The first leg of our Westward Ho journey was the drive from our location near Sierra Vista, AZ to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the small community of Ajo, AZ. I was concerned with the 135 mile drive from Tucson to Ajo out through what I had envisioned to be a desolate Hwy. 86 close to the border of Mexico. It turns out that there are a few places to stop along the way for food and fuel. There is even a McDonalds! There is a border patrol check station near the community of Sells that we had to slow down to go through, but was only stopping vehicles heading east. The border of Mexico isn't close enough that any fencing is seen along the route. The fears we had about our safety along Hwy. 86 to Ajo have vanished!
According to the R.V. Parks Review website, there are six r.v. parks in Ajo. Being garden lovers we chose Ajo Heights, as it has won awards for its landscaping! This is the entrance garden. Note the small plaques labeling the plants! The location is great! There is an IGA store across the street from the park. It has a great deli with tasy fried chicken! Across from the park entrance is a Mexico auto insurance business. Sonoyta, Mexico is 40 miles south on Hwy. 85 toward the U.S. border community of Lukeville. We stayed two nights, which we felt gave us ample time to tour Ajo and nearby Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.
This is the plaza in the center of Ajo (AH ho). The trees are date palms and are not native to the area. They must be watered to thrive in Ajo. We were told at the local museum that the Ajo plaza was built in 1917 at the request of the local copper mine owners. It was at a time when amenities were being provided to the mine workers. They wanted the wives of the workers to be happy living in Ajo, as good women bring civilization to an area! To the back of the plaza is what was once the train station. Ore trains primarily ran the tracks, but also passenger trains.
This mission style Catholic church was built in 1924. It is not an original Spanish mission. I was told by the museum guide, who is also a member of the church, that the scroll work on the church is done using a chicken wire and stucco technique. It looks very solid, but is in fact hollow. I have encountered stucco walls done in the same technique. They look amazingly solid, but will echo a hollow sound when tapped on!
The Federated Christian Church on the other corner was built in 1926. It was built by the same company that built the Catholic church. The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the plaza and the mission style churches will have you believing that Ajo was once a historic Spanish mission!
This is the view in 1947 from the historic mission down to the copper mine. Along the edge of the mine were segregated mining camps. In the center of this picture was the Indian camp. Down the hill to the left was what was referred to as Mexican Town. The caucasians had another camp elsewhere. As the mine expanded the camps were moved to form what is now Ajo.
Near the mine are large piles of rocky depris removed from the pits. We were told that the rock piles could be processed again with today's modern techniques to extract more of the copper. The left side of this poster shows the old technique for extracting copper and the right side shows a more modern technique. The poster is dated 1997, so there may be further improvements in processing.
As we headed down the hill from the mine on the road in front of the historic mine owner's home, we came across this building. We are presuming it is the old hospital, as the street name is Hospital Hill! One of the draws for miners and there families to setttle in Ajo was that they had access to the same hospital, schools, and churches as the mine bosses families. Ajo is home to the first copper mine in Arizona!