The Drive to Ajo

I left home around 8:30, made a few stops and finally headed west from Tucson toward Ajo, Arizona, today a small community that was once a mining town.

My ultimate destination was Puerto Peñasco, located at the bottom of the map near the left. Right on the water.

On the west side of Tucson, I picked up Arizona highway 86, soon entering Tohono O’odham land.

Highway 86 is a two-lane road that was in rough shape. Patches on top of patches on top of patches made for a bumpy ride. It was partly overcast, and for about half an hour I got drizzled on and even even heavily rained on.

Kitt Peak Observatory near Baboquivari Peak, the high point on this mountain, sacred to the O’odham people. The mountain is the center of Tohono O’odham cosmology, home of their creator, I’itoli.
This mountain is named Quijotoa which means “mountain shaped like a carrying basket”.

I passed towns and turnoffs with names like Chiwuli Tak and Pisnemo, listening to radio station KOHN, Hewel Ñi’ok Radio, the voice of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The station played a broad array of music: Mexican, oldies from the fifties (even Elvis), country, and the best—traditional and new O’odham. New O’odham is a style called chicken scratch. Chicken scratch music is recognizable for its moderate use of saxophone, some drums, and lots of accordion.

There were also quite a few community announcements, most in the native language, so I couldn’t understand a thing. In all, it was very enjoyable.

KOHN logo taken from tribal website:

I saw several signs commemorating or protesting the disappearance of Native women.

And right before I left the reservation, a casino.

About 20 minutes later I was in the town of Ajo. I got a meal at the only open restaurant and then wandered town for a while.

Curley School, once an elementary school and today a wonderful space remodeled for artists. It has both apartments and studio spaces.

The plan had been to continue on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and camp there, but by the time I wandered, it was close to sunset. I was exhausted and didn’t feel like driving, arriving in the dark, and searching for a place to camp. If, in fact, there were any spots even available.

So I watched the sunset and checked into a motel.

And it’s a good thing I stayed in a motel. The overnight temperatures at Organ Pipe dipped into the 40s, and I really wasn’t prepared for much below 55 (which had been the original forecast).

New plan: up early and be amid the giant cactus for sunrise.

Published by Emilie

I'm a retired instructor from a community college where I taught Developmental English and Reading as well as English as a Second Language. I'm also now a published author of a bilingual children's book entitled. Luisa the Green Sea Turtle - Luisa la Tortuga Verde del Mar. It's available from me, through Amazon, and is in a few (more and more each day!) bookstores.

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  1. Ms Kerouac, armed with much Heart, Curiosity, and a device to photojournal. Yes, like Suzette, blogs like these make me miss those early on the road days! Stay warm and “thirsty”!

    1. The job I did this summer which took me up into the mountains combined with housesitting in a few different places has made me realize how much I wanted to travel. That was part of the point when I retired and I haven’t really done it. So now I am.

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