Adios (and good riddance) 2020. Hello 2021. It has been, shall we say, an interesting year. It has also been a year of opportunity, of challenge, of loss, of frustration, and of concern for friends and family. It has been an historic year, a world altering year and a year of discovery. And so I, for one, am eagerly looking toward 2021 with just a hint of apprehension and a bit of excitement.
With the cancellation of presentations, classes and the scheduled speaking tour I have had ample time to rediscover the simple pleasure of very long walks in the desert, to read, to work on learning about new technologies and how to harness them, and finding new ways to tell people where to go. But, to be honest, I have had to fight the crippling sense of futility and linked depression that seems to be lurking in the shadows this year. I suppose some of this can be attributed to the difficulty of accepting the fact that the entire world has been forever changed resultant of the pandemic and then seeing opportunity for Jim Hinckley’s America in the dawn of a new era.
Support of the crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform (www.patreon.com/jimhinckleysamerica) has proven to be more important than ever in 2020. This and learning to use Zoom have made it feasible to make presentations on Route 66 and travel for various groups such as the Rotary Club of El Paso and the Inland Empire Gardner’s in Spokane, Washington. The response received as well as seeing how important things like these presentations are to people experiencing isolation resultant of quarantine or illness has provided a distinct since of satisfaction. As always, the quickest way to get out of a funk is to help others.
In a similar manner the development of the weekly Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page Sunday mornings has been quite interesting. Sponsored in part by the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, the program has apparently become an oasis in a sea of bad news for many people. I keep it light, fast paced and fun. Aside from a weekly trivia contest with prizes, and a plug for my books and sponsors, I cover topics that inspire thoughts of road trips, that inspire, and that are somewhat educational.
I am still surprised that people inspire me, and on occasion pay me, to beat my gums. This past Sunday’s program about interesting cemeteries on Route 66, and their surprising military or celebrity association, attracted an international audience of almost 5,500 people. And that was before it was archived with other episodes as well as programs in the On The Road With Jim series on the YouTube channel. This Sunday the topic will be an historic look at Christmas celebrations in America.
Counted among the interesting projects developed in 2020 to ensure that my dearest friend and I continue eating on a regular basis is blog writing for clients of MyMarketing Designs. When this company builds a website they offer a blog writing service for clients. I am the writer of those blogs. And so it has been an educational experience as well as a challenge to find material to write blogs for a kite store, for an RV sales and service company, for an air conditioning company and for several other companies.
I returned to my roots in 2020 with the writing of a weekly feature on automotive history for MotoringNZ, an online automotive publication based in New Zealand. My career in exchanging the written word kicked off in 1990 with an automotive feature written for Hemmings Motor News. For most of the next ten years the majority of my published work was on the formative years of the American auto industry. This included a stint as associate editor for the now defunct Cars & Parts magazine, and the writing of a regular feature entitled The Independent Thinker. These often overlapped with travel stories when I wrote about museums or Edsel Ford’s cross country adventure in the summer of 1915.
Shortly after I began writing for Motoring NZ, I adjusted the format for5 Minutes With Jim, our weekly audio podcast. It is now a journey through time with stories about automotive pioneers like Louis Chevrolet, the origins of automotive manufacturing companies, fascinating and and odd inventions, and similar subjects. The real boost for this project came with arrangement that allowed for it to be professionally edited by a New Zealand radio engineer. The audio podcast is now sponsored in part by the one of a kind Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
Speaking of sponsors we have been working on developing innovative ways to provide low cost or even free promotional opportunities for businesses, communities and museums this year. Now more than ever it is important that we build supportive cooperative partnerships. One of these initiatives is the Coffee Mug of The Week sponsorship. Each week on the Coffee With Jim live stream program I give a shout out to a business or museum that has sent us a coffee cup. It is the least I can do for business owners, many of them friends or acquaintances, that are struggling this year.
Several years ago I developed a series of community educational programs on area history, Route 66 and the economics of tourism for Mohave Community College. This spring they were cancelled, which was a kick in the income. But they were picked up again this fall via Zoom and that gave me an opportunity to learn more about this platform. It also proved to be the next logical step in developing and packaging these classes for other community colleges or communities. And that is just what I will be doing come 2021.
I have also launched a free weekly (soon to be biweekly) travel planning newsletter. In addition to providing another promotional venue for advertising sponsors, road trip inspiration and travel planning tools, it is a venue where I can offer event organizers free promotion.
This morning there was another glimmer of hope for 2021. It was in the form of negotiations about a new book with a publisher I worked with several years ago. Details will be forthcoming soon but suffice to say that book number twenty may be debuting next fall.
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.
The international popularity of Route 66, a highway that no longer officially exists, is rooted in the work of Cyrus Avery and his team of firmly grounded visionaries. U.S. 66 is not our most historic highway or its most scenic but from its inception it has always had the best publicity. That provides the communities and the businesses along the highway corridor with a tremendous marketing advantage. Still, in this the era of renaissance what is lacking is a sense of community, a sense of unified purpose. This has hindered preservation and marketing. It has blunted its potential. This was a very serious issue before the COVID-19 crisis. Now it is a critical issue.
Before the advent of the federal highway system in the mid 1920s organizations had been established to promote the Dixie Highway, the Lincoln Highway, the National Old Trails Road and the myriad of named “highways” that traversed America. They all had a commonality. The organizations were self serving in that the promotion of a specific road was linked with business interests. The organizations realized the importance of promoting a linear corridor rather than a single destination. The organizations realized that travelers had options and marketing was key if one road was to become more popular than another.
Photo Joe Sonderman collection
Cyrus Avery of Tulsa was well versed in the development and promotion of a road or highway as he had assisted with the organization of an Oklahoma branch of the Ozark Trail Association (OTA) in 1914, and had been instrumental in organization of related conventions. In 1927 Avery was a leader in the organization of the U.S. Highway 66 Association for the promotion of tourism along the newly minted highway, and lobby for its paving from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Avery had a vested interest in the success of Route 66 as he had business interests along the highway in Tulsa. Still, he knew that his interest, those of fellow business owners and the City of Tulsa would be best served by promoting the highway in its entirety. Author Michael Wallis summed up the concept nicely when he once quipped that Route 66 was linear community. From this perspective Kingman or Tulsa or Claremore are the neighborhoods that add diversity and color to the Route 66 community.
There is little doubt that some communities, some sections of the highway corridor will survive and even thrive during the crisis as well as into the centennial and beyond. However, without the unified sense of purpose and of community made manifest in the U.S. Highway 66 Association, Route 66 itself can not survive. Simply put, we can no longer afford the luxury of myopia or a self serving focus.
I have long been hoping for a reincarnation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association, a chamber of commerce for the Route 66 community. There have been a number of initiatives in recent years. However, while each has made contributions to the Route 66 community all have fallen short. So until that organization is reborn we must work together at the grassroots level; the community organizers, the tour company owners, local tourism offices and business owners, the authors, artists, and photographers.
And we must realize that this grassroots network is not just American in nature. As with the travelers that contribute so mightily to the economy of the Route 66 community, the grassroots network of business owners and event organizers is also international in nature. This is made manifest in the European Route 66 festivals (canceled for 2020) the Route 66 Navigationapp and Mother Road Route 66 Passport developed by Touch Media based in Bratislava, Slovakia and the Route 66 associations in Europe, Japan, Australia, Brazil and Canada.
The gift shop at Route 66 Navigation
It is imperative that we build cooperative partnerships. It is imperative that we pool resources for marketing. It is imperative that we harness modern technologies – social media, live stream programs, Zoom, etc. for promotion as well as for streamlining communication. It is important that we build networks.
Now, with all of this said I would like to share a bit about Jim Hinckley’s America, the services we can offer, and how you can help ensure that this travel network continues with the promotion of the Route 66 community. First a short overview.
Jim Hinckley’s America is an expansive website, a multifaceted social media network (almost 6,000 followers on Facebook), live stream programs, presentations, audio podcast, feature articles, YouTube channel, consultation service (for communities as well as groups), and guide service. The network is in a near constant state of growth and transition to ensure that we provide the best value for advertising sponsors, the best service for the traveler and that we can contribute to the building of a stronger Route 66 community.
As with most every tourism centered business in the world we have been adversely affected. All presentations scheduled through October have been canceled. The classes on the economics of heritage tourism developed for the local community college were canceled. More than 95% of advertising sponsors have had to temporarily suspend advertising. Support for the crowdfunding initiative has been curtailed. All work as a tour development consultant and as a step on guide have been canceled.
Still, our work continues. We have launched a new series of live stream programs that are added to the YouTube channel after broadcast. Uranus General Store & Fudge Company has signed on as a partial sponsor. Connie Echols of the historic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri has continued with her support even though her business was severely curtailed. This and continued support from the City of Cubahave enabled development of the Coffee With Jim program scheduled for Saturday mornings and continuation of the 5 Minutes With Jim audio podcast. Still the dramatic decline has greatly restricted our program schedule as well as plans for development of other initiatives.
The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.
So, we are offering advertising opportunities that will fit any marketing budget. We are also offering exclusive content for contributors to the crowdfunding initiative. The entire travel journal from Edsel Ford’s 1915 odyssey along the National Old Trails Road was published in serial format. A short time ago I began writing my autobiography in serial format as well. And we are also planning for the future by scheduling speaking engagements.
So, I do hope that you will consider lending support to Jim Hinckley’s America. And I sincerely hope that you will find ways to build a sense of community as well as community purpose, and to build a network of cooperative 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.
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.