April 18, 2012

A Sunday Drive (aka: let's see where this road goes!)

caution: very picture-heavy post ahead! (click on any of them to view larger.)

We've been living in Maricopa for years now, but never had occasion to drive west out of town... so, a couple weeks ago we decided it was time to see what was out there! Turns out, what was out there was sort of interesting! If you like that sort of activity, that is... which we both do, on occasion. 

Hwy 238 heads west and ends at the town of Gila Bend, about 40 miles away. Gila Bend is a sort of 'way-station' where you can pick up Interstate 8, if you're heading to San Diego. But, it's interesting in its own right (I confess, I did 'Google' it before we headed out, just to make sure there was something there worth seeing!)

Before we got to Gila Bend, we passed through some very pretty open desert and mountains... The photo above is a Saguaro cactus next to its 'nurse tree' that I spotted along the highway. (The saguaro is protected by the tree as it grows, then eventually outgrows its shade and shelter.) We actually stopped at a trailhead for the 'Sonoran Desert National Monument', an area consisting of almost 500,000 acres of desert landscape run by the Bureau of Land Management. We certainly weren't wearing the proper clothes for hiking, but I would love to go back there and explore (a little, anyway). 
So- Gila Bend was founded in the 1870s, and is named for a nearby bend in the Gila River (surprised? lol!). It's near the site of an ancient Hohokam village that was visited by Spanish priests and colonists as early as 1699 (it still boggles my mind that things out here are that old!), one of them being Juan Bautista de Anza, who traveled through this area on his way to settle San Francisco. Now, the town's population is around 2000, although it looks like there might have been more to it at one time, since it's right along historic stagecoach routes and right next to the transcontinental railroad route.
These photos (the Stout's Hotel sign, as well as the ones above and below), are from hotels in town. Stout's Hotel was built in the early 1900s, and according to the information posted, was a popular stop for actors from California on their way to Tucson to film Western movies at the Old Tucson movie studios. The other hotel and restaurant's design is quintessential mid-century modern, isn't it??  
I love the sign!!  We went into the 'Space Age' restaurant to check it out, but didn't stay long. From info on the internet, it seems the motel was built in 1962, and the restaurant burned to the ground in 1998 but was rebuilt shortly after. Apparently the interior was a lot more kitchy and funky before they rebuilt it; plus, the reviews I read of the menu were just so-so, with ordinary-sounding food.
So, this is where we ate, instead! Sofia's Mexican Food, a bit farther along the main drag through town. Not much to look at from the inside, but wait till you see pics of the food!! We got lunch and an appetizer... and, we ended up having enough food for lunch the next day, too. 

We decided to get a quesadilla as an appetizer- we had no idea it would be as large as a pizza! (it was tasty, but we did need to save room for our entrees.)
Tom's Carnitas chimichanga-- very tasty as well. There were a couple fast food restaurants in town, and there were actually people at those places, but I really can't fathom why someone would want to eat Taco Bell or Burger King when they could get this instead! 
My combo plate with two carne asada tacos and a shredded beef tamale. Again, tasty!! (I remember, though, when I lived in Illinois, I thought Taco Bell was what Mexican food was like-- boy, was I wrong!)
This is a bit of the restaurant interior. (apparently,  the owner Sofia lives in Phoenix, which sort of bummed me out-- if we were at her restaurant, I wanted her to work there, or at least visit the place while we were there!)
And then, of course, we had to stop at the 'World Famous' Gila Bend Gift Shop. Didn't actually buy anything, but there were a couple photo ops, like this one of Tom standing next to the gigantic Gila Monster on the front wall. (it could have been ours for only $600, too- lol!)
The backyard of the shop was full of iron sculptures and yard art (mostly made in Mexico, I believe). I loved this goofy stagecoach wagon train of ants!! Sadly, the gift shop is for sale, along with its entire inventory, for only $175,000. The whole town had the somewhat 'abandoned' feeling of the small town in the movie Cars-- it was 'passed by' when the interstate was built. With a number of empty businesses and run-down buildings on the main drag, Gila Bend seemed to also have been 'passed by' since most automobile traffic probably bypasses the town entirely nowadays by traveling on the interstate (unless someone wants to stop at McDonald's or the gas station, that is).
The train still goes through Gila Bend, but now that the automobile has overtaken the train for personal travel, it looks like it's mostly freight trains on their way through to somewhere else. We walked along the tracks for a bit, right behind the Space Age Lodge motel... 
I got a couple nice photo ops, with the water tower, some abandoned gondola cars, and the train that came through as we were walking along the tracks- the engineer even gave a few extra whistle blasts for us as he went by!
an 'artsy-type' photo of the abandoned gondola car-- although it looks positively ancient, the date on it was 1995, I think-- apparently a lot of travel take a toll! (I look pretty bad after traveling for a long time, too- lol!!)
a shot of statues at a roadside shrine along the highway... 
and one last shot of the desert landscape near the Sonoran Desert Monument. (I recommend clicking on this one to view it larger, for sure.) The ocotillos were just amazingly gorgeous along this stretch of road; this photograph reminds me of a vintage picture postcard! 

If you got this far, thanks for reading, and for coming along with me on our Sunday drive mini road trip!

1 comment:

Alison said...

Sounds and looks like a lovely day out'''love the iron Wagon Train!
Alison xx