A Little Slight of Hand

A Little Slight of Hand

A battered Studebaker truck out to pasture.

He was a master salesman and the general manager of a used car lot that proved time and again he was an ethically challenged individual. I witnessed a couple that was in search of an economy car leave in a Cadillac Fleetwood. And a young couple in search of a family car began by looking at a Ford LTD and left in a Pacer. Then there was his practice of buying regrooved tires, spray painting floor carpets, using salvage yard batteries that had been given a quick coat of paint, and using Loctite on broken bolts.

A key component in his ability to avoid the always looming lawsuit or even jail time was the customers. It was an example of the old adage that ignorance is bliss. A surprising number of them were actually happy with their purchase, especially the ones who didn’t yet know that in many instances he was essentially selling diamond and platinum cufflinks made of pewter and cubic zirconium.

He had a sympathetic ear when the custormer had issues. And this is where his incredible talent as a slight of hand grifter shined. As an example, he would apology profusely about the dead battery that had left them stranded, and give them another salvage yard battery that looked shiny and new.

And he counted on the fact that many customers were reluctant and embarrassed to admit that they had been suckered. So, instead they would blame problems on a garage that had made needed repairs, on defective parts, and on poor quality from the manufacturer. And they would talk about what a good deal they had gotten, and that resulted in even more customers.

Then when the proverbial dog doo was about to hit the fan, the GM would reach out to customers with a syrupy sweet letter about how much he valued their business, and wanted to make sure that their car or truck was still meeting their needs. And that would be followed by a reminder that he was always available to meet their automotive needs from sales to service. Mixed in would be a subtle request for a review. And then the positive reviews linked with his support of the local Little League team, the school football team and other community projects made it easy for him to paint anyone that complained or filed a lawsuit as a disgruntled customer. On occassion he would go so far as to offer them another vehicle, if they would simply pay the difference in value.

I hadn’t given this silver tongued grifter a thought in years. When I stormed out of his office after a disagreement, I remember wondering what would happen if he ever decided to pursue a political carreer. But a few days ago, on the morning walkabout, after thumbing through the news, he popped into my thoughts. That long ago question had been answered, now I know what would have happened if he had become a politician.

A lot of years have passed since I slammed the door of his office. Walking out on that job was an easy decision. More than a few made since then left me wondering if the right choice had been made.

But one decision that I never regret was encouraged by my dearest friend. She gently nudged me toward transforming a childhood dream into a reality.

That first published article was the cornerstone. It was the catalyst for the endeavor that became Jim HInckley’s America.

We never stop working on this endeavor. Sharing and inspiring adventures is our passion. And so we work on new books, improving the website, developing informative and fun podcasts, creating interesting and thought provoking presentations, and writing articles and blogs for clients. And we work to ensure that sponsors get a bang for their advertising dollar and that our followers have assurance that these businesses and communities come with our recommendation.

And lessons learned working at that car lot so long ago, linked with an unexplainable adiction to derelict vehicles, are being manifest in the next chapter for Jim Hinckley’s America – The Beast. Coutless delays, defective parts, and an array of issues have put the project way behind schedule but the 1951 Chevy panel truck that will be a rolling studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs, book store and Route 66 info center will be on the road soon. And it will be a focal point in our efforts to foster awareness about the fast approaching Route 66 centennial, and to get people excited about this milestone event.







A Front Row Seat

A popular photo op in Kingman, Arizona. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

For the past few days I have had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a visit with old friends, and an adventure or two reminiscent of the pre apocalypse era. For a brief moment in time I was able to forget monkey pox, COVID related issues, murder hornets, meth gators, the surreal and bizarre political circus side show, the Ukrainian tragedy, the shortage of (fill in the blank), what it cost me to put two tires on the Jeep and fill the gas tank, and what seems to be a growing list of potential impending disasters.

It was a grand holiday. It was a delightful opportunity to reunite with old friends in shared adventures. And it was a very welcome respite from deadlines, schedules, setbacks on various projects, home repair issues, and from the issues that are linked to the announcement that my accountant of more than ten years is retiring.

My dearest friend and I have been sharing annual adventures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with Dries Bessels and his charming wife Marion, foudning members of the Dutch Route 66 Association, for more than ten years. And then along came the apocalypse, and a motorcycle accident. As a result we haven’t seen our friends since 2019.

Well, a few months ago Dries informed me that he would be in Kingman in mid July. As it so happened, this was the day before another very good friend, Wolfgang Werz of Route 66 Germany was scheduled to be in town with a tour group. Needless to say, with the slightest adjustment to Dries’s schedule, which gave us an extra day for crazy adventures, we were able to put together an epic reunion.

Route 66 may be the foundation for our friendship and countless adventures, but Dries and I also share a deep fascination for ghost towns, historic cemeteries and battlefields, interesting taverns and saloons, road trips, and interesting people. In two days we were able to add some great memories that blended all of these elements to the scrap book.

The pre 1921 alignment of the National Old Trails Road near Goldroad, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Dries has amassed quite a collection of historic photos that he generously shares on Facebook. As he has been assisting Leanne Toohey in her ongoing efforts to chronicle the history of the old mining town of Oatman, Arizona, that is where this series of adventures began.

Shortly before sunrise I met Dries and Leanne in Oatman. She had arranged access and transportation to the Oatman cemetery that is off limits to the public resultant of desecration. Surprisingly, I have been visiting Oatman for more than 50 years and had never been to the somber and forlorn old cemetery with the rugged west slope of the Black Mountains as a backdrop.

The next stop on our day of adventure was to hike a section of the National Old Trails Road in Sitreaves pass above the ghost town of Golroad. This section of the old road with its 28% grade that was bypassed in 1921 still has its post and cable guard rails. With temperatures rapidly climbing past the triple digits this outing was cut short.

We stopped by the homestead to cool off a bit, to pick up my dearest friend, and to show Dries The Beast. And that was followed with a superb lunch at Calico’s, lively conversation, and lots of laughs. And later that evening we continued the theme of laughter and good conversation but substituted beer and pizza for coffee and a sandwich.

The next day’s adventure commenced shortly after sunrise. The first stop was a short hike to historic Beale Springs. And the second was the historic cemetery in the old mining town of Chloride. And that was followed with exploration of the Pioneer Cemetery in Kingman, a tour of the fascinating Bonelli House built in 1915, and a demonstration of the new self guided, narrated historic business district developed by Kingman Main Street. And of course there was the obligatory photograph of me with the statue unveiled during the National Road Trip Day festivities this past May.

Left to right, Scott Dunton, president of the Route 66 Association of Kingman and owner of Dunton Motors Dream Machines, author Jim Hinckley, Wolfgang Werz of Route 66 Germany, and Dries Bessels. ©Judy Hinckley

The day and our visit wrapped up with a wonderful reception hosted for Dries, Wolgang, and his tour hosted by the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona and catered by Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Members of local car clubs provided transportation for the guests and as the event was open to the public, the showroom at the 1946 Dunton Motors Dream Machines dealership on Route 66 was soon packed.

But the evening and the fun didn’t end when the sun sank in the west. The tour group, my dearest friend and I, Wolfgang and Dries, and members of the car club moved the festivities to the Powerhouse Visitor Center for more lively conversation, laughs, and photo ops under the commerative arch.

It was such a delight to see old friends and to make new memories. And it was invigorating to see people embracing life with zest and enthusiasm.

Now it’s back to the real world that includes work, making plans and counting the days until the next visit and adventure shared with friends, a valiant attempt to stave off the seeming endless stream of bad news, and trying to find balance in life.

Over the course of the past couple of years we have been living through a seismic shift of epic proportions at every level from education and politics to technology and travel. As we all are painfully aware, these periods of tumult, uncertainty, and chaos can be very, very stressful.

But even in these times that try a mans patience, for anyone with a sense of humor, especially a dark sense of humor like I possess, there is much to laugh at. And, of course, in good times or bad, adventures shared with friends will always give reason to smile, for optimisim, and even fuel excitement for the future.



Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

A four wheel drive Hamlin. When was the last time you saw one of these at a car show?

My natural talent for telling people where to go was honed many years before Jim Hinckley’s America was officially launched. The origins for the multi faceted road trip inspiring that is Jim Hinckley’s America can be traced to the first article published in Hemmings Special Interest Autos. That was back in 1990. It was written on a 1940s Underwood typewriter, the photos were taken on film, and the entire manuscript was sent snail mail.

The story sold itself. It was entitled Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie. It was about a colorful eccentric that lived in the midst of a vast wrecking yard in Huachuca City, Arizona near the Mexican border. The yard had opened about the time Model A Fords were firt rolling from Ford Motor Company factories. Myloe had purchased it after WWII, and officially closed it in about 1970.

The remnants of a very rare Hamlin was just one of the hundreds of relics hidden in the brush and amidst the junk. Aside from Terraplane pick up trucks, Pierce Arrow carcasses, early Ford Thunderbirds, and a sea of Studebaker trucks surrounded by woodie wagons being used for storage, there were old busses and barns filled with new old stock parts dating to the late teens.

Well, needless to say, the world has changed a great deal over the course of the past thrity years. And even though the quip about the Jim Hinckley’s America team being modern Amish has become a running joke, we have worked to embrace technological advancements to ensure our road trip inspiration reaches the largest audience possible.

With the primary facebook account being locked since mid February, and our inability to resolve the problem, an effort has been made to compensate. And there has also been an effort to seek the silver lining and develop over venues.

The popular Sunday morning program Coffee With Jim has transitioned to an audio podcast on Podbean. The advantage is that it is a more interactive program when broadcast live, and the episode can be archived for future listeners. The bad news is that it lacks the visual content the audience has come to expect. So, we are working on development of a monthly edition on the Eventbrite platform. This will allow for video interaction but we will have to charge for the program.

We have also launched Wake Up With Jim as thrice weekly audio podcast. It is also intereactive but is a fifteen minute format rather than half hour. And the content is more focused. Initially it has been broadcast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. But so more time can be devoted to development of content this is shifting to a weekly format, Wednesday morning at 6:30 MST.

A complete revamping of the Jim Hinckley’s America website is underway. In addition to program schedule and information sections are being added with links to other published work.

Cooperative partnerships with event organizers are also being developed. Some of these include speaking engagements. Counted among the most exciting are the National Road Trip Day festivities in Kingman, Arizona and the Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois.

Attention is also being given to the YouTube channel. Podcast programs now post automatically. A series of video programs from the road and from various adventures is under development. And we are in negotiation with several interested producers with the plan being the creation of a regular series.

And, of course, we have two new books out this year. The first was released in January, the second is due for rlease in August. That means there will be an array of interviews, media events, and of course, speaking engagements.

Lots of exciting things happening in Jim Hinckley’s America!



Inspiration, Road Trips & Interesting Discoveries

Inspiration, Road Trips & Interesting Discoveries

On May 2, 1915, 26-year-old Effie Hotchkiss set off from her home in Brooklyn, New York, for the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, with her, quote, “rotund” 52-year-old mother, Avis, in the side car. For two women to drive a car on such an adventure would have been amazing. This was truly astounding.

But it was only part of the story. Effie was obsessed with motorcycles and with speed. She had been ticketed for cruising at 35 mph on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway. In another incident her speed was estimated to be in excess of 70 mph. Her mother tagged along on the trip to California to keep her daughter from getting in trouble.

Aside from the friends made, and the fascinating people met along the way, the greatest joy derived from developing the various Jim Hinckley’s America programs is the research. I make the most fascinating discoveries. Sometimes they are inspirational. Sometimes they are unsolved mysteries. But they are always interesting.

The intrepid Effie Hotchkiss is one such discovery. I stumbled on her story while preparing for an episode about epic road trips on Coffee With Jim, our live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page.

There are two primary components that underlie everything we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. Telling people where to go through shared adventures. Adding depth and context that brings history to life. Encouragement comes from comments such as this one from Tammy Garrett-Rutherford. “I honestly could listen to the history you tell all day long!”

As frustrating and maddening as modern technologies are, social media, Zoom, YouTube, Vimeo and the swirl of available options to share adventures are near endless opportunities for bringing history to life. Even though it is my preference to make presentations before an audience, in recent months using Zoom it has been possible to share the Route 66 story, tales of inspiration and stories about the origins of the automotive industry with a diverse audience. In recent months I have made presentations for the Rotary Club of El Paso, a garden club in Spokane, a car club in Europe, and a seniors group in Prescott, Arizona.

Is such a pleasure to share stories about people such as Erwin “Cannonball” Baker. If the name doesn’t sound familiar let me give a bit of a teaser.

Baker was legendary during the first decades of the 20th century.  He was a showman of extraordinary talent. In 1905 he earned his living as a bicycle racer, and in an acrobatic vaudeville act where he beat punching bags with his hands, feet, and head.

in 1906 he purchased an Indian motorcycle and became a stunt rider. Two years later, at a Fourth of July picnic in Crawfordsville, Ind., he entered his first race and won. By 1909, he was a member of the factory Indian motorcycle team and competed at the first motorized competition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 14, 1909. Then he launched a series of publicity grabbing stunts such as racing passenger locomotives from town to town. George Hendee, co-founder, and president of Indian, staged a South American tour for Baker in 1912. It was a resounding success, as Baker logged 14,000 miles through South America, Jamaica, Cuba, and Panama. In the same year Baker became the first man to cross the United States on a motorcycle. I profiled Baker in a recent story for MotoringNZ, and included a few of his exploits in the Coffee With Jim episode about epic road trips.

Recently I added a new facet to Jim Hinckley’s America, a video project with The Bee. It is in the pilot stage as we seek sponsors but the series of short videos will highlight attractions and the history of Mohave County in Arizona. To date we have completed short videos about Beale Springs, site of territorial era Camp Beale, and the trail system at White Cliffs Wagon Trail. The latest episode is a tour of the historic Bonelli house with a bit of the fascinating history beyond the home and family. It is an exciting new way to tell people where to go, to share adventures, and to provide road trip inspiration.

So, what’s next for Jim Hinckley’s America? Stay tuned. We have some exciting new projects coming down the pike.