Still chasing warmth, we decided to stay in Ajo for a few days where the forecast was mostly sunny and warm. After finding a good primitive spot, we geared up and set off on a ride. Ajo Scenic drive is a loop but we rode it as an out and back from camp. It’s a good gravel road that winds past interesting rock formations and provides expansive desert views. Once we got to the town proper we pedaled on to the Ajo Historical Society Museum to have a look around. What a great find! The museum is staffed by volunteers and Jose was a wealth of knowledge. He showed us around and told stories that made this place more than a collection of artifacts.
Ajo is a small place, around 3,000 folks. Jose said about 43% are retired. Mines here have come and gone since the mid 1800s but the first profitable was the Cornelious copper mine. Mountains of it’s waste and tailings built up over the century and the abandoned open pit closed in the mid 1980s. The pit is a mile across and 1,100 feet deep! We rode out to the overlook to see it and take pictures, then retraced our pedal strokes and headed back to camp.
The next day after my morning stretches IN A TANK TOP outside in the sun, we went into Ajo for some errands and to check out the downtown area and street art. Up until the mine closed in the mid 80s, most in town worked at the copper mine. After that, the town struggled with what to do. Slowly, with the help of International Sonoran Desert Alliance a plan formulated to revitalize the city through art. The central plaza in Ajo has a Spanish Colonial style with high arches, what stucco buildings, tile roofs, and plenty of charm. We strolled along the grassy plaza and down Art Alley, then over to Curly School.
Curly School Artisan Apartments are part of the plan, with $10 million invested into buying and restoring the 100 year old school. The building is now the site of a 31 unit artist center complete with apartments, workshops, a commercial kitchen and a conference center. If you get a chance, definitely check this little place out.
In the afternoon we were back on our bikes for a tour of all the surrounding gravel roads just south of Ajo. Once again, leaving from camp, we found a few hours of gravel roads to explore and different rock formations to admire. A border patrol kid passed us at one point, but other than than we only saw a couple jeeps. It’s nice to take our time and see whatever there is to see in an area and I hope you enjoy our pictures.