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.
This old hotel in Cuba, Missouri is a tangible link to an era when the railroad, not Route 66, funneled travelers into town. Joe Sonderman collection
The old hotels are just one block off of Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri. Few travelers or enthusiasts give more than a passing glance to the forlorn looking old structures, and fewer still are aware of their rich history or their link to classic Hollywood. If Terry West has his way that will be changing soon and the old hotels will once again be meeting the needs of travelers with their transformation from blighted relics to shining gem.
The Hotel Cuba at 66 E. Main Street is a railroad hotel that was built in 1915. At that time the depot was located across the street. An addition and remodel occurred in 1926 and the property was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2014. It initially opened as the Palace Hotel. The designation of state highway 14 as US 66 in 1926 and ever increasing flow of traffic led to the properties remodel and upgrade. Surprisingly, even though the hotel was having to compete with more modern motels and auto courts such as the Wagon Wheel Motel, it continued to be a favored stop for travelers. As as the property began to fade and show its age it remained in operation as a hotel into the early 1970’s. Then it was converted into apartments. In late 2009 an apartment fire resulted in extensive smoke damage, condemnation and a question pertaining to the economic feasibility of renovating the property which gave rise to discussion about demolition.
The Southern Hotel is a railroad hotel of similar vintage. It has a Hollywood connection. In 1948 Bette Davis stopped at the restaurant in this hotel. The then 19-year old Wilbur Vaughn had attempted to take the Davis’s photo but was prevented from doing so by here traveling companion. So the enterprising young man simply waited outside the restaurant on that rainy evening, snapped a quick photo as she stepped out and managed to out run her companion by ducking behind a service station and then disappearing into the theater where he worked. That incident was immortalized in mural by Ray Harvey on the Cuba Free Press building.
Terry West at the old Hotel Cuba in Cuba, Missouri
In late 2011 Terry West acquired the Cuba Hotel, and shortly afterwards the Southern Hotel. He gave new life to the Cuba Hotel with an extensive remodel into modern apartments that focused on making this a “green” property. This included the use of solar panels on the roof. The Southern Hotel and restaurant is awaiting renovation. Terry, however, is a dreamer, a visionary with big plans for both properties.
As envisioned the upstairs of the Hotel Cuba will be used for modern apartments. The apartments downstairs will mimic the properties original purpose by providing Airbnb type overnight lodging for travelers. The Southern Hotel is in need of extensive repair and will most likely be phase two of the envisioned project. Plans call for retail space and an event venue for the hosting of events including live music performances. In discussing the future of these old hotels Terry said, “We aim to be a place people can stay, and enjoy all of the amenities, and create a unique experience of staying in a historic hotel, with top quality service.”
The historic Southern Hotel in Cuba, Missouri. Photo the Steve Rider collection
This would include a small cafe with quality farm to table meals, growing some of the food on the property, a farmers market and a health food store. The Southern Hotel would provide local artists and craftsman with a place to display and sell their work as well as offer workshops. The grounds fronting Route 66 would be used for festivals and events.
Completion of these projects would have a dramatic affect on tourism in Cuba. They would also enhance the Route 66 experience and give travelers another reason to see Cuba as a destination and not just a stop.
It is a big dream. But where would Route 66 be without dreams and dreamers? Without dreamers can Route 66 survive into the centennial and beyond.
Memories are funny things. They add seasoning to life, and they can be made fresh and vibrant by a song, a smell, a touch, an empty old highway baking under a desert sky, or even an old truck. Such was the case with the drive home from Needles, California after a day spent with the Nissan Canada Route 66 Road Trip.
For the most part I was cruising on auto pilot with a head full of thoughts about the recent project developed for Nissan Canada, a speaking engagement in Needles scheduled for next February that I had arranged earlier that morning, and how a stunning sunrise had filled me with a longing to get home to my dearest friend. Traffic was light but I reigned in the hunger to make time and instead kept the speed in check. Then I saw it, a ’46 GMC out to pasture.
In an instant I was flooded with memories. As I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway there was a brief moment when the line between past and present seemed to blur. The battered old workhorse looked identical to the truck I owned when my dearest friend and I were courting. My ’46 GMC was the truck I drove on our first date. It was the truck that I drove back to the ranch after my last rodeo ride. Most every weekend, to see my dearest friend, I cruised into Kingman from Ash Fork on old Route 66 behind the wheel of that faithful old truck. For a time I was working on a project in the remote old town of Drake, Arizona and that GMC was the only vehicle that could negotiate the quagmire that was the Perksinville Road after a rain.
Once, after a winters storm, I about froze my backside off on a drive to Kingman as the truck didn’t have a heater. It was a challenge to keep the windshield clear of frost on the inside as well as the outside. I can still feel the warmth of the coffee cup in my hand and the taste of a hot bowl of chili at the Truxton Cafe as the chill was chased from my bones.
In all honesty the sunrise had most likely set me in a reflective mood. Finding that old truck kicked it into high gear. The drive home on old Route 66 through the Black Mountains and over Sitgreaves Pass kicked it into overdrive. I have shared a bit of these memories as well as some of the colorful history found along this highway on the Patreon based crowdfunding site where exclusive content is now being posted.
Suffice to say it was quite an emotional day. Mingled among the smile inducing thoughts were those that cast dark shadows. I can’t drive this old highway and not think of my pa as it was on this road that he taught me to ride a bike, to drive (behind the wheel of a ’53 Chevy pick up truck) and to drive heavy trucks (a WWII deuce and a half tanker truck). It was along this road that he taught me a bit of carpentry as we built a garage and house. And it was on this road that my dearest friend and I had some of our first double dates as we traveled to events in Oatman. It was on a drive to Needles with my dearest friend that the idea for Jim Hinckley’s America was birthed.
Organized in early 1927, the U.S. Highway 66 Association was similar in nature to many organizations and businesses established before the creation of the federal highway system to promote roads such as the Lincoln Highway and the National Old Trails Highway. The association had two primary goals; lobby to have U.S. 66 fully paved from Chicago to its western terminus at Seventh and Broadway in Los Angeles, California and the development of marketing initiatives to promote tourism on the highway. The organizations marketing endeavors were so successful, U.S. 66, iconic Route 66, is arguably the most famous highway in America even though it hasn’t officially existed for more than three decades.
A key component in the organizations success was the development of cooperative partnerships with businesses and communities. Many of the challenges faced by the Route 66 community today are the same as those addressed by that pioneering organization more than nine decades ago. So, isn’t it logical to assume that development of a community of partners would resolve issues that range from preservation to marketing, and ensure that the old highway remains vibrant into the centennial and beyond?
The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.
Jim Hinckley’s America is about, well, America. Still at the center of all that we do is Route 66, the Main Street of America. It was never my intent to replicate the original U.S. Highway 66 Association. However, I have volunteered my services to every reputable effort to create a modern incarnation of this entity. And I have developed a multifaceted promotional platform that promotes Route 66 as a destination, a distinct difference from early marketing designed to promote U.S. 66 as a preferred highway for those making a cross country jaunt.
Have no doubts. Today Route 66 is no mere highway. It is a destination. It is, to borrow an adage from author Michael Wallis, a linear community. The problem is that with the exception of passionate travelers affectionately referred to as roadies, few communities or businesses along the highway corridor see Route 66 as a destination.
And so I launched the development of community educational initiatives. Linked with this was creation of a marketing network designed to provide businesses, and communities, with an opportunity to magnify their promotional initiatives regardless of budget. One component was the crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. If five hundred followers of the Jim Hinckley’s America travel programs each contributed as little as $1 or $5 per month, I could purchase needed equipment, keep necessary subscriptions updated, cover some travel expenses and dedicate time for the creation of programs such as the recent Adventurers Club in which I interviewed the president of Route 66 Association of New Mexicoand Texas Old Route 66 Association.
As the concept of creating a pooled resource cooperative evolved I began providing businesses with advertising opportunities for as little as $12.50 per week. With each and every step of development my focus has been on using Jim Hinckley’s America as a venue for the promotion of Route 66 as a destination. I am quite pleased by the comments received from advertising sponsors, major sponsors including the City of Cuba and Grand Canyon Caverns, and most importantly, travelers.
Promotional materials distributed along Route 66
Together, one partnership at a time, we can transform Route 66 into a linear community of partners. Together we can market and promote the most famous highway in America as a destination. So, with that said, can your community or business use a promotional boost?
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 Motelwhere 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 Navigationapp 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.