Monday, January 15, 2007

Gila Bend

Along the I-8 w in Arizona, 90 some miles southeast of Phoenix, you will find a small business loop to the town of Gila Bend (pronounced Heela). I suggest, if you are ever in the area, to take the loop.

Boasting "1700 friendly people and 5 old crabs" this town catches your attention the minute you exit the freeway.Thor and I planned on grabbing a coke and driving through the mile long road. We didn't get the coke until we drove the town and visited with some folks. We were there for about 1-1/2 hours.

A "Space Age Lodge", inspired by the Russian Space Race of the 60's, was and evidently still is a hot spot for travelers. Built by Al Stovall, in '63, this Lodge was only one of several space themed hotels. He built several for the Disneyland area - The Fabulous Space Age Lodge at Disneyland, The Cosmic Inn, and The Galaxy. There is a mural of all the space progress above the check in desk, and hungry travelers can always stop and grab a bite at the "Outer Limits Coffee Shop". Each of the doors sport a tiny little space ship with a room number.

There are other hotels of note in Gila. The Golden Star has a murder mystery attached to it. The months of investigation were enough to keep the Hollywood intrigued peaked! A handsome screen write, a British starlet, Burt Reynolds!, a love triangle and thensome, and -gasp- a pool of blood! In the end the poor guy died of a drug over dose.

Then we have "Stout's Hotel". This hotel looked less than open for operations, yet it was still decorated for Christmas and had actual markers of tenants. But then again, when your sign is the only one in town that brags "STEAM HEAT!" -well that's a feature that gets the competition going! They have "DISH" -unfortunately it is located on the back of the building...which is completely open and exposed. Interesting.

We also found the schools, which were well maintained and impressive. There is a park aside the main schools, beautiful lawns and a large (LARGE) Native inspired sculpture grab your eye. Then there is the original school house -complete with bell- that has been added to, but kept the integrity of the original structure. This now houses the School Board and is frankly, awesome.

A very nice art and cactus gallery to show off local artisans was not only welcoming and informative, but diverse with everything from paintings to sculpture and jewelry, furniture and garden art. This place was filled yet spacious, with two large rooms and a large yard to wander through out back. The owner's shop is located on site and I got the feeling he would have gladly shown us that if we had just hinted. A cat sleeps on a pile of Navajo blankets and a dog sleeps in the front parking lot. While we were there a local Native artist came into sell her latest in jewelry and you get the feeling this place is pretty popular with the locals as well as the tourists.

There is a history that dates back to 1699, full of Spanish men of God and Indians it became an important stop for western travellers even then! Born of the drastic bend in the Gila River this became known as the "Crossroads of the West". There are archaeological and historical sites of importance near by, ancient ruins and petroglyphs. It is located near the infamous "Oatman Massacre" where a woman with 5 children refused food to the local Indians and well, you get the idea. Fortaleza is another site nearby however not open to the public. A fortified town in ruins of the local Hohokam tribe.

There is a McDonald's and a Taco Bell, a couple of gas stations and a sheriff or two. The sports from the high school seems a top priority and everyone we met was very happy and friendly. This is a town of characters to be sure, but if you are ever driving the I-8...this is where you want to stop for a coke.

add to sk*rt


Yolanda said...

You REALLY need to make a coffee- table book of these photos, with your comments!! BEAUTIFUL!!

Jamie J said...

Wow! Who knew Gila Bend was so exciting! We've driven through lots of times on the way too and from Phoenix, but never stopped for more than a hot dog from Dairy Queen or gas. Maybe we'll have to add a little sight seeing next time!

Rock Artist said...

There is also some great prehistoric rock art nearby. You can see photos of the petroglyphs at

chronicler said...

what most of you don't know is that s'mee never met a stranger. and Thor's not far behind her. They are the most friendly travellers you'll ever encounter! They get all these tidbits of info because they have invisible writing on their shirts that say tell me all your secrets! That must be it, because only when I travel with them do you get to hear all the interesting things that seem amazing to us and common place to them. You mena you don't know Roxy at the Sunset lodge? Thedll her s'mee sent you, it'll get you the best room in the place!

Nice coverage of that small spot s'mee! I agree with Yolanda.

s'mee said...

Yo, thanks, you make my head swim!

Jamie, Yeah, you need to give it an hour or so and go through all the streets. Some really cool things.

Rock, yup, the petroglyphs I think are also Hohokam...and I hear they "rock" hah! Thanks for the link!

Chronicler, there you go, telling the family secrets again! Never met a stranger, only folks in elevators and parking loits who feel the need to tell me their secrets! ; >

Anonymous said...

Gila also has a state-of-the-art power plant, in commercial operation as of 2004. It is at the North East corner of town, on Watermellon Rd.