The weather service was calling for a winter storm to move into northern Arizona by Monday evening. They missed the mark by a half day.
|Christmas time in Williams, Arizona|
The interview on AM Arizona, a statewide cable channel broadcast live from Prescott Arizona with Tonya Mock and Lew Rees as hosts, was scheduled for 9:00 AM, which meant we would need to be there by eight to sort through photos and discuss the various aspects of the primary topic – Route 66. From Kingman to Prescott via the soulless interstate highway, is a drive of about 140 miles. Factoring in the fact that the once quiet farming communities of Paulden and Chino Valley have become suburbs linked to Prescott in the morning with an endless stream of brake lights, I figured on two and one half hours of driving time.
As I loaded the Jeep in the predawn darkness, I could sense more than see the heavy clouds that added a distinct hint of dampness to the unseasonably warm morning. In this part of the country, that is almost a sure bet that a winter storm lurks just to the west.
|Winter in Ash Fork, Arizona|
By the time we made Seligman it was light enough to see heavy, low lying clouds on the mountains to the south and to the east. As we rolled south from Ash Fork, a steady drizzle began to fall.
The temperature had taken a notable turn toward the freezing mark by the time we left the studio, but the heavy clouds had lifted a bit and there was even a few hints of blue sky to the northeast. So, I gassed up the Jeep and we made the decision to go with the original plan, a scenic shortcut to Williams via Drake and the Perkinsville Road, about fifty miles of occasionally graded gravel road boarded by stunning views of Arizona back country.
The road had not been graded since the last storm and as a result, as soon as we left the pavement at the big cement plant in Drake, it took on all of the attributes of a wagon road, after a half century of hard use. Still, with the exception of a few mud holes it was dry so we decided to brave the ruts and enjoy the adventure.
Then we came to the fork in the road. Then we noticed that the signs were gone. Then we were faced with two choices – a heavily traveled, rutted dirt track, or a heavily rutted dirt track.
We made our choice and the journey continued, as the clouds on the mountains began to darken and thicken. As it turned out, our choice was the wrong one and the road we had followed ended at a massive Flagstone quarry.
In backtracking the dozen or so miles to the fork, the clouds descended lower and a light mist turned to sleet. So, we decided to use just a touch of common sense and retreat to the highway for the drive to Williams.
The sleet remained light until we topped the grade on I-40, the Ash Fork hill. Then it turned to a light but steady snow and in Williams the streets were thick with slush.
None of this deterred us from enjoying the coffee and wonderful lunch at one of our favorite Route 66 restaurants, the Pine Country. As always the service was excellent, the food superb, and the price quite reasonable.
As the Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit being developed for the Powerhouse Visitor Center calls for presenting the highway in all seasons, and as I just could not bear the thought of a return trip on the interstate, we had decided to catch the old highway at the Crookton Road exit.
|Route 66 east of Seligman|
We had just started up the grade to the Crookton Overpass when we spotted the hapless driver in a battered Olds that had been making snake tracks on the highway and plowing snow with his under carriage. He seemed more than happy to let us pass, and then follow in the tracks of the Jeep.
Then, when we got to Seligman, it really began to snow. The Snow Cap really had a snow cap but if the forecasters were right, and the storm was to continue unabated at least into midday Tuesday, there was a fair bet it would be much deeper soon and more than a few folks would be spending a couple of unplanned days in Seligman.
The snow stayed with us until we made Peach Springs where the change in elevation transformed the curtain of white into a curtain of mist that was only parted by bouts of heavily falling rain. As I write this, the rains continue to fall.
Adventures on Route 66 are never boring. Adventures on Route 66, in Arizona, during the months of winter can be even more exciting, provided you are just crazy enough to believe the weather man, and find pulse pounding excitement in using your vehicle as a sled, a snow plow, or, possibly, a motel room.