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Arizona HOG Rally 2012 Rocks Williams, Arizona

Knockout Roads, Retro Rules, and Route 66

By J. JOSHUA PLACA
8/13/2012


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The annual Arizona HOG Rally recently returned to the historic mountain settlement of Williams. The event moved around the state from year to year, but Williams is a HOG favorite, having returned to this northern Arizona town for a record tenth time.



Founded in 1881 as a trapping and logging camp, Williams is named after one of the town’s wooly settlers, mountain man Bill Williams. Riding by its handmade brick and clapboard buildings, it’s easy to get the feeling Norman Rockwell might be hanging around, leaning up against an oily Flathead, waiting for the next staged western shootout, admiring the period architecture, maybe planting his easel on the corner of Third and Main, more popularly known as Route 66.



Roughly 500 HOG members representing 13 Chapters statewide rode into this well-preserved piece of old west Americana to suckle on the tar teat of the Mother Road. According to a spokeswoman for the Williams Chamber of Commerce, “I think HOG likes our small town hospitality, and bikers are very welcome here. They also like being on Historic Route 66, the motorcycle-only designated parking throughout downtown, and, of course, all the great rides. We roll out the red carpet and they pretty much have the run of the town.”




When many motorcycle rallies across the nation are finding their host cities less and less hospitable, Williams is a home away from home. The town is helpful and authentic; there is a laid back and intimate feel that makes a biker feel at ease. There is this creeping greed elsewhere, where enthusiasts are too often treated like nothing more than commercial revenue and traffic ticket fodder. This old boomtown, population 3,200, about 3 ½ hours northwest of Phoenix and 30-minutes west of Flagstaff, appears to understand motorcycling is made of people.





Williams was the last town in America to submit to the interstate bypass. It stubbornly fought the highway, relenting only when the feds agreed to provide no less than three exits to the tiny town. Seems like there’s no better place to hold a biker rally than this rebel outpost. Harley’s classically styled motorcycles couldn’t be more at home, or in a better place to ride away from.



The Grand Canyon is less than an hour’s ride north of town. Within one- to two-hour rides from Williams, which is flanked by the biggest ponderosa pine forest in the nation, is the perky college town of Flagstaff, spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, the red rock wonderlands of Sedona, and the old copper boomtown of Jerome. Further northeast is Monument Valley and the great Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Native American reservation. The haunting Petrified Forest and parts of the vast Painted Desert can be reached in less than three hours. If Williams has the will and facility, it has the makings to become another Sturgis.



At an elevation of 6,800, June in this mountain town offers almost ideal biker conditions. Temps were in the 80s with low humidity and a soft breeze that sometimes picked up to a bluster. The event celebrated Arizona’s centennial by giving away free bags of commemorative swag during the bike games. There was also a free poker walk, guided and self-guided tours, a poker run, bike show, street dance, and a stirring bike parade that could bring a tear to the most grizzled eye. Wild Bill Hickok himself would have felt right at home here, thrown down his bedroll, played a little faro, and maybe sought a more charmed end.























Bobcats, Bikers and Bears...

Oh my. There is an unexpected, 158-acre wildlife park just east of downtown Williams. Bikers are heartily welcomed, and if you go they may even make you an exhibit. Bearizona is a drive-through wild animal preserve, featuring not only black bears but arctic and tundra wolves, American bison, white buffalo, burros, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and Dall sheep.

Motorcycles are dissuaded from the wild animal drive-through portion since the inhabitants have a strictly controlled diet and don’t digest leather very well. A courtesy car and GPS audio tour is provided free of charge. The drive takes about 30 minutes, although there is no time limit.



The road leads to a posse of black bears of various cuddly sizes and ages, although we’re often reminded to not hug the fluffy, man-eating wildlife. Fort Bearizona looms as the road exits through a large, gaping gate, leaving us to wonder what, exactly, is keeping the bears from the nearby concession stands.



Inside the wide-open Fort Bearisona, large pens contain bobcat, lynx, raccoon, porcupines, a barn animal area, and other forest creatures indigenous to North America, including the star of the show, cute little baby bears. A Birds of Prey show is presented at 11, 1 and 3 p.m. daily and is a treat.

Couldn't leave out the hogs.
Couldn't leave out the hogs.





Bearizona is open everyday from 8:00 a.m.; last vehicle admitted at 6:00 p.m. Closing hours vary with season and weather. Adults cost $20; seniors 62 and older, $18. For more information, call 928-635-2289; visit www.bearizona.com.






The Arizona HOG Rally will be reconvene in Yuma next October 24-26. For more information, contact Nick Feldaverd, Rally Coordinator, email nfeld@cox.net; call 602.206.1940; www.azstatehogrally.com.




For more on Williams, AZ visit www.experiencewilliams.com.






Sleeping In



The Sheridan House Bed & Breakfast
460 East Sheridan Ave.
Williams, AZ 86046
928-635-8991

www.grandcanyonbedandbreakfast.com



I find when it comes to B&B’s, what they are not is as important as what they are. The Sheridan House Inn is not rife with Grandma’s fussy doilies and bric-a-brac. It strikes a balance between an inviting, come-and-have-fun vibe and serene environs snuggled in between the cool, towering pines. The suites offer a tidy, restful, minimalist décor. The luxury touches leaves one feeling pampered—unparalleled coziness of their pillows, and Elemis bath and body products that put their dewy kisses upon road and wind-weary tresses and parched skin.



Motorcyclists Claire and Nick Kirby are the vivacious proprietors. They seem to have been born to the task of cultivating an inn, but we were surprised to learn they’re new to the gig. The affable Kirbys hail from the U.K. and lucky for Williams, a post-9/11 officious bureaucracy didn’t thwart the pioneering spirit that landed them on the frontiers of northern Arizona. Their once run-down property is now resplendent in extensive renovations, artful taste, and fresh zeal under their ownership. The Brit visionaries have innovative ideas to further develop the grounds, and offer special packages to man and biker alike.



We arrived to what I can only describe as the “happiest” of happy hours, delightfully hosted by the Kirbys each Friday and Saturday. We saw a passel of buffed Harleys in the driveway, and knew it was time to put the keys away. With a toast to the Grand Canyon Brewing Co., our host’s delicious homemade chorizo nuggets, and the attending fellow riders, we pronounced Sheridan House our new hideout.



Breakfast on the patio is a selection of sweet and savory offerings made on premises. Their handmade, secret recipe Lincolnshire Sausages, a Lemon Chiffon confection, Sweetened Mascarpone Cheese with Fresh Berries and the regional Huevos Rancheros were outstanding.



Sheridan House puts you up into the quieter residential area, but just a quick ride down the hill into downtown and all the rally action. See their website and Facebook page for more details.




Dining Out

Considering the cut of our Baby Boomer relaxed jeans, it’s easy to see we have husky appetites. Here are a couple of places that won’t disappoint:

World Famous Rod’s Steakhouse
301 East Route 66
Williams, AZ 86046
928-635-2671

www.rods-steakhouse.com




Rod’s Steakhouse is an icon, a surviving monument to Historic Route 66. The blazing Hereford cow sign is a beacon to the lost and hungry.


As you dip another shrimp in cocktail sauce, take in all the country kitsch—dishware accented by the sturdy bovine, paper cow cookie-cutter logo menu, and tell-all placemat detailing the rich history of the eatery. For the duration of the rally and maybe beyond, staffers dress in H-D regalia. No surprise the owners have been HOG affiliated for more than 20 years.



The present owners are Lawrence and Stella Sanchez. The missus has a warm smile for the customers and puts her love into the house specialties, such as Pasole, a nurturing elixir of exquisitely spiced pork and hominy soup. Her husband rose through the ranks in true American dream fashion, from dishwasher, busboy, manager, head chef, then new proprietor. A Sanchez is always on property to accommodate the needs of their guests.

The concise menu is heavy on the beef offerings with chicken, fish, and shrimp options. Appetizers and sides round out the menu, and the Cherry Pie makes for a nice finish. Their steaks are best-cut top sirloin, and their mesquite broiler imparts a really nice flavor. Cut options will fit the daintiest to manliest appetites. We enjoyed the thick and juicy Filet Mignon ($27) and the Ladies Lite Cut Prime Rib Au Jus ($21). Entrees come with Soup or Salad, Baked Potato, Fries, or Green Beans, and Rolls w/ Butter. The meat was fork tender and beautifully cooked to order.



See their website for photos, souvenirs, detailed history, cuisine offerings, and more.









Grand Canyon Brewing Co. & Cruisers Café 66
233 West Route 66
Williams, AZ 86046
928-635-2168 (Brewery)
928-635-2445 (Café)

www.grandcanyonbrewery.com
www.cruisers66.com

Brew crafters aspire to achieve beer’s ideal “taste and balance.” Strangely enough, those two qualities are lost on heavily imbibing consumers, who then not only ruin a beautiful brew, but maybe their future if they get back on their bikes. Beer is a terrible thing to waste, especially if it’s from Grand Canyon Brewing.



The beer menu changes with the availability of harvest time ingredients, but often there are pilsners, pale ales, wheats, stouts and seasonal brews in the rotation. Beer aficionados are watching this tasty microbrewery with great interest, and expansion appears on tap. A Grand Canyon beer may be coming to a bar or restaurant near you.





Attached to the brewery is 1950s’ theme Cruisers Café 66, hard to miss from the street with its elevated hotrod, Marlon Brando mural, and beer girls barely in bikinis. The restaurant has an outdoor patio and stage, and seems to be the hub for rally revelers. The girls pop tops while musicians rock and wail. This is an ideal spot to people watch, dance, and enjoy the American café-style cuisine. Portions are ample and provide that Mother Road burger, barbecue chicken, and old-fashioned, strangely satisfying Chicken Fried Steak goodness.



A full cocktail bar, four HD flat screens, gift shop, and nostalgia decor comprise this venue. The fruits of the on-property brewery are on draft.


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Back to Just The Facts, Ma'am: The non-fiction department., Two Wheeled Tales




Reader Comments


As always you do great work brother,and this is no different then all the stuff I have admired over the years.......

Martin Twofeather
Ft.Lauderdale, FL
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Editor Response Thanks much,

Stay in the Wind.


--Bandit

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