While planning the route several months ago, I noticed the town of Hinkley California just 20 miles or so off Route 66. This is the town where so many people had serious health problems in the Erin Brokovich movie. The movie was a true story. So we detoured off Route 66 to Hinkley.
Hinkley is in a flat, dusty area with little more than scrubby desert plants. It looked sad before we ever reached the town to see abandoned and boarded-up homes. We did meet a sweet man there as I was taking a photo of the first landmark we saw – the Hinkley Post Office. Bill Stovall was his name. When I handed him our card and told him we were writing a book, he perked up. He told us that the movie was absolutely true and that Erin Brokovich is indeed a big hero there as she enabled the families to win a $340 million judgment against PG&E. Bill said many families were affected, but he and his family lived on the other side of town, and they had no problems at all. Bill noted that he has some relatives who have lived to be over 100. He did note that two dairies closed after a calf was born with two heads. I started to say goodbye and drive off when Bill asked if I wanted some family background. He then told us: “My grandfather came to the US from England and married a Cherokee Indian princess. I have 57 different kinds of stuff in me.” We were very happy to have bumped into Bill so we could hear his story.
It was an interesting coincidence that we saw Erin Brokovich’s name on the front page of USA Today as we glanced at it as we were checking out of our motel. She is working on another big case involving cancer.