North to Williams, AZ and the FCU Labor Day Rally...


The Trip to

Williams, Arizona

Our VERY FIRST rally! Oh my!
The NW side is growing so fast. It’s a shame in many ways.
Always nice to finally get the first glimpse of the San Francisco know you’re in NoAZ then!
Williams isn’t too far form Flagstaff, so before we knew it we were exiting I-40.
We arrived at the RV Park and settled in for the night...with visions of the Grand Canyon in our heads for the next day!

It was another long, hot and humid month in Tucson, as we impatiently waited for the monsoon season to begin to wind to a close. We hadn’t made a camping trip since we were at Arizona High Country in the White Mountains in July… so we were ready to go, and none too soon.

This was a special trip for us because we were headed to Williams, AZ, about 35 miles west of Flagstaff on I-40, to attend our very first Airstream rally of any kind…and it was a WBCCI rally! (That’s the Wally

Byam Caravan Club International, which is the long-standing

Airstream club)…with the Four Corners Unit of New Mexico

(FCU or 4CU).  Williams was the Unit’s 2008 Labor Day Rally

location. Various members of the Unit had been encouraging us to check them out, so we decided we should do just that. There is an Arizona Unit as well. (“Units” are “chapters” based on geographical locations.) The AZ Unit had contacted us a couple of times after we bought the Bambi...but (among other issues) they couldn’t seem to get our names right in their letters, which is always a turn-off. We were quite sure we didn’t fit the mold for that group. But the 4CU is different. We’d met some of the members through the Airforums and found them to be genuine, welcoming, and happy folks. Our Airstream friends Louis and Sergio

in Phoenix had attended a 4CU Vintage Restoration Rally in

Albuquerque— and had ended up joining (and were also going to this rally)… Our friends Jim and Rod from New Mexico are also new members of 4CU, so we thought we owed it to ourselves and to the 4CU to find out if this is a group for us. So off we went, hoping for a fun time with new friends.

We got out the driveway on Wednesday, 27 August about 10:30 AM and headed north out of Tucson on Oracle Road (Hwy 77). This is a common route for us… a more leisurely trip to the Phoenix area by less busy roads

                     through the desert. As usual, we were astounded at all the

                          new development along the Oracle corridor on the NW

                           side of Tucson… up through Oro Valley bordering

                           the western slopes of the rugged Catalina Mountains. It

                          used to feel like a “longer” trip to Catalina, a small town

                           up the road from Tucson, but now one never really leaves “town” before arriving in Catalina... it no longer seems separate from Tucson’s sprawl.

Once through Catalina, we drove north to the junction with Hwy 79, then northwest on Hwy 79 through Florence where the state prison is, and on up to Hwy 60... the “back door” to the Phoenix Metro area. We really enjoyed the drive up this time of year… it was so green! This is the desert, mind you, so “green” is really appreciated, and never fails to impress. This being the most humid and rainy part of the year, the desert was just screamin’ “green!”  After the years we’ve spent in the desert the different seasons have become very apparent to us, so even though we’ve made this trip again and again, it still seemed fresh and new— the mountains, the cacti, the big sky and big clouds. We were glad we had not taken the time to wash the Bambi for this trip because it was a little overcast and we knew we’d be having rain before long…at least enough to rinse off the desert dust!

Once at Apache Junction, we did our routine of topping off the gas tank, getting back to Hwy 60 and heading west to pick up the 101 Loop north to swing around the east side of Phoenix Metro through Scottsdale and connect with I-17 north of Phoenix proper. Almost immediately after we hit I-17 north we drove through a couple of nice rain showers and thunder storms… Yup, glad we didn’t wash the Bambi!

The rest area at “The Top of the World” as we call it was closed for renovation, as it was our last trip this way… It’s located a the point where you come up out of the Valley of the Sun through the rugged mountain terrain between Phoenix and the southern side Verde Valley…lots of climbing, but a good road. It’s a good place to stop and regroup…but with the rest area closed…we went on.

We descended into the “Big Valley” (Verde River Valley) where the exits for Cordes Junction, Prescott… and a little farther… Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Arcosanti (see our Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Prescott trips for more details on these areas)… and then Sedona, Montezuma’s Well and Castle…all great places to visit. We decided to pull off the highway for a short comfort stop and let the Girls stretch their legs… they are such good little travelers, but they do like to sniff new places and water a lily or two along the way, so…

Soon back on the road, we began to climb up the other side of the Verde Valley toward the western end of the Mogollon Rim leaving

the scrub piñion pine behind for meadows of wild brown-

eyed Susan blossoms framed by stands of ponderosa pine

of the Coconino National Forest… toward Munds Park,

approaching Flagstaff. There is something wonderful

about coming around that last bend and getting the first

glipmse the San Francisco Peaks in the distance above

Flagstaff  (but no snow topping them this time of year).

It’s hard to realize sometimes that this area is still Arizona. If you’ve never been to this part of the state you are in for a real surprise. And talk about “green!”

I-17 meets I-40 at Flagstaff on the southern outskirts of town, so if you need to gas up, you need to go on into Flagstaff and not make the exit from I-17 to I-40. The junction happens quickly, so you don’t really see much of Flagstaff. Before you know it you’re headed west on I-40. We made the transition to I-40 and the skies opened up to welcome us with another rain storm…but that was OK with us…

It’s not far to Williams from Flagstaff… only about 35 miles or so… It’s a pleasant drive through more forested areas occasionally opening up to

                      wide meadows of wild flowers…very pastoral. All of a

                           sudden we were there!  The Rally was to be held at

                            The Canyon Motel & RV Park, which is off the

                             main drag to town (exit 165 off I-40 if traveling west,

                             then south of I-40).  We made decent time at an average

                              speed of 65 mph… it took us about 5 1/2 hours to make

                               the 310 mile drive from Tucson, but it didn’t seem that long. The Park features old railroad cars converted to motel rooms and some charming bungalows for rent as well as the RV park...more on that later.

We arrived on Wednesday, with the Rally not officially starting until Friday. We came up a few days early so we could make the trip to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway, and still not miss any Rally time. We checked into the RV Park which is only 5 minutes from town and the Train Depot…chatted a little with our new neighbors in a 5th wheel toy hauler (with a Mini Cooper that they drive right up into the back of toy hauler !)… We unhitched, hooked up, took the Girls for a walk…then just as it was getting to be dusk, we hopped into the truck and headed to town to get the lay of the land and pick up our Train tickets for the next morning’s adventure. We got to the Depot just before that day’s Train was due into the depot on the return trip…about 6:30 PM… and just as the sun was going behind the western hills.

After we picked up our tickets at the hotel, we watched

the Train arrive, figured out where we needed to be the

next morning to board the Train, and then headed back

to the RV park for the night… We pretty much collapsed

after the day’s drive… we hooked up the cable and settled

in for a “vegging” night. The RV park has WiFi, too, so

we were really “connected.”  Terry didn’t realize they

had WiFi, so he was a very happy camper. Nice surprise. We were the first Airstream to arrive for the Rally.

Click on the slide show icon below to see pictures of the trip up to Williams. After the slide show, click on “The Grand Canyon” for that part of our trip, or you can go to “The Rally” page, our stay at “Pine Grove” after the Rally...or back to the “Introduction” page...  At the bottom of the page is a link to “Other Trips” to go to our main trip page.


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