It should come as no surprise that Greg and I are explorers. We take the back roads. We seek out unusual things to see. Sometimes we choose routes and destinations by direction … with a flip of a coin. That can, and has, led us to the middle of nowhere.
On a recent weekend, somewhere around 10:30 in the morning, we decided to hop in the car and take a drive. “Let’s go south,” Greg suggested, “Let’s see what’s on the way to Gila Bend.”
So off we went along “Old Hwy 80.” As we drove past dairy farms and fields of crops, the conversation wandered even more than the direction of the car.
“I had no idea Arizona was so agricultural,” one topic started. We discussed the smells of the dairy farms and crinkled our noses as we drove past a very large chicken farm. We wondered if the flowering plants we passed were roses or some other white blossom. We marveled at the irrigation planning.
Twenty minutes later, the view didn’t change much and I commented on how this, like many back roads, took the driver through “a whole lot of nothing.”
Topic #2. “What do you mean?” asked Greg. He was noticing the changes in the distance. There were mountains to either side of us. We drove along vast flat stretches that were punctuated with small rocky outcroppings and rivers.
We came over a small rise and there, tucked in a copse of trees, was a charming, tiny post office: Alexandria, Arizona! Until then, I didn’t even know there was an Alexandria, Arizona.
Coming over another rise, the speed limit signs indicated 45 mph, then 35. Signs announced a low clearance up ahead. We rounded a bend in the road as we neared the obstacle. It’s a steel truss bridge; a hulking, rusting, LONG bridge. On the far side there was a little pull-off and a sign announcing “Gillespie Dam Bridge, Interpretive Plaza.”
We pulled over to check it out. Sadly, there’s no signage — nothing to shed light on what are clearly dam ruins along the Gila River. We snapped a couple of pics and made a note to look it up when we got home. Lucky for us, Wikipedia offered up the answers we were looking for.
We continued along Old Hwy 80 until we came to Gila Bend. There’s not much to entice drivers off the Interstate that buzzes by headed east and west … a couple of truck stops, a couple of fast food joints. Then we spotted an odd sign for the Space Age Lodge. It’s a chain hotel now, but there’s a story behind it.
Next door, the Space Age Restaurant’s aluminum face intrigues us.
We cruised the ½ mile or so of the town, then turned around and headed back home. It was, after all, just a drive. We followed the sign pointing us back the way we came and started another topic: Why don’t people take drives for no reason anymore?
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Why not spend a few hours on a lazy weekend, pick a spot on a map and go check it out?
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