Category Archives: Books

Q&A: New Book Offers a Personal Take on Historic Route 66

Dyana Muse | Historic Route 66

Dyana Muse | Historic Route 66

Historic Route 66 contains a kind of nostalgic awe, the fading memories of a bygone era. The 66 Kid, a new book from Bob Boze Bell, an artist and editor of True West magazine, revives those memories on the page through pictures, maps, graphics and cartoons. It’s a graphic novel of sorts — at least, that’s how Bell sees it.

The book is about 70 percent visual and 30 percent text, Bell says, and it weaves together a portrait of his own life with the world of ’50s and ’60s Kingman along the famous highway. From the inclusion of personal photos and postcards to museum archives, The 66 Kid illustrates Route 66 from the perspective of someone who grew up on it. Bell spoke with us about his book and the process of putting everything together.

Courtesy of Bob Boze Bell

Courtesy of Bob Boze Bell

Tell us a little bit about your inspiration. Where did the idea for this book come from?
I always kind of knew I wanted to do a book on growing up on Route 66, and then I had a heart attack while playing the drums at a band reunion in 2008, so that was a wake-up call. I thought, “If I’m ever going to do it, I better get my little patootie in gear.” And I really started to get serious about it. I had a friend in Kingman who does Route 66-themed books, and he turned me on to his publisher, and they bought the idea and we were off to the races.

You have a friend who does Route 66-themed books?
Yeah. His name is Jim Hinckley, and he’s got eight books out on it, and I just called him up and I said, “Hey, would your publisher be interested in a book about growing up on Route 66 as it applies to Kingman?” And he says, “Well, that’s pretty specific.” I said, “You know, that’s the book I want to do.” And they bought it.

Tell us about the research you had to do to complete the book.
I knew I needed historic photos, and for that, I was really blessed by the fact that my mother kept really good scrapbooks, and she had fantastic photos. I also had 8mm film, because when I grew up in the gas station, my father would get broke tourists coming in and trying to make it to California, and he’d bill them every day with different prices, like binoculars and Bowie knives. He came home one day with an 8mm camera, and I started taking film. So, I had a lot of film, original footage of my dad’s gas station in the 1960s. I really had a lot of stuff.

I still needed more, and by that, I went to the Mohave Museum, and they allowed me to use their photos. So, between all three of those, and then I used a person who we call “The Mapinator,” Gus Walker — he does stuff for me at True West. Between all those different venues, we had a great visual attack.

Tell us about the visual focus of your book.
It’s very Americana, very ’50s, a lot of coonskin caps, ’57 T-Birds, full-service gas stations. Really, it’s a road picture. It’s a road picture on paper.

How did you select which parts of your own life you would include?
The ones that I could print and that my grandson could read — that was the criteria. I was a rock ‘n’ roll drummer and underground cartoonist, so I led a very, shall we say, “colorful” life. I wanted to be honest, and I wanted to not leave things out, but I wanted to, at the same time, tell the story as a celebration of being on Route 66. That colored some of the text. It’s the PG version of an X-rated life, let’s put it that way.

What was the most difficult part of putting the book together, and what was the most rewarding?
It was really tough. The deadline was to do 16 pages a week for 12 weeks, and we started on January 3 of this year. By we, I mean my art director and I, Dan Harshberger — we grew up together in Kingman, so this is a project of love for us, a love letter to our hometown. We had to hand in 16 pages a week, and that was laid out, with photos and captions and spell-check. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’m a deadline person, and I’ve worked on deadline my whole life, but that was really almost insurmountable. But when we got it done, it was something I’m very proud of.

So is that what you would say was the most rewarding part?
About the book? Yeah, the book. And actually having — I’ve had people approach me and say, “You grew up in Kingman, right?” And I’d say yeah. And they’d say, “Well, I’m a postcard collector, and I have a postcard of the Hillcrest Motel; where was that?” And I’d say, “Well, it was right across from the Kingman Motel and catty-corner from my dad’s gas station, Al Bell’s Flying A.” It dawned on me after three or four questions what we take for granted [because] we grew up there. We just assumed that everybody knew where all these businesses were, but when you go up there today, it’s really hard to envision where all these things were. So one of the critical components of the book is to have a five-page map section showing where all the businesses on Route 66 going through Kingman were.

Why should people care about Route 66? Why are these stories important?
I didn’t understand this when I was growing up. This road that my parents made a living on — my mother worked in the highway department, my dad had a gas station, and I worked for tips in the gas station — and I didn’t understand it. This road, to me, was just another road. I finally realized when I was in Spain on assignment to find “Cowboy Ground Zero” for our True West magazine. I was standing on the beach where Columbus left on his second journey to go to the New World and bring cattle and horses, which led to the vaquero and ultimately the cowboy — I was just thinking about how important this was. After about 10 minutes of standing there, I turned around, and there on the beach was the Route 66 Bar. In Spain. So I went, “Oh, I get it. I get it. This is a big deal. What goes around comes around. This thing is a big deal worldwide.” And I thought, “I’m going to do in-depth reporting about a very specific part of Route 66 and what it was like to grow up on the world’s most famous two-lane blacktop.”

Where can the public learn more about you and your book?
You can go to, where I do a blog, and you can see more about the pictures of the book there. You can go to, which is where all my artwork is. Between those two things, you’ll get more of Bob Boze Bell than you ever wanted.

— Molly Bilker


Filed under Books, News, Q&A

Save $12.99 on 100 Greatest Photographs Book (Now in Its Third Printing!)

100 greatestWe’re excited to announce that our book 100 Greatest Photographs to Ever Appear in Arizona Highways Magazine is going into its third printing. If you’re looking to get a jump on Christmas shopping, now’s the time!

For a limited time, you can get the book for $27 instead of its normal price of $39.99. Just enter promo code P3M5PB when you order from the Arizona Highways online store.

From Navajo families and a Mohave girl to the splendor of the Grand Canyon and the grasslands of Southern Arizona, the 100 images that appear in the book are the best to have ever been published in Arizona Highways, as chosen by Photo Editor Jeff Kida and Editor Robert Stieve. As Stieve writes, “In my mind, there was no golden era, just decades and decades of spectacular photography — one great shot after another.” This book celebrates those great shots, both old and new, and pays tribute to the men and women who made them.

In addition to ordering from our online store, you can pick up 100 Greatest Photographs to Ever Appear in Arizona Highways Magazine at the Arizona Highways gift shop, which is located at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.


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Celebrate National Trails Day This Saturday

June 2014This Saturday, take a hike. In honor of National Trails Day, the country’s largest celebration of trails, Editor Robert Stieve wanted to share a few of his favorite hikes. We hope you’ll go out and celebrate Mother Nature — just remember to adhere to the Leave No Trace Principles.

Widforss Trail, North Rim
It’s hard to single out the best hike in Arizona. There are too many 10s. That said, a solid case can be made for the Widforss Trail. It’s quiet, the ecosystem is exceedingly diverse, and over your left shoulder you’ll see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The only thing the Widforss doesn’t offer is elevation gain, which is important to hikers who want to burn calories while drinking in the scenery. Still, this is a 10-mile round-tripper, so a few calories will be incinerated. More

Weatherford Trail, Flagstaff
It’s hard to imagine driving a Model T up the slopes of Fremont Peak, but that’s what John Weatherford had in mind in the 1920s when he constructed an eponymous toll road to the upper reaches of the San Francisco Peaks. It was an ambitious undertaking that was ultimately undermined by the Great Depression. Fortunately, he had better luck with his hotel in Flagstaff. Today, the Hotel Weatherford (he liked his name) is still one of the best places to stay, and his toll road, as it turns out, has turned into one of the best trails in Arizona. More

Barbershop Trail, Mogollon Rim
This trail is not marked by red-white-and-blue barber poles. It would be nice if it were, but it’s not. Instead, this is one of those trails that can be hard to follow. Usually, all you have to do in Arizona is get to a trailhead, throw on a backpack and hit the dirt. You couldn’t get lost if you wanted to. This trail is one of the exceptions. More on that later. More

For more hikes, check out our June issue, featuring easy summer hikes, or pick up Robert’s book, Arizona Highways Hiking Guide: 52 of Arizona’s Best Day Hikes for Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall.

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Q&A With Brooke Bessesen, Author of Zachary Z. Packrat Backpacks the Grand Canyon

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.05.05 PMWriting and working with animals are two of Brooke Bessesen’s passions, and she’s found a way to combine them: Using knowledge from her work at the Phoenix Zoo and with conservation research, Bessesen has authored several children’s books. Bessesen spoke with us about her new book, Zachary Z. Packrat Backpacks the Grand Canyon, and how she combines fun with education.

In the book, Zachary learns he can’t take items from the Grand Canyon — an illustration of the Leave No Trace philosophy. Why was it important to make that concept the focus of the book?

I’m a conservationist at heart, and I work in a lot of areas of conservation for wildlife and environment. Anytime somebody goes into nature, I would encourage a “tread lightly” attitude. With Zachary, it was particularly important because he went in with the mission of collecting things. Being the packrat that he was, he was looking to get something from the Canyon as he entered it. I think for a lot of people who are going on vacation, they’re thinking a lot about what they are going to get from their experience. Sometimes we can all become a little self-focused in our own experience as we go out and see the world. I thought it was a very important and valuable element to include in the story that as he goes, he begins to see the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and without really realizing it until the end, he’s collecting things that are really more valuable than the stuff he set out to collect.

Why did you structure the book the way you did?

I wanted to build something as interactive as a picture book could be. One page gives descriptions of 16 animals found at the Canyon. All of them are found within the story, and none of them is identified, other than the mule. I just gave descriptions of the animals so that the kids would have to go look them up. It requires the readers, as they see an animal, to ask the same question they would ask if they were in the wild, which is “What is that?” And then they can go to their guidebook, which is also Zachary’s guidebook, and look that animal up and learn about it. That’s what makes going out in nature so much fun. I thought it was really exciting to find a way to do that for kids in a picture book.

Is it hard to come up with rhymes and still be informative and educational?

My grandfather was a poet, and I spent my summers with him in Minnesota when I was a little girl. He and I did a lot of rhyming games and a lot of wordplay, which is what I call this. So, as you can imagine, the crafting of a book like this is really a puzzle. Each word goes in, it comes out, and it goes back in and gets shuffled around and changed and decided upon again. It’s kind of a long, puzzle-like process to complete the text.

What is your intended audience?

I think all of my books have a thread though them, which is that they are made for multiple reasons and audiences. The book was crafted for somebody who is going to the Canyon — a child, perhaps, who gets to look through the book before they get there or see what they might see if they could hike down. But in addition, I really wanted it to be for kids who never get to the Grand Canyon — for children in classrooms all around the country, and for kids whose parents or grandparents went to the Grand Canyon and can bring them back a sliver of their trip so the child can feel like they got a little bit of the journey. It’s such a joyful thing for me to be able to work with animals, to work with wildlife and then be able to share that through my books, for kids who can relate and have been there and for kids who don’t get that opportunity. This is a window for them.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Filed under Books, Mother Nature, Q&A

Spring Break Is Here. Now Go Do Something.

3631On spring break? Need something to do? Stop by the Arizona Highways gift shop and pick up the Arizona Highways Camping Guide, featuring 100 of the best campgrounds in Arizona, or the Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, which includes 52 of the best day hikes in Arizona.

Hey, while you’re at it, pick up the latest issue of Arizona Highways magazine. In it, you’ll find our Best Restaurants for 2014, plus our Drive and Hike of the Month (oh, and be sure to visit our website for online extras, including recipes from our Best Restaurants!).

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100 Greatest Photographs Book Enters Second Printing

100 greatest

Last year, we released a stunning hardcover book, 100 Greatest Photographs to Ever Appear in Arizona Highways Magazine. The book has sold so well that it’s now in a second printing! So, what are you waiting for? Get your copy today!

From Navajo families and a Mohave girl to the splendor of the Grand Canyon and the grasslands of Southern Arizona, the 100 images that appear in the book are the best to have ever been published in Arizona Highways, as chosen by Photo Editor Jeff Kida and Editor Robert Stieve. As Stieve writes, “In my mind, there was no golden era, just decades and decades of spectacular photography — one great shot after another.” This book celebrates those great shots, both old and new, and pays tribute to the men and women who made them.

You can pick up 100 Greatest Photographs to Ever Appear in Arizona Highways Magazine at your neighborhood Costco or at the Arizona Highways gift shop, which is located at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.


Filed under Books, Photography