Day 1: Oct. 10, 2003
Just Starting Out



What a surprise to see this big sign welcoming me on my drive. Then, when I got closer, I saw that it said "Welcome to Buckeye" - not "Welcome Buckeye". I figured folks were just happy to have someone from Ohio visit them. I cleared the town of Buckeye and soon found the turn-off to Old US 80. The two pictures were taken from the same spot. One looking back at the divided highway I had just escaped and the other looking forward at the two lane lying ahead.

As I stepped out to grab this shot of the small Arlington post office, I experienced an epiphany of sorts. Ken Turmel, the fellow who turned me on to US-80 in the first place, often says things like "get a postmark" when talking of road related activities. Of course I am familiar with Ken's use of postmarks in his art work and I was aware that some people might collect them like thimbles and salt shakers but today I was struck by the absolute uniqueness of a town's postmark. I'll try to resist the real word ramble that I feel coming on but must say that I'm going to look at post offices a little differently from now on.

As the size of its post office indicates, Arlington is not all that large or heavily populated and the pink building labeled Desert Rose stands out against the backdrop of flat sand. Inside, Steve served cold beer and told me of his several visits to Covington, KY, for golf tournaments. He had not been there for a couple of years and said he was ready for some Montgomery Inn ribs. It was Karen who answered my question about Buckeye. Founded by displaced Ohioans it was once known as Sidney but the name that described its residents won out. Only at the end of the day did I realize that I missed getting a picture of the rarity described on the wall. That's it sitting beside the door. Plus, even though the question formed as soon as I pulled over, I had forgotten to ask about the "arena" mentioned on the sign. One task and one mystery for another day.

Dusk was approaching as I crossed this nine span bridge near the Gillespie Dam where the Gila River becomes a pair of canals - or vice versa - or maybe something even weirder. I'm just not sure. Dusk was actually present when I passed this power plant just before Gila Bend. Back at the Desert Rose, Karen had mentioned that she worked at "the nuclear plant". Maybe this is it.

I knew that Gila Bend would be my best shot at finding a place to spend the night but I had no idea that it would come in the form of a flying saucer. The Space Age Lodge has undergone some changes since Al Stovall first opened it in 1963. During its 1996 renovation, the three 10 foot satellites on the roof were replaced by the neon trimmed space ship with its dome forming the ceiling of the lobby. The rooms are quite nice, a good restaurant is part of the operation, and it's hard to beat a 28 foot neon flying saucer for roadside glitz. A great place to end the day.

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