The Centennial

The Centennial

The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.

For a brief moment in time it was designated U.S. 60. But by the time that signs had been placed along the highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles a political compromise had given it a new identity – U.S.66.

Exactly when Route 66 morphed from highway to icon can’t be pinpointed with certainty. But from its inception this highway billed as the Main Strret of America and the Mother Road has benefitted from brilliant marketing campaigns, being profiled in books, and being linked to the Olympics, to movies, and to television programs. And that is one reason it is, perahps, more popular today than at any time in its history even though it doesn’t officially exist.

That is also why the fast approaching centennial in 2026 offers communities along that highway corridor, both large and small, with unprecedented promotional opportunities. And in turn this can result in tourism related economic development as well as historic district revitalization opportunities.

Many states bisected by Route 66 including Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma recognized the opportunity quite sometime ago. They formed Route 66 centennial commissions, initiated programs to bolster tourism in the years leading to the centennial, and developed an array of diverse cooperative partnerships. Those endeavors are already paying dividends.

Meanwhile, surprisingly, there are still a few communities that yet to launch centennial initiatives. But, to be honest, some communities along Route 66 only make a half hearted effort to capitalize on assets ideally suited for tourism development. Meanwhile towns like Pontiac, Illinois and Tulsa, Oklahoma are selling everything on the hog including the squeal. Other towns such as Tucumcari and Springfield, Missouri are on the fast track to tapping into this potential goldrush.

It is difficult to find words that adequately describe what makes a Route 66 odyssey special or unique. I have explored a number of old highways, most recently U.S.6. These old highways are peppered with an array of living time capsules. But they lack the infectious magic.

Route 66 is no mere highway. It is the ultimate American road trip. But there is more to this story. It is also the American experience personified. It is opportunity limited only by the imagination, and adventure without equal.

Yesterday’s episode of Coffee With Jim, the audio podcast developed by Jim Hinckley’s America, is example of what makes a Route 66 experience unique. And it is also an example of why I am starting to think that the centennial year will be a 2,200 mile block party of epic proportions.

When you listen to the passion that owner Beth Hilburn has for the Hi Way Cafe near Vinita, Oklahoma, it is hard not to get excited. And when you listen to her families work to use the cafe to build a sense of community, and her story about the cafes fascinating origins, it is impossible to not be inspired.




America’s Story

America’s Story

Yesterday’s epsiode of Coffee With JIm, our Sunday morning podcast, illustrated the infectious magic of iconic Route 66 in the era of renaissance. And it was a manifestation of the Jim Hinckley’s America tag line – “Telling People Where to Go & Sharing America’s Story.”

Beth Hilburn shared the unique and fascinating history of the Hi Way Cafe on Route 66 near Vinita, Oklahoma. And with passion Beth shared the story of how she and her family used the cafe and COVID pandemic to foster development of a sense of community. It was an inspirational story and based on comments received, a tale that has encouraged people to plan a road trip.

Long before we launched Jim HInckley’s America, I had a fascination for America’s story and our national quest to make the lofty goals and concepts ienshrined on our founding documents a reality. And so, over the years I have been privileged to meet, and occasionally become friends with, amazing people.

When employed on a construction project near Winslow, Arizona, the foreman was a former Navajo Code Talker. It was through him that I learned about the Comanche code talkers that went ashore in France during the D Day invasion. And it was after a delicious dinner in his home that I learned about his childhood that included a boarding school, seperation from his parents and culture, and a brutal suppression of his native language.

Yet he and his family were deeply patriotic. He proudly flew the American flag at his home. And he had a son that was awarded two purple hearts in Vietnam.

America’s story is unique and complicated. It is tragic and inspirational. It is a dichotomy. It is a shining example for the entire world.

It was founded on concepts that were enshrined in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and other documents. The often turbulent quest to transform those goals into a reality was, and is, the ever evolving American story.

Key to ensuring the success of this evolution is presenting history as it was, not with selective editing. And that is why any effort to paint our story in dark tones is a grave disservice to people such as John Adams, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Bessie Stringfield. Lieutenant Colonel Ely S. Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe, succinctly summed it up when he told General Robert E Lee at Appomattox Court House “We are all Americans.”

This is why I am also disgusted, and concerned, about the anti “woke” movement that is being sold as a holy crusade. How do we tell the story of the Civil War, the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, Abraham Lincoln or the American Revolution without talking about the horrors of the slave trade, the Battle of Bamber Bridge, or the Washita Massacre?

It is a distinct pleasure and honor to share America’s inspirational story through programs, podcasts, presentations, books and interviews. I derive a great deal of satisfaction in learning that one of our programs sparked honest conversations and discussions. It makes me smile when I see people light up as stories about Issac Johnson, Ralph Teetor, David Buick, and Effie Hotchkiss are shared.

America’s story is a rich, colorful, and diverse tapestry. It should not be white washed or transformed into a weapon. The inspiration of the American story is in the nations failures and successes, the tales of innovation and immigrants, and in the ongoing quest to transform foundational precepts into a reality.