Bathtubs, Birdcages & Chevrolet

Author Jim Hinckley heading home. Photo Sylvia Hoehn.

A key to success is an awareness of shortcomings. We all have an Achilles heel. For me there is a daily struggle with distractions. As an example, this afternoon while preparing for the next episode of Coffee With Jim, the live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page, I was thumbing through a 1929 Rand McNally atlas. As this weeks program with be a virtual tour along U.S. 6, I was looking for information about the highways course in Pennsylvania.

I have yet to drive the highway from its eastern terminus at Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Bishop, California. And I have yet to drive the section to Long Beach that was renumbered in the 1960s. I have, however, driven many sections of the highway in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah. And I have also driven some of the highway in Nevada and California.

Let’s see, where was I going with this? Ah, yes. Distractions. Well I made a few notes after reviewing the old atlas and realized that I was hungry. I also realized that it was well past dinner time. As it is an absolutely beautiful day, I made a sandwich, heated a couple beer battered cod fillets and some potatoes, and sat outside to enjoy a bit of sunshine.

Just sitting still is not something that I cam capable of. About halfway through lunch I remembered that the Garmin needed to be updated. So, I went back into the office and started the download. And as I need the Garmin for tomorrows trip to a regional tourism conference, thoughts drifted to the conference itself.

After lunch I sat down to finish the outline for the Sunday program. And that led to making adjustments to the original idea by leaving it open so I can include pertinent information from the tourism conference.

Research for the Sunday program led to an interesting discovery about an incident in the mid 1920s. In an astounding mid winter drive in 1924, the legendary driver Cannonball Baker set a new record of seven days, seventeen hours and eight minutes on a drive from New York City to Los Angeles. A portion of this drive was over what would become U.S. 6.

Well, after stumbling on to the story I book marked the page for future reading. As I had shelved work on this weeks episode of Coffee With Jim until after the conference, I began reading the story about Cannonball Baker. To set this record Baker drove an eight cylinder Gardner, a car manufactured in St. Louis.

Since this wasn’t a car that I was familiar with, I pulled up some books as well as trade journals and publications from the 1920s to find out more about Gardner. As it turns out the story of the company and its founders is quite interesting. So, since I was due to write another feature about automotive history for Motoring NZ, I made notes, did some more research and cranked out an article about the Gardner.

Linked with features written for Motoring NZ is a corresponding audio podcast, 5 Minutes With Jim. Can you guess what happened next? Well, I dug out some more books and began researching automobile manufacturing companies that had operated in St. Louis. And then I wrote the script for the podcast that will be recorded on Friday.

The day had started with a completely different set of goals in mind. It started simple enough. Breakfast, my daily German language lesson and emails. The original plan had been to work up some white board ideas for the new video project being developed in limited partnership with MyMarketing Designs. The intro teaser was completed recently and will tie into the tourism conference tomorrow. The plan is to have the pilot complete by Saturday. Then, if we can land sponsorship or funding, it will be developed as a series.

Author Jim Hinckley in his native habitat, the back country and lost highways

We had worked on a similar video series to promote the Kingman area several years ago. We even completed two episodes (see video above) and put out DVD’s that were sold along the Route 66 corridor. But funding remained elusive and so we shelved the project. Since then the owner of the marketing company has created a multimedia news network, The Bee, that reaches and engages several hundred thousand people each month. And I have cranked out another book, developed a new series of feature articles, and honed Jim Hinckley’s America. So, we decided the time was right to give it another run.

Instead of the white board, I was distracted by some unexpected issues. There was an issue with entering my time card for the community education program developed for Mohave Community College. And then there was some correspondence from Kingman Main Street that needed an immediate response. That was followed by resolving an issue with a book order (singed copies of 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die are now available for order). By then it was time to meet with a county supervisor to discuss ideas for a tourism initiative during a walkabout.

And so there you have it. A day in my world. And it isn’t over yet. I still need to make some adjustments to the website. And I see that the publisher has sent an email pertaining to the current book that requires to be addressed.

I am unsure when I decided to make a living, or try to make a living, from telling people where to go. All I know is that for as long as I can remember tremendous pleasure has been derived from telling people where to go. It has been a grand adventure, to say the very least. Boredom is never an issue, even in the age of pandemics, paranoia induced insurrections, the Ice Age in Texas, and assorted disasters.

Disasters And Tales of Tragedy

Truck wreck on Route 66 near Sullivan, Missouri. Photo Joe Sonderman collection

On August 11,1955 a horrendous accident along Route 66 a few miles west of Clines Corner, New Mexico claimed the lives six men. In May 1957 at a highway junction near Cuba, Missouri a two car collision killed five members of a Chicago family. Two weeks prior on Route 66 in western Missouri another wreck took the lives of five people from Indiana. The Indiana Gazette carried the story as filler as wrecks along Route 66 were a common but tragic occurrence. ,

Dateline Springfield, Missouri – Five persons died in an automobile accident about 15 miles northeast of here Saturday night. Sergeant Al Leslie of the Missouri Highway Patrol said the brand new hardtop apparently was doing between 100 and 110 miles per hour when it ran of U.S.66. Four of five occupants thrown from the vehicle died instantly. The fifth succumbed to injuries before he could be extricated from the wreckage. He had been pinned in the vehicle by the engine and impaled by the steering column.

Today in the era of Route 66 renaissance we can have our cake and eat it as well. We can enjoy the essence of the historic Route 66 by cruising the shade dappled highway through the Ozarks, spending a restful night at the time capsule that is the Wagon Wheel Motel, and enjoying a hearty breakfast at Shelly’s. And if we are in a hurry, the interstate highway is an option.

We tend to see Route 66 in the context of neon and tail fins. It is easy to forget that the highway was know as bloody 66 for good reason. And we also forget that the highway was more than a linear theme park. It was an artery of commerce, both legal and illicit.

It was a highway of commerce traveled by truckers and salesman. Vacationing families traveled the well promoted highway on trips to the Grand Canyon, to California, to the newly opened Disneyland and to see the scenic wonders of the southwest. Gangsters and outlaws traveled the highway in flight from the law. And serial killers and grifters drove the highway in search of victims.

Wreck on Route 66 from the Joe Sonderman collection

It was also a segregated highway. The accident at Clines Corners sparked an investigation by the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In article published by the Albuquerque Tribune  on August 16, 1955, Edward L. Boyd, special assistant with the NAACP said that the accident was not surprising. Neither was the determination that fatigue had been the cause of the accident. He noted that the men killed, African-Americans, “…could not have found a welcome at any of the courts, motels, or hotels on Route 66 from Amarillo to Albuquerque.” He also noted that the investigation had determined that less than eight percent of the more than one hundred motels and auto courts along Central Avenue (Route 66) in Albuquerque would provide lodging to “Negro travelers.”

Like tens of thousands of Route 66 enthusiasts I derive a great deal of enjoyment from traveling this storied old highway. But knowing its history enhances the sense of time travel. Being aware of the stories of tragedy and disaster blur the line between past and present seamlessly.



Well, That Didn’t Work

Well, That Didn’t Work

A collage of illustrations from the authors collection for an episode of Coffee With Jim.

I had prepared the script with rich detail about Ludlow, Daggett, Newberry Springs and other outposts of civilization along the Route 66 corridor in the Mojave Desert. For illustrations I had combed my archives and created a well designed presentation. There was a blend of rare historic photos, award winning photography from several of our adventures along Route 66 in California and historic maps. As the program was going to close out our series that profiled each of the eight states that constitute the Route 66 corridor, this episode of Coffee With Jim had to really shine.

Well, that didn’t work. For reasons unknown, I was unable to get the screen share function to work. And so I went live on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page with just the script and a smile. At least I had pants. I am confident that most folks can relate. In this past year we have had to adapt to a world of Zoom meetings hindered by internet interruptions and odd filters. And we have learned to roll with the punches and to come up with quick fixes and bluffs while maintaining a modicum of dignity.

Then after the program I went with plan “B” and made lemonade out of lemons. I took each slide of the presentation and created a series of scheduled posts on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t I had planned. But it worked.

The audience for Coffee With Jim, our live stream program, was understanding, cordial and even supportive. And so far the series of posts on the Facebook page are performing well. The reach and engagement is exceeding most of the posts this month. Is it possible that I have stumbled (or been tossed) into a formula to enhance the Jim Hinckley’s America network?

Every day is a new experience, a new opportunity for teaching this old dog new tricks and new levels of frustration. It is a grand adventure, to say the very least.

Let’s see how next Sunday’s episode of Coffee With Jim goes. The program will be a fun filled, informative fast paced bit of time travel. I have created the presentation and am rather pleased with the result. The program is entitled Bathtubs, Birdcages & Chevrolet and will highlight what each of these has to do with the formation of the American auto industry. I will also be delving into the origins of the great American road trip and sharing some interesting stories about people like David Buick and companies such as Pierce Arrow, Jackson and Chrysler.

Two areas of focus in coming weeks pertain to the development of revenue streams needed to fund proposed Jim Hinckley’s America projects. I have a core of loyal partners that support our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform, and for that I am humbled and grateful.

I have tested the waters of pay per view programs using Facebook live. There has been moderate success, and I was able to repay crowdfunding partners by providing the programs at no cost to them. But the Facebook platform is limited and restrictive.

And so I have set up an Eventbrite account. In the next few weeks, if all goes according to plan, I will host another pay per view presentation using Zoom and Eventbrite. There is still a bit of learning curve but that too seems be a component of the new normal.

On this program I will draw from my latest book Murder and Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66. It will be a rich tapestry of stories about serial killers, gangsters, race riots, robberies turned deadly encounter, and shootouts. The dates for this event as well as for episodes of Coffee with Jim, and On The Road With Jim are posted here on the Jim Hinckley’s America page as well as on the event section of the Facebook page.


Dusty Trails And Lost Highways

Dusty Trails And Lost Highways

Authors collection©

Beale Springs in the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains in western Arizona is more than a desert oasis. It is at the crossroads of the past, present and even future. And it illustrates the fact that history is not as dead and boring as a four day insurance seminar, even though that is the impression most of us were given in high school.

The springs are named for the intrepid adventurer Lt. Edward F. Beale. A relatively obscure figure today, Beale’s story is epic. He was a naval officer and in 1845 he was assigned to the squadron of Captain Robert F. Stockton when he met with with the Texas Congress and finalized an agreement for annexation by the United States. Beale was also an explorer, spy, frontiersman, Indian affairs superintendent, successful rancher, international diplomat. He fought in the Mexican–American War and distinguished himself at the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846. On assignment from the president, In 1848 after an arduous and harrowing journey on the sea and across the isthmus of Panama, he confirmed the discovery of gold in California.

In the 1850s he surveyed and supervised construction of the Beale Wagon Road, a favored fair weather route for travelers headed to California and a key transpiration corridor for development in northern Arizona. The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad followed much of Beale’s road across Arizona in the 1880s. So did the National Old Trails Road after 1913, and then Route 66.

For the Cerbat clan of the Hualapai people Beale Springs, and the springs in nearby Coyote Pass and Johnson Canyon, were central to their lives. Faint traces of their wickiups are still found in the area as are the occasional arrowhead. There is historical evidence that the first European visit to the springs was in 1776 when Father Garces and his expedition encamped at the site. Most of the early American explorers, including Lt. Beale camped at the site.

One of the scenic trails in the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area above Beale Springs. ©

In March 1864, near present day Bullhead City, Arizona, William Harrison Hardy established Hardyville on the Colorado River. Steamboats transformed the river into a major transportation corridor, and Hardyville assumed an importance that belied its size as a supply center for mining camps established in the Cerbat Mountains. As the river port was located near Fort Mohave, the community also benefitted from establishment of a military and toll road built to connect that outpost with Fort Whipple at the territorial capital of Prescott. Beale Springs served as an important waystation.

This created a crisis for the Haulapai people as the springs were important for farming as well as a source of water. Further pressure came with the discovery of rich deposits of gold, silver and other metals in the Cerbat Mountains, and establishment of mining camps such as Mineral Park, Cerbat, and Chloride. Ranchers were also moving into the Hualapai and Sacramento Valley, and further restricting access to springs. In the late 1860s hostilities between the native people and miners, ranchers and travelers on the military road dramatically escalated.

A report on the escalating conflict noted, “The Hualapai War continued into the winter, with search and destroy sweeps into the mountains of western Arizona. Major combat occurred on November 7, 1867, and on January 14, 1868. In the former incident, elements of the 8th Cavalry and the 14th Infantry Regiment attacked a Hualapai village, killing nineteen and capturing seventeen women and children. In the latter, an 8th Cavalry patrol out of Fort Mojave stumbled across a Hualapai encampment in Difficult Canyon. In the ensuing fire-fight, twenty-one Hualapai were killed. In another fight on march 21, the casualty figures were more evenly balanced. A 14th Infantry Regiment contingent escorting a mail train was ambushed by an estimated seventy-five Hualapai, and the battle left two dead on each side.”

To provide protection to travelers, and pressure the Haulapai into capitulation, Camp Beale Springs was established in 1871. It was garrisoned by Captain Thomas Bryne and Company F, 12th U.S. Infantry. It remained active until 1874. At the end of the Hualapai War, the Beale Springs Indian Agency was established at the site in January 1873 as a reservation for the Hualapai Indians. The camp closed on 6 Apr 1874, when the Hualapai Indians were force marched to the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation at La Paz. The incident known as the Hualapai Trail of Tears resulted in many deaths.

The springs remained an important stop on the toll road that connected Prescott with the Colorado River. After establishment of the railroad in 1881, and the founding of Kingman shortly afterwards, a ranch and then hotel was built at the springs to accommodate travelers on the road to the mining towns in the Cerbat Mountains. In September 1874, a traveler noted, “Beale’s Springs did not differ from the other ranches encountered except that possibly it was even more desolate. A German lived there who must have had a knowledge of cookery, for we bought a peach pie which we ate with relish. We paid him a big silver dollar for it.”

In the years that followed the springs remained an important part of area development. The waters were piped into Kingman which helped curtail the need to supply the remote desert crossroads with water by rail. A swimming pool/reservoir was added after 1900, and the springs became a popular picnic area. In 1914, a “modern” highway was constructed through the site and over Coyote Pass to Chloride. Today the historic oasis is the crown jewel of the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area, a network of hiking and mountain bike trails in the scenic Cerbat Mountains.

Coming Soon, Book Number Twenty

Coming Soon, Book Number Twenty

I launched my professional writing career in 1990 with the sale of a feature article to Hemmings Motor News. Over the course of the next fifteen years I wrote a stream of feature articles for an array of publications, had a part time job as associate editor with Cars & Parts, and wrote a few books. A couple of the books garnered international accolades and awards. And two of them landed me an interview with Jay Leno in his famous garage.
Still, I had a full time job that supported the writing habit. Then in 2015 my dearest friend and I launched Jim Hinckley’s America as a multifaceted travel network that was built on books I had written and would write.
I have no complaints. I greatly enjoy writing. But what I enjoy most are the friendships that are made through writing, and the doors for amazing adventures that writing have opened. So, from that perspective I am a very successful author.
Well, the contract for book number 20 has been finalized. That as well as the negotiation for that contract inspired a great deal of reflection on the changes that are transforming the publishing industry, the challenges associated with making a living from the written word, and the misconceptions that people have about writing.
First, it has never been easy to earn a living as a writer. Very, very few authors earn their entire living from the writing of books. That was the case in 1890, 1940, 1960 and today. Even though word processors, research using the internet and other modern wonders have made the job easier, the money earned from writing has, in general decreased. Case in point, last year in search of work I contacted a major publication that had published some of my work in the 1990s. The amount paid for a feature article is now $50 to $100 less than it was twenty-five years ago.
And yet, if the author is willing to take side jobs, it is easier than ever to supplement income. Content is king. Websites and marketing companies that build websites realize the value of well written blogs to boost SEO as well as traffic. So, I write blog posts for pest control companies, marijuana dispensaries, chambers of commerce, RV sales and service companies, and others. It pays the bills. For each blog post I am paid almost exactly what I was paid for feature articles when I was writing for a regional newspaper – in the 1990s.
As the writing is but one component in the Jim Hinckley’s network, I am fortunate to be able to solicit for advertisers. And I am fortunate to have fans that will trade support of our crowdfunding initiative for exclusive original content.
If you would like to read more about becoming a published author, the challenges associated with juggling projects to provide an income flow, or updates on the current project, please consider becoming a supporter of our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform.