SW National Parks Trip: Williams and a Drive

After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we spent another night in Williams, Arizona.  We got up early the next morning, because we had a long drive ahead of us.  The day had come to make our way back to California for Jon’s cousin’s wedding.  Marina del Ray, to be exact.  Jon was concerned that if we didn’t get an early start, we would end up in Los Angeles during rush hour traffic.  And if you have read this blog for long, you know that Jon and traffic don’t mix well.

I hadn’t had a chance to see much of Williams though, except for a quick drive by the night before.  So I convinced Jon that I would get out of the hotel a little earlier than he wanted, if we could drive downtown and I could have 20 minutes to wander around and take photos.  We struck a deal.  If we were out of the hotel by 6:30, I could have the 20 minutes while Jon filled the car with gas and drove by the coffee stand to get us a little perk-up.

The Gateway to Williams, Arizona

The Gateway to Williams, Arizona

Williams was founded in 1881, and currently has a population of about 3,000 residents.  Williams was located on Route 66, and contains the last section of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40, in 1984.  Of course, I-40 passes right outside of town, so it didn’t have a huge impact on the economy.

Williams, Arizona and Route 66 – I love the Turquoise Tepee!

Williams, Arizona and Route 66 – I love the Turquoise Tepee!

The historic downtown core is 6 blocks long, and has several souvenir shops, restaurants, a wine tasting room and a historic hotel.  There are lots of Route 66 signs, and several historic neon signs from days gone by.  It is wonderfully maintained, and was a treat to spend a few moments wandering around with my camera in the still of the early morning.  I would love to go back and spend more time there.

Williams, Arizona Storefronts

Williams, Arizona Storefronts

Smokey the Bear has a presence in Williams, Arizona

Smokey the Bear has a presence in Williams, Arizona

The Grand Canyon Winery – I would have liked to check it out!

The Grand Canyon Winery – I would have liked to check it out!

Jon came back to get me after his errands, and we headed west on our way back to California.  The drive was long (more than 6 hours), but most of it was very easy, with very light traffic.  It was bittersweet as well, because we knew that although we were heading towards family and a fun occasion, it also meant the end of a fantastic, whirlwind tour of some really amazing parks.  I did finally get to see some pronghorn though!  There were a couple walking in a field near the road.  The picture isn’t fantastic at all – it is hard to take pictures of wildlife when you are driving by at 70+ miles per hour!  But I think you can tell that they are pronghorn.

Pronghorn! You can tell they are pronghorn, right?

Pronghorn! You can tell they are pronghorn, right?

The only hiccup was when our GPS unit finally pooped out and would navigate no more.  As we were heading into Los Angeles, we knew we would need some directions.  My Dad was kind enough to map our route and read it to me over the phone as we cruised through the Mojave Desert.

After hours of driving, and some traffic backups at the end, we finally pulled into the ritzy Marriott in Marina del Rey.  Valet parking only…  I don’t know what they thought of us…  We hadn’t showered, we were wearing hats and dusty hiking shoes, driving a subcompact car with dust everywhere and clumps of red clay mud clinging to the mudflaps and the undercarriage.  A memorable moment for sure!

Our vacation was winding down – but not before spending time with lots of family!




8 thoughts on “SW National Parks Trip: Williams and a Drive

  1. Love the photos of Wililams — looks so quaint and charming. I remember staying there on trips to the Grant Canyon with my family when I was a child, but nothing else about it. Definitely will have to make an extra effort to see it.

    Yes, the Ritz Carlton valet in your muddy road trip car is a fun image.

    • Williams is quite small, so as long as you are traveling along I-40 you will be right there. Our issue was that with the ambitious timing of our trip, we ended up mostly being in towns only in the dark, after everything closed. Or in this case, before anything opened. I would love to go again someday, on the same route, adding in more “to-dos”, on a much more leisurely schedule.

      Jon and I still laugh about the car and the valet! Our little muddy subcompact in a sea of fancy cars!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it all! And I hope that you get to do your own trip soon! It was a blast. And reasonably priced too, as we stayed mostly in budget motels and the National Parks are so inexpensive – even more when you have the Annual Pass!

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