With the luxury of a half century of hindsight I can now see that the quest began in the summer of ’69. That was when I began trading hours of my life for money. That was the summer that I began working for Ed of Ed’s Camp on a long abandoned alignment of Route 66 in the Black Mountains. I now see that this is when the hunger to write, to share stories and to preserve history was sparked.
Ed was a geologist of some renown that had arrived in Arizona from Michigan shortly after WWI. He had established the camp sometime around 1928, and created a rough around the edges empire built on a desert oasis. The business evolved with Route 66 and in the years after WWII, Ed’s Camp offered an array of services to the traveler. There was a small cafe, cabins, gas station, garage, rock shop and produce market where Ed sold tomatoes and melons grown on site. Ed was also a prospector, was rumored to be involved with the burning of King’s Canyon Dairy and was internationally renowned for his geologic discoveries in the deserts of western Arizona.
IN western Arizona Route 66 course though a breathtaking landscape.
My primary job was to help with the gardens; weeding, helping with irrigation system repairs and other chores. But Ed had taken a shine to me and found other ways to put me to work. He also found ways to share his vast knowledge of the desert but I was far to young to fully appreciate the opportunity a summer with Ed represented. Still, I enjoyed books, especially books about adventurers and I was living an adventure of epic proportions.
Years later, even though I didn’t remember all of Ed’s quirky comments, details about the time a Pickwick bus missed a curve on Sitgreaves Pass and nosedived into a bank or his geology lessons, when I started writing about adventures memories of that summer often dominated my thoughts. That was when the seeds of my quest to become a writer were sown.
The pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the Black Mountains of Arizona
Even though I have had nineteen books and countless feature articles published, the hunger is still there. I am still hungry to share and to inspire adventures. I am still eager to make new discoveries and to share them. And that is, perhaps, the cornerstone for Jim Hinckley’s America. It may have started as a platform to market my work, it has become a venue for sharing my talent for telling people where to go. And as a bonus, it has become an opportunity to provide a service, to assist communities, small businesses, authors and artists by providing them with a promotional boost.
To date the quest, the writing, the search for adventure and the development of Jim Hinckley’s Americaas a venue for telling people where to go has been a truly grand adventure. And now a new year and new decade is underway, and indications are that this will be the most amazing year to date.
Growth of the audio podcast, Five Minutes With Jim, is up 1,200% year to date. We now have 6,000 followers on Facebook. On February 7, I will be speaking about the Old Trails Road at the historic El Garces Hotel in Needles, California. On June 4, I will be talking about Route 66 travel in Spokane. And now the quest is on for sponsors as I have received a request to speak at the International Route 66 Festival in Zlin, Czechia. The plans for a Route 66 centennial conference at Grand Canyon Caverns is underway. In limited partnership with Desert Wonder Tours, I am now leading walking tours in the Kingman historic district, and along the Cerbat Foothills Recreation trail system. The fall tour on Route 66 is under development and it includes attendance of the Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. In answer to requests received, I am now writing an autobiography as exclusive content on the Patreon based crowdfunding website.
And so as the quest continues, I give thought to Ed, to a summer of adventure and to a the living of a life of adventure.
Memories are funny things. They add seasoning to life, and they can be made fresh and vibrant by a song, a smell, a touch, an empty old highway baking under a desert sky, or even an old truck. Such was the case with the drive home from Needles, California after a day spent with the Nissan Canada Route 66 Road Trip.
For the most part I was cruising on auto pilot with a head full of thoughts about the recent project developed for Nissan Canada, a speaking engagement in Needles scheduled for next February that I had arranged earlier that morning, and how a stunning sunrise had filled me with a longing to get home to my dearest friend. Traffic was light but I reigned in the hunger to make time and instead kept the speed in check. Then I saw it, a ’46 GMC out to pasture.
In an instant I was flooded with memories. As I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway there was a brief moment when the line between past and present seemed to blur. The battered old workhorse looked identical to the truck I owned when my dearest friend and I were courting. My ’46 GMC was the truck I drove on our first date. It was the truck that I drove back to the ranch after my last rodeo ride. Most every weekend, to see my dearest friend, I cruised into Kingman from Ash Fork on old Route 66 behind the wheel of that faithful old truck. For a time I was working on a project in the remote old town of Drake, Arizona and that GMC was the only vehicle that could negotiate the quagmire that was the Perksinville Road after a rain.
Once, after a winters storm, I about froze my backside off on a drive to Kingman as the truck didn’t have a heater. It was a challenge to keep the windshield clear of frost on the inside as well as the outside. I can still feel the warmth of the coffee cup in my hand and the taste of a hot bowl of chili at the Truxton Cafe as the chill was chased from my bones.
In all honesty the sunrise had most likely set me in a reflective mood. Finding that old truck kicked it into high gear. The drive home on old Route 66 through the Black Mountains and over Sitgreaves Pass kicked it into overdrive. I have shared a bit of these memories as well as some of the colorful history found along this highway on the Patreon based crowdfunding site where exclusive content is now being posted.
Suffice to say it was quite an emotional day. Mingled among the smile inducing thoughts were those that cast dark shadows. I can’t drive this old highway and not think of my pa as it was on this road that he taught me to ride a bike, to drive (behind the wheel of a ’53 Chevy pick up truck) and to drive heavy trucks (a WWII deuce and a half tanker truck). It was along this road that he taught me a bit of carpentry as we built a garage and house. And it was on this road that my dearest friend and I had some of our first double dates as we traveled to events in Oatman. It was on a drive to Needles with my dearest friend that the idea for Jim Hinckley’s America was birthed.
The electricity had cut out at around 3:00 in the morning. Outside it was like being in a snow globe. After a bit of work with a shovel the venerable old Jeep did a bit of slipping and sliding but found enough traction to keep moving forward. Our friends Tahoe wouldn’t go backwards and forward progress was only accomplished with digging, pushing and the occasional use of a tow chain. It was truly a memory making adventure.
In my world adventure is the spice of life. It is what keeps the daily grind, the minutia, the bill paying, the earning of a living, the trials and tribulations of life from becoming overwhelming and drowning me with boredom. Without adventure the world shrinks, you develop tunnel vision and before you know it is possible to look down a beer bottle with both eyes. In all honesty I am of the opinion that like food and air to breathe there is a need for adventure in every life. I am not talking about free climbing a rock face or sailing around the world solo in a home built boat. I am simply talking about stepping from the comfort zone, challenging yourself just a bit.
It was a true honor to be invited to tour Ken Soderbeck’s farm and workshop that houses some very amazing things including this ultra rare Jackson 4×4 truck
There was a time not so long ago when adventure and the need for adventure was a given. Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison often took camping trips and roughed it in the wilds of Michigan. Even though they were wealthy men, Henry Ford wielded an ax to cut firewood. They set up tents. In the summer of 1915, then 21-year old Edsel Ford and a few of his college buddies set out on a grand adventure from Michigan to the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California via the National Old Trails Highway through the southwest. They experienced mud, washed out roads, mechanical breakdown, mud, getting lost and mud. They also experienced life. On a recent episode of Five Minutes With Jim, our audio podcast I shared a bit of Edsel’s adventure. And on the Patreon platform based crowdfunding initiative for Jim Hinckley’s America, I shared Edsel’s entire travel journal, with original illustrations, in a series format.
Today the average American is so insulated from life that the simplest challenge can become a matter of life and death. I am always amazed by people who jump in their air conditioned cars without checking the tires or carrying water, and set out across the desert. Perhaps I go to far the other way. Still, our recent adventure was just that, an adventure because I travel prepared for adventure. I had a pair of insulated coveralls behind the spare tire. The jeep never leaves the driveway without a shovel and drinking water. Even though our plan was for lodging in the Ranch House at Grand Canyon Caverns, rain and possible snow was forecast. So, I dusted off the old clunky boots and gave them an ample rub down with mink oil. As a result when the adventure commenced, I was warm, dry, and had most of the tools needed.
Heading out to Route 66 from Grand Canyon Caverns after a Thanksgiving snowstorm. Photo courtesy Sylvia Hoehn
Adventure can take many forms from learning and using a new language to international travel, from sitting down to dinner with someone from a different country to being snowed in on Thanksgiving. Here is my challenge for 2020. Add some adventure to your life, put a little zip in the routine and see if your not transformed. Watch the world expand.
Learn to fix a faucet or build a functional website. Travel abroad and order a food that you can’t pronounce. Take a road trip without reservations. Step out of that comfort zone.
Can I ask a favor of you? If you enjoy our blog posts, our stories and the inspiration for road trips that we provide, would you consider lending support to our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. Like PBS, we are almost wholly viewer supported. In advance, thank you!
The hulking Tufa stone walls of the Brunswick casts long shadows on Route 66 in the late afternoon. Perhaps the most notable event associated with the hotel was an impromptu reception held for Clark Gable and Carol Lombard after they married at the Episcopal Methodist Church on Spring Street, March 29, 1939. As of this writing, the hotel that dates to 1909 is undergoing a complete renovation. The Sportsman Bar next door is a bit of a dive but it is well worth a quick visit. Dark, tobacco stained walls can’t obscure the fact that this old saloon is an almost perfect time capsule from the era of statehood, 1912.
The Hotel Beale with its towering sign advertising the fact that the hotel is “air cooled” is a forlorn sight. The historic old building that dates to 1900 faces a very uncertain future but The old adage that if walls could talk is more than fitting for this tarnished old relic. Tom Devine, father of character actor Andy Devine, took on the role of proprietor in 1906. Legendary pioneering rancher Tap Duncan was a regular guest. Duncan was linked to an altercation with members of the gang led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He was also linked to outlaw Kid Curry who died using the alias Tap Duncan after a botched robbery attempt in Parachute, Colorado. In 1925, Buster Keaton took up residence at the hotel. He was filming Go West at tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar Ranch about sixty miles north of Kingman. Louis L’Amour was a regular at the Nighthawk Saloon at the hotel during this period. He worked at the Katherine Mines above the Colorado River and would occasionally engage in amateur boxing matches in Kingman. Charles Lindbergh often stayed at the hotel during construction of the cities first commercial airport, a link in his pioneering TAT airlines. Amelia Earhart was also a guest during the opening ceremonies for that airfield.
Always something to see at Chillin’ on Beale in Kingman, Arizona
This is an excerpt from a book, Jim Hinckley’s America: Kingman, Arizona & 160 Miles of Smiles, that I wrote a few years ago. I had two reasons for penning this small tome. First, I wanted to call attention to Kingman and showcase it as a destination, not just someplace to drive through on the way to somewhere else. Second, I was curious about the self publishing process.
Every Route 66 fan in the world knows about Kingman, after all it is mentioned in the famous song about getting your kicks on Route 66. And for at least 100 years people have been rolling through town on a major highway. First, the National Old Trails Road. Then Route 66, I-40, and US 93, and soon, I-11. And, it just so happens, the city is located at the heart of an incredible vacation paradise, a destination for those in the know. From an economic development standpoint the problem is that not enough people are in the know.
I have long had a fascination for marketing, for promotion, and for advertisement. My office is festooned with advertisements for 1917 GMC trucks, the 1940 Hudson, and Greyhound vacation destination brochures from 1950. The desk is awash in AAA hotel and service station guides from 1928, 1940, and 1955, as well as promotional atlases from a half century ago, and a pile of road maps. The file cabinets that frame my cubicle overflow with brochures for Ramblers and Studebaker trucks, decades old post cards, and the occasional odds and ends like a promotional brochure for Irish Hills in Michigan circa 1960.
As a result, I have learned that marketing linked with passion, vision, and leadership can successfully sell or promote almost anything be it an Edsel or a community. St. Robert, Missouri, a Route 66 community, is not mentioned in the famous ditty about getting your kicks on Route 66. Aside from Uranus General Store & Fudge Factory, and Fort Leonard Wood, they don’t have major attractions or iconic Route 66 locations such as Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. BUT they have Beth Wiles who has passion, vision, and that provides leadership. You can see this made manifest in the new Route 66 Passport Missouri Facebook page.
Courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts
The Mother Road Route 66 Passport developed by Marian Pavel of Touch Media represents an incredible marketing opportunity for communities. Beth Wiles and the folks with Pulaski County tourism recognize this and are capitalizing on it. Meanwhile other communities presented with the same opportunity … Well they are at the train depot waiting for their ship to come in.
For more than a century Kingman has flirted with becoming a major southwestern tourism destination. It has never happened. And yet, communities such as Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City, places that didn’t really exist 60 years ago and that don’t have much to offer have eclipsed Kingman as a tourism destination. Neither of those Colorado River communities have a twelve month tourism season like Kingman. Nor do they have access to major highways or Amtrak. And they don’t have Route 66. So, I wonder what the problem is? In some towns it just seems like tourism is an accident, sort of like throwing enough paint at a canvas in the hope of creating a masterpiece.
The old homestead along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in Arizona
Route 66. The Main Street of America. The Mother Road. Since its inception in late 1926, US 66 has been given an array of monikers and descriptive titles. For me it is center stage, the place where my life has unfolded. Since about 1959, most of the milestones in life have taken place on this road or have been linked to it.
In the summer of 1959, my family motored west to California from Virginia in a derelict convertible. Much of the trip was along Route 66, at least from St. Louis west. Then in the summer of 1966 we moved west from Michigan to Kingman, Arizona and a homestead along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the shadow of the Black Mountains. I learned to ride a bicycle and drive a truck on what was mostly an abandoned highway at that time. My first employment was for Ed Edgerton at Ed’s Camp, a Route 66 business complex that dated to the era of the National Old Trails Road. Ed himself was a fixture that predated Route 66. (more…)