The Fine Line

The Fine Line

The electricity had cut out at around 3:00 in the morning. Outside it was like being in a snow globe. After a bit of work with a shovel the venerable old Jeep did a bit of slipping and sliding but found enough traction to keep moving forward. Our friends Tahoe wouldn’t go backwards and forward progress was only accomplished with digging, pushing and the occasional use of a tow chain. It was truly a memory making adventure.

In my world adventure is the spice of life. It is what keeps the daily grind, the minutia, the bill paying, the earning of a living, the trials and tribulations of life from becoming overwhelming and drowning me with boredom. Without adventure the world shrinks, you develop tunnel vision and before you know it is possible to look down a beer bottle with both eyes. In all honesty I am of the opinion that like food and air to breathe there is a need for adventure in every life. I am not talking about free climbing a rock face or sailing around the world solo in a home built boat. I am simply talking about stepping from the comfort zone, challenging yourself just a bit.

It was a true honor to be invited to tour Ken Soderbeck’s farm and workshop that houses some very amazing things including this ultra rare Jackson 4×4 truck

There was a time not so long ago when adventure and the need for adventure was a given. Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison often took camping trips and roughed it in the wilds of Michigan. Even though they were wealthy men, Henry Ford wielded an ax to cut firewood. They set up tents. In the summer of 1915, then 21-year old Edsel Ford and a few of his college buddies set out on a grand adventure from Michigan to the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California via the National Old Trails Highway through the southwest. They experienced mud, washed out roads, mechanical breakdown, mud, getting lost and mud. They also experienced life. On a recent episode of Five Minutes With Jimour audio podcast I shared a bit of Edsel’s adventure. And on the Patreon platform based crowdfunding initiative for Jim Hinckley’s America, I shared Edsel’s entire travel journal, with original illustrations, in a series format.

Today the average American is so insulated from life that the simplest challenge can become a matter of life and death. I am always amazed by people who jump in their air conditioned cars without checking the tires or carrying water, and set out across the desert. Perhaps I go to far the other way. Still, our recent adventure was just that, an adventure because I travel prepared for adventure. I had a pair of insulated coveralls behind the spare tire. The jeep never leaves the driveway without a shovel and drinking water. Even though our plan was for lodging in the Ranch House at Grand Canyon Caverns, rain and possible snow was forecast. So, I dusted off the old clunky boots and gave them an ample rub down with mink oil. As a result when the adventure commenced, I was warm, dry, and had most of the tools needed.

Heading out to Route 66 from Grand Canyon Caverns after a Thanksgiving snowstorm. Photo courtesy Sylvia Hoehn

Adventure can take many forms from learning and using a new language to international travel, from sitting down to dinner with someone from a different country to being snowed in on Thanksgiving. Here is my challenge for 2020. Add some adventure to your life, put a little zip in the routine and see if your not transformed. Watch the world expand.

Learn to fix a faucet or build a functional website. Travel abroad and order a food that you can’t pronounce. Take a road trip without reservations. Step out of that comfort zone.

Can I ask a favor of you? If you enjoy our blog posts, our stories and the inspiration for road trips that we provide, would you consider lending support to our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. Like PBS, we are almost wholly viewer supported. In advance, thank you!


Dawn Of A New Era?

Dawn Of A New Era?

Just one block off Route 66 is this charming little gem filled with an array of delicious, and occasionally healthy goodies.

For those willing to simply see where the road leads, and an ability to develop flexible plans, life can be a grand adventure full of surprises. The fall tour has been just such an adventure, endless opportunity for surprises. It has been maddening, fun, interesting, sad and tragic, educational, almost profitable, informative, enjoyable and a bit of a gastronomical odyssey.

As an example consider yesterday. It started simply enough with a breakfast shared with old friends from Iowa at the Huddle House, a presentation on economic development and tourism for the City of Cuba, and then a drive to Steelville for a late lunch shared with my dearest friend. Now I am sitting in the historic Wagon Wheel Motel, after a wonderful breakfast courtesy the Cuba Bakery & Deli contemplating the possibilities. Over the years I have wore a number of hats but never once has thought been given to serving as an official tourism director.

The gift shop at the Wagon Wheel Motel will be stocked with signed copies of my books, unless they sell out tonight. Already two copies have been sold and the festivities have yet to begin.

The apparent popularity of the new book, Murder and Mayhem on the Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, has been a pleasant surprise. I have almost sold all of the copies brought with me on the fall tour, as well as the Jim Hinckley’s America pins, and this evenings 10th anniversary celebration of Connie Echols stewardship of the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel where I will be signing books is shaping up to be quite the event. I have just learned that Marian Pavel, developer of the Route 66 Navigation app will be in attendance, and Connie has stocked the gift shop so I have lots of books to sign.

When the trip kicked off there had been some very promising discussions about a project of particular interest in Jackson, Michigan. That too was quite a surprise as it turned out to be more smoke and mirrors than substance. As it turned out it was also a valuable lesson, one of the most embarrassing performances to date resultant of venue, and the portal to some incredible opportunities for what may manifest as the 20th book. I also met some very interesting and inspirational people, and bid adios to my pa for the last time. So, the visit to Jackson was one of those bittersweet detours in life.

Now we turn our attentions toward the homeward trip, and perhaps, the dawn of a new era. Meanwhile, development of Jim Hinckley’s America as a multifaceted travel network continues. The weekly audio podcast Ten Minutes With will resume at the end of the month. Likewise the weekly Adventurers Club live programs. And, of course there will lots of website updates as well as blog posts about the fascinating new restaurants discovered on our journey.


Shadow Ranchers & Adventures on The Road

Shadow Ranchers & Adventures on The Road

The Bonelli House in Kingman, Arizona is a fascinating time capsule as it contains most of the original furnishings purchased by the family between 1915 and 1940. Photo Jim Hinckley’s America

It has been a week of assorted adventures, time spent with friends, adventure planning, planning adventures with friends and the frustration of dealing with shadow ranchers. Let me start by giving an explanation of shadow rancher for those not familiar with the term. This is someone who walks like a rancher and talks like a rancher in an attempt to fool people into believing that they are a rancher. In reality the herds are shadows, a fiction. I am not usually snookered by the shadow rancher but it does appear that this is exactly what has happened. There isn’t any need to provide details. I will keep my end of the bargain and ride it out as long as they don’t try and pay me with a sack of three legged buffaloes, and to the best of my ability smile. Suffice to say a lesson has been learned.

Aside from this little problem it has been a pretty good week. My dearest friend and I enjoyed a great breakfast with Zdenek Jurasek, an old friend from the Czech Republic, and his tour group at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Aside from catching up and talking about tours, Route 66 and torus on Route 66, we talked about  the 2020 International Route 66 Festival that Jurasek is organizing in Zlin, Czech Republic. Judging by the festival in Zlin last year, and his skills when it comes to event planning and organization I am confident that this will be quite the festival. It represents an incredible promotional opportunity for Route 66 communities and businesses, and for the Route 66 enthusiast, a fun filled weekend with fans of the double six from throughout the world.

We also had an opportunity to enjoy a lunch with friends from the Netherlands, Karel and Hanneke. Aside from reminiscing about last years shared adventure that included numerous mechanical mishaps with a Fiat in Poland and Germany, we pitched big dreams for future odysseys. And then there was another opportunity to explore the unique architectural attributes of the historic Bonnelli house.

Other highlights of the week included the honor of riding in the Andy Devine Parade with Vice Mayor Travis Lingenfelter, and a few mechanical mishaps that are humorous with the luxury of hindsight. And there was a great Route 66 Association of Kingman “meet & greet” with some folks from Australia as guests courtesy New Zealand based Gilligan’s Route 66 Tours that retains my services to meet with clients that avail themselves of the self drive tour option. The Kingman association is a big part of the grassroots initiatives and networks that are transforming the city into a destination, and that make up for the shortcomings of the city’s tourism office.

With our son in charge of the homestead, next week my dearest friend and I take to the road. It will be a promotional tour for the new book, and as is our custom, a Jim Hinckley’s America research trip that ensures my work as a tourism development consultant is relevant as well as effective. It will also provide fodder for future podcasts, blog posts, travel planning updates and reviews of motels as well as restaurants on the website as well as social media network, and, perhaps material for the next book, number 20. This will also enhance the community education classes on tourism that I developed for Mohave Community College.

Look for us on the road. Perhaps we can hoist a pint or a cup of coffee, and talk Route 66 adventures. And I will have books on hand, or can sign your copy, and we have stocked up on the popular Jim Hinckley’s America pins. Check out our Facebook page for schedule updates. As it stands now, we will make a made dash for Jackson, Michigan on the first leg of the trip. We will be making a pit stop in Moriarty, New Mexico and then Tulsa to meet with Rhys Martin to catch up and to talk about the festival in Zlin, Route 66 centennial projects, and the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. Then we pick up promotional materials for the Miles of Possibility Conference in Cuba, and push on to Terre Haute.

The next stop is Jackson; a reception and presentation at the Hackett Auto Museum and a bit of research that MAY lead to a new book. Stay tuned.

And while in town we will be paying a visit to my pa, and to my nephew and his wife. Then it’s the Miles of Possibility Conference, an economic development and tourism conference in Cuba, Missouri, and on the 22nd, a fun filled evening to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Connie Echols proprietorship of the historic Wagon Wheel Motel. She has a lot of festivities planned and I will be signing books. From there it’s a relatively leisurely drive home along Route 66.

The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.

I am unsure if blog posting will fit into a tight schedule so it might be best to follow our Facebook page for a bit. And to wrap this up I need to give a shout out to the sponsors of the fall tour. First, our major sponsors – the City of Cuba, Route 66 Association of Kingman and Grand Canyon Caverns. Then there are advertising sponsors and supporters of our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. Listed among these sponsors are the Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, Dale Butel’s Route 66 Tours, Uranus Fudge Company, Wagon Wheel Motel, Jenny Joy’s Soap, Calico’s restaurant and Diana’s Cellar Door.

See you on the road.




October Adventure

October Adventure

A question often asked is what is the best time of the year for a Route 66 adventure. For my money I prefer late September or October, even though on last years trip I hit some nasty weather (cold, wind, sleet, snow) – in Arizona and New Mexico. Desert temperatures are tolerable with few exceptions (see above), and there is the fall foliage in the mountains of Missouri and in Illinois that add a sense of magic to the overall adventure. There are also some great fall festivals such as Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri.

Even the snow encountered added to the trip as seeing a dusting of white on the ruins of Two Guns, Arizona made for a great photo stop. I should note that even in the high country around Flagstaff, Arizona snow that early in the year is a relative rarity. Chances are that you will encounter rain, and some very brisk mornings but the crowds have thinned a bit. And that means the classic mom and pop motels will most likely have room availability. And personally, I enjoy a hot cup of coffee with a slice of pie better on a fall day that I do in July in Needles, California when the temperatures often exceed 120 degrees.

Maramec Springs Park

A couple of years ago on a Jim Hinckley’s America research trip, my dearest friend and I made a few side trips. We were not disappointed. As an example, Maramec Spring Park located a few miles south of Cuba or St. James, a highly recommended loop drive, is stunning any time of the year but when the park is enshrouded with bright colors … A one eyed blind man would have trouble getting a bad photograph.

So, in answer to your question, I suggest that a Route 66 odyssey be planned for the last weeks of September or the first weeks of October.


Disasters Large And Small (And A Bit of Good News)

Disasters Large And Small (And A Bit of Good News)

The last ten days have been a whirlwind. It started with a bit of interesting historic research that has enhanced my understanding of Route 66 evolution. Consider this little tidbit, in 1939 one million vehicles entered Arizona on Route 66. Here is another, within twelve moths of the highways bypass in 1978, Grand canyon Caverns experienced an 80% decline in business.

Linked with this research was a most interesting educational project. I finished the first series of classes on the history of tourism in the southwest for Mohave Community College, and have begun work on the next series on the economics of tourism. This is my first attempt at teaching in a formal setting and I was quite pleased to hear that the  college will be offering the classes on two campuses this coming fall.

The Patreon platform based crowdfunding initiative is being revamped as I gear up for the very ambitious project that is tentatively being scheduled for May 2020. In a nutshell the project is development of a time capsule for the Route 66 centennial. The core of the endeavor is 21-days, 21-live interviews on the road. I will be talking with the pioneers of the Route 66 renaissance such as Michael Wallis as well as a new generation of leaders that are taking the helm for promotion and preservation of the iconic highway such as Rhys Martin. Linked with the video will be audio podcasts interviews and a photographic record of the journey as well as creation of the time capsule. If all goes as planned the project will end with in the cradle of the American auto industry that spawned the creation of the US highway system.

Work on the website continues, albeit with a bit of a delay. More on that in a moment. The goal is to provide a multifaceted travel planning center that also adds advertising dollar value for sponsors. And with that said I need to give a shout out to some of our newest advertising sponsors, Mohave County Fairgrounds, the Illinois Blue Carpet Corridor, and Calico’s Restaurant, my go to spot in Kingman when meeting with groups, hosting a meeting, or for a live program with larger number of guests.

The Facebook live programs, linked with the YouTube channel and audio podcast, Ten Minutes With Jim, are growing in reach in engagement as well as in number of subscribers. I attribute some of this to a bit of a change in format. As an example this past weeks Adventurers Club live program was a bit of show and tell from the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.  The growth is quite encouraging as it indicates I am doing something write; providing the balance of history and travel information the traveler wants as well as value for our advertising sponsors. And I must admit that there is a bit of perverse satisfaction in seeing number that indicate our social media network linked with the website and podcast is our performing that of tourism offices in several communities including Kingman.

The highlight of the week was an opportunity for reflection. In the grand scheme of things it was a small disaster. After all there was no death or injury, it didn’t cause the stock market to crash, and I lived to tell the tale. It did, however, delay completion on what I am hoping is the final edit of the caption file for the new book which is already six months over deadline. It also stalled a National Park Service project, stifled website design, and created a huge backlog of work that contributed to postponement of this weeks Ten Minutes With Jim audio podcast. So, on a personal level being without internet service for almost an entire week was a major disaster. It almost left me longing for a time when we weren’t so dependent on corporations that have little regard for customer loyalty and when we weren’t so reliant on technology.

As this was the second such incident this year, needless to say I will be switching internet and phone service provider next week and bid adios to a company that we have been paying faithfully for more than three decades. Small business owners are quite aware that customer service which builds customer loyalty is the best investment a company can make. Corporations have a tendency to forget this. They become megalithic, disconnected and develop a sense of indestructibility. That is the danger in allowing development of monopolies.

With that little ramp I wrap up things for the day. It is Memorial Day weekend. As we set out in search of fun, beer, and barbecues lets not forget the reason for the holidays. For my dearest friend and I, it will be a weekend of short road trips on Route 66, memories made with good friends from Germany, and just a hint of business.

Stay tuned for updates, photos, and a bit of road trip inspiration.