A Little Slight of Hand

A Little Slight of Hand

A battered Studebaker truck out to pasture.

He was a master salesman and the general manager of a used car lot that proved time and again he was an ethically challenged individual. I witnessed a couple that was in search of an economy car leave in a Cadillac Fleetwood. And a young couple in search of a family car began by looking at a Ford LTD and left in a Pacer. Then there was his practice of buying regrooved tires, spray painting floor carpets, using salvage yard batteries that had been given a quick coat of paint, and using Loctite on broken bolts.

A key component in his ability to avoid the always looming lawsuit or even jail time was the customers. It was an example of the old adage that ignorance is bliss. A surprising number of them were actually happy with their purchase, especially the ones who didn’t yet know that in many instances he was essentially selling diamond and platinum cufflinks made of pewter and cubic zirconium.

He had a sympathetic ear when the custormer had issues. And this is where his incredible talent as a slight of hand grifter shined. As an example, he would apology profusely about the dead battery that had left them stranded, and give them another salvage yard battery that looked shiny and new.

And he counted on the fact that many customers were reluctant and embarrassed to admit that they had been suckered. So, instead they would blame problems on a garage that had made needed repairs, on defective parts, and on poor quality from the manufacturer. And they would talk about what a good deal they had gotten, and that resulted in even more customers.

Then when the proverbial dog doo was about to hit the fan, the GM would reach out to customers with a syrupy sweet letter about how much he valued their business, and wanted to make sure that their car or truck was still meeting their needs. And that would be followed by a reminder that he was always available to meet their automotive needs from sales to service. Mixed in would be a subtle request for a review. And then the positive reviews linked with his support of the local Little League team, the school football team and other community projects made it easy for him to paint anyone that complained or filed a lawsuit as a disgruntled customer. On occassion he would go so far as to offer them another vehicle, if they would simply pay the difference in value.

I hadn’t given this silver tongued grifter a thought in years. When I stormed out of his office after a disagreement, I remember wondering what would happen if he ever decided to pursue a political carreer. But a few days ago, on the morning walkabout, after thumbing through the news, he popped into my thoughts. That long ago question had been answered, now I know what would have happened if he had become a politician.

A lot of years have passed since I slammed the door of his office. Walking out on that job was an easy decision. More than a few made since then left me wondering if the right choice had been made.

But one decision that I never regret was encouraged by my dearest friend. She gently nudged me toward transforming a childhood dream into a reality.

That first published article was the cornerstone. It was the catalyst for the endeavor that became Jim HInckley’s America.

We never stop working on this endeavor. Sharing and inspiring adventures is our passion. And so we work on new books, improving the website, developing informative and fun podcasts, creating interesting and thought provoking presentations, and writing articles and blogs for clients. And we work to ensure that sponsors get a bang for their advertising dollar and that our followers have assurance that these businesses and communities come with our recommendation.

And lessons learned working at that car lot so long ago, linked with an unexplainable adiction to derelict vehicles, are being manifest in the next chapter for Jim Hinckley’s America – The Beast. Coutless delays, defective parts, and an array of issues have put the project way behind schedule but the 1951 Chevy panel truck that will be a rolling studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs, book store and Route 66 info center will be on the road soon. And it will be a focal point in our efforts to foster awareness about the fast approaching Route 66 centennial, and to get people excited about this milestone event.







Call of The Open Road

Call of The Open Road

Partridge Creek Bridge west of Ash Fork Arizona predates Route 66 by several years.

Wanderlust, a German term meaning a strong desire to travel.

The Wanderlust by Robert Service

The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,
Has dumped me on the tailing-piles of dearth;
The Wanderlust has haled me from the morris chairs of ease,
Has hurled me to the ends of all the earth.
How bitterly I’ve cursed it, oh, the Painted Desert knows,
The wraithlike heights that hug the pallid plain,
The all-but-fluid silence, — yet the longing grows and grows,
And I’ve got to glut the Wanderlust again.

I am not sure if wanderlust is hereditary. But I do know that my pa was consumed with wanderlust. After mustering out of the service in the summer of ’66, until he was about 65 years old, seldom did he hang his hat in one town for more than four years at a time.

And when he did sit down roots, it was in Jackson, Michigan where he had grown up. And when he passed away last year at age 92 it was in the house on Hinckley Boulevard where he was born.

But the wanderlust consumed him well into his late 80s. At age 63, in a 1973 Plymouth and a car loaded with camping gear, he drove from Michigan to see me and my family in Arizona, and then drove the Alcan to Alaska. The return trip was across Canada.

I am not sure that wanderlust is hereditary. But it can be instilled. One of my earliest memories is of an epic adventure in a battered, rusty Chevy convertible manufactured long before I was born. We were relocating from Norfolk, Virginia to Michigan. It was one big camping trip, with midnight stops for gas, oil, and ice cold orange soda pop. I close my eyes and can still smell the hot car, the gas station with its tires, oil, and grease intermixed with smells of wet pavement and fresh mown hay.

By the time I turned 18, we had made so many trips across the country from Michigan to Arizona, and from Arizona to New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee and Michigan, I had no need for a map. I could address a detour on the fly and still make a deadline. That served me well when I turned my hand to gear jamming rigs from Arizona into Kansas and Oklahoma.

As a sort of 18th birthday present, pa took me on a business trip of sorts. It was an epic adventure, it was an awkward attempt at reconciliation between an estranged father and son. We set out in a rusty ’68 Plymouth Fury from Michigan with a destination being Kingman, Arizona. The “business” that sparked the trip took three days. We were on the road for thirty two days.

We hiked to Timpanogos Cave near American Ford, Utah. We watched the movie The Omen at an ancient theater somewhere in Utah. We camped at White Sands, New Mexico. We broke the ice on a pan of water and shaved along Clear Creek near Buffalo, Wyoming. We saw Mount Rushmore and the Corn Palace. I helped tune up the car in Springerville, Arizona. I helped fix the brakes in a motel parking lot in Idaho.

My dearest friend had traveled little when we met. But soon she too was consumed with wanderlust. Now, nearly forty years later, together we have covered more than thirty states. And our adventures have become international with memories made, and shared with friends, in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Wanderlust has inspired me to follow dusty trails to forgotten towns and towering peaks.

Wanderlust has led to friendships that last a lifetime.

Wanderlust still inspires adventures on he back roads.

Wanderlust has inspired me to share the adventure.

Wanderlust is Jim Hinckley’s America  


Enjoy The Ride

Enjoy The Ride

Jay Leno in his ultra rare Doble steamer stopped by one of my book signings at Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank.

It was a bizarre series of coincidences that led to an interview in Jay Leno’s garage. Long hours, hard work, endless research and laser focus on a goal ended with the biggest financial loss encountered to date. My first book contract was awarded because of who I knew and not what I knew. A literal wrong turn led to one of the most amazing jobs.

After years of trying to get my foot in the door at a major publisher, I was awarded a contract. The book was in the last stage of completion – final edit, photo selection, cover design approval. And then they declared bankruptcy and the project was brought to an abrupt end, with the company retaining publishing rights.

Much like Louis Chevrolet I haven’t always taken advantage of opportunity. And like the legendary Arizona frontier prospector Paulene Weaver, sometimes I never realized it was an opportunity until months or even years had passed. And then, like David Buick, there were incredible opportunities that I squandered or that were akin to an attempt to nail Jell-O to the wall.

In the past 18 months my entire world was up ended, and I had to draw on survival techniques through decades of good times and bad times. Can you relate?

I kicked off the year 2020 with bright and shining opportunity stretching to the far horizon. By the end of January my schedule included paid speaking engagements throughout the United States, western Canada and in central Europe. Even better, I had corporate sponsors for most of the travel expenses.

The first engagement was a museum fund raiser in Needles, California. As it turned out I packed out the house at the historic El Garces. I never imagined that this would be the highwater mark for the year. Within a few short weeks every engagement had been canceled, travel plans were suspended, and sponsors placed support on hold.

In March notice was given that Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, was the recipient of a major award. Then the publisher closed resultant of COVID-19, and promotion was reduced to almost nothing. Then the warehouse was reduced to a skeleton crew and as a result, even my order for books was delayed by weeks.

For months on end each day was a new high in low. The classes I teach for Mohave Community College were canceled. My pa passed and I was unable to return to Michigan. All work with tour companies was canceled, postponed or suspended.

In April, I took sick. When I finally gave in and went to the hospital with a temperature of 104 degrees, I was told that, “You do not currently meet testing criteria for COVID 19. However, your symptoms are indicative of either COVID 19 or another closely related viral illness.”

There is a point to this darkly comedic tale. It is best summed up by the legendary cowboy crooner Chris LeDoux. “He said “Sit tall in the saddle, Hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

The past sixty days have been a complete reversal of fortune from 2020. But that doesn’t mean that these are trouble free times.

I accepted a book contract on a very short deadline. The final edit and photo selection was completed last week. And I have another book in the works with a deadline of October 1. But there was a snafu on paper work and so payment was delayed.

A few weeks ago I was the guest speaker at an event in Vail, Colorado with a very prestigious audience. I was compensated adequately and I also had the distinct pleasure of imitating an environmentalist on the way to a climate conference. The company plane was sent to Kingman to pick me up.

Apparently my performance was well received. I have now been invited to participate in a think tank series of round table discussions on business, tourism, and community development next spring.

Over the years I have developed a reputation in Kingman, Arizona, my adopted hometown. Of course the reputation I have today is quite different from the one I had years ago when a visit with Judge Clyde McCune was a regular occurrence. That fact alone makes the Kingman Main Street initiative to erect a statue in my honor even more amazing. There is definitely something darkly comedic in this distinct honor.

And there is another component to the Kingman Main Street initiative. I have accepted the task of developing a narrated, self guided walking tour of the historic district and Route 66 corridor. This is a project that I have envisioned since proposing it to the city tourism office in 2014.

Model of the proposed Jim HInckley by artist J. Anne Butler © Jim Hinckley

Another project is development of some promotional materials for the City of Tucumcari. This is a challenging and interesting project that checks all of the boxes. Tell people where to go. Provide a service. Learn something new. Make a dollar.

The key to a successful and relatively worry free life is an ability to adapt, to be flexible. The proverbial dog doo will hit the fan. You can take that to the bank. And you have little or no control over the circumstances. You do, however, have control over how you react and how you adapt.






The Joy of Telling People Where To Go

The Joy of Telling People Where To Go

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



Fame and Fortune, Obscurity and Poverty on Route 66

Fame and Fortune, Obscurity and Poverty on Route 66

From its inception dreamers, entrepreneurs, gypsies, con artists,

and visionaries were attracted to Route 66 resultant of the near constant hype and publicity. It was the highway of dream for travelers as well as for those looking for a way to make a dollar. It was the road of boundless opportunity, and, for a few, a highway paved with gold.

Ed Edgerton came from Michigan shortly after WWI. A doctor recommended suggestion that he find a drier climate and the lure of riches in the gold mining boom town of Oatman prompted his westward migration.