In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a drive of fifteen miles can take an hour, or more if you are on the roads at rush hour. A drive such as this ensures that the blood pressure will be given a boost, that the frustration meter will be pegged and that at the end of the day you won’t need to look for an excuse to drink.
But on Saturday mornings traffic in some areas can be surprisingly light. And fifteen miles is the distance from a time capsule on Route 66 in Pasadena to a time capsule in Burbank, California.
The time capsule in Pasadena is a favorite oasis of ours. Located on Colorado Boulevard, Route 66, the Saga Motor Hotelopened in 1959. It epitomizes the romanticized image of a 1950s California motel. The architecture, the signage, the swimming pool lined by towering palm trees all ensure that there is an illusion that at the Saga time has stood still.
As a bonus it is within walking distance of a light rail station. And there are an eclectic array of restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood.
Heidar Baba is one example. This authentic Persian restaurant offers a delicious array of meat skewers, salads and tasty rice dishes.
One definition of the word vault is a room or compartment for the safekeeping of valuables or treasures. That is an apt descriptor of Auto Books Aero Bookson Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, an almost magical bookstore that opened in 1951.
Auto Books Aero Books is a veritable treasure trove of automotive literature.
The stores inventory is almost overwhelming. In the automotive section shelves are filled to overflowing with new and used books, magazines, and repair manuals. Topics range from company histories to biographies, recreational vehicles to motorcycles, road trip travel journals to heavily illustrated coffee table books about the Dodge Charger, Ford Model A or Tatra. Some are recent releases. And on the same shelf you will find books such as Dr. Dyke’s Diseases of a Gasoline Automobile and How to Cure Them published in 1903.
An entire section of the store is dedicated to repair manuals. Name a brand or type of vehicle with wheels manufactured in the last one hundred and twenty years and there is a very good chance that a repair manual can be found on one of the shelves. Panhard. Porsche. Model T. Chrysler Airflow. Fiat. Packard. Chevrolet Advance Design series trucks. Holden.
The aeronautical section is, perhaps, even more amazing. On my recent visit I purchased The Mother of Eagles: The War Diary of Baroness Von Richthofen, originally published in 1938, and Rickenbacker: An Autobiography, the story of Eddie Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker was an America WWI ace, a Medal of Honor recipient, renowned race car driver during the teens and ‘20s, vice president of TWA airlines, and the founder of the short-lived Rickenbacker automobile company. These books were on a shelf with an original B 17 preflight inspection manual, a book about the history of the RAF, the air war in Europe during WWII, experimental aircraft of WWII, and an intriguing book about the aviation history of Arizona before 1920. Absolutely amazing.
As incredible as the store is, on Saturday mornings it is transformed with a book signing and a day long cruise in for regional automotive enthusiasts. From open to close people stop in for a fresh pastry, a book or magazine and to visit with like-minded people. On my recent visit I watched in amazement as Jay Leno arrived in a 1929 Duesenberg, and people arrived in a diverse array of vehicles including a 1965 Buick Riviera, a 1951 Ford truck, a new Ferrari, a Model T Ford, a Borgward Isabella and an electric Mustang.
With an adventuresome spirit, and a bit of planning, you can avoid the freeway system and transform the drive into a delightful voyage of discovery, even with miles of miles of stoplights. Colorful business districts that mirror the areas cultural diversity, picture worthy vintage signage, quaint neighborhoods from the 1950s, 1920s, and even the early 20th century. And as might be expected, lots and lots of fascinating time capsules.
As an example, within a few blocks of Auto Books Aero Books is the 1959 Safari Innwith its stunning neon signage. One block away is Tally Rand restaurant that opened in 1959. Including these two urban gems in your adventure will round out a memorable day spent talking with fascinating people and exploring Auto Books Aero Books.
Counted among the many things that make a Route 66 odyssey memorable is the surprises discovered along the way, and the people that you meet. Add a detour or two to your drive along Route 66, such as a short drive from Pasadena to Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, and you can magnify the magic of the Route 66 experience. As a bonus, withthis detour you can add to your automotive library as well.
After this recent trip it looks like we will be additing a few stops to the Jim HInckley’s America recommended location section of the website!
Unveiling the Jim Hinckley statue at Depot Plaza on National Road Trip Day
Surreal. Can you think of a better word to descibe the past couple of years? It definitely is a descriptor for my life since at least the onset of the apocalypse in 2020.
Since the first of December, I have had a publisher initiate discussions about the feasibility of writing two books in 2023, with no advance, and had two book signings. One book signing took place in the parking lot of a Burbank, California motel. The second was at a venerable book store that opened in the early 1950s, and Jay Leno showed up driving a Duesenberg.
Highlights of November include a regional tourism meeting in Needles, California and a tour of the historic El Garces hoteland Harvey House that opened in 1908. On the drive home the alternator quit on the Jeep and so I drove home on battery power without lights.
Oddly enough the amp gauge dropped to zero at the junction of Route 66 and Boundary Cone Road near Oatman, Arizona. This was almost the exact spot that pa’s Studebaker broke down back in the early 1970s. That trip turned out to be a two part adventure, us walking into Oatman and then after repairs, my first solo drive on the highway.
In October my dearest friend and I embarked on our first Route 66 odyssey since the onset of the apocalypse. To parphrase a bit of classic literature, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Put another way, it was our best road trip in many, many years. And it was hands down one of the worst that we have had in forty years.
In the new era you don’t merely rent a car. That is a relic from the BC (before COVID) era. Renting a car is an adventure in itself. It is a gamblers special. Will the rental company be able to honor my reservation? If so, will the vehicle I get be anything like the one that I reserved? And then there is the wild fluctuations of price that will often be two, three or four times the cost of a rental car before 2020.
The most surreal moment of my life, at least so far, took place in May of this year during the National Road Trip celebrations. That was when the Kingman Main Streetspearheaded project that included a self gudied narrated historic district walking tour and a public arts project was unveiled.
The walking tour was a project that had initially been discussed in 2014. So, it was a privilege to do the research and to provide narration. The public arts component was a statue of me by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. Even seeing the statue adorned with a Christmas wreath last week paled in comparison to the unveiling ceremony.
All of this has me looking toward 2023 with excitment, eager anticipation, and a hint of apprehension. The series of programs aboutKingman Arizona, barn finds on our Car Talk From The Main Street of Americapodcast gave the embryonic endeavor a boost. To kick off the new year we are asking people to share their stories about a favorite car, a barn find, their worst car, their first cor or the car that they still wish they owned.
Our second podcast, the live stream Sunday morning travel program Coffee With Jimmay be undergoing a major transition. We have finalized arrangements for use of the Arizona room at Calico’s restaurnt as a studio. Now we are looking for sponsors.
Hosting the program at Calico’s would add a new dimension to the program. We would have an interactive audience, and in addition to the audio podcast, we would record it as a video for the Jim Hinckley’s AmericaYouTube channel.
We are filling the spring calendar fairly quickly. It is still a far cry from 2019 but it is still early. And we are starting on a fall schedule of appearances as well. The organizers of the 2023 Miles of Possibility conference scheduled for October in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois have asked me to speak at the event.
And now we are counting the days until Christmas. Then we can work on our very special year in review program.
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
I spent a lot of the holiday weekend deep in thought. This particular bout of reflection on changing times was inspired by a request from a friend in the publishing industry. After seeing an article about a statue of me being unveiled at Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona on the National Road Trip Day celebration back in May, and a Google search of my name, she claims to have had a revelation.
She thinks that my story might be interesting. She thinks that I need to write an autobiography. Well, I am not sure what you might think about the idea but when she pitched this suggestion my first reaction was concern. Had she been kicked in the head by a mule or suffered from some type of head trauma since our last correspondence?
Just as with the statue, I am honoroed and humbled by the proposal. But this is different. A lot of names would have to be changed to protect the guilty. In times such as these when so many people are chomping at the bit for an excuse to argue, are passionate defenders of wild conspiracy theories, and see paranoia as a virtue or qualification for public office, an unfiltered book about me, my life and times, and my opinions about the ever changing world might upset a whole lot of folk.
And personally I am not as sure as she is that a book about me would be all that interesting. A lot of time has been spent with the mundane tasks that constitute the average life – a boring job or two, keeping the house from falling down, keeping the truck on the road, taxes, etc.
There is one more problem to consider. I hope to have at least one or two more chapters left in me. And judging by the past couple of years, there is the distinct possibility that they may be the most exciting. After all, in just two years I have survived COVID twice, written two books, had my business implode, initiated some lofty plans for the Route 66 centennial that include the acquisition and renovation of a 1951 Chevy panel truck (aka The Beast), and lost a few good friends. I have watched a previously unimaginable assault on our nations capitol, had a statue erected in my adopted hometown, launched a podcast series, and have been in discussion about projects that would require working in foreign lands.
To say that these are interesting times is akin to saying that Amboy along Route 66 in the Mojave Desert gets a tad bit hot in July. Born in the year of the Edsel, I have witnessed one hell of a lot of change over the years. But to the best of my recollection nothing compares to the past couple of years. In a mere blink of the eye, the entire world was forever changed – for better and for worse.
Even though I have lived a somewhate adventurous life filled with lots of opportunity to adapt to changing times, nothing really compares to what we have to do since 2019. As a result, reflecting on years lived leaves me looking to the future with excitement, eager anticipation, and just a hint of trepidation.
Would there be enough material to inspire people, to keep the readers interest? I have had adventures but so has most anyone that has lived five or six decades.
Several years ago I quit the steady job after developing an eye problem. I could see no reason to put up with the owners bs and they couldn’t see any reason to put up with my increasingly poor attitude. And so telling people where to go became the full time job that kept beans and taters on the table. But would this story interest readers?
There are lots of stories I could tell. In 2010, after a series of rather bizarre coincidences, I ended up in Jay Leno’s garage sitting down for a couple of interviews about two books I had written. My dearest friend and I kicked off 2015 with the first European adventure, courtesy Jan and Henk Kuperus, owners of Netherlands based U.S. Bikers.
There were a few European adventures in the years that followed. Let’s see, I spoke about Route 66 in the Czech Republic, helped tow a broken Fiat down the Autobahn with a rope, and had friends surprise us with an anniversary dinner and evening in a German castle built high above the Rhine River centuries ago.
The question remains, is my story all that different from most folks? Would a tale about Jim Hinckley really be THAT interesting?
It started as a presentation about the opportunities for economic development and community revitalization made possible by the Route 66 renaissance. Before the evening was over the audience had migrated to a local saloon, and the conversation had shifted to Jim Hinckley’s America, it’s origins, and how it had become a favored travel planning portal for legions of road trip enthusiasts. The short version is that Jim Hinckley’s America began with a dream, a 1948 Underwood typewriter, and the support of a very dear friend.
Books have been a passion for as long as I can remember so it should come as little surprise to learn that becoming an author was a childhood goal. Well there were a few delays along the way but in 1990 the fist steps were taken to transform the dream into a reality.
Photo courtesy Anita Shaw
What an adventure it has been! I was honored by an interview with Jay Leno at his garage and receipt of the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards. One publisher went belly up and that left me holding the bag on 18 months of work. I have made presentations in 20 states and four European countries, I spoke in German schools, and was privileged opportunities to cruise Route 66 in a Telsa equipped with auto-pilot and a 1915 Ford in the same week. The greatest reward, however, has been the people met along the way and the friends made.
The adventure started when my dearest friend, with gentle persuasion, suggested that I try writing a feature about a salvage yard along the Mexican border. So, I simply called the editor at Hemmings Motor News, talked cars a bit and poof, my first story, Myloe’s Marvelous Mechanical Menagerie was sold. I cranked it out on a battered old pawnshop typewriter and was awarded $250 for my efforts. With visions of success and profits looming on the horizon I began calling editors and publishers, sending query letters, and writing countless letters of introduction. Eighteen months later I landed my seconded writing project, a weekly travel column for the Kingman Daily Miner that paid $15 per week.
It was my stint with the Miner where I first encountered the discount between reality and perception. In the months that followed I lost count of how many times people told me how much they enjoyed my column, and how fortunate I must be to be paid to travel.
My first mentor in the business was Tina Luster, now a director with the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau in California. When we worked together she was the editor for the Launghlin Nevada Times Weekender. She patiently helped me to develop a bit of professionalism and add a bit of polish to my work, and survived some off the chart crazy adventures like exploration on what had once been a road in the Mojave Desert. Did I mention that it was summer or that my ’74 Ford truck did not have air conditioning or that we arrived in Needles for a meeting a bit worse for wear?
Brad Bowling, then the editor of Old Cars Weekly, gave me the next step up. Over the years I followed Bowling to various publications including the now defunct Cars & Parts. It was for that publication that I worked as an associate editor. I also wrote a monthly column entitled the Independent Thinker in which I wrote stories about interesting but obscure people in the auto industry such as the blind inventor of cruise control, a fellow who invented an eight wheeled car, and Studebaker’s electric car endeavor. This led to the publication of my first book for Iconografix, a little tome about the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.
It was through Cars & Part that I met Jon Robinson and through him, Dennis Pernu at Motorbooks International, and that was the beginning of a series of books. Jim Hinckley’s America was launched when the shift was made from writing predominately about auto history to travel subjects, an opportunity to exercise my God given gift for telling people where to go.
The list of people who have played a role in the development of Jim Hinckley’s America is lengthy. Toshi Goto patiently sat as my first test subject for an audio recording that become the Ten Minutes With Jim weekly podcast. A special thank you goes to supporters of the crowdfunding initiative that were crucial to initial development, and that remain vital for projects that are not economically viable. Jan Kuperus of US Bikers retained my services to speak at a travel fair and that was our first trip to Europe. The list of those who have contributed to the transformation of an idea into a reality is lengthy enough to stretch from here to Dinkelsbuhl and back again. And the adventure that is Jim Hinckley’s America is just beginning. As the boys from the Road Crew say in our theme song, come along for the ride.