The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork





Breakfast Club Visits Williams, Max & Thelma's


18 Apr 2005
by Warren McIlvoy

The Breakfast Club found a new fly-in destination that is only an hour’s flight away, Williams, Arizona. Or as some might say "The gateway to the Grand Canyon". We were delayed by a week due to foul weather on our scheduled date but our alternate date turned-out just fine. It was quite by accident that I discovered the possibilities for a fly-in destination. We were returning from Valle when we stopped-in for some "cheap" fuel and met the airport manager George Barendse. George said that he could take care of our transportation needs to get us into town.

A direct track from Scottsdale to Williams would take us over Cottonwood and a bit further to the north, the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area. The Wilderness Area is, in reality, an extension of the red rock cliffs and formations that form the backdrop to Sedona. The only major difference is that they lack the upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and tourist information centers. I "logged-on" to our group flight following frequency to announce our attendance and quickly got a response from several other Breakfast Club folks. There are no early morning weather reports for Williams but there is an unpublished AWOS phone number that I had called prior to our departure so I forwarded that information to the rest of our group. Since Williams is only a little over 100 miles away, it did not take us long to get there. I was tuned-into the Williams Unicom and could hear other aircraft making position calls in the pattern. It turns out that Williams was also hosting a safety seminar and pancake breakfast to benefit a local resident who was undergoing treatments for cancer.

After landing, I taxied over to the fuel station that is just to the north of the ramp area. There were already three aircraft taking-on fuel and I could see that parking on the ramp was at a premium. By the time that I had finished refueling, a parking space had opened-up and we towed my aircraft over to the space and chocked the wheels. I found George, the airport manager, in the terminal building and he gave us the keys to three "airport limos" that would get us into town. Since I had been here previously, I was given the responsibility of leading the way to the restaurant.

I did a "Google" search on Williams and this is what I came-up with:

Williams is in Northern Arizona. It is in Coconino County. The town of Williams is nestled in the valley at the base of the Bill Williams Mountain, in the Kaibab National Forest. Williams is located on Interstate 40, just 30 minutes west of Flagstaff. You can get to Williams from Phoenix and Tucson by taking Interstate 17 north out of town. You will continue on Interstate 17, until you reach Flagstaff. Once you are in Flagstaff, you will get on Interstate 40 and head west to Williams. Williams is 170 miles from Phoenix and 280 from Tucson.

Williams, the city and the mountain, were named for William S. "Bill" Williams, a famous master trapper and scout on the Santa Fe Trail. Williams, at an elevation of 6,780 feet, maintains its attractive small-town atmosphere, while large-town conveniences and entertainment are only 30 minutes away in Flagstaff via I-40. The Grand Canyon Railroad offers historic steam-engine train rides between Williams and the Grand Canyon. In addition to the Grand Canyon, attractions in the Williams area include Bill Williams Mountain, elevation 9,264 feet, and White Horse Lake and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area to the south. Within an hour's drive are Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments, sites of several 12th-century Indian ruins; Sunset Crater, the remains of a once-active volcano; and the San Francisco Peaks, the highest elevation in Arizona . Air and ground scenic tours are available in Williams.

In 1926, U. S. Highway 66 was established through Williams, Arizona. A little over half a century later, on October 13th, 1984, it became the last bypassed town along the "Mother Road," as old Highway 66 became Interstate 40.

Today, all of downtown Williams is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its largely-unchanged main street evokes images of the legendary route. Williams the town is also like a slice of small-town America, a place where they still hold a local beauty queen contest, and seven visiting travel writers make the local paper.

Old Route 66 runs from I-40 Exit 161 to Exit 165. Parallel one-way streets run through downtown, and the eastbound one, Bill Williams Avenue, is old Route 66.

There! Now that you know all that there is to know about Williams, I'll get back to my story.

We pulled into the parking lot that is across the street from Max & Thelma's Restaurant and gift emporium. Max & Thelma's is part of the complex that make-up The Grand Canyon Railroad headquarters in Williams. The Grand Canyon Railway station is right next door with the GC Hotel rounding-out this tourist attraction. The dinning room is quite large with a railroad motif and could probably seat several hundred people at one time. The dinning room host was able to seat all of us at a long table next to the window overlooking the train boarding area which was in progress as we watched. As we enjoyed our meal, the train started its journey to the Grand Canyon. Most all of the restaurant and depot folks lined the ramp and waved to the passengers as the train departed. It must be a local tradition.

After breakfast, most of us went out and wandered about the train station complex. I walked along the dock area getting photos of the area and one of the steam engines that is used to pull the train. My wife and Grand Daughter had to make the mandatory visit to the gift shop to see what they positively "could not live without". By the time that we arrived back at the airport, most of the breakfast and seminar folks had cleared-out leaving some wide open spaces on the ramp.

Williams will definitely be on our "return list" for future fly-ins. We would like to explore more of the town that lives along the "Mother Road". George Barendse, the airport manager, will go out of his way to accommodate your needs and fuel at Williams is considerably less expensive than in the Phoenix area.

The Williams Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy and Nicole Dreos in 4544X, BC-1 & 1.5& 1.75
  • Ken Calman in 5323K
  • Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201
  • Glen & Judy Yoder in 31TC, BC-007
  • David Lester and Alex Reyes in 32832, BC-77
  • Bert & Dee Davis in 44286, BC-42
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace and Peg Roberts in 33RX, BC-39
  • Richard Azimov and Jordan Ross in 6864Q, BC-2
  • Jerry & Nancy Grout and Bruce & Diana Long in 2862W


What's Next?

The May Breakfast Club event will see us traveling north to Echo Bay. The Breakfast Club went there about 4 years ago but I was not able to make that trip so this will be a first for me. Our June event is supposed to be the airport café at Flagstaff but they may not be able to accommodate a group of our size so it looks like we might go to Kingman. Stay tuned for that one. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

Click on the Williams link to view photos of this fly-in event.