A 3,900 mile road trip through the heartland. Visits with old friends. The loss of a few friends. The making of new friends. A visit with Jay Leno. Opportunities to tell people where to go, and to share America’s story. A dream project made manifest after six years of effort. A National Road Trip Day celebration that was historic, at least for me. The launch of a new podcast. The publication of my 21st and 22nd book. Delays and frustrations with The Beast (the 1951 Chevy panel truck). These were a few of the high and low points of 2022.
I have never been a fan of the New Year’s resolution. I am, however, a fan of looking back on a year. That gives me insight about what needs to be fixed or improved so I can make new mistakes rather than repeat old ones. It also provides balance and perspective. And that in turn provides a foggy glimpse of the year to come. With this reflection and evaluation comes a blend of excitement, eager anticipation, and a hint of apprehension.
The excitement and eager anticipation about the new year was fueled by the past few weeks. For the first time since the dawning of the apocalypse we resumed our December book signing at Auto Books Aero Books, a venerable old store that opened its doors in the 1950s. And just like old times Jay Leno popped in for a quick visit.
About two weeks ago I received an unexpected email. It was from a cousin not talked with since 1974! But what made that note and the subsequent phone call even more surprising was that I had been informed years ago that he had passed away.
Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Stephanie Stuckey, CEO of Stuckey’s, the classic roadside business famous for pecan logs, and a board member with the Society for Commerical Archeology. We had met at the Miles of Possibility Conference where she was the keynote speaker. At that time I had shared information about the new innovative self guided, narrated historic walking tour in Kingman, Arizona that had been developed by Kingman Main Street and invited her to Kingman for a guided tour.
The walking tour project had first been proposed after an interesting presentation about QR codes at the 2014 International Route 66 Festival in Kingman. Selling the idea took more time than the fund raising, research and development of phase one.
Apathy. A lack of leadership and vision. Factions. Failure to build cooperative partnerships. These were just a few of the obstacles that we had to overcome to transform an idea into a reality.
The issues encountered with this project aptly illustrate why some communities with limited resources or attractions successfully utilize tourism as a catalyst for economic development and historic revitalization, and others with nearly unlimited opportunity languish. That was the focal point of my presentation at the Miles of Possibility Conference.
And in 2022, for the first time since 2019 we embarked on an epic odyssey of nearly 4,000 miles through the heartland. Aside from visiting old friends and speaking at the Miles of Posibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois, and we did some research and exploration along Route 66 as well as in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas.
To plagiarize a bit of classic literature, that trip was the best of times, and it was the worst of time. Issues with renting car, a new reality, an injury sustained by my dearest friend, soaring gas prices, and a nightmare motel experience in Russellville, Arkansas are counted among the low points.
Highlights included discovering new restaurants, motels, museums and highways that we can recommend. There were some long overdue reunions with friends. We met some interesting people, were introduced to some new ideas and technologies, and had the opportunity to tell people where to go as well as share America’s story. And just as with BC (before COVID) era, there was ample opportunity to start booking engagements for the new year.
With few exceptions 2022 was a good year for the Jim HInckley’s America team. As always there was room for improvement, and that is one reason I evaluate the old year as a new one dawns.
So, here we are on the cusp of a new year filled with new opportunities. Are you excited?