A Shocking Story

On display at Ye Ole Carriage Shop in Spring Arbor, Michigan is the oldest existent vehicle manufactured by the Jackson Automobile Company of Jackson, Michigan

As with most people who become an historic milestone through an untimely demise, Mr. Henry Bliss never knew that unexpected death would bestow upon him a dubious form of immortality. He simply stepped from the New York City streetcar that September afternoon in 1899 and became the nation’s first pedestrian struck and killed by an automobile. That automobile was an electric taxicab.

That is how episode three of the new Jim Hinckley’s America audio podcast Car Talk From The Main Street of Americascheduled for publication on August 9th begins. It seemed a fitting opening to kick off a program about the long history of electric vehicles, and the equally long history of controversy. And, of course, as with everything that we do at Jim Hinckley’s America, the new program also has a road trip component as I will also be talking about the world’s only EV museum that happens to be located along Route 66.

At the dawning of the American auto industry steam and electric vehicles dominated. Steam was an understood technology as it had been powering trains and factories for decades. Compared to the first generation of gasoline powered vehicles an electric car was much easier to operate. And companies that manufactured electric vehicle were not constrained by the Selden patent that created a stranglehold on gasoline powered automobile manufacturing in the years bracketing the dawn of the 20th century. The story of that patent is an interesting tale for another day.

This new podcast will not be replacing Coffee With Jim, the Sunday morning program dedicated to road trips, to travel, to travel writing and photography, and to road trip inspiration. Both podcasts will be available on various platforms including Spotify and iHeart radio. However, the Sunday morning program will be the only one to be interactive with both call ins and typed comments. Afterwards, the Podbean based podcast will be made available on other platforms.

Long before Tesla and Rivian had people discussing electric vehicles, their shortcomings, their future and the conspiracy theories that seem to permeate every aspect of American society since alternative facts replaced truth and logic, I had a fascination for electric and steam powered vehicles. Did you know that the first automobile produced by Studeabker was an electric designed in part by Thomas Edison? Did you know that Studebaker didn’t produce a gasoline powered vehicle until 1904 or that the company continued producing electric vehicles until 1912?

J Walter Christie pioneered the use of front wheel drive in the development of his race cars. Who remembers Mr. Christie today.

The program about electric vehicles will illustrate the diversity of the podcast that Stan Hustad and I are creating. The first program, with a bit of audio issue, was about Edsel Ford, his many contributions to the develop of the auto industry, and his epic adventure with college buddies in 1915. The second program profiled the amazing Florence Lawrence and other female automotive pioneers. Did you know that Lawrence devised the first practical turn signal?

Plans are for the fourth program to be about the Desert Classic, better known as the Cactus Derby. Held between 1909 and 1914 this incredible series of automobile races was a test of endurance for man and machine. It was also a bit of a demolition derby. By 1914 the race had become an international media sensation, in part because counted among the drivers were Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield.

Telling people where to go, sharing stories about inspirational people and fascinating places, and inspiring road trips, that is the foundation of Jim Hinckley’s America. And it is the cornerstone for Car Talk on The Main Street of America.



Adventures In Optimistic Pessimism

Adventures In Optimistic Pessimism

On several occasions I have alluded to an old cowhand that I

worked with on a ranch along the Mimbres River in southern New Mexico. To say the very least, he had a very unique philosophy for life. As an example, he often referred to himself as “an optimistic pessimist” who started every day meditating on all of the things that could happen or go wrong. Then, according to him, when the day was done, he would be the only one smiling because it didn’t go as bad as he had envisioned.

Shamrock Texas is the location for the 2018 Route 66 International Festival.

Oddly enough, I have found that the old cowboys philosophy works quite well in regard to the New Years Day celebration. As the last day of the old year winds down, I pop the top on a cold bottle of beer, watch the sun sink in the west, and meditate about the new year from the perspective of the optimistic pessimist, but go light on the pessimism. I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatist or a realist.

The year that is coming to a close, 2017, was the best of times and the worst of times. I have little doubt that twelve months from now I will be looking back on 2018, and have the same thoughts.  Today, however, we are looking toward the future, not into the past.