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Route 66 Caravan Road Log:
May 08, 2003


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Williams: Grand Canyon Gateway

October 13, 1984 (I wonder if it was a Friday) the last remaining stretch of Route 66 was bypassed by the opening of a six-mile segment of nearby Interstate 40.  But Williams lives on. It is another true Route 66 town. Williams not only survived but also is at the heart of a Route 66 revival. The downtown area has been cleaned up; new streetlights, fresh paint, and sidewalks have brought the town back to life. The community takes pride in its special relationship to the Mother Road and it shows.

Grand Canyon Railroad

Williams Route 66

  Williams was named for one of the most colorful of all Mountain Men, Old Bill Williams. Though it is debated whether he ever was in the area of the town and mountain that bears his name, it is a well known fact that he was "acquainted with every inch of the Far West" as he would have put it. Williams was founded in 1876 and nothing much happened here until the railroad arrived in 1882. In 1901 the Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks from Williams to the Grand Canyon and insured Williams' claim as Gateway to the Grand Canyon.

 

 Old Steam Engine
The Grand Canyon Railroad reopened in the late 1980's, and the beautiful Frey Marcos Harvey House and Depot has been restored to its former grandeur in Williams.

 

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Market

The Grand Canyon, though not on Route 66, has always been a Route 66 attraction. In order to get to the canyon most visitors took Route 66 at one point.

 

The Route 66 Caravan RV at one of the many beautiful overlooks at the South Rim.

 

Route 66 Caravan RV

 

 

 
Grand Canyon Squirrel

Local wildlife even came to check us out.

 
Grand Canyon Vista

 

Route 66 High Country Towns

On the way east from Williams Route 66 passed through some small towns that even today still survive to give the highway wanderer a glimpse of yesteryear.

Parks General Store Parks has had several names in its hundred-year history. And some of those names didn't last very long either. Originally it was called Rhodes when the first post office opened in 1898. That name lasted for all of a day. Someone crossed out Rhodes and scribbled in "Maine" in honor of the famous battleship sunk in Havana Harbor a month earlier. The name stuck.
  The town of Maine was located near the railroad tracks where a boxcar was used as the first depot and post office. The lumber industry provided the economic base for the town with its sawmill. When the first highway came through, the town was relocated two miles east.

A man named Parks opened a new store at the site and began handing out the mail. It was about this time, in 1907, that the U.S. Postal Service realized that the citizens had changed the name of the town from Rhodes to Maine. It only took the post office about ten years, but they finally made Maine the official name of the town. Unfortunately, no sooner had they done this that they found out there was already another Maine in the Territory, so another name had to be found. For want of any better name the post office designated the town as Parks in honor of the storekeeper.

     
 

Pat and Jim
Pat shows Jim some of his old gas pumps at his store.

Pat O'Neill has a dream! He is restoring the old Maurice's Motel-Cafe in Parks. We had the honor of meeting him and getting a guided tour through his place. The old Auto Court was fascinating. Looking at the dusty and neglected structure I could see its faded glory. Once this court had been pretty fancy.
 

I'm looking forward to getting back to Parks and seeing the improvements Pat has made in the future.

Maurice's Motel-Cafe

Route 66 Update: On April 30, 2004 Pat O'Neill passed away. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. The fate of his beloved Auto Court in Parks is now uncertain. As time goes by we lose more and more of Route 66 - first the people and then the structures, uncared for and neglected fade away ... Hopefully Pat's dream will not be a casualty of progress.
     
Bellemont, Arizona has the distinction of being the highest town on old Route 66 with an elevation of 7,130 feet above sea level. The small town of Bellemont was named for Belle Smith, daughter of the superintendent of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, F. W. Smith in 1882. Bellemont began as a RR water stop. During W.W.II the Navaho Army Depot was established here and is still going strong today.

Old Whiting Bros. Cabins at Bellemont

  Whiting Brothers established a gas station and motel in east Bellemont just after W.W.II. They used wood from powder boxes taken from the Navajo Army Depot to build the motel section of their establishment. The ruins of the old Whiting Brothers gas station and motel are slowly returning to the earth; a few more winters and they will be but a pile of rubble.
Route 66 Road House in Bellemont

66 Caravan at the RoadHouse

  Today the Route 66 Roadhouse is located in Bellemont. Though it is a new business it is located right on the old Mother Road. The Roadhouse is decorated with vintage road collectibles and is a pretty hopping place on the weekends. Owner Felix Mansene (center above right picture) was more than happy to show us around. The food is great, but you can't complain to the cook. You see, you cook your own meat over a gas grill! As Felix says, "You burn it, you bought it."

 


West 66
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Go West down the Mother Road

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East 66
Arizona Trading Posts
Go East on the Mother Road

 

 

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