An argument could be made that the great American love affair with road trips began with the bicycle. During the 1890’s the country was consumed with bicycle mania and that included touring. In June 1899, Frank Burtt whose family had made a fortune with an iron foundry and the manufacture of furnaces set out with friends on a bicycling tour from Kalamazoo, Michigan through Ohio and to New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In the same year a bicycle club in Grand Rapids, Michigan organized a tour to St. Louis.
I use this decade when a Duryea Motor Wagon, the first production American automobile, was given top billing over the albino and dog boy at Barnum Bailey Circus and the Wright Brothers were manufacturing bicycles as the opening for an exciting and fun filled new presentation I have developed for 2020. It is a program about dramatic societal evolution, fads, corporate intrigue, swashbuckling entrepreneurs, fortunes made and fortunes lost, eccentrics and dreamers and some very colorful characters.
Even though I kicked it off in December 2019, one of the big projects for 2020 is the penning of an autobiography, a darkly comedic tale that is full of odd twists and turns. However, rather than go to print, as I am sure that there will be new chapters to write as 2020 gives way to 2021, and 2021 gives way to 2022, the decision was made to offer it in serial format. I have been providing serials as exclusive content to supporters of our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platformfor quite some time. Commencing in late 2018, the entire travel journal from Edsel Ford’s 1915 odyssey was printed in weekly chapters. The autobiography will run for most of 2020.
A presentation on the evolution of Route 66 that will be made in Needles, California
Speaking engagements and presentations are shaping up to be a big part of 2020 for Jim Hinckley’s America. To enhance the engagements I have been given permission to provide attendees with a Route 66 Mother Road Passport from Touch Media, developer of the Route 66 Navigation app, a $10 value. On the 13th of January, I will present a class on the rich cinematic history in Kingman, Arizona, and how that history can be used as a tourism development tool, at Mohave Community College. On the 15th, I speak about lost opportunities, the economics of tourism and how grassroots initiatives can harness tourism as a catalyst for historic business district revitalization. The event hosted by the Route 66 Yacht Club will be held at Calico’s restaurant in Kingman.
On the 7th of February, I take the show on the road with a presentation at the historic El Garces in Needles, California. At this event hosted by the Historic Museum of Needles, I will speak on the history of Route 66 in the southwest from Native American trade routes to Spanish conquistadors, camel caravans, the National Old Trails Road and even the Route 66 renaissance. In June its off to an engagement in Spokane. Meanwhile I am working on filling in the blank dates and developing a speaking tour.
The weekly Five Minutes With Jim audio podcast has been honed and market tested. Now it’s time for syndication and expanded distribution. I so enjoy telling people where to go and have been greatly encouraged by the response to the programs. Last week I shared some interesting tidbits from celebrity association with Kingman, Arizona, and this coming Sunday it’s a program dedicated to wonderful, magical Cuba, Missouri. And then, in response to requests received, I will dedicate a program to evaluating tour companies that specialize in Route 66.
The sun had yet to crest the Black Mountains of Arizona when we made the California border on the recent trip to Pasadena.
It is the dawning of a new year, and a new decade. The year 2019 is on the cusp of becoming history, and 2020 is shaping up to be a year filed with opportunity and possibility. I am quite confident that it will also be a year of shared adventures and road trip, all shared with friends.
The former Hackett Auto Factory with gaping holes in the roof, a few missing windows, and a port a potty in the corner now tops my list of most bizzare locations for making a presentation.
I have been traveling the back roads of America since 1959. I have been tellling people where to go since 1990 (as a writer as well as through Jim Hinckley’s America) and since at least 1976 as a manifestation of a low tolerance for stupidity, grifters, and opportunists. This trip has been the most grueling, one of the most unusual and one of the most emotional to date. This trip has tested my patience for the aforementioned people. It has also been an adventure along memory lane.
Last year when I traveled to Jackson, Michigan and made a presentation in support of the future Hackett Auto Museum, I also visited my pa. At that time it was obvious that age was creeping up on him fast (he was 90). He was still working on his houses, mowing the lawn and could still pack away a hearty meal but there was ample evidence that he was in decline. We were never a close clan and even though we both knew our time together was limited, there was no thawing of a relationship that would best be described as distant and alienated. Reflections on his advancing age, and mine, made the trip bittersweet. At that time it was also one of the hardest roadtrips ever undertaken as it was the first cross country adventure in 35 years made without my dearest friend.
Today I visited my pa in an assisted living facility. His obvious frailty was in stark contrast to the man I had never seen sick, the barrel chested fellow who once delivered refrigerators to second floor apartments by strapping them to his back. Most troubling of all was his mental state. He didn’t know who I was. A tragedy on so many levels.
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
It was a delight to have my dearest friend with me again as my laughing travel companion, especially during the long hours spent negotiating endless miles of road construction and driving through torrential rains. To have her with me today was a blessing as I am truly embarking on a journey along Memory Lane.
It wasn’t all sadness and reflection today. There was a true ray of sunshine, a bit of inspiration. After years of sporadic phone calls I met with my nephew, his wonderful wife, and their youngest daughter. They have been dad’s caregivers since his wife passed away this past May. It was refreshing to see what a fine young man and passionate father he has become. I can’t say enough about his wife and daughter, especially after seeing them in action today as they gently took care of pa.
Overall the fall tour has been a blending of the old, distributing promotional materials for communities and advertising sponsors along the Route 66 corrdior, and meeting with old friends as well as business associates, and the new. In the latter category I have had ample opportunity to sample some interesting restaurants (stay tuned), and to visit some of the most fascinating people such as Ken Soderbeck, a man known throughout the world for his restoration of antique fire trucks and equipment.
And I topped my previous list of most unusual places to make a presentation. This time I spoke in a 110 year old auto factory that was missing windows and most of the roof (did I mention that it was forty five degrees?). It was far from the largest audience I have had for a presentation and book signing but, surprisingly, a handful of people actually turned out for the event including Anthony Hurst of the Hurst Foundation.
Promotional materials distributed along Route 66
Incredibly the trip has just begun. Next up is an interview on JTV about the new book, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, and a discussion about plans for a book about Jackson’s rich industrial heritage. Then it’s the Miles of Possibility Conference and related meetings. That will be followed by a presentation and forum on tourism and economic development in Cuba, Missouri which will be followed by a fun filled evening, and book signing, at the 10th anniversary celebration of Connie Echols ownership of the historic Wagon Wheel Motel. From there its homeward bound along Route 66; visits with old friends, meetings related to tourism development and good pie.
It will truly be an adventure along Memory Lane. Every mile of this old road is tinged with memories. Memories of my dad as we traveled west in his new 1964 Ford Fairlane. Memories of my dad teaching me to repair a tube along the highway.
Historic Jackson, Michigan at night, a city being reinvented.
Memories of the epic move from Michigan to Arizona in 1966. Memories of him teaching me to drive a stick shift (’49 Studebaker stake bed). Memoris of him teaching me the value of a handshake, of looking a man in the eye. Memories of helping him build a homestead along Route 66 in the Sacramento Valley of western Arizona. Memories of a truck wreck near Gallup in 1976. Memories of roadside campouts, cold beans eaten from the can, roadside repairs, and silent meals eaten in countless neon lit cafes. There are memories of long hot summer days, the smells of wet pavement and gas stations at midnight. There are memories of trucks and cars; the ’58 Chevy Viking used during one of the many epic moves, the ’53 Chevy truck I drove from Gallup after the wreck, the ’64 Olds that dropped the transmission while pulling a trailer up a steep grade somewhere in the Ozarks. Memories of my dads unshakeable confidence to overcome any disaster or problem encountered. Memories of superficial conversations to pass the miles. Memories and my dearest friend, companions for the road trip home.
Yep, this will be a trip for the record books. This will be an adventure never to be forgotten. This will be an adventure along Memory Lane.
The “A Year With Jim” project provides a behind the scenes tour of Jim Hinckley’s America.
To be honest I have been surprised by the popularity of the A Year With Jim project. I knew that some aspects of my daily routine such as the search for good pie, the meeting of tour groups from throughout the world, travel, and the visiting of historic sites would be of interest. However, I never imagined that people would be fascinated with the day to day life of an author who lives with a 21-year old cat that suffers from incontinence, that is consistently seeking new ways to generate income to support the writing habit, and that rambles about in an ancient Jeep.
A Year With Jim
“A Year With Jim, day 37. This week has left me feeling like the loser in a behind kicking contest for one legged men. Still, to ensure the habit of eating on a regular basis continues we soldier on. This mornings schedule included …” The best adventures are shared adventures. That is more than a motto here at Jim Hinckley’s America, it is the very foundation of all that we do from books to presentations, from community development projects to receptions for touring groups. It is also the slogan that inspired my launch of the rather voyeuristic endeavor that is the A Year With Jim project using the hashtag #yearinlifeofjim and #jimhinckleysamerica
Floyd & Company in Kingman, Arizona, a favorite of mine for good barbecue or gourmet wood fired pizza.
The concept was relatively simple; provide fans and followers with a behind the scenes tour of Jim Hinckley’s America. As with all of our projects, the goal was to provide inspiration for road trips, for fledgling writers, for community organizers, and for the curious individual that is considering the launch of a podcast, blog or YouTube channel for fun or profit. And of course there was also a marketing angle as the selling of books, of presentations, of my work as a tourism development consultant and of other services is what keeps beans on the table and the wheels turning on the Jeep (or rental car).
Isn’t funny how we can become so accustomed to the unusual that it seems normal, at least until someone points it out to us. That is what I glean from the comments posted about the A Year With Jim project. To me this wild, unpredictable, fun filled, often out of control ride has come to seem normal. In retrospect, I may have been preparing for this crazy adventure for the last fifty years or so.
In Kingman, Arizona, an outback adventure begins on the edge of town with the Cerbat Foothills trail system.
So, as our theme song recorded by the Road Crew says, come along for the ride. Follow the Year With Jim adventure on our Twitter or Instagram pages and meet some fascinating people, find a bit of inspiration for a road trip or an adventure, and see what goes on behind the programs, the books, the road trip planning, and behind the scenes at Jim Hinckley’s America.
Can you recommend a top “end of summer” drive? What is the best guide to use for traveling Route 66? What is the quirkiest roadside attraction that you have visited? Do you have a favorite Route 66 town? What is the oddest restaurant that you have experienced? Do you have a favorite book store? Can I rent a classic car to drive Route 66? Every week I receive dozens of inquiries about Route 66 travel as well as questions about travel guides, tour companies, motels, road trips, museums, restaurants, and, once, even a question about nudist colonies along Route 66. Followers and fans take our slogan “Telling People Where To Go Since 1990” to heart.
I respond to each and every question though on occasion my response is a bit delayed. To expedite things a bit, on occasion I will answer questions with a blog post. This has the added benefit of providing travel planning assistance to a wider audience. Today I decided to address questions on a different platform, the weekly live stream Adventurers Club program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page that is then added to the YouTube channel. I started by asking fans to submit questions before and during the program. When launching a new endeavor or program I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But as is often the case, my worries were unwarranted. In fact the program was so well received the decision was made to make it a regular part of the Adventurers Club schedule. As promised on today’s program, here are the questions asked (plus a few others) with the answers provided as well as website links or contact information.
Jay Leno and my dearest friend at Auto Books – Aero Books during a book signing.
Frank, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, “Do you have a favorite book store?” Yes, I do. Auto Books-Aero Books on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. It has moved a couple of times but it has been on this street since 1953. The little store is a true gem; new books, used books, vintage books, magazines new and old, and so much more. Here is a bit of tip, plan your visit for Saturday morning. The store hosts a very informal cruise in that transforms the very limited parking area, and on occasion for a block or two on Magnolia Boulevard, into a veritable automotive museum. As a bonus, there are often celebrity sightings. Please be respectful!
Gregg, Batavia, New York, “What is the oddest restaurant you discovered while on the road?”Many years ago my dearest friend and I were driving north up the west coast. We were near Coos Bay, Oregon and were intrigued by this obviously ancient little diner with a sign that read, “Mr. Critter’s Pizza.” It was quite different. It was a custom pizza joint where you could order your pie with elk or kangaroo or alligator.
Ed, Niles, Michigan, “Is there an app or guide to Route 66 that you can recommend.” Hands down the best guide book to Route 66 is the Ez 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. I still travel with this guide. Now, if you are looking for an app there are two reputable ones on the market, the Route 66 Ultimate Guide and Route 66 Navigation. They both receive good reviews and both are reputable products. Still, for my money I would go with Route 66 Navigation. The developer personally tests the product several times per year and is quick to make upgrades that enhance the Route 66 experience as well as adjust for road closures and similar problems.
Gretchen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, “What is your favorite quirky attraction?” The World’s Largest Hand Dug Well in Greensburg, Kansas on U.S. 54. There is a personal reason for this selection that I will share in a future post. Suffice to say it is a surprisingly fascinating stop, and quite odd in that a major shrine has been built around the well.
Rhonda, American Fork, Utah, “Can you recommend a great end of summer drive?”Yes, but hurry. You will want to make this trip during the brief window between mosquito season and snow season. It is the Lake Superior Circle Tour through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and through Ontario, Canada. This an overlooked adventure that I highly recommend as it blends everything; a sense of wilderness, natural beauty, charming small towns, National Parks, small city’s with a diverse array of superb restaurants, ghost towns, and a relaxing drive.
The amazing Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico
Gregg, Sand Springs, Oklahoma, “What is your favorite Route 66 Town?”That is a damn tough question. In all honesty I can’t narrow it down to one. The best I can do is narrow it down to three; Pontiac, Illinois, Cuba, Missouri, and with the slightest of detours (less than ten miles) Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Okay, I have to ask, what are your thoughts? Is this a feature you would like included in the schedule? Do you have travel planning questions?
An argument could easily be made that when it comes to transportation we have come full circle. The Good Roads movement that gave rise to the U.S. highway system, including Route 66, was rooted in the tsunami of interest in bicycling that swept the county in the late 19th century. Recently the Adventure Cycling Association mapped and designated Route 66 as a bicycle corridor. That iconic highway has spawned a resurgent love affair with the great American road trip, and an international fascination with the road that has come to symbolize the freedom of the open road that was the theme of movies such Easy Rider.
During the infancy of the American auto industry, electric vehicles were often viewed as the wave of the future. The first pedestrian struck and killed by an automobile, an unfortunate fellow named Bliss, died resultant of an encounter with an electric taxi cab in New York City. The year was 1899. Today the embryonic Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona where the history of the electric vehicle is being preserved is becoming a destination for enthusiasts who see the electric vehicle as the ghost of Christmas future.
A few weeks ago, in serial format, we shared the adventurers of Alexander Winton who attempted to cross the continent by automobile in 1901. His adventure came to abrupt end in the sands of the Nevada desert that proved impassable. Before that we followed Edsel Ford west on his trip in 1915 by reprinting his journal as a serial. These were but two examples of the odysseys that birthed the beginning of a decades long love/hate relationship with the automobile, and the national obsession with the road trip for fun or out of desperation that influenced films (The Grapes of Wrath, They Drove By Night and Planes, Trains & Automobiles are examples).