It has been a voyage of discovery. The Cactus Rose Taproom on Main Street in McLean, Texas is a new addition in this faded old town. I will need to verify this, but purportedly it is the first bar in the town’s history. And hands down it is one of most unusual locations to sip on a cold one that I have yet to encounter.
A stop at the iconic Jack Rabbit Rading Post and visit with old friends.
But on this adventure, our first major road trip since 2019, the oddity of this place seems normal. Rental car reservations were the first issue. Budget rental car in Kingman has closed. Hertz pulled out of town quite some time ago.
That left Enterprise. No problem. I have an account and before the apocalypse used them often. So, a reservation was made several months ago.
On Monday, I had a phone call to confirm. And I was told that there shouldn’t be an issue, a vehicle would be available Thursday. Thursday morning, I received a phone call. Instead of a small van, I could choose between a full size 4×4 quad cab pickup with diesel engine or large Dodge Promaster van that stood nearly eight feet tall. So, we are driving a Dodge van, which will come in handy if we purchase a grandfather clock along the way. And besides, now I don’t have to pack gear like it’s a Chinese box puzzle.
So, bright and early on Friday morning we set out on our odyssey, destination the Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois. Picture post card perfect weather until late last evening when an impressive and beautiful storm rolled through McLean.
To date the high points have been many. A delicious lunch at Angela’s Cafe in Gallup, New Mexico, a favorite of my dearest friends is one of these. And that was followed with a fascinating and productive meeting with the owner, Angela Chavez, who is involved with Main Street and other organizations that are working to revitalize the historic business district.
There were surprises aside from the Cactus Rose Tearoom. We had a superb dinner at the Red River Steakhouse in McLean and learned that all evening meals come with a small dish of peach or apple cobbler. That isn’t proclaimed on the menu.
We have had productive meetings. Delightful visits with old friends. Lots of great scenery. Met some very fascinating people. And gathered lots of fodder for future programs, posts, and podcasts, and the trip is just getting started.
I will be sharing more of the highlights and discoveries with future posts as the trip is less than half over. On today’s episode of Coffee With Jim, an abbreviated version of our audio podcast, I shared the story of our trip to date.
Aside from the rental car issue, the overall trip has gone well. But rental car reservations were but one problem encountered before hitting the road.
One motel canceled our reservation days before our departure. The property had been sold, and renovations would require closure for weeks. During the same period two book signings were canceled, and two more were requested. Those were completely unexpected and unplanned. But those in Tennessee, and a third that was received the day before we left, could not be confirmed as the schedule was set.
I have what appears to be a spider bite on my forearm, not sure where that came from, or how I didn’t notice. A mild bout of what might have been food poisoning, that always enhance the fun of travel. Can’t prove it but my prime suspect is truck stop food in Moriarty.
Today, aside from bug bites, we are both right as rain. So, tomorrow the adventure continues as we explore some Ozark Mountains backroads and pay a visit to the forgotten capitol city of Kaskaskia, Illinois, which happens to be on the Missouri side of the river.
Stay tuned! We have adventures and discoveries to share, and we are just getting started.
He was a legend on the southwest frontier in the late 19th century. He had a well-deserved reputation as a fearless lawman and a career that spanned more than fifty years even though he lost use of his left arm during a gun battle in Fairbank, Arizona.
The incredible story of Jeff Davis Milton, a frontier era lawman, is the subject of the February 23rd episode of Wake Up With Jim, the Jim HInckley’s Americaaudio podcast. And, of course, we also have to share the story of Fairbank.
The podcast is the latest manifestation of our quest to find new ways to tell people where to go. And now, as it looks like we may putting the apocalypse behind us, personal appearances are again being scheduled. Development of both projects will dominate a great deal of the spring.
There are still a few open weekends between today and the National Road Trip Day celebrations on May 27. But I expect the calendar to fill rapidly in the next few weeks. That is a refreshing change.
A number of Route 66 sites are being included in the tour. One of these is the tarnished relic that is the Arcadia Lodge.
As with Route 66 itself, the motel evolved with the passing of time. In the years of the highways infancy railroad hotels remained a popular option. Campgrounds and rustic cabin camps were also popular lodging choices. By the mid-1930s travelers had become more refined and to compete motels needed to offer modern amenities such as hot and cold water in the room and radios. This was also the era when luxury motels began to replace the lavish railroad hotels such as the Harvey Houses.
Then in the 1950s chains such as Holiday Inn, Ramada, and Hiway House increasingly made it difficult for the mom-and-pop motel to compete. With a decline in profits, maintenance was deferred, the property was abandoned, or the motel complex was converted into low rent apartments. The World Monuments Fund recently listed Route 66 motels as some of, quote, “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.” Prewar motels are increasingly scarce.
In 1935, U.S. 466 was established with its eastern terminus at Route 66 in Kingman. As a result, investors looked toward Kingman and began establishing modern upscale motels.
The Arcadia Lodge in Kingman, Arizona is a rare roadside relic that opened before WWII. Photo Mike Ward collection.
John F. Miller was a pioneer in the development of modern hotels and motels. In 1905 he established the Nevada Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few years later he expanded the hotel and renamed it Hotel Sal Sagev, Las Vegas spelled backwards. In 1939 he built the expansive El Trovatore Motel complex and restaurant in the unincorporated community of El Trovatore along Route 66 east of Kingman.
The year before this the Arcadia Court had opened at the east end of Kingman. The Spanish hacienda styled court opened with promotion that proclaimed the motel offered the, quote, “finest appointments for the fastidious guest.”
The AAA Directory of Motor Courts & Cottages published in 1940 noted that the Arcadia was 15 air-conditioned cottages with baths, $3 to $3.50 per night. To provide perspective most motels in Kingman rented rooms for $2 to $2.50 per night.
Shortly after WWII the complex was dramatically expanded, and the name was changed to Arcadia Lodge. The addition of a second story transformed it into a 47-room motel. The 1954 edition of the Western Accommodations Directory published by AAA included an expansive listing.
An attractive Spanish style court on landscaped grounds. Air cooled units have one or two rooms, central heat and tiled showers or combination baths. Baby beds available. Jade Restaurant adjacent. Pets allowed, $4.50 to $10 per night.
A swimming pool was added a few years later to remain competitive with the chain motels and newer motels being built along Route 66. Purportedly this was the first motel in Kingman with a swimming pool.
In the fall of 1962, the motel was again remodeled. An article published on November 1 detailed some of the improvements. They included replacement of the dated neon sign with one that was more modern in appearance which towered above the sign that indicated a best Western affiliation. It was proclaimed to be the tallest promotional sign in the city. This sign remains in place at the Arcadia Lodge.
Two Weeks. Fourteen days. Three hundred thirty six hours. A mere blink of an eye in geologic times. But this is Jim Hinckley’s America where things change faster than a politicians principled stand on an issue during an election campaign.
In that brief amount of time I was scheduled to attend a book signing and the book singing was canceled due to shipping delays of books. Linked with that was the canceling of some customers book orders and making refunds.
I made a field trip to the old railroad camp of Franconia and attempted to locates some graves, lost a cap on two teeth that can’t be replaced or repaired until next week, and spent some time at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts research library. I was looking for information to to confirm dates and flesh out information for the narrated historic district walking toursbeing developed by Kingman Main Street.
But when it comes to research I lack razor sharp focus. And so I was soon off on an unrelated tangent with the discovery of family photo albums of trips in western Arizona circa 1922. Pictures of Goldroad, a ghost town on Route 66, and Oatman that were rich with detail proved to be quite the distraction.
I have toyed with the idea of creating a rolling Route 66 information center and Jim Hinckley’s America mobile studio for quite sometime. Well, after a great deal of deliberation I stuck a crowbar in the wallet, pried out a few hundred dollar bills, and purchased a 1951 Chevy 3800 (one ton) panel truck. It was a twofer so it was difficult to resist.
Buyers remorse is always a concern in these situations, especially when the vehicle needs work, hasn’t been on the road for a few years, and a quest for project funding will consume more time than making repairs. But that cloud of uncertainty never materialized while putting air in the ancient tires. And it never showed up on the 25 mile drive into Kingman on Route 66 at a brisk clip of 45 miles per hour.
Today I finished a feature article for Crankshaft, and created an accompanying photo file for illustrations. And I wrote a clients blog, squeezed in a two mile desert walkabout which proved interesting as my ankle injury apparently hasn’t fully healed.
The past fourteen days has included attendance of the Route 66 Association of Kingman Christmas party, a toilet repair, work to develop the Wake Up With Jim audio podcast, recording the narration for several of the walking tour points of interest and a little home repair after an intense wind storm. I also found time to sit for a couple of interviews, and complete the maps for a new book scheduled for release in June.
The Sunday morning Coffee With Jim programs took a bit more time as they were from the road. But it was a distinct honor to give Calico’s a promotional boost.
Bottom line, Jim Hinckley’s America is never boring. It is always an adventure. And even though I do a bit of grousing, I have the best job in the world. I tell people where to go in such a manner that they look forward to the trip!