Telling Stories

Near Hoover Dam the Colorado River courses through a stunning landscape of deeply shaded canyons and multihued mountains of stone. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

When putting together a jigsaw puzzle you can’t throw away red pieces just because you don’t like the color. You can’t tell the story of Goldilocks and not include the three bears. You can’t cut cannibalism from the tragic story of the Donner Party. And you can’t tell America’s amazing story without including the history of slavery and the civil rights movement, the genocide of native people and the patriotism of the code talkers, the Know Nothing Party, the contributions of immigrants and the history of prejudices against immigrants.

Northern and western Arizona is a land of scenic wonders without equal. Here you will find the awe inspiring majesty of the Grand Canyon and the red rock country at Sedona. And in the Black Mountains you can drive a segment of Route 66 cut through landscapes so stunning a one eyed blinid man would have trouble taking a bad photo.

But before Route 66, the National Old Trails Road, Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, and the Beale Wagon Road cut across this vast desert wilderness this was the home of the Pai and Mojave people. It was their trade routes that were followed by an expedition led by Father Garces in 1776, and the explorers that followed. That trade route became the Mojave Road across the vast wilderness of the Mojave Desert.

The oral traditions of the Pai tell of a great flood that was drained when the creator thrust a stick into the ground. This oral history tells the story of the people that were created from the reeds. Then Kathat Kanave gave the people the knowledge neede to live in this diverse and often harsh land.

According to legend after a mud fight between children the tribes were seperated. The Mojave were given the upper Colorado River Valley north and south of where Route 66 crosses that river. The Yavapai that became mortal enemies to the Hualapai were drven south below the fork of the Bill Williams River. The people now known as hopi and Navajo were moved east. And the Havasupai had a new homeland at what is now Grand Canyon National Park and the valley’s near Cataract Canyon.

The Hualapai were largely a nomadic people that lived in bands or clans. At the time of European contact the Pine Springs and Peach Springs bands were recorded as being the largest with four camps of about 200 people.

This monument to a dark chapter in the history of the Pai people at Beale Springs is just one piece of the puzzle. More pieces are needed if the picture is to be seen with clarity.

From about 1300 to 1850 the Pai adapated an intricate relationship with the land. The bands migrated seasonally as they followed game and periods of harvest. Pottery and baskets were essential, an in time they developed a unique and beautiful design.

The Mojave developed productive farms along the Coloraod River. For the Hualapai farming was limted to the valleys occupied by the Havasupai, and the valleys of the Bill Williams and Santa Maria Rivers. Small scale farming to supply bands with a few dozen people took places at places such as Beale Springs, Peach Springs, and Diamond Creek. Squash, beans, maize and pumpkins were the primary crops before European encounter.

To drive Route 66 without knowing the story of the road, and the people that linked their lives to that storied highway, would be little different from a trip on the interstate highway. It would be sterile and colorless.

To drive Route 66 without knowing the story of the Pai, the pioneers, the tragic clash of cultures, and eforts to heal old wounds, is akin to just reading every second chapter in a book. The story is incomplete.

Enhance your journey on Route 66, and through life. Learn before you go. Don’t be offended by the storytellers. Let history fill your adventure with color, with balance, with inspiration, and without important lessons from the past.

Jim Hinckley’s America is the sharing of America’s story. Tales of the Pai, this too is America’s story.



Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight

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

Its origins are as a remote auxilliary Kingman Army Airfield landing strip on the shores of Lake Havasu that morphed into a rustic camp for fisherman in the post war years. In 1963, Robert McCulloch, owner of McCulloch Motors, chose the site for a planned community and a factory where his outboard engines could be tested.

In 1964, there was only one unimproved road into the envisioned city. McCulloch was a visionary. So, he developed an air charter service to fly in prospective land buyers that wanted a fresh start or an escape from harsh winter climates. Between 1964 and 1978, 137,000 potential land buyers flew to what would become Lake Havasu City. In 1978 the town was incorporated. By 1981 the modern community built on the hills above the shimmering lake had a population of 17,000 people.

From its inception the city recognized the value of tourism. There was an understanding that tourism was more than just heads in beds. It was an opportunity to showcase the community to prospective residents and business owners.

Agressive marketing, leadership that developed cooperative partnerships within the community, a focus on the development of events that support the business community, and utilization of all available resources have paid dividends. Even though summer temperatures often reach 120 degrees or more, Lake Havasu City consistently rates as one of the top destination cities in Arizona. On the city’s tourism website the calendar of events illustrates the community’s marketing success.

Sixty miles to the east is Kingman, Arizona, a town with an astounding array of diverse attractions. The towns link to Route 66 has ensured international name recognition. And yet as a destination it remains relatively obscure.

In recent years the Colorado River Area Trail Alliance has developed an expansive series of hiking and mountain trails in the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area. The scenic trail system that includes an array of historic sites is located less than two miles from the historic district and Route 66.

There is a thriving arts community and the historic State Theater is being renovated as a performing arts center. Chillin on Beale, held on the third Saturday afternoon of each month, April through October, adds a colorful vibrancy to the historic district that is in the midst of a slow motion renaissance.

At the west end of the historic business district along Route 66 are two delightful parks, one of which is shaded by towering tress. As they are located adjacent to the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Mohave Museum of History & Arts, they are ideally suited for the hosting of events such as the Kingman Festival of The Arts, and for vendors during the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona sponsored annual Route 66 Fun Run. But, oddly enough, the annual Kingman Route 66 Fest is held in a park located miles from the historic heart of the city, and nearly a mile from the nearest restaurant.

Kingman Main Street recently spearheaded development of an innovative narrated self guuided historic district and Route 66 corridor walking tour. Phase one will be completed in a few weeks, and yet it is already becoming an internationally recognized attraction.

Spring flowers along Route 66 in the Black Mountains. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Hualapai Mountain Park is located a mere twelve scenic miles south of Kingman. This pine forested island in a sea of desert is is a true oasis. Hualapai Lodge and pictuersque stone cabins built by the CCC, and rustic camp sites, provide a wonderful option to chain motels. And there are miles of shade dappled trails that climb through the forest to scenic overlooks.

Lake Havasu City. Kingman. Needles, California. Bullhead City. Western Arizona is a destination for a memory making holiday filled with adventure in any season. Telling people where to go, it’s what we do in Jim Hinckley’s America.



Incentive With Inspiration

Incentive With Inspiration

Telling people where to go and sharing America’s story. In a nutshell that is what we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. And we are always looking for new opportunities to do both. That is why we recently launched the podcast Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaand expanded the scope of the Sunday morning program, Coffee With Jim. 

But there is another facet to Jim HInckley’s America. That is the development of educational programs, speaking at schools, and even providing someone on one time for students.

These projects are almost entirely made possible through partners that provide support through our crowdfunding initiative on Patreon. As my dearest friend and I are used to eating on a regular basis, crowdfunding is key to make these type of projects relatively feasible.

We don’t talk much about these initiatives. I don’t feel comfortable giving the impression that they are done for profit.

To date I have had the distinct privilege of working with a variety of schools at all grade levels. Counted among the most memorable programs were those made at schools in Germany. I learned as much or maybe more than the students.

Incentive to continue thiese programs and projects, and the inspiration for them, often comes from students, from their parents and from teachers. A few months ago I receoved a message from a teacher at a school in Chandler, Arizona with a request to speak to her class.

Obviously that wasn’t feasible at the time. It had to wait until I had business in the area. Meanwhile one of the teachers sudents accepted my offer to assist directly via phone or Zoom. One student accepted that offer. He was working on a project about the societal impact of Route 66 in the 20th century. Did I mention that he was just eleven years of age?

Well, we talked on the phone and I answered his carefully crafted and well thought out questions. Then he talked his parents into bringing him to my program at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction. Well, yesterday I received this note. “I’m happy to share that I made it to state level and will be participating in the program at ASU (Arizona State University) in April.”

That, my friends is the true reward for what I do. That is the inspiration needed. To my supportring partners on Patreon, thank you. We did it. We made a difference.

In coming weeks I will be sharing an array of exciting updates about pending travel, new programs, and items associated with the fast approaching Route 66 centennial. And as I will be attending a rather dynamic conference and symposium soon, there is every confidence that we will have much to discuss.


Opportunity Is Knocking!!

Opportunity Is Knocking!!

Pontiac in Illinois is a town where the lick and promise approach isn’t good enough, and it shows. Photo Jim Hinckley’s America

The articles are a few years old, and the downturn in tourism that resulted from COVID related restrictions blunted the near vertical growth in tourism, but the evidence is still valid. “Atlanta (IL), sales tax revenue jumped 43 percent last year during the peak tourism season of April to August compared to four years ago.” From Waynesville, Missouri, “The city’s sales-tax revenue rose 7 percent last year.”  Similar stories can be found about Pontiac, Illinois, Williams, Arizona, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A simple Google search shows similar results in a number of Route 66 communities over the course of the past ten years. Further research indicates that the success in each of these communities has several common denominators.

Leadership that builds cooperative partnerships, that inspires and that educates. Leadership with vision. Capital investment by city government in historic district infrastructure to enhance a pedestrian friendly environment and beautification to make the area more inviting for visiotrs as well as investors. An understanding that tourism is not just heads in beds.

As Bill Thomas of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership is fond of saying, “Not all economic development is tourism. But all tourism is economic development.” And a key component of tourism is a city that has invested in its future by ensuring that it is inviting to tourists as well as potential new residents or business owners.

Generally I discuss these things in generalities as they are issues that many communities deal with. Today I need to be more direct in the hope that my adopted hometown of Kingman will serve as an example on how to transform the city into a destination rather than as an example of how a community with tremendous potential can languish.

Opportunity is knocking in Kingman, again. I use the term again because we are on the cusp of repeating past mistakes. The past has value but only if we learn from mistakes made. To dwell on the past, to be paralyzed by prior mistakes is counter productive. Put simply, you can’t put crap back in the donkey.

The city has invested in a comprehensive study and funds have been allocated for the Downtown Infrastructure Design Project. The point of contention is that some folks are of the opinion that monies should be diverted to street repairs.

Street repairs are needed. And they will be needed again in two years, in five years and in a decade. But there is overwhelming evidence that investment in a project such as this will serve as a catalyst for long term economic development. And in turn that generates revenues need for street repair and other services.

I am optimistic. This time there is unified support for moving the transformative project forward. The Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition in support, and the passionate volunteers from Kingman Main Street have been working tirelessly to educate the community about the potential benefits. The Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona has announced their support.

Now, let’s just hope that I can make a positive and enthusiastic report after the next city council meeting.

More Route 66 Adventures

There were a wide array of exhibits on display at the Route 66 Info Fair in Needles, California. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

A nearly packed house for my presentation about Route 66 in Arizona at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction, Arizona, and attendance of the recent Route 66 Info Fair in Needles, California make it abundantly clear that the infectious magic of iconic Route 66 is igniting a passion for road trips. For me personally these events bod well for a very busy year as I share America’s story and tell people where to go.

When elected mayor of Needles, last year Janet Jernigan made it quite clear that she wanted to see a renaissance in the historic heart of the city that is dominated by the picturesque historic El Garces depot and hotel complex. In spite of a few unforeseen glitches the 2022 Route 66 Info Fair was a success. And as an example of leadership with vision, Jernigan and her team have already announced a date and provided preliminary details for the Route 66 Ino Fair scheduled for February 10, 2024.

“The 3rd Annual Route 66 Info Fair at the El Garces in Needles. This popular event will once again feature Route 66 vendors and businesses, El Garces tours and speaker presentations. Next year’s fair will add an art show in the west end of the El Garces and craft fair in the Santa Fe Park. Make your 2024 plans to include Needles on your calendar.”

The Route 66 Info Fair this past Saturday was a winner in my book. Aside from an opportunity to visit with old friends, a hallmark of these Route 66 events that are almost like a family reunion, it was a wonderful opportunity to inspire road trips, and to help people plan a memorable adventure on storied Route 66.

Thanks to sponsors of Jim Hinckley’s America, including the City of Tucumcari, and supporters from Cuba, Missouri, Amarillo, Texas, Atlanta, Illinois, and the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, I had an array of promotional materials to share including visitors guides. This greatly enhanced my ability to lend assistance with travel planning.

Wade Bray of SRO productions. Photo Needles Tourism

A hit at our display was a plaque that allowed us to demonstrate the narrated, Kingman Arizona historic district self guided tour developed by Kingman Main Street. I am hoping that people will be inspired to use it as a template for a similar project that assists in the revitalization of the historic district in their community.

The rich and colorful diversity of the Route 66 renaissance was on full display at the event in Needles. It also reflected the growing trend in showing Route 66 as a direct connection between past, present and even the future.

Si Garcia of the Fort Mojave Tribe performed traditional bird songs. Historical renactor Debbie Miller Marschke did a superb impression of Olive Oatman, and shared Oatman’s amazing story. Wade Bray of SRO Productions shared a video from the 2022 AAA Route 66 Road Fest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and answered questions about the 2023 fest scheduled for June 23 – 25. Mike Thornton gave tours of the El Garces and brought the history of the complex to life with his passion for the property and for Needles.

The old double six has been charming people for nearly a century. Tourism directors in communities along the Route 66 corridor that ignore or that shrug off the popularity of that highway do so to their detriment. The old double six just may be more popular than at any time in its history. And with the centennial fast approaching I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that this popularity is going to grow exponentially.