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?





Where The Streets Are Paved With Gold

Where The Streets Are Paved With Gold

During the 1930s, Stonydell Resort in Arlington, Missouri was a vacation destination for people from as far away as Kansas City and Oklahoma City. Photo Steve Rider

“Route 66 was completely paved in Missouri as of January 5, 1931. The final section of pavement was just east of the Pulaski County line, near Arlington. Workers tossed coins in the wet cement to celebrate. A few weeks later, thousands of people turned out in Rolla for a huge parade and celebration to mark the occasion.” Author Joe Sonderman, A Bit of Missouri 66 History. In Quapaw, Oklahoma, on March 24, 1933, to celebrate completion of Route 66 paving between Commerce, Oklahoma and Baxter Springs, Kansas there was a major celebration that included Quapaw chief Victor Griffin laying a commemorative zinc tablet in the middle of Main Street.

There was a time when communities large and small celebrated their association with Route 66. Most communities along that highways corridor were quick to recognize, especially during the dark days of the Great Depression, that US 66 offered tremendous economic opportunity. Even though the highway no longer officially exists, Route 66 is more popular today than at any time in its history. Surprisingly, unlike in times past, only a few communities between Chicago and Santa Monica see the highway as an economic boon. Many will go through the motions of harnessing the highways popularity as a catalyst for economic development and historic district revitalization. Few, however, develop promotion, marketing, and related initiatives to fully capitalize on the potential represented by Route 66 tourism. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

In all communities grassroots initiatives that are well informed, passionate, and are able to put aside egos to build cooperative partnerships are invaluable. In communities with tourism departments shackled by apathy, a lack of vision or ambition, and entrenched cronyism, these grassroots initiatives are the key to the harnessing of tourism as a contributor to economic development. In a nut shell providing the information and tools needed to build effective grassroots initiatives in a community were the reason I developed tourism/hospitality classes for Mohave Community College in Kingman, Arizona. This is also why I developed a condensed version of the classes that are being offered in the form of a presentation.

Examples of how to build effective grassroots initiatives are some of the projects developed and launched in Kingman. One of these was the Kingman Promotional Initiative. It is a relatively simple concept but it was initially hampered by the apathy that has plagued tourism development for years and as a result attendance was anemic. Once a month the initiative hosts an informal meeting. Business owners are invited as are city officials, event organizers, members of the arts community, and anyone interested in helping build cooperative partnerships in the company as well as representatives from, Kingman Main Street, and the state and Kingman Route 66 associations. The goal is simple, foster awareness.

To date there have been an array of positive results. An informational kiosk in the business district that stood empty for more than two years was transformed by Kingman Main Street. The Route 66 Association of Kingman working with a few business owners and the organizers of Chillin’ on Beale have hosted receptions for numerous groups and individuals including the first European Route 66 Tour as well as Marian Pavel of Touch Media, the company that has developed the Route 66 Navigation app and the Mother Road Route 66 Passport. Public arts programs such as murals have fueled the historic district renaissance. Meetings with project developers and tour company owners have enhanced Kingman’s reputation as a destination rather than just a stop. Few of these projects received any support or participation from the tourism office.

Route 66 Association Japan reception at Calico’s restaurant in Kingman, Arizona

Sadly, as happens often, this has not fostered a better working relationship with the tourism office. However, this too can be overcome through the success of grassroots initiatives and cooperative partnerships within the community and along the Route 66 corridor. The Route 66 centennial and the potential this represents should be given consideration as well as incentive for launching an effective grassroots initiative in your community.

Curious? Do you have interest in seeing your community transformed? Perhaps my presentation is just what the doctor ordered. After all, Route 66 is paved with gold.



Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places

Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places

It has been a week of contrasts. Last weekend I was in

Burbank, Los Angeles, and Pasadena. This week business took me to the original Las Vegas, Tucumcari, and a few points in between. At every stop, in every meeting, in every conversation, and with each presentation made, I found inspiration and was introduced to innovative plans for community development and revitalization. To balance that out I also found ample reason for despondency when meditating on communities that seem to have made the squandering of opportunity a goal.

Kix on 66 in Tucumcari is indicative of how this community is being transformed.

When you roll into Tucucmari from the west there is no indication that this is a community ripe with passionate optimism or enthusiasm about the future. The highway,  old U.S. 66, is lined with empty and vandalized motels and truck stops, and overgrown foundations. The surprisingly modern and expansive convention center parking lot is peppered with weeds growing through the cracks. In the historic business district the collapse of a building necessitated closure of a street, vacant lots between buildings hint of what once was, and there are empty store fronts on every street. Simply put, there is ample evidence to support a rather sobering statistic – the population has dropped almost 16% since 2,000.

Not quite as obvious is the evidence that this community is still vibrant, that it is still looking toward toward the future with eager anticipation and even vision. Three historic motels along the Route 66 corridor, one of which is in need of extensive refurbishment, recently sold to investors that have relocated to Tucumcari. The state of the art Tucumcari Bio Energy Company is about to commence production. This coming week a new restaurant will open. During my visit I enjoyed an open air dinner and lively conversation with fifty people from Norway, clients of a company that now includes an overnight stay in Tucumcari with each Route 66 tour. An event that centers on touring the area by bicycle this fall is under development, and is already attracting interest from  enthusiasts from Texas as well as New Mexico and Colorado.  At a meeting of the city commissioners, there was not one public comment that contained a complaint without suggestion of a solution.

I was in town to teach but as it turned out, I also was a student. David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge (a formerly abandoned and vandalized 1960’s motel that is now a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts)  had facilitated sponsorship of my presentation on the utilization of heritage tourism as a component in the creation of an integrated economic development plan, and as a tool in community revitalization, with the Tucumcari Quay County Chamber of Commerce, Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, and Tucumcari Main Street initiative.  In addition to the presentation where I shared a summary of successes in Pontiac, Illinois, Galena, Kansas, and Cuba, Missouri, and outlined ways the community could capitalize on its heritage, I also introduced Steve LeSueur of My Marketing Designs. LeSueur’s company is producing the Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 video series, and is developing the Promote Route 66 initiative utilizing the Promote Kingman template.

The Q & A session was spirited and lively. It was also inspirational and educational. These community leaders are well aware of Tucumcari’s history but they are looking toward the future. I confirmed this when speaking before the Rotary Club, attending the city commissioners meeting latter that day, and at an informal reception with the owners of the Blue Swallow Motel, their friends, and the president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico.

Rounding out my visit and exploratory tour of Tucumcari was the weekly Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook live program. This episode took place at Kix on 66, a great place for breakfast and a living time capsule. Guests on the program were Steve LeSueur, Melissa Beasley, president of the Route 66 Association of New Mexico, and KC Keefer, producer of the Unoccupied Route 66 video series as well as promotional videos for the city of Tucumcari.

To say the very least, my visit to Tucumcari was educational and inspirational. It was also sobering and even a bit depressing, especially when my thoughts turned toward another Route 66 community, a place where self serving factions, apathy, divisions, indifference, and obstruction negate opportunity as well as blunt the promise of bright future.