West 2018: Williams Arizona

Joe & Ginger Watkins, Rita & Ron Hopper on Grand Canyon Railway

* This is my account of our trip to Arizona and California with Ron and Rita Hopper. As always I do not claim to be a tour guide, I am just writing my version of our experiences; what we did, where we went, and the places we visited. I do not attempt to go into detail about touristy things or the National Parks we visited. Nor do I try to be a food critique of the restaurants where we ate.  Instead I have added links throughout the travel log so the reader can click if he/she wants to learn more about a particular place. Hope you enjoy the story.

Day 1, Wed. May 9:  Frontier flight out of Greater Cincinnati Airport 8:50 am. We took Lyft – an Uber competitor –  to airport. Hoppers used Uber.  Uneventful flight in a full plane, straight through to Phoenix.  We picked up our Budget rental car – a new Chevy Tahoe.  Got out of the city, heading north on I-17 toward Flagstaff by noon. 103 degrees outside. We stopped at a little place hidden behind a gas station, called the Backyard Diner which turned out to be a gem in the desert. There were a lot of 50s and 60s paraphernalia throughout the small restaurant. Black and white photos of James Dean, Elvis and several old movie posters on the walls, and an old fashioned lunch counter complete with vinyl covered swivel stools set the mood. We sat at a red Formica table for our lunch of burgers, fries and strawberry shakes. We did not just have lunch but had an experience that sent us back to a time we barely remember.

2 pm, 93 degrees.  Brown mountains on both sides of the road with small scrub trees and bushes dotting the desert landscape. As we get closer to Flagstaff the scenery is beginning to change.   Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines on both sides of the highway now and a large blue gray mountain range ahead.  Temperature continuing to drop. 3 pm and 82 degrees.

Grand Canyon Hotel, Route 66 Williams, AZ
Grand Canyon Hotel, Route 66 Williams, AZ

Around 4 pm Mountain Time we checked into the Grand Canyon Hotel on old US 66, right in the heart of Williams, the oldest operating hotel in Arizona, built in 1891. We’re in room 5, Rita and Ron in 12.  We were able to look into the other rooms, which were open and unoccupied. One had a queen bed, a small dresser, a green satin settee and an old claw foot tub in an ancient looking bathroom. Another had an armoire (if you are from Kentucky you would call it a chifforobe). But most of the rooms have no bathroom; the occupants must use the facilities in the hall, behind a door labeled, WC – Water Closet.  Obviously the owners want to keep their guests feeling like they are in the 19th century, as none of the rooms have TVs either. (One concession, we do have WiFi.)

Our room is called Mexico (not all the rooms have names). It is very small with a full size bed, a Mexican flag and, of course, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her image hangs in the bathroom that is not much bigger than a closet, which, by the way, we do not have. Nor do we have any piece of furniture, other than the bed and one chair. But we do have a small AC in the one tiny window which looks out at the back of another building. None-the-less we were excited to be here.

route-66-wall1.jpg

We took a walk down Main Street which is old US 66, taking photos along the way. Joe posted a pic of himself in his Campbell Family Reunion T-shirt under a US 66 shield and wrote “Get Your Kicks on Route 66 in your Campbell Reunion Tee” on our Campbell Family Facebook page. We browsed several of the many shops, that sell a plethora of artsy, crafty, and unique Amercain Southwest trinkets, clothing, hats, lawn art, etcetera…..  We stopped at the visitor’s center where we learned that we could pick up our pre-paid train tickets tonight at the Grand Canyon Train Station before they closed. So we walked a few blocks to the station where Joe used the email confirmation on his iPhone to get our tickets for tomorrow’s train ride.  Then we walked another block to the Circle K and got some water and snacks for the night. We weren’t hungry enough to eat dinner at one of the many restaurants, still full from our meal at the desert diner.

Back at the hotel, we sat in the lobby for a bit, relaxing on an old fashioned Victorian style over stuffed sofa. The front desk is more like a general store counter that is barely manned. We love the ambiance of this old place. We headed to our rooms early as we were all exhausted. Been up since 5 am Kentucky time.  Joe watched a show on Netflix using the iPad. I browsed the web and FB. Then we read until we were sleepy. When we closed our eyes to sleep, it was still light outside.

Read Next Post May 10, Grand Canyon

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