Incentive With Inspiration

Incentive With Inspiration

Telling people where to go and sharing America’s story. In a nutshell that is what we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. And we are always looking for new opportunities to do both. That is why we recently launched the podcast Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaand expanded the scope of the Sunday morning program, Coffee With Jim. 

But there is another facet to Jim HInckley’s America. That is the development of educational programs, speaking at schools, and even providing someone on one time for students.

These projects are almost entirely made possible through partners that provide support through our crowdfunding initiative on Patreon. As my dearest friend and I are used to eating on a regular basis, crowdfunding is key to make these type of projects relatively feasible.

We don’t talk much about these initiatives. I don’t feel comfortable giving the impression that they are done for profit.

To date I have had the distinct privilege of working with a variety of schools at all grade levels. Counted among the most memorable programs were those made at schools in Germany. I learned as much or maybe more than the students.

Incentive to continue thiese programs and projects, and the inspiration for them, often comes from students, from their parents and from teachers. A few months ago I receoved a message from a teacher at a school in Chandler, Arizona with a request to speak to her class.

Obviously that wasn’t feasible at the time. It had to wait until I had business in the area. Meanwhile one of the teachers sudents accepted my offer to assist directly via phone or Zoom. One student accepted that offer. He was working on a project about the societal impact of Route 66 in the 20th century. Did I mention that he was just eleven years of age?

Well, we talked on the phone and I answered his carefully crafted and well thought out questions. Then he talked his parents into bringing him to my program at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction. Well, yesterday I received this note. “I’m happy to share that I made it to state level and will be participating in the program at ASU (Arizona State University) in April.”

That, my friends is the true reward for what I do. That is the inspiration needed. To my supportring partners on Patreon, thank you. We did it. We made a difference.

In coming weeks I will be sharing an array of exciting updates about pending travel, new programs, and items associated with the fast approaching Route 66 centennial. And as I will be attending a rather dynamic conference and symposium soon, there is every confidence that we will have much to discuss.


Road Trips R Us

Hanging on the wall of the Lone Spur Cafe was this photo of the top rodeo cowboys of ’53. Yes, that is film star Ben Johnson. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

For no discernable reason an encounter with a toothless old man that sported a tobacco stained white beard and a very odd conversation pop into my head on occasion. The incident took place years ago.

I was somewhere in the middle of vast cornfields in the back country of Ohio when a battered and rare Mack Jr. pick up truck was spotted. Nearly buried in the overgrowth it was barely visible in the shadow of a tumble down crossroads garage that had been built sometime between the world wars.

Curiosity led me to stop and ask if the owner of the garage was available. The aforementioned old man pointed at the fellow standing beside him and said, “That R us.”

Usually that remembrance pops into mind when I see an old timer with character etched deep into his face by the passing of time. Sometimes it is triggered through an encounter with a link to an era when individuality had not yet given way to political correctness.

On a recent whirlwind trip, just after sunrise, we stopped at the Lone Spur Cafe. I was sipping on hot black coffee and savoring a plate of superbly prepared huevos rancheros when this picture of the class of ’53 caught my eye.

I knew that actor Ben Johnson was the real deal. What I didn’t know was that he was a world champion cowboy back in ’53. He was always a hero of mine. And he was individuality made manifest. Hence the reflection on the fellow in Ohio and the reason for the title of today’s post.

And that long winded introduction that takes us to the business at hand – the reasons for the adventure, closing out October, and setting the stage for November. The primary reasons for this past weeks road trip was twofold.

A rendering of the proposed Hinckley Plaza, a component in the historic district walking tour project spearheaded by Kingman Main Street.

One, was a studio sitting with the internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler, a new and odd experience. This is a component in the historic district project being spearheaded by Kingman Main Street. Assisting with development of the narrated self guided walking tour would be more than enough for me. But they insist on a secondary component, Hinckley Plaza at the historic Kingman railroad depot that will include a statue of yours truly, and a commemorative brick garden that has the long dormant Route 66 Walk of Fame as a focal point.

Part two of the trip was research for some upcoming projects. And that takes us to the last days of October 2022 which include a book signing at Victoria’s Sugar Shack in Kingman, Arizona on October 30th, 9:00 MST. On the Sunday morning episode of Coffee With Jim, the weekly live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page that is archived on our YouTube channel, I will be sharing a virtual road trip. And then later that afternoon I will serve as a guide for an Adventure Caravans tour.

Flexibility is key to working with tour groups in Kingman. As an example the group had planned on a tour of the museums in the Powerhouse Visitor Center but that facility is closed on Sunday. So, instead I will lead a walking tour in the historic district, and then before dinner at the Dambar, make a presentation on Kingman’s rich Hollywood linked history.

By Monday it is my plan to send a new feature written for Route. The deadline for a story about the Dunton family and their 100 year history of doing business along the National Old Trails Road, and Route 66, in western Arizona is a couple weeks away but I want to clear the plate as much as possible.

And that takes us to November. I have eight clients to right blog posts for including the Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce. That is a service that I provide to clients of MyMarketing Designs, a website development and media company.

Sunrise in historic Prescott, Arizona. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

On the 16th, I will be leading a tour along the Route 66 corridor. This is a part of the community education programs developed for Mohave Community College. The goal of these classes is to foster a greater awareness of Kingman history. As I see it, in turn this will lead to an increased awareness about the potential for tourism related economic development in the city.

And takes us to another reason for the recent trip. I needed a refresher course. I needed to visit a city where tourism is viewed as an integral component of long term economic planning. And so we paid a visit to Prescott, Arizona.

This trip will also figure into a new project for our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform that will kick off in November. We depend heavily on support through crowdfunding for our various educational programs and I feel it imperative to find a way of saying thank you so I often provide exclusive and original content.

Last year I reprinted Edsel Ford’s travel journal from 1915. In this series I will be providing detail information, recommendations, reviews, and where applicable, discounts on motels, communities, and specific highways. Road trips “R’ us. Telling people where to go is what I do.

On the 20th, I have agreed to speak on Route 66 and how it can be enjoyed by owners of electric vehicles. Then on the day after Thanksgiving, tentatively, I am to drive to Los Angeles.

In addition to the auto show there is a possible book signing at Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank. And I will be photographing neon signs along Route 66 for an upcoming feature to be published in the new magazine Crankshaft. That should take me to tax season and laying the groundwork for a very busy 2022.

So, what are your plans for the last months of 2021?





The Questions Have Changed

The Questions Have Changed

An unusual shift pattern in a 1967 International ©

The more I learn the more I realize how little I know. Those words of wisdom were imparted to me many, many years ago by a grizzled old cowhand that I rode with on the Sierra Mesa spread near Faywood, New Mexico.

To illustrate the validity of the philosophy consider the shift pattern in this 1967 International pick up truck. I have been driving old pickups for almost fifty years but this was a bit of a surprise.

The path that led me to this time capsule truck is a long and twisted one. Several years ago I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with tourism efforts in numerous Route 66 communities. These towns were flailing about in search of an economic boost and a way to revitalize blighted historic districts. And yet their knowledge of the Route 66 renaissance and the opportunities that this presented was akin to a frogs knowledge of tap dancing.

So, using Jim Hinckley’s America as a platform, I developed a serious of programs to foster a greater awareness of Route 66, its history, its international popularity and the economic potential all of this represented. Then I offered to speak in communities along the Route 66 corridor.

This was followed with a couple of test programs designed for high schools. They were well received at schools in Benld, Illinois, in Germany, and Kingman, Arizona.

Next I used the concept and created a more specific series of programs. Then I pitched the idea of community education classes to Mohave Community College in Kingman, Arizona. The goal was to increase community awareness and spark some excitement.

While all of this was going on I was working with the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership as a member of the economic development committee. And that led to the provision of assistance to a Rutgers University program that was developing Route 66 community profiles as an early phase in the development of a “tool kit” that would enable communities to capitalize on Route 66.

With the Route 66 centennial fast approaching, I dreamt up an idea that takes key components from each program and combines them with a Route 66 road show. The road show would include special educational programs in Route 66 communities, presentations about Route 66 and tourism in communities off the road, and creation of a time capsule of sort for the centennial.

The time capsule component would include interviews, live and recorded, with people on the road. This would include travelers, tourism officials, tour company owners, business owners, pioneers in the Route 66 renaissance movement, and people with a Route 66 connection in the pre interstate highway era.

Now, when this all started I had know real idea on how this initiative would develop. But I knew funding would be an issue and so I established a crowdfunding program on the Patreon platform.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. As I fumbled along the multifaceted project developed a clarity.

There were a few detours along the way but these were folded into project template. One of these is the narrated self guided historic district walking tours that I am helping Kingman Main Street develop. As I gain knowledge on how this is accomplished it becomes increasingly obvious that similar projects could be developed for any community.

Now, is where my eccentricity enters the picture. I have decided that the road show will be more successful if a vintage vehicle is used for the endeavor.

A vintage vehicle would magnify media focus. A vintage vehicle could easily ensure brand recognition for the endeavor. In turn this would magnify promotional and marketing initiatives. A vintage vehicle would make it easier to start a conversation with strangers. And a vintage vehicle would make it easier to engage school students.

Well, I have long wanted a Model A Ford. As I see more and more people driving Route 66 in one of these venerable and durable old Fords, the more obsessed I become.

But I must admit, this might not be the most practical option. So I dusted off my knowledge of vintage vehicles honed through of years spent writing about automotive history. And then in the evenings I spent hours in research.

Well, all that has been accomplished is conviction that a vintage vehicle is crucial. And I am increasingly convinced that with the right vehicle it would be practical. And it would also be possible to go vintage and still be fuel efficient.

And so the quest began. To date I have looked at a number of Model A Fords, and found one or two that are almost perfect.

I have also looked at several hundred vehicles that would work well, if they hadn’t been buried in the brush for decades. Or if they hadn’t been on fire, rolled, wrecked, rusted out, used for a chicken coop or if they had an engine.

I have also looked at a number of vehicles that are ideally suited for the endeavor. But as I want to be the best steward possible of the funds from supporters, I am working within a budget.

And that further limited options. But as I am planning on the launch of the road trip next spring, there is still time.

Today I looked at an incredible time capsule. A 1967 International truck with 81,000 original miles. The smile V8 and an overdrive transmission made it even more appealing. And there is the possibility of also acquiring an Alaskan camper that was mounted to the truck in 1967,

The cost is a bit worrisome and negotiations have commenced. But investing that much money makes me wonder, if perhaps, I should just renovate the tried and true old Jeep Cherokee that is the daily transportation. It is almost 25 years old, but I really want to do this in something a bit more vintage.

I also looked at a ’42 Dodge and ’52 Studebaker today. Both had seen better days. Both might serve as parts trucks. I figure either truck could be restored for $20,000 or so. That would surely make them worth at least $10,000.

But that wasn’t a wasted endeavor. The owner and I will be having some conversations real soon. She has stories to tell that are perfect for the Route 66 centennial time capsule. She grew up in Yucca, Arizona on Route 66, and her family operated the Whiting Brothers there.

All of this has led to a bit of reflection. There was a time when I thought that I knew the answers, at least a few of them. I am unsure if it is due to age but as of late it now seems as though the questions are being changed much faster.

A Matter of Perspective

A Matter of Perspective

Photo Kevin Mueller

Every day is good. Some days, however, are better than others. That was but one of the many pearls of wisdom passed on to me from a grizzled and weathered old cowhand that I had the pleasure of working with on a ranch along the Mexican border more years ago than I care to count.

The past year or so I have had ample opportunity to reflect on that philosophy. Finding something good in every day has often been quite a challenge.

A seemingly endless stream of bad news about COVID related issues. Personal loss and illness. Missing visits with friends from across the pond. Political upheaval on the home front. Sitting in my living room and watching an assault on our capitol unfold like a really bad movie. Obviously none of these were highlights.

But there are silver linings to be found here and there. The near complete collapse of the tourism industry last year has sparked an awareness. Communities large and small are coming to a realization that tourism is an integral part of economic development.

And in communities along the Route 66 corridor, there is a growing awareness of the potential the interest in that road holds for economic development as well as historic district revitalization. There is an also a growing awareness about that highways fast approaching centennial.

This is being made manifest in countless ways. Kingman recently unveiled a stylish drive thru Route 66 shield. Tulsa is moving forward with neon sign initiatives. An array of initiatives and projects are being developed in Tucumcari.

COVID related travel restrictions decimated international tourism. Along Route 66 this glaringly illustrated the importance of the international Route 66 enthusiast to local economies. But here too there is a sort of silver lining.

The American love affair with the road trip began to wane several decades ago. COVID related restrictions, and time off work, sparked an unprecedented boom in the sale and rental of RVs, trailers, and vans. I for one eagerly await the return of our international travelers. But I rejoice in seeing so many Americans getting out of their comfort zone and rediscovering what really makes this country special.

On the personal front, the pandemic, the loss of friends, the passing of another birthday, and looming storm clouds had provided a jolt, incentive if you will. I have long wanted to own a Model A Ford.

Over the years finances and family obligations led me to keep that dream in the “some day” category. That has changed. I am making ownership a priority.

Directly linked to this is a vague plan to develop a series of educational programs. These would foster a sense of community and community purpose in towns all along the Route 66 corridor. And these programs would provide communities with information about the economic importance of tourism. They would also provide these places with a framework for developing their unique historic, scenic, and cultural assets to make the community a destination for visitors.

At this point I should note the cornerstone for this endeavor is a simple philosophy. If you make a place people want to visit, you make it a place where they will want to live, to raise a family, to open a business and to retire.

As envisioned the Model A becomes a, pardon the pun, a promotional vehicle. It becomes an educational tool. It becomes a point of interest and a conversation starter. It becomes a point of media focus.

It has been pointed out that a ninety year old car might not be the most practical for extended trips across the US. And so I have been working on a plan “B.”

So, something the search is on for a vehicle equally as attention getting but a bit more practical. The Model A would become the regional vehicle or would be trailered. The secondary vehicle, something like the 1953 Plymouth Suburban station wagon I looked at this past week then becomes the primary transportation.

Stay tuned. We have talked about this ambitious endeavor for far to long. It is time to bring dreams to life. The time has come move beyond planning. The time is now.

Stay tuned.


Beyond The Route 66 Centennial

Beyond The Route 66 Centennial

It was an era of hand crank telephones, Model A Fords, and unprecedented economic collapse. The onslaught of the Dust Bowl that would transform families into refugees and prosperous communities into ghost towns was worsening. In 1931 more than 2,200 banks were shuttered and tens of thousands of people lost their savings, their homes, and their businesses. By January of 1932, unemployment had reached 40% in Michigan, and entire families were freezing to death or dying of starvation.

It was against this bleak and hopeless backdrop that Cyrus Avery and the visionaries of the U.S. Highway 66 Association campaigned for the highways paving. They were also fostering development of tourism marketing campaigns as they realized the economic importance of tourism, especially in struggling rural communities. Their first campaign commenced in 1927 with the branding of US 66 as the Main Street of America. In 1931 the association held a convention in Elk City, Oklahoma and the number of attendees was counted in the tens of thousands. The association was quick to seize upon the opportunity that was  the 1932 Summer Olympics that were to be held in Los Angeles, and on July 16 of that year an advertisement appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, inviting Americans to travel the “Great Diagonal Highway” to the games. In spite of the harsh economic conditions, within a week, the Association’s office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was overwhelmed with requests for information about Route 66, Los Angeles, and the Olympics.

Fast forward to the modern era. Tourism, especially with a Route 66 component, still represents an incredible economic opportunity. That can be exponentially magnified if it is linked to a communities unique attributes such as cultural or heritage sites, experiential opportunities, or ecotourism activities such as mountain biking. With the Route 66 centennial fast approaching, a community that taps into this historic event NOW can reap tremendous rewards all the way to 2026 and beyond.

Surprisingly, only a few communities have tapped into the international fascination with Route 66, and most of these have been content with simply letting the tourists come to them rather actively enticing them. A very rare number of Route 66 communities have managed to sell everything on the hog including the squeal and as a result, have been transformed into destinations. More often than not the marketing of the city as a destination, as a Route 66 community with an array of attractions, is anemic at best, even with a sizable budget. Grass roots initiatives operating behind the scenes become the driving force in towns such as this. This is the case with my adopted hometown of Kingman, Arizona.

Grassroots initiatives have been been the driving force behind the historic district renaissance. And now the city is beginning to assist rather than hinder. After the city’s tourism department failed to capitalize or even develop the Route 66 Walk of Fame that showed such promise, grassroots initiatives spearheaded by the Route 66 Association of Kingman took the lead in honoring the people that have played a key role in the transformation from highway to icon. When the city’s tourism department neglected to build on opportunities derived from initiatives that fostered development of a working relationship with international Route 66 associations, business owners and community leaders launched the Kingman Promotional Initiative. When the city’s tourism office chose to forego receptions for tour groups, media and Route 66 associations representatives, cooperative partnerships were formed to fill the void.

It was the study of the original US Highway 66 Association and their marketing campaigns, and my involvement with these grassroots initiatives in Kingman that led to the development of community education programs as a pilot project for Mohave Community College. And it was these classes which led to the development of a new presentation, Route 66 Dollars & Cents, a condensed version of the college program.

This October, I will be taking the show on the road. I am anxious to share lessons learned, to provide incentive and tools for building strong, effective grassroots initiatives that overcome apathy and complacency, and that foster development of cooperative partnerships. If this program is of interest to your organization or your community, please drop me a note as the travel schedule is being planned at this time.

I will close this out with a few points to ponder. Every community has marketable assets. If you make a community a place that people will want to visit, you make it a place where they will want to live, to raise families, to retire and to open businesses. Apathy, complacency and incompetence can trump a handful of assets. Passionate people armed with knowledge, partners, and leaders with vision can transform a community.