In my short time here on planet earth I have survived a couple of hurricanes and tornados, an ill advised attempt to earn my pay on the rodeo circuit, several car accidents, an epic desert dust storm or two, a few blizzards in the north country, a couple of wild monsoon storms, appendicitis, pneumonia, a kayaking trip on the Colorado River (in a leaking kayak), a few broken bones and a couple of good wallops to the head. In a few weeks, Lord be willing and if the creek doesn’t rise, to this list of tragedies that I have survived will be added 2020, the year of the apocalypse. And that takes us to celebrating the holidays in a time of pandemic, a never ending election, two headed sharks, poisonous earth worms invading Georgia, face masks, overwhelmed food banks, unprecedented opportunity, Zoom meetings, and virtual Christmas parties.
Needless to say, the holiday season this year will be different. Travel is questionable. Family gatherings via Zoom is just downright odd. Employees at the post office, Fed Ex and UPS are being buried as people break all records with on line ordering. Walmart is, well, Walmart. Restaurants are closed, or open, maybe.
As you may have noticed I am being a bit facetious today. It is my feeble way of injecting a bit of levity into a tense situation, to try to get people to smile a bit, to make the best of a bad situation, and to find some humor in a generally humorless year. But on more serious note, for your Christmas shopping I would like to suggest that you consider thinking outside of the box this year. With that said, let me give you a few ideas.
Let’s start with One Stop 66. Consider this a virtual flea market for Route 66 businesses, artists, photographers and authors. You will find lots of interesting and unique gift ideas on this site. As a bonus you will be giving small businesses a much needed helping hand, and ensuring that authors or artists don’t become starving artists or authors. Did I mention that the owners of the website have created an array of colorful Route 66 centennial merchandise?
Next, how about handcrafted wooden bowls from a Dutch artisan? These might strain the budget a bit, especially with the cost of shipping from the Netherlands, but they are more than a mere gift. These would be heirlooms shared for generations to come.
Even though we now use our phones as calendars, as well as a device to watch videos about cats and the people of Walmart, and on occasion make calls, the old fashioned wall calendar is a gift that keeps on giving for at least twelvemonths. This is especially true if it is a fine art calendar from internationally acclaimed photographer Jim Livingston based in Amarillo, Texas. His prints depicting scenes from Route 66, the Texas Panhandle and the great Plains are on display in banks, prestigious offices and homes.
Treat yourself or the adventurer in your family with a road trip inspiring book or a series of true crime stories that reads as a novel. Both books, 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die or Murder And Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66. Both books written by yours truly are available at a special discounted rate on the Jim Hinckley’s Americawebsite. As a bonus, I will deface them with my signature. This will not lower the value of the books. Just kidding. Murder and Mayhem was the recipient of the Independent Publisher silver medal award. Unfortunately I can only offer domestic shipping resultant of prohibitive costs for international mailings.
And of course, if you would prefer putting your holiday funds to something that provides a service there is always our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. By committing to support you would have access to exclusive content. And you would be supporting our work to develop educational programs such as the forthcoming presentation about Route 66 for the Rotary Club in El Paso, Texas. This year we have used crowdfunding to subsidize discounted advertising on the Jim Hinckley’s America travel network for struggling businesses. It has also made it possible for us to offer free promotional programs such as the coffee cup sponsor initiative on the weekly Coffee With Jim live streamed program, the free weekly travel planning newsletter that includes event promotion, and the creation of other live stream programs.
Bottom line, the folks who own Amazon and Walmart have done rather well this year. Now it’s time to lend a bit of support to the small businesses that add color, vibrancy and life to small town America. This whole year has been unusual and different. Let’s carry that into the holiday season and think about buying gifts that have character, and that are as unique as the person you are buying them for.
Author Jim HInckley signing books after leading a neon nights walking tour in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Anita Shaw
I am not sure when the vision first manifested but for many, many years there would be glimpses of my senior years as an odd blending of Slim Pickens in the film The Getaway, Jack Elam, and Walter Brennen. On occasion a new dimension would be added such as the character that Robert Duval played in the movie Open Range. With the luxury of hindsight I now see that becoming a colorful character in my old age was more a goal than developing a profitable career. Oddly enough I never really worked at it, it just seemed to evolve naturally. Perhaps it was best described by ma who said that I was born ninety and never aged.
In 1981, when my dearest friend and I were courting, I drove a 1946 GMC as my daily transportation. The exterior of that old workhorse was best described as junkyard camouflage. I could park that truck in any junk yard and it would blend in perfectly. I used kerosene lamps as there was no electricity in my cabin, and cooked as well as heated on an ancient wood burning stove. We were married almost ten years before purchasing a truck manufactured after I was born. We used an avocado green rotary dial wall phone until 2005. We used a black and white television until about 1990. That was the year I sold my first feature article. It was written on a 1948 Underwood typewriter.
At age 16, for the first time, with my own money I purchased a jacket. It was a canvas Carhart farm coat. At age 62, I bought a new jacket. It was identical with but one exception. This one was sold under the Wrangler name. I was so thin when my dearest friend and I married that hiding behind a flagpole was a real option in a game of hide and seek. I wore 29×30 Wrangler jeans. I still wear Wrangler jeans, they are just a bit bigger, 33×30 in the winter, 32×30 in the summer. That comes from long hours spent polishing an office chair with my backside as I work daily to tell people where to go.
In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. I am comfortable as a caricature, a tangible blending of the past and the present, a link to an earlier time. There is a certain pride that comes from being introduced as an intellectual redneck, America’s storyteller or the Will Rogers of the 21st century. This continuing evolution has me looking forward to the years left in what is the unfolding final chapter.
I can already see that my diplomatic skills are weakening. Every day I better understand Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino. With each passing day it becomes harder to bite my tongue, especially in the era of a never ending election, people passionately defending mindless conspiracy theories, and social media networks that allow people to return to junior high school. See, manifestations of my future life as an old fart are already becoming evident.
So, if I were to look into the crystal ball, what would I see for my future? Well, there is an increasing desire to own a Model A Ford or vehicle of similar vintage (Hudson Super Six, Nash, Studebaker, Chrysler?) and do some nationwide touring with a possible detour into Canada. And I have always wanted to go to Alaska. My dearest friend, an adventuresome soul that remembers double dating in a ’26 Ford, helping me push start the ’49 Chevy truck after a date, and the Dodge that the door fell off of, has been gently nudging me toward something a bit more practical such as a ’49 Hudson or ’57 Chevy truck. After nearly forty years of marriage we have learned to compromise.
Then there is the childhood quest to become a writer when I grow up that still needs to be fulfilled. And that takes us to Jim Hinckley America’s. Telling people where to go is my passion. Inspiring road trips. Shared adventures. Friends and friends yet made. So, that will most definitely be a focus in years to come. And as it so happens, that dovetails with my ongoing development as a colorful character. Besides, working is a sure death albeit a slower one than starvation.
My dearest friend and I have come to really enjoy Europe; the people, the food, the sites, the history and the landscapes. And we have so many friends there. I often entertain thoughts of spending a bit of time there, perhaps a speaking tour. And when my thoughts wander down that path, I begin to wonder if something like that would work in Australia and New Zealand. I wonder how to transform this from a vague dream into a reality? I suppose time will tell.
And so, as the first pages of the last chapter turn, I look toward the future with apprehension tinged excitement. The anxiety is fueled by 2020, the year of the apocalypse. If it weren’t for the morning walkabout in the desert, I would spend most days as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. In any case, I am increasingly convinced that another thirty years like this is going to kill me.
Meanwhile most every day hours are consumed as this old dog works to learn new tricks. Less than five years ago I acquired a cell phone, and now I develop live stream programs, have an audio podcast, a YouTube channel, and social media network as part of the Jim Hinckley’s America travel channel. Interesting times.
I wonder what the future holds? I wonder what adventures await a fellow that has managed, without a great deal of effort, to spend most of his life as an old timer. Perhaps it’s time to consider growing a walrus mustache.
The battered Winton that was used in an ill-fated attempt to drive across the country in 1901. Photo Detroit Public Library
“Covering the North American continent from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic Ocean in an automobile has been attempted by Alexander Winton, president of the Winton Motor Carriage Company, of Cleveland. That the expedition failed is no fault of the machine Mr. Winton used, nor was it due to absence of grit or determination on the part of the operator. Neither was the failure dur to roads. The utter absence of roads was the direct and only cause.” Scientific American, August 3, 1901.
I have long had an obsession with the years between 1890 and 1930, an era of dramatic change and societal evolution. In recent weeks it has been my distinct pleasure to share the history of this exciting and fascinating period in time through feature articles, community education programs developed for Mohave Community College, Zoom based presentations and the Jim Hinckley’s America social media network. Quite often I give reign to the imagination as I consider what it must have been like to live in this era. How did people adapt to such a rapid transition? William “Buffalo Bill” Cody went from being an acclaimed eleven year old “Indian fighter” to buffalo hunter, Medal of Honor winning combatant during Civil War, and international celebrity with his wild west shows. He also purchased a Michigan from the Kalamazoo automobile manufacturer and served on the board for the National Old Trails Road Association.
Ezra Meeker traveled the Oregon Trail with an ox cart. He also toured the country in a National automobile, flew across the country in an airplane and helped build the first service station along the National Old Trails Road in the Cajon Pass of California. Henry Starr was a frontier era outlaw turned movie star. He began robbing banks and eluding posses on horseback, and ended his prolific career by attempting an escape by automobile. Wyatt Earp ended his days hanging around movie sets in Los Angeles and befriending up and coming movie stars.
In part people were able to adapt as the transition only appears dramatic when viewed in the context of centuries. They had time to contemplate, to give thought to the developments that were transforming every aspect of life. From the launching of the first automobile manufacturing company to a transcontinental drive was a period of almost ten years. in 1916 there was still a market for horse drawn wagons and carriages, albeit a shrinking one, and so Studebaker was producing these as they had since the 1860s as well as automobiles. Even in the modern era, another period of historic and dramatic transition, we had time to learn to adapt. The payphone was replaced by cell phone over a period of years. I started writing in 1990 on a 1948 Underwood typewriter, began using a word processor program in 2000, but did not need to fully abandon the typewriter until a few years later.
In a nut shell a primary reason the year 2020 has caused such consternation is that there was no time to adapt to a dramatic transition that has forever altered every aspect of life. It is the uncertainty that has made everyone as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. On the personal level in less than two weeks 2020 went from the breakout year for Jim Hinckley’s America travel network to a near complete collapse. An extensive schedule of international and domestic speaking engagements was cancelled. Work with thirty two tour companies was canceled. Advertising sponsors closed. The community education programs I teach at a community college were canceled. Two business associates died of COVID 19 induced illness.
Everything from education and business to the economy, politics and even the entire foundation of international relationships has forever been altered. We are in for a very wild ride in the months to come. In generations to come people will look back on 2020 much as we view the era between 1890 and 1930. They will wonder how we survived and how we adapted. They will ask why the Untied States abandoned its position as a world leader and play armchair quarterback as they mediate on the ramifications. They will also find inspiration in how we met the challenge, how we adapted, and how some found opportunity in the crisis.
Here at Jim Hinckley’s America it has been the best of times and the worst of times. I have learned a bit about how to use Zoom, how to develop and harness the power of live stream programs and had the opportunity to develop some cooperative partnerships. I have lost associates and watched friends loose their businesses. So what can you expect from Jim Hinckley’s America in the months to come?
A regular schedule for On The Road With Jim programs as I share the best of the Arizona outback
Our critically acclaimed presentations on the Zoom platform
With the acquisition of new equipment, improvements to the live stream Coffee With Jim program
Expansion of our advertising sponsor packages so we can offer something for every budget (currently starting as low as $6.25 per week)
Further development of community education programs on the economics of tourism, development of heritage tourism, and building cooperative partnerships to foster development of tourism
Additional work with the developers of the Route 66 Navigationapp to ensure this continues to be the number one aide for Route 66 travelers
New series as exclusive content on our Patreon based crowdfunding website
Also, we are adding trivia contests to the Sunday morning Coffee With Jim program. And in limited partnership with MyMarketing Designs, I am writing blog posts for their clients. I am also negotiating to have the Five Minutes With Jim audio podcast syndicated as a radio program. And now that the warehouse is open, I can again begin selling autographed copies of my latest book, Murder and Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66.
Interesting times. Challenging times. Tragic times. Times ripe with opportunity. Unnerving times. Exciting times. Confusing times. Historic times. The wild ride continues.
An argument could be made that the great American love affair with road trips began with the bicycle. During the 1890’s the country was consumed with bicycle mania and that included touring. In June 1899, Frank Burtt whose family had made a fortune with an iron foundry and the manufacture of furnaces set out with friends on a bicycling tour from Kalamazoo, Michigan through Ohio and to New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In the same year a bicycle club in Grand Rapids, Michigan organized a tour to St. Louis.
I use this decade when a Duryea Motor Wagon, the first production American automobile, was given top billing over the albino and dog boy at Barnum Bailey Circus and the Wright Brothers were manufacturing bicycles as the opening for an exciting and fun filled new presentation I have developed for 2020. It is a program about dramatic societal evolution, fads, corporate intrigue, swashbuckling entrepreneurs, fortunes made and fortunes lost, eccentrics and dreamers and some very colorful characters.
Even though I kicked it off in December 2019, one of the big projects for 2020 is the penning of an autobiography, a darkly comedic tale that is full of odd twists and turns. However, rather than go to print, as I am sure that there will be new chapters to write as 2020 gives way to 2021, and 2021 gives way to 2022, the decision was made to offer it in serial format. I have been providing serials as exclusive content to supporters of our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platformfor quite some time. Commencing in late 2018, the entire travel journal from Edsel Ford’s 1915 odyssey was printed in weekly chapters. The autobiography will run for most of 2020.
A presentation on the evolution of Route 66 that will be made in Needles, California
Speaking engagements and presentations are shaping up to be a big part of 2020 for Jim Hinckley’s America. To enhance the engagements I have been given permission to provide attendees with a Route 66 Mother Road Passport from Touch Media, developer of the Route 66 Navigation app, a $10 value. On the 13th of January, I will present a class on the rich cinematic history in Kingman, Arizona, and how that history can be used as a tourism development tool, at Mohave Community College. On the 15th, I speak about lost opportunities, the economics of tourism and how grassroots initiatives can harness tourism as a catalyst for historic business district revitalization. The event hosted by the Route 66 Yacht Club will be held at Calico’s restaurant in Kingman.
On the 7th of February, I take the show on the road with a presentation at the historic El Garces in Needles, California. At this event hosted by the Historic Museum of Needles, I will speak on the history of Route 66 in the southwest from Native American trade routes to Spanish conquistadors, camel caravans, the National Old Trails Road and even the Route 66 renaissance. In June its off to an engagement in Spokane. Meanwhile I am working on filling in the blank dates and developing a speaking tour.
The weekly Five Minutes With Jim audio podcast has been honed and market tested. Now it’s time for syndication and expanded distribution. I so enjoy telling people where to go and have been greatly encouraged by the response to the programs. Last week I shared some interesting tidbits from celebrity association with Kingman, Arizona, and this coming Sunday it’s a program dedicated to wonderful, magical Cuba, Missouri. And then, in response to requests received, I will dedicate a program to evaluating tour companies that specialize in Route 66.
The sun had yet to crest the Black Mountains of Arizona when we made the California border on the recent trip to Pasadena.
It is the dawning of a new year, and a new decade. The year 2019 is on the cusp of becoming history, and 2020 is shaping up to be a year filed with opportunity and possibility. I am quite confident that it will also be a year of shared adventures and road trip, all shared with friends.