There’s 116 miles between Phoenix and Tucson. Most of that long stretch along the I10 is an unremarkable desert with occasional dust devils making an appearance to break up the monotony. The well-maintained interstate can be a congested nightmare at the worst of times, but at the best of times it’s an empty road leading you from one oasis to another, lulling you from your consciousness with the smooth drone of wheels over pavement. The newness of Arizona’s cities contrasted with the ancientness of its lands are a fascinating juxtaposition. Hieroglyphs paint the landscape on heavily used inner-city trails and Native ruins lay among skyrises of downtown, truly alluding to the notion of the Phoenix.
Halfway through the journey between Arizona’s largest cities sits Picacho Peak State Park. The peak stands as a lonely sentinel watching over travelers on their desert journey. A uniquely formed mountain, it’s an arduous hike that provides an adrenaline dump for even experienced climbers. The peak is also where on April 15, 1962 the Battle of Picacho Pass took place. Thirteen Union soldiers took fire from a small band of Confederate soldiers. With two dead, including their commanding officer, the Union soldiers sought refuge in a Pima Indian Village. The Confederate soldiers were too few to pursue, and thus ended Arizona’s unremarkable Civil War participation. The state park reenacts the battle every year on the battle’s anniversary.
I decided to pull off at the Picacho Peak exit to refuel. Remote gas stations throughout the Southwest double as gift shops of useless Native trinkets. The sale of gentrified versions of Native culture is a boon to forgotten towns littered along lonely highways. The overpriced objects, gas and food represent the monopoly these one-stop shops have on the local economies. However, as I peruse the aisles of useless, I can’t help but think a purchase equates to a donation toward the preservation of a bygone era. So, I donated coin for a soft drink and protein bar then made my way to the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch to feed the overly aggressive modern dinosaurs. The rude birds were an interesting respite to my journey to the border. I was tempted to extend my brief visit to attend the weekend monster truck show, but a 9 to 5 work week left me with little time to spare. It was a four-hour, one-way drive to the most southeastern part of the state.