Three Little Towns

Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend

The Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend.

There are three little towns we pass through on our way from Scottsdale to the Mexico border. This is the stretch that I usually drive. I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a small town like those? What are the people like? What do they do? There’s poverty, graffiti in some and EBT stickers on store and restaurant windows. But these town are very much alive. You can see pride in neat yards with most homes and businesses well taken care of.

Here are the three towns we drive through, starting at the border heading north.


The population in Why at the 2010 census was approximately 167.

Why is the smallest of the three towns. There is a sign pointing down a dirt for a Rock Shop that we npass by. I wonder if they get any business? There’s also a combination busy gas station, store, and cafe called the Why Not Travel Store. I learned Why has it’s own radio station! I almost hit a large dog running across the road.

I thought the town was called Why because WHY WOULD ANYONE LIVE HERE?

From Wiki:

The town derives its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y-intersection.[ At the time of its naming, state law required all city names to have at least three letters, so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”,_Arizona


I saw this mural in Ajo when we stopped at a gas station. This is a sign for an adjacent “resort.”

Ajo (pronounced AH-hoh) is a much bigger town than Why. On the drive, the speed limit slows to 25 mph as you wind through the residential and business streets. At one turn you pass two beautiful white churches. One is Catholic and the other a Federated Church. This is a very scenic part of town with Spanish style plazas and buildings.

From Wiki:

 Ajo is the closest community to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The population was 3,304 at the 2010 census. Ajo is located on State Route 85 just 43 miles (69 km) from the Mexican border.

Ajo is the Spanish word for garlic (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈaxo]). The Spanish may have named the place using the familiar word in place of the similar-sounding O’odham word for paint (oʼoho). The Tohono O’odham people obtained red paint pigments from the area.,_Arizona


We stopped yesterday so I could get the photo of the Space Age Lodge (above). I’ve been fascinated with it since we first drove through. It’s funky space age relic from the 1960s that thankfully somebody let survive.

It has small Mexican restaurants, deserted mom and pop motels as well as name brand fast food restaurants and grocery stores. Interstate 8 runs through it west to San Diego and east to Tuscan.

From Wiki:

Gila Bend founded in 1872, is a town in Maricopa CountyArizona, United States. The town is named for an approximately 90-degree bend in the Gila River, which is near the community’s current location.[4] As of the 2020 census, the population of the town was 1,892.[3],_Arizona

About the Space Age Lodge:

Stovall’s Space Age Lodge opened in 1965, according to a brief history on the back of the Lodge’s restaurant menu. A local wheeler-dealer named Al Stovall was its visionary. He had friends in the military and government, and his connections got him autographed photos of astronauts, which he hung on the walls of the Lodge’s restaurant. He also owned a plastics factory, which produced the custom space-age decorations that made his motel the closet thing to the Jetsons this side of the 23rd century.

What places have you been fascinated about that you’ve driven through? Where have you stopped to explore?

21 thoughts on “Three Little Towns

  1. I grew up in a small rural town. The number of cows and farms certainly outnumbered the number of residents, and I’ve asked some of those same questions. Why do people live where they live? Why stay? I love now living in the burbs, but I do sometimes think about moving back. The things that jump out at me as pluses: the slower speed of things, cheaper housing costs, people knowing your name. I’ve been away too long. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever move back, but it is enticing some days.

    • I came from a small town too that had more cows than people. But it was close to Seattle and we had 5,000 people. That’s a lot different than Why with 167! It was nice growing up where everyone knew your name.

      • I don’t go back very often and when I do, it’s to visit a friend from high school who moved back home. I remember seeing my 7th grade teacher buying beer at the grocery store and asking my mom if that was legal for a teacher to drink!

  2. I think of the southwest as rife with small towns, or perhaps a rest stop is more appropriate in general! You know our Cascade mtns- I think there are some great little places scattered throughout that have that quintessential feel and hang on no matter what. It’s rather sad when they finally die out. So much living history is lost.

  3. I love driving through little places like this. You got some great photos! I’m sure we went through Ajo at least. It seems like they all have logical names.

    I drive through way more towns than I find time to stop in, unfortunately, but I drive slowly and look around! One place I do want to stop that I only drove through once is Madrid, New Mexico (pronounced MAD-rid). I think Jerome, Arizona, is pretty cool, and Bisbee.

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