There’s not much for the tourist in Gila Bend. TripAdvisor finds only 4 things to do there and one of them is a Rest Area. As I said in a previous blog, the Best Western Space Age Lodge is a nostalgic hoot and the most interesting place in town. Gila Bend’s biggest claim to modern acclaim is as a Solar Capital because it is home to 4 solar plants. When it wasn’t in the shadow of sprawling Phoenix, which is about an hour away, it was a frontier town of some note. The Butterfield Stage Line used it as a timed stop. The local Native American Papagos have mostly become ranchers and farmers. A lot of trucks pass through Gila Bend.
TripAdvisor lists the Gila Bend Visitor Center and Museum as its #3 attraction. In truth, it’s just a very old-fashioned facility of limited interest and appeal except for a couple of interesting historical details. Only 20% of TripAdvisor reviewers rated it excellent. That’s far too high. We arrived at its opening time and no one was there to let us in. We entered through a government office after Ruth became tired of waiting and got inventive. While we looked at the homespun displays, we were the only people around.
I found details of the Oatman Massacre the most interesting display. In the mid 19th century, the Oatmans were on their way to California and made the mistake of traveling alone. They were attacked by Yavapai natives who killed both parents and 4 of their 7 children. Lorenzo was rescued by friendly Pimas, and his 2 sisters were taken into captivity by their attackers. Two years later they were bought by Mohaves. Olive was released about 6 years after the initial attack. She eventually married, had children and moved to Texas; but her tattooed chin remained a reminder of her ordeal.
There’s a new and better-than-average, cook-to-order restaurant in town, Little Italy. Its “Authentic Italian Cuisine” includes Lasagna Alla Nino and Penne Boscaiola.