An EV adventure on Route 66. Me. The fellow that courted his dearest friend forty two years ago in a 1946 GMC. The same person that envisions an adventure on Route 66 during the centennial year in a 1929 Ford Model A just made a 400 mile trip from Kingman to Winslow, Arizona, and back again, in an EV VW ID4.
Seldom do I need a great deal of encouragement to embark on a road trip. I will drop what I am doing in a heartbeat if given an opportunity to travel with a friend, enjoy some lively conversation, and meet with like minded people that are using Route 66 to transform their community.
But added incentive for this odyssey was an opportunity to get some real world, from the passenger seat, experience with an EV on the open road. This was going to be a Jim Hinckley’s Americaadventure for the record books.
Blurring The Line
Cowboy philosophers met during my years working ranches in the southwest filled my head with adages, bits of wisdom and witticisms. A few of these are applicable to this story. “Ignorance is curable but there is not a damn thing that you can do about stupidity.” “Don’t follow the herd over the cliff.” “You are the only one to blame for buying what the grifter is trying to sell.”
In today’s world, when it comes to the electric vehicle (or election integrity, health care, face masks, inflation, or the price of gas) myth, rumor, conspiracy, and the opinions of talking heads on “news” networks masks the truth, muddies the water, gives the illusion that ignorance is a virtue, and taints conversation. So, before forming an opinion I prefer to do a bit of research. So, as my knowldege of electric vehicles wasn’t much better than a frogs understanding of tap dancing shoes, this trip was a golden opportunity. Before setting out on this voyage of discovery my experience with electric vehicles was limted to a few local cruises in a Tesla.
Aside from the Tesla charging stations, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or standard for charging facilities. In my mind that blurred the line between past and present.
Currently I am reading Motoring West: Automobile Pioneers 1900 to 1909, a compilation of articles orignally printed in the first decade of the 20th century. I found a number of similarities between the EV adventure on Route 66 and that of early “automobilists.” An article about a cross country trip published in 1905 noted that, “Gasoline has commenced to come pretty high, while the quality goes in the opposite direction. There was a time in Ohio when we could get fuel at 15 or 18 cents a gallon. Now it is 30 to 35, and even 45 cents a gallon, and every hundred miles farther west it is reported as being a few cents more.”
On The Road
Our destination when we left Kingman was the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona communities meeting in Winslow, Arizona, a drive of a little more than 200 miles.The first leg of the trip to Williams was almost all up hill, 3,300 feet in elevation to 6,755 feet. Aside from the futuristic (at least to me) dash, there was nothing to differentiate the drive from hundreds that I have made along this road.
The car still had ample range, but mi amigo was an experienced EV owner and so he stopped to top off the batteries. My dearest friend and I have a habit of making our first pit stop in Williams during our travels. So, that too seemed fitting.
But the charging process was completely foreign to anything that I was familiar with and so I found it quite fascinating. Using the Electrify America charging facility during a twenty minute pit stop didn’t provide a full charge but it was more than adequate for what was needed.
The Winslow Visitor Center and chamber of commerce housed in the historic Hubbell Trading Post has a charging station on site. This provided an additional education. It was a free slow charger. At the end of the meeting that included lunch, the charge to the batteries was less than what we had gotten in 20 minutes from the station in Williams. Consistency, as it was with gasoline in 1905, was an issue. So, on the return leg we made another stop in Williams, but for only ten minutes.
My short adventure provided me with a glimpse of the future. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Recent and dramatic development of battery as well as charging technologies will ensure that in coming years they will be even better suited to compete with gasoline powered cars. But there is a caveat. The Achille’s heel with EV vehicles aside from Tesla is not the availability of charging facilities, but the consistency.
Past Meets Future
It may come as a surprise to learn that electric busses and taxis were operating on the streets of New York City in the 1890s. Then as now the electric vehicle was practical for urban usage. Their practicality for long distance travel is a recent phenomenon.
And I am confident that as with the automobile itself 120 years ago, the rapid development of supportive infrastructure will also fuel their popularity. Education is key. On the highway it is hard to tell the difference between and electric or fossil fuel powered vehicle. But charging and the charging station is nothing like the gas station.
And that takes me to a closing thought. The gas station today is almost unrecognizable from the gas stations of my youth. I survived the transition by learning to adapt. And I learned to have a balanced perspective. The gas station today is better than the gas station of old. The gas station that I remember fondly with the bell that announced the arrival of customers was better than the souless mini-mart of today. It’s the old best of times, worst of times scenario.
According to legend Floyd Clymerreceived recognition as America’s youngest automobile dealer by Teddy Roosevelt. That is an example of what happens when you have a father that encourages, teaches with hands on experience, and instills a sense of self confidence.
With his father’s assistance, Clymer had his own dealership selling cars manufactured by REO, Cadillac, and Maxwell by the age of eleven! Clymer’s amazing career was diverse and his life was lived in the fast lane. He set speed records with motorcycle and automobile racing and spent a bit of time in prison. He pioneered the mail order auto parts business, laid the groundwork for a thousand cottage industries, and transformed the publishing industry.
After a number of false starts, hiccups, frustrations, and months spent with a seemingly endless learning curve, podcasts (as in two) are now an integral part of the diverse Jim Hinckley’s America network. As with everything we do the idea is to share America’s story, to provide communities as well as authors and artists with a promotional boost, to inspire road trips and visionary thinking, and to tell people where to go.
Embedded players on the website allow people to enjoy both programs at their convenience, or to share them with friends. Likewise with archiving the progams on Spotify and other major podcast platforms.
Coffee With Jim has morphed into a replacement for the popular live video programs that was shut down unceremoniously when Facebook locked the Jim HInckley’s America page. The live stream program on Podbean, Sunday mornings at 7:00 MST, is travel centered. The interactive format usually adds an interesting dimension.
And for 2023, we are taking the program in a new direction. We are FINALLY able to begin adding guests on a regular basis. We attempted this about a year ago with Whitney Ortiz, the dynamic tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois.
But as I said, there has been a steep learning curve for someone that identifies as modern Amish. And that takes us to a new year and new opportunities.
Gregg Hasman (better known as Highway Hasman) will be our guest on the February 5th program. Hasman is a good friend and a fascinating young man that is an exceptionally talented photographer. He has a gift for turning a phrase and so is viewed, in my opinion, as a gifted writer. As a bonus he is an inquisitive fellow with a passion for road trips. So, this should be a rather interesting program.
And then on March 19th we will have a very special guest, Stephanie Stuckey. She is the CEO of Stuckey’s and a board member of the Society for Commerical Archaeology. So, who has fond memories of pecan logs and a stop at Stuckey’s onepic family road trips?
Car Talk From The Main Street of America is still in a formative stage. But working with producer Stan Hustad a good quality program is being developed. In essence the program is about the past, present and even the future of the auto industry. We discuss all facets of this topic from Route 66, road trips to museums, personalities such as Louis Chevrolet and Lee Iacocca, the evolution of electric vehicles, and events. Now, we just need some guests and help growing the audience.
Both programs are sponsored in part by Visit Tucumcari. We strive to give promotional partners a bang for their advertising dollar, and I am confident that this podcast will catch on soon. If you have a chance take a listen and give us your two cents worh.
For car obsessed enthusiasts the urban legend of barn finds has become a mania. At most any car show you will hear stories of the Corvette (or sportscar, or rare Chevy Cameo, or low mileage Ford Pinto) put into storage just after purchase and never driven again. The barn find has even found its way into popular music. Hacve you heard the song entitled Riding with Private Malone by David Ball?
On occasion, however, there is a grain of truth to the stories. And sometimes the discovery eclipse’s the legend. A superb example of this is the stunning 1929 Duesenberg Town Sedan that Jay Leno tracked down several years ago. It was in the possession of the original owners son, and had been parked since the 1930s with a mere 7,000 miles on the odometer.
I will be sharing a bit of this amazing story on an upcoming episode of Car Talk From The Main Street of America, a Jim HInckley’s Americapodcast. And for next weeks blog post the plan is to share the full story of this car that has a connection to President Hoover. Having an opportunity to see this long neglected mechanical masterpiece on the road was one of many delightful surprises on the recent trip to California.
Before the COVID induced apocalypse of illness, masks, and shutdowns, traveling to Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, California for a book signing was a December tradition. This was our first visit to the iconic store since 2019.
Book stores, like the Duesenberg, are a rarity in the modern era. But as I learned this weekend, a book store dedicated to automotive titles is truly an endangered species. According to the owners, this store that dates to the 1950s is just one of less than a dozen in the entire world.
My dearest friend and I have a love/hate relationship with the Los Angeles metro area. We always enjoy the new discoveries made on each trip, and the visits with old friends such as Chuck and Tina, owners of the book store.
But the traffic is crushing. As we travel early on weekends it is usually frustrating and anxiety inducing but manageable. Still, I can’t imagine having to battle eight lanes of traffic on a daily basis. That level of stress is something I prefer to avoid.
On this adventure new discoveries included Charlie Brown Farms in Little Rock, California that was estbalished in 1929. This road side store is a throwback to a time I remember from childhood. Aside from fresh produce they offer deep fried oreo cookies, date shakes, Texas style barbecue, jerky, ice cream and novelties.
Another gem that we discovered was Tallyrand restaurant on Olive Avenue in Burbank, California. This charming little time capsule that opened in 1959 is just one block from another treasure, the Safari Innwith towering neon sign that opened in 1957.
The highlight of the trip was Jay Leno stopping by the book signing. He has popped into most of our Burbank signings for many years but in light of his recent accident we hadn’t expected to see him. And we surely didn’t expect see him driving the barn find Duesenberg.
This trip was also a first for Jim Hinckley’s America. The Singleton Foundation purchased several case of my books for inclusion in Christmas gift boxes. So, this was my largest book signing.
Their representative arrived at our motel in Burbank in a Ford Flex filled with books. She also had a small table, and a portable chair. So, for an hour I signed books in the parking lot and got to know the fascinating Michelle Matisse. This was my strangest book singing, it almost eclipsed the bizarre setting for my presentation at the long empty Hackett automobile factory in Jackson, Michigan that was missing most of the roof.
But on this ocassion the sunrise was beautiful and the weather cool but mild. At the event in Jackson it was cold and rainy.
This trip was also an opportunity to take an exended test drive in a 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage as we used a rental car. As an urabn commuter the car is ideally suited. It is so small they ask what size you wear before putting you behind the wheel. And it is frugal when it comes to fuel. On our trip we averaged just over 38 miles per gallon.
It served our purpose well. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for a long distance cruiser. It had some surprising get up and go, but the engine strained on long grades, especially when trying to keep up with traffic. And I wouldn’t make that long of drive again without adding some padding to the back side. I have ridden on saddles that wer more comfortable.
For detractors of electric vehicles it is has become fashionable to toss around the term “range anxiety.” These folks forget about the range anxiety experienced by early motorists more than a century ago. And they overlook cars like the Mirage with a 9.3 gallon gas tank. Talk about range anxiety! Drive this across the Mojave Desert. We arrived in Barstow with a hair over an eighth of a tank of fuel.
One of the things that fascinate me about the modern era is how spoiled we have become. The Mirage is obviously a budget car. And yet it has back up camera, power windows, etc. When did these gadgets move from the luxury option category to needed standard features?
This past weekend was quite the adventure. But in all honesty it’s always an adventure in Jim Hinckley’s America. But that gives us lots of fodder for stories, for shared adventures, for an opportunity to tell America’s story, and for telling people where to go. America’s story
In 2014, the city of Kingman hosted the International Route 66 Festival. The theme was
Kingman: Crossroads of the Past & Future. The opening of the world’s first electric vehicle museum, a partnership between the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation and Kingman tourism at this event marked the beginning of a new era on Route 66, and in Kingman. Well, with the ever increasing acquisition and donation of vehicles, including an ultra rare electric 1998 Chevrolet S10 pick up truck, the museum has outgrown its current location in the Powerhouse Visitor Center and has more vehicles in storage than are on display.
In partnership with Promote Kingman, a fund raising initiative that includes solicitation of sponsors and partners will be launched in 2017 to rectify this problem. The goal is to raise adequate funds for establishment and creation of a dedicated museum that will chronicle the fascinating evolution of the electric vehicle, as well as related infrastructure. (more…)