ILX Drive: Old US Hwy 80 & the Gillespie Dam Bridge

Odometer (ILX):  31,733


Trip distance:  168 Miles

Sometimes I take the long way.  Just because.  My attitude is something like this Acura ad from 1994:


For this weekend’s short & sweet drive, my friend Jack and I took the 2013 ILX to explore a 37-mile stretch of highway that’s a “road less traveled.”  Dating back to 1926, US 80 was once an Atlantic-to-Pacific highway.  Everything west of Dallas, however, has since been decommissioned.

The stretch of Old US 80 that we drove was bypassed in 1956 when a larger, more direct Highway 85 was opened just east of the old highway.  It’s the rounded left side of this box that illustrates today’s journey:


I first learned of this road thanks to a post by member “jdmrex1” on the AZHT forum which is a gathering place for Arizona import car enthusiasts.  He took pictures of his CRX on a bridge and they caught my eye, so I decided to check it out for myself.


Setting out from Phoenix, we made our way eastbound on Buckeye Road toward where Old US 80 starts.


We blew right past the post office in Arlington, Arizona without even realizing it, but I looped back for a picture.  As of the 2010 census, there were just 194 people living here.  It’s remote to say the least.


Here’s where we took a step back in time to the 1950’s and enjoyed the route that people back then would have seen as they traveled from the Phoenix area to San Diego or vice versa.


Desert Rose Bar, Cafe, & Arena.  Talk about an all-in-one.  Believe it or not, I think this place is still in business because there’s a review posted as recently as 2 years ago on Yelp.


Shortly down the road, I pulled the ILX off Hwy 80 into a gravel parking lot on the east side of the road.  Here we were faced with the machinery of the Arlington Cattle Company.  This is a 170-acre facility with quite a bit to offer:

In addition to three tailored feeding programs, we offer a 24 hour receiving & processing crew, truck & cattle scales as well as an on call veterinarian.  We work around the clock to maintain the clean & safe environment necessary for cattle to reach their optimal gain per day.


Just a few more miles down the road, we rounded a corner and saw the long-awaited 1,662-foot-long bridge that I’d viewed in pictures a few days before.


I learned that this location is the Gillespie Dam Bridge which crosses the Salt River.  It’s a steel truss bridge that was commissioned in 1926 by the Highway Department.  It was completed August 1, 1927 at a cost of $320,000.  At the time, it was the longest highway bridge in the state of Arizona.


The was part of US 80 until 1956 when it was decommissioned.  The bridge itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places on the year I was born, in 1981.


When looking to the north from the bridge, the old Gillespie Dam (1921) can be seen.  Fishermen were out in full force enjoying the weather like Jack and I were.  This dam was breached in 1993 and has never since been rebuilt.  You can clearly see the broken area here.


In 2011-2012, the bridge underwent a $7.9 million rehabilitation project which included construction of an “Interpretive Plaza” where we were able to walk up to an elevated platform for a nice vantage point of the entire bridge.


Here’s the parking area of the Interpretive Plaza.


The platform is pictured at left here.


Jack and I hopped back into the ILX and continued south toward the end of this stretch of our journey, in the tiny town of Gila Bend, Arizona.  A metal cobra and dinosaur greeted us at the Shell station.


We enjoyed some lunch before departing from this fine town.  (A little sarcasm there – Gila Bend really doesn’t offer a whole lot to see or do!)


From there we took Hwy 238 about 40 miles to Maricopa, Arizona and then down Hwy 347 north toward the Phoenix area.

We approached the south end of town and met up with a couple friends at Firebird Raceway.  There were some import car race events going on, sponsored by NASA (National Auto Sport Association – Arizona Region).


Nick, Matt, and Jack


This is the motor to Nick’s 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.  It’s a beast.  This entire powerplant is fresh – while his car’s chassis has around 170,000 miles on it, the motor itself is only a few thousand miles old.  Nick says he spent twice as much on the engine build as he spent on the car itself.  This sucker is fast — and loud.


The color is called Aztec Red.  I still think the 300ZX design has aged very well, much like Acura’s original NSX of the same era.


A few other events were going on around there, including a drifting competition, so we headed over there.


We watched our friend Brandon put this Subaru through its paces on the track.  His AWD capability gave him a distinct handling advantage.


And back at my house, we had a bit of a car detailing party.  My friends call my home the “Hugie Autospa” because it’s the go-to place for anyone who needs to shine up their ride.  Here is Jack with his obnoxiously-colorful (but awesome!) 2001 BMW M3 6-speed.


The 300ZX even got a little bit of love.



First time this garage has seen two non-Acura products at the same time!


I had a great time today driving and working on my cars and spending time with friends.

“Follow Me” on Instagram

I bit the bullet and signed up for Instagram this week.  I don’t know a thing about it, but it was the best way for me to see the latest pics of my niece and nephews that are getting uploaded daily.  If you want to follow me, look me up!  @tysonhugie


Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

5 Responses to “ILX Drive: Old US Hwy 80 & the Gillespie Dam Bridge”

  1. I love that bridge, especially its rusty nature. What a great photo op! There were some nice rides in your driveway at the Hugie Autospa, too. My car could use a little TLC under those circumstances as well.

    See you in a cupper!

    • I thought I’d be bothered by the rusty appearance of the bridge but now I think it’s kind of cool that they’ve left it that way. In fact, the hand railings and other hardware at the new(ish) interpretive center are also rusty. I think they’ve let the rust theme endure. Send your Lexus GS430 down here for a little loving! See you in a couple weeks.

  2. Tyson, where’s the rear-wheel drive Acura if it’s not in the garage?

    • Hi Chi! How are ya?

      Let’s just say we had an impromptu car show on my street. My neighbors from 4 houses down drove past and rolled down the window to admire our freshly washed cars. My sedan GS 6-speed was missing here. It’s in storage 22 miles away.


      • Doing great. But not having near the fun that you are with the cars. Love seeing all the road trips… Keep it bro.

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