp cooler, light the pilot light on the furnace, and drain the radiator on Barney the wonder truck as it will most likely be down all winter.
Technically this is a business trip. However, as I enjoy my job even though on occasion it is as stressful as juggling chain saws and cats, it will also be a pleasure trip. After all, it centers on Route 66.
Still, day one will require foregoing the luxury of a leisurely cruise on Route 66 as I need to be in Las Vegas, New Mexico that evening (590 miles). Other deviations from America’s most famous highway on this trip will include forays into Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. However, in between it will be Route 66 all the way.
First European Route 66 Festival. Courtesy Sylvie Toullec
Personally, as well as for the Route 66 community it has been a most exciting and historic year. Topping the list has to be the first European Route 66 Festival hosted by the German Route 66 Association.
It doesn’t look as though there will be a repeat in 2017 but discussions are under way for another European festival in 2018. So, now, I need to find another excuse for a European adventure next summer.
Attempting to explain what is driving the international interest in Route 66 is at the core of the presentation I will be making at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington, Illinois on October 22. I will also be using Kingman as one example when discussing how communities can utilize the resurgent interest as a catalyst for revitalization and development.
As noted yesterday, in Kingman there have been some rather dramatic changes to the historic business district as well as the Route 66 corridor. Some are quite noticeable, such as new construction, renovated facades, and restored neon signage, while others are almost invisible.
Counted among the latter are the cooperative partnerships that are being developed. These are crucial to long term and sustainable development as they are the cornerstone for building a sense of community as well as community purpose.
I pride myself on valiant attempts to emulate Switzerland and remain as neutral as possible when it comes to discussions about political issues, editorials published, and similar topics. These subjects are for conversation with trusted and close friends. Yesterday I failed miserably. In my defense, the editorial that I shared with you really hit a nerve.
An example of the imaginative projects and events that are transforming Kingman.
Published most every week “to bring unbiased and balanced views and questions to this community” the editorials are, for the most part, ignored by the community at large. There are, however, folks that take the editorials to heart and then show up at meetings filled with passion as well as good intentions. The end result is needless division, wasted time, and frustration. Still, for the most part I avoided comment, even when the attacks took on a personal slant by hinting that people need to question why the City of Kingman provided an unemployed author with a paid vacation to Germany. As there has been a concerted, and almost historical, attempt in Kingman to build some unprecedented cooperative partnerships, this editorial was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Still, I need to apologize for the rant. Most every community has to deal with situations such as this. So, let me encourage you to evaluate the source before making decisions, put aside differences where possible, work to build cooperative partnerships, and as your community is transformed into a destination for visitors as well as families and people looking for progressive communities where they can open a business, these divisive initiatives will wither on the vine.
A Kingman favorite
Let me wrap this up as this a great deal to do between now and early Sunday morning. Regular blog posts may be a bit spotty over the course of the next few weeks. Still, I will strive to post a video of the daily walkabout as that has become quite popular and being able to share the adventure is most enjoyable for me as well. In addition to the blog, this will also be posted on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. In addition, I will also be sharing discoveries made along the way, stories of interesting people, and information about restaurants, roadside oddities, and community development, etc. on the Facebook page, and for Promote Kingman as well as the Route 66 Association of Kingman (both have a Facebook page).
The swirl of events, developments, opportunities, presentations, adventures, meetings, planning sessions, and projects in the past few weeks has left me a bit dizzy and quite tired. Soon, however, we will again be on the road and even though the schedule is packed chock full of meetings, conferences, and presentations, there will be ample time for meeting with friends along the way
There is something quite therapeutic about a road trip, especially if it involves Route 66, adventures on Route 66 with my dearest friend, the business of Route 66, and the delightful people who give the Route 66 experience the sense of infectious vibrancy that makes it unique.
This amazing thing that we call Route 66 defies description. It is a community and an extended family, it is a storied old highway and the place of dreams, it is inspiration and desperation, it is the ultimate American road trip and a ribbon of endless opportunity.
In the past few weeks alone I have provided assistance to Czech and French television crews, met with tour groups or tour company owners from Canada, China, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand and Australia, and enjoyed dinner and adventures with friends from several countries as well as a couple of states. I have also made presentations for tour groups and fund raisers, had initial meetings with companies looking to retain my services as a consultant, played Indiana Jones in the search for historic signage, worked my way through a bit of a cold and a family crisis or two, scheduled meetings during the pending trip, prepared presentations to be made in the next few weeks, and finalized most travel arrangements.
In my spare time I finished the final edit for a book, acquired a couple of new sponsors for Jim Hinckley’s America, finalized the shooting of the first installment of Jim Hinckley’s America – Trek Across Route 66, kicked off a morning walkabout video series, and agreed to begin providing blog posts for Promote Kingman, a sort of 21st century chamber of commerce. As noted previously, boredom and I are not well acquainted.
Now, a little bit of shouting from the soap box. Kingman, as with most communities, has its share of problems and arm chair quarterbacks with ideas on how to fix the problems without getting their hands dirty. We also have made some pretty impressive accomplishments, especially over the course of the last few years.
Much of this will be the subject of my presentation at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington, Illinois on October 22.
In the past 18 months there has been a dramatic transformation in the city’s historic business district. Partnerships are being developed between city government and aggressively proactive organizations such as the Route 66 Association of Kingman. Investors are purchasing properties, renovating properties, or demolishing decrepit structures and instituting new construction.
Neon signage is adding to the sense of vibrancy. Likewise with unique events and the opening of unique and eclectic shops.
Still, the owner of a newspaper, who also happens to be the president of a civic organization insists on printing inflammatory and tabloid type stories and editorials filled with selective omission. Obviously, the result is the fostering of divisions, the hampering of initiatives, and hindering development of some cooperative partnerships.
This article is the most recent of these editorials. Note that he indicates it was a closed door meeting and yet provides the date and city phone number. He failed to give the location or note that it was an open and informal meeting between city officials and property owners to discuss ways that they could work together to foster revitalization in the historic business district as well as along the Route 66 corridor. It should also be noted that he failed to attend.
My reason for discussing this wasn’t just to rant. Every community suffers with individuals such as this. Not all, however, enjoy the luxury of owning a newspaper.
The primary reason for sharing this was to offer encouragement. Kingman is an example that you can work around obstacles such as this and accomplish great things. When confronted by frustrations such as this, consider it little more than a bur under the saddle or a stone in the shoe, and work towards building cooperative partnerships as well as a sense of community. I am rather confident that initiatives such as this will simply wither on the vine when confronted with glaring and obvious accomplishment.