A Front Row Seat

A popular photo op in Kingman, Arizona. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

For the past few days I have had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a visit with old friends, and an adventure or two reminiscent of the pre apocalypse era. For a brief moment in time I was able to forget monkey pox, COVID related issues, murder hornets, meth gators, the surreal and bizarre political circus side show, the Ukrainian tragedy, the shortage of (fill in the blank), what it cost me to put two tires on the Jeep and fill the gas tank, and what seems to be a growing list of potential impending disasters.

It was a grand holiday. It was a delightful opportunity to reunite with old friends in shared adventures. And it was a very welcome respite from deadlines, schedules, setbacks on various projects, home repair issues, and from the issues that are linked to the announcement that my accountant of more than ten years is retiring.

My dearest friend and I have been sharing annual adventures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with Dries Bessels and his charming wife Marion, foudning members of the Dutch Route 66 Association, for more than ten years. And then along came the apocalypse, and a motorcycle accident. As a result we haven’t seen our friends since 2019.

Well, a few months ago Dries informed me that he would be in Kingman in mid July. As it so happened, this was the day before another very good friend, Wolfgang Werz of Route 66 Germany was scheduled to be in town with a tour group. Needless to say, with the slightest adjustment to Dries’s schedule, which gave us an extra day for crazy adventures, we were able to put together an epic reunion.

Route 66 may be the foundation for our friendship and countless adventures, but Dries and I also share a deep fascination for ghost towns, historic cemeteries and battlefields, interesting taverns and saloons, road trips, and interesting people. In two days we were able to add some great memories that blended all of these elements to the scrap book.

The pre 1921 alignment of the National Old Trails Road near Goldroad, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Dries has amassed quite a collection of historic photos that he generously shares on Facebook. As he has been assisting Leanne Toohey in her ongoing efforts to chronicle the history of the old mining town of Oatman, Arizona, that is where this series of adventures began.

Shortly before sunrise I met Dries and Leanne in Oatman. She had arranged access and transportation to the Oatman cemetery that is off limits to the public resultant of desecration. Surprisingly, I have been visiting Oatman for more than 50 years and had never been to the somber and forlorn old cemetery with the rugged west slope of the Black Mountains as a backdrop.

The next stop on our day of adventure was to hike a section of the National Old Trails Road in Sitreaves pass above the ghost town of Golroad. This section of the old road with its 28% grade that was bypassed in 1921 still has its post and cable guard rails. With temperatures rapidly climbing past the triple digits this outing was cut short.

We stopped by the homestead to cool off a bit, to pick up my dearest friend, and to show Dries The Beast. And that was followed with a superb lunch at Calico’s, lively conversation, and lots of laughs. And later that evening we continued the theme of laughter and good conversation but substituted beer and pizza for coffee and a sandwich.

The next day’s adventure commenced shortly after sunrise. The first stop was a short hike to historic Beale Springs. And the second was the historic cemetery in the old mining town of Chloride. And that was followed with exploration of the Pioneer Cemetery in Kingman, a tour of the fascinating Bonelli House built in 1915, and a demonstration of the new self guided, narrated historic business district developed by Kingman Main Street. And of course there was the obligatory photograph of me with the statue unveiled during the National Road Trip Day festivities this past May.

Left to right, Scott Dunton, president of the Route 66 Association of Kingman and owner of Dunton Motors Dream Machines, author Jim Hinckley, Wolfgang Werz of Route 66 Germany, and Dries Bessels. ©Judy Hinckley

The day and our visit wrapped up with a wonderful reception hosted for Dries, Wolgang, and his tour hosted by the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona and catered by Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Members of local car clubs provided transportation for the guests and as the event was open to the public, the showroom at the 1946 Dunton Motors Dream Machines dealership on Route 66 was soon packed.

But the evening and the fun didn’t end when the sun sank in the west. The tour group, my dearest friend and I, Wolfgang and Dries, and members of the car club moved the festivities to the Powerhouse Visitor Center for more lively conversation, laughs, and photo ops under the commerative arch.

It was such a delight to see old friends and to make new memories. And it was invigorating to see people embracing life with zest and enthusiasm.

Now it’s back to the real world that includes work, making plans and counting the days until the next visit and adventure shared with friends, a valiant attempt to stave off the seeming endless stream of bad news, and trying to find balance in life.

Over the course of the past couple of years we have been living through a seismic shift of epic proportions at every level from education and politics to technology and travel. As we all are painfully aware, these periods of tumult, uncertainty, and chaos can be very, very stressful.

But even in these times that try a mans patience, for anyone with a sense of humor, especially a dark sense of humor like I possess, there is much to laugh at. And, of course, in good times or bad, adventures shared with friends will always give reason to smile, for optimisim, and even fuel excitement for the future.