Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Wiring in a 1951 Chevy

A three or four day project is now in month six and I am about three or four days away from completion. The latest set back is the ignition switch.

It is brand new. I purchased it on Friday. Yesterday morning I installed it. It worked – twice. And now I can’t turn off the ignition or remove the key. Defective parts. And as it is an electrical item there is no refund. Symbolically this sums up the on going effort to get The Beast on the road.

But I have learned quite a few lessons along the way. As an added bonus, over the course of the past six months work on this project, a bout with COVID, minor home disasters that required immediate attention, and the pressure of assorted deadlines have nearly eliminated the need to find excuses for drinking.

The intent had been to have The Beast on the road, at least locally, in time for the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities on May 27. I am starting to wonde if the Route 66 centennial might be a more realistic deadline.

Meanwhile work continues on array of projects that will enahnce our ability to tell people where to go, to inspire road trips, and to share adventures. Counted among these is discussions with a professional podcast developer that should dramtically enhance Wake Up With Jim and Coffee With Jim. 

Social media issues are another source of frustration. As we learned with the locking of the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page in February, and our inability to resolve the problem, social media is a necessary evil. We have also learned that we have little overall control.

Still, as with The Beast, we will work to resolve what we do have control over, and to find suitable partners. We now have over 1,000 followers on Instagram. Twitter is still anemic as is the YouTube channel. But with some new partnerships that will enhance overall quality and free up time for development, we are confident that these platforms will greatly enhance our ability to tell people where to go.

Meanwhile, as time allows, work will progress on The Beast. As is usually the case with such endeavors, if I invest $10,000 or so, and several hundred hours of work, I should have a rock solid, dependable old truck that is worth at least $5,000. And if can make the endeavor a priority, a Route 66 road trip from end to end should be feasible in time for the centennial, or at the very least, the sesquicentennial.



Times Change

Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue, at Fourth Street, was the heart of the city for nearly 90 years. Photo Mike Ward collection

Counted among the many lessons that can be learned from history is that times change. Life on Route 66 in 1930 was different from life on Route 66 in 1950. And life on Route 66 in 2022 is dramatically different from life on that storied highway in 1950, 1970 or even 2000.

In 1930 the highway, especially in the southwest, was little changed from the National Old Trails Road. It wasn’t fully paved across Arizona until 1937. In the late 1950s the new limited access interstate highway was being built to replace Route 66 and other antiquated two lane highways.

Jim Hinckley’s America is rooted in the history of automobiles, of road trips, and America. It is a rich tapestry of books, podcasts, presentations, feature articles, and interviews that have led to Jim HInckley being labled America’s storyteller. But times change, and Jim Hinckley’s America is not immune.

I am not a fan of instructions. I only reference them after building a bicycle on Christmas eve and finding he seat where the handle bars go. As a result, many of our projects are developed with lots of detours and deadends.

The podcasts are one example. After various efforts and lots of trial and error, we have settled the focus on development of two programs, Coffee With Jim, an interactive half hour travel program, and Wake Up With Jim, a 15 minute program that is a series on various topics.

Broadcast on Podbean and archived on that platform, the program is also available on iHeart Radio, Spotify, Audible and Amazon Music. We have had some very interesting guests, and the response has been positive. Still, we seem to be unable to get a sutiable level of audience participation but growth has been slow but steady.

Author Jim Hinckley with a Dutch group traveling Route 66 at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona. ©

As telling people where to go and sharing the adventure is at the heart of Jim Hinckley’s America, I am reluctant to abandon the podcast idea. Still, it is time to revist tthe concept and take a different tack. That is why I am in discussion with Stan Hustad. Stay tuned. I am confident that followers will like the changes being discussed.

Hindering development of the podcast and other projects was the issue with Facebook that commenced in February. With the account locked, and the Jim Hinckley’s America page with more than 7,200 followers being inaccessible, programs such as Coffee With Jim as a Facebook live program were brought to an abrupt halt. To date we have not been able to resolve issues, or make up for lost ground.

We will also be intensifying the focus on presentations and speaking engagements. This includes the return to our fall tour for the first time since 2019.

As far as scheduled appearances the tour is still relatively open. So, if me beating my gums about Route 66, road trips, and automotive history would enhance your fund raiser, event, or be of benefit to your museum, drop me a note.

Jim Hinckley’s America is here to stay. For the foreseeable future we will be tellinig people where to go, and we will be sharing the adventure. But the time has come for a change or two so we are pulling back a bit, and shifting the focus.





Tales Of Inspiration & Independent Thinking

Tales Of Inspiration & Independent Thinking

Photo Judy Hinckley

An accident as a child left Charles blind, yet he became a prolific inventor best remembered as the creator of cruise control. At age four Mary’s family moved deep into the north woods of Minnesota and built a log cabin by hand. She was a musical prodigy that wrote and recorded her first song while in kindergarten, graduated high school at age nine, and then launched a diverse musical career that was almost cut short by an auto accident that paralyzed her vocal chords. Another fellow named Charles was abandoned by his parents at age five. But he overcame diversity. He became the President of General Motors and was the founder of one of the most successful independent automobile manufacturers in the United States.

On Wake Up With Jim, our weekly interactive audio podcast, we are kicking off a new series. The focus will be stories of inspiration. Many of the stories are about people that transformed the auto industry, independent thinkers. But there will also be stories about musicians, immigrants, and people that refused to let prejudice, adversity, poverty or injury define them.

Yes, Route 66 will be intertwined with many of these stories. What rich and colorful American tapestry could be considered complete with inclusion of the highway that has been known as the Main Street of America for nearly a century?

For more than forty years I have been writing stories about the infancy of the American auto industry, Route 66, ghost towns, road trips and forgotten chapters of history. And, of course, these stories are also tales of fascinating and colorful people. Somewhere along the way I was bestowed with the moniker “America’s Storyteller.”

I am honored by that title but can think of people more deserving of the title. Acclaimed author and historian Michael Wallis comes to mind.

Over the years I have been the recipient of of some rather humbling accolades. Topping that list, at least to date, has to be the recent unveiling of my statue at Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona, my adopted home town. But the greatest honor has been in the friendships made, and the fascinating people such as Rhys and Sam Martin, Marian Pavel and Elmer Graves that I met along the way.

Since childhood I have enjoyed stories of inspirational people. And inspirational people have often been featured in the stories I tell. But with this serious I want to make these type of people the focal point.

If you know of someone with an interesting and inspirational story, espacially one linked to Route 66, I would like to hear from you. And as this podcast, and Coffee With Jim, the Sunday morning travel podcast, is interactive, please feel free to join in the conversation.

The Podbean based podcast is archived on our page. And both podcasts are now available on iHeart Radio, Amazin Music, Spotify, and Audible.





Changing The World, One Partnership At A Time

Changing The World, One Partnership At A Time

My thoughtful spot, Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona ©

When Beth and Paul of Kingman Main Street first approached me, I was taking sunrise photos for a project at the desert oasis of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona. They had an idea for a project that would enhance tourism, and that would transform the community through the building of cooperative partnerships.

As it turned out, it was a concept that had been simmering in my mind since 2014 when Carolyn Hasenfratz had introduced me to QR codes during a discussion at the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman. Over time the idea had evolved in my thoughts.

On occassion I had shared the idea during informal conversations with friends, and during my tenure on various committees. But the timing wasn’t right. And obviously I hadn’t been able to articulate the idea in a manner that ignited excitement. Even efforts to sell it to the tourism office had fallen on deaf ears.

I was hooked before they completed their pitch. And that was the first step in transforming the dream of a Kingman, Arizona narrated, self guided hsistoric district walking tour into a reality. Now the dream is to use it as a template for other communities.

But Beth and Paul had another idea. They wanted to link the tour with a public arts project. And that was the bombshell that I had trouble with. That was the component that needed lots of thought and discussion with my dearest friend before I could give it the green light.

Well, that was about 18 months ago. Phase one of the walking tour with 35 points of interest is complete. The first dozen are being unveiled during National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities. The remainder will be installed in a week or so, and then work will begin on phase two.

Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Also scheduled for unveiling during the festivities is a bronze statue of me created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. I am honored and humbled. But it took some very deep soul searching to agree to this.

Kingman has association to some pretty legendary names worthy this type of recognition. Front Street, the Route 66 corridor was renamed Andy Devine Avenue in 1955. Devine, a legendary character actor, gre up in Kingman. His father owned the Hotel Beale.

Artist and author Bob Boze Bell claims Kingman as his boyhood home. A display of his work as well as family heirlooms associated with Kingman history are on display at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.

So, to see such an honor bestowed upon me is a bit overwhelming. There is a surreal sense of attending my own funeral.

The statue will be the center piece of the newly created Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot along Route 66. The plaza will also include the Route 66 Walk of fame that had been introduced at the 2014 festival, and abandoned a year or so later.

The plaza, seeing the walking tour idea coming to fruition, and the statue is invigorating. But nothing excites me more than the sense of community that has come about through this.

I have been deeply involved in an array of community development projects in Kingman since at least 1994. That was the year, working with Scott Dunton, we established the Kingman Route 66 Association. Some endeavors were successful. Some fell flat. Aside from the 2014 festival, nothing has fostered such a passionate response.

Beth and Paul, and the Kingman Main Street team tirelessly worked to build cooperative partnerships. Organizations and individuals, the city of Kingman and the tourism office, all became passionate supporters. And that bodes well for the future.

One person can change the world. One person can make a difference. But only if they can inspire, only if they can build passionate partnerships united in a common goal. But only if they can give credit where credit is due. Only if they can be leaders that inspire. Only if they can sell the dream.







Author Jim Hinckley on the road. Photo Judy Hinckley

In my humble opinion birthdays are like mileposts. For a brief moment in time they give you pause with reflection on the miles traveled, and then they are in the rear view mirror. In that moment of reflection you give thought to the people met along the way, friends, places, tragedies, highlights, family, and people that are no longer a part of your life. And then the focus shifts to the road ahead.

Granted, with this birthday there is a growing sense that the road ahead is getting shorter. But that just adds incentive to crowd in as much living as possible and sharpen the focus on each minute to ensure that time is not wasted.

The year ahead is already shaping up to be quite the adventure. On May 27th, as part of the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities, a life sized bronze statue of me is to be unveiled on the new Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot in Kingman, Arizona.

Created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler, this is quite humbling. And it is a distinct honor. But it is quite surreal, sort of like attending my own funeral.

With the passing of time I have learned that diplomacy is better than brawling. Still, over the years I have stepped on some toes while serving on various committee’s and working on various tourism initiatives. And of course, there are always a few folk that just get bent out of shape because they think you are outshining them.

So, it will be interesting to hear praise from some folks that usually look for a rope salesman and a tall tree when I am in the neighborhood. This might stretch the meaning of sincerity just a tad bit.

Walter, the mayor in Oatman, Arizona is sponsoring a presentation about riverboats, railroads and Route 66 that I will be making on May 28. He seems nice enough but I do have to admit that when it comes to popularity there is a bit of jealously on my part. Before my account was locked on Facebook, Jim Hinckley’s America had more than 7,000 followers and I was adding one hundred or more each month. Walter had amassed more than 300,000 followers and he is an ass, literally.

A real highlight in the next few weeks will be visits from dear friends that we haven’t had a chance to visit with since before the apocalypse. This week we are expecting a visit from Toshi Goto of the Japanese Route 66 Association. And a few weeks later it is a visit with friends with Germany that have become our extended family.

And just like old times in the BC era (Before COVID 19), my summer schedule is filling rapidly. As I derive tremendous pleasure from telling people where to go, sharing adventures, and inspiring road trips, it will be a delight to again provide service to tour groups, and to see old friends reviving their business.

By fall I will have not one but two new books to promote. They are manifestations of my attempt to make the down time during the apocalypse productive.

That will be timely as plans are being developed for a fall tour. This will include speaking engagements and book signings, as well as some programs from the road and visits with old friends in the tourism business. Already scheduled is a speaking engagement at the Mile of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois, and another at the museum in Atlanta, Illinois.

Ma always claimed that I was born ninety and never seemed to age. Perhaps that is one reason why I haven’t paid much attention to birthdays since at least the 1960s.

Still, birthdays lead to reflection. And reflection leads to thoughts about the past, the present, and the future.

It has been a long and winding road filled with adventure, friendships, and sorrow. And in spite of the storm clouds that loom on the horizon, I can’t help but feel that some pretty memorable adventures are awaiting me on the road ahead.