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.
My pa was full of million dollar quips that he wove into a rich and colorful tapestry that illustrated how to live life with a proper perspective. But Brad, a weathered old cowhand that I worked with on the Sierra Mesa spread along the Mimbres River in New Mexico, was a master weaver. Providing that background makes it easier to explain the title for today’s post.
Since at least 1959 (yes, I AM THAT old), Route 66 has figured prominently in my life. We made our first trip west from Virginia in the summer of ’59. We moved from Michigan to Arizona in the summer of ’66, and it was there that I learned to ride a bicycle and drive a truck on an old alignment of Route 66. Years later, during the John Wayne period that I never outgrew, I drove Route 66 rather than the interstate highway, and haunted faded old cafes, truck stops and down at the heels motels with neon signs that no longer served as beacons for weary travelers.
But, to be honest, until about 15 years ago for me the old double six was just a highway. It was like an old friend. It was, and is, where I felt comfortable. Besides, when you drive a ’46 GMC, or ’50 Chevy truck on purpose, and 45 miles per hour is top speed, the interstate highway isn’t a viable option.
Not once in all those years of cruising along that weathered, cracked and broken old asphalt, Not once when I was sippinig coffee and eating a steak in the Cattleman’s Cafe in Truxton, Arizona did I imagine that this storied old highway would one day take me from Arizona to Germany. And I never once pictured myself as a personality. I could in my minds eye see myself as an old timer that was a belnding of Slim Pickens and Walter Brennan but never as a celebrity.
And so, since it was announced last year that Kingman Main Street would be commissioning internationally acclaimed scupturer J. Anne Butler to create a life sized bronze statue of me as a public arts project there has been a great deal of reflection. Now the big event, the unveiling is just a few weeks away. On May 27 this will be a part of the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities in Kingman, Arizona.
To be honest, I am not sure how to respond or what to say at the dedication. The staute is actually mute testimony to nearly forty years of support and encouragement from my dearest friend.
In my minds eye I am just Jim Hinckley from Podunk, Arizona. I am just a storyteller that has survived a whole lot of stupid, met a bunch of fascinating and inspirational characters over the years, and weathered some pretty wild storms.
I am honored. And I am humbled. But I am also a bit embarrassed. It all seems just a tad bit surreal. There is a distinct sense of unreality about the whole thing.
Life is sure full of twists, turns, and unexpected surprises. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are grand adventures. Some are painful. But all are memorable. This one is going to be tought to top. Still, there is a good chance that I have another twenty or thrity years before the last trail ride. And as I have learned over the years, a whole lot of surprises and adventures can be squeezed into that amount of time.
We have a somber anniversary fast approaching – 9/11. The 20th anniversary milestone of that horrendous event linked with the increasingly chaotic and tragic situation in Afghanistan has led to a great deal of reflection on the national tragedies that I have witnessed, and how our response to them has changed over the years. It has also fueled my near obsession for an understanding about the state of the republic that was ignited after watching the assault on our capital on January 6.
This reflection and the quest for answers has led me to read books about the nations leaders as never before. It has also instilled a hunger to visit more of the homes and libraries of previous presidents.
Since January 6, I have read books about Michelle Obama, John McCain, President Trump, the leadership principles espoused by President Eisenhower, presidents Truman, Garfield, Adams, Lincoln, Hoover and Bush, and senators Barry Goldwater and Joseph McCarthy.
For a brief moment in time two decades ago we were united in our grief, our shock, our outrage and in our love for country. Then came the assault on our nations capital, sacred ground, an attack on institutions of government by Americans.
That event scarred me more than the attack on 9/11, or any event witnessed to date. But what has saddened me most about this heinous event, what ignited an almost all consuming hunger for understanding was the aftermath. Elected representatives and faux journalists joined together to justify the assault and to give those involved legitimacy. But most disturbing of all, unlike on 9/11, the American people did not unite in justified anger and demand answers as well as accountability.
This anniversary, this year of reflection has led to thoughts on national tragedies, and how we as a people responded. I was but a kid at the time. Still, with clarity I remember the assassination of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the shooting of Malcom X and Governor George Wallace, and the palpable sense that the world had shifted. That sense of uncertainty was magnified by the look on the faces of parents, teachers and adults, and the tone of their voices.
As family farms in Alabama and Tennessee figure prominently in childhood, the momentous civil rights marches of the ’60s are also an integral part of childhood memories. Again, I was just a kid but I remember kin referring to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression. I remember seeing large gilt framed pictures of General Lee and Stonewall Jackson hung over the mantle or on parlor walls. I remember segregated drinking fountains. And I remember how disturbing it was to hear gentle people speak in anger about civil rights marches, and curse the name of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
I was to young to remember details but not so young that I can’t remember my pa’s quaking voice and a long, all night drive after an encounter with the police in some backwater Mississippi Delta town. This was about 1962 or 1963, and my pa had Michigan plates on the car.
As my childhood also had a connection with Detroit, memories of the riots and the burning of cities in the 1960s were refreshed by the events that unfolded this past year. Once again thugs and people who embraced chaos as a catalyst for change had tainted peaceful protests for the righting of wrongs.
And, of course, I was an adult when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. In fact I had briefly interacted one of the warped men involved with that heinous event through my work in Kingman, Arizona.
Obviously all of these events have played a role in the shaping of my world view and perception. Likewise with the diverse array of books read over the years. Still, last year I found it disconcerting to see the burning of cities exploited for political gain. I found it depressing that people had used peaceful protests as an excuse to destroy property and assault government buildings. But it was even more disturbing to see Americans storm our capital in anger.
To date I have yet to find understanding. I have yet to find historic precedent for this time of crisis. And I have yet to find solace or a clear picture of what the outcome will be. But there are more books to read, most notes to take, and more sunrise walkabouts with deep meditation.
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.
Next week I promise to get into the proper holiday spirit. Today,
however, Festivus just seems appropriate. It has been, to say the very least, a most interesting week. It has also been a week of almost miraculous accomplishments starting with Reedy Press, publisher of my latest book. As you may recall, several weeks ago the company’s shipping center and warehouse, with 200,000 books went up in flames. So, holiday sales were suspended, and I issued refunds on orders and canceled a couple of pending signings. Yesterday I received notice that a rushed second printing was complete and that orders were again being accepted through the Reedy Press website. Obviously I won’t have copies until after the holidays but people who order through the company site, or Amazon.com should have them in time for Christmas.
Next, our crowdfunding initiative. As this was a new endeavor it took me a bit to hone the concept and work out a few rough spots. I am quite pleased to announce that we are on the cusp of reaching our first goal. Level two, three, and four will enable us to improve the quality of the Facebook live programs, and launch a rather ambitious effort in 2018; 21 Facebook live interviews in 21 days on Route 66. That project will be an integral part of a plan to “promote small town America” and the people that give these places a distinct personality.
That takes us to the weekly Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook live programs. Our reach for these programs is now exceeding an average of 4,000 people per week. My self imposed goal was a reach of 5,000 people per week by the end of the year so I am rather pleased by these numbers. Of even more importance is the fact that, based upon the response received, the programs are magnifying the promotional initiatives of small businesses and rural communities. (more…)