Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places

It has been a week of contrasts. Last weekend I was in

Burbank, Los Angeles, and Pasadena. This week business took me to the original Las Vegas, Tucumcari, and a few points in between. At every stop, in every meeting, in every conversation, and with each presentation made, I found inspiration and was introduced to innovative plans for community development and revitalization. To balance that out I also found ample reason for despondency when meditating on communities that seem to have made the squandering of opportunity a goal.

Kix on 66 in Tucumcari is indicative of how this community is being transformed.

When you roll into Tucucmari from the west there is no indication that this is a community ripe with passionate optimism or enthusiasm about the future. The highway,  old U.S. 66, is lined with empty and vandalized motels and truck stops, and overgrown foundations. The surprisingly modern and expansive convention center parking lot is peppered with weeds growing through the cracks. In the historic business district the collapse of a building necessitated closure of a street, vacant lots between buildings hint of what once was, and there are empty store fronts on every street. Simply put, there is ample evidence to support a rather sobering statistic – the population has dropped almost 16% since 2,000.

Not quite as obvious is the evidence that this community is still vibrant, that it is still looking toward toward the future with eager anticipation and even vision. Three historic motels along the Route 66 corridor, one of which is in need of extensive refurbishment, recently sold to investors that have relocated to Tucumcari. The state of the art Tucumcari Bio Energy Company is about to commence production. This coming week a new restaurant will open. During my visit I enjoyed an open air dinner and lively conversation with fifty people from Norway, clients of a company that now includes an overnight stay in Tucumcari with each Route 66 tour. An event that centers on touring the area by bicycle this fall is under development, and is already attracting interest from  enthusiasts from Texas as well as New Mexico and Colorado.  At a meeting of the city commissioners, there was not one public comment that contained a complaint without suggestion of a solution.

I was in town to teach but as it turned out, I also was a student. David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge (a formerly abandoned and vandalized 1960’s motel that is now a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts)  had facilitated sponsorship of my presentation on the utilization of heritage tourism as a component in the creation of an integrated economic development plan, and as a tool in community revitalization, with the Tucumcari Quay County Chamber of Commerce, Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, and Tucumcari Main Street initiative.  In addition to the presentation where I shared a summary of successes in Pontiac, Illinois, Galena, Kansas, and Cuba, Missouri, and outlined ways the community could capitalize on its heritage, I also introduced Steve LeSueur of My Marketing Designs. LeSueur’s company is producing the Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 video series, and is developing the Promote Route 66 initiative utilizing the Promote Kingman template.

The Q & A session was spirited and lively. It was also inspirational and educational. These community leaders are well aware of Tucumcari’s history but they are looking toward the future. I confirmed this when speaking before the Rotary Club, attending the city commissioners meeting latter that day, and at an informal reception with the owners of the Blue Swallow Motel, their friends, and the president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico.

Rounding out my visit and exploratory tour of Tucumcari was the weekly Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook live program. This episode took place at Kix on 66, a great place for breakfast and a living time capsule. Guests on the program were Steve LeSueur, Melissa Beasley, president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico, and KC Keefer, producer of the Unoccupied Route 66 video series as well as promotional videos for the city of Tucumcari.

To say the very least, my visit to Tucumcari was educational and inspirational. It was also sobering and even a bit depressing, especially when my thoughts turned toward another Route 66 community, a place where self serving factions, apathy, divisions, indifference, and obstruction negate opportunity as well as blunt the promise of bright future.





Friday, November 11, was a day for honoring our veterans, those who have served our country with valor and honor. It was also an historic occasion as on that date in 1926, the number 66 was assigned to the newly minted highway that stretched from Chicago, across the heartland and through the southwest, to Los Angeles. 
Fittingly, this past weekend there was a celebration in Los Angeles to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the most famous highway in America, and some of the events took place at the highways original western terminus – 7th Street and Broadway Avenue. The fact that this is at the heart of the cities historic theater district, which is undergoing a rather dramatic and exciting rebirth, made it seem an even more appropriate place to celebrate the renaissance of the most famous highway in America. 
The Palace Theater built in 1910 was the focal point for a series of fascinating conferences that ran the gamut from utilization of social media to promote events and businesses, and the power of Yelp, to the excitement of traveling the storied old highway in the modern era. A showing of The Grapes of Wrath was also on the schedule of events that took place in the lovely old theater. 
I was honored by a request that I speak at this historic event, and in such a stunning setting. The theme of my presentation was Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future.
The original western terminus of Route 66
 in Los Angeles. 
With a website as unusual as the restaurant itself, the recently refurbished Clifton’s Cafeteria, just a few yards from the original western terminus of Route 66, became a focal point for lunch and dinner gatherings. 
This stunning architectural masterpiece opened in 1935, and the recent restoration was completed with an eye for detail to ensure that its unique interior appointments and murals were as close to original as possible. There are even some fascinating displays of original neon. 
Though the festival did not develop exactly as originally planned, and it fell short of the initial expectations and envisioned scope, it accomplished the primary goals set forth by organizers; introduce the Route 66 community to the wonders of the Route 66 corridors in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and in surrounding communities, encourage enthusiasts to explore beyond the confines of Route 66, show the world that Route 66 in the metro area can be explored without an automobile, and ensure that everyone in attendance had a memorable time. It was another blending of the business of Route 66 with the fun of Route 66 in one memorable and historic event. 
A large number of attendees stayed at the Saga Motor Inn in Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard, an alignment of Route 66. Dating to 1956, the motel is truly a well maintained, living time capsule. As a bonus, rates are surprisingly reasonable,  there are an array of interesting restaurants within walking distance, and the metro rail line that provides an almost direct connection to the historic theater district in Los Angeles is accessed a few blocks away. 
Proximity to the Saga, and availability of a large private room, was a primary reason that Cameron’s Seafood in Pasadena was selected for the traditional gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts lovingly referred to as “roadies.” The dinner itself was a reflection of the unique nature of the Route 66 community as these events are more family reunion than anything else. In attendance were roadies from several states and five countries including representatives from Route 66 associations in Germany, Canada, and Japan.   
Another long standing tradition is the Yahoo “Route 66 e-group” breakfast that takes place at a different festival every year. This year the event took place near the historic Union Station at Philippe’s, a restaurant with origins dating to 1918, that has operated from the same location since 1951. 
The e-group also serves as a place to share Route 66 related news, developments, and messages. There is no cost to join. 
The restaurant was selected to further give enthusiasts a look at what LA has to offer, and to provide easier access to motor coach tours scheduled for that morning. As always, thanks to the dedication of Mike and Sharon Ward, and event organizers, it was another enjoyable addition to the festival. 
In addition to providing an opportunity for enthusiasts to gather for breakfast before a day of exploration, it also provides a bit a of fun as well as a promotional opportunity for businesses along Route 66. Throughout the year Mike Ward gathers all manner of Route 66 related promotional materials and souvenirs, including historic maps, that are given away in a raffle during breakfast. 
Meanwhile, while all of this was taking place, at the opposite end of Route 66 in California, Needles was also hosting an event to celebrate the highways 90th anniversary. As I couldn’t be in two places at once, my evaluation of the events success is based on photos as well as reports. All indications are that it was such a success, there are plans for making it an annual event. 
The event in Los Angeles, and in Needles, was but one more indication that Route 66, the Main Street of America, is alive and well. It is is vibrant, it is an international community, and it is the ultimate American road trip adventure.   
To everyone who worked so hard to transform the idea into an event, thank you. To all of the Route 66 family that attended, thank you for making it a most memorable get together. 


Whimsy at Red Oak II
For all intents and purposes the two and a half week odyssey through the southwest and the heartland of America, with a brief foray into the land of Dixie was a business trip. 
Presentations, education, and Kingman area marketing were the foundation for this truly epic adventure that spanned twelve states and almost 5,000 miles.
I have slowly built a coalition of organizations and business owners that see value in my ability to promote the Kingman area, as well as Route 66. This particular trip was sponsored by Kari Jo Hill, the Promote Kingman initiative (the host for an exciting event that will take place on November 19), Savon Bath Treats, Grand Canyon Caverns, MyMarketing Designs, the Hualapai Tribe, and the Route 66 Association of Kingman.   
As I truly enjoy the new job and the latest chapter in life shared with my dearest friend, there are no complaints even though at times the schedule was rather grueling. 
In coming weeks I will be sharing details and suggestions for great restaurants, unique lodging experiences, sites to see, festivals to add to the calendar, and a review of the new Chevy Cruze, a vehicle that was thoroughly tested on this trip. I will also provide details of what was garnered from meetings with business owners, tourism and economic development directors, city managers, Main Street Program directors, and attendance of the Miles of Possibilities Conference. 
Today, however, I will give just a few of the highlights from what was a most memorable odyssey made even more enjoyable by the people and friends met along the way. 
The first and last days were the most difficult as both required the covering of many miles, which meant that there was little time for dawdling, seeing the sites, or a great deal of visitation. Still, the landscapes traversed are among the most beautiful in the world and we did find time, on the first day for a few minutes with David Heward of Holbrook, and a lunch shared with Rhys and Sam Martin in Gallup.
The charming Rhys and Sam Martin
Day two was long and tiring; a drive from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Shamrock, Texas with a couple of meetings along the way. We missed the Mueller’s in Tucumcari but did enjoy lunch with David Brenner of the Roadrunner Lodge (Amanda was out of town). 
Then we slowed the pace rather dramatically; the next day was a leisurely drive to Claremore, and the day after, only as far as Joplin via 13.5 miles of Route 66 in Kansas. We played tourist with stops at places like Red Oak II, made a few new discoveries, attended more meetings, had dinner with friends and associates, met some interesting people, talked with old friends, missed a few others, and distributed promotional materials from the Kingman area. This theme continued for the remainder of the trip.
There were stops at the Coleman Theater where we listened to music from the Phantom of the Opera played on the vintage Wurlitzer organ during a raging thunderstorm, and a somber visit to a German military cemetery in Oklahoma. 
One evening included hugs from Ramona at the Munger Moss Motel where we shared dinner on a rather chilly evening with a tour group from Australia. Another was seasoned with the music of the Road Crew and the laughter of friends at Belmont Winery during Cuba Fest.
On another stormy night filled with roaring thunder and flashes of lightening bright enough to read by, my dearest friend and I were snuggled deep in a century old bed at the historic Corner George Inn, an 1880’s hotel and saloon in the charming village of Maeystown in Illinois that is accessed by crossing a stone bridge built in the 1850’s.

Another delightful little oasis for the weary traveler was found in Cortez, Colorado on the return trip. The Retro Inn that dates to 1953 is exactly what the name implies, a courtyard lined with time capsules. Clean, reasonable rates, and an attention to detail in presenting the illusion in each room that it is 1958 or 1960 place this motel on our favorites list. 

Another historic chapter in the Route 66 story was the Miles of Possibilities Conference that took place in Bloomington, Illinois. The organizers should be proud of a job well done. 
I was quite honored by the opportunity to speak about the Route 66 renaissance, with Kingman as an example, at the event, and a great deal was learned from attending a few of the presentations. As a bonus there was ample opportunity to visit with old friends, and the event was designed to showcase the charms of historic Bloomington/Normal.  
Forest Park in St. Louis. 
I was also quite honored by an opportunity to speak about 90 years of adventures on Route 66, and the history of that storied old highway in the southwest at the beautiful Missouri History Museum located in Forest Park. 
Even though an early alignment of Route 66 passes through a corner of this beautiful park, many enthusiasts miss it when cruising through St. Louis.
The museum is hosting a superb Route 66 exhibit through next summer. In addition, to touring the museum and exhibit, we had the privilege of enjoying an orphan car show that was taking place on the same day as my presentation. 
Food is always a big part of our adventures be they here in Arizona or to Europe. We revel in the discovery of historic, quirky, or fascinating restaurants and new taste sensations. 

This trip was no exception. One rainy afternoon we enjoyed a superb beef stew at Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita, followed by apple cobbler. On another day it was an excellent Shepherd’s Pie and pleasant conversation with Nick Adam at the Ariston Cafe. 
In Colorado we discovered a quirky named restaurant where the food was marginal at best. In Cuba, Missouri we sampled the lamb burger with a Greek touch at the new Four Way Restaurant and was pleasantly surprised. 
In short, it was a successful and fun filled adventure. Those who invested in my promotional endeavors should be pleased. 
As noted, in coming weeks I will provide more detail. Moreover, as I will be attending the events in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks, there will be even more to share.    



The historic Summit Inn, a casualty of the
Blue Cut fire. 

Perhaps the dominant Route 66 related story this week is the loss of the Summit Inn in the Cajon Pass resultant of the Blue Cut fire. Even though its loss pales in comparison to the overall scope of this unfolding calamity, it is quite a blow for the Route 66 community.
On a bit of a brighter note, I am quite pleased to announce a money saving offer from Ramada Kingman, the city’s only full service Route 66 resort. For a 10% discount on rooms as well as Kingman area promotional packages, simply use the code JIMHINCKLEY when making a call in reservation.
I hope that this serves as added incentive to visit Kingman, and to discover the world of wonder in our neighborhood. As an example, one of the Ramada Packages includes free tickets for a Grand canyon Caverns tour, which would require a drive of sixty scenic miles along Route 66. 
In the coming weeks, as Jim Hinckley’s America broadens its reach and scope (after months of trial and error), there will be similar offers from other businesses, and marketing opportunities for businesses as well as for communities and event organizers.
Expanding the scope (podcasts, video blogs, presentations, etc.) of Jim Hinckley’s America, a long pursued goal, is made possible by sponsors and advertisers. This week, I am pleased to announce the addition of My Marketing Designs, Save On Bath Treats, and Simply Prepaid from T-Mobil, the Kingman store, as sponsors.   
Now, I would like to share a few thoughts on communities that get it, those that don’t, and those that are starting to. This train of thought started with a brief tour of the Kingman historic district to showcase all of the recent developments followed by a very good dinner at the Dambar, and some stimulating conversation punctuated with a few laughs shared with Jessica and Nancy Mueller, one half of the family that provides the Blue Swallow Motel with such infectious vibrancy. 

One topic of our conversation that was rather timely for me pertained to communities that steadfastly wait for their ship to come in while sitting in a train depot. In these tragic places opportunity flows into town on a daily basis but it never is moved from the docks. Even worse, resources are squandered on developing ways to profit from association with the railroad even though the rail line ends on the outskirts of town.
As noted previously, communities located on Route 66, especially in the southwest, have at their fingertips almost unlimited marketing and promotional opportunities. As a bonus, by applying resources to development that makes the town a destination for tourists, the tourists will in turn magnify promotional initiatives rather dramatically.
Surprisingly, a number of communities along the highway corridor see little or no value in developing Route 66 related marketing, or even giving the endless stream of Route 66 travelers a reason to do more than fill their car with gas or grab a bag of burgers on their way out of town. 
This is a bit extreme but here is an example of chasing nickels while dollars blow down the street. I recently attended a marketing meeting in Williams, Arizona on behalf of a client. The business owner that had called the meeting was looking to create a pooled resource marketing initiative.
When I broached the subject of target marketing the international Route 66 community through this initiative, the abrupt and curt response was that this would be a complete waste of resources as Route 66 is irrelevant. I believe the exact words were something like, “A Route 66 market, why don’t I just sell my business and open an Edsel dealership?”
Did I mention that this gentleman owned a business on Route 66, in WILLIAMS, ARIZONA? Incredibly, I have encountered similar attitudes at the city level when addressing chambers of commerce, city councils, and even tourism offices.
The concept of pooled resource marketing is an idea that has intrigued me for quite some time, especially in regards to the possibilities it represents for Route 66 communities or business owners. I am currently following the progress of Kingman Circle, a similar concept but with a narrower focus. 
What, may I ask, are your thoughts about a similar initiative developed for the Route 66 community?   




A stunning view at Grand Canyon Western Ranch.
For my dearest friend and I, it has been quite a dry spell. I am not referring to the lengthy dry spell in Arizona that may result in folks hunting jerky instead of deer, but instead to the lack of travel this year. 
We enjoyed an epic adventure to the Netherlands and Belgium in January, a trip to Two Guns for a guided tour by Sean Evans that was shared with a few friends, and I attended the Route 66 events in Holbrook. Aside from this, our adventures have been limited to some short but interesting excursions in the immediate area; one to Grand Canyon Caverns and another to Grand Canyon Western Ranch. 
Still, we have no complaints. It is just that in recent years we have become rather spoiled by being able to enjoy one or more trips on Route 66, and a dozen or so side trips on an annual basis. 
So, the pending adventure to the Miles of Possibilities Conference and Route 66 related events in Edwardsville, Illinois has us chomping at the bit. Lodging and rental car reservations are made, and meetings scheduled. Next, notifying friends along the way and packing the bags (and updating the laptop, loading cartons of books as well as promotional materials, stocking up the pantry for the caretaker of the castle, and assorted last minute details).
Even though our travels have been a bit limited in scope this year, we have enjoyed an array of international adventures thanks to friends who stopped by on their Route 66 odyssey. Most recently these adventures were in the form of a dinner with Jan Kuperus, a beer with an acquaintance from the Netherlands, coffee with Akio Takeuchi and his family, breakfast with Eva and Zdnek Jurasek, and their tour from the Czech Republic, and Ellen and Udo Klinkel who were traveling with Dr. Nick Gerlich
There are also a gauntlet of meetings to attend, the ongoing negotiations with the publisher, and an event or two standing between us and a road trip. Saturday there is a German Fest in Seligman. On Monday, I meet with Gilligan’s Wild West Tour when they stop in town and finalize details for the self publishing endeavor. Tuesday will be consumed with a series of meetings that range from planning sessions for the Celebrate 90 initiative facilitated by the Route 66 Association of Kingman to city government. 
For us as well as visitors on the weekend of October 16, the biggest problem will be deciding just what to do. On the evening of the 16th there is a reception for the National Route 66 Motor Tour at the Powerhouse Visitor center linked with a special showing of the vehicles housed at that facility in the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum. 
On Saturday you can choose between the 2nd Annual Rattler Mountain Bike event, a bluegrass festival at Stetson Winery, or a cruise to Grand Canyon Caverns that is a part of the package being offered by Ramada Kingman. That evening its Chillin’ on Beale and Cinema under the Stars hosted by the Route 66 Association of Kingman. 
For years Kingman was, in my humble opinion, the undisputed champion of overlooked vacation destinations. That seems to be changing at a rather rapid clip. 
In addition to a staggering number of exciting and diverse events that will be taking place most every weekend in 2016, there is our “160-Miles of Smiles” which is the longest uninterrupted segment of Route 66 remaining. There are also some pretty interesting resorts and adventure packages such as two day rafting trips in the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Caverns Resort, Hualapai Mountain Resort, and Grand Canyon Western Ranch for unique lodging options, good food, and even a cowboy camp out. 
As added incentive for making a voyage of discovery to Kingman, contact Ramada Kingman (928-753-6262) for information about the availability of special packages or room discounts. If you book an adventure with Grand Canyon Western Ranch, use promo code “Hinckley” and receive a 10% discount. And, if you catch me on the road, inquire about Grand Canyon Caverns and I can arrange for a special $59.00 room rate at he Caverns Inn, a 48-room time capsule. 
So, just because fall has officially arrived, and winter is just around the corner, don’t give up on road trips!