Author Jim HInckley signing books after leading a neon nights walking tour in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Anita Shaw
Well, I have been experimenting with Bing’s GPT-4, the highly touted artifical intelligence chat feature. I have come to the conclusion that in its current form this artifical intelligence may have dementia. Or, perhaps, it is simply lazy when it comes to research. In either case I am not impressed.
I decided to give it a trial run with a request that would not require me to spend time with fact checking. So, I selected “Compose” and requested “Biography author Jim Hinckley.” For tone I selected informational. Next I selected “”Blog Post” and long.
The response was quick. I learned that, “Hinckley was born in North Carolina in 1957, but moved to Arizona with his family when he was a teenager.” Well, I moved to Arizona in 1966, not exactly a teenager.
And I also learned that, “He began writing articles for magazines and newspapers, and later published his first book, The Big Book of Car Culture, in 2005.” My first book was about the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. The Big Book of Car Culture was my second book.
“They have two grown children and four grandchildren. Hinckley is currently working on his next book, which will be a biography of Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and a prominent figure in the automotive industry.” This paragraph was the biggest surprise.
I am not sure how to tell my wife that we have two grown children. For the last thirty four years she thought that we had just one son. To be honest, so did I.
As to the upcoming book about Edsel Ford, that is an excellent idea. I have long been a fan of Edsel, and his is a story that needs to told in detail.
But now I am worried about a pressing deadline. After all, I haven’t added a single word to the text file as yet, and I am not sure if the dealine is next week or next year. I don’t even know which publisher to contact for details.
This is not to say that artificial intelligence for research doesn’t have potential. But at this time I would feel more comfortable asking an aged grandfather that thinks Eisenhower is president and that his Edsel stock will be soon be worth a fortune that trust Bing’s artifical intelligence.
Avid fans know that I am more comfortable with the technologies associated with the era of the Model A Ford than that of the 21st century. Still, technology and gadgets fascinate me. And I will grudgingly try new things. I will even use them if it saves time, or enhances my work.
With a bit of imagination, I can get excited about the future of artifical intelligence for research. But at this time it terrifies me. This is the errors of Wikipedia magnified exponentially. We live in an era when any conspiracy, no matter how outlandish, will be believed if it is presented as fact by someone masquerading as a journalist on an imitation news program, as a doctor on Facebook, or as a politician that cares about more than his own bank account and prestige.
I want to be excited about the future, and a world where AI makes the world of the author a tad bit easier. But between today and that rosy future, I am envisioning a some very bad things.
Author Rudolfo Anya has a Route 66 connection. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Rudolfo Anaya is a renowned writer with a long list of published novels, short stories, essays and even poems. His best known work was also his first novel, Bless Me, Ultima. Published in 1972, the novel tells the fascinating story of Antonio, a young boy growing up in rural New Mexico in the 1940s.
The coming of age novel that is today recognized as a classic of Chicano literature explores themes of identity, religion, family, and culture. In 2012 the drama that centered on the relationship between a young boy, and an elderly medicine woman who helps him contend with the battle between good and evil that rages in his village was made into a movie.
Lots of lessons have been learned over the course of the past sixty five years. Counted among those lessons is the realization that learning leads to an awareness about how little I know. A recent introduction to the work of Rudolfo Anaya is but one example.
A few weeks ago I was attending a conference in Vail, Colorado. My presentation was about the twisted path that lead to the writing of numerous books, the creation of Jim Hinckley’s America, and how Route 66 was the thread that tied it all together.
At the conferences cocktail hour I met Ray Lucero of the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, and a discussion about Route 66 ensued as he was from Albuquerque. As it turned out he also had a connection with Santa Rosa, New Mexico, a Route 66 community known for the legendary Blue Hole.
His uncle was Rudolfo Anya who spent his childhood in Santa Rosa. The town figures prominently in Bless Me, Ultima. And along an alignment of Route 66 near the city’s beautiful lake in Bless Me Ultima Park is a life-sized statue of Rudolfo Anaya designed and sculpted by Reynaldo Rivera that was dedicated in 2008.
With a bit of embarrassment I had to admit my ignorance about Anaya. I vaguely knew the name and had heard about his novel. That oversight is being rectified as I have ordered a copy of his famous novel.
According to Britannica, Anaya was born in Pastura, New Mexico, in 1937, but spent some childhood years in Santa Rosa. In those years the traffic that flowed along Route 66 ensured diversity and vibrancy even in small rural communities. And that obviously influenced Anaya’s imagination and curiosity about the world.
Anya’s statue is only one feature that honors the authors work. In the park there is a brick wall with a bas relief showcasing a detailed depiction of scenes from the Bless Me, Ultima story. It is an illustrated map of Santa Rosa on the Pecos River.
Pa always told me that if a man wasn’t careful, he would learn something new every day. He was right. I was in Colorado to learn about trends in technology, for networking, and for some inispiration. And I learned about a fascinating author, an interesting conservation organization with a Route 66 connection, and I was given another reason to visit Santa Rosa.
If you are ever in New Mexico motoring west, or east, on iconic Route 66, I highly recommend a stop in Santa Rosa and a visit to this beautiful park. It is a great way to learn more about Anaya and his novel. And it is an opportunity to learn more about an amzing little town that is simply known as the home of the Blue Hole.
That’s all for this week. But Jim HInckley’s America is built on my gift for telling people where to go, and my passion for sharing America’s story. So, rest assured, I will be telling more sotries in future posts.
The long shuttered Hotel Beale in Kingman, Arizona is linked to pioneering aviation history, and a number of Hollywood celebrities. Photo postcard Steve Rider collection.
He was possessed with an unbridled imagination. He was capable of visualizing amazing things, and then making them a reality. A means to balance high speed steam turbines and electric razors are two examples. Cruise control is another.
But, perhaps, the most amazing thing about Ralph Teetor wasn’t his ability to transform dreams into reality. It is that he did so while suffering from what many people would consider a debilitating handicap. As a child he had been injured in his fathers machine shop. Mr. Ralph Teetor was blind.
I stumbled on to Mr. Teetor’s story while researching stories for a monthly column entitled The Independent Thinker written during my tenure as associate editor for Cars and Parts. Even though the magazine has been defunct for more than a decade, I still recieve notes about the inspiration that inspired.
From a financial standpoint that column was not my most rewarding venture. But it remains one of the most satisfying things I have done in my career as a writer. And it has inspired everything I have done since my tenure at Cars & Parts.
Our tag line at Jim Hinckley’s America is telling people where to go, and sharing America’s story. Linked with that is my infatuation with people that inspire. People like Ralph Teetor, Eddie Stinson, and Andy Devine, the character actor whose childhood years were linked to the Hotel Beale in Kingman, Arizona.
In my presentations, books, articles, and podcast programs it is my intent to inspire road trips as well as dreams of innovation, and to wrap these in tales that share America’s story. That often leads to irritation when a publisher wants to cut material or when there are issues with social media accounts such as the locking of the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page.
Recently, working with program producer Stan Hustad, I began reviving the independent thinker series as an audio podcast, Car Talk From The Main Street of America that is sponsored in part by Visit Tucumcari. On the episode for Friday, January 13, 2023, I shared the story of aeronautical pioneer Eddie Stinson.
Edward Anderson Stinson was born on July 11, 1894 in Fort Payne, Alabama. He and his sister developed a fascination for airplanes at an early age. His sister Katherine was one of the nations first licensed pilots.
Eddie, while still a teenager, traveled to St. Louis and talked his way into a job as a test pilot for an aviation company. At the time his only experience with airplanes were books that he had read! During World War I he served as a flight instructor for the U.S. Army Air Corps, and a decade later he would launch Stinson Aircraft.
The dawn of a new year has filled me with eager anticipation. I am creating an extensive archive of inspirational stories for the podcast. And I am also working on a new series of programs for presentations. It is also my intent to dust off an idea from the pre COVID era. Stay tuned for details!
Unveiling the Jim Hinckley statue at Depot Plaza on National Road Trip Day
Surreal. Can you think of a better word to descibe the past couple of years? It definitely is a descriptor for my life since at least the onset of the apocalypse in 2020.
Since the first of December, I have had a publisher initiate discussions about the feasibility of writing two books in 2023, with no advance, and had two book signings. One book signing took place in the parking lot of a Burbank, California motel. The second was at a venerable book store that opened in the early 1950s, and Jay Leno showed up driving a Duesenberg.
Highlights of November include a regional tourism meeting in Needles, California and a tour of the historic El Garces hoteland Harvey House that opened in 1908. On the drive home the alternator quit on the Jeep and so I drove home on battery power without lights.
Oddly enough the amp gauge dropped to zero at the junction of Route 66 and Boundary Cone Road near Oatman, Arizona. This was almost the exact spot that pa’s Studebaker broke down back in the early 1970s. That trip turned out to be a two part adventure, us walking into Oatman and then after repairs, my first solo drive on the highway.
In October my dearest friend and I embarked on our first Route 66 odyssey since the onset of the apocalypse. To parphrase a bit of classic literature, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Put another way, it was our best road trip in many, many years. And it was hands down one of the worst that we have had in forty years.
In the new era you don’t merely rent a car. That is a relic from the BC (before COVID) era. Renting a car is an adventure in itself. It is a gamblers special. Will the rental company be able to honor my reservation? If so, will the vehicle I get be anything like the one that I reserved? And then there is the wild fluctuations of price that will often be two, three or four times the cost of a rental car before 2020.
The most surreal moment of my life, at least so far, took place in May of this year during the National Road Trip celebrations. That was when the Kingman Main Streetspearheaded project that included a self gudied narrated historic district walking tour and a public arts project was unveiled.
The walking tour was a project that had initially been discussed in 2014. So, it was a privilege to do the research and to provide narration. The public arts component was a statue of me by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. Even seeing the statue adorned with a Christmas wreath last week paled in comparison to the unveiling ceremony.
All of this has me looking toward 2023 with excitment, eager anticipation, and a hint of apprehension. The series of programs aboutKingman Arizona, barn finds on our Car Talk From The Main Street of Americapodcast gave the embryonic endeavor a boost. To kick off the new year we are asking people to share their stories about a favorite car, a barn find, their worst car, their first cor or the car that they still wish they owned.
Our second podcast, the live stream Sunday morning travel program Coffee With Jimmay be undergoing a major transition. We have finalized arrangements for use of the Arizona room at Calico’s restaurnt as a studio. Now we are looking for sponsors.
Hosting the program at Calico’s would add a new dimension to the program. We would have an interactive audience, and in addition to the audio podcast, we would record it as a video for the Jim Hinckley’s AmericaYouTube channel.
We are filling the spring calendar fairly quickly. It is still a far cry from 2019 but it is still early. And we are starting on a fall schedule of appearances as well. The organizers of the 2023 Miles of Possibility conference scheduled for October in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois have asked me to speak at the event.
And now we are counting the days until Christmas. Then we can work on our very special year in review program.
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 Jimand Car Talk From The Main Street of America, our audio podcasts. Yesterday a section with recommended podcasts such as Evan Stern’s acclaimed Vanishing Postcardswas 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.