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.
An early view of the Hotel Beale courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts
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.
Through the magic that is “shopping on line” there is still ample time to order a gift or two, and have it arrive on Christmas. As an author I prefer the giving of books, and as I am firmly grounded in the era of the Model A Ford, my preference is for books with paper pages. Even though I applaud and encourage reading of books in any form, it seems unnatural to spend time in the reading room with a Kindleand am quite convinced that a Kindle is a very poor substitute for a Sears catalog.So, let me begin with a sales tool. I can not attest to the validity of the statistics presented but do know that books will greatly enhance life, in spite of the impression often given in school.
These are gift suggestions for the armchair traveler in your family, or the adventurer that spends the winter reading about and planning adventures. Of course, you can always choose to let them shop for themselves with an Amazon gift card.
The first suggestion is Motoring West: Automobile Pioneers, 1900 – 1909by Peter J. Blodgett. This book is actually a series of short stories – written in the opening years of the 20th century. They detail the adventures of early “automobilists” as they pioneered cross country travel by automobile.
Here is an excerpt. This is from the story Automobiling in the West published originally in Scientific America on August 3, 1901. “Pull out block and tackle, wade around in the mud, get soaked to the skin and chilled from the effects of the deluge, make fastenings to the fence or telegraph post and pull. Pull hard, dig your heels into the mud, and exert every effort at command. The machine moves, your feet slip, and down in the mud you go full length. Repeat the dose and continue the operation until the machine is free from the ditch and again upon the road.”
As we are talking about pioneering automobilists, another book that I highly recommend is By Motor to the Golden Gateby Emily Post. Originally published in 1916, this illustrated book presents a fascinating look at early cross country travel and it is written in a manner that places the reader in the passenger seat. As a bonus, some of Post’s trip was along sections of the National Old Trails Highway that latter become Route 66.
For another tremendous book that highlights the adventure and challenges of motoring in the American back country before the advent of the US highway system, I recommend The American Road.
This book is the chronicle of an astounding military expedition that was designed to test the viability of long distance military convoys utilizing motor vehicles, and call attention to the good roads movement that eventually resulted in the creation of the US highway system. Well written, this book almost reads like a novel filled with adventure. Amply illustrated with historic images from the 1919 convoy, and the fact that the future president Dwight David Eisenhower was involved, ensure this will be a memorable read.
The holiday season is a perfect time for telling folks where to go, and if you do it right, they will look forward to the trip. Next week, I will share one more list of gift suggestions.