The Vault

Automotive treasures found on the streets of Burbank, California ©Jim Hinckley’s America

In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a drive of fifteen miles can take an hour, or more if you are on the roads at rush hour. A drive such as this ensures that the blood pressure will be given a boost, that the frustration meter will be pegged and that at the end of the day you won’t need to look for an excuse to drink.

But on Saturday mornings traffic in some areas can be surprisingly light. And fifteen miles is the distance from a time capsule on Route 66 in Pasadena to a time capsule in Burbank, California.

The time capsule in Pasadena is a favorite oasis of ours. Located on Colorado Boulevard, Route 66, the Saga Motor Hotel opened in 1959. It epitomizes the romanticized image of a 1950s California motel. The architecture, the signage, the swimming pool lined by towering palm trees all ensure that there is an illusion that at the Saga time has stood still.

As a bonus it is within walking distance of a light rail station. And there are an eclectic array of restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood.

Heidar Baba is one example. This authentic Persian restaurant offers a delicious array of meat skewers, salads and tasty rice dishes.

One definition of the word vault is a room or compartment for the safekeeping of valuables or treasures. That is an apt descriptor of Auto Books Aero Books on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, an almost magical bookstore that opened in 1951.

Auto Books Aero Books is a veritable treasure trove of automotive literature.

The stores inventory is almost overwhelming. In the automotive section shelves are filled to overflowing with new and used books, magazines, and repair manuals. Topics range from company histories to biographies, recreational vehicles to motorcycles, road trip travel journals to heavily illustrated coffee table books about the Dodge Charger, Ford Model A or Tatra. Some are recent releases. And on the same shelf you will find books such as Dr. Dyke’s Diseases of a Gasoline Automobile and How to Cure Them published in 1903.

An entire section of the store is dedicated to repair manuals. Name a brand or type of vehicle with wheels manufactured in the last one hundred and twenty years and there is a very good chance that a repair manual can be found on one of the shelves. Panhard. Porsche. Model T. Chrysler Airflow. Fiat. Packard. Chevrolet Advance Design series trucks. Holden.

The aeronautical section is, perhaps, even more amazing. On my recent visit I purchased The Mother of Eagles: The War Diary of Baroness Von Richthofen, originally published in 1938, and Rickenbacker: An Autobiography, the story of Eddie Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker was an America WWI ace, a Medal of Honor recipient, renowned race car driver during the teens and ‘20s, vice president of TWA airlines, and the founder of the short-lived Rickenbacker automobile company. These books were on a shelf with an original B 17 preflight inspection manual, a book about the history of the RAF, the air war in Europe during WWII, experimental aircraft of WWII, and an intriguing book about the aviation history of Arizona before 1920. Absolutely amazing.

As incredible as the store is, on Saturday mornings it is transformed with a book signing and a day long cruise in for regional automotive enthusiasts. From open to close people stop in for a fresh pastry, a book or magazine and to visit with like-minded people. On my recent visit I watched in amazement as Jay Leno arrived in a 1929 Duesenberg, and people arrived in a diverse array of vehicles including a 1965 Buick Riviera, a 1951 Ford truck, a new Ferrari, a Model T Ford, a Borgward Isabella and an electric Mustang.

Dating to the late 1950s, the Safari Inn in Burbank, Califronia is a delightful time capsle that has been tastefully updated with modern amenities. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

With an adventuresome spirit, and a bit of planning, you can avoid the freeway system and transform the drive into a delightful voyage of discovery, even with miles of miles of stoplights. Colorful business districts that mirror the areas cultural diversity, picture worthy vintage signage, quaint neighborhoods from the 1950s, 1920s, and even the early 20th century. And as might be expected, lots and lots of fascinating time capsules.

As an example, within a few blocks of Auto Books Aero Books is the 1959 Safari Inn with its stunning neon signage. One block away is Tally Rand restaurant that opened in 1959. Including these two urban gems in your adventure will round out a memorable day spent talking with fascinating people and exploring Auto Books Aero Books.

Counted among the many things that make a Route 66 odyssey memorable is the surprises discovered along the way, and the people that you meet. Add a detour or two to your drive along Route 66, such as a short drive from Pasadena to Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, and you can magnify the magic of the Route 66 experience. As a bonus, withthis detour you can add to your automotive library as well.

After this recent trip it looks like we will be additing a few stops to the Jim HInckley’s America recommended location section of the website!


Jay Leno and author Jim HInckley during a book signing at Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, California ©Judy Hinckley

Jay Leno, Barn Finds, and Road Trips

Jay Leno, Barn Finds, and Road Trips

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 hotel and 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 Street spearheaded 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 America podcast 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 Jim may 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 America YouTube 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.

Here is to life lived in a surreal world.