The Thirty Hour Workday, Mayhem, and the 6th Earl of Cottenham

I have always had respect for people who can focus on a project

with such intensity that nothing distracts them from the task at hand. Obviously this trait is a prerequisite for people who work as bomb disposal specialist or as a sniper. I have never had interest in pursuing either career but the quest for a level of mental discipline that allows me to finish projects without enduring thirty hour work days resultant of succumbing to distraction is ongoing. This is not to say that my pursuit of the red ball is abandoned when I see a green ball, or that the smell of fresh baked pie will always lure me from the office to the kitchen if a deadline is looming.

Scheduling and allocation of time is definitely an Achilles heel. In this I am not alone but that provides little solace when my most recent language skills test indicates a 21% proficiency in German, a 1% increase over last summer, and the venerable old Dodge (aka Barney the Wonder Truck) is still sitting in the drive awaiting repair, just as it was last Christmas.

However, surprisingly, my biggest distraction isn’t phone call, emails, responding to comments on blog or Facebook posts and inquiries, or competing projects. Even though I do let these intrude, and on occasion derail my carefully crafted schedule and timetable, one of the biggest challenges come in the form of fascinating discoveries. One phone call, one paragraph in a century old newspaper story, or an intriguing sign in the store window on a vintage picture postcard can lead me astray for hours at a time. I simply can’t resist unraveling fascinating stories, resolving historic mysteries, or making new discoveries.

Obviously these uncontrolled detours are a primary contributor to the frustration of needing a thirty hour work day to complete projects. However, they are most always an enjoyable distraction, and more often than not, these voyages of discovery lead to other projects, some of which generate income. They also provide the materials needed to enhance books such as 100 Things To Do on Route 66 Before you Die  or Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town, podcasts, Facebook posts, presentations, videos, and interviews.

Case in point, a fascinating conversation with Dr. T. Lindsay Baker and his introduction to Mark Pepys, the 6th Earl of Cottenham, who traveled Route 66 in 1936, and C.K. Shepherd, an Englishman who followed the National Old Trails Highway to California, on a motorcycle, in 1921. Doesn’t this pique your interest?

Dr. T. Lindsay Baker, “After suggesting that you might enjoy upper-crust Englishman Mark Pepys’s travelogue from the mid-1930s, I later remembered that he penned an account of a midday meal in Kingman in autumn 1935 that I thought was of more than passing interest: “Feeding at Kingman was a primitive business. By way of experiment, we walked into the first place we saw; a long, narrow eating shop fronting directly on to the glaring main street. We chose a table next to the curtained window and ordered what seemed safest: thin soup and part of a freshly-killed fowl. The bird proved to be without doubt the oldest inhabitant.                There was no place to wash, so I explored the kitchen where the cook, a large man, slow and amiable of speech, filled a tin basin with hot water for me. We talked while I removed the sticky grime from my hands and face. But little emerged from our conversation except that he was for Roosevelt, like most of the underdogs.”

How about this? From Dr. Baker, “The first is C.K. Shepherd’s book-length narrative of his first-ever trip by an Englishman from coast to coast across America. A veteran of the Great War, he met Americans in the armed services and determined that if he survived the conflict he would travel to America and cross it by motorcycle. This is just what he did, buying a new cycle in New York City and taking it all the way to the Pacific Coast. In this journey he made his way across Arizona, and California mostly along the National Old Trails Highway. This is a very human, personal account of a young man’s adventures in a foreign land, and I found that once started I could not put the book down. Here’s the citation:  C.K. Shepherd, Across America by Motor-cycle (New York:  Longmans, Greene & Co., 1922). His account of coming over the Cajon Summit and rolling onto the first pavement after hundreds of miles of dirt roads is absolutely exhilarating.”

Even though I may lack the mental acuity needed for a successful career in bomb disposal, over the years a talent has developed for juggling, or as it is referred to today, multitasking. Currently I am tying up all of the loose ends associated with the release of 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die in September. I am also organizing promotion for the two books released in April, Ghost Towns of the West and Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town, as well as marketing the first video in the Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 series, and developing the second and third video in the series. In my spare time, when not hunting for tales of mayhem on Route 66, the subject of the next book project, or looking for the elusive 6th Earl of Cottenham, I am soliciting sponsors for the video series as well as the podcast and Facebook live program (another project), developing marketing and promotional initiatives for Grand Canyon Caverns, a Jim Hinckley’s America sponsor, and working with the Promote Kingman initiative on various projects such as walking tours in the Kingman historic district.

However, it is an indulgence that I so enjoy which is my biggest distraction, and the most rewarding; time spent with friends, and time spent with my dearest friend. At the end of the day, friends and memory making time with friends, not the number of books published, not the amount of money made, nor the historic mysteries solved, are what makes everything else worth while. So, with that said, I would like to thank my friends for the pleasant and enjoyable distraction, and for ensuring that I am a very, very wealthy man. I sincerely hope that you will distract me again soon, that you will distract me often, and that you will distract me with the memories of the time we enjoyed together.

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4 Replies to “The Thirty Hour Workday, Mayhem, and the 6th Earl of Cottenham”

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