In the first decades of the 20th century, air cooled Franklin automobiles were used for a number of epic adventures. Photo H.H. Franklin Club
Telling the story of epic road trips. Sharing epic road trips. Making, and surviving, a few epic road trips. In a nut shell that sums up things rather nicely as road trips of an epic nature have been a big part of my life since at least 1959. And epic road trips have been a big part of the Jim Hinckley’s America story for decades.
Epic Road Trips of The Historic Kind
The epic adventures of Ezra Meeker figure prominently in the presentation In The Beginning: Dawn of The Great America Road Trip that I will be making at the 8th annual Miles of Possiblity Route 66 Conference.
Born in the 1830s, Meeker traveled west ovver the Oregan Trail in an ox cart with his new bride and infant son. IN later years he also traversed the Dawson Trail during the Yukon gold rush.
And in 1906 he launched a nationwide publicity campaign to ensure that the Oregon Trail was properly commemorated. Central to this endeavor was a series of speaking engagements linked to a transcontinetal trip in a cart pulled by two oxen. He repeated that trip in 1910, and in 1914, with support from the National Automobile Company, began touring the country in a car.
Incredibly, in 1919 he began working with his son along the National Old Trails Road. This would be the first service station complex with camp ground for travelers in the Cajon Pass of southern California.
Epic Road Trips & Tall Tales
I suppose that my passion for epic road trips stem from a childhood seasoned with countless odysseys that in retrospect seem fictional when the stories are told. Likewise with the epic road trips made after I left the nest, and the adventures shared with my dearest friend over the course of the past forty years.
From the perspective of the 21st century when back up cameras and heated seats are standard equipment, it is hard to imagine cross country trips in a convertible without a top. But that is exactly what my family did in the summer of 1959.
We lived in Norfolk, Virginia at the time. And as my dad told the story, he purchased the car at a bargain price. Not often mentioned in his retelling was the fact that the 1950 Chevy had been submerged during a hurricane.
In later years dad told the story of the trip to Arizona as though he remembered it as a luxury cruise. Surely he remembered patching tubes along the highway. Using a belt and rag on a leaking heater hose, or the severe sunburns.
Voyage of Discovery
Linked with my passion for epic road trips is a fascination for the tall tales told by adventurers. More often than not there is a grain of truth in those stories. Quite often that nugget of truth leads to some pretty interesting discoveries. And those discoveries give birth to additional epic adventures.
It was the story told by a weathered old man in a frontier era saloon that inspired me to quit my job, and to try my hand at dry washing for gold deep in the Arizona desert. And that adventure led to the discovery of the desert oasis and picturesque ruins of a ranch in Warm Springs Canyon.
I never found the lost gold from the Canyon Station robbery in the Cerbat Mountains. But that story and the subsequent search opened the door on some amazing Aizona territorial history. Even better, I learned that a ’46 GMC is rugged, dependable, durable, and easy to repair with minimal tools.
Over the course of the past few years I discovered a new type of adventure. These have been very rewarding. On occasion they are even profitable. And as with any road trip, these adventures are never bnoring.
Telling People Where To Go For Fun and Profit
When a recent interview was published I noted that the author had referred to me as America’s storyteller. That gave me pause. And it made me smile. After all, Jim Hinckley’s America was built on two pillars. Sharing America’s story. Inspiring road trips by telling people where to go.
I am not sure exactly when, exactly, this curious chapter began. After all, I used to avoid public speaking with the passion of a fellow trying to get away from a can filled rattlesnakes. And now I am paid to beat my gums, and blend tales of adventure, historicand personal ones.
In a two week span of time I shared the story of road trips in western Arizona, Route 66, Lt. Beale’s camel corp, and adventuresome motorists in the era of the National Old Trails Road with a diverse array of groups. There were 35 people from Pennsylvania on a coach tour and a group from New Zealand traveling Route 66. Next week it is a group of 45 people from Czechia.
The Adventure Continues
In mid October we turn the house over to our son and his wife, and head east for the Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference. I am confident that it will be another epic adventure filled with detours, discoveries, fascinating people, and endless opportunities to collect, and live, tales of open road odysseys.
A delightful lunch of catfish and hush puppies in Pocahontas, Arkansas
Okay, a search for pie, blackberry or peach cobbler, hush puppies, or world class chilli are not the only reason that we are embarking on a road trip in a few weeks. But I can’t think of a road trip in the past forty years that didn’t involve a detour or two.
Someone tells me about a waitress at a hole in the wall cafe that has an interesting story or that a diner is renowned for its stawberry rhubarb pie.That is all it takes to derail the carefully crafted time table.
Geronimo was still at war with the U.S. and Mexican army when Lucius Copeland demonstrated his steam powered motorcycle at the territorial fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. And Ransom E. Olds was taking his first experimental automobile for a test run two years before the legendary Apache was exiled to Florida. Elmer Lovejoy bicycled from Laramie, Wyoming to Chicago just two years after the massacre at Wounded Knee.
Road Trip 2023
This is the opening scene in my program about the dawning of the great American road trip. And that is the real reason that we are setting off on another Route 66 odyssey in October. This year I am a keynote speaker at the 8th annual Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. As you might have guessed, the conference has the road trip as its theme.
And as often is the case with us, it will be a busman’s holiday. Word was received today that a Route 66 centennial project simmering on the back burner will most likely be given the green light in a few weeks. So, I will need to create a portfolio of at least three hundred photos on this trip.
The Fall Tour
For the past eight years, with exception of the year of the apocalypse (2020), the Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference serves as the anchor point for an annual fall tour. This is usually a blending of book signing and speaking engagements.
It is also a fact finding mission. I visit with friends and associates in the Route 66 business community, that are involved with touriism or community development, or are tour company owners. That provides me with a better picture of tourism, and Route 66 tourism, trends. As I don’t have a degree this helps me imitate a tourism development consultant. Did I mention that a recent interviewer referenced me as a humorist “in the mold of Will Rogers?”
I also have plans for using the trip as a vacation. Let’s see how that works out. It hasn’t yet. I have a tendency to turn everything into work. Besides, I derive tremendous satisfaction from inspiring road trips by tellinig people where to go, and sharing America’s story. And that is why we launched Jim Hinckley’s America.
In Search of Pie
But no matter how busy I get or how tight the schedule is, there is always time to go in search of pie. Even better, chances are that we will have a chance to share that pie with old friends, or perhaps, with friends yet made.
Speaking of pie, and pie shared with friends, while writing this I received a note from Nick Adam. Route 66 enthusiasts will recognize that name. Nick’s father established the iconic Ariston Cafe in the 1920s, and relocated it to Litchfield, Illinois in the 1930s. After decades of management, Nick retired.
It looks like we will be visiting with our old friend at Jubelt’s Bakery in Litchfield on this trip. HIs is a story that I want to tell. And I just looked at the Jubelt website. They have a lenghty list of pies including Strawberry Rhubarb!
On Beale Street, one block off Route 66, a renaissance is infusing the historic business district with an infectious vibrancy. ©Jim Hinckley’s America
A centennial is 100 years. In 2026 the most famous highway in the United States, iconic Route 66, the Main Street of America, will be 100 years old, and people from throughout the world are already making plans for a pilgramage to celebrate this centennial milestone. And communities beween Chicago and Santa Monica are hard at work to capitalize on what promises to be America’s longest block party.
But there will be another historic event to celebrate as well. In 2026, unless the modern incarnation of the 1850s Know Nothing party succeeds in burning the place down. It will be the semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
This historic milestone will give communities another reason to celebrate. And for the event organizer, or community leader, with vision, ambition, passion and the ability to build cooperative partnerships, the two anniversaries will provide unprecendented opportunities.
Welcome To Kingman
On Beale Street an unfolding renaissance is infusing the historic heart of Kingman, Arizona with an infectious vibrancy. Just in time for the forthcoming anniversaries, that transformation is now sweeping along Andy Devine Avenue, iconic Route 66, and surrounding residential neighborhoods. It is almost as though the hands of time are being turned back.
Passionate entrepreneurs that recognize the opportunities are giving derelict buildings a new lease on life. The City of Kingman has launched an expansive downtown infrastructure improvement project that will make the area pedestrian friendly without impeding traffic. Organizations such as Kingman Main Street are developing projects such as the innovative narrated self guided walking tour. A thriving arts community is being manifest in events, in new galleries, and in the restoration of the Beale Street Theatre as a performing arts center.
Visitors are taking notice, and the city is on the cusp of becoming a destination. Roberto Rossi, an Italian travel journalist recently paid a visit to Kingman. He noted, “Ho avuto la fortuna di visitare Kingman insieme al mio amico James Hinckley che ci ha portati alla scoperta degli angoli nascosti di questa splendida cittadina.” “I was lucky enough to visit Kingman with my friend James Hinckley who took us to discover the hidden corners of this beautiful city.”
And he listed a few things that make Kingman unique.
“2. Downtown Kingman – Walking through historic downtown Kingman is a time trip. Admire the historic buildings and enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants, many of which keep Route 66’s golden years spirit.
3. Events and Festivals – Kingman is known for its events along Route 66, including the “Andy Devine Days Rodeo” and the monthly “Chillin’ on Beale Street,” which offers live entertainment, vintage cars and delicious food.”
The Centennial And Beyond
As we draw closer to the mega anniversary celebrations in 2026, event organizers will have an opportunity to provide the visitor with an authentic experience that is a primary attraction for visitors. And by 2026, with completion of the theatre renovation, the infrastructure project, and facade renovations, organizers of popular events such as The Original Chillin on Beale
will have an opportunity to create multifacted marketing. They will be able to showcase the diverse array of restaurants, microbreweries, and historic architecture as well as attractions such as the narrated self guided tour developed by Kingman Main Street
A diverse array of events held in the historic heart of the city will further fuel the renaissance in the historic heart of Kingman. That will ensure Kingman is a destination for visitors, for entrepreneurs and people looking for opportunity to the Route 66 centennial and beyond.
As Kingman is my adopted hometown, and the foundation for Jim Hinckley’s America
, it has been a distinct honor to play a role in the transformation. And it has me looking toward the future with eager anticipation.