It Started With A Typewriter

It Started With A Typewriter

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 Jim and Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaour audio podcasts. Yesterday a section with recommended podcasts such as Evan Stern’s acclaimed Vanishing Postcards was 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.

Adding A Touch of Spice

Adding A Touch of Spice

The use of spices and salt are what separates the cook from the chef. Likewise, finding joy in the surprise discoveries are what separates the traveler from the adventurer. About ten days ago, before most of a week was spent without internet service, I noted the discovery of Valenzuela’s, a charming little restaurant in Needles, California. So, let’s start with a review of this delightful little restaurant before sharing other discoveries made recently.

In most any town the old cafe would appear to be a faded relic, a weathered old place that was a tangible link to better times. Needles is a town that is dominated by faded and weathered relics but something about this little cafe seemed quite charming and inviting. I wasn’t disappointed.

It opened in 1952 as a small neighborhood store and cafe in a town that was prosperous and busy.  Route 66 was just a couple of blocks away and the flashing bulb arrow sign served as a beacon for travelers. So business was brisk. Times change. By 1980 the cafe and Needles were on hard times. Route 66 was on the cusp of becoming an historic footnote, the railroad was in the midst of restructuring, another blow for Needles, and in 1978 a bridge connecting Mohave Valley, Arizona and Needles opened at the site of the ferry that had once carried National Old Trails Road Traffic.

For just a bit the cafe closed. But it was a family tradition. Jerry Limon, the current manager, had begun working in the cafe as a child. His mother, the daughter of the founder, had worked at the restaurant most of her life. So, together they decided to forego the store and just open an expanded version of the old cafe, and I am so glad they did. What a rarity!

The food was excellent and reasonably priced. Jerry waited tables, and mother cooked on a stove that was purchased in 1952. The old place was faded and a bit worn at the heel, but I will be returning. This is a true gem, a real mom and pop business from a time when Studebaker cars still rolled from the factory in South Bend that has survived into the modern era.

The heat in Needles is extreme, even for a desert rat like me. In the summer temperatures often soar past 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As the old restaurant lacks air conditioning, and as the owners/employees are not exactly spring chickens, it is closed from mid June until mid September.

Needles is filled with surprises, and little treasures, such as Fender’s River Resort, the only motel that is located on Route 66 and the banks of the Colorado River. The motel and RV park is surprisingly popular and I attribute to the ever smiling Rosie Ramos, the proprietor. Over the course of the past few years she has renovated the motel, improved the grounds, and is now having the neon signage restored at Legacy Signs in Kingman. The relighting of the historic sign is scheduled tentatively for the 8th or 9th of June. I will keep you posted and there are plans for an Adventurers Club program during the ceremony.

One of the more intriguing places in Needles is Mystic Maze Honey. It is simply a vintage 1950’s travel trailer along the road with an ample display of local honey in various sized jars inside on neat shelves. The oddity is this, there is no one there. It is run on the honor system! Simply put the money in one of the envelopes that is provided and drop it in the slot. How refreshing to see such trust.

I have a few more discoveries to share but those will be the subject of another post.