If a community is to become a destination for people looking for a place to raise a family, to retire, and to open a business it must be first transformed into a destination for travelers and tourists. That transformation includes appealing streetscapes, a diverse array of restaurants, a vibrant arts district, an historic district that reflects community pride, parks, out door recreational opportunities such as hiking trails, development of diverse events, and displays of public art.
The public arts project and narrated self guided historic walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street that was unveiled this past Friday during the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities was a major step toward making a Kingman a destination. This was part of the block party organized by the city’s tourism office that included live music, a car show on Route 66 (Andy Devine Avenue), a band from Las Vegas, and an outdoor beer garden in the shadow of the historic Hotel Beale.
Comments made about the walking tour during the event give clear indication that it will be popular with visitors, with new residents and with people that have called Kingman home for decades. Even in its embryonic form it will have a direct impact on foot traffic in the historic heart of the city.
With completion of phase one in a few weeks business owners should see a marked increase in the number of people exploring the district. Just this morning Sabine Sumsisum of Germany posted a video about Kingman’s newest attraction on YouTube, and shared it to her Facebook page. The 2LaneLifeteam was in town for the unveiling and National Road Trip Day festivities, and their Facebook posting about the event shared yesterday has been viewed more than 100 times.
Kingman Main Street also revived the Route 66 Walk of Fame that had been abandoned shortly after its introduction at the 2014 International Route 66 Festival. The new walk of fame is included in the Depot Plaza created by the City of Kingman for the National Road Trip Day event. And that too will enhance the city’s appeal as a destination.
Kingman Main Street revived the dormant Route 66 Walk of Fame as part of the National Road Trip festivities.
The key to the projects success was organizers that were able to share an infectious passionate enthusiasm that manifested in a diverse array of cooperative partnerships with a shared vision. Business owners, volunteers, community leaders, civic organizations, and Route 66 enthusiasts banded together in an impressive display of community spirit.
The statue created by J. Anne Butler and the walking tour were just one manifestation of the grassroots initiatives that are transforming Kingman and that are building a sense of community as well as community purpose. Building on the Friday evening events that kicked off with the official proclamation made by Marlo Anderson of National Day Calendar, Gene Kirkham arranged for an informal cruise along Route 66 with stops at Antares Point, Hackberry General Store and Grand Canyon Caverns on Saturday. And to enhance the celebration of the great American road trip on iconic Route 66, arrangements were made with the Seligman Chamber of Commerce and West Side Lilo’s restaurant to welcome everyone who participated.
In an effort to transform the single evening event into a three day celebration, arrangements were also made with store owners and the chamber of commerce in Oatman, Arizona for a special event on Sunday. The goal was to place Kingman at the center of three days of events that showcased the road trip, Route 66, and the city as a destination.
National Day Calendar initially approached the Kingman tourism office about making the official National Road Trip Day proclamation in the city back in 2020. However, the pandemic resulted in postponement. Then last year when it was rescheduled for May 2022, Kingman Main Street initiated plans for the walking tour and public arts project to debut during the National Road Trip Day festivities.
Plans are already being discussed for an even larger event Road Trip Day event in 2023. And there are also discussions about expansion of the walking tour in coming months. Even though the National Road Trip day proclamation festivities took place just a few days ago, indications are that, as with the 2014 International Route 66 Festival, the event will have a long term impact on the City of Kingman. And just as with the 2014 festival that was the catalyst for the European Route 66 festivals and establishment of the annual Miles of Possibillity Conference, the recent event in Kingman will have an impact on the entire Route 66 corridor.
When Beth and Paul of Kingman Main Street first approached me, I was taking sunrise photos for a project at the desert oasis of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona. They had an idea for a project that would enhance tourism, and that would transform the community through the building of cooperative partnerships.
As it turned out, it was a concept that had been simmering in my mind since 2014 when Carolyn Hasenfratz had introduced me to QR codes during a discussion at the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman. Over time the idea had evolved in my thoughts.
On occassion I had shared the idea during informal conversations with friends, and during my tenure on various committees. But the timing wasn’t right. And obviously I hadn’t been able to articulate the idea in a manner that ignited excitement. Even efforts to sell it to the tourism office had fallen on deaf ears.
I was hooked before they completed their pitch. And that was the first step in transforming the dream of a Kingman, Arizona narrated, self guided hsistoric district walking tour into a reality. Now the dream is to use it as a template for other communities.
But Beth and Paul had another idea. They wanted to link the tour with a public arts project. And that was the bombshell that I had trouble with. That was the component that needed lots of thought and discussion with my dearest friend before I could give it the green light.
Well, that was about 18 months ago. Phase one of the walking tour with 35 points of interest is complete. The first dozen are being unveiled during National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities. The remainder will be installed in a week or so, and then work will begin on phase two.
Also scheduled for unveiling during the festivities is a bronze statue of me created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. I am honored and humbled. But it took some very deep soul searching to agree to this.
Kingman has association to some pretty legendary names worthy this type of recognition. Front Street, the Route 66 corridor was renamed Andy Devine Avenue in 1955. Devine, a legendary character actor, gre up in Kingman. His father owned the Hotel Beale.
Artist and author Bob Boze Bell claims Kingman as his boyhood home. A display of his work as well as family heirlooms associated with Kingman history are on display at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
So, to see such an honor bestowed upon me is a bit overwhelming. There is a surreal sense of attending my own funeral.
The statue will be the center piece of the newly created Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot along Route 66. The plaza will also include the Route 66 Walk of fame that had been introduced at the 2014 festival, and abandoned a year or so later.
The plaza, seeing the walking tour idea coming to fruition, and the statue is invigorating. But nothing excites me more than the sense of community that has come about through this.
I have been deeply involved in an array of community development projects in Kingman since at least 1994. That was the year, working with Scott Dunton, we established the Kingman Route 66 Association. Some endeavors were successful. Some fell flat. Aside from the 2014 festival, nothing has fostered such a passionate response.
Beth and Paul, and the Kingman Main Street team tirelessly worked to build cooperative partnerships. Organizations and individuals, the city of Kingman and the tourism office, all became passionate supporters. And that bodes well for the future.
One person can change the world. One person can make a difference. But only if they can inspire, only if they can build passionate partnerships united in a common goal. But only if they can give credit where credit is due. Only if they can be leaders that inspire. Only if they can sell the dream.
Author Jim Hinckley on the road. Photo Judy Hinckley
In my humble opinion birthdays are like mileposts. For a brief moment in time they give you pause with reflection on the miles traveled, and then they are in the rear view mirror. In that moment of reflection you give thought to the people met along the way, friends, places, tragedies, highlights, family, and people that are no longer a part of your life. And then the focus shifts to the road ahead.
Granted, with this birthday there is a growing sense that the road ahead is getting shorter. But that just adds incentive to crowd in as much living as possible and sharpen the focus on each minute to ensure that time is not wasted.
The year ahead is already shaping up to be quite the adventure. On May 27th, as part of the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities, a life sized bronze statue of me is to be unveiled on the new Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot in Kingman, Arizona.
Created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler, this is quite humbling. And it is a distinct honor. But it is quite surreal, sort of like attending my own funeral.
With the passing of time I have learned that diplomacy is better than brawling. Still, over the years I have stepped on some toes while serving on various committee’s and working on various tourism initiatives. And of course, there are always a few folk that just get bent out of shape because they think you are outshining them.
So, it will be interesting to hear praise from some folks that usually look for a rope salesman and a tall tree when I am in the neighborhood. This might stretch the meaning of sincerity just a tad bit.
Walter, the mayor in Oatman, Arizonais sponsoring a presentation about riverboats, railroads and Route 66 that I will be making on May 28. He seems nice enough but I do have to admit that when it comes to popularity there is a bit of jealously on my part. Before my account was locked on Facebook, Jim Hinckley’s America had more than 7,000 followers and I was adding one hundred or more each month. Walter had amassed more than 300,000 followers and he is an ass, literally.
A real highlight in the next few weeks will be visits from dear friends that we haven’t had a chance to visit with since before the apocalypse. This week we are expecting a visit from Toshi Goto of the Japanese Route 66 Association. And a few weeks later it is a visit with friends with Germany that have become our extended family.
And just like old times in the BC era (Before COVID 19), my summer schedule is filling rapidly. As I derive tremendous pleasure from telling people where to go, sharing adventures, and inspiring road trips, it will be a delight to again provide service to tour groups, and to see old friends reviving their business.
By fall I will have not one but two new books to promote. They are manifestations of my attempt to make the down time during the apocalypse productive.
That will be timely as plans are being developed for a fall tour. This will include speaking engagements and book signings, as well as some programs from the road and visits with old friends in the tourism business. Already scheduled is a speaking engagement at the Mile of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois, and another at the museum in Atlanta, Illinois.
Ma always claimed that I was born ninety and never seemed to age. Perhaps that is one reason why I haven’t paid much attention to birthdays since at least the 1960s.
Still, birthdays lead to reflection. And reflection leads to thoughts about the past, the present, and the future.
It has been a long and winding road filled with adventure, friendships, and sorrow. And in spite of the storm clouds that loom on the horizon, I can’t help but feel that some pretty memorable adventures are awaiting me on the road ahead.
The Beast is more than a truck and project. It is has become a parts house, a tool box, and a never ending educational opportunity.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. And on occasion it still does. But that depends on the frustration level as I make a valiant attempt to install a stem to turn wiring harness and upgrade the ’51 Chevy, AKA The Beast, with turn signals, twelve volt gauges, and an alternator instead of generator.
There is a long row to hoe before this old workhorse is back on the road and earning its keep. Still, I am cofident that at some point between now and the Route 66 centennial this panel truck will be a rolling studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs, a book store, a Route 66 information and travel planning center, and a promotional billboard for sponsors.
If all else fails, I suppose I could sell the wheels and tires, add a mail box to the fender, and call The Beast home. My dearest friend has displayed tremendous patience over the course of the past forty years, but there is a good chance that something like that might be just pushing my luck.
When this endeavor started I was in search of a Model A Ford. For reasons unknown that is a vehicle that I have wanted since before learning to drive. And I am confident that at some point in time one of these old timers will find its way to our house.
But for this endeavor there was an aspect of practicality to consider. This truck will barely make the grade without major upgrades. Ideally I should have been looking at a truck manufactured after 1957.
Sentimentality played a role in my decision to purchse this old truck last December. The Advance Design series of Chevrolet truck is woven into countless memories from childhood and my youth. A ’53 pick up was the first truck I drove solo. This was also the first truck that I drove on a multistate Route 66 adventure. Shortly after my dearest frined and I said “I do” a ’49 panel served as my work truck. When I was a kid we moved from Arizona to Silver City, New Mexico with a ’53 pick up truck. And a ’53 pick up was what my pa used for deliveries at his appliance store.
Transitioning parking lights to turn signals
The goal with this project is to carefully blend the past with present. For a brief moment I had a hair brained idea to blend it with the future with a full conversion to electric. But as much as I am fascinated with modern technology, at heart I am an old timer. And so I will be pushing this old timer down the road with a carburetor on a six cylinder engine and four speed transmission.
The project won’t be fully complete by October. Chances are that it will never be coompletely finished. Still, the loose target date for having it dependable and road worthy is October, and the fall Route 66 tour that includes the Miles of Possibillity Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I need to figure out where this green wire goes.
My pa was full of million dollar quips that he wove into a rich and colorful tapestry that illustrated how to live life with a proper perspective. But Brad, a weathered old cowhand that I worked with on the Sierra Mesa spread along the Mimbres River in New Mexico, was a master weaver. Providing that background makes it easier to explain the title for today’s post.
Since at least 1959 (yes, I AM THAT old), Route 66 has figured prominently in my life. We made our first trip west from Virginia in the summer of ’59. We moved from Michigan to Arizona in the summer of ’66, and it was there that I learned to ride a bicycle and drive a truck on an old alignment of Route 66. Years later, during the John Wayne period that I never outgrew, I drove Route 66 rather than the interstate highway, and haunted faded old cafes, truck stops and down at the heels motels with neon signs that no longer served as beacons for weary travelers.
But, to be honest, until about 15 years ago for me the old double six was just a highway. It was like an old friend. It was, and is, where I felt comfortable. Besides, when you drive a ’46 GMC, or ’50 Chevy truck on purpose, and 45 miles per hour is top speed, the interstate highway isn’t a viable option.
Not once in all those years of cruising along that weathered, cracked and broken old asphalt, Not once when I was sippinig coffee and eating a steak in the Cattleman’s Cafe in Truxton, Arizona did I imagine that this storied old highway would one day take me from Arizona to Germany. And I never once pictured myself as a personality. I could in my minds eye see myself as an old timer that was a belnding of Slim Pickens and Walter Brennan but never as a celebrity.
And so, since it was announced last year that Kingman Main Street would be commissioning internationally acclaimed scupturer J. Anne Butler to create a life sized bronze statue of me as a public arts project there has been a great deal of reflection. Now the big event, the unveiling is just a few weeks away. On May 27 this will be a part of the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities in Kingman, Arizona.
To be honest, I am not sure how to respond or what to say at the dedication. The staute is actually mute testimony to nearly forty years of support and encouragement from my dearest friend.
In my minds eye I am just Jim Hinckley from Podunk, Arizona. I am just a storyteller that has survived a whole lot of stupid, met a bunch of fascinating and inspirational characters over the years, and weathered some pretty wild storms.
I am honored. And I am humbled. But I am also a bit embarrassed. It all seems just a tad bit surreal. There is a distinct sense of unreality about the whole thing.
Life is sure full of twists, turns, and unexpected surprises. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are grand adventures. Some are painful. But all are memorable. This one is going to be tought to top. Still, there is a good chance that I have another twenty or thrity years before the last trail ride. And as I have learned over the years, a whole lot of surprises and adventures can be squeezed into that amount of time.