I am confident that most of us are in the same boat. Every morning we put on a brave face and step out to meet a new day that is unlike any day ever experienced before. We hide our frustrations, fears and concerns behind false bravado. We desperately cling to the illusion of normal and avoid the reality by surrounding ourselves with people who won’t challenge us to think and who will affirm what we believe. We try to avoid asking the question what now, especially if we are an old timer that will have to fully reinvent themselves as a matter of survival.
And that takes me to the next project. I am currently working on a serious of programs to share what has been learned in recent months about changing direction after a persons 60th birthday. I will be sharing ideas, educational opportunities, networking suggestions and other ways to ensure continued survival. This is not to say I have all of the answers. However, I have more than I did several months ago, and really believe some inspiration can be provided.
At Jim Hinckley’s Americathis year started with such promise. I had a new book to promote and a slate of speaking engagements in three countries that stretched out to October. An interview for a British publication had given me a new moniker – “America’s storyteller.” Together with our tag line – Telling People Where to Go Since 1990 – I had marketing and promotional ideas that were only limited by the imagination.
On February 7, I kicked off the speaking tour to a packed house at a museum fund raiser in the historic El Garces Hotel in Needles, California. I was pleasantly surprised to find people had traveled from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix for the presentation. Even better, the reviews were favorable, the audience engaged and the positive comments flowed freely.
The next four weeks were a blur. My pa passed away, I picked up three new advertising partners, confirmed two more speaking engagements (one in Spokane), revamped the entire website, finalized a partial sponsor for attendance of the European Route 66 Festival in Zlin, Czechia, resolved a dental issue and received notice that my new book, Murder and Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66 was being nominated for recognition at the Independent Publishers Award. And then it all started to unravel.
First there was a steady trickle of tour company cancellations that quickly became a torrent. Then I got sick but didn’t meet testing requirements for COVID 19 even though my temperature was ranging from 101 to 103.9 degrees and I could breathe. Then the speaking engagement cancellations began coming in, and as businesses closed, I suspended arrangements with advertising sponsors as a means of providing what assistance I could. To subsidize their continued promotion I began pushing the crowdfunding initiative and developing unique exclusive content to add value to the commitment of support.
And that takes us to today. The Sunday morning live stream Coffee With Jim program continues to grow in popularity, and generates a bit of income; tips, crowdfunding and small business advertisers. I am writing feature articles on automotive history for MotoringNZ, a New Zealand publication. These are linked to the 5 Minutes With Jim audio podcast. On line book sales have been anemic (issues courtesy COVID 19). In short, I am having to almost completely abandon my work with tour companies and the live speaking engagements. An online presence has never been more important, for survival for the author, photographer, artist or small business owner with e-commerce opportunity.
What now? The hardest part of answering that question is facing cold hard facts, casting off preconceived ideas and seeking real information. For me this has required an honest evaluation of tourism trends. First, international tourism to the United States will take more than a year or two to recover, largely resultant of our inability to get a handle on the COVID 19 pandemic. Staycations are the foreseeable future. But even these will be restricted because of the ongoing pandemic. So, again, developing an online presence is crucial.
Stay tuned. This old dog is learning new tricks. And I plan on sharing those with you, and perhaps, you can share a few with me. Mi amigos, we are in this together. Aside from on online presence, the next most important item for survival in the brave new world is partnerships.
Markers at Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona provided historic context for the site.
For the Cerbat clan of the Hualapai people the desert oasis was the source of life giving waters. For travelers following the trade route to the Colorado River, and on to the coast of California the springs provided a welcome respite from the harsh desert. Purportedly Father Garces camped at the site during his exploratory expedition across northern Arizona in 1776.
Numerous American explorers camped at the springs including Lieutenant Beale during the survey for the Beale Wagon Road in the late 1850s. One of his adventures included a camel caravan. As an historic footnote the camel corps was authorized by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederate States of America during the America Civil War.
The springs were an important way-station on the territorial era Mohave-Prescott toll road that connected Fort Mohave and Hardyville on the Colorado River with Fort Whipple at Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona. During this period in the mid to late 1860s steamboats brought all manner of goods to ports on the Colorado River and the trail systems into the interior were vital arteries of commerce. And so during the Hualapai War of 1866 to 1870, the United States Army established a camp at the springs.
Captain Samuel B. M. Young, 8th U.S. Cavalry, the commander of Fort Mojave was tasked with establishing an outpost at the spring on March 27, 1867. By 1871 the camp had become an integral part of the military’s network of outposts and forts in the northern part of the Arizona territory. Aside from subjugation of the Hualapai tribe the troopers were tasked with protecting trade routes and locations key to settlement of the area. At its peak Camp Beale consisted of twelve adobe buildings including a 60′ by 20′ barracks with adjoining camp kitchen. The garrison was a detachment of Company F, 12th U.S. Infantry from Fort Whipple.
In January of 1873, the Beale Springs Indian Agency was established at the site as a reservation for the Hualapai Indians. After the tribe was force marched to the Colorado River Tribes Indian Reservation the camp was officially decommissioned on April 6, 1874. A monument erected by the Hualapai Tribe at the parking lot near the springs commemorates this dark chapter.
After 1874, the former military encampment served as station on the toll road, and a hub fro area development. With establishment of the railroad in western Arizona in 1882, the toll road faded faded from prominence even though it was a key link between Kingman and Colorado River communities. The springs also remained an important oasis for travelers following trails from Cerbat Mountains mining communities and the rail head in Kingman. A hotel was established at the springs, and then in the 1890s, the site became the headquarters for a vast ranching enterprise. The springs were one source for water for Kingman during its infancy. Initially water was hauled by wagon into town but a concrete reservoir was constructed at the site and pipeline constructed around 1910.
Remnants of the historic Mohave Prescott Toll Road at Beale Springs is a tangible link to Arizona territorial history.
Today the site of the springs is maintained by the BLM and is one of the highlights of the extensive Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area trail system. It is easily accessed from U.S. 93, and is less than two miles from historic downtown Kingman and Route 66. As it is located about 100 yards from the parking lot, the springs are ideally suited for picnics or a simple urban getaway.
Much of the trail system in the area of Beale Springs provides a tangible link to Arizona history. Aside from the sites at the springs, there are traces of the historic wagon road that are still evident in places. There are also remnants of the automobile road that was built over Coyote Pass in 1914. Near the summit are concrete crossings of washes, a rock cut and the remains of bridges.
There are an array of markers that add context to the story of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona
The entire trail system is one of the gems that make Kingman special. The springs are the crown jewel. As a bonus in the era of quarantine the trails are an ideal place for social distancing, and for finding a bit of solace in a time of turmoil. So, it seemed a fitting place to kick off something I have been playing with for quite sometime, a new live stream series (added to the YouTube channel afterwards) of programs under the heading of On The Road With Jim.
If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. That old adage underlines the primary reason that I haven’t written a post in the last week or so. There are other factors as well; being so sick that I felt like one foot was in the grave and the other on a roller skate, navigating the labyrinth in a quest for unemployment compensation, work to steer Jim Hinckley’s America in a new direction and a quest for income to name but a few.
By nature I am an optimistic pessimist that can find humor in most any situation but in recent weeks it has been a challenge to maintain my signature dry wit and quirky since of humor. This isn’t to say that there isn’t much to laugh at. Just flip through the news programs in the morning, cruise Facebook and read a few of the posts from people passionately defending the latest conspiracy theory or spend a few minutes trying to decipher the us versus them political soap opera. But the daily dose of gallows humor has worn thin.
So, aside from recovery, I have been spending as much as time as possible salvaging Jim Hinckley’s America and ensuring that we continue telling people where to go for years to come. I have revamped the weekly newsletter and am offering authors an opportunity to promote their books and restaurants that offer carry out service a marketing platform as well as encouraging people to keep dreaming of road trips. I have also launched the weekly live stream program Coffee With Jim on Saturday mornings. The idea is to avoid the daily dose of bad news and instead give folks a reason to smile. Aside from a few technical difficulties, such as internet issues, the program has been well received. As a bonus it is something I enjoy doing and it helps lift the spirits, mine as well as the audience.
And I have returned to my roots. For the first ten years of my career as an author writing centered on the American auto industry between the years 1885 and 1940, and the corresponding societal evolution. This past week I began writing a weekly feature for Motoring NZ, an online automotive publication based in New Zealand. In addition to a weekly column on automotive history I am also recording an audio podcast. This is in addition to the weekly 5 Minutes With Jim audio podcast that is published on Sunday morning.
A few months ago I embarked on a rather strange odyssey, the writing of my autobiography. I have been providing this as exclusive content on the Patreon based crowdfunding site. I feel a bit awkward about this as by nature I am a private person. And some of the stories are hard to share as the guilty parties are still among us. And as with some of my other projects I am amazed by the comments and response. It never ceases to amaze me that people find me interesting and even fascinating. That is an odd sensation that I have trouble getting used to.
Another endeavor is short live stream programs from sites such as Fort Beale Springs. Aside from giving advertising sponsors a bang for their buck, I want to inspire people to get out, to explore, and to find a bit of solace in troubling times. This is going to be a challenging year. We have all gotten used to road trips and the occasional international adventure. It looks like 2020 will be the year that we discover or rediscover wonders in our neighborhood.
Stay tuned. Jim Hinckley’s America is here to stay. Jim Hinckley’s America will keep telling people where to go, we will just be doing it in a different way.
We are living through one of the most fascinating, most unnerving, most trans-formative periods the world has seen since at least WWII. To be honest I would rather be reading about it in history books rather than watching it unfold. I would like to skip to the end of this book or even wait for the movie. I would bet my bottom dollar that I am not the only one thinking these type of thoughts.
I can only imagine how the people living through the triple upset – WWI, the Spanish flu pandemic and the deep economic recession that followed on the heels of these two disasters – must have felt. For those folks, however, it was five tumultuous years that forever transformed the world. The current crisis that is still unfolding has changed the world in less than four months and nothing will ever be the same when we return to normal, whatever that may look like.
Since launching Jim Hinckley’s America my life has revolved around tourism (telling people where to go) and bringing history to life. This storm will pass but until then tourism is as extinct as the woolly mammoth. And after the storm passes, what will tourism be like? With this thought in mind I have been working to develop a short term and long term strategy for me as well as for some of my clients such as the City of Cuba. And I have also been working on developing as well as expanding current programs in a manner that provides maximum entertainment and inspirational value for fans, that gives sponsors and advertising partners the best return on their investment, and that provides support for the Route 66 community.
First there is 5 Minutes With Jim, our weekly audio podcast that is made available every Sunday morning. We keep it simple and fun with a blending of history, trivia and travel tips. As an example on our first program for April, I tell the story of an amazing Old West shootout in Holbrook, Arizona, and give directions to the historic homestead associated with the incident. Previous programs told the story of the Cactus Derby, a race that featured the best racers of the day including Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield. There have also been programs about my favorite places for pie on Route 66 (Grand Canyon Caverns and Victoria’s Sugar Shack to name two), infamous and overlooked murders, and automotive history.
On the crowdfunding site using the Patreon platform I have been sharing my autobiography in serial format as exclusive content. In light of the current Coronavirus induced economic situation this funding source is more important than ever as I am suspending fees charged to some advertising sponsors. I will continue to keep their name in front of people but if they are closed it just doesn’t seem right to be charging them. I have also discounted advertising packages by 50%, and am offering free listing for businesses with online stores across all platforms in the Jim Hinckley’s America network. And so to keep things going, to be able to support the Route 66 community and small businesses that are its life blood I am more dependent than ever on crowdfunding.
As so may people are in self quarantine and restricted on travel, I am providing short live stream programs on our Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. This are being shot from various locations around Kingman, Arizona during my walkabouts. As I always say, shared adventures are the best adventures. A hearty thank you to the City of Cuba for their support of this project.
One project that I am quite excited about is the new Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed to our Facebook page on Saturday mornings from the offices of Jim Hinckley’s America. As book and movie reviews are a part of the weekly format, this will provide authors with a promotional platform. The fast paced half hour program features things like excerpts from the 1901 travel journal of Alexander Winton, travel related news and updates, product reviews and much, more. So, it also serves as a promotional platform for small businesses as well as communities that submit items for review or coupons. After the broadcast the video is added to our YouTube and Vimeo channels.
A 1914 guide to roads and highways in Arizona
I have also dramatically adjusted the format of the weekly newsletter that is published every Friday morning. This is offered free with registration through our Facebook page. It too features reviews, travel tips and news, and information on communities, events and new products.
The website is getting some much needed improvements as well. Much of the information will need to be upgraded or modified resultant of current travel restrictions and the economic climate.
Bottom line. Like everyone else in the world right now I am sailing into uncharted waters through an impenetrable fog. And like everyone else I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Still, the show must go on. And so I will continue using Jim Hinckley’s America as my platform for telling people where to go.
Am I the only one that feels like a rabid bear is chasing me but with my shoe laces tied together, and a bag with a wolverine in one hand and a bag with a bobcat in the other, it is becoming increasingly hard to keep the panic in check?
Still, the show must go on. And so I am developing new programs and projects, revamping old ones and finding ways to use these to support small businesses, the Route 66 community and authors as well as artists. As an example, for folks with an online store I am offering to put our travel network to work for them at no charge. Links to their sites will be added to the social media network and a new section that is being developed for the website as well as applicable blog posts. I am also offering a 50% discount on advertising and sponsorship packages, even for existing promotional partners.
Folks are going to need an escape from quarantine as well as a constant stream of bad news and political BS masquerading as news. And so the weekly audio podcast 5 Minutes With Jim will focus almost entirely on trivia, history, and stories from the road. As an example, on the episode of March 22, I share a rather dark tale from the ghost town of Glenrio, Texas. “In the old forlorn ghost town of Glenrio astride the Texas/New Mexico state line there is a non-descript cinder block-fronted building with broken windows and no door. Even though the town is a favored photo stop for Route 66 enthusiasts, this building is often overlooked even though it is one of the most famous buildings in Glenrio. It was here on July 10, 1973, that Dessie Leach was senselessly murdered.”
And we have launched a new live stream Saturday morning program through our Facebook page that is archived on the Jim Hinckley’s America YouTube channel. Book and movie reviews, a bit of reading from old travel journals (Edsel Ford, 1915, Alexander Winton, 1901), lots of surprises and lively conversation. This too is being used to lend a hand in these trying times as I am offering reviews of products, gift certificates, copies of authors books or anything folks want to provide.
The weekly travel planning newsletter is being revamped. You will find the latest information about closures, travel options, online gift shops, the latest releases of both books and movies and some great offers from businesses. You can sign up on our Facebook page.
As to the panic, it isn’t the idea of a self imposed quarantine or nearly empty shelves in the supermarket that worries me. So from that perspective, as I am a beans and taters sort of fella, the only concern is for the poor folks that might have to hunker down with me, and I am partial to quiet and empty places. As to hiding from the world with my dearest friend, well after nearly forty years together we don’t have a lot of secrets and to be honest there are few things that I enjoy more than time alone with her. Still, in all fairness I suppose it might be a good idea to cut back on the beans or to take more walks in the desert.
No, my concerns are with those families being devastated by the disease and economic tsunami that is sweeping around the wheels on the heels of the virus. My concern is for what this country is going to look like after the storm passes. After all, in spite of the crisis we seem to hold fast to our tribal divisions as a badge of honor and as Abraham Lincoln famously noted, a house divided against itself can not stand. My worries are for the Route 66 community. I am unsure how many businesses can weather this storm. Poorly informed folks sharing childish and juvenile postings on social media platforms have offended friends across the pond and kicked them when they were down. I am not sure how this kind of damage can be repaired.
Things are about to get interesting amigos. And I don’t mean to scare or panic you but it wouldn’t take much to get me to bet the bottom dollar that nothing will be the same when we get to the other side. The big question is, will we be the same.