It’s funny how one thinks of the destination and often forgets to enjoy the journey, especially when it’s been a habitual route for so long. Life in general can get that way. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective. And it can be the discovery and adventure right under your nose. Enter the DAY TRIP…
For the past several years, my husband and I have been driving on Interstate 40 in Arizona and flying past communities that were once vibrant and full of life on Historic Route 66. Whether our trip took us to Las Vegas, California or even Flagstaff, we would blow by these little towns off the long stretch of interstate. This day we decided to spend the day discovering one of these little towns as a tourist and enjoying the journey as an explorer…in Williams, Arizona. Less than an hour away from our backyard.
The back desert roads we take allow us to fully experience the changing topography of Northern Arizona. The high desert with the low shrubs of the creosote bushes and cacti soon turn into blooming juniper trees and eventually sweet smelling, tall ponderosa pines.
This beautiful drive makes us question why we don’t venture out off the highway more often and take that road less traveled.
We arrive in the town of Williams from the south with Bill Williams Mountain to the west of us. Both the mountain and the town were named after “Old Bill” Williams, an explorer and trader in the early 1800’s who was known to have befriended many Native American tribes. Our road drops us directly onto “The Mother Road”– Route 66– the very road that was one of the original highways that served as the main artery from the Midwest city of Chicago, Illinois to the west coast city of Santa Monica, California. This historic highway is a part of America’s soul, as it represents our love affair with the automobile and moving west in search of wide open spaces.Old town Williams is situated right on the historic Route 66. October 13, 1984 it became the last town on historic Route 66 to be bypassed by the freeway. Williams is considered to be the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon” and is home to the Grand Canyon Railway. The streets are brimming with smiling tourists taking pictures and speaking an array of different languages (my French speaking husband identified a group of French visitors immediately!). It’s a proud little reminder of how our beautiful state is visited by so many.
An eclectic mix of the Old West is combined with the nostalgia of the heydays of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We find old saloons, Wild West steak houses and western outfitter shops right alongside 50’s diner fare and an homage to Elvis Presley.
We step into each souvenir shop thumbing through the Route 66 key chains and t-shirts. We enjoy the aroma of smoked pork and chuckle at the quirky tin signs while listening to the 50’s classic, Rock Around the Clock. Today, we are tourists soaking up the culture. After meandering the streets of Old Town, we decide to eat at an Italian eatery. The juxtaposition of the retro red and white Texaco gas pumps with the contemporary metal Bistro sign lures us in.
Inside this 100 year old building, we find a very hip urban industrial styled restaurant with local brews and local wines. The Carbonara Pizza we order is utterly delicious with its wood fired thin crust and toppings of crispy pancetta, loads of mozzarella and a very Euro addition of an egg on top. Our day trip culminates with our discovery of a wine tasting room located right next door to our bistro. Our reception at the Grand Canyon Winery tasting room is warm and inviting and immediately feel the small town charm. The decor is smart and trendy. Wines are written on oversized chalkboards and the walls are decorated with various modes of transportation from bicycles to airplanes to convey their label’s tagline of “Travel Far. Drink Local.” A perfect fit for this tourist town keeping to its roots.
The tasting room has an assortment of Arizona wines in addition to their own label. We taste several varietals- a light and fruity red blend of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah; a rosé that can hold its own against any Provence rosé; and my personal favorite-The Voyager-a full bodied red blend with hints of cocoa and berries. Grapes grown in Arizona, bottled in Arizona, sold in Arizona…now that’s sustainability!The wind is picking up so I put on my new Route 66 sweatshirt and we make our way out of town. Today we are reminded that sometimes in life all we need to do is take a different “route” and look at things through the eyes of another to feel enlightened and refreshed. And often times it’s just about a little tweaking here and there. Like a backroads drive to lunch.
“Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.” – Louis L’Amour
Linking with Oh. The Places I’ve Been!