|Pioneer Village on US 6 in Minden, Nebraska|
The hope is that by this weekend we will have the house restored to its natural state of chaos. I am not sure that this is possible as there are still piles of receipts to sort, all manner of brochures to organize and file, photographs to organize, correspondence to answer, and a desk top to uncover.
I generally operate from a simplistic system; a pile for everything and everything in its proper pile. My concern is that if the items collected on the recent trip are not filed in the proper piles, they will be mixed with items from the pending trip to the 90th anniversary celebration in Los Angeles, and that just wouldn’t do as it would jeopardize the integrity of the entire system. Such are the pressures of life.
We returned home late last Thursday, and my first meeting was scheduled for 6:30 A.M. the following morning. That pattern has continued unabated since our return.
This afternoon, however, I took a deep breath after a slate of meetings and reflected on the recent trip, the discoveries made, the people met, and how things have changed since my first memorable trip west in 1964.
The overwhelming percentage of our odysseys in recent years have centered on Route 66. This year we deviated a bit as there was a need to expand on my network for the distribution of promotional materials.
So, on our way to the 2nd Annual Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington, Illinois, we made a slight detour into the wilds of Tennessee and Kentucky back country after leaving St. Louis, and on the way home, we rolled through Iowa, Nebraska, a bit of Kansas, and then Colorado.
As a result, I was able to make a comparative study about the health of the two-lane highway. My conclusion is that the vitality of Route 66 is very unique.
In Kentucky and Tennessee, at least in the sections that we covered, things have changed rather dramatically since traveling this scenic country during trips to see family in north Alabama and Chattanooga back in the 1960’s. The little crossroads stores are gone, replaced by quick marts and service stations. In most rural small towns, the generic restaurants and fast food chains have swept away the mom and pop cafe.
Surprisingly, however, I did see a number of small, older motels that seemed clean and well maintained. I was also pleased to find a few of the older hotels had been renovated as a bed and breakfast. That takes me to an interesting story, one that I promised to tell during one of the morning walkabout videos that I post on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page.
As we had a couple of days to spare between presentations at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis and the conference in Bloomington, and as the trip had been quite tiring resulting of meetings, appearances, deadlines, schedules to keep, and presentations, I had decided to surprise my dearest friend with a couple of nights at quiet, quaint out of the way places.
One of these was the Grand Victorian Inn in Park City, Kentucky. The reviews were mostly positive, and a restaurant was on site. So, I made reservations.
We encountered the first problem at the railroad crossing in front of the grand old hotel; it was now for pedestrians only. After a bit of evaluation I found a crossing a half mile down the road, as it turned out this was a part of the old Dixie Highway.
I arrived at the hotel around five, and found it and the restaurant closed. After walking all around the property and finding no one, I made a call – no answer.
We discussed options and decided that as the sun was seeking in the west, we should seek lodging somewhere else. However, as options were a bit limited in the small town, I tried calling again and suddenly realized that the crossing of the tracks had transported us to Mayberry or Hooterville.
The owner answered, and apologized. They then explained that something had come up, that they planned on being back in a few hours, and that the key for the front door to the hotel, and our room, number six, was in a coffee can at the front door. A note had been left as we were the only guest for the evening but apparently it had blown away.
For obvious reasons we felt, for lack of better word, weird as we opened the front door and stepped into a time capsule circa 1890. A light was on in the lobby, and at the top of the stairs, and our room was freshly made ready for occupancy.
On further inspection we noticed some rather interesting things. The mantle was freshly dusted but a 1920’s era floor lamp had cobwebs in the shade, as did the ceiling fixtures. The colorful carpet runner on the second floor was clean but worn, but a layer of dust covered the floor and only our room entrance had foot prints.
With the exception of the lobby and the upper landing where our room was located, everything was in shadows or darkness. It was so deathly quiet that we could hear the tick of the old mantle clock on the first floor.
After inspecting our room, I initiated a search for a restaurant. The fact that the nearest open restaurant was twenty miles away, and the emptiness of the hotel itself, led to the conclusion that we should make other arrangements for the evening.
So, we locked the hotel and returned the keys to the can. I left a note that we had decided to make other arrangements for the evening. As of today, I have received neither a phone call or email from the owner.
The next evening we tried a bed and breakfast in charming Maeystown, Illinois. That was a most delightful experience in spite of a raging storm. That however, is a story for another day.