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.
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.