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 Street initiative 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.

 

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