For no discernable reason an encounter with a toothless old man that sported a tobacco stained white beard and a very odd conversation pop into my head on occasion. The incident took place years ago.
I was somewhere in the middle of vast cornfields in the back country of Ohio when a battered and rare Mack Jr. pick up truck was spotted. Nearly buried in the overgrowth it was barely visible in the shadow of a tumble down crossroads garage that had been built sometime between the world wars.
Curiosity led me to stop and ask if the owner of the garage was available. The aforementioned old man pointed at the fellow standing beside him and said, “That R us.”
Usually that remembrance pops into mind when I see an old timer with character etched deep into his face by the passing of time. Sometimes it is triggered through an encounter with a link to an era when individuality had not yet given way to political correctness.
On a recent whirlwind trip, just after sunrise, we stopped at the Lone Spur Cafe. I was sipping on hot black coffee and savoring a plate of superbly prepared huevos rancheros when this picture of the class of ’53 caught my eye.
I knew that actor Ben Johnson was the real deal. What I didn’t know was that he was a world champion cowboy back in ’53. He was always a hero of mine. And he was individuality made manifest. Hence the reflection on the fellow in Ohio and the reason for the title of today’s post.
And that long winded introduction that takes us to the business at hand – the reasons for the adventure, closing out October, and setting the stage for November. The primary reasons for this past weeks road trip was twofold.
A rendering of the proposed Hinckley Plaza, a component in the historic district walking tour project spearheaded by Kingman Main Street.
One, was a studio sitting with the internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler, a new and odd experience. This is a component in the historic district project being spearheaded by Kingman Main Street. Assisting with development of the narrated self guided walking tour would be more than enough for me. But they insist on a secondary component, Hinckley Plaza at the historic Kingman railroad depot that will include a statue of yours truly, and a commemorative brick garden that has the long dormant Route 66 Walk of Fame as a focal point.
Part two of the trip was research for some upcoming projects. And that takes us to the last days of October 2022 which include a book signing at Victoria’s Sugar Shack in Kingman, Arizona on October 30th, 9:00 MST. On the Sunday morning episode of Coffee With Jim, the weekly live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page that is archived on our YouTube channel, I will be sharing a virtual road trip. And then later that afternoon I will serve as a guide for an Adventure Caravans tour.
Flexibility is key to working with tour groups in Kingman. As an example the group had planned on a tour of the museums in the Powerhouse Visitor Center but that facility is closed on Sunday. So, instead I will lead a walking tour in the historic district, and then before dinner at the Dambar, make a presentation on Kingman’s rich Hollywood linked history.
By Monday it is my plan to send a new feature written for Route. The deadline for a story about the Dunton family and their 100 year history of doing business along the National Old Trails Road, and Route 66, in western Arizona is a couple weeks away but I want to clear the plate as much as possible.
And that takes us to November. I have eight clients to right blog posts for including the Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce. That is a service that I provide to clients of MyMarketing Designs, a website development and media company.
On the 16th, I will be leading a tour along the Route 66 corridor. This is a part of the community education programs developed for Mohave Community College. The goal of these classes is to foster a greater awareness of Kingman history. As I see it, in turn this will lead to an increased awareness about the potential for tourism related economic development in the city.
And takes us to another reason for the recent trip. I needed a refresher course. I needed to visit a city where tourism is viewed as an integral component of long term economic planning. And so we paid a visit to Prescott, Arizona.
This trip will also figure into a new project for our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform that will kick off in November. We depend heavily on support through crowdfunding for our various educational programs and I feel it imperative to find a way of saying thank you so I often provide exclusive and original content.
Last year I reprinted Edsel Ford’s travel journal from 1915. In this series I will be providing detail information, recommendations, reviews, and where applicable, discounts on motels, communities, and specific highways. Road trips “R’ us. Telling people where to go is what I do.
On the 20th, I have agreed to speak on Route 66 and how it can be enjoyed by owners of electric vehicles. Then on the day after Thanksgiving, tentatively, I am to drive to Los Angeles.
In addition to the auto show there is a possible book signing at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank. And I will be photographing neon signs along Route 66 for an upcoming feature to be published in the new magazine Crankshaft. That should take me to tax season and laying the groundwork for a very busy 2022.
So, what are your plans for the last months of 2021?
Well, this weekend the Miles of Possibility Conference added a few pieces to the puzzle. The future of tourism on and off Route 66 in the next 18 months or so is becoming clearer. And as I suspected, the news is a mixed blend of worrisome issues and hints of optimism.
From its inception in 2014 as the Crossroads of the Past & Future Conferenceat the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman, Arizona, the annual conference has evolved into an annual Route 66 convention. Last year it was canceled, and this year was via Zoom. Plans are already underway for the 2022 Miles of Possibility Conference which is scheduled for October 20 to October 23.
I am looking forward to an in person event, especially as it is being hosted by the dynamic community of Pontiac, Illinois. It will be a delight to visit with old friends, to have some in person discussions, and to hoist a pint or two after sessions and presentations.
As has been the custom since its inception, the roster of speakers was diverse. They included Bonnie Game, member of he Canadian Route 66 Association and owner of a travel agency, Liz Vincent, tourism director in Pontiac, Scott Piotrowski, president of the California Historic Route 66 Association, Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association, and Marian Pavel. Pavel is the developer of the innovative Route 66 Navigation appand Mother Road Route 66 Passport. Brennen Matthews of Route magazine, Toshi Goto of the Japanese Route 66 Association and Casey Claypool, Executive Director of the Illinois Scenic Byway, member of the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission, and chair of the Economic Development Working Committee for the Road Ahead Partnership were also speakers.
Author Jim Hinckley speaking at the 2019 Miles of Possibility Conference. Photo Penny Black
I try and keep a pulse on tourism trends, domestic as well as international. And so this past week I also spoke with the owners of numerous tour companies that I have provided service to over the years. This also clarified as well as confirmed some vague suspicions that I have had flowing in the back of my mind.
Domestically and internationally there is a pent up demand for travel. Still, the anecdotal evidence continues to mount that it may be several years before international traffic on Route 66 rebounds to pre COVID levels. Likewise with international travel to America in general as Europeans are rediscovering or discovering holiday wonderlands such as Croatia and Greece that are closer to home.
And with potential international travelers to the United States there are a couple of simmering issues, real and perceived, that could curtail this envisioned growth. These include the assault on the capital, as well as worries about manifestations of deepening political divisions, a concerted effort to undermine election integrity which could lead to societal upheaval, an increase in incendiary social media posts about foreigners, and the American response to COVID and vaccines, to name but a few.
Upward inflationary trends are also giving people pause. Domestically in some locations the cost for gasoline is at an all time high.
But this is not just an American issue. Several European countries are experiencing similar issues. And the discussions about rising prices and poverty are becoming more common.
On the tourism front domestically COVID had a silver lining. Americans are rediscovering the adventure, the fun, and the simple pleasures of the road trip. Last year records were set with recreational vehicle sales and rentals.
And communities that marketed outdoor activities such as hiking trails and mountain bike trails, campgrounds, and state or national parks maintained tourism revenue. Some even saw an increase in tourism numbers. And now those communities are becoming destinations.
Meanwhile, here at Jim Hinckley’s America, it is business as usual. I harnessed the down time during the apocalypse and cranked out two new books, as well as a few feature articles. And I picked up a few new clients that will be using my services in 2022 to enhance their tours.
I am continuing to build the Jim Hinckley’s America brand as a travel network. And after the upheaval of the past 18 months the decision has been made that in the next year I will own a Model A Ford as a regular daily driver. Best fitting my perception of self, and the perception that have of me, it will most likely be a truck.
This near fifty year obsession (for no discernable reason) has always been pushed to the back burner resultant of obligations, emergencies, and my rigid focus on being practical in my purchases.
This monument at Beale Springs is just one piece of the puzzle. More pieces are needed if the picture is to be seen with clarity.
For the Hualapai people it is a somber place, a place associated with tragedy. But it is also an historic location linked to America’s evolution as a nation.
To see the entire picture with clarity you must assemble each piece of the puzzle in the box. If you only use the pieces needed to complete what you assume to be the sky, you will never realize that it was the lake.
In a nutshell, history is often taught with only the pieces needed to complete the picture that we want to see. And in turn that is how many politicians twist history to sell an agenda, foster divisions, and appeal to a base. If history is factually presented, as uncomfortable and challenging as that may be, we blur the line and develop a clearer picture.
History should be taught in a manner that encourages people to reconcile and move beyond seeing themselves as victims, or their community in the context of us versus them. It should be presented so we learn from the mistakes and successes of the past.
Located less than two miles from Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona, Beale Springs is a desert oasis that encapsulates the current battle over how history should be taught. There are two monuments at the entrance. Both tell an opposing story. Both are accurate.
Together they clarify the picture of Arizona in the mid 19th century. Taken individually they present a picture that is distorted and inaccurate.
There is an old parable about blind people trying to describe an elephant. None of them were aware of what the animal is or its shape and form. And so they begin inspecting it by touch. The first person slid his hands along the trunk and determined that it was a thick snake. Another felt the ear and declared it a fan. The one who felt the leg said it was like a tree-trunk. The blind man who felt its side said it was a wall and another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.
The trouble begins when they compare notes but from the perspective that each has come to the right conclusion. From that rigid perspective suspicions grow that the other person is being dishonest in an effort to force their opinions and conclusions. And the parable ends with them coming to blows.
The moral of the story is simple. People have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on a limited, subjective, narrow focused experience. They ignore other peoples absolute truth that they have developed through equally limited subjective experiences.
History, unlike religion or philosophy, is rooted in hard fact. And as a result truth can be learned. But that requires moving beyond the comfort zone. And it requires moving beyond the trunk, tail or leg.
Whitney Ortiz, tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois, and her husband Miguel, with a carboard Jim at the Kingman Main Street booth.
After more than a dozen years of dancing in and out of the spotlight I still find the attention rather disconcerting at times. In my minds eye I am just Jim Hinckley, a fellow from the backcountry of Arizona that reflects some years of hard mileage in my face and the scars on my hands, and a tremendous enjoyment of good pie and good beer around the middle.
In a recent interview I was referenced as “America’s storyteller” and “Mr. Route 66.” Both references left me pondering where the perception of who I am intersects with the reality of who I am. One of the most treasured titles was bestowed from a friend in the Netherlands – an intellectual redneck.
All titles and accolades aside I am indeed a very fortunate fellow. And I live a life that on reflection often surprises me as much as the international requests for interviews. Just consider this past week.
With just a few hours to spare, I beat the deadline on book number twenty-one and sent the text to the publisher. That leaves two weeks to complete a photo file and write captions.
Counted among the accomplishments of the past week was completion of the blogs that I write for clients of MyMarketing Designs. A primary challenge with this endeavor is finding materials to write a blog for a diverse array of businesses including a kite store, a frame and print shop, a landscaping and swimming pool company, an RV park and the Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce.
I facilitated a lunch at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and spoke about Route 66 as well as Kingman area history for a Two Lane America tour. It is always a delight to meet with groups but the reward is more than just monetary. Judging by the notes received apparently I enhance their adventure by weaving a colorful tapestry of history blurs the line between past and present.
Souvenirs provided by the Route 66 Yacht Club and the Route 66 Association of Kingman
As a bonus I get to promote my adopted hometown, Kingman, Arizona. And as the Route 66 Yacht Club and the Route 66 Association of Kingman provide me with pins and patches that can be given as souvenirs, I am assured that our visitors will always remember Kingman.
And I was fortunate in that there was an opportunity for a date with my dearest friend. For nearly forty years this amazing woman has been my right hand, crutch, anchor, support group, best friend, trusted advisor, and partner in lean times and in good.
Then there were a few interviews. And there was also an interesting request received from the History channel that has me eagerly looking toward Monday.
The week also included a few desert excursions to evaluate some new community education classes I am developing for Mohave Community College. And then last evening, to promote the new Beale Street campus in the Kingman historic district, I hosted a fun trivia night. This was also a promotion and introduction for an historic district walking tour I will be leading on behalf of the college this coming Tuesday evening.
Another highlight this week was serving as an unofficial Kingman ambassador as I provided Whitney Ortiz, tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois, and her husband Miguel, a journalist, with a Kingman area tour that included hiking trails, historic trails and sites, an introduction to the former Kingman Army Airfield, and area museums. As there is no subsidy from the city for these services I am sure grateful to supporters of our crowdfunding initiative and to our sponsors. Without them this would not be feasible.
The tour with Ortiz provided an opportunity to discuss ways to build productive cooperative partnerships within the Route 66 community, and within the tourism industry. Unfortunately many communities fail to see the value in tourism, or even worse, have tourism directors that half heartedly work to develop tourism as a means of building a personal fiefdom.
A rendering of the proposed Hinckley Plaza, a component in the historic district walking tour project spearheaded by Kingman Main Street.
And there is the multifaceted Kingman Main Streetinitiative to develop a self guided, narrated historic district walking tour. It has been my distinct pleasure to be a part of this project as it is something I have envisioned for many years.
The one component that I have issues with is linked to my original statement. I don’t see myself as a celebrity, just part of a team that is working to keep Route 66 alive for another generation and that is working to awaken Kingman to its potential. So a plaza named for me, with a statue, is a bit hard to fathom.
There is an odd feeling that the dedication will be akin to attending my own funeral. I am honored and humbled, but the perception of who I am and the reality of who I am just doesn’t seem to in sync.