Famed Route 66, a winding ribbon of road rich in history and longing, represents the motoring pioneer spirit of America. Its reach rolls beyond borders, beckoning the historic thrill seeker in us all. It’s a natural home for HOG (Harley Owners Group), and it is no better preserved than in Williams, Arizona.
Preceded by brave and often desperate souls who sought quest and fortune west of the Mississippi, today’s adventurers ride a different kind of horse. They still dress much the same as the cowboys and saloon girls who worked and settled this town in the 1880s. Founded in 1881, Williams is named after mountain man Bill Williams, who made his living trapping many of the furry creatures still roaming the rolling woodlands nearby.
The annual Arizona HOG Rally returned to this Americana enclave June 5-7 after being held in old territorial prison town of Yuma in 2013. The event has moved around the state from year to year, but Williams is a HOG favorite, having been held in this northern Arizona town for a record 11th time.
Roughly 400 HOG members representing 13 Chapters statewide rode onto the Mother Road to celebrate pride in membership, make new friends and reconnect with old ones. The area offers great, often spectacular, day rides to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, the red rock wonderlands of Sedona, the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, the old ghostly mining town of Jerome, a biker bastion, and for those with extra cushy seats, Monument Valley on the vast Navajo Reservation to the northeast.
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 than hospitable, Williams is a welcome sight. The town is helpful and authentic; there is a laid back and intimate feel that makes a biker feel at home. There is this creeping greed elsewhere, where enthusiasts are too often treated like nothing more than commercial revenue and ticket fodder.
This old boomtown, population 3200, about 3.5 hours northwest of Phoenix and 30 minutes west of Flagstaff, appears to understand motorcyclist groups are made of people. “We like the bikers,” said a spokeswoman for the Williams Chamber of Commerce, “we pretty much give them the town for a few days and they take care of it, they enjoy it. No issues, no problems, just a good time.”
Williams was the last town in America to yield to the interstate bypass. It stubbornly fought the freeway, relenting only when the feds agreed to provide no less than three exits to the tiny town. There may be 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 to nearby natural wonders.
At an elevation topping 6800 feet, the high desert offers almost ideal riding conditions—warm days, cool nights and clear skies skirting the state’s monsoon season. Temps were in the 80s with low humidity and a soft breeze that sometimes picked up to a bluster. Rally events included a free poker walk, guided and self-guided tours, a poker run, bike show, and a stirring bike parade that could bring a smile to the most grizzled, weather-beaten, bearded face. 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.
The Arizona HOG Rally will be return to Yuma next fall, dates yet to be determined. For more information, call 602-955-2658; email events coordinator Mark Hanson, firstname.lastname@example.org; visit
www.azstatehogrally.com. Registration was $25 pp and is expected to be the same next year.
For more on Williams, AZ visit www.experiencewilliams.com.