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.
The former Hackett Auto Factory with gaping holes in the roof, a few missing windows, and a port a potty in the corner now tops my list of most bizzare locations for making a presentation.
I have been traveling the back roads of America since 1959. I have been tellling people where to go since 1990 (as a writer as well as through Jim Hinckley’s America) and since at least 1976 as a manifestation of a low tolerance for stupidity, grifters, and opportunists. This trip has been the most grueling, one of the most unusual and one of the most emotional to date. This trip has tested my patience for the aforementioned people. It has also been an adventure along memory lane.
Last year when I traveled to Jackson, Michigan and made a presentation in support of the future Hackett Auto Museum, I also visited my pa. At that time it was obvious that age was creeping up on him fast (he was 90). He was still working on his houses, mowing the lawn and could still pack away a hearty meal but there was ample evidence that he was in decline. We were never a close clan and even though we both knew our time together was limited, there was no thawing of a relationship that would best be described as distant and alienated. Reflections on his advancing age, and mine, made the trip bittersweet. At that time it was also one of the hardest roadtrips ever undertaken as it was the first cross country adventure in 35 years made without my dearest friend.
Today I visited my pa in an assisted living facility. His obvious frailty was in stark contrast to the man I had never seen sick, the barrel chested fellow who once delivered refrigerators to second floor apartments by strapping them to his back. Most troubling of all was his mental state. He didn’t know who I was. A tragedy on so many levels.
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
It was a delight to have my dearest friend with me again as my laughing travel companion, especially during the long hours spent negotiating endless miles of road construction and driving through torrential rains. To have her with me today was a blessing as I am truly embarking on a journey along Memory Lane.
It wasn’t all sadness and reflection today. There was a true ray of sunshine, a bit of inspiration. After years of sporadic phone calls I met with my nephew, his wonderful wife, and their youngest daughter. They have been dad’s caregivers since his wife passed away this past May. It was refreshing to see what a fine young man and passionate father he has become. I can’t say enough about his wife and daughter, especially after seeing them in action today as they gently took care of pa.
Overall the fall tour has been a blending of the old, distributing promotional materials for communities and advertising sponsors along the Route 66 corrdior, and meeting with old friends as well as business associates, and the new. In the latter category I have had ample opportunity to sample some interesting restaurants (stay tuned), and to visit some of the most fascinating people such as Ken Soderbeck, a man known throughout the world for his restoration of antique fire trucks and equipment.
And I topped my previous list of most unusual places to make a presentation. This time I spoke in a 110 year old auto factory that was missing windows and most of the roof (did I mention that it was forty five degrees?). It was far from the largest audience I have had for a presentation and book signing but, surprisingly, a handful of people actually turned out for the event including Anthony Hurst of the Hurst Foundation.
Promotional materials distributed along Route 66
Incredibly the trip has just begun. Next up is an interview on JTV about the new book, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, and a discussion about plans for a book about Jackson’s rich industrial heritage. Then it’s the Miles of Possibility Conference and related meetings. That will be followed by a presentation and forum on tourism and economic development in Cuba, Missouri which will be followed by a fun filled evening, and book signing, at the 10th anniversary celebration of Connie Echols ownership of the historic Wagon Wheel Motel. From there its homeward bound along Route 66; visits with old friends, meetings related to tourism development and good pie.
It will truly be an adventure along Memory Lane. Every mile of this old road is tinged with memories. Memories of my dad as we traveled west in his new 1964 Ford Fairlane. Memories of my dad teaching me to repair a tube along the highway.
Historic Jackson, Michigan at night, a city being reinvented.
Memories of the epic move from Michigan to Arizona in 1966. Memories of him teaching me to drive a stick shift (’49 Studebaker stake bed). Memoris of him teaching me the value of a handshake, of looking a man in the eye. Memories of helping him build a homestead along Route 66 in the Sacramento Valley of western Arizona. Memories of a truck wreck near Gallup in 1976. Memories of roadside campouts, cold beans eaten from the can, roadside repairs, and silent meals eaten in countless neon lit cafes. There are memories of long hot summer days, the smells of wet pavement and gas stations at midnight. There are memories of trucks and cars; the ’58 Chevy Viking used during one of the many epic moves, the ’53 Chevy truck I drove from Gallup after the wreck, the ’64 Olds that dropped the transmission while pulling a trailer up a steep grade somewhere in the Ozarks. Memories of my dads unshakeable confidence to overcome any disaster or problem encountered. Memories of superficial conversations to pass the miles. Memories and my dearest friend, companions for the road trip home.
Yep, this will be a trip for the record books. This will be an adventure never to be forgotten. This will be an adventure along Memory Lane.
It started as a presentation about the opportunities for economic development and community revitalization made possible by the Route 66 renaissance. Before the evening was over the audience had migrated to a local saloon, and the conversation had shifted to Jim Hinckley’s America, it’s origins, and how it had become a favored travel planning portal for legions of road trip enthusiasts. The short version is that Jim Hinckley’s America began with a dream, a 1948 Underwood typewriter, and the support of a very dear friend.
Books have been a passion for as long as I can remember so it should come as little surprise to learn that becoming an author was a childhood goal. Well there were a few delays along the way but in 1990 the fist steps were taken to transform the dream into a reality.
Photo courtesy Anita Shaw
What an adventure it has been! I was honored by an interview with Jay Leno at his garage and receipt of the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards. One publisher went belly up and that left me holding the bag on 18 months of work. I have made presentations in 20 states and four European countries, I spoke in German schools, and was privileged opportunities to cruise Route 66 in a Telsa equipped with auto-pilot and a 1915 Ford in the same week. The greatest reward, however, has been the people met along the way and the friends made.
The adventure started when my dearest friend, with gentle persuasion, suggested that I try writing a feature about a salvage yard along the Mexican border. So, I simply called the editor at Hemmings Motor News, talked cars a bit and poof, my first story, Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie was sold. I cranked it out on a battered old pawnshop typewriter and was awarded $250 for my efforts. With visions of success and profits looming on the horizon I began calling editors and publishers, sending query letters, and writing countless letters of introduction. Eighteen months later I landed my seconded writing project, a weekly travel column for the Kingman Daily Miner that paid $15 per week.
It was my stint with the Miner where I first encountered the discount between reality and perception. In the months that followed I lost count of how many times people told me how much they enjoyed my column, and how fortunate I must be to be paid to travel.
My first mentor in the business was Tina Luster, now a director with the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau in California. When we worked together she was the editor for the Launghlin Nevada Times Weekender. She patiently helped me to develop a bit of professionalism and add a bit of polish to my work, and survived some off the chart crazy adventures like exploration on what had once been a road in the Mojave Desert. Did I mention that it was summer or that my ’74 Ford truck did not have air conditioning or that we arrived in Needles for a meeting a bit worse for wear?
Brad Bowling, then the editor of Old Cars Weekly, gave me the next step up. Over the years I followed Bowling to various publications including the now defunct Cars & Parts. It was for that publication that I worked as an associate editor. I also wrote a monthly column entitled the Independent Thinker in which I wrote stories about interesting but obscure people in the auto industry such as the blind inventor of cruise control, a fellow who invented an eight wheeled car, and Studebaker’s electric car endeavor. This led to the publication of my first book for Iconografix, a little tome about the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.
It was through Cars & Part that I met Jon Robinson and through him, Dennis Pernu at Motorbooks International, and that was the beginning of a series of books. Jim Hinckley’s America was launched when the shift was made from writing predominately about auto history to travel subjects, an opportunity to exercise my God given gift for telling people where to go.
The list of people who have played a role in the development of Jim Hinckley’s America is lengthy. Toshi Goto patiently sat as my first test subject for an audio recording that become the Ten Minutes With Jim weekly podcast. A special thank you goes to supporters of the crowdfunding initiative that were crucial to initial development, and that remain vital for projects that are not economically viable. Jan Kuperus of US Bikers retained my services to speak at a travel fair and that was our first trip to Europe. The list of those who have contributed to the transformation of an idea into a reality is lengthy enough to stretch from here to Dinkelsbuhl and back again. And the adventure that is Jim Hinckley’s America is just beginning. As the boys from the Road Crew say in our theme song, come along for the ride.
Noting that shared adventures are the best adventures has
Introducing a Dutch tour group to the intricacies of driving a 1923 double T Ford truck. Photo Daniel Kuperus
become a trademark of sorts. When it comes to Jim Hinckley’s America those shared adventures range from road trips to Facebook live programs, navigating the often confusing world of apps and software programs, research projects and even driving lessons in a 1923 double T Ford truck. In my world every day dawns with an opportunity for new adventures.
As I haven’t posted in awhile you may have guessed that an adventure was unfolding and that this adventure would be shared. Actually there were a number of adventures unfolding and as a result, the schedule was quite full from daylight to well past dark. Did you miss me?
Let’s see if I can keep this brief, but interesting and informative. Last week Jan Kuperus of Netherlands based U.S. Bikers contacted me. His spring Route 66 tour was on the road but resultant of a medical situation, a visa snafu, and a couple of other unforeseen problems he was short on guides. So, at just after 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, for the low cost of a $75 ticket, I boarded the east bound Southwest Chief at the Kingman railroad depot and headed out for Albuquerque. (more…)
Some people fear death and obsess about diet, exercise, and
face lifts as they make valiant but futile attempts to stave off the inevitable. As a result, to borrow a slogan from Belmont Winery in Leasburg, Missouri, they don’t have time to enjoy the simple taste of life. Work alcoholics suffer a similar malady. One of the greatest challenges in this life is to strike a balance. We need to work to live and not live to work. We need to avoid the trap that is killing time and never forget that time is finite.
I will be the first to admit that often in the rush to meet a deadline, these are simple lessons that are forgotten. This is in spite of the fact that on a daily basis, as I write about lives cut short, I am reminded about the brevity of life, the futility of myopically focusing on work with the hope that at some point in the distant future there will be time to enjoy life. (more…)