Massive stands of saguaro cacti and panoramic vistas highlight this southern Arizona escape from the bustle of the ever-growing Chandler-Mesa metro area. The ride includes a stopover in a remote desert town that is undergoing a creative rejuvenation and a ride through a magnificent national monument. Because of the extreme summer heat in southern Arizona, this is a three-season ride from fall through spring. Views that extend for miles are the rule on this route. However, it’s not just about desert and the stately cacti. There are significant mountain ranges flanking most of the miles.
There is some heavy traffic in the Chandler metro area. Once free of the urban sprawl, the traffic becomes exceptionally light. Be prepared for sweeping corner sections and long straights on this ride. There are no technical corners. The pavement is smooth and well maintained. However, you may encounter debris in the washes, and sand encroachment especially on road shoulders. RR
Agave Grille is a great stop for a wrap, sandwich, or burger. I recommend the Power Outage Burger, which is a spicy treat. Find it at 1051 Solana Ave, Ajo, AZ.
Points of Interest
Ajo is a historic, former copper mining hub in the heart of the Sonoran Desert that is rapidly becoming an arts and cultural destination. One nice visit is the historic school that has been transformed into the environmentally conscious Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center. The town square is a beautiful park-like setting with whitewashed, arched buildings and towering palm trees.
Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range
If you are lucky, while riding along Hwy 85, you may witness air-to-ground bombing target practice being conducted by the U.S. Air Force. There are frequent flyovers by fighter jets in the sky north of Ajo. A large portion of the massive bombing range is visible on both sides of the highway.
Sonoran Desert National Monument
The giant saguaros may be the stars of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, but they are not alone. The monument contains more biological diversity than any other North American desert. Additionally, the Maricopa, Sand Tank, and Table Top mountain ranges tower above the desert floor. There is no fee to drive through the Sonoran Desert National Monument.