Day 4: Seligman to Williams - Indian Country part two, 2018 - CycleBlaze

May 12, 2018

Day 4: Seligman to Williams

Today will be a schizophrenic day. The first half of the day is on Historic Route 66 with no traffic. The second half of the day is on busy I-40 with nearly continuous mountain climbing.

Breakfast was at Lilo's across the highway. Run by a German lady. The Roadkill Cafe sign says Breakfast Lunch Dinner but they were closed on a Saturday morning. On the road at 7:45. Lots of climbing today.

East of Seligman I could once again see the old alignment of Route 66. In one area there was no fence between the old and new roads, so I finally got to walk on the 1930's Route 66 roadway. The photo shows that the new road has a wider and deeper cut when crossing the hill.

This was the only place I was able to walk onto the old Route 66.
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Today the southwest wind is not so annoyingly strong. The weather is now a bit cooler than normal and I'm at the highest elevation of the tour. Above 6000 feet for the next 4 days. I wore tights all day. High of 72F.

Trains are a nearly constant companion.
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Once again I had frequent views of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. It might not be as famous as Route 66 but the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad has its own storied place in American history and culture. Largely thanks to a pop song about the railroad sung by Judy Garland in the 1946 film The Harvey Girls.

The theme is the same whether it's the railroad or highway. It's always about the romantic notion of traveling west to start a new life in a strange exotic paradise.

The Harvey Girls and the Fred Harvey Company are also an interesting story. The company built facilities that transformed the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad into a vehicle for mass tourism. The company still exists now under the bland name Xanterra Parks and Resorts.

I stopped to look at an old Route 66 bridge. Very close to the new bridge that crosses the double railroad track. Here the old road was removed at both ends of the bridge. Reclaimed by desert.

Old Route 66 bridge probably built in the 1930's. This part of Route 66 has few bridges.
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Historic Route 66 has no traffic east of Seligman. All the traffic is 2 miles south on I-40. Very quiet, peaceful. Just me and the trains.

No shoulder, no traffic. Old alignment partially visible on the left.
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East of Seligman Route 66 gently climbs 600 feet to a forested summit. Then a similar size descent to grassy desert.

This sign was a rare sight.
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I could see I-40 3 miles before Historic Route 66 ended. This is the end of the good part of Route 66.

Oh no! Historic Route 66 ends. Now I must ride on I-40.
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The first segment on I-40 was fine. Relatively flat for 6 miles to the Ash Fork exit. Wide open views.

I-40 looking east towards Williams. Sadly, about half of Bicycle Route 66 looks like this.
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I pedaled on Historic Route 66 once again for 2 miles through Ash Fork. Surprisingly, Ash Fork seems to have little interest in promoting Route 66. The town is all about flagstone production and doesn't promote tourism.

Ash Fork doesn't seem to care about Route 66.
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Many buildings in Ash Fork are built with local flagstone.
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After Ash Fork the old road merges with I-40 once again. Now I must ride 15 more miles on I-40 to Williams. A big slow mountain climb.

Climbing on I-40. Still a decent shoulder before the construction started.
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I-40 was not the highlight of the trip, especially the upper half of the climb when construction started. Suddenly 3 traffic lanes plus a 10-foot shoulder became one substandard width traffic lane with a 4-foot shoulder. For miles, the narrow corridor was lined with a concrete construction barrier on the left and a guard rail on the right. Trucks squeezed by 2 feet away. No escape if anything goes wrong.

Forest and big mountains ahead.
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Pines appeared above 6200 feet elevation. In the middle of the high-stress construction zone I exited onto a gravel forest road and pedaled 1/4 mile away from the traffic noise. I admired the tall pines for a few minutes, then went back to the construction zone and continued climbing.

I exited onto this beautiful forest road to escape the I-40 traffic for a few minutes.
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It was a huge relief to exit onto Historic Route 66 in Williams. No more construction. No more trucks. No more climbing. Williams is 6762 feet (2049 m) elevation.

Exiting I-40 for good.
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This is my first time to visit Williams. I knew it was a major tourist town, but I'm impressed. It's a multi-faceted tourist attraction. Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad history. Grand Canyon Railway history. Route 66 history. A refreshingly cool pine-forested escape from the Arizona desert. Gateway to Grand Canyon National Park.

Williams has many outstanding Route 66 themed businesses.
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I had fun looking around Williams and taking photos. It seems to be a thriving tourist town.

Route 66 in downtown Williams.
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Williams has many modern chain motels but I have a reservation to stay at Arizona's oldest hotel. The Grand Canyon Hotel in Williams opened in 1892 to serve wealthy tourists who arrived by train, then traveled to the Grand Canyon by stagecoach. Their business grew when the Grand Canyon Railway spur line was completed in 1901.

I'm staying at Grand Canyon Hotel. It opened in 1892, the oldest hotel in Arizona.
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My room was $89, with private bath. They also have cheaper shared bath rooms. When checking in I was given the choice of 3 rooms. I chose the Boudoir because the window hadn't been baking in the sun all afternoon.

Lobby of the Grand Canyon Hotel in Williams.
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The Boudoir has a radically different vibe than last night's Route 66 themed room in Seligman. The Boudoir has pale pink walls with 9 framed Varga pinup calendar drawings.

The Boudoir has pale pink walls decorated with Varga pinup calendar drawings.
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Every room at the Grand Canyon hotel has a name and a unique personality. The un-rented rooms are left open and unlocked. It was fun to look at the rooms.

Williams, Arizona sidewalk.
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I had dinner across the street at Station 66 Italian Bistro. Possibly the best dinner of the trip. Restaurants are always very good in towns that cater to wealthy tourists.

Williams was a great place to end my 4-day Route 66 adventure.
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It was chilly after dark. I'm no longer in the desert.

Williams is a great place to get a final dose of Route 66. I enjoyed Route 66 but four days is enough to satisfy my curiosity. It's time to move on...

Distance: 44.1 mi. (70.6 km)
Ascent/Descent: +3361/-1850 ft. (+1018/-561 m)
Average Speed: 7.0 mph (11.2 km/h)

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 172 miles (277 km)

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