Officially, I began my odyssey in search of the golden fleece in 1990. Just as experienced by Jason and his intrepid band of Argonauts, and Ulysses on his homeward journey after the Trojan wars, this has been an adventure of epic proportions. Last year, as the quest continued, I once again sailed deep into uncharted waters.
When this quest first began, I had a 1948 Underwood typewriter, a 35 mm camera that had cost $25.00, carbon paper, a ream of paper, use of the kitchen table in between meals, a roll of stamps, envelops, a telephone, and the unshakable belief that the golden fleece was more than mere myth. Yesterday, the quarterly royalty statement from a publisher that I worked with about eight years ago arrived in the mail – they owe me $54.83. That should dispel a few myths about the financial fortunes that await the storyteller with a talent for putting those stories on paper.
Jay Leno and my dearest friend at Auo Books-Aero Books in Burbank
This is not to say that there isn’t ample reward in the endeavor. Writing has provided my dearest friend and I with almost unimaginable opportunity for travel, and adventure. It even got us into Jay Leno’s Garage. The greatest reward, however, has been in the friendships made during our odyssey.
Putting food on the table, gas in the Jeep, or rental car, and paying travel expenses has required that I develop other skills to pay the bills and support the writing habit. Then came an era when books were no longer written on paper, and that necessitated the learning of other skills. This in itself has been an odyssey.
First there was acquisition of a computer, and learning to imitate someone who is proficient in the use of a word processor. Next came digital photographs and email. Then creation of the blog, and development of PowerPoint presentations followed.
Now, it is Facebook pages, social media, YouTube channels, and podcasts, to promote the books, the presentations, and various endeavors. A bit intimidated and overwhelmed by the tsunami of technological change, as well as limitations imposed by a mere 24-hours in each day, and the need to ensure the habit of eating on a regular basis continues have all hindered developing a few of those projects to their full potential. Okay, that was the rather lengthy introduction. Now, let’s discuss the current state of the quest for the golden fleece, and its future. First, the YouTube channel. Please, take a look, give me your thoughts, and subscribe today. Next, for more than a year I have been beating my gums about a podcast. There have even been a few published recordings. Well, this morning I dusted off the project, took a deep breath, and thought to myself, enough is enough. Folks are tired of hearing me beat my gums about this. I am tired of hearing me beat my gums about this. So, come hell or high water there will be a podcast. I have been working a bit with Audacity in an effort to ensure the final product was polished and professional. Then I had another idea, why not a podcast about…. learning how to create a podcast, how to develop and market a Facebook page, how to get a book published, how to market the book when its published, and the new technologies behind all of this. We can learn together. In between, to fill space, I can share our adventures on the road less traveled. This was a primary reason for commencing this quest in the first place, the sharing of adventures and encouraging folks to take adventures of their own. With the next blog post I should be able to give a more concrete schedule for both the podcast and YouTube channel updates. Let’s see how that goes. First, tomorrow I have a lunch meeting, and in the afternoon, a radio interview. I also need to finalize the contract for a new book, and see if the proposed US 6 project can be nudged forward a bit.
The start for a most interesting Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Sylvia and Bernhard.
I hope that each and everyone of you enjoyed a delightful Thanksgiving shared with friends and family. This is a holiday conceived in the concept of counting blessings rather than problems, reflection, and the sharing of bounty.
My dearest friend and I value tradition, and lean a bit toward the nostalgic side of life, but not to the point of constriction. As an example, consider our dinner this Thanksgiving.
In October, just a few days before hitting the road on our epic twelve state, 4,800-mile epic odyssey, a box arrived with a variety of the foods we savored while in Germany. As we had enjoyed a most memorable Thanksgiving dinner last year with Sylvia and Bernhard, friends from Germany who had sent the delightful package, we decided that a German dinner would replace traditional turkey and dressing this year.
A surprise visit from our son, his fiance, and two of our grandchildren ensured it was a most memorable Thanksgiving. And to further add to our international holiday dinner, we enjoyed Swiss chocolate and Dutch licorice for desert.
The holiday, good food, and visit with family provided a much needed respite from work, pressing problems in the form of a Windows update induced computer malfunction, and some promotional projects that are hoped to provide higher visibility. Overall I am quite fortunate but still, sometimes the long hours and challenges associated with making a living outside the realm of the traditional nine to five job, and providing a service to the community, wear me a bit thin.
The next few days were consumed with meetings, the successful negotiation of a book contract (stay tuned for details), more meetings, negotiation on a possible project in New Mexico next month, and development of a short promotional video for the new YouTube channel. In my spare time I worked on a project being developed for the Route 66 The Road Ahead Partnership, the organization that has evolved from the Route 66: The Road Initiative steering committee.
Then there were the aforementioned computer issues. For reasons unknown, the scheduled update from Microsoft led to a cascading series of issues that necessitated deletion and re-installation of numerous programs on the primary computer. This of course magnified the need to upgrade a decade old Dell that performs flawlessly as my office computer, which is used solely for various writing projects. Even with the schedule and problems of this past week, it is impossible to look back over the year and not smile. We are most fortunate indeed. Sure, the old Dodge, Barney the Wonder Truck, is still on blocks. In addition to the never ending remodel, the homestead now needs a coat of paint and some roof repair. These, however, are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. As evidenced by our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, we are fortunate to have good friends. My dearest friend and I have traveled extensively this year, and each adventure was enhanced by those friendships. I pay the bills by what is enjoyed most – telling people where to go through presentations and books, lend a helping hand to the Route 66 community, provide a bit of promotional support for a few of my favorite places, and have time for friends.
Courtesy Sylvia Hoehn, a souvenir from a very memorable Thanksgiving.
To each and every one of you that made this a most memorable year, thank you. Here is to a delightful holiday season, and a new year filled with adventure, and adventures shared with good friends.
Last evening I made a presentation at the beautiful Beale Celebrations event center, a former JC Penny’s buidling that dates to the 1950’s on behalf of Promote Kingman, an ambitious initiative that seeks to “transform the community one partnership at a time” and create a “21st century chamber of commerce.” It was the inaugural event of a series that will be hosted by Promote Kingman.
The general focus of my presentation was the many manifestations of the Route 66 renaissance, 90th anniversary celebrations, and how communities are being transformed as a result. I opened with a few key dates in Route 66 history including June 27, 1985, the date that US 66 officially ceased to exist.
Think about that for just a moment. The most famous highway in the world does not exist, officially.
And yet there are Route 66 associations in Europe, Asia, and South America, and tour companies that specialize in Route 66 tours operating in at least a half dozens countries. National Geographic released a Route 66 calendar this year, and awhile back, Sports Illustrated shot their swimsuit edition on Route 66. For something that doesn’t exist, it sure is popular.
Last nights event that also served as a fund raiser for the Kiwanis as well as the Route 66 Association of Kingman was well attended. That always provides a sense of relief, a feeling that those who retain my services are getting their monies worth.
In regards to revitalization of the Kingman historic business district, and the harnessing of the Route 66 renaissance as catalyst, the changes have been rather dramatic over the course of the last twenty-four months. You might say that we are an overnight success, thirty years in the making.
If you haven’t stopped in Kingman recently, I suggest a cruise on Andy Devine Avenue and Beale Street. New construction, demolition, new stores, restored neon signage, facade renovation, beautification projects, and murals provide a sense of infectious enthusiasm and excitement.
In the coming months I will provide updates about the Promote Kingman initiative, their success at building community partnerships, and developing this virtual chamber of commerce. My initial impression is that these folks are on to something, and that something might just be a template for ensuring Route 66 remains vibrant into its centennial and beyond, and a means for communities to harness the renaissance as a catalyst for economic development and revitalization.
Giganticus Headicus, now the studios for Greg Arnold and Antares Point Visitor Center.
For my dearest friend and I, this has been a most extraordinary year. In addition to the recent trip to the festival in Los Angeles, we were privileged with an opportunity to participate in the first European Route 66 Festival, in the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington, Illinois, meet with tour groups and friends from throughout the world, and provide assistance with the marketing and promotion of Grand Canyon Caverns, and now the Antares Point Visitor Center.
I was also honored to be able to assist in the development of the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative project. Opportunities to make presentations at the festival and a school in Germany, at Cuba Fest, the conference in Bloomington, in LA, and at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis have all contributed to making this a most memorable year.
With the exception of Chicago, we covered the road from end to end. Along the way I sat with tourism and economic development directors, city managers, and chamber of commerce representatives in several communities. I also met with business owners and museum directors. We discussed the state of the Route 66 community, challenges, and triumphs.
So, I feel confident in saying that the international Route 66 community is alive and well. It is is vibrant, passionate, and generally healthy. In fact, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that the road is more popular than ever, and that its future is quite bright.
Everyday I receive exciting news about new businesses, festival plans, or developments. This morning I received word from Ramona Kiewert the Fabulous 40’s Motel in Adrian, Texas is reopened for business. Imagine being able to start the day with breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe after a restful nights sleep!
Chain of Rocks Bridge
This is not to say there aren’t problems. Counted among the litany of issues that need to be addressed are the historic bridges of Route 66; more than 98% are scheduled for replacement or demolition.
Grassroots initiatives to generate awareness of the problem, and then to build coalitions that can address the multitude of issues associated with preservation, are making a valiant effort. However, problems of this magnitude will need a national organization to magnify and bolster these efforts.
With that as an opening, I want to address some of the inquiries received and questions asked about the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative. It has been flying a bit under the radar but the ambitious project has been quietly building a rock solid foundation of committees consisting of people from throughout the Route 66 community.
In addition, there are some impressive advisory groups under development that to facilitate coordinated development, dissemination of information, and programs to foster greater public awareness. Among these are a Native American and international advisory group. For more information about the Road Ahead Initiative, this is the link to the website. Take a look at the third quarter report, you might be quite surprised by all of the behind the scenes activity that has taken place this year.
Few things exemplify the nature of the Route 66 community in the modern era than the festival in Germany this past summer, or the celebratory dinner at Cameron’s Seafood in Pasadena on November 11.
Arranged in mere weeks, the dinner, a Route 66 anniversary celebration that, as often happens when enthusiasts gather, turned into a family reunion that was attended by about sixty people from five countries. When it was learned that it was also the birthday of Yasuka Takeuchi, wife of Japanese author Akio Takeuchi, there was added reason to celebrate.
A giant birthday card was signed by all in attendance and gifts were presented. A shirt from the European Route 66 Festival was given by Wolfgang and Anja Werz of the German Route 66 Association. Jerry McClanahan presented a personalized copy of the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers.
If you happen to be in Kingman, Arizona on the evening of Saturday, November 19, you might have interest in a presentation that I will be making at Beale Celebrations. I will be speaking on Route 66 in the era of renaissance, and what it means to communities.
This community development event is being sponsored by Promote Kingman, envisioned as a chamber of commerce for the 21st century, being developed by MyMarketing Designs, a sponsor of Jim Hinckley’s America. The event will also serve as a fund raiser for the local Kiwanis, and the Route 66 Association of Kingman facade and neon sign restoration initiative. Donating items for the silent auction will be an excellent opportunity to promote your business and support the Route 66 community. And that wraps things up for the day. It is time to get to work. There are two book proposals to complete (details to be posted soon, I hope), a morning walkabout, and a few other odds and ends that require my attention today. See you on the road.
Friday, November 11, was a day for honoring our veterans, those who have served our country with valor and honor. It was also an historic occasion as on that date in 1926, the number 66 was assigned to the newly minted highway that stretched from Chicago, across the heartland and through the southwest, to Los Angeles.
Fittingly, this past weekend there was a celebration in Los Angeles to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the most famous highway in America, and some of the events took place at the highways original western terminus – 7th Street and Broadway Avenue. The fact that this is at the heart of the cities historic theater district, which is undergoing a rather dramatic and exciting rebirth, made it seem an even more appropriate place to celebrate the renaissance of the most famous highway in America.
The Palace Theater built in 1910 was the focal point for a series of fascinating conferences that ran the gamut from utilization of social media to promote events and businesses, and the power of Yelp, to the excitement of traveling the storied old highway in the modern era. A showing of The Grapes of Wrath was also on the schedule of events that took place in the lovely old theater.
I was honored by a request that I speak at this historic event, and in such a stunning setting. The theme of my presentation was Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future.
The original western terminus of Route 66 in Los Angeles.
With a website as unusual as the restaurant itself, the recently refurbished Clifton’s Cafeteria, just a few yards from the original western terminus of Route 66, became a focal point for lunch and dinner gatherings.
This stunning architectural masterpiece opened in 1935, and the recent restoration was completed with an eye for detail to ensure that its unique interior appointments and murals were as close to original as possible. There are even some fascinating displays of original neon.
Though the festival did not develop exactly as originally planned, and it fell short of the initial expectations and envisioned scope, it accomplished the primary goals set forth by organizers; introduce the Route 66 community to the wonders of the Route 66 corridors in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and in surrounding communities, encourage enthusiasts to explore beyond the confines of Route 66, show the world that Route 66 in the metro area can be explored without an automobile, and ensure that everyone in attendance had a memorable time. It was another blending of the business of Route 66 with the fun of Route 66 in one memorable and historic event.
A large number of attendees stayed at the Saga Motor Inn in Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard, an alignment of Route 66. Dating to 1956, the motel is truly a well maintained, living time capsule. As a bonus, rates are surprisingly reasonable, there are an array of interesting restaurants within walking distance, and the metro rail line that provides an almost direct connection to the historic theater district in Los Angeles is accessed a few blocks away.
Proximity to the Saga, and availability of a large private room, was a primary reason that Cameron’s Seafood in Pasadena was selected for the traditional gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts lovingly referred to as “roadies.” The dinner itself was a reflection of the unique nature of the Route 66 community as these events are more family reunion than anything else. In attendance were roadies from several states and five countries including representatives from Route 66 associations in Germany, Canada, and Japan.
Another long standing tradition is the Yahoo “Route 66 e-group” breakfast that takes place at a different festival every year. This year the event took place near the historic Union Station at Philippe’s, a restaurant with origins dating to 1918, that has operated from the same location since 1951.
The e-group also serves as a place to share Route 66 related news, developments, and messages. There is no cost to join.
The restaurant was selected to further give enthusiasts a look at what LA has to offer, and to provide easier access to motor coach tours scheduled for that morning. As always, thanks to the dedication of Mike and Sharon Ward, and event organizers, it was another enjoyable addition to the festival.
In addition to providing an opportunity for enthusiasts to gather for breakfast before a day of exploration, it also provides a bit a of fun as well as a promotional opportunity for businesses along Route 66. Throughout the year Mike Ward gathers all manner of Route 66 related promotional materials and souvenirs, including historic maps, that are given away in a raffle during breakfast.
Meanwhile, while all of this was taking place, at the opposite end of Route 66 in California, Needles was also hosting an event to celebrate the highways 90th anniversary. As I couldn’t be in two places at once, my evaluation of the events success is based on photos as well as reports. All indications are that it was such a success, there are plans for making it an annual event.
The event in Los Angeles, and in Needles, was but one more indication that Route 66, the Main Street of America, is alive and well. It is is vibrant, it is an international community, and it is the ultimate American road trip adventure. To everyone who worked so hard to transform the idea into an event, thank you. To all of the Route 66 family that attended, thank you for making it a most memorable get together.