~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Ajo, AZ train station
I had planned to ride down to Tombstone, AZ this past Sunday but decided on Ajo, AZ at the last minute. I plan a lot of my rides like that...change things at the last minute or perhaps not deciding on a destination or even a direction until the bike is rolling out of the driveway. I like the serendipity of it and the potential of the expected discovery when you arrive where you had not planned to be.

The road to Ajo is scenic in an Arizona wide open spaces sort of way. The scenery is not spectacular but the vastness of it is impressive and seems to draw a person out emotionally, making them more aware of the majesty that can be found in simple vistas if we just look.  My destination was worth riding to first for the ride, of course, and then for the charm of the little southwestern mining town.

Ajo Plaza from the sandwhich shop

Ajo, Arizona is a former copper mining town down very close to the Mexican border. It was a company town in every way, laid out by the first mine manager but with an eye to creating a living environment as family friendly as a southwestern border mining could be in 1900. The mine is closed now and the town is struggling to reinvent itself in some way or another. The evidence of the days of copper industry wealth are still apparent there though. The town is replete with interesting southwestern architecture and ornate buildings such as the Curly School, built by a big corporation trying to create a wonderful place for it's employees to live even if their work is tough and dangerous.

Church from the plaza

There is enough interesting architecture, blue skies, and magical southwestern sunlight that the town is a favorite spot now for artists and photographers. A visit with one of the locals while sitting in the plaza munching a sandwich revealed that there is a good deal more art culture there than one might expect and it was easy to see why. Gleaming whitewashed buildings and blue skies are always a winner when drawing, painting, or photographing. Much of the town away from the main plaza is pretty worn and frayed now but the residents, new and old, seem committed to making Ajo a fine place to live.

By the way, even though the town is off the beaten path a bit and there is only one sandwich shop open on the town plaza, the sandwich shop is a WiFi hotspot!  The senior citizens I chatted with were both sitting there with their laptops open and browsing the web while they ate. The sandwiches are good too.


Every small town seems to have it's local characters and the desert towns always have at least one grizzled old character out and about. When we first pulled into town we stopped in front of a little bakery / coffee shop to grab a snack.  I'd just gotten off the bike and was fiddling with my camera when Fred peddled up on his shaky old three wheeled bicycle. I looked up and said "howdy" and Fred howdied back. 

I wandered over to make some small talk with him, I think most seniors are always worthy of a little time spent talking with them. They've lived and seen a lot and you never know what stories you may hear or what honest hero you may be privileged to meet.  Fred didn't seem to be anyone special, just another old character out and about on a sunny day and sometimes a little friendliness can bring a spot of encouragement to a person.  Encouragement costs nothing and can be priceless sometimes. Fred's walker was strapped to the back of his bike and a small compass was pinned to his shirt along with a thermometer. I guess in Ajo it's good to know which way is north when you're out on your bicycle.

Fred eyed the Honda bike and asked "Whatcha ridin' there?" I replied "A Honda." He replied "Ha!" Cheapskate! Shoulda bought a Harley." I allowed with a chuckle as how I'd had a Harley once upon a time before they were fashionable but preferred the comfort of the Honda now. 

Fred set about telling me his view of things and the current events in his life. He was quick to mention his heart attack and also his lobotomy and how he still enjoyed good banter and word play. I didn't doubt him a bit.  Rather than bore him with talk of my cheapskate Honda we talked a bit about his old green bike, the problems with the brakes and the changes he'd made to improve their function. Always good to have the brakes functioning tip top when out on the road, ya know.

After a time I prepared to head on down the road and Fred said that the single wheel drive of his bicycle made it darned hard to get started on an uphill. He'd stopped part way into a gravel driveway and there was clearly not going to be enough torque in his old legs to get the trike rolling again without some help.  I can take a hint so I offered a push start which he accepted with genuine appreciation. I stepped around the back of the back of the bike and helped him get rolling again.  As Fred peddled off down the road I walked over to my cheapskate Honda, climbed on board, and hit the road too.

1 comment:

Shane Justice said...

Hi Doug,
I enjoyed your travelog! We'll have to check out some AZ desert locales sometime! I have a guitar lesson on Saturdays midday, so it'd have to be a Sunday ride for me, but drop me a note if you and your's would like some company!

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