Not every old historic Route 66 town lights up the sky at night. Many Route 66 towns never recovered from the hard times that came with being bypassed by modern Interstate Highways and some have even become ghost towns where the lights will never be turned back on. To see a thriving Route 66 town that still glows with antique neon lights in this modern age is quite a spectacular sight to see! This is especially true for fans of the nostalgic past, when the golden age of automobile travel was in full swing.
I stayed three weeks in Williams, Arizona a few years ago while waiting to start a job in the Grand Canyon. It was during the winter season, so there were very few tourists around. Since the Route 66 Strip in Williams was not bustling with pedestrians, it was a good time to focus on photographing the neon lights.
Walking down the Route 66 Strip in Williams at night during the off-season with nobody else in sight is a somber experience that borders upon being eerie. The glowing neon lights look surreal as they cast a soft glow over the historic buildings. The window displays at the trading posts and western antique shops that are closed for winter offer haunting views into the past. Sitting in a saloon that is nearly empty in mid winter allows time to look at the old pictures on the walls from a time long gone by, when those who traveled on Route 66 were the king of the road. Sitting at the same bar stool that the past generations of a family might be familiar with also has a way of crossing the mind. Like a ghost from the past, Route 66 definitely is a surreal place to be at night during the slow winter season.
I have been to a few old Route 66 towns at night and it is a toss up between Williams and Tucumcari as to which has the most old neon lights and classic motel marquis. Williams sure is an interesting sight to see at night and for some, the experience might be depressing during the slow winter tourist season. If lively fun action on Route 66 is what you seek, it would be best to do this kind tour after dark when the busy summer tourist season is at a peak. Either way, there is never a dull moment on old historic Route 66 and the glow of the neon lights makes it all worthwhile!
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