It was mid summer 1966 when we followed the flow of traffic on Route 66 into Kingman, Arizona. Even though I was just a kid, I was no stranger to travel. My folks liked to tease that my toilet training had taken place along the highway and in service station rest rooms in more than a dozen states.
To date all of our road trips and related odysseys had been epic. The first trip west from Virginia into the great southwest had been in a circa 1950 Chevy convertible that pa had been able to purchase cheap since it had been submerged during a hurricane.
Counted among my earliest memories was a memorable trip from Port Huron, Michigan to see ma’s family that lived on a farm Near Dutton on Sand Mountain, Alabama. This would have been the summer of ’63 as my sister was only a few months old.
My pa had cobbled together a vehicle that he dubbed the gypsy wagon. I later learned from old family photos that this home made wooden camper that looked to be a cross between a miniature barn and a two hole outhouse had been built on 1946 or 1947 Ford truck chassis.
A visit to the family farm was always memorable. Still, what made this trip particularly unforgettable were the roadside repairs and resultant campouts along streams in Kentucky and Tennessee. In retrospect that might be where I first picked up a proclivity for being able to string together a series of descriptive four letter words.
The trip to Arizona in the summer of ’66 was unlike anything previously experienced. We were moving, again. But this time the new home seemed as foreign as a lunar colony. It was very hard not to think that Kingman might be the place warned about in Sunday school. With the luxury of hindsight I can see with clarity that it was life changing. The entire course of my life can be traced to that summer.
I had experienced the intense liquid heat of the Mississippi River Delta country. This was different. Yes, it was a dry heat but so is the oven or the furnace. And to compound the misery, in mid August, pa decided that we needed a family picnic – in Needles, California. That was my first trip to Oatman, in a ’64 Ford Fairlane without air-conditioning.
Suffice to say, I survived. And I became enamored with the desert, the colorful characters that pa referenced as dry roasted nuts, and the vast technicolor landscapes of the Grand canyon State.
In time there would be opportunity to expand my explorations throughout the southwest and the west. And I developed a deep affection for the Mojave Desert, for New Mexico, for Utah, for Colorado, for northern Mexico, for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
But it is Arizona that I consider home. This is where my roots are. I made memories everywhere lived and in all of my travels. But Arizona is really where it all began.
This Sunday morning (7:00 MST), on Coffee With Jim, our live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page, it’s an Arizona adventure. It will be a bit of road trip inspiration, a mix of history, some personal reflection, and a few laughs. I will be sharing a few of my favorite places, and my favorite drives.
I hope that you will be able to join me. Invite your friends. Let’s make it a coffee party!