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.
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.
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.
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.