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Casa Grande Ruins and Amazing Things

April 4, 2019

20190323_151711_resizedI get possessed by ideas and can’t get them out of my head. One such obsession was the idea that I needed to go to the Casa Grande ruins about 40 miles from Tempe.

I had never heard of it before I started this trip and didn’t know anything about it. And yet…I had to go.

The trip out there was lovely. I know I keep saying that, but the desert in blooming spring is really something to see and cherish.

Casa Grande National Monument sits by itself in the town of Coolidge, Arizona. It is an approximately 700-year-old structure surrounded by the ruins of what was once a thriving village. Casa Grande itself is a 3-story building made of caliche – mud – and sheltered by a tall roof structure.

The ancient people who inhabited this place built the building with precise alignment to the cardinal directions, adding windows that mark the summer solstice. They also built over 1000 miles of wide, deep canals, using only stone tools.

The volunteer who gave a talk while I was there was really good, with a lot of respect for and acknowledgement of the genius of the people who had lived here for so long.


I sat on one of the roof footings and meditated for a long time, letting the place soak into me. When I got up, a couple hours had gone by in a flash.

I went to town to get McDonald’s iced coffee (ordered black, came out white and sweet, JUST LIKE ALWAYS, McDonald’s, can you do something to help me out about this?). When I came out, I spied a laundromat across the parking lot and drove over to get some much-needed washing done.

A lady in khaki shorts and a coral top stood out front.

“Have you ever been here before?” she asked me warily.

Oh, no, I thought. Not one of THOSE laundromats. The kind people warn you about – dimly lit, with gritty floors covered in dryer sheets and sticky substances spilled on the washers?

“It’s the cleanest laundromat I have ever been in,” she said, her eyes widening.

And she was absolutely right. I walked in and a stocky woman greeted me. She was wearing an apron and pushing a laundry cart full of cleaning supplies.

It turned out she never stopped cleaning, except to greet people as they came in – in both English and Spanish – and to help them fold blankets.

She was this charming, smiling presence who turned a boring laundromat into an ad hoc community center. Everyone talked to everyone. She knew everyone. I could see she took incredible pride in her work. It might have been just a laundromat, but it was HER laundromat during the hours she was there. That day, because the other lady was sick, she was working 12 hours, and she wasn’t at all mad about it.

When I left, I thanked her and gave her a $5 tip. A small gesture. I just wanted her to know I saw her and how hard she worked. She shook my hand and thanked me in return, and her hand was as rough and workworn as a field worker’s.

So if you ask me the most amazing thing that happened on my trip to Coolidge, Arizona, it might be Casa Grande, but it might not. Finding an angel on in a laundromat made the whole trip worthwhile.IMG_20190323_214400_106_resized

  1. April 5, 2019 07:00

    Love, Love, Love ❤️ 💕

  2. April 5, 2019 09:50

    looks like another great place to put on my bucket list …. that thing is getting to be huge!

  3. April 5, 2019 10:43

    The people make the places. That’s the lesson I keep learning over and over again through my travels. Love that last picture too!

    • April 6, 2019 08:03

      Thank you. You’re right about the people making the places.

  4. April 5, 2019 12:08

    Lived in Tucson for years, but towns like Coolidge harbor people who make you love them in spite of yourself. You want to move there if you stay too long.

    • April 6, 2019 08:06

      I have never lived where it snows, so I didn’t realize the appeal of ANYWHERE WARMER. I wouldn’t think of Coolidge as a vacation spot, but the lady in front of the laudromat was from Minnesota and spent 3 months per year there. Her chief complaint was that they had too many houseguests all winter long.

  5. April 5, 2019 15:10

    I went to Casa Grade last year during my birthday trek to Arizona and found the place to be absolutely delightful. There’s a special sort of magic there and I spent a decent amount of time talking to one of the volunteers who clearly had a lot of love and respect for the place. I’m glad you enjoyed it and that you got to meet an angel.

    • April 6, 2019 08:05

      Maybe that is where I got the idea I had to visit! It just seemed like something I had to do, but you could have planted the seed.

  6. April 8, 2019 06:19

    Beautiful shot. I loved it.

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