In case you missed it, Angel Delgadillo recently celebrated his
90th birthday. If you don’t know about Angel, or have never met this amazing and inspirational man, it would be safe to assume that you’re not a Route 66 enthusiast – yet.
I am not exactly sure when it happened but at some point in time a highway transformed into an icon, an almost magical place that has come to symbolize the ultimate authentic experience for legions of passionate enthusiasts. That is one reason why I often refer to Route 66 as a living, breathing time capsule, but that isn’t really a very accurate descriptor as only the very best has been preserved. That is manifest in the people that give Route 66 an infectious vibrancy.
Michael Wallis receives a great deal of credit for tapping into the essence of Route 66 and what it represented, and launching the Route 66 renaissance. That credit is justly deserved. There were, however, others who laid the foundation for this movement, people like Quinita Scott, Bob and Ramona Lehman, and Jerry McClanahan.
While these folks were creating a movement, I was simply driving the old road because it was enjoyed. Well, that and the fact that the top speed on my ’46 GMC was around forty-five miles per hour. It saddened me to find my favorite restaurant in Ash Fork or Truxton closed when I made the somewhat regular commute from the ranch near Chino Valley to Kingman. Still, I accepted it as the price of progress and lived in my slow moving world that was fast becoming a relic like Route 66 itself, or so I thought at the time. I under estimated the growing hunger for that slow moving world, and how Route 66 had come to symbolize the very best of America.
At that time, back around 1980, I never could have imagined what Route 66 would become, that my lifestyle would ever become a trend, or that it would be my privilege and honor to be a part of the Route 66 renaissance. And, even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined the friendships and incredible people that would be met along the way.
In a nutshell, that is the story told in my newest book, Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town. It is the story of Route 66 in the modern era, and the people that make the road special. And as Route 66 is no longer merely an American experience, it is the story of people like Dries and Marion Bessel, founders of the Dutch Route 66 Association. As always, I wrote the book to enhance the Route 66 experience, and preserve a bit of its history such as the story told by Mark Nowning who encountered Charles Manson while working as a mechanic in Ludlow.
I also wrote the book for me. The research for the book, and the writing itself, required that I view the road and the Route 66 community as though it was my first experience. Interestingly enough, this attempt at seeing an old friend in a new light was on occasion given an unexpected boost. As an example, I was honored by a request received from Brennen Mathews. He asked that I review a book he had written about his trip on Route 66 and provide a bit of feedback. It was quite enlightening to see the old double six through the eyes of an African family experiencing it for the first time.
It was also interesting to see the road through the eyes of Jessica Mueller. This provided a bit of insight from the perspective of a younger generation as well as from someone working on the road rather than traveling it. The Mueller family, Kevin, Nancy, Cameron, and Jessica, and the latest addition, Cora, of the Blue Swallow Motel, in Tucumcari are writing a new chapter in Route 66 history.
Even though the book is a finished project, my interest in seeing the road from a fresh perspective hasn’t diminished. So, please share your stories of Route 66 adventures, travel or business. Perhaps during your travels we can meet over coffee or a cold one under the neon. I would also like to hear your thoughts about the new book.
One more quick note. Episode one of Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 is complete and will be available soon as a DVD. I am always looking for, and finding flaws in my work (any psychiatrists out there want to chime in on this one?). Still, overall I think the video turned out rather well thanks to the editorial skills of Stephen LeSueur of MyMarkeing Designs, the company behind the Promote Kingman initiative. Ordering information will be posted on the Promote Kingman (https://promotekingman.com/) website soon. Mean time you can watch the video on the website, and provide a bit of input.
The second video in the series is under development. This one will focus on the Grand Canyon Caverns and the Antares Point Route 66 Visitor Center. The third is on the drawing board, and sponsors are being sought.
One more. Information about the walking tours in Kingman will also be posted on the Promote Kingman website soon. In the meantime there are two tours currently scheduled, a neon night tour on May 5, and a morning tour on Sunday, May 7. For more information, or to schedule a tour, drop me a note.
Jim Hinckley’s America is sponsored by Grand Canyon Caverns, Route 66 Association of Kingman, Kingman Visitor Center, Ramada Kingman, Grand Canyon West, and donations from followers such as you. Thank you –