Ezra Manning Meeker was born on December 29, 1830. He died on December 3, 1928. He is a role model for anyone that struggles to adapt to new technologies, or make sense of a rapidly changing world.
In an ox cart he, his new bride and an infant son traveled west over the Oregon Trail in 1852. He built an empire with the growing of hops, and was the first mayor of Puyallup, Washington. Meeker made four trips into the Yukon country during the gold rush of the late 1890s.
In the first years of the 20th century, as America embraced the automobile and technologies that promised a bright, new future, Meeker worried that the Oregon Trail and its role in the development of the country was being forgotten. And so he launched a publicity campaign to have it marked awith monuments.
In the years 1906, 1907, and 1908 he retraced his steps along the Oregon Trail by wagon. He gave interviews along the way, and spoke in communities along the trail as well as in towns during his journey to New York City. And in Washington, D.C. he met with President Theodore Roosevelt.
His fame, and public awareness about his campaign to erect monuments along the Oregon Trail, grew exponentially as launched a national speaking tour, began writing books, and worked to establish the Oregon-California Trails Association. And he traveled the Oregon Trail again by oxcart in 1910, 1911 and 1912.
With a friend and an automobile donated by National, he expanded on his speaking tour. And he took time in the late teens to assist his son with construction of the first service station and campground complex in the Cajon Pass along the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66.
In 1924 he traveled by airplane to Dayton, Ohio for an event honoring pioneers. And in 1928, during a trip to Michigan where he was to meet Henry Ford and discuss a promotional campaign for the new Model A, Meeker fell ill. Henry Ford personally saw to his care.
Meeker recovered, and traveled home to Washington. Shortly after his return, he again took ill nad passed away shortly afterwards.
When I encounter issues with Facebook, a seemingly necessary evil, my thoughts turn to Mr. Meeker. I reflect on his ability to adapt, to even thrive, in changing times. That gives me a broader perspective, which in turn helps me think of new and creative ways to inspire road trips and to tell people where to go.
Facebook has become an integral component in marketing. But it is far from being a dependable promotional venue. Quite the opposite. The Jim Hinckley’s America page with nearly 8,000 followers has been locked since February 18. Countless hours have been spent on attempts to resolve the issue, and I have yet to receive a response. These were hours that could have been spent on telling people where to go. And now, the James Hinckley page on Facebook has been locked on several occassions. Fortunately I have been able to resolve this problem with minimal effort and expenditure of time.
Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hit me in the head with 2 x 4 and tell me it was an accident. Chances are that I will believe you. But around the fifth time, I start to get suspicious. Suffice to say, Facebook and I are about to part ways.
We become so dependant on a tool or something that we accept as a service, it becomes difficult to imagine life without it. But as I step back, and as I reflect on Mr. Meeker, I see alternatives. So, we are going to continue developing this website. As per Mr. Meeker, I will be pursuing interviews and speaking engagements. I will be taking the show on the road. And I will be tapping into other opportunities’ for sharing adventures and inspiring road trips such as our podcasts, Coffee With Jim and Car Talk From The Main Street of America.
Enough time has been spent in frustration. Now it is time to see the issues with Facebook as an opportunity. It is time to find other means of sharing stories from my six decades on Route 66.
He was a legend on the southwest frontier in the late 19th century. He had a well-deserved reputation as a fearless lawman and a career that spanned more than fifty years even though he lost use of his left arm during a gun battle in Fairbank, Arizona.
The incredible story of Jeff Davis Milton, a frontier era lawman, is the subject of the February 23rd episode of Wake Up With Jim, the Jim HInckley’s Americaaudio podcast. And, of course, we also have to share the story of Fairbank.
The podcast is the latest manifestation of our quest to find new ways to tell people where to go. And now, as it looks like we may putting the apocalypse behind us, personal appearances are again being scheduled. Development of both projects will dominate a great deal of the spring.
There are still a few open weekends between today and the National Road Trip Day celebrations on May 27. But I expect the calendar to fill rapidly in the next few weeks. That is a refreshing change.
A number of Route 66 sites are being included in the tour. One of these is the tarnished relic that is the Arcadia Lodge.
As with Route 66 itself, the motel evolved with the passing of time. In the years of the highways infancy railroad hotels remained a popular option. Campgrounds and rustic cabin camps were also popular lodging choices. By the mid-1930s travelers had become more refined and to compete motels needed to offer modern amenities such as hot and cold water in the room and radios. This was also the era when luxury motels began to replace the lavish railroad hotels such as the Harvey Houses.
Then in the 1950s chains such as Holiday Inn, Ramada, and Hiway House increasingly made it difficult for the mom-and-pop motel to compete. With a decline in profits, maintenance was deferred, the property was abandoned, or the motel complex was converted into low rent apartments. The World Monuments Fund recently listed Route 66 motels as some of, quote, “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.” Prewar motels are increasingly scarce.
In 1935, U.S. 466 was established with its eastern terminus at Route 66 in Kingman. As a result, investors looked toward Kingman and began establishing modern upscale motels.
The Arcadia Lodge in Kingman, Arizona is a rare roadside relic that opened before WWII. Photo Mike Ward collection.
John F. Miller was a pioneer in the development of modern hotels and motels. In 1905 he established the Nevada Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few years later he expanded the hotel and renamed it Hotel Sal Sagev, Las Vegas spelled backwards. In 1939 he built the expansive El Trovatore Motel complex and restaurant in the unincorporated community of El Trovatore along Route 66 east of Kingman.
The year before this the Arcadia Court had opened at the east end of Kingman. The Spanish hacienda styled court opened with promotion that proclaimed the motel offered the, quote, “finest appointments for the fastidious guest.”
The AAA Directory of Motor Courts & Cottages published in 1940 noted that the Arcadia was 15 air-conditioned cottages with baths, $3 to $3.50 per night. To provide perspective most motels in Kingman rented rooms for $2 to $2.50 per night.
Shortly after WWII the complex was dramatically expanded, and the name was changed to Arcadia Lodge. The addition of a second story transformed it into a 47-room motel. The 1954 edition of the Western Accommodations Directory published by AAA included an expansive listing.
An attractive Spanish style court on landscaped grounds. Air cooled units have one or two rooms, central heat and tiled showers or combination baths. Baby beds available. Jade Restaurant adjacent. Pets allowed, $4.50 to $10 per night.
A swimming pool was added a few years later to remain competitive with the chain motels and newer motels being built along Route 66. Purportedly this was the first motel in Kingman with a swimming pool.
In the fall of 1962, the motel was again remodeled. An article published on November 1 detailed some of the improvements. They included replacement of the dated neon sign with one that was more modern in appearance which towered above the sign that indicated a best Western affiliation. It was proclaimed to be the tallest promotional sign in the city. This sign remains in place at the Arcadia Lodge.
Whitney Ortiz, tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois, and her husband Miguel, with a carboard Jim at the Kingman Main Street booth.
After more than a dozen years of dancing in and out of the spotlight I still find the attention rather disconcerting at times. In my minds eye I am just Jim Hinckley, a fellow from the backcountry of Arizona that reflects some years of hard mileage in my face and the scars on my hands, and a tremendous enjoyment of good pie and good beer around the middle.
In a recent interview I was referenced as “America’s storyteller” and “Mr. Route 66.” Both references left me pondering where the perception of who I am intersects with the reality of who I am. One of the most treasured titles was bestowed from a friend in the Netherlands – an intellectual redneck.
All titles and accolades aside I am indeed a very fortunate fellow. And I live a life that on reflection often surprises me as much as the international requests for interviews. Just consider this past week.
With just a few hours to spare, I beat the deadline on book number twenty-one and sent the text to the publisher. That leaves two weeks to complete a photo file and write captions.
Counted among the accomplishments of the past week was completion of the blogs that I write for clients of MyMarketing Designs. A primary challenge with this endeavor is finding materials to write a blog for a diverse array of businesses including a kite store, a frame and print shop, a landscaping and swimming pool company, an RV park and the Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce.
I facilitated a lunch at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and spoke about Route 66 as well as Kingman area history for a Two Lane America tour. It is always a delight to meet with groups but the reward is more than just monetary. Judging by the notes received apparently I enhance their adventure by weaving a colorful tapestry of history blurs the line between past and present.
Souvenirs provided by the Route 66 Yacht Club and the Route 66 Association of Kingman
As a bonus I get to promote my adopted hometown, Kingman, Arizona. And as the Route 66 Yacht Club and the Route 66 Association of Kingman provide me with pins and patches that can be given as souvenirs, I am assured that our visitors will always remember Kingman.
And I was fortunate in that there was an opportunity for a date with my dearest friend. For nearly forty years this amazing woman has been my right hand, crutch, anchor, support group, best friend, trusted advisor, and partner in lean times and in good.
Then there were a few interviews. And there was also an interesting request received from the History channel that has me eagerly looking toward Monday.
The week also included a few desert excursions to evaluate some new community education classes I am developing for Mohave Community College. And then last evening, to promote the new Beale Street campus in the Kingman historic district, I hosted a fun trivia night. This was also a promotion and introduction for an historic district walking tour I will be leading on behalf of the college this coming Tuesday evening.
Another highlight this week was serving as an unofficial Kingman ambassador as I provided Whitney Ortiz, tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois, and her husband Miguel, a journalist, with a Kingman area tour that included hiking trails, historic trails and sites, an introduction to the former Kingman Army Airfield, and area museums. As there is no subsidy from the city for these services I am sure grateful to supporters of our crowdfunding initiative and to our sponsors. Without them this would not be feasible.
The tour with Ortiz provided an opportunity to discuss ways to build productive cooperative partnerships within the Route 66 community, and within the tourism industry. Unfortunately many communities fail to see the value in tourism, or even worse, have tourism directors that half heartedly work to develop tourism as a means of building a personal fiefdom.
A rendering of the proposed Hinckley Plaza, a component in the historic district walking tour project spearheaded by Kingman Main Street.
And there is the multifaceted Kingman Main Streetinitiative to develop a self guided, narrated historic district walking tour. It has been my distinct pleasure to be a part of this project as it is something I have envisioned for many years.
The one component that I have issues with is linked to my original statement. I don’t see myself as a celebrity, just part of a team that is working to keep Route 66 alive for another generation and that is working to awaken Kingman to its potential. So a plaza named for me, with a statue, is a bit hard to fathom.
There is an odd feeling that the dedication will be akin to attending my own funeral. I am honored and humbled, but the perception of who I am and the reality of who I am just doesn’t seem to in sync.
An argument could be made that the great American love affair with road trips began with the bicycle. During the 1890’s the country was consumed with bicycle mania and that included touring. In June 1899, Frank Burtt whose family had made a fortune with an iron foundry and the manufacture of furnaces set out with friends on a bicycling tour from Kalamazoo, Michigan through Ohio and to New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In the same year a bicycle club in Grand Rapids, Michigan organized a tour to St. Louis.
I use this decade when a Duryea Motor Wagon, the first production American automobile, was given top billing over the albino and dog boy at Barnum Bailey Circus and the Wright Brothers were manufacturing bicycles as the opening for an exciting and fun filled new presentation I have developed for 2020. It is a program about dramatic societal evolution, fads, corporate intrigue, swashbuckling entrepreneurs, fortunes made and fortunes lost, eccentrics and dreamers and some very colorful characters.
Even though I kicked it off in December 2019, one of the big projects for 2020 is the penning of an autobiography, a darkly comedic tale that is full of odd twists and turns. However, rather than go to print, as I am sure that there will be new chapters to write as 2020 gives way to 2021, and 2021 gives way to 2022, the decision was made to offer it in serial format. I have been providing serials as exclusive content to supporters of our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platformfor quite some time. Commencing in late 2018, the entire travel journal from Edsel Ford’s 1915 odyssey was printed in weekly chapters. The autobiography will run for most of 2020.
A presentation on the evolution of Route 66 that will be made in Needles, California
Speaking engagements and presentations are shaping up to be a big part of 2020 for Jim Hinckley’s America. To enhance the engagements I have been given permission to provide attendees with a Route 66 Mother Road Passport from Touch Media, developer of the Route 66 Navigation app, a $10 value. On the 13th of January, I will present a class on the rich cinematic history in Kingman, Arizona, and how that history can be used as a tourism development tool, at Mohave Community College. On the 15th, I speak about lost opportunities, the economics of tourism and how grassroots initiatives can harness tourism as a catalyst for historic business district revitalization. The event hosted by the Route 66 Yacht Club will be held at Calico’s restaurant in Kingman.
On the 7th of February, I take the show on the road with a presentation at the historic El Garces in Needles, California. At this event hosted by the Historic Museum of Needles, I will speak on the history of Route 66 in the southwest from Native American trade routes to Spanish conquistadors, camel caravans, the National Old Trails Road and even the Route 66 renaissance. In June its off to an engagement in Spokane. Meanwhile I am working on filling in the blank dates and developing a speaking tour.
The weekly Five Minutes With Jim audio podcast has been honed and market tested. Now it’s time for syndication and expanded distribution. I so enjoy telling people where to go and have been greatly encouraged by the response to the programs. Last week I shared some interesting tidbits from celebrity association with Kingman, Arizona, and this coming Sunday it’s a program dedicated to wonderful, magical Cuba, Missouri. And then, in response to requests received, I will dedicate a program to evaluating tour companies that specialize in Route 66.
The sun had yet to crest the Black Mountains of Arizona when we made the California border on the recent trip to Pasadena.
It is the dawning of a new year, and a new decade. The year 2019 is on the cusp of becoming history, and 2020 is shaping up to be a year filed with opportunity and possibility. I am quite confident that it will also be a year of shared adventures and road trip, all shared with friends.
Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America. This is the title for the next book, number nineteen. To say the very least, it is a series of very dark tales. As an example, “…a tragedy that occurred in 1952 placed Grants in the media spotlight nationwide. On Friday, April 11, 1952, State Police Officer Nash Garcia was parked on the shoulder of U. S. Route 66 about 20 miles east of Grants. A pickup truck sped past him at a high rate of speed with the driver recklessly passing cars. Abruptly, in a cloud of dust, the driver pulled onto the shoulder before turning back into the highway in front of oncoming traffic. Miraculously he avoided causing an accident or collision before speeding east past Officer Garcia and roaring toward Grants. Garcia immediately began pursuit.
Near the Acoma Indian Reservation, the driver left the highway, turned onto a dirt road, drove for a few miles, and then violently braked the truck to a stop. As Officer Garcia neared the truck, an assassin lying in ambush opened fire with a rifle. Nine shots were fired into the police car and Garcia was wounded several times. The assassins, the sniper and driver of the truck then pulled the wounded officer from the car and began beating him in the head and face with rifle butts before loading his body into the police car and driving to a spot near Sandstone Mesa. The following day they returned, filled the car with scrub brush and wood, and set it afire.”
When I first set forth on my quest to become a writer, I never imagined that it would lead to such dark places. And I surely never imagined that there would be a Jim Hinckley’s America or that this endeavor would become a multifaceted travel network.
In The Beginning
The first feature sold was to the prestigious Hemmings Special Interest Autos.
Jim Hinckley’s America was born of an epiphany that occurred in 1990. This was during the presidency of George Bush, the father of the second President Bush. After years of being told that I had a gift for telling people where to go, the decision was made to see if this could be developed as a career. It began with the writing of feature articles for various publications including the local newspaper and soon I had earned a reputation as being something of an expert on the American auto industry between 1885 and 1945, a bit of fame that is still paying small dividends. All through the years of the Clinton administration I honed my skills, became a featured columnist for Old Cars Weekly, and then accepted the position of associate editor for the now defunct Cars & Parts magazine. Fame was easier to acquire than I had imagined. Fortune, however, proved elusive. So, I kept a day job, and sometimes a night job, to support the writing habit.
By the time the second George Bush assumed the office of president I had started writing books. First, I wrote about the American auto industry. Then I began writing about a favorite subject of mine, the great American road trip on Route 66 and forgotten two lane highways. On occasion I found opportunity to blend the two subjects such as when writing about the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66, and Edsel Ford’s epic adventure in 1915. The day job continued to support the writing habit until the second term of the Obama administration.
Turning The Page
Just over four years ago I developed eye trouble. I could see no reason to put up with the BS that was an ever increasing part of the day job, and the owners of the company that I worked for could see no reason to put up with my increasingly poor attitude. So, with support from dearest friend, the decision was made to valiantly attempt to make a living by doing what I do best – telling people where to go, and harnessing the fame and reputation earned between the presidency of George Bush and Donald Trump. That was the beginning of Jim Hinckley’s America.
A presentation before an interested crowd at the second European Route 66 Festival.
So, here I am. President Trump is gearing up for what he hopes will be a second term and I am still chasing that dream, that fortune that I started seeking when the first George Bush was president. Along the way I have learned that fortune isn’t always measured in dollars and cents. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. Daily I do what is enjoyed most, providing everything that a community needs for harnessing the power of Route 66 as a catalyst for revitalization and economic development, and providing travelers with tools for planning adventures on the back roads and two lane highways of America. I have friendships the likes of which were never imagined. And I have had adventures; a visit to Jay Leno’s Garage, speaking at the first and second European Route 66 Festivals, assisting a Dutch tour group on their trip through Arizona and New Mexico, and meeting some of he most fascinating people.
I have a tendency to use presidential administrations as milestones. It is my way of measuring time, and of coping with the never ending election campaigns of politicians. It is also a reminder that politics is sort of like cleaning stables. It comes in different colors but the smell is the same. As another milestone approaches, I can’t help but wonder if this will be the year that I crest the hill and see the long sought Holy Grail gleaming in the distance.