ILX Drive to Gisela, Arizona: Great Roads, Poor Hospitality

Odometer (Legend):  528,101


Odometer (ILX):  61,902


Trip Distance:  146 Miles Round-Trip


Have you ever seen one of those welcome mats that just says “Leave”?



The entire town of Gisela (guy-SEE-la) feels like it has one giant “Leave” mat to greet visitors.  I have never been to a place where I felt more unwelcome.  No services whatsoever, no tourist information, not even a welcome sign at the entrance to city limits.  This was a change from last week’s visit to the town of Chloride which lured motorists in from miles away by boasting exaggerated attractions.  Gisela, by contrast, would prefer if you didn’t come at all.

The most unfortunate part about this?  The Gisela access road is amazing:  five miles of brilliant roller-coaster two-lane thrills with elevation gain, switchbacks, and a hairpin that’ll have your Michelin tires howling if you take it at the speed I did.  It’s a shame I do want to go back to Gisela, just for the sake of its road.



Just 73 miles from of Scottsdale, Arizona in the mountains of the Mogollon Rim lies this town of 532 (crabby?) people.  On Sunday afternoon, I crossed Gisela off my to-see list after visiting with my Acura ILX.


That five mile detour off Highway 87 toward the town center was prime terrain for a sports sedan like the ILX.  The road was technical, narrow, and required key driver attention.  I rowed between 3rd and 4th gears as I carved my way through the hills, pushing the ILX toward its handling limits.

“This is it?” I thought when my GPS told me I’d arrived in Gisela.  There was no visual cue outside the car to indicate any such arrival.  Any hint of commerce in Gisela must have boarded up its doors decades ago.  What I found instead was a grouping of a few dozen double-wide trailers on dirt roads, yards filled with old cars and garbage, and chain link fences with padlocks everywhere I turned.  As I drove around, I was chased by dogs repeatedly.  Every single home had a “NO TRESPASSING” and “BEWARE OF DOG” sign on its gate.

Then there were these:



Residents of Gisela have gone to great lengths to make drivers feel like they’re being scolded all the time.

I was amused by the fact that there were a few cows roaming the residential streets, so I coasted to a stop, pulled the E-brake, and hopped out of the ILX with my camera to capture the scene.  I heard an ATV motor running, so I turned to where the noise was coming from.  A man on a four wheeler sat there poised a couple dozen feet from me.  The look on his face clearly communicated a message of, “Get off my lawn,” though I was undoubtedly on a public road.  I’m sure he was mumbling something to himself about, “What’s this trouble-maker doing?”  I quickly got back into the ILX after not taking a picture of said cows and continued on my way.  SLOWLY.

Check out the photos below for the highlights from this quirky Arizona town.  Chalk it up to another interesting destination for me, and there are plenty more where that came from.  Thanks for coming along!

Northbound Highway 87 was traffic-free and dry for an exhilarating ascent to the Mogollon Rim


An appropriate Beach Boys song provided the soundtrack to this Sunday drive.


First gear (Honda Honda) it’s alright (faster faster)
Second gear (little Honda Honda) I lean right (faster faster)
Third gear (Honda Honda) hang on tight (faster faster)
Faster it’s alright


Soon I arrived at the turn-off to Gisela Rd and headed east from the Beeline Highway.


“Rough Road” was right.  But that added to the experience.


Just beyond the first bend, I passed a sign that said “LIMITED SIGHT DISTANCE.  15 MPH.”  They weren’t kidding.  The road became way more fun than I’d expected it to.


Someone had taken the time to decorate a pine tree for the holidays.


Gisela’s now dead business district.


The church looked like a simple one-room setup.


River Road was one of several residential dirt roads.  This one was lined with trees including two huge ones that forced the road to curve around them.


The next couple of images illustrate typical homes in Gisela.


Hey, at least they’re patriotic.


The most fitting sign in the entire town was this family name in front of one of the homes.  This was a “strang” town, indeed.


Don’t forget all those warning about excessive speed.  And by excessive, they’re talking about anything above a crawl.


“Tonto Creek Shores” – hit the brakes here because the pavement turns to dirt.


Peace out, Gisela.


Back to the road – that was the best part about this trip anyhow!


Highway 87 took me back home after a fun little adventure.


Haven’t forgotten about this Legend!  It’s due for a roadtrip soon, too.


Have a great week!

14 Responses to “ILX Drive to Gisela, Arizona: Great Roads, Poor Hospitality”

  1. Hmmmm. I find this post most intriguing. It just makes me want to visit Gisela and find out what makes the people there “tick.” Or ticked. haha What is their industry? Where do they buy their groceries? Why are they so crabby? Maybe I should contact Stephen King and alert him there is a great place for his next movie set….

    Anyhow, I guess trespassers (“visitors”) are not welcome. Period. It’s now on my “must visit” list.

    • Seriously! I wouldn’t be caught dead (or maybe, I would be?) after dark. I had every creepy eye in town watching me through their levelors in their windows. Payson is the nearest town of any substance and it’s 16 miles away – these people must get groceries there. Stephen King would have a heyday with this 🙂

  2. you should have snapped a picture of the cow, then quickly spun around and snapped a picture of “Mr. Grumpy,” flashed your rock horns and drove off !!!!!

    Meh, small towns FTL!

  3. I don’t know why it has taken me this dang long to find your blog!! Can I use my kids as an excuse that I seriously never get on the computer?!? I read back a few posts and I am so impressed. I loved reading this. You are a very talented and enjoyable writer. I most definitely will be checking back here often. I think I may need to borrow your moms book she has printed out from your blog and read the whole thing start to finish, or catch up that is! Can’t wait to see you this weekend at the a Hugie party! You are coming right?? 🙂

    • Haha, welcome to the blog! I fully admit, I have been a slacker at checking out YOURS too! I need to buzz over there and see if anything is new. I will def see you guys on Saturday at the party. Can’t wait to see my kiddos. And you too of course 🙂

  4. Strange place there, Tyson. I like it!

    And I didn’t know about that song!! Nice to know! I could so see it being used a modern-day retro-like Honda commercial, probably one showing the time line of their bikes and their innovations while the song plays in the background and ending off with a could riding into the sun set on what ever new bike their advertising or just the simplicity of owning a Honda. Pretty cool I think.

    Keep up these blogs, Tyson! Looking forward to that Legend road trip.

    • Strange is right! Yeah, I can’t remember how I discovered that song originally but I love it and I wish it was talking about a Honda car rather than a Honda motorcycle. Either way, it’s awesome. Any suggestions on where to road trip the Legend?

  5. Wow! That looks like an amazing road up to Gisela! I’d love to take the TL up there. I laughed at your phrase, “being scolded all the time.” The signs posted everywhere looked crazy! Despite the grumps there, looks like a place we’ll be seeing you drive again.

    • Oh, you know it! I’m planning to stir up a little dust on those roads the next time I head up that way. Haha. The twisties leading up to Gisela would be great for the TL SH-AWD too.

  6. Ilse Larsen Says:

    I’m going from phoenix to Albuquerque and looking for a place to stay over on the way – accommodation /hotel no more than 3000 ft altitude, but I can’t find any! Due to heart disease necessary to stop over, going up to Santa Fe. Between Phoenix 1000 ft and Albuquerque 5300 ft, I need a place to acclimatize for one night, max. 3000 ft. From Alburq to Santa Fe will do in one day. Gisela came out with 2800 ft – but absolutely no places to sleep at 2800, only hotels where even higher Alburq. Any advice?
    Ilse, Copenhagen, Denmark, 18th Febr. 2020

    • Hi Ilse, thank you for reaching out. Unfortunately I am not sure where you will find an elevation lower than 3,000 feet between Phoenix and Albuquerque. The way the terrain is laid out you are going to cross the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountain range no matter which direction you travel. Plus Gisela is very close, it would only take about 35 or 40 minutes from Phoenix so if you’re going to say there you might as well just stay in Phoenix.

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