A Few Route 66 Surprises

A mural by iconic folk artist Bob Waldmire at TNT Engineering on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona.

What do you call a town that is linked to Route 66 because it was named in a song that reminded us to not forget Winona, because it has an original Bob Waldmire mural, and because it was the primary location for the 1984 movie Roadhouse 66  starring Willem Dafoe and Judge Reinhold?

What do you call a town that has public arts displays created by internationally acclaimed artists such as J. Anne Butler, J.C. Amberlyn and Donald Gialanella? What do you call a town that has a connection to an array of celebrities including Pamela Anderson, Charles Linbergh, Amelia Earhart, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Andy Devine, Louis L’Amour, Bob Boze Bell, Johnny Depp, Edsel Ford, Louis Chevrolet, and Harrey Carey?

What do you call a town that has an historic district bisected by Route 66? What do you call a town with an historic district framed by snow capped mountains and a skyline dominated by towering buttes and mesas that is lit by towering neon signs? What do you call a town that has an historic district filled with an array of eclectic shops and restaurants, architectural treasures, award winning microbreweries, and shade dappled parks ideally suited for festivals?

What do you call a town with a network of critically acclaimed scenic hiking/mountain biking trails that link picturesque desert oasis, historic sites, awe inspiring scenic overlloks, and deeply shadowed canyons? What do you call a town with a pine forested mountain park, and a desrt labryinth of stone spires aptly named Monolith Gardens?

What do you call a town with an award winning distillery, an award winning bakery, wineries and a classic 1950s Route 66 diner? What do you call a town that can offer the gastronomic delights of wood fired gourmet pizza, superb traditional Mexican food, authentic Italian cuisine, and delicious barbecue all within four blocks?

What do you call a town with an electric vehicle museum and one of the largest classic car shows in northern Arizona? What do you call a town that has one of the last free standing territorial era jails in the state, a WWII military airfield, and links to Native American history and culture?

Screenshot from Linda Suskie’s blog, Experiencing Route 66

You call it Kingman, Arizona. You call it a town full of surprises. You call it one of the most overlooked destinations in the southwest. An according to blogger Linda Suskie, “Kingman, Arizona, bills itself as “the heart of Historic Route 66,” and there’s plenty to see here.”

Kingman is also my hometown. And it is the home base for Jim Hinckley’s America. That is rather fitting as our stock in trade is telling people where to go and sharing America’s story.

The next time you motor east, or west, on legendary Route 66, take some time for more than gas, grub, and a quick stop at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Kingman is well worth taking some time for exploration.

Start at the historic depot and use the narrated self guided historic district walking tour to discover what makes this a town full of surprises. Enjoy a stunning sunset and wait for the colorful glow of neon to transform the historic heart into a magical place where the line between past and present is blurred.



Telling Stories

Near Hoover Dam the Colorado River courses through a stunning landscape of deeply shaded canyons and multihued mountains of stone. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

When putting together a jigsaw puzzle you can’t throw away red pieces just because you don’t like the color. You can’t tell the story of Goldilocks and not include the three bears. You can’t cut cannibalism from the tragic story of the Donner Party. And you can’t tell America’s amazing story without including the history of slavery and the civil rights movement, the genocide of native people and the patriotism of the code talkers, the Know Nothing Party, the contributions of immigrants and the history of prejudices against immigrants.

Northern and western Arizona is a land of scenic wonders without equal. Here you will find the awe inspiring majesty of the Grand Canyon and the red rock country at Sedona. And in the Black Mountains you can drive a segment of Route 66 cut through landscapes so stunning a one eyed blinid man would have trouble taking a bad photo.

But before Route 66, the National Old Trails Road, Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, and the Beale Wagon Road cut across this vast desert wilderness this was the home of the Pai and Mojave people. It was their trade routes that were followed by an expedition led by Father Garces in 1776, and the explorers that followed. That trade route became the Mojave Road across the vast wilderness of the Mojave Desert.

The oral traditions of the Pai tell of a great flood that was drained when the creator thrust a stick into the ground. This oral history tells the story of the people that were created from the reeds. Then Kathat Kanave gave the people the knowledge neede to live in this diverse and often harsh land.

According to legend after a mud fight between children the tribes were seperated. The Mojave were given the upper Colorado River Valley north and south of where Route 66 crosses that river. The Yavapai that became mortal enemies to the Hualapai were drven south below the fork of the Bill Williams River. The people now known as hopi and Navajo were moved east. And the Havasupai had a new homeland at what is now Grand Canyon National Park and the valley’s near Cataract Canyon.

The Hualapai were largely a nomadic people that lived in bands or clans. At the time of European contact the Pine Springs and Peach Springs bands were recorded as being the largest with four camps of about 200 people.

This monument to a dark chapter in the history of the Pai people at Beale Springs is just one piece of the puzzle. More pieces are needed if the picture is to be seen with clarity.

From about 1300 to 1850 the Pai adapated an intricate relationship with the land. The bands migrated seasonally as they followed game and periods of harvest. Pottery and baskets were essential, an in time they developed a unique and beautiful design.

The Mojave developed productive farms along the Coloraod River. For the Hualapai farming was limted to the valleys occupied by the Havasupai, and the valleys of the Bill Williams and Santa Maria Rivers. Small scale farming to supply bands with a few dozen people took places at places such as Beale Springs, Peach Springs, and Diamond Creek. Squash, beans, maize and pumpkins were the primary crops before European encounter.

To drive Route 66 without knowing the story of the road, and the people that linked their lives to that storied highway, would be little different from a trip on the interstate highway. It would be sterile and colorless.

To drive Route 66 without knowing the story of the Pai, the pioneers, the tragic clash of cultures, and eforts to heal old wounds, is akin to just reading every second chapter in a book. The story is incomplete.

Enhance your journey on Route 66, and through life. Learn before you go. Don’t be offended by the storytellers. Let history fill your adventure with color, with balance, with inspiration, and without important lessons from the past.

Jim Hinckley’s America is the sharing of America’s story. Tales of the Pai, this too is America’s story.



Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight

Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Its origins are as a remote auxilliary Kingman Army Airfield landing strip on the shores of Lake Havasu that morphed into a rustic camp for fisherman in the post war years. In 1963, Robert McCulloch, owner of McCulloch Motors, chose the site for a planned community and a factory where his outboard engines could be tested.

In 1964, there was only one unimproved road into the envisioned city. McCulloch was a visionary. So, he developed an air charter service to fly in prospective land buyers that wanted a fresh start or an escape from harsh winter climates. Between 1964 and 1978, 137,000 potential land buyers flew to what would become Lake Havasu City. In 1978 the town was incorporated. By 1981 the modern community built on the hills above the shimmering lake had a population of 17,000 people.

From its inception the city recognized the value of tourism. There was an understanding that tourism was more than just heads in beds. It was an opportunity to showcase the community to prospective residents and business owners.

Agressive marketing, leadership that developed cooperative partnerships within the community, a focus on the development of events that support the business community, and utilization of all available resources have paid dividends. Even though summer temperatures often reach 120 degrees or more, Lake Havasu City consistently rates as one of the top destination cities in Arizona. On the city’s tourism website the calendar of events illustrates the community’s marketing success.

Sixty miles to the east is Kingman, Arizona, a town with an astounding array of diverse attractions. The towns link to Route 66 has ensured international name recognition. And yet as a destination it remains relatively obscure.

In recent years the Colorado River Area Trail Alliance has developed an expansive series of hiking and mountain trails in the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area. The scenic trail system that includes an array of historic sites is located less than two miles from the historic district and Route 66.

There is a thriving arts community and the historic State Theater is being renovated as a performing arts center. Chillin on Beale, held on the third Saturday afternoon of each month, April through October, adds a colorful vibrancy to the historic district that is in the midst of a slow motion renaissance.

At the west end of the historic business district along Route 66 are two delightful parks, one of which is shaded by towering tress. As they are located adjacent to the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Mohave Museum of History & Arts, they are ideally suited for the hosting of events such as the Kingman Festival of The Arts, and for vendors during the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona sponsored annual Route 66 Fun Run. But, oddly enough, the annual Kingman Route 66 Fest is held in a park located miles from the historic heart of the city, and nearly a mile from the nearest restaurant.

Kingman Main Street recently spearheaded development of an innovative narrated self guuided historic district and Route 66 corridor walking tour. Phase one will be completed in a few weeks, and yet it is already becoming an internationally recognized attraction.

Spring flowers along Route 66 in the Black Mountains. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Hualapai Mountain Park is located a mere twelve scenic miles south of Kingman. This pine forested island in a sea of desert is is a true oasis. Hualapai Lodge and pictuersque stone cabins built by the CCC, and rustic camp sites, provide a wonderful option to chain motels. And there are miles of shade dappled trails that climb through the forest to scenic overlooks.

Lake Havasu City. Kingman. Needles, California. Bullhead City. Western Arizona is a destination for a memory making holiday filled with adventure in any season. Telling people where to go, it’s what we do in Jim Hinckley’s America.



It Started With A Typewriter

It Started With A Typewriter

If this story opened like a film noir classic such as The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the first line would be, “It started with a typewriter, advice from a trusted friend, troubled thoughts, and reflection.”

The opening would continue with, “The storm coulds gathering over the distant mountains mirrored his thoughts. As he wiped the sweat from his weathered face, and contemplated the countless stories the battered old Stetson held, a conviction grew that a decision had to be made.”

My dearest friend had gently encouraged me to pursue a childhood dream for several years. Conviction grew. A decision had to be made.  And so, with more than a fair degree of trepidation, I had called the editor of Special Interest Autos, a publication by Hemmings, and pitched the idea of writing a story about Myloe’s Fort Auto Parts in Huachuca City, Arizona.

Much to my surprise, the editor gave tentative approval. And so with a cheap camera from KMart, and a 1940s Underwood typewriter from a second hand store, I cranked out an article about an ancient desert rat that was the guardian of an automotive treasure. It was titled Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie.

That was 1990. That was the dawning of Jim Hinckley’s America. The writing of feature articels for various publications gave way to the penning of books. And in turn that forced me to hone needed skills for interviews and speaking engagements. It was all built on a desire to share America’s story, to inspire road trips, and to use my God given skills for telling people where to go.

Fast forward to the closing weeks of 2022. The Jim HInckley’s America website continues to evolve as a travel planning and inspiring portal. The latest iteration has embedded players for Coffee With Jim and Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaour audio podcasts. Yesterday a section with recommended podcasts such as Evan Stern’s acclaimed Vanishing Postcards was added. It joins a section for recommended blogs that was added several weeks ago.

A section with Jim HInckley’s America recommended lodging options, restaurants, museums and other businesses has also been added. This will continue to grow in scope as we as make new discoveries. The website also has video from our YouTube channel, links to blogs I write for clients, my schedule of appearances, advertisements from carefully selected promotional partners such as RouteTrip USA and the Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and an archive of our weekly blog posts spanning more than a decade.

On the planning board are an array of additions, when I can figure out out how they work and how to embed them in the website, and get a few spare minutes in the schedule. Counted among them are an interactive schedule of Route 66 events, a section for regularly scheduled live stream programs, and for our sponsors, interactive content as well as product placement and reviews.

Meanwhile, aside from wesbite development, what is on the Jim Hinckley’s America schedule for the last weeks of 2022?

Well, I need to evaluate a request received from a publisher for two books to be written in 2023. I know there is a lot of wasted time between midnight and 4:00 in the morning but am not sure if two books in one year is feasible unless we are forced back into hibernation by another apocalypse. If, by chance, I am kicked in the head by a mule and decide to accept the challenge, then I will need to write outlines for both of these books.

On November 30th, I drive to Needles, California for the Mohave County Regional Tourism meeting. As the community is on the cusp of renaissance, I am eager to see what is in the works.

On December 2, I leave for Los Angeles. Aside from a few meetings about the forthcoming Route 66 centennial and related celebrations, I will be visiting our old friends at Auto Books Aero Books in Burabnk, and signing some books. And also on the schedule is photography for an upcoming project, signing 165 books for a non profit that is giving them as gifts to supporters, and a bit of a fact finding mission.

Scheduled for the 21st of December is the Route 66 Association of KIngman Arizona Christmas party. As this organization was a sponsor of the recent Heartland Toute that included the Miles of Possibility of Conference, I am to make a presentation about tourism trends, the conference, the Route 66 centennial, and how communities can be transformed into a destination even with an anemic or nonexistent tourism office.

There is also a need to revamp our crowdfunding website on the Patreon platform before the end of the year. This is long overdue.

A couple of years ago I launched A Year With Jim, a daily posting about life in my corner of the world on Instagram and the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. I was rather surprised by its popularity, and expected a sharp decline in followers when our Facebook page was locked (still haven’t been able to resolve the problem) in February.

Instead its popularity soared. Soon we had more than 1,000 followers on Instagram, and a growing number of requests to keep it going when the year ended. And that was how Decade With Jim came into being. Yesterday I shared a special post as it was a milestone, day number 800.

Podcast development is also on the list. Promotion and marketing needs to be developed. Program sponsors are needed for expansion of the programs. And for 2023, as I want the podcasts to be more interactive, there is a need to line up some guests.

And if I get bored, there is always The Beast, the 1951 Chevrolet panel truck that is envisioned as a rolling Route 66 information center, book store and studio for the various Jim Hinckley’s America programs. With the exception of the gas tank and gas gauge the installation of a wiring harness is complete. But I have a grounding issue to resolve. Now that a suitable donor differential has been located, that will be the next issue to address.

So much has happened since I made a decision and took that first step. It has me rather excited about the next thirty two years at Jim Hinckley’s America. I can only imagine the technologies that will allow me to share the adventure. I can only imagine the discoveries that we will make on our odysseys.

An Edsel For The 21st Century

An Edsel For The 21st Century

Age is a funny thing. As an example, several years ago I was visiting the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, California where they literally take you for a drive. One of the vehicles on display was an AMC Pacer, a car that had been dubbed the fishbowl when I was working in a used car lot garage back in the mid-1970s. In my mind’s eye that was just a couple of years ago.

So, it was a shock to see cars like a Pacer and Gremlin that I had worked on when they were almost new on display in a museum. Again, in my mind’s eye I was still 20 or 25 years of age but here was glaring evidence that I was of the I Like Ike button, tail fins on Cadillac and Edsel era, and that was a very long time ago.

An even more jarring brush with the passing of time occurred this past spring at the annual Route 66 Fun Run in western Arizona. There amongst the hundreds of vehicles on display, parked in a line of vehicles that included a battered 1929 Ford AA truck, a couple of 1960s Corvettes, a beautiful 1955 Mercury convertible and a pristine Plymouth Volare was a Saturn S1 coupe.

Now, since the trip to El Segundo, I have slowly been able to accept the fact that a Volare is now considered a classic vehicle. But a Saturn? To say the very least it was a bit disturbing to see this little coupe sporting historic vehicle plates.

A milestone on the path to adulthood is acceptance of the fact that taxes and death are an inevitable part of life. A milestone on the path to maturity, and learning to simply enjoy a simple life, is acceptance of the fact that times change.

Every aspect of Route 66 in 1930 was dramatically different from the Route 66 or 1950, or 1960. I am not quite as old as rope but daily it becomes more evident that I am mere months away from being viewed as a relic. In 1990, I cranked out my first professionaly written feature article on a battered 1948 Underwood typewriter with a “t” key that stuck at the most inopportune times. A majority of my research was accomplished with a typed letter, an envelope, a stamp, and a long wait, and visits to the library. A research trip that took me out on the road required a pocket full of change as the pay phone was my best friend.

Research for an upcoming presentation about the dark side of life in territorial Arizona during the closing years of the territorial era and infancy of statehood was the catalyst for these thoughts. As I was perusing newspaper archives in search of stories for the program, little details in articles led me to taking notes unrelated to the poject at hand. I have little doubt that that these notes will morph into other stories at some poinit in the future.

As an example, who was Jim Hendrickson? The sparse details in his obituary piqued the imagination.

How did a man born in 1845 adapt to the world of 1912? He was a Civil War veteran that had arrived in the Arizona territory in about 1869. He had been a teamster in the Mojave Desert, and survived two attacks by Native Americans that were battling what they saw as invaders. In one of those skirmishes Jim Hendrickson was wounded and left for dead.

Apparently he was a moderately succesful rancher, and itinerant prospector. He had once been married but his wife had died in childbirth. And when he died of bronchitis in Los Angeles, he was on a business trip. He was looking into securing an agency to sell shiny new Maxwell automobiles in Kingman.

Hendrickson had traveled across the continent on foot and by horseback. He had witnessed the transition from steamboats on the Colorado River, and arduous travels across the harsh deserts, to railroads and even automobiles. He had been a part of an unprecedented migration, and played a role in the transformation of a sparsely inhabited wilderness into a modern world of towns and cities with electric lights.

This photo of the first Packard dealership in Kingman is courtesy the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

Thoughts of Mr. Hendrickson were the seeds that sprouted as an episode about the rise and fall of Saturn on Car Talk From The Main Street of America, a Jim Hinckley’s America podcast. Those thoughts were also an opportunity for me to consider the changes that I have witnessed, my ability to adapt, and to speculate on what the future might hold for a man born in the era of the Edsel.

Times change. Learn to adapt, develop a fascination for new technologies, make friends of all ages, enjoy lively conversation with people who have a different world view, and limit the amount of time you spend strolling down Memory Lane.