Mining, Fiddling & Art – Ajo, AZ
I hinted in the last post of fiddling & exploring in the nearby town of Ajo, AZ. This little desert town of ~4,000 souls is only ~10 miles from our boondocking spot and a mere 43 miles from the Mexican border. Its location is a convenient gateway for many folks driving south of the border and the first thing that hits you when you arrive into town are reams of billboards & shops selling Mexican insurance at almost every corner. If you didn’t stop to look, you’d probably think it didn’t offer much else!
But as with all things, the soul of a place is often much deeper than first impressions, and turns out Ajo (pronounced “ah-ho”) has quite a rich history.
As with many SW towns it all started with mining and in this spot copper was the #1 draw. The Arizona Mining & Trading Company started working the area in the 1850’s and mining continued here until as late as 1985. For many years Ajo was really a “company town” based entirely around the massive New Cornelia Pit. In 1917 John Greenway added a touch of class with the historic downtown Plaza, built in the style of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Since the collapse of the mining industry many parts of Ajo have languished and died, but the Plaza has been restored and the town is now seeing a bit of a revival from artistic communities and folks looking for a slower pace. Pretty cool, eh?
So what do you do in a place like this?
For the Artistic Lot -> You can put on your floppy hat & stilettos and saunter down to the plaza for a coffee at the Oasis Cafe, 1920’s style. Follow this with a walk around town to admire the creative town murals, the pretty churches and check out the local artists community at Curley School.
For The Nature Folks -> For those who love the outdoors nothing quite beats the 10-mile Scenic Drive around the back of the big mine, taking you through lush green desert and endless BLM roads. If that doesn’t satisfy you head on over to the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, the third largest refuge in the lower 48 covering a massive 860,000 acres just west of town.
For The RV Golfers -> If you’re a golf-nut how can you pass up 9 holes for a mere $9 at the Ajo Community Golf Course? You can even bring doggie along for the game as long as you keep her off the greens PLUS you get 3 days of FREE RV dry camping if you’re golfing or have a meal at the bar (otherwise it’s $3/night). What a DEAL!!
And what did we do? A sprinkling of the above plus we couldn’t pass up the Annual Fiddlers Contest at the golf course. For $5 a piece we enjoyed some honest-to-goodness old-time fiddling with around 60 of Ajo’s finest citizens. We might have been the youngest in the crowd (by 20 years or so), but the music was excellent and the folks mighty friendly. Entertainment at it’s best.
I have to admit that after only a week the soul of this place is seeping into me. This is exactly the kind of small-time desert town that I can grow to love. It’s quirky and you might have to dig below the surface to see it, but once you do there’s plenty to keep you coming back (those are always the best kind of relationships, aren’t they?). We have another week or so to go deeper, but I’m sure we won’t experience it all and this girl will leave us longing for the next time 🙂
P.S. Didn’t think I’d leave you without one of the stunner Arizona sunsets, did ya? This was just a few evenings ago and the colors were so ridiculously intense they completely overtook the RV. Absolutely no color manipulation on this shot. This is exactly what it looked like out of the camera. WOW!