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Writing a Route 66 bucket list: This traveling author stops in Oklahoma every time

CLINTON, Okla. - If life is a long ribbon of highway, think of Jim Hinckley as that voice inside your head telling you where to turn off and slow down.

"Traveling Route 66 like this, it becomes an absolute time capsule," he said while driving an old section of highway in western Oklahoma.

In this case, the highway is Route 66 and Jim is one of the world's foremost experts at telling people where to get off.

"People said I had a God-given gift for telling people where to go and, now, I was just putting it in print," he smiles.

Over the past quarter century, he's written 18 books on cars and history, many of them centering on the Mother Road, the nation's first interstate highway, a route for immigrants, vacationers and popular culture.

"Route 66 is such a phenomenon today," he said. "What Colonial Williamsburg was for 19th Century America, this has become for 20th Century America."

We caught Jim at the Route 66 museum in Clinton.

Right now, he's researching his latest book on the highway's dark side.

"Serial killers, murderers, natural disasters, tragedy," he said.

But, since the museum and the one in Elk City are on his list of 100 places to stop before you die, we visited on that topic as well.

For a guy whose family first took the road in 1959, who learned to drive on it and who's traveled it thousands of times, Jim insists Route 66 is in better shape than ever as a cultural icon.

"I think Route 66 today is more dynamic than any other time in its history," Jim said.

His publishers limited him to 100 places to visit along more than 2,000 miles.

He's actually got a much bigger list in mind before his own final exit.

Hinckley's book '100 Things to Do on Route 66 Before You Die' is available online and for sale at the Route 66 Museums in Clinton and Elk City.

For more information on the author, go to www.jimhinckleysamerica.com.