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.

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