A delightful lunch of catfish and hush puppies in Pocahontas, Arkansas
Okay, a search for pie, blackberry or peach cobbler, hush puppies, or world class chilli are not the only reason that we are embarking on a road trip in a few weeks. But I can’t think of a road trip in the past forty years that didn’t involve a detour or two.
Someone tells me about a waitress at a hole in the wall cafe that has an interesting story or that a diner is renowned for its stawberry rhubarb pie.That is all it takes to derail the carefully crafted time table.
Geronimo was still at war with the U.S. and Mexican army when Lucius Copeland demonstrated his steam powered motorcycle at the territorial fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. And Ransom E. Olds was taking his first experimental automobile for a test run two years before the legendary Apache was exiled to Florida. Elmer Lovejoy bicycled from Laramie, Wyoming to Chicago just two years after the massacre at Wounded Knee.
Road Trip 2023
This is the opening scene in my program about the dawning of the great American road trip. And that is the real reason that we are setting off on another Route 66 odyssey in October. This year I am a keynote speaker at the 8th annual Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. As you might have guessed, the conference has the road trip as its theme.
And as often is the case with us, it will be a busman’s holiday. Word was received today that a Route 66 centennial project simmering on the back burner will most likely be given the green light in a few weeks. So, I will need to create a portfolio of at least three hundred photos on this trip.
The Fall Tour
For the past eight years, with exception of the year of the apocalypse (2020), the Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference serves as the anchor point for an annual fall tour. This is usually a blending of book signing and speaking engagements.
It is also a fact finding mission. I visit with friends and associates in the Route 66 business community, that are involved with touriism or community development, or are tour company owners. That provides me with a better picture of tourism, and Route 66 tourism, trends. As I don’t have a degree this helps me imitate a tourism development consultant. Did I mention that a recent interviewer referenced me as a humorist “in the mold of Will Rogers?”
I also have plans for using the trip as a vacation. Let’s see how that works out. It hasn’t yet. I have a tendency to turn everything into work. Besides, I derive tremendous satisfaction from inspiring road trips by tellinig people where to go, and sharing America’s story. And that is why we launched Jim Hinckley’s America.
In Search of Pie
But no matter how busy I get or how tight the schedule is, there is always time to go in search of pie. Even better, chances are that we will have a chance to share that pie with old friends, or perhaps, with friends yet made.
Speaking of pie, and pie shared with friends, while writing this I received a note from Nick Adam. Route 66 enthusiasts will recognize that name. Nick’s father established the iconic Ariston Cafe in the 1920s, and relocated it to Litchfield, Illinois in the 1930s. After decades of management, Nick retired.
It looks like we will be visiting with our old friend at Jubelt’s Bakery in Litchfield on this trip. HIs is a story that I want to tell. And I just looked at the Jubelt website. They have a lenghty list of pies including Strawberry Rhubarb!
A centennial is 100 years. In 2026 the most famous highway in the United States, iconic Route 66, the Main Street of America, will be 100 years old, and people from throughout the world are already making plans for a pilgramage to celebrate this centennial milestone. And communities beween Chicago and Santa Monica are hard at work to capitalize on what promises to be America’s longest block party.
But there will be another historic event to celebrate as well. In 2026, unless the modern incarnation of the 1850s Know Nothing party succeeds in burning the place down. It will be the semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
This historic milestone will give communities another reason to celebrate. And for the event organizer, or community leader, with vision, ambition, passion and the ability to build cooperative partnerships, the two anniversaries will provide unprecendented opportunities.
Welcome To Kingman
On Beale Street an unfolding renaissance is infusing the historic heart of Kingman, Arizona with an infectious vibrancy. Just in time for the forthcoming anniversaries, that transformation is now sweeping along Andy Devine Avenue, iconic Route 66, and surrounding residential neighborhoods. It is almost as though the hands of time are being turned back.
Passionate entrepreneurs that recognize the opportunities are giving derelict buildings a new lease on life. The City of Kingman has launched an expansive downtown infrastructure improvement project that will make the area pedestrian friendly without impeding traffic. Organizations such as Kingman Main Street are developing projects such as the innovative narrated self guided walking tour. A thriving arts community is being manifest in events, in new galleries, and in the restoration of the Beale Street Theatre as a performing arts center.
Visitors are taking notice, and the city is on the cusp of becoming a destination. Roberto Rossi, an Italian travel journalist recently paid a visit to Kingman. He noted, “Ho avuto la fortuna di visitare Kingman insieme al mio amico James Hinckley che ci ha portati alla scoperta degli angoli nascosti di questa splendida cittadina.” “I was lucky enough to visit Kingman with my friend James Hinckley who took us to discover the hidden corners of this beautiful city.”
And he listed a few things that make Kingman unique.
“2. Downtown Kingman – Walking through historic downtown Kingman is a time trip. Admire the historic buildings and enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants, many of which keep Route 66’s golden years spirit.
3. Events and Festivals – Kingman is known for its events along Route 66, including the “Andy Devine Days Rodeo” and the monthly “Chillin’ on Beale Street,” which offers live entertainment, vintage cars and delicious food.”
The Centennial And Beyond
As we draw closer to the mega anniversary celebrations in 2026, event organizers will have an opportunity to provide the visitor with an authentic experience that is a primary attraction for visitors. And by 2026, with completion of the theatre renovation, the infrastructure project, and facade renovations, organizers of popular events such as The Original Chillin on Beale will have an opportunity to create multifacted marketing. They will be able to showcase the diverse array of restaurants, microbreweries, and historic architecture as well as attractions such as the narrated self guided tour developed by Kingman Main Street.
A diverse array of events held in the historic heart of the city will further fuel the renaissance in the historic heart of Kingman. That will ensure Kingman is a destination for visitors, for entrepreneurs and people looking for opportunity to the Route 66 centennial and beyond.
As Kingman is my adopted hometown, and the foundation for Jim Hinckley’s America, it has been a distinct honor to play a role in the transformation. And it has me looking toward the future with eager anticipation.
The past and the future of the road trip on the streets of Kingman, Arizona in the 1920s. Authors collection
Road trip. Route 66, a highway, a television program, a road trip inspiring song and a destination. Memory making, epic adventures on the open road. It’s as American as apple pie, hot dogs and a marketing campaign that encouraged people to see the U.S.A. in their Chevrolet.
The restless nature of the immigrants that would come to be known as American was made manifest in the Oregon Trail, the Pontiac Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, the Beale Wagon Road, the National Road, and the Sauk Trail. This restlessness and the wanderlust of the pioneers, the mountain men, and the ’49ers that rushed to California in search of gold set the stage in the late 19th century for the adventures of pioneering automobilists.
In The Beginning
This chapter in the history of the American road trip opened with a national obsession for the bicycle. In 1901, Henry Sutphen wrote Touring in Automobiles for Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation. He noted that, “Several years ago the bicycle suddenly made a prodigious leap into public favor, a result largely due to the fact that it provided people of moderate means with an entirely new and fascinating amusement – the exploring of the particular locality in which they lived, but about which they had usually known little or nothing.”
In 1890 the number of bicycle manufacturers in the United States numbered less than fifty. Six years later there were hundreds of companies. And many of them were working three shifts to meet the demand.
Touring became a national mania. Dozens of clubs and groups were organized. The railroads offered special rates, and accommodated people traveling with bicycles. Hotels near railroads and along primary roads advertised special rates for bicyclists.
There were folding bicycles and electric assist bicycles. The League of American Wheelman, and Wheelwomen, became a powerful lobbying organization that petitioned state and federal government for the devlopment of a national network of improved all weather roads. This was the origins of the good roads movement that became the foundation for the creation of the U.S, highway system in the early 1920s.
Dawn of The Modern Era
While people were taking to the open road on bicycles in record numbers, a few visionaries and eccentric’s were looking toward a future without old Dobbins, the restraint of a railroad time table, or the limitations of the human body. In the late 1880s, Ransom E Olds explained the advantages of the horseless carriage in an interview. The Duryea brothers initiated the manufacture of automobiles for sale. In 1898 the first American automobile race was held in Chicago. And in 1901 pioneering automobile manufacturer Alexander Winton made an ill fated attempt to be the first person to complete a coast to coast trip by automobile.
The societal evolution in first decades of the 20th century were unprecedented. A Stanley steamer was driven to a new land speed record of nearly 150 miles per hour in 1906. By 1910 it is estimated that there were more than 500,000 automobiles on American roads. Just five years later that number had soared to nearly 2.5 million. And yet in western Arizona stagecoaches were in use until 1916.
Telling America’s Story
At Jim Hinckley’s America we tell America’s story. And on October 20 at the Miles of Possibility Conference I will be telling the story of the dawning of the modern American road trip. It promises to be a grand adventure. It will be a journey through time and a road trip inspiring odyssey. Come join the adventure!.
Planes, trains, Route 66 and St. Louis were the topics of conversation with author and historian Joe Sonderman on the August 6, 2023 episode of Coffee With Jim. The program definitely provided me with added incentive to explore St. Louis during the Jim Hinckley’s America fall tour.
With the exception of Tulsa, Oklahoma the treasures and time capsules in metropolitan areas along the Route 66 corridor are often overlooked by enthusiasts. As Joe pointed out, in St. Louis there are enough attractions to keep a person busy for weeks, and many are free.
The National Museum of Transportation
The National Museum of Transportation is one of the largest and most diverse collections of transportation vehicles in the world. You can trace the history of American railroading, and the surprising diversity of the auto industry in St. Louis during the early 20th century.
On display are one-of-a-kind and historical cars, planes, trolleys, and more on the 42-acre site. The museum also features a tribute wing to Sanford N. McDonnell, a pioneer in aerospace engineering. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and free for members.
Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, covering 1,371 acres of land. Established in 1876, the park was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. It is home to many cultural and recreational attractions, such as the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Muny, an outdoor musical theater.
You can also enjoy walking, biking, golfing, boating, fishing, and picnicking in the park. Forest Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is free for most attractions.
If you spend a day exploring Forest Park, I suggest an overnight stay at the quirky but fun Moonrise Hotelin the Delmar Loop District. The descriptor on their website doesn’t begin to convey what a unique experience it is to dine and stay at this botique hotel. “The Moonrise Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, blends cool modern design and quirky sophistication to create a truly unique boutique hotel experience. Located in The Loop – one of St. Louis’ most vibrant shopping, dining and entertainment districts – the hotel’s prime location offers guests a wide array of leisure activities”
Other Attractions in St. Louis
– The Gateway Arch: The iconic 630-foot tall monument that symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States. You can take an elevator or tram to the top and enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the Mississippi River. You can also visit the Gateway Arch Museum and learn about the history and culture of the region.
– The City Museum: A whimsical and interactive museum that features a variety of exhibits made from recycled materials, such as a 10-story slide, a Ferris wheel on the roof, a giant aquarium, and a circus school. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $16 for adults and $14 for children.
– The Anheuser-Busch Brewery: A historic brewery that produces some of the most famous beers in the world, such as Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob. You can take a free tour of the brewery and see how the beer is made, visit the Clydesdale stables, and sample some products at the Biergarten.
Judging by comments made during the program, I wasn’t the only one that was inspired to a make a trip along iconic Route 66 to the “Gateway to The West.”
For an international legion of Route 66 enthusiasts the picturesque ruins of Endee perched on a knoll along a dusty track that was once Route 66 is a destination. A forlorn old building adorned with a sign reading “Modern Restrooms” is a favorite photo op.
But long before Route 66 began funneling a seemingly endless stream of traffic though town, Endee was a small but thriving ranching community within spitting distance of the New Mexico/Texas state line. It was also a rough and tumble town as evidenced by early newspaper accounts.
On The Western Frontier
The Santa Fe New Mexican, May 2, 1906, reported that with the arrest of John Fife and Tom Darlington in Endee by mounted police, a major cattle-rustling ring had been “broken up.” Officers that rode out from Tucumcari didn’t know that they were making history. This was the last use of a horse mounted posse by law enforcement in New Mexico.
In Endee the frontier era lasted well into the 20th century. The Evening Observer, June 30, 1909, reported, “The anti saloon campaign at Endee, N.M. came to a close last night when a band of masked men, mounted and armed, rode their horses through the doors of a saloon and shot up the place until the mirrors and glassware were completely destroyed.”
The Beginning and The End
Established as a supply center for area ranches, including the sprawling ND Ranch established by John and George Day in 1882, a post office opened in 1886. It closed in 1955, just three years after completion of a realignment of Route 66 that bypassed the community.
Ranching, the railroad, and then traffic on Route 66 after 1926, served as the economic underpinnings for the community. The population peaked in about 1940 at 100 and in 1946 services available to the traveler, as noted by Jack Rittenhouse in A Guide Book to Highway 66, consisted of a gas station, garage, grocery store, and a “scant” handful of cabins.
In the late summer of 1947, the state of New Mexico initiated extensive repair and upgrades to the timber bridges on Route 66 immediately west of town. Until recent storms swept the area, these bridges remained as a tangible study in highway construction of the period.
Route 66 is often viewed in the context of neon and tail fins. But the old double six is no mere highway. It is a tangible link America’s rich and colorful history. It is a haunted stage where the ghosts of the past await a visit from a modern audience.
At Jim Hinckley’s America we share America’s story. We also chase the ghosts from the shadows, and shine a light on the forgotten places.