Ghost Riders in the Sky

Ghost Riders in the Sky

Ajo, Arizona provided us an opportunity to explore both the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Ajo itself is an interesting place. It traces its history back to the Tohono O’odham people and later to Spanish explorers and Mexican miners. Ajo, 40 miles north of Mexico, claims the first copper mine in Arizona. At the Ajo Historical Society Museum, originally the Franciscan St. Catherine’s Indian Mission, we learned that Yale graduate and Rough Rider John Campbell Greenway was successful in developing mining in this remote location by shifting from shaft mining to open pit mining, building a railroad to transport minerals, and discovering an underground river seven miles away that is still used for the city’s water supply. What is now the New Cornelia Mine was dug where the native and Mexican populations once lived. From the Mine Overlook we gazed over the 1.5 mile wide and 1100 foot deep pit. Part of the 10.9 mile Ajo Scenic Loop circled mamoth slag piles from the mine. This well maintained gravel road is an easy way to experience typical Sonoran Desert plants. Greenway built company homes and the city’s Spanish Colonial Revival Style Plaza in 1917. Phelps Dodge acquired the mine, closing it in 1984. After some rough years, Ajo has rebound as a winter destination and retirement community. More recently the U. S. Border Patrol has built new homes for a larger workforce. Artists have also made their presence known through a network of fanciful murals and other forms of art. One of the best known murals, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” an Ajo Street Art Project, graces the front of the Ajo Copper News and extends on the sidewalk on both sides of the newspaper’s entrance. This mural sometimes referred to as the “Singing Cactus Mural” features local landscape, people, animals, and music. While getting gas at the Shell gas station, I chuckled at Carole Hanks work, “Welcome to Ajo,” on the wall of the Shadow Ridge RV Park. Across the street from the 100 Estrell Restaurant is the whimsical “Spy Drones Over Sonora.” Spend some time in Ajo and enjoy the art, but don’t expect great food. We stayed in the Guest House Inn, a four bedroom bed & breakfast, where owner Mike serves up wonderful breakfasts. We tried all of the other major restaurants. The biggest disappointment was 100 Estrell. Don’t venture beyond their burgers. Unfortunately for us, our order was delivered to another couple who came in after us. When we received their order, we had to wait even longer before we could eat. Meanwhile, my $6 craft beer was delivered almost entirely as foam and reduced to about one-third of a glass. After initially taking our order, we were unable to capture the attention of the wait staff. The Ajo Pizza Hut wait staff, on the other hand, was exceedingly solicitous. We took advantage of their $15 Thursday evening special with a small salad bar, breadsticks, and three topping medium pizza, We guzzled 64 ounces of a premium beer for only $7.59. Good job Pizza Hut! For lunch one day we ordered sandwiches at the Oasis and enjoyed them alfresco in the Plaza. For dinner Marcela’s Café & Bakery specializes in Mexican fare which was okay. Ajo is an interesting place to visit, and if you are considering opening a restaurant there are plenty of vacant buildings.

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