The Route 66 Experience in Springfield, Illinois was one of the subjects disccused on Coffee With Jim. ©Jim Hinckley’s America
Coffee With Jim, the live weekly podcast from Jim Hinckley’s America, is all about inspiring road trips by telling people where to go, and the sharing of America’s story. Personally it is also a challenge, a source of frustration, a rewarding endeavor and a grand adventure for a tech challenged old timer like me.
On the December 3rd program our guest was Scoff Dahl, the dynamic Director of the Springfield (Illinois) Convention & Visitors Bureau. We talked about Route 66 events and developments, the Route 66 centennial, and gastronomic adventures in Springfield.
Overall it was an excellent program. Lots of inspiration for road trip enthusiasts, and for community organizers. And as happens every once and awhile, there was a bit of a glitch that put a damper on the first six minutes or so.
Scott called in rather than using the app. Not a problem in itself. But our theme song was stuck on a loop. Interestingly I couldn’t hear this issue on my end, but the audience could. Fortunately a couple of listeners let me know .Still, by the time I resolved the issue by deleting the music, nearly seven minutes of my conversation with Scott was difficult to hear.
What Did You Miss?
As the discussion was so fascinating, I decided to have the program transcribed. Following is the transcript of the first four minutes of our conversation, after we established the phone connection, during the bleed over with the theme song. After the seven minute mark all was good.
I do not like turning out anything that is unprofessional. So, I do apologize. We will continue working to iron out bugs, and to develop the program as a platform for event organizers, community leaders, authors, artists, photographers, and for people with a fascinating or inspirational story to share.
Coffee with Jim is sponsored in part by the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. It is also sponsored by the 1960s time capsule that is the Roadrunner Lodge Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, Uranus Fudge Company & General Store, and Cactus Inn Motel and RV Park in McLean, Texas, another Route 66 gem.
Coffee With Jim, December 3, 2023
Jim: All right. Just hang right on. I’ll be right with you.
Scott: Sounds good.
Jim: …. a beautiful day here in sunny Kingman, Arizona. 39 degrees and sunny. Let’s start with a little bit of music from Joe and Woody and the boys of The Road Crew, always a good way to start a day talking about road trips. Gotta have a little bit of fun. Speaking of road trips, today we’re going to be be talking with a Scott Dahl in Springfield, Illinois. These folks back there in Springfield,
are doing everything but selling a hog on the squeal, I should say selling everything including the squeal on the hog. Hello, Mr Scott Dahl. How are you today, sir?
Scott: Good morning, Jim. Thanks for the invite.
Hey, you bet we’re doing this by phone this morning. So we’ll see how this all works out.
JIm: It was great talking with you at the Miles of Possibility Conference and I gotta tell you, you got me excited about the things you’ve been doing there and your infectious enthusiasm was evident.
Scott: Well, thanks. Appreciate it. Hey, a shameless plug. We’re hosting the MIles of Possibility Conference during the Route 66 centennial (2026). Obviously, we’re excited about that.
Jim: I look forward to that one.I really have a feeling you guys are gonna pull out all the stops.
Scott: We are. Yes. We’ve already started planning and absolutely, we will make it worthy of their 100th anniversary celebration.
Jim: I had to laugh when we were at the miles of possibility conference. You really hit the ground running, and created some waves when you started there in Springfield with your sunrise,
donut sign adventure.
Scott: Yeah. Right. So, you know, two months after being appointed Director of the Springfield Convention Bureau this sign comes up for public auction and you know we had thought it should stay in the city. We needed to jump and there were a lot of bidders. It is obviously iconic in Springfield and we jumped in, and Ace Sign Company helped us out and it did create some waves.A matter of fact,
it almost cost me my job.
Jim: Well, you know that’s what I like. You’ve got the tenacity and you stuck it out.
Scott: I think people saw what you were trying to accomplish.
Jim: well, I’m glad that you didn’t lose your job over this.
Scott: Well, they didn’t see it immediately. Let me tell you that, you know, they they certainly questioned it. They questioned how someone could be on a job for a few months and spend $20,000 on a seven year old neon sign. But, you know we wanted to talk about more than just the sign. The route 66 International Festival. You know,
our annual festival we’ve had for only a few plus years now and we,
Searching for Route 66 is made easier with the innovative Route 66 Navigation app.
Searching for Route 66 on an adventure from Chicago to Santa Monica can be a challenge. After all, officially, the most famous highway in America doesn’t exist. It hasn’t since 1985.
A few states such as Illinois realize the economic benefits or Route 66 tourism. Careful attention is given to ensure that the iconic highway has plenty of signage. And the old double six figures prominently in the official marketing of Illinois. In fact an argument could easily be made that when it comes to Route 66, Illinois sells everything on the hog including the squeal.
It is also relatively easy to navigate Route 66 in Oklahoma. Even in the big cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Missouri has also done a fair job with signage. And as the distance on Route 66 from the Missouri state line to the Oklahoma state line is less than 15 miles, it is difficult to get lost.
But what about the other states along the highway corridor? What about the older alignments? And St. Louis as well as the Los Angeles metropolitan area can be a challenge even for the seasoned Route 66 traveler.
Searching For Route 66
For the passionate road trip adventurer, half the fun is getting lost and making new discoveries. Still, there are lots of discoveries to make on Route 66, and there were a number of alignments as the highway evolved.
Searching for Route 66 is made easier with two simple tools. One, EZ 66 Guide For Travelers by artist and author Jerry McClanahan, is a throwback to the era of tail fins and I Like Ike buttons.
It is a durable flip ring book with hand drawn maps, notes, trivia, and detailed directions. To add value as a guide, McClanahan maintains a website with updates about road closures and similar news of importance. He even includes the address of his gallery just a couple blocks off Route 66 in Oklahoma, and encourages people to stock by and get an autograph.
A Modern Twist
A modern twist on traveling is the use of apps that have almost completely replaced the atlas and folded map. When it comes to Route 66, the best app available is Route 66 Navigation. And that app is about to get even better.
Marian Pavel, owner of Touch Media, the company developing the app, spends a month or more on Route 66 each year. He tests the app, looks for flaws, and devises ways that it can be improved.
Currently the expansive point of interest file is being updated and expanded. That is where I come in. After all, at Jim Hinckley’s America telling people where to go is our stock in trade.
And now an event section is being developed. This will provide event organizers with a powerful promotional tool. And it will enhance the travelers experience.
Getting Your Kicks
Getting your kicks on Route 66 just might be the ultimate American road trip. And with the centennial fast approaching, things are changing fast. Events are being organized and old businesses are being given a new lease on life. New businesses are opening. And new attractions are being developed.
With McClanahan’s guide for the copilot, and the multifaceted Route 66 Navigation app, you take the guess work out of a Routte 66 odyssesy. So, you can just relax and have fun, and not spend your time searching for Route 66.
A vintage neon sign again glows bright along Route 66.
Welcome To El Trovatore – Unincorporated. When I discovered that simple sign in the basement of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts in Kingman, Arizona, I had my second piece of hard evidence that the urban myth was a reality. But I lacked answers. And nearly five years later, I am no closer to unraveling the mystery.
Welcome To El Trovatore
About a dozen years ago I was working on a project to document historic motels, and hotels in Kingman. One of these was the prewar El Trovatore Motel complex.
During my research I found a simple single paragraph in a copy of the AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages published in 1940. The listing noted that the 30 unit motel, with adjoining cafe, was located on Route 66 one mile east of Kingman in El Trovatore.
El Trovatore? Over the years I had heard mention of El Trovatore in conversations with some old timers. But there was no evidence that it was seperate from Kingman.
The More That I Learn
That simple listing proved an adage learned long ago. The more that I learn, the more that I realize how little I know.
Before discovery of the listing in the AAA guide, I had some knowledge about El Tovatore Hill. A post 1921 alignment of the National Old Trails Road climbed the hill from west to east in a graceful “S”. That road, now Chadwick Drive, became Route 66 in 1926.
I also knew that the steep escarpment was the reason that the first alignment of the National Old Trails Road followed South Front Street (Topeka Street today) east and the through Slaughter House Canyon to the Hualapai Mountain foothills. I also knew that this was the course for a late 19th century wagon road that connected Kingman with Hackberry.
But, apparently, there was a town or community of El Trovatore.
This long vanished roadside oasis stood at the summit of El Trovatore Hill along Route 66 near Kingman, Arizona. Authors collection
A few years passed between the AAA guidebook discovery and finding the sign in the basement. In between was acquisition of an early 1930s postcard, and locating where the pictured restaurant had been located.
This cafe was located along what is now Chadwick Drive, near the summit of El Trovatore Hill about a city block away from the El Trovatore Motel. The postcard indicated that the restaurant was in Kingman.
But, as I later learned, the El Trovatore sign was placed almost directly across the highway from the cafe. But when?
When was the unincorporated community of El Trovatore established, when did it become part of Kingman, and when was the sign added to the roadside? When was it removed and where was it before ending up in the museum basement? Questions that lead to questions.
What I Do Know About El Trovatore
Here is what I do know. And these are my thoughts, my speculation based on the puzzle pieces that I have uncovered to date.
An article about bypass construction from July 1946.
The road that carried National Old Trails Road, and Route 66, traffic up the hill in the “S” curves was built in late 1920 or early 1921. The El Trovatore sign dates to sometime between 1935 and 1939.
The section of the highway around El Trovatre Hill was bypassed with a cut through El Trvatore Hill constructed in 1946. This article from July 1946 indicates that the constructioon connects Kingman with El Trovatore.
So, we can assume with a bit of confidence that El Trovatore existed for at least a decade. But even this gets a bit confusing. Properties to the east, such as Hood’s Court & Market showed a Kingman address, but only in some places. In others the location was given as El Trovatore.
Well, at Jim Hinckley’s America we share America’s story. And on occasion we share American mysteries.
Chadwick Drive, an early alignment of Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona
Tales of campgrounds and one dollar soup in Denny Gibson‘s new book Tracing a T to Tampa are richly illustrated snapshots of a road trip in 1920. But this book is also the story of one mans quest for a family connection. It piqued my interest, and provided a bit of road trip inspiration.
The Great American Road Trip
I met Denny Gibson more years ago than I care to count during a Route 66 adventure. As it turned out, aside from a fascination with the many facets of iconic Route 66, we also shared an interest in the pioneers that traveled the country when the automobile was on the cusp of putting old Dobbins out to pasture for good.
For the first time in history, people were free of railroad time tables and schedules. Sure, an automobile owner may have had to contend with breakdowns and flat tires while traveling. But unlike the horse, when not in use the automobile cost nothing. That was one of the advantages noted by Ransom E. Olds in an 1892 interview.
The travels of pioneering “automobilists” appear epic to the modern driver on a cross country trip. Available services before 1915 were minimal at best. Popular guide books listed pages of suggested equipment that should be carried including a pistol and chicken wire to use in sand. And what passed for “highways” in rural areas were little changed from the era of the Oregon Trail.
As an example here this is a reprint of a letter written in 1920 from Denny’s book. “We are now fifty miles from Nashville. Frank is so cold he had to stop and warm. It was 18 degrees above this morning. We decided as it was 11 o’clock we would stop and eat dinner. We ate two bowls of soup each and it cost us $1.00. We aready to start if we can decide which way to go.”
Imagine that. Eighteen degrees and a Model T touring car with no windows aside from the windshield, and no heater. No uniform signage, just arrows and occasionally stripes painted on a telegraph pole indicating Dixie Highway, Jefferson HIghway or another named road.
Dawn of A New Era
Counted among the many things that fascinate me about this era is the speed with which the automobile was adapted. In 1903, Dr. Jackson became the first person to drive an automobile from coast to coast. It took him 62 days.
In 1893, the Duryea brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts launched the first automobile manufacturing company in the United States. Three years later a Duryea Motor Wagon was given top billing as a curiosity at the Barnum & Bailey Circus. But in 1900 the first automobile show in the country was held in New York City, and vehicles from 35 manufacturers were on display.
A steam powered car built by the Stanley brother’s was driven to a speed record of nearly 150 miles per hour in 1906.Leading carriage and wagon builders such as Studebaker began to transition into the production of automobiles.
And with the passing of each year, the number of automobilists grew. In 1915, Edsel Ford and Emily Post were just two of the more than 20,000 that drove to the Panama Pacific Exposition in California.
Blurring The Line
For the early road tripping motorists the line was blurred between past and present. But we must remember, a forty year old man that took to the road in 1920, was born in 1880. That was just a few years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. And it was six years before Geronimo surrendered.
So, camping was simply a part of the traveling experience. As Gibson’s book illustrates, travelers camped and to capitalize on the growing number of travelers city’s often established municipal campgrounds.
“It was so cold. We are hunting a place to camp. Will put up for the nights as soon as we can and try to warm up. We found a school house and they let us in. We had good coal fire. Had a rabbit we shot for dinner and say we did warm ourselves good. Carrys slept in the school house, but we slept in the machine. We were good and warm.”
I can highly recommend Denny’s book if you have an interest in the pioneering motorist. And if you are a fan of road trips, and need a bit of inspiration, it will be a welcome addition to the library.