NOTES FROM THE ROAD AND BEYOND

I spent an enjoyable hour or so last evening in discussion with John and Judy Springs, the publisher for the new e-zine, 66 The Mother Road, that hit the ground running early this year. If I were a business owner on Route 66, or wanted to have my business associated with Route 66, this is one wagon my horse would surely be hitched to because all indications are that this publication will be hitting its stride in 2012.
Our conversation left me so enthused about the state of the road, and the exciting things on the horizon for 2012, I temporarily forgot that we were reliving the Great Depression. Still, I awoke this morning with the excitement still coursing through my veins and began drafting extensive plans for promoting the road, the businesses and people along legendary Route 66 that make it a true national treasure, my books, and our photography in 2012.
Then I created a series of photo files for Josh Noble, the area tourism director. The photos are the first stage in the forthcoming Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
The enthusiasm was dampened a bit as I walked to work on this brisk morning. It was not the invigorating cold air that took the edge off, but the ever increasing number of empty houses I passed. These are truly exciting times but they are also dark and seem to be getting darker.
With a well developed sense of very dark humor, I began to ruminate on the feasibility of a Great Depression theme park for those who want the true Route 66 experience, circa 1933. A Hooverville, or Obamaville if you would prefer a modern descriptor, could be set up out by the railroad trestle along a section of Route 66 that served as the original alignment as well the course for the National Old Trails Highway.
There is adequate evidence in the area to indicate that the small caves and rock shelters amongst the cliffs served a similar purpose during the 1930s. That might add a touch of authenticity.
Rather than rental cars, cut down and battered Hudsons and T model Fords could be used to shuttle visitors to their lodging for the evening. Then, around three in the morning, they could be rousted by “bulls” waving billy clubs and setting fire to the shanties.
In all seriousness, I don’t think even the most ardent Route 66 enthusiasts would care to experience the old highway from that realistic of a perspective. The true beauty in traveling the highway today is that we can have our cake and eat it to, we can immerse ourselves among the time capsules but with the comfort of air conditioning, Wifi, and, if there is a need for speed, the sterile interstate.
There is a way to greatly enhance the time capsule feel of the road without sacrificing all of the modern amenities – provided you plan ahead, are willing to learn a few lost art skills, and have an adventuresome spirit, and that is to make the drive in an antique vehicle. I am not talking street rod, a modern car hiding beneath the shell of something old, I am talking about something old hiding under vintage styling. With modern technology, and the current state of the economy, such an adventure is more feasible than ever.
The first step is to cast aside preconceived ideas about performance, reliability, and even fuel economy. Did you know that the Nash 600 derived its name because in consistent testing it was found that the car could be driven 600 miles on twenty gallons of gas? Of course this was with a standard transmission and overdrive.
Did you know that the 1951 Hudson with automatic transmission, a vehicle that weighed in the neighborhood of 3,700 pounds, could hit sixty miles per hour in 14 seconds and deliver 14 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour? Did you know that with a stick shift and overdrive these cars would deliver around 20 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour? Did you know the highly advanced brakes would bring this car to a dead stop from 6o miles per hour in 166 feet?
Did you know the Hudson Hornet that came out of retirement at Radiator Springs in the movie Cars was based on the astounding stock car records established by drivers at the wheel of Hudson built vehicles in the early 1950s? Did you know that a number of records set in those races did not fall until the 1980s?
Did you know that showroom fresh, fully restored models of these cars can be add for somewhere between $9,000 and $16,000? Did you know that if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, don’t mind some faded paint, and are willing to learn some simple mechanical skills, you can buy good running, dependable models in the $5,000 range?
Did you know many components for these cars – water pumps, fuel pumps, etc. – can be purchased from NAPA, usually with a 24 hour turn around? Did you know these components often sell for one half or one third less than similar components for modern vehicles? Did you know that the replacement time for these components can be measured in mere hours or that these replacements can be made by you with the most basic of tools?
And if you just have have to have some of the more modern conveniences in your travels technology can provide the best of both worlds, just like traveling Route 66 itself. There are AC conversion kits, and state of the art stereos that mimic original equipment in appearance, as well as wide array of gadgets to enhance, or detract from, the driving experience.
All of this is a segway to the adventure being planned for October in 2012. One of my goals in making this trip, in a vintage Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, De Soto, or Packard, is to present Route 66 as the tailor made highway for vintage automotive enthusiasts and to present bone stock vintage automobiles as the perfect time capsule for enjoying Route 66.
Stay tuned for details –

HAVE I GOT A DEAL FOR YOU – AND A FEW OTHER ROUTE 66 ITEMS OF NOTE

The first order of business is congratulations to Melba and everyone who worked so long and hard to bring recognition to the shortest stretch of Route 66, that 13 mile segment found in the state of Kansas. Rather than reinvent the wheel, follow this link to Route 66 News for more details of their accomplishment.
Another item of note pertains to Rich Dinkella’s latest endeavor to shine the light of fame on legendary Route 66. Again, Route 66 News has all the details.
If you have a company or business that is looking for unique promotional opportunities, I have got a deal for you. How would you like to have that business associated with Route 66? How would you like to help support the numerous places along this storied highway that make it the last bastion of mom and pop enterprise in America?
The idea initially started as the foundation for a new book. As I envisioned it the book would be something similar in nature to Travels with Charley or On the Road, a classic by Jack Kerouac.
In these difficult times when it seems the world has been turned upside down I thought it might be kind of neat to search for the America that shone so bright with promise during the 1940s and 1950s. I would not be seeking the nation that made the Negro Motorist Green Book a necessity for a large portion of the populace during those years but instead the nation that negated its need.
As I gave thought to this project it became increasingly evident that there could be but one road for this quest – iconic U.S. 66, the very Main Street of America for most of the 20th century. This road would be ideal for my journey into the past as it is the colorful thread that ties the past with the present and future.
When I allowed the imagination to meditate upon the many facets of this idea it became quite apparent that driving this road, and savoring its wide array of time capsules would not quite be enough. To develop the proper mindset that allowed me to see the present and future from the past, our mode of transport could not be a new rental car as it was on our last excursion along Route 66. 
Initially, I gave thought to something really unique, a rolling time capsule of historical proportions if you will. As I have long had a curiosity about the first generation of Hudson Super Six, roughly between the years of 1916 and 1928, that became the focus of initial research in seeking the ideal vehicle. 
This search evolved into evaluation of the Model A Ford for this venture, a vehicle admired for its durable simplicity that I have longed to own since my first days behind the wheel. My dearest friend, an adventuresome gal cut from the cloth of frontier era pioneers, gently nudged me to something just a bit more practical – a Nash, Hudson, or Studebaker manufactured between the years 1948 and 1953.
These cars are quite durable, are simplistic in nature, easy to repair and obtain parts for, and have unique styling but are also capable of modern highway speeds, as well as gasoline mileage in the 22 to 30 mile per gallon range. With the focus narrowed as to what type of vehicle would transport us on this grand adventure, and the course charted, I began meditating on other aspects of this odyssey worthy of Jason and the Argonauts.
The book is still the primary reason for the adventure. However, the more I thought of my pending voyage of discovery, the more I came to realize the inspiration that it was my hope to provide through this book should not stop there. I could use this journey to promote the road itself and the people who are transforming it into America’s longest attraction, the people like Laurel Kane, Connie Echols, and Dan Rice who represent the America of the pregeneric age that I was seeking.
This would be accomplished from developing and promoting international buzz about the adventure through the media, the blog, internet radio, television interviews, by scheduling speaking engagements in schools as well as museums, and other venues. As my thoughts twisted through the labyrinth of possibilities it dawned upon me that funding for the trip, a factor that could greatly hinder development of the project to its full potential, could be derived by offering business owners an opportunity to hitch their wagon to the Route 66 phenomena, and in so doing, fuel the resurgent interest that is making it economically viable to refurbish old motels, restaurants, and trading posts.
So, in a nutshell, what I am seeking is sponsors, companies that would like to have their name associated with such a wild and wooly adventure, companies that would like to see their logo and name displayed on a vintage Nash, Studebaker, or Hudson in a NASCAR type manner. What is needed are companies that would benefit from having promotional material for their company distributed along America’s most famous highway from Chicago to Santa Monica.
A rough date for this voyage of discovery is October of 2012. That should allow enough time to locate a vehicle, acquaint myself with its mechanical intricacies through repair and refurbishment as well as a few test runs, and resolve the myriad details associated with a scheme such as this.
As always, your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions are appreciated. Stay tuned for details –

A WEEKEND OF SHOCKING DISCOVERIES, A WORLD OF BLACK AND WHITE, AND ROAD TRIPS

As the title for this post implies, it has been a rather interesting weekend. Saturday morning at the office was spent in valiant efforts to find amicable solutions to real problems with unreasonable customers. A portion of the afternoon was spent rectifying a shocking oversight.
For the umteenth time I was going through the text for the Route 66 encyclopedia to satisfy my paranoia about having transposed a date and to find a way to sneak in more information without adding to the overall word count as a promise had been made to send it to the publisher on Monday. As it turned out the paranoid was justified, I had inadvertently skipped writing the entry for Boise or Washburn in Texas.
After resolving this problem I wrote the acknowledgements, the bibliography, dedication, and authors biography. Now, on Monday morning the whole package can be sent to the editor.
That leaves me a full week to finalize the illustration file. With that complete I can send a copy of the text file and a copy of the illustration file to the publisher. Then, with the exception of final edit and caption writing after the photo selection, I can take a deep breath and set my eyes on promotion of the final product.
This morning, with storm clouds looming and a cold desert wind blowing, my dearest friend and I set out to gather a few final images for the project. The goal was something to illustrate the entry on Lt. Beale, Beale Springs, and the Kingman Army Airfield.
On Monday afternoon, if time allows, I will post a few photos from our endeavor. As I have been playing with black and white photography a bit lately a few might have dramatic overtones.

The header photo for the blog is from last weeks excursion into the Black Mountains. Here is another from that odyssey.
Upon our return we replied to an inquiry requesting additional photos for evaluation. This is for a proposed Arizona centennial project chronicling Route 66 in Mohave County for the tourism center.
Then it was time for Sunday dinner with my son and his family. The grandson, now one year of age, has discovered the joy of food and wants to try everything. The granddaughter, age four, wants to skip dinner and go for the pie or cake. It makes for a lively dinner table.
This evening I compiled a dozen or so photos that exemplify the modern era on Route 66. These are to accompany my interview tomorrow morning for a local tristate cable television program.
The afternoon should be rather exciting as well. The pipe dream of taking to Route 66 in promotion of the new book and the road itself behind the wheel of a vintage car is on the fast track to becoming a reality.
On Monday, I will be discussing this with a couple of potential sponsors, composing a program to be pitched to schools along the road, and checking on two vehicles that fit the bill quite well, both Nash built products, one in 1948 and the other in 1950.
As they say, stay tuned for details. If you are interested in tagging along perhaps we can turn this venture into a veritable convoy of automotive history on America’s most famous highway.
Another exciting development pertains to a permanent gallery location. We took another step forward with this and hope to have an answer before Christmas. This would for allow for development before the 2012 season on Route 66 kicks off.
And that about sums up my weekend. As for the rest of the week, well it looks as though it be just about as busy.
Before I forget, be sure to check out my annual Thanksgiving post. This one will be a bit different and as a result the “America is a secular nation” crowd and the rabid Christian community may very well find common ground in looking for rope, a tall tree, and my address.

ROAD TRIPS, THE FORGOTTEN NASH, AND MORE MARVELS FROM THE ELECTRONIC AGE

The age of gadgetry, electronic marvels, and other distractions continues to intrigue me. I am now using a Facebook page initiated by my previous publicist and seeing a fan club of sorts develop. How odd is that?
I posted some photos from the Monday hike into the Black Mountains and was rather surprised by the response and comments. I will post a few here this afternoon or later this evening.
The idea of taking the time capsule feel of Route 66 one step further by cruising that old road in something older than I am is beginning to dominate the 2012 plans. As noted previously, I had wanted to make the journey in a Model A Ford but have now centered the focus on a Nash, Studebaker, or Hudson manufactured between 1947 and 1953.
I am quite familiar with the Chevrolet vehicles built during these years but for this adventure would want something different, something unique, a vehicle that provides an opportunity to fill a gap in my automotive knowledge. An additional reason for leaning in this direction is fuel economy and performance.
Hudson during these years dominated the racing circuit. In fact, some of the records set did not fall until the early 1980s.
Automobiles manufactured by all three of these companies, especially when equipped with the three speed manual transmission and overdrive, consistently delivered in excess of 20 miles per gallon at speed of 65 and 70 miles per hour. The Nash 600 tested out in the 25 to 30 mile per gallon range!
Funding the adventure might be the major stumbling block. As these companies bit the dust decades ago company sponsorship is out of the question. So, my creative imagination is thinking that perhaps there is a sponsor that would like their company associated with such a crazy stunt and that wouldn’t mind having their names pasted on the doors.
I am quite sure there would be a book in this adventure! It would be almost like having a time machine – six volt electrics, overdrive, AM radio, the Wagon Wheel Motel, Midpoint Cafe, Blue Swallow Motel, wicker picnic basket, and hundreds of two lane miles on a highway signed with two sixes.
Would anyone else be willing to dust off the old car in the garage and tag along. We could fill old motels and cafe parking lots transforming them into time capsule photo opportunites. We could have the adventure of a lifetime!
Pipe dreams. Pipe dreams that might become realities. Aren’t these a few of the things that make the daily grind tolerable?

THERE IS A FORD IN YOUR FUTURE

Automotive history buffs, or duffers a year or two older than I am, will remember the Ford advertisement that featured a crystal ball and the slogan, “There is a Ford in Your Future!” In its day this advertising campaign was as popular as the “see the USA in Your Chevrolet” promotion kicked off by GM a decade later.
Well, I am hoping there is a Ford in my future. There have been a number of Fords in my past but this particular Ford is an elusive one that has been in my future for at least thirty years.
Now, there is a glimmer of hope that the long awaited time capsule in the form of a 1931 Ford truck, bone stock, may become a reality in 2012. A Route 66 adventure in this old buggy would truly be a grand adventure! Why, it might even be enough of an adventure to become a book.
Meanwhile, I focus on the harsh realities that often crowd out dreams and make plans for next years adventure or adventures behind the wheel of our trusty Jeep. As it stands now we have one confirmed adventure and two pending ones.
Confirmed is the trip to Victorville in August for the international Route 66 festival. Pending more information, and vacation schedule, there is the possibility we will be attending a big wingding in Tucumcari in June.
But the one I am most exited about is the trip east in October. The Route 66 Encyclopedia & Atlas is scheduled for release at that time and the initial plan is to give it a public debut in Cuba, Missouri. Not that we need it, but this would provide a perfect excuse to pay another visit to Connie and her magical Wagon Wheel Motel.
Now, I have no qualms with taking the Jeep on these adventures. In fact, we prefer it as we can take to the road less traveled without worry about pavement, mud, or an occasional missing bridge.
But the afore mentioned Model  A would work almost as well in this capacity, just at a reduced speed. As a bonus it would provide us with a great photo prop at every stop, inspire some great camp fire stories, and enhance the time capsule feel of the journey.
Still, I have a long list of vehicles that would fit this bill, with the exception of off road capabilities. As an example I have been evaluating the merits of a Rambler station wagon built between the years 1951 and 1956.
Quirky styling that is sure to inspire conversation at every stop. Check. Superb mileage (25 to 30 miles per gallon). Check. Easy to repair, easy to get parts for, and capable of keeping up with most reasonable drivers on modern highways. Check. Lots of cargo room for books and gear. Check. Good examples can be purchased at surprisingly reasonable prices. Check.
There are several vehicles that fill this order quite well. There is the 1949 to 1951 Nash, any Studebaker built between 1949 and 1955 that is outfitted with overdrive, any Chrysler, with overdrive, built between 1938 and 1941, and any Hudson built between 1935 and 1953.
Of course if I really want to test my dearest friends patience, and did not have a day job that restricted the schedule, I would take to the road in a Hudson Super Six built between 1916 and 1928.
I know little about these cars and they really fascinate me. In 1916, to show off the prowess of the new engine, a stock model touring car was driven from  New York City to San Francisco in just over five days without mechanical failure. It was then driven back, also without mechanical failure in six days.

Okay, a trip along Route 66 in a car without windows, or heater, or air conditioning, or front brakes, or turn signals, or windshield wipers might be a bit much. But can you imagine the fun of driving a beast like this along Route 66 or even along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 through the Black Mountains in Arizona?
I suppose these wistful thoughts give you a better idea as to why my dearest friend will deserve sainthood in two years. That is the least one should expect after thirty years with me.
When we first were courting I drove in from the ranch on weekends in a battered 1946 GMC. We double dated in a 1926 Ford that had sat outside, uncovered, for more than forty years. One of the first vehicles we purchased as husband and wife was a 1956 Ford Fairlane. This was later traded for a 1949 Chevy truck. And so it goes.
I suppose the bottom line is this, road trips are to important to miss out on just because you have an old car or truck. And if your fortunate enough to have some really old, and something very odd, well, that is the frosting on the cake.