As we left Seligman, Arizona, having finally had a taste of the Route 66 experience we were looking for, we were now heading east on the I-40, and it was coming up on 7 PM in the evening. We were about 30 minutes from Williams which is due south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon, and an hour east of Flagstaff, which had tentatively been our original destination for the night. All we really knew about Williams was that there was a Grand Canyon train that one could take from there, but we hadn’t really looked into Williams in our pre-planning, as we had been more or less focused on Flagstaff.
It had been a long day and we were tired, so we decided we’d cruise through Williams once we got there, and if we saw a hotel we were comfortable staying in, we’d crash there for a couple of nights. As usual, Mary was driving so it gave me an extra few moments to look at the map and think about the next day’s outing. I realized that since we were coming from west to east, a stop-over in Williams made way more sense than going across to Flagstaff and having to almost circle back toward the Grand Canyon. I started silently hoping that Williams would work out for us.
It was dusk when we arrived in Williams, and as darkness set in, we took one pass of the main street (another short stretch of the original Route 66 as it turned out), and we spotted a Best Western Hotel that looked just fine to us. Fortunately for us, they had a vacancy, so we booked ourselves in for two nights, dropped off our bags, and set out to find some dinner.
During that first pass down Main Street, we had noticed a lot of great 50’s style neon lights on old hotels, restaurants, and a number of the retail shops that were scattered from one end of town to the other. We thought that it looked pretty cool and while we wanted to take the time to park the car and stroll around, we were really hungry, so getting some food in our bellies was our primary focus.
After two passes by all the available food options in town (it takes about 3 minutes to go from one end of town to the other), we settled on the Pine Country Restaurant, as there were a lot of people inside (always a good sign), and as we looked in the window, we saw the most amazing selection of pies. Of course they were calling our names out loud, although I have no idea how they knew I was Lemon Meringue Stanger.
The food was simple and good (chicken breast, mashed potatos and vegetables), but they were just the preliminaries we had to deal with before we could order desert. The pie was amazing, although I had to overcome the fact that they had sold the last piece of Lemon Meringue Pie before I was finished my dinner. I managed to find a more than suitable make-good though. Cookies and cream mud pie and it was “to die for”.
We walked back to the Jeep and briefly considered a short stroll to walk off dinner, but the temperature was minus 1 celsius, and there was a steady cold wind blowing through town. We decided we would check out Main Street a little bit later in our stay in town.
When we got back to the hotel, the night manager gently tried to talk us into taking a $149 dollar (per person) guided tour with Canyon Dave’s (there are many other tour companies, but this one was her chosen favorite), but we politely declined as we wanted the freedom to do and see what we wanted to do, on our time, and on our own terms. Besides which, for the most part we are really, really good at planning and researching the things we want to see, and weren’t convinced that the money would be well spent. That is not to say a tour wouldn’t be right for someone else, but we were quite comfortable with the notion of striking out on our own.
We also decided to pass on the train trip, as we found out that the route it took, basically paralleled the highway we would be driving from Williams to the Grand Canyon and back. Again, we opted for the freedom of coming and going when we wanted to, as opposed to being tied down to a train schedule.
We were up early on Friday morning (March 14th), and we were on our way to the Grand Canyon before 8 AM – well before the train would have left the station, and a full hour before the tour would have picked us up at our hotel.
Our day at the Grand Canyon was amazing and it deserves and will get a separate post of it’s own.
We got back to Williams around 7:45 PM (it is a one hour drive each way from Williams to the south rim entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park), and on our second night in town, we ate at the Station 66 Italian Bistro right across the street from the Pine Country Restaurant. Given that it was a Friday night, it was packed with locals as well as tourists, but we managed to grab a table and have another excellent meal.
By the time we were finished dinner it was well after 9 PM so once again it was too late for a stroll down main street to check out the stores; they were closed and it was cold!
On Saturday morning, we were up early, packed and ready to go as this was the day we were heading to our condo in Scottsdale. But before we left Williams, we finally took that stroll along Main Street, and we enjoyed it immensely. There was a wide variety of Route 66, Wild West, and Grand Canyon related souvenirs and memorabilia, and the shopkeepers we were encountered were super-friendly. We also took the opportunity to take some pictures of some of the more historic and iconic buildings and signs along the way, including my favorite, the steer on the roof of Rod’s Steak House, a neon-lit landmark that has been attracting patrons and tourists from his roof top perch since 1946.