In my attempt to avoid toll roads and yet make time, I made some interesting discoveries on the back roads.

Two weeks and four days. One minor blizzard. Torrential rain. Fascinating people. New discoveries. Just a hair over 5,000 miles driven. Endless road construction. Excellent pie (and huevos rancheros, tacos, stew, omelettes, Greek food, hamburgers, Polish food, beer …) and some very poor food. Book signings. A couple of conferences. Countless meetings. A boondoggle presentation. Old friends. New friends. And lots of time for thinking about the future of Jim Hinckley’s America in 2020.

The fall tour was quite the odyssey and I have a lot to share over the course of the next few weeks. Let’s kick it off by sharing my top pick for eating healthy and keeping to a budget. The Rock at 203 W. North Street in Normal, Illinois. The gyros were superb but during the Miles of Possibility Conference my dearest friend and I ate at this restaurant several times since it was less than a block from the Hyatt, host hotel for the event. We tried a variety of items on the menu, never had a bad meal, and never spent more than $23 for the two of us. Now that is a bargain in any book.

From its recently restored neon signage to meticulous maintenance the pride of ownership is manifest at every turn.

Next, my top lodging option discovered on this trip. The Sunset Motel in Moriarty, New Mexico is a true gem. Deborah Pogue and her husband Mike are more than mere proprietors, they are stewards of a true treasure and their pride as well as enthusiasm is evident. This is, perhaps, the oldest single family owned motel on Route 66. Mike helped his father build the complex in 1959. It has been meticulously maintained and is an excellent place to rest the weary head as well as discover the very essence of the Route 66 experience. Eating in Moriarty is another matter. I will need to do a bit more research but can unequivocally say that Nachos is not a place that can be recommended. The service was poor, the food not quite even average.

When it comes to fascinating discoveries, I don’t know what goes at the top of the list. The near ghost town of Chetopa, Kansas was quite fascinating. I was also amazed by the Ye Ole Carriage Shop, a private museum in Spring Arbor, Michigan, and its proprietor. Still, it was an opportunity to visit with Ken Soderbeck at his shop on Circus Farm near Grass Lake, Michigan that really stands out as an experience that is almost impossible to describe with mere words.

Ken Soderbeck’s shop near Grass Lake, Michigan is nothing short of astounding.

Soderbeck is a true craftsman with a passion for vintage fire equipment and his expertise in the restoration of fire trucks as well as horse drawn apparatus is recognized internationally. But his expertise does not end there. He has restored the only existent 4×4 truck manufactured by Jackson Automobile Company, is in the process of renovating a 19th century trolley car, and in his spare time, is transforming the former elephant barn for the Lewis Brothers Circus into a home.

Stay tuned. I will be writing more about Soderbeck as well as other discoveries made on the recent tour. And of course I will also be sharing information from the Miles of Possibility Conference, meetings with tourism directors and community organizers, discussions pertaining to the Route 66 centennial, and on community development opportunities.

The one eyed Briscoe that was manufactured in Jackson, Michigan is but one of the rare gems on display at Ye Ole Carriage Shop.

To wrap this up today, let me share this photo from the Ye Ole Carriage Shop. You can bet the bottom dollar I will be writing about this place and its owner soon. You can also safely assume that I will return for a longer visit, and perhaps, a one of a kind Adventurers Club program.



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