In 1966, US 66 was the highway that my family followed west to Arizona. In 1968, I rode my bicycle along Route 66 to my first paying job, watering the tomato gardens at Ed’s Camp. In 1978, Route 66 was one of the highways that I followed on my runs to Oklahoma City and Wichita during my brief career as a truck driver. In 1982, I was driving my 1946 GMC to Kingman from a ranch near Ash Fork to court my dearest friend.
Fast forward to 2015. Courtesy Jan and Henk Kuperus of Netherlands based U.S. Bikers my dearest friend and I made our first trip to Europe. Four years later and we have added several more European adventures, been blessed with countless international friendships, and traded the traditional nine to five job for the wild and woolly adventure that is Jim Hinckley’s America. The common link is legendary Route 66.
As I was updating the project board this morning, setting the schedule for the coming weeks, and putting together a calendar for publication of advertisements for sponsors, I couldn’t help but reflect on the amazing transformation of Route 66 from highway to icon and destination. I also had to reflect on how this mere highway has transformed our lives. To date this year we have served as an unofficial welcoming committee in Kingman to people from Florida, Michigan, Alaska, Japan, England, and Slovakia. Before the end of May we have friends from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic, Indiana and California due for a visit. I am also scheduled to meet with tour groups from throughout Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and North Carolina.
The Jim Hinckley’s America website has had more than 20,000 visitors since the first of the year. There has been a 75% increase in Facebook page followers in less than a year. The podcast is picking up steam. Jim Hinckley’s America is becoming an internationally recognized travel media network. Route 66 is the foundation.
And what looms on the horizon? Why Route 66 adventures, of course! This coming Saturday there will be a fun filled Route 66 Q & A session at Grand Canyon Caverns. Next week I begin teaching classes on Route 66 history and tourism at Mohave Community College. I am tentatively scheduled to speak at the Miles of Possibility Conference in Normal, Illinois. New sponsors of Jim Hinckley’s America include the Blue Carpet Corridor in Illinois and Calico’s restaurant in Kingman, Arizona. This morning an invitation was received to attend a gathering of the European Route 66 faithful in Amsterdam. The organizer for the 2020 European Route 66 Festival that is tentatively set to take place in Poland is planning to be in attendance as is Marian Pavel, developer of the Route 66 Navigation app and the forthcoming Mother Road Route 66 Passport. The arrangement to assist with development of Cuba, Missouri promotion has been given the green light for the second year.
Then there is the publication of the new book. It is actually going to happen by fall! And that opens more doors for grand adventures on the old double six.
Always something to see at Chillin’ on Beale in Kingman, Arizona
I never tire of the fascinating people that are met through Jim Hinckley’s America. Recently I encountered Casey McGowan at a Route 66 Association of Kingman “meet & greet” that was also a cruise to Cool Springs on the old highway to Oatman for local auto enthusiasts. Being a fan of classic cars (surprise!) and history it was easy to find common ground for easy discussion as he was a fan of Route 66 and was driving a fairly rare Rambler Rogue. He had another interest that intrigued me, a quest to photographically document the history of automobile dealerships in Kingman, Arizona.
I encountered McGowan again recently at Chillin’ on Beale, an event held on the third Saturday afternoon of each month March through September in Kingman. He had brought not one but two Rambler Rogues to the event, and a beautiful AMC Javelin. Yesterday there was a bit of a break in the schedule so I accepted his invitation to see his vast collection of all things pertaining to the now defunct American Motors Corporation and to talk Kingman dealerships. The entire venture was a most pleasant surprise. (more…)
Always something to see at Chillin’ on Beale in Kingman, Arizona
From March to September on the third Saturday afternoon of the month, Beale Street in Kingman, Arizona, just one block north of Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) is transformed into an automobile enthusiasts version of paradise. As a bonus there is great music, a vibrant historic district framed by stunning skylines of towering buttes, mesas, and spires of stone, cold beer served at two award winning microbreweries, and a delightful array of diverse restaurants. In October the date for the Chillin on Beale festivities is adjusted to coincide with the arrival of Craig Parish’s Route 66 Motor Tour. (more…)
The old homestead along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in Arizona
Route 66. The Main Street of America. The Mother Road. Since its inception in late 1926, US 66 has been given an array of monikers and descriptive titles. For me it is center stage, the place where my life has unfolded. Since about 1959, most of the milestones in life have taken place on this road or have been linked to it.
In the summer of 1959, my family motored west to California from Virginia in a derelict convertible. Much of the trip was along Route 66, at least from St. Louis west. Then in the summer of 1966 we moved west from Michigan to Kingman, Arizona and a homestead along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the shadow of the Black Mountains. I learned to ride a bicycle and drive a truck on what was mostly an abandoned highway at that time. My first employment was for Ed Edgerton at Ed’s Camp, a Route 66 business complex that dated to the era of the National Old Trails Road. Ed himself was a fixture that predated Route 66. (more…)
It started as a presentation about the opportunities for economic development and community revitalization made possible by the Route 66 renaissance. Before the evening was over the audience had migrated to a local saloon, and the conversation had shifted to Jim Hinckley’s America, it’s origins, and how it had become a favored travel planning portal for legions of road trip enthusiasts. The short version is that Jim Hinckley’s America began with a dream, a 1948 Underwood typewriter, and the support of a very dear friend.
Books have been a passion for as long as I can remember so it should come as little surprise to learn that becoming an author was a childhood goal. Well there were a few delays along the way but in 1990 the fist steps were taken to transform the dream into a reality.
Photo courtesy Anita Shaw
What an adventure it has been! I was honored by an interview with Jay Leno at his garage and receipt of the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards. One publisher went belly up and that left me holding the bag on 18 months of work. I have made presentations in 20 states and four European countries, I spoke in German schools, and was privileged opportunities to cruise Route 66 in a Telsa equipped with auto-pilot and a 1915 Ford in the same week. The greatest reward, however, has been the people met along the way and the friends made.
The adventure started when my dearest friend, with gentle persuasion, suggested that I try writing a feature about a salvage yard along the Mexican border. So, I simply called the editor at Hemmings Motor News, talked cars a bit and poof, my first story, Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie was sold. I cranked it out on a battered old pawnshop typewriter and was awarded $250 for my efforts. With visions of success and profits looming on the horizon I began calling editors and publishers, sending query letters, and writing countless letters of introduction. Eighteen months later I landed my seconded writing project, a weekly travel column for the Kingman Daily Miner that paid $15 per week.
It was my stint with the Miner where I first encountered the discount between reality and perception. In the months that followed I lost count of how many times people told me how much they enjoyed my column, and how fortunate I must be to be paid to travel.
My first mentor in the business was Tina Luster, now a director with the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau in California. When we worked together she was the editor for the Launghlin Nevada Times Weekender. She patiently helped me to develop a bit of professionalism and add a bit of polish to my work, and survived some off the chart crazy adventures like exploration on what had once been a road in the Mojave Desert. Did I mention that it was summer or that my ’74 Ford truck did not have air conditioning or that we arrived in Needles for a meeting a bit worse for wear?
Brad Bowling, then the editor of Old Cars Weekly, gave me the next step up. Over the years I followed Bowling to various publications including the now defunct Cars & Parts. It was for that publication that I worked as an associate editor. I also wrote a monthly column entitled the Independent Thinker in which I wrote stories about interesting but obscure people in the auto industry such as the blind inventor of cruise control, a fellow who invented an eight wheeled car, and Studebaker’s electric car endeavor. This led to the publication of my first book for Iconografix, a little tome about the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.
It was through Cars & Part that I met Jon Robinson and through him, Dennis Pernu at Motorbooks International, and that was the beginning of a series of books. Jim Hinckley’s America was launched when the shift was made from writing predominately about auto history to travel subjects, an opportunity to exercise my God given gift for telling people where to go.
The list of people who have played a role in the development of Jim Hinckley’s America is lengthy. Toshi Goto patiently sat as my first test subject for an audio recording that become the Ten Minutes With Jim weekly podcast. A special thank you goes to supporters of the crowdfunding initiative that were crucial to initial development, and that remain vital for projects that are not economically viable. Jan Kuperus of US Bikers retained my services to speak at a travel fair and that was our first trip to Europe. The list of those who have contributed to the transformation of an idea into a reality is lengthy enough to stretch from here to Dinkelsbuhl and back again. And the adventure that is Jim Hinckley’s America is just beginning. As the boys from the Road Crew say in our theme song, come along for the ride.