It is a God given gift, or so people tell me. I first began
harnessing that gift for telling people where to go in 1990 with the writing and publication of feature articles and books (18 to date with another due for release this year). Initially it was largely viewed as a means to stave off starvation. Then I began to meet the most wonderful and inspirational people. Then those people began to seek me out during their adventures, and to tell their friends to do the same. In turn this led to the promotion of my adopted hometown, Kingman, Arizona, and America’s small town, Route 66.
100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die
The ultimate bucket list - from restaurants to photo ops, from time capsule motels to attractions here are 100 of author Jim Hinckley's favorite places on Route 66
A quick visit is all it takes to tell if a town or village is
possessed of a sense of community, is progressive and forward thinking, and if it has a vision for the future, or if it is riddled with apathy, indifference, self serving factions, and leadership focused on the rear view mirror. Take a drive through town, hit the historic business district, and then take a couple of laps through neighborhoods. Skip the fast food joints and stop at a local diner or tavern, be a fly on the wall and listen. Pick up a local paper (or read the on line edition) and be sure to read the editorials as well as the comments.
Today’s post isn’t meant as condemnation. It is a bit of a soapbox sermon inspired by thoughts and reflections as I gear up for this mornings conference call with the Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership economic development committee. It is also an expression of frustration.
As many of you know, my dearest friend and I call Kingman, Arizona home. Located at the heart of a wonderland of vast and diverse landscapes, and at the center of the longest remaining uninterrupted segment of Route 66, the town has, perhaps, the greatest undeveloped tourism potential of any community in the southwest. This boundless opportunity is magnified by a location on the western edge of the “Grand Circle” that is the premier destination in the southwest, and the fact that within 400 miles of Kingman there are ten million people with interest in mountain biking, camping, spelunking, fine dining, off road exploration, wineries, colorful festivals, ghost towns, museums, white water rafting, classic car events, Native American culture, the Grand Canyon, and hiking along shade dappled trails.
I am now within spitting distance of sixty. No matter how
hard I squint, fifty isn’t visible in the rear view mirror any longer. One lesson learned many, many years ago is that every second counts. Part two of that lesson is this – with the passing of each year, the awareness that every second counts increases exponentially. Linked with this is an old adage that the older one gets the faster time goes. I am not familiar with any empirical evidence that provides validity to this statement but can attest to the fact that the world flying past the windows is quite blurred as of late.
Yesterday, or so it seems, it was Monday. Between then and now there has been a few meals shared with friends, the recording of several new podcast episodes and the publication of one (Jim Hinckley’s America podcast), completion of the rough draft for another book and initiation of the writing of the first chapter for another one, a few meetings, a revamping of the blog format (did you notice that there is now a tip jar in the top menu bar and in the sidebar for those wanting to leave a little something for the storyteller?), and another Facebook live program.
A rare B-17 at the former Kingman Army Airfield, and an
early morning conversation with internationally acclaimed artist Gregg Arnold, photographer Herberta Schroeder of Wind Swept Images, and Michelle Drumheller who is organizing a family reunion for the family of pioneering rancher Tap Duncan, that is how my day started. In short, another day, another colorful adventure. This is Jim Hinckley’s America. If that seems like a plug, well, I suppose that it is.
In retrospect it started simply enough. I wanted to write, to share the history of the American auto industry as well as tales of adventure on the road less traveled in the hope that it would inspire people to do a bit of exploring. After the publication of a few dozen feature articles for various magazines, I had an opportunity to write a book. That had been a dream since childhood and so I wrote a little book about the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.
That was followed by an interesting project that carried the odd title of The Big Book of Car Culture. In essence this was a Jerry Seinfeld type of project, a book about nothing. Jon Robinson and I wrote short stories about everything auto related from the history of highway striping and speedometers to Route 66 and Harley Davidson. (more…)
This morning I enjoyed a brief but interesting discussion
with KC Keefer, the brilliant videographer behind the Genuine Route 66 series and a series of videos on forgotten places such as the Painted Desert Trading Post and Glenrio in partnership with Dr. Nick Gerlich. The topic of conversation was Route 66 as a catalyst for economic development and revitalization in rural communities. As that has been the subject of recent Jim Hinckley’s America blog posts as well as Facebook live programs, I found his insights and thoughts to be particularly relevant.
In building the foundation for economic development in a community, tourism as a primary component is a very poor choice. However, tourism should always be considered a component in the creation of an economic development plan, especially in a community that has Route 66 as the main street through its historic business district. Additionally, in these communities all marketing should include a Route 66 element. The popularity of the road will magnify these type of initiatives. often with tremendous results.
As important as Route 66 in in regards to marketing or revitalization initiatives, myopic focus on what Route 66 was can be as detrimental as not using it at all. It is imperative that a community also focus on the future. As an example consider the embryonic Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona. In addition, Route 66 should also be utilized as a means for showcasing the unique attributes of a community. If a town can blend these components in a single package, and has the leadership needed to get community buy in, it will be transformed, regardless of rural location or size. (more…)
Last year I was privileged by opportunities to speak
about Route 66 and that highways renaissance at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri, the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington-Normal, at a fund-raising event for the Route 66 Association of Kingman, at the first European Route 66 Festival, at a school in Bensheim, Germany, and at a Promote Kingman event where the new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 was introduced. This year I am narrowing the focus by developing a presentation that centers on the marketing of the Main Street of America in western Arizona over the course of the past century.
The story of Route 66 promotion actually commences a decade or so before that highways certification on November 11, 1926. The short version of a long story, one that I will provide more detail on in my presentation, is how the National Old Trails Highway was rerouted across northern Arizona, a rather dramatic realignment from the original route from Springerville to Yuma where it connected with the Ocean-To-Ocean Highway.
The list of celebrities, legendary cowboys, movie stars, and famous artists
that have called Kingman home, or that have stopped by for a visit or two over the years is surprisingly lengthy. However, with the exception of Pamela Anderson’s indecent exposure incident, even in Kingman, this celebrity association is often less than an historic footnote .
Recently two of these esteemed individuals, Andy Devine and Bob Boze Bell, author of the Route 66 Kid were awarded a rather prestigious award, induction into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. As a result, once again the international media spotlight focused on Kingman, just as it did in the 1950’s when the television program This Is Your Life honored Andy Devine, in 1939 when Clark Gable and Carol Lombard married here, and in 1925 when Buster Keaton selected the ranch of Tap Duncan north of Kingman as a filming location for his latest motion picture, Go West. (more…)