Bumble Snake Picture of the Week

This week’s image is the last in our Route 66 Car Show series, and coincidentally, it’s also a significant motorsports TV holiday. Much like how fans spend Thanksgiving and New Years vegging out on the couch watching football—today is wall to wall car races.

Bumble Snake
Bumble Snake – An unidentified yellow car that was on display at the Route 66 car show in Kingman, Arizona.

The day starts in Monaco and the Formula One Grand Prix. It’s not the fastest F1 race, but all of the glitz and glamour surrounding it makes it the year’s biggest spectacle. Although I love watching the cars parade through the streets, I’d die to attend a progressive dinner that stopped for new courses on each of the yachts moored in the harbor. Next on the schedule is the Indianapolis 500. It’s the World’s Greatest Race according to the promoters. I suppose it is, much in the same way that McDonald’s is the World’s Greatest Hamburger. Then after a couple of ribs off the bar-b, the evening show is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.  Although it’s not NASCAR’s premier race, it is the longest of their season as it transitions from day to night.

TV races are the bastard red-head step child of sports, and die-hard fans always had to work to see them. When I was a teenager, we bought tickets to see the ‘500 on closed circuit at the Grauman’s Chinese theatre. We’d pay 10 or 15 bucks to see a low-res TV image blown up to movie screen size. You couldn’t tell one car from another, so what we experienced was paying money to listen to the radio broadcast while watching a bad Nintendo game. At least it was live. ABC sometimes showed Monaco a week later on its Wild World of Sports, but it was a heavily edited highlight reel that shared airtime with the Bocce Ball finals. As for Charlotte, nobody showed hillbilly racing on TV, except maybe Daytona. Racing wasn’t crucial to broadcasters until they found out that motorsports draw more viewers than any other sport except for horse racing.

Watching the shows is so much better now. First, it’s live on the network channels with some timing overlaps. Having a TIVO takes care of time conflicts. More importantly, by recording them, you can turn 16-18 day of binging into a 6 hour evening by zipping through the commercials. If I start around 2:00 pm, I usually catch up to the live broadcast with 20 laps to go.

In all seriousness, Memorial Day is really about remembering the men and women that fought and died to defend our freedom. We can do that on Monday, which is Memorial Day proper. But, it has to be done in the morning, because we need to get home in time to catch the sportscar race at Lime Rock.

This week’s featured image—oh yeah. It was one of the cars on display at the Route 66 car show in Kingman. It didn’t have any name badges on it, so I couldn’t tell who manufactured it. It looks British, so maybe it’s an MGB. If you look closely on the front, the owner didn’t bother to wipe off the squashed insects it collected on the drive from Seligman, so maybe it’s a bug-eyed Sprite. I called this image Bumble Snake because of the bright paint scheme. You can see a larger version of Bumble Snake on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week begins a new month, and we’ll show off some images from another Arizona place.

Until next time — jw


Bel Air Picture of the Week

Kingman Club neon sign.
Kingman Club – What could be a better sign to hang over a brand new micro-brew.

You’ll have to bear with me this morning; I’ll be a bit out of sorts because for the next few days because I’m on my own. Queen Anne’s girlfriends left for Newport Beach to pick up sailors, and Anne begged to go along. I know she’s only going to spoil their fun because she’s the only one that has a husband at home. Her trip has disrupted my morning routines. I had to make coffee for myself, no one warmed my socks in the microwave, I had to go outside and fetch the paper, and I made breakfast for myself. Isn’t that awful? I’m going to get even by driving down to the Sun City West Library and flirt with hot chicks. But before I go, I want to tell you about this week’s picture.


OK Used Cars antique sign.
OK Used Cars – There is a dealer on Kingman’s section of Route 66 that sells restored cars. They use this classic car dealer sign to advertise.

The third image of our May series of Cars as Graphic Art comes from our Kingman visit at the beginning of the month. The model for this shot was a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop, and you can quickly tell that from the unique chrome strips and pattern of colors. This year was a milestone for hot rod Chevys because this was the car that started the trend of performance family sedans. 1955 was the first year (since 1918) that a V8 was a Chevy option, and it came in three flavors, including the Super Power Pack rated at 190 hp. I like this year because it was before American Car Manufactures overdosed on tail fins and chrome, so it’s style is more sedated.

1955 Cheverolet Bel Air
Bel Air – A 1955 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop. 1955 was the first year since 1918 that Chevrolet offered a V8 in a family sedan.

I picked this week’s picture for several reasons. Firstly, the composition gives the viewer all of the information needed to identify the car, and it fits neatly within the art world’s Rule of Thirds. Next, although the white section seems flat, the subtle gradation shows the fender’s top curve. Finally, I like how the white on the body is not the same as in the chrome insert; that’s the way it came from the factory. You can see a larger version of Bel Air on its Web Page by clicking here.

OK, now that I’ve finished my Sunday chores, I’m ready to paint the town. I still got it ya’know. All I have to do is flash a big smile, raise an eyebrow, and confidently say, “so, how you doin’?” It gets them every time. Now I need to find where Anne hid my false tooth. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and please come back next week when we’ll show the final image in May’s Kingman series.

Until next time — jw

Red Henry J Picture of the Week

Route 66 Fun Run In Kingman
Route 66 Fun Run In Kingman – For the last 35 years, proud antique car owners gather in Seligman to participate in a fun run and show their cars in Seligman, Kingman, Oatman, and Needles.

My folks lived in Kingman from time to time, so it’s been a common source for many of my stories in the past. After they retired, mom and dad bought a trailer so they could travel the country—or that was the plan. What they did was to split time between Georgia—where my sister lives—and Arizona. It’s not clear to me, but I think they wanted to be close to their kids—however not too close.

They didn’t move on any schedule. Whenever my mom would get a hair up her butt, my dad would call to announce they were leaving. We didn’t know it then, but she was in the early stages of dementia, and something could trigger an episode of paranoia, and then they’d pack up at a moment’s notice. Within a year, they’d be back at the same trailer park where they always stayed. Their random migrations never made sense. We believed they were crazy, which—in the case of my mom—turned out to be more valid than we could have ever suspected.

Since their passing nearly a half-decade ago, we no longer had any reason to stop in Kingman, but last November, when I featured Seligman as our featured destination, I wrote about the Route 66 revival and gathering of classic car and hot rod enthusiasts each year that make a pilgrimage to their Mecca—the Mother Road. Nearly a thousand collector cars gather in Seligman to drive the last contiguous 150 miles of Route 66. They turn a three-hour drive into a weekend event by making show-stops in Kingman, Oatman, and Needles. This Fun-Run has been going on for thirty-eight years, and it happened again this weekend. Since Kingman is up the road (it’s closer than Mesa), I decided to play with the shiny cars, and just to be mean, I dragged Anne along with me.

Red Henry J
Red Henry J – Look closely, and you’ll see the Hotel Beale reflected in the red paint of an old Henry J.

For this show, the city of Kingman blocked off the downtown streets and parked the cars diagonally on each side. The car owners set up chairs in the shade on the sidewalks, while the looky-loos (including us) walked up and down the streets. As we walked through the displays, two things stood out. These were old (my age) white men. No Gen X or Millennials participated in the event. After talking with several owners, I got the impression that they didn’t want to drive those cars. They considered them investments, and the worst thing you could do is to add road miles. For example, I talked to the owner of a Dodge Duster that had a blown drag-race motor and sponsor decals down the sides.

I asked, “What’s your best quarter-mile time?”

“Oh, it’s never been on a drag strip. It’s a show car.”

I cringed and glanced at the roll-cage and thought, “What’s the point?”

On our way to see the cars, I told Anne that I wanted to take photographs capturing the vehicle’s essence. Abstracts that you could show to any car-guy and they could name the auto’s make, model, and year. I wasn’t trying to document the vehicle’s visit to the show. I was looking for graphic art. I feel that I succeeded with this week’s featured image that I call Red Henry J. At first glance it seems like a simple shot of a chrome name badge against the red background. If you look closely, however, you can make out the Hotel Beale reflection in the red paint—even though the Internet jpg version loses much of the original’s detail.

Anne had never heard of Henry J’s, so I explained that hot-rodders liked them because they were small and light. They stuffed big engines in them for drag racing, much like what Carol Shelby did for Cobras. You can see the Henry J parked in the middle of the opening shot above. You can also see the Web version of Red Henry J by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and next week; we’ll show another image from our afternoon in Kingman.

Until next time — jw