Strolling through the desert listening to a good audiobook or bouncing along dirt roads on my moutainbike are fine activities – up to a point.  I’ve been doing that for a month now and I find myself looking around for something a little more constructive; something that might leave my imprint on the earth’s surface – more of an imprint than a bicycle tire in the dust.  Ajo, Arizona, the small town we’re camping near offers some tempting opportunities.  The town is now a shell of its former self.  Until 1985 the local economy was fueled by an enormous open-pit copper mine, the tailings of which form a man-made mountain on the outskirts of town measuring several miles long and several hundred feet high.  When the mine closed, hundreds of homes were abandoned and can now be had for bargain prices.  Most of them are non-descript bungalows but a few show enough promise that Mary and I got to thinking “What if we bought one of them and fixed it up?”  

I’ve got a little experience with putting houses together so the technical aspects would not be beyond my skill level.  We could swing it financially.  The house pictured above is listed for $42,500.  We both think it would be fun to take a shell of a house and bring it up to modern standards.  Would it be a wise investment?  My guess is that it would.  Ajo has warm sunny winters – just the thing for northern snowbirds.  Summers are less appealing – hellish, in fact, but that’s of little concern to the snowbird crowd.

We are not the first people to see Ajo as a diamond in the rough.  Other people have done what we are considering.  Some sort of commission was assembled  about ten years ago and it was decided that Ajo should aim at making itself into a Mecca for artists – another Taos.  Modest steps in that direction have been taken.  The town has an attractive downtown square and the architecually stunning former school has been converted into artists’ apartments but on the whole the town’s business district shows many of the signs of being on life support.

After toying with the idea for several days, Mary and I have decided not to take the plunge.  The main reason is logistical.  Ajo is too far from Chelan.  Lugging my tools down here, the 4000-mile round trip, the distraction of overseeing two widely-separated operations, vandalism during our 9-month absence each year – too much to worry about.  It was tempting but it looks like it ain’t gonna happen.  

Gotta run.  My mountain bike is calling.