Back in 1980, my parents sold their house in Chicago, and became RV fulltimers. They towed a 30’ Avion trailer, and traveled for close to eight years. When they ‘hung up the keys’, they lived in a park model in Apache Junction until the prices of the RV park became too much for their budget.
At that time, houses came on the market in Ajo, AZ. Ajo was a copper mining town, and when the mine shut down folks had to leave their company owned homes. After about five years, those houses came on the market as the mine was destined to never reopen. It was then that I bought a three bedroom house in Ajo so my parents would have a place to live, and as a possible retirement home for myself.
They cleaned the house up, I paid the taxes, and family members from the north had a place to visit in the warm south for a vacation during the cold winters. My brother, sister, and I made yearly pilgrimages down there to visit and help them out.
Kurt and Jody were married in Ajo in 2011, and I went down to be ‘best man’ for my brother. We all had lots of memories of our visits to 9th street. Little did we know, that later that year all of us ‘kids’ would take weekly turns visiting to help out as my step-father slowly succumbed to esophageal cancer. In late August of that year, all four of us returned for his memorial service and to move my mother up to Minnesota to live with me. A year or so later, I sold the house.
So it was a bittersweet journey for Kurt, Jody, and me to return to Ajo yesterday to drive past that house, and revisit some old haunts.
It was disappointing to see the condition of the house and yard. Weeds everywhere, and the paint was peeling. It appeared that no one lived there. We couldn’t see the back yard where we spent so much time as it had been walled in. I wondered if the orange and grapefruit trees were still there. Not easy to see, so we didn’t linger.
On the bright side, we had two other destinations in mind.
The first was Cabeza Prieta NWR. We had all been here before, but I needed to get my passport book stamped. Our plan was to drive part of the refuge on our return from out next destination.
Thirty or forty miles south of Ajo is Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument.
After a stop at the visitors center for the movie and museum, we headed out on the 21 mile auto tour loop.
The gravel road was pretty much as lumpy and bumpy as I had remembered it from 20 years ago. I was happy we were in Kurt’s truck rather than my little Focus.
Regardless of the road, the scenery was outstanding and we even enjoyed finding a couple of arches.
That 21 mile drive took us about four hours, and we didn’t even do any hiking. We saw a couple of roadrunners and a red-tailed hawk along the way, but I really didn’t expect much wildlife in the afternoon desert heat.
The monument’s namesake – the organ pipe cactus.
We spent so much time marveling at the scenery of the monument, that we ran out of time to visit Cabeza Prieta NWR. That will have to wait for another time.
We did stop in Ajo at Pizza Hut for a very late lunch/early dinner as a tribute to my mother’s favorite place to eat in town. I ended up with indigestion, but there really wasn’t any other place to get a bite to eat anymore. Kind of sad. Things change, and life moves on.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy