Friday, April 30, 2010

The End of Route 66

Our RV Park was located near the center of Williams, AZ, a town that is strongly associated with Historic Route 66.

Named for legendary mountain man William “Old Bill” Williams, the town was first settled by sheepherders in 1874. Railroad workers followed in 1880 with the construction of the transcontinental railroad, later called the Santa Fe line.

With the line complete in 1882, Williams grew as a hub of ranching and lumber. Other profitable industries included saloons, opium dens, gambling parlors, and brothels, such as The Red Garter on Williams' historic Saloon Row. [The restored 1897 bordello is now The Red Garter B and B Inn (left)].

All catered to a growing population of cowboys, Chinese laborers, lumberjacks, and copper miners. A general atmosphere of lawlessness helped secure considerable notoriety for Williams and its role in the Wild West.

One of the remnants of the Old West was found in White Horse Trading. Ironically, these holsters also address a present-day need of some customers.

But it was this display of Route 66 memorabilia (below) that touched a notable chord in Williams' history.
Williams would go down in history as being the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed. The original plan was to have the last section of the famous highway bypassed somewhere in Texas, but lawsuits kept the last section of I-40 from being built around Williams. After settlements called for the state to build three exits for the town, the suits were dropped.

In 1984, I-40 was opened around the town and newspapers the next day reported the essential end of the famous US 66. The following year, Route 66 was decommissioned.

But, given the number of souvenirs available at different shops, we could understand the sign at this shop (above): "Addicted to 66 Deals."

Competing with Route 66 items is the American Indian-made jewelry and original art available in shops such as the Turquoise Tepee (above).

Cruiser's Cafe 66's setting and rooftop auto certainly raised our curiosity about the restaurant, but we had just finished breakfast and were not looking for eateries.

We passed the Grand Canyon Hotel, and below the "Vacancy" sign was another sign that read "$3.50--Up." We didn't learn when the price amount was added to the sign, but obviously sometime during the time between 1891 and the present day, this must have been a reasonable amount worth proclaiming.

Although claiming to be the oldest hotel in Arizona, the Grand Canyon Hotel closed in 1970 and sat empty for 35 years. Nevertheless, it is a classic that was reborn by the Fredricksons in 2005.

When we came upon The Red Raven Restaurant next door to the Hotel, we wished we had more time in Williams.

And then there is the World Famous Sultana Bar (its big claim to fame is that it holds the state's longest continuous liquor license) and the World Famous Sultana Theater.

But my memory of Williams (pop. 3000) will be the owner of the Chevron station who was devoted to customer service. I began to wash my windshield and found the owner on the other side of the truck working on the windshield. This unusual assistance led to a discussion of customer service that was refreshing--service reminiscent of the days when "The Mother Road" was THE highway.

No comments: