Gillespie Bridge
Ex Trailer Trash

Rip-BARE-ian Run

Given garage sales have effectively ridden off into the sunset, our weekend dates have become photography dates. And while most of our photo runs stick close to home, today we finally got around to the trip we promised ourself a month or so ago, up and down the Gila River.

Getting Started

We headed out early, not long after sunrise. It was a bit disappointing to discover after all the beautiful clouds, the skies had gone back to their hard, washed-out blue. We eventually did some exposure adjustments to the cameras – and by noon-ish the clouds were back. Go figure.


Obligatory mountain photo. This one was taken relatively close to home, at the exit to Stanfield. I hadn’t yet adjusted my exposure but the morning light wasn’t too terrible yet.


This old motel and restaurant were empty but not abandoned. There was a crew working inside when we were there, around 7am. Both G and I love old signage, something you’ll see throughout today’s entry.


Just a random old tractor sitting in the parking lot in front of aforementioned motel. Because why not?

River Run

As to the actual river run, it was… enlightening. For example, this is the historic Gillespie bridge over the Gila River:



If you’re wondering where the water is under the bridge, you’re not alone. There not only isn’t water: there isn’t the (relatively) lush greenery you’d expect considering this year’s generous rainy season. Instead, it was a bunch of burned-out skeletons of mesquite brush and a few stubborrn tufts of desert grass.

The Gila River used to be one of the few year-around rivers in the state. However, we learned the combination of decades of drought and several upscale dams mean it’s effectively no longer there. There was a fire in the area which wiped out the native vegitation, leaving what you see here. Further downstream when we drove to try and find the water, we found farmland instead – no river, not even anything recognizeable as a riverbed. There was no riparian area whatsoever, nor even a sign one ever existed. I have to assume the signage was removed from the designated areas and Google never updated their maps.

For the record, we did see a bit of water here and there. There’s a surprising amount of agriculture here in Arizona, all of it via irrigation. While most of the canals are cement-lined and industrial-looking, out in the country you still see a few dirt berms lining more natural-looking streams:


This largish waterway followed the road for a fair distance. Not surprising giving the number of fields we passed.


The dust trailing this tractor is actually atypically small. Most of the time when farmers are plowing, it literally resembles a storm brewing. You can see them from miles away.


Arizona never lets you forget we’re still a hot breath away from the Old West.


I’m really not obsessed with water tanks. Much. But this corrugated version, along with the unapologetic clutter around its feet, was yelling for me to come out and play.

Old Style

I converted a lot of today’s photos into b&w because they frankly work better that way.


This was blown out in terms of exposure, which is unfortunate because it looked cool in real-life. From what we could tell, the facility was still in operation.


More of the cattle processing plant from above. It 100% works better in b&w because all the details got overwhelmed and lost in color.


This old truck was parked out in front of some homes. It doesn’t look like it’s been on the road for a long, long time.


Another one that worked better b&w than in color. This old building was a patchwork-quilt of paint colors. all of them truly bad. Pared back to black and white, you can appreciate its lines and character.

Gila Bend

It was still early by the time we got back to I-8, so we decided to drive into Gila Bend, knowing it was an older town. We figured it would be run down but we might luck out and find something photo-worthy. It was a good call.


Remember our affinity for old signage? This was the one to give us hope we might find some lens-worth sights. That the building itself also had character made it even better.

palmsThis old-school sign was attached to an old-school motel. It was surprisingly immaculate, with fresh paint, a sparkling pool, and a pothole-free parking lot.


This is peak kitsch. A apaceship-themed restaurant and gift shop! We didn’t go in, darn it. We’d brought sammies and already ate, but darned it if wasn’t tempting, just the same. Maybe a return visit is in store.


A wider view of the building. What you can’t see well is under the farthest “SPAGE AGE” sign are 1950s-era neon “stars”. It’s got to be incredible at night.


But Space Age has competition for the top-kitsch blue ribbon. Mexican pottery always has a shot, but when you add in a ginormous row of metal dinosaurs, it becomes a close race.

Incidentally, I had to tone down the saturation in the above photo. Below is wholly unedited except for size:


Cheerful as heck, but look away if you’ve got a hangover, ’cause they’re some loud colors.


G spied this old white fire truck just off the main highway. I would’ve missed it.

Coming Back

The drive back from Gila Bend was all on I-8, so not too many exits and fewer photo-ops. It wasn’t for lack of trying.


It’s not your imagination. That mesquite tree overhangs nearly the entire right lane – and it’s too low to go under. It’s a low-traffic road with a 50mph speed-limit sign. I wouldn’t risk going 50 down this road because driving requires you to zigzag through this overgrowth. (This was taken through the car window. With tinted windows, it changes the hue a bit,)


And this was taken from the freeway overpass on the same empty road. As you can see, the clouds were back. No rain though, not this afternoon, at least far as I know. Once I got home, I was out cold on the sofa and slept through until 7pm. And I’m about to call it a night and sleep another few hours. I love the photo runs, but these days I’m dead-tired by the time we get home.

6 thoughts on “Rip-BARE-ian Run”

  1. Nice shots! Man, I love the sepia treatment you gave to those B&W shots especially. Well done! Seems like a extremely fun photo road trip, I’m very jealous. METAL DINOSAURS!! Lol. If anything could make Mexican pottery even better, it’s metal dinosaurs. I’m thrilled you got to see them paired in their natural environment! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Dangerspouse! We had fun taking these. The pottery stores like that are kind of a small-town staple around here, just not usually with dinosaurs.

  2. Thanks again for sharing! I am beginning to think we are in a small desert with a drought here in the northwest corner of Indiana. Illinois keeps getting rain, and it angles off and goes out into Lake Michigan completely bypassing us. I just hope it doesn’t try to make up for it come winter and bury us!

  3. I hope you get a break. We’ve had so little rain for so long this year has felt a bit like a deluge; though in reality it’s still less than we got each summer here when I moved here in the 1970s.

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