On May 2, 1915, 26-year-old Effie Hotchkiss set off from her home in Brooklyn, New York, for the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, with her, quote, “rotund” 52-year-old mother, Avis, in the side car. For two women to drive a car on such an adventure would have been amazing. This was truly astounding.
But it was only part of the story. Effie was obsessed with motorcycles and with speed. She had been ticketed for cruising at 35 mph on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway. In another incident her speed was estimated to be in excess of 70 mph. Her mother tagged along on the trip to California to keep her daughter from getting in trouble.
Aside from the friends made, and the fascinating people met along the way, the greatest joy derived from developing the various Jim Hinckley’s America programs is the research. I make the most fascinating discoveries. Sometimes they are inspirational. Sometimes they are unsolved mysteries. But they are always interesting.
The intrepid Effie Hotchkiss is one such discovery. I stumbled on her story while preparing for an episode about epic road trips on Coffee With Jim, our live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page.
There are two primary components that underlie everything we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. Telling people where to go through shared adventures. Adding depth and context that brings history to life. Encouragement comes from comments such as this one from Tammy Garrett-Rutherford. “I honestly could listen to the history you tell all day long!”
As frustrating and maddening as modern technologies are, social media, Zoom, YouTube, Vimeo and the swirl of available options to share adventures are near endless opportunities for bringing history to life. Even though it is my preference to make presentations before an audience, in recent months using Zoom it has been possible to share the Route 66 story, tales of inspiration and stories about the origins of the automotive industry with a diverse audience. In recent months I have made presentations for the Rotary Club of El Paso, a garden club in Spokane, a car club in Europe, and a seniors group in Prescott, Arizona.
Is such a pleasure to share stories about people such as Erwin “Cannonball” Baker. If the name doesn’t sound familiar let me give a bit of a teaser.
Baker was legendary during the first decades of the 20th century. He was a showman of extraordinary talent. In 1905 he earned his living as a bicycle racer, and in an acrobatic vaudeville act where he beat punching bags with his hands, feet, and head.
in 1906 he purchased an Indian motorcycle and became a stunt rider. Two years later, at a Fourth of July picnic in Crawfordsville, Ind., he entered his first race and won. By 1909, he was a member of the factory Indian motorcycle team and competed at the first motorized competition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 14, 1909. Then he launched a series of publicity grabbing stunts such as racing passenger locomotives from town to town. George Hendee, co-founder, and president of Indian, staged a South American tour for Baker in 1912. It was a resounding success, as Baker logged 14,000 miles through South America, Jamaica, Cuba, and Panama. In the same year Baker became the first man to cross the United States on a motorcycle. I profiled Baker in a recent story for MotoringNZ, and included a few of his exploits in the Coffee With Jim episode about epic road trips.
Recently I added a new facet to Jim Hinckley’s America, a video project with The Bee. It is in the pilot stage as we seek sponsors but the series of short videos will highlight attractions and the history of Mohave County in Arizona. To date we have completed short videos about Beale Springs, site of territorial era Camp Beale, and the trail system at White Cliffs Wagon Trail. The latest episode is a tour of the historic Bonelli house with a bit of the fascinating history beyond the home and family. It is an exciting new way to tell people where to go, to share adventures, and to provide road trip inspiration.
So, what’s next for Jim Hinckley’s America? Stay tuned. We have some exciting new projects coming down the pike.