In Search Of Pie

A delightful lunch of catfish and hush puppies in Pocahontas, Arkansas

Okay, a search for pie, blackberry or peach cobbler, hush puppies, or world class chilli are not the only reason that we are embarking on a road trip in a few weeks. But I can’t think of a road trip in the past forty years that didn’t involve a detour or two.

Someone tells me about a waitress at a hole in the wall cafe that has an interesting story or that a diner is renowned for its stawberry rhubarb pie.That is all it takes to derail the carefully crafted time table.

Geronimo was still at war with the U.S. and Mexican army when Lucius Copeland demonstrated his steam powered motorcycle at the territorial fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. And Ransom E. Olds was taking his first experimental automobile for a test run two years before the legendary Apache was exiled to Florida.  Elmer Lovejoy bicycled from Laramie, Wyoming to Chicago just two years after the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Road Trip 2023

This is the opening scene in my program about the dawning of the great American road trip. And that is the real reason that we are setting off on another Route 66 odyssey in October. This year I am a keynote speaker at the 8th annual Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. As you might have guessed, the conference has the road trip as its theme.

And as often is the case with us, it will be a busman’s holiday. Word was received today that a Route 66 centennial project simmering on the back burner will most likely be given the green light in a few weeks. So, I will need to create a portfolio of at least three hundred photos on this trip.

The Fall Tour

For the past eight years, with exception of the year of the apocalypse (2020), the Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference serves as the anchor point for an annual fall tour. This is usually a blending of book signing and speaking engagements.

It is also a fact finding mission. I visit with friends and associates in the Route 66 business community, that are involved with touriism or community development, or are tour company owners. That provides me with a better picture of tourism, and Route 66 tourism, trends. As I don’t have a degree this helps me imitate a tourism development consultant. Did I mention that a recent interviewer referenced me as a humorist “in the mold of Will Rogers?”

I also have plans for using the trip as a vacation. Let’s see how that works out. It hasn’t yet. I have a tendency to turn everything into work. Besides, I derive tremendous satisfaction from inspiring road trips by tellinig people where to go, and sharing America’s story. And that is why we launched Jim Hinckley’s America.

In Search of Pie

But no matter how busy I get or how tight the schedule is, there is always time to go in search of pie. Even better, chances are that we will have a chance to share that pie with old friends, or perhaps, with friends yet made.

Speaking of pie, and pie shared with friends, while writing this I received a note from Nick Adam. Route 66 enthusiasts will recognize that name. Nick’s father established the iconic Ariston Cafe in the 1920s, and relocated it to Litchfield, Illinois in the 1930s. After decades of management, Nick retired.

It looks like we will be visiting with our old friend at Jubelt’s Bakery in Litchfield on this trip. HIs is a story that I want to tell. And I just looked at the Jubelt website. They have a lenghty list of pies including Strawberry Rhubarb!




EV Adventure on Route 66

A 1938 Packard on Route 66 provided startling contrast to the EV adventure in an VW ID4. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

An EV adventure on Route 66. Me. The fellow that courted his dearest friend forty two years ago in a 1946 GMC. The same person that envisions an adventure on Route 66 during the centennial year in a 1929 Ford Model A just made a 400 mile trip from Kingman to Winslow, Arizona, and back again, in an EV VW ID4.

Seldom do I need a great deal of encouragement to embark on a road trip. I will drop what I am doing in a heartbeat if given an opportunity to travel with a friend, enjoy some lively conversation, and meet with like minded people that are using Route 66 to transform their community.

But added incentive for this odyssey was an opportunity to get some real world, from the passenger seat, experience with an EV on the open road. This was going to be a Jim Hinckley’s America adventure for the record books.

Blurring The Line

Cowboy philosophers met during my years working ranches in the southwest filled my head with adages, bits of wisdom and witticisms. A few of these are applicable to this story. “Ignorance is curable but there is not a damn thing that you can do about stupidity.” “Don’t follow the herd over the cliff.” “You are the only one to blame for buying what the grifter is trying to sell.”

In today’s world, when it comes to the electric vehicle (or election integrity, health care, face masks, inflation, or the price of gas) myth, rumor, conspiracy, and the opinions of talking heads on “news” networks masks the truth, muddies the water, gives the illusion that ignorance is a virtue, and taints conversation. So, before forming an opinion I prefer to do a bit of research. So, as my knowldege of electric vehicles wasn’t much better than a frogs understanding of tap dancing shoes, this trip was a golden opportunity. Before setting out on this voyage of discovery my experience with electric vehicles was limted to a few local cruises in a Tesla.

Aside from the Tesla charging stations, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or standard for charging facilities. In my mind that blurred the line between past and present.

Currently I am reading Motoring West: Automobile Pioneers 1900 to 1909, a compilation of articles orignally printed in the first decade of the 20th century. I found a number of similarities between the EV adventure on Route 66 and that of early “automobilists.” An article about a cross country trip published in 1905 noted that, “Gasoline has commenced to come pretty high, while the quality goes in the opposite direction. There was a time in Ohio when we could get fuel at 15 or 18 cents a gallon. Now it is 30 to 35, and even 45 cents a gallon, and every hundred miles farther west it is reported as being a few cents more.”

On The Road

Our destination when we left Kingman was the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona communities meeting in Winslow, Arizona, a drive of a little more than 200 miles.The first leg of the trip to Williams was almost all up hill, 3,300 feet in elevation to 6,755 feet. Aside from the futuristic (at least to me) dash, there was nothing to differentiate the drive from hundreds that I have made along this road.

The car still had ample range, but mi amigo was an experienced EV owner and so he stopped to top off the batteries. My dearest friend and I have a habit of making our first pit stop in Williams during our travels. So, that too seemed fitting.

Electrify America

But the charging process was completely foreign to anything that I was familiar with and so I found it quite fascinating. Using the Electrify America charging facility during a twenty minute pit stop didn’t provide a full charge but it was more than adequate for what was needed.

The Winslow Visitor Center and chamber of commerce housed in the historic Hubbell Trading Post has a charging station on site. This provided an additional education. It was a free slow charger. At the end of the meeting that included lunch, the charge to the batteries was less than what we had gotten in 20 minutes from the station in Williams. Consistency, as it was with gasoline in 1905, was an issue. So, on the return leg we made another stop in Williams, but for only ten minutes.

My short adventure provided me with a glimpse of the future. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Recent and dramatic development of battery as well as charging technologies will ensure that in coming years they will be even better suited to compete with gasoline powered cars. But there is a caveat. The Achille’s heel with EV vehicles aside from Tesla is not the availability of charging facilities, but the consistency.

Past Meets Future

It may come as a surprise to learn that electric busses and taxis were operating on the streets of New York City in the 1890s. Then as now the electric vehicle was practical for urban usage. Their practicality for long distance travel is a recent phenomenon.

And I am confident that as with the automobile itself 120 years ago, the rapid development of supportive infrastructure will also fuel their popularity. Education is key. On the highway it is hard to tell the difference between and electric or fossil fuel powered vehicle. But charging and the charging station is nothing like the gas station.

And that takes me to a closing thought. The gas station today is almost unrecognizable from the gas stations of my youth. I survived the transition by learning to adapt. And I learned to have a balanced perspective. The gas station today is better than the gas station of old. The gas station that I remember fondly with the bell that announced the arrival of customers was better than the souless mini-mart of today. It’s the old best of times, worst of times scenario.






Road Trip

The past and the future of the road trip on the streets of Kingman, Arizona in the 1920s. Authors collection

Road trip. Route 66, a highway, a television program, a road trip inspiring song and a destination. Memory making, epic adventures on the open road. It’s as American as apple pie, hot dogs and a marketing campaign that encouraged people to see the U.S.A. in their Chevrolet.

The restless nature of the immigrants that would come to be known as American was made manifest in the Oregon Trail, the Pontiac Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, the Beale Wagon Road, the National Road, and the Sauk Trail. This restlessness and the wanderlust of the pioneers, the mountain men, and the ’49ers that rushed to California in search of gold set the stage in the late 19th century for the adventures of pioneering automobilists.

In The Beginning

This chapter in the history of the American road trip opened with a national obsession for the bicycle. In 1901, Henry Sutphen wrote Touring in Automobiles for Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation. He noted that, “Several years ago the bicycle suddenly made a prodigious leap into public favor, a result largely due to the fact that it provided people of moderate means with an entirely new and fascinating amusement – the exploring of the particular locality in which they lived, but about which they had usually known little or nothing.”

In 1890 the number of bicycle manufacturers in the United States numbered less than fifty. Six years later there were hundreds of companies. And many of them were working three shifts to meet the demand.

Touring became a national mania. Dozens of clubs and groups were organized. The railroads offered special rates, and accommodated people traveling with bicycles. Hotels near railroads and along primary roads advertised special rates for bicyclists.

There were folding bicycles and electric assist bicycles. The League of American Wheelman, and Wheelwomen, became a powerful lobbying organization that petitioned state and federal government for the devlopment of a national network of improved all weather roads. This was the origins of the good roads movement that became the foundation for the creation of the U.S, highway system in the early 1920s.

Dawn of The Modern Era

While people were taking to the open road on bicycles in record numbers, a few visionaries and eccentric’s were looking toward a future without old Dobbins, the restraint of a railroad time table, or the limitations of the human body. In the late 1880s, Ransom E Olds explained the advantages of the horseless carriage in an interview. The Duryea brothers initiated the manufacture of automobiles for sale. In 1898 the first American automobile race was held in Chicago. And in 1901 pioneering automobile manufacturer Alexander Winton made an ill fated attempt to be the first person to complete a coast to coast trip by automobile.

The societal evolution in first decades of the 20th century were unprecedented. A Stanley steamer was driven to a new land speed record of nearly 150 miles per hour in 1906. By 1910 it is estimated that there were more than 500,000 automobiles on American roads. Just five years later that number had soared to nearly 2.5 million. And yet in western Arizona stagecoaches were in use until 1916.

Telling America’s Story

At Jim Hinckley’s America we tell America’s story. And on October 20 at the Miles of Possibility Conference I will be telling the story of the dawning of the modern American road trip. It promises to be a grand adventure. It will be a journey through time and a road trip inspiring odyssey. Come join the adventure!.

Planes, Trains, Route 66 and St. Louis

Sunrise in the Delmar Loop District of St. Louis, Missouri. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Planes, trains, Route 66 and St. Louis were the topics of conversation with author and historian Joe Sonderman on the August 6, 2023 episode of Coffee With Jim. The program definitely provided me with added incentive to explore St. Louis during the Jim Hinckley’s America fall tour.

With the exception of Tulsa, Oklahoma the treasures and time capsules in metropolitan areas along the Route 66 corridor are often overlooked by enthusiasts. As Joe pointed out, in St. Louis there are enough attractions to keep a person busy for weeks, and many are free.

The National Museum of Transportation

The National Museum of Transportation is one of the largest and most diverse collections of transportation vehicles in the world. You can trace the history of American railroading, and the surprising diversity of the auto industry in St. Louis during the early 20th century.

On display are one-of-a-kind and historical cars, planes, trolleys, and more on the 42-acre site. The museum also features a tribute wing to Sanford N. McDonnell, a pioneer in aerospace engineering. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and free for members.

Forest Park

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, covering 1,371 acres of land. Established in 1876, the park was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. It is home to many cultural and recreational attractions, such as the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Muny, an outdoor musical theater.

You can also enjoy walking, biking, golfing, boating, fishing, and picnicking in the park. Forest Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is free for most attractions.

If you spend a day exploring Forest Park, I suggest an overnight stay at the quirky but fun Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop District. The descriptor on their website doesn’t begin to convey what a unique experience it is to dine and stay at this botique hotel. “The Moonrise Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, blends cool modern design and quirky sophistication to create a truly unique boutique hotel experience. Located in The Loop – one of St. Louis’ most vibrant shopping, dining and entertainment districts – the hotel’s prime location offers guests a wide array of leisure activities”

Other Attractions in St. Louis

– The Gateway Arch: The iconic 630-foot tall monument that symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States. You can take an elevator or tram to the top and enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the Mississippi River. You can also visit the Gateway Arch Museum and learn about the history and culture of the region.
– The City Museum: A whimsical and interactive museum that features a variety of exhibits made from recycled materials, such as a 10-story slide, a Ferris wheel on the roof, a giant aquarium, and a circus school. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $16 for adults and $14 for children.
– The Anheuser-Busch Brewery: A historic brewery that produces some of the most famous beers in the world, such as Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob. You can take a free tour of the brewery and see how the beer is made, visit the Clydesdale stables, and sample some products at the Biergarten.

Judging by comments made during the program, I wasn’t the only one that was inspired to a make a trip along iconic Route 66 to the “Gateway to The West.”

The Torch Passes

The iconic Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri.

As the Route 66 centennial approaches, the torch passes to a new generation. Many of the leaders in the preservation, the promotion and the development of Route 66 as an attraction for future generations were born after the highway was fully bypassed in October 1984.

As these passionate young visionaries take the stage, many of the pioneers of the Route 66 renaissance movement quietly step out of the spotlight. The recent death of Ramona Lehman, owner of the Munger Moss Motel for more than fifty years marked the end of an era.

But the legacy of Ramona, and her husband Bob that passed away in 2019, lives on. They were not mere motel owners. The Lehman’s were friends to every traveler that they met. They were a source of inspiration and insight for a new generation of Route 66 business owners, preservationists, and community leaders.

Passing The Torch

Few things better illustrate the passing of the torch than the renaissance of the Shamrock Court in Sullivan, Missouri. Restoration of this stunning old auto court is being undertaken by Rich Dinkela, known to an international legion of fans as Roamin’ Rich, and his wife Christina. Not yet fifty years old, Roamin’ Rich has taken the helm of the Route 66 Association of Missouri and transformed the organization. He has also spearheaded efforts to preserve the Gasconade River Bridge. And he has developed a series of videos and programs that promote Route 66, provide inspiration for preservationists and encourage road trips on iconic Route 66.

In Oklahoma, Rhys and Sam Martin are carrying the torch into the centennial and beyond. President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, and owner of Cloudless Lens Photography, Rhys is a passionate spokesman for the Route 66 community. His wife Samantha has contributed greatly to projects developed to revitalize the Route 66 corridor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she creates educational programs that will ensure when the time comes, the torch can be pased to the next generation.

Changing Times

Certified in November 1926, U.S. 66 has evolved into a multifaceted living time capsule. More than a century of history and American societal evolution are preserved along this highway that connects Chicago with Santa Monica. But this highway is also a stage for the telling of America’s story.

President Harry Truman had a connection with Miami, Oklahoma. Sites associated with President Abraham Lincoln are found all along the Route 66 coridor in Illinois. Pivotal moments in the labor movement are linked with Galena, Kansas, andMt. Oilve and Verdun, Illinois.

There are German, Italian and British military cemeteries in Oklahoma. In Tulsa there is a somber monument to a massacre when a community of prosperous African Americans was destroyed. In Kingman, Arizona stands a WWI monument dedicated to a Native American killed in the Battle of the Marne.

The Falcon restaurant in Winslow, Arizona, and the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois were established by Greek immigrants. The Wild Hare Cafe, a landmark in the era of renaissance in Elkhart, Illinois, was founded by a Dutch immigrant. The historic El Trovatore Motel is being renovated by an immigrant from Israel.

At Jim Hinckley’s America, we share America’s story. On Route 66 that story is brought to life, framed in neon, and preserved for future generations.