The original plan was to meet two good friends, Mike, an auto body repairman, itinerant preacher, and modern day mountain man, Hugh, a commercial loan officer for Chase Bank and man of many diverse talents, and their family in the woods south of Williams, Arizona, for a weekend camp out. As so often turns out things didn’t go according to plan.
When these things happen there are two choices. Get angry that the world refused to conform to your needs, wants, and schedule or roll with the punches and look forward to the surprises.
This weekends plans were rearranged courtesy of a very unusual late spring storm, work issues, and family obligations. None of these was on the schedule of events but all had an up side and we, my wife and I, still had a delightful day with friends that went better than we had planned.
One week ago we were experiencing record heat with temperatures exceeding one hundred degrees. This weekend we had record cold, temperatures in the forties, with snow in the high country.
My son was moving to his new house and as we were rained out several evenings this left Saturday afternoon. This was pushed later into the afternoon with some last minute problems at work.
All of this resulted in running out of time to get new tires for the old wagon. I thought of taking Barney as there is almost five miles of dirt road between Williams and Dog Town Lake and it had been snowing and raining in the high country for almost a week.
The cost of fuel, $3.79 here in Kingman, and less than 14 miles per gallon negated that idea. That left plan “B”, a rental car from the office.
As it turned out this worked best. The days delay meant the storm had moved on, the temperatures were warmer (near sixty in the mountains), the roads almost dried out, and the savings in fuel costs more than paid for the rental car.
We pulled out early Sunday morning and for a change of pace took I40 rather than Route 66. An interesting thought came to mind as I endured the race track/demolition derby of the modern highway – there is but one major difference between Route 66 and the old two lane highways and the modern interstate. The interstate has no soul.
Williams is a place I have always enjoyed. It is a time capsule peek at what travel on Route 66 was like before you could make the trip between Los Angeles and Chicago without ever seeing a stop light. It has vitality and it has an historic district filled with an array of architectural styles that span more than a century. Additionally, the surrounding scenery is so different from that of Kingman even a day visit can seem like a vacation.
By nature I relate to the mountain man and prospector of the old west with their love for the solitude of the deserts and mountains. However, there are times when being caught up in a crowd of folks just out having fun with friends and families that lightens the mood. It also helps keep me from becoming so narrow minded I can look down a beer bottle with both eyes and so ornery they have to tie meat around my neck so the dog will play with me.
As usual the streets of Williams was packed with all manner of vehicles presenting an opportunity to experience the traffic of downtown Los Angeles though the drive through town is only a few blocks. In addition to the general crush of Route 66 fans this was the weekend for the annual mountain man reunion, a tribute to men like Bill Williams, name sake for the community, and many of the side streets were closed for vendors.
Adding to this eclectic atmosphere was a large contingent of European motorcycle owners on a Route 66 tour, tourists with rented motor homes who seemed oblivious to fuel prices, and a small contingent of vintage Ford owners headed for Sedona. The result was a fun filled, carnival like atmosphere.
In spite of the crowds we were able to get a seat at our favorite eatery, the Pine Country Restaurant without a wait. Surrounded by the stunning artistic work of Frank Lucas and a buzz of excitement expressed in a dozen languages we had a front row seat for the circus out side.
We had a plate of French toast, a cup of excellent coffee, and as usual we soon forgot there was anyone else around as we talked and laughed. Its days like this that have me looking forward to the next fifty years and praising the Lord we weathered the storms of life rather than pulling the plug when times got tough or we stepped on each others toes.
After breakfast we poked our head in a few shops and jostled with the gawking tourists. In a quaint children’s shop Judy bought Hugh a children’s book, Who Pooped In The Park, that introduced kids to reading sign when tracking.
Next we stopped at Safeway, stocked up on few things like salsa and spearmint tea, and headed south on Fourth Street, the Perkinsville Road. In the blink of an eye the crowds were behind us, the new developments that are changing the face of the surrounding mountains, were screened by the towering pines and with the exception of folks tearing up and down the road with their four wheelers we were surrounded by the sounds of the forest.
The visit with Hugh, Mike, and their families was a delightful one. Hugh had his guitar, their kids had the run of the forest, Mike had full command of the grill and temperatures were perfect for enjoying a small fire.
The conversation was a lively and spirited one that centered around the uncertainty of the times, the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday, and how richly blessed we were with our families, our jobs, and our friendship. The visit went far to quickly and soon it was time for my wife and I to head home.
For the return trip we caught Route 66 at the Crookton Road exit west of Ashfork and made several failed attempts to capture prairie dogs and long horned cattle with the camera. Apparently our efforts provided comic relief for the wild life in the Aubrey Valley as we could here the prairie dogs all around us and though it may have been my imagination or the wind it seemed like they were laughing.
All in all it was a near perfect day, the kind that is remembered fondly for years to come.