- Written by Deryle & Wanda Mehrten
Our first real Shortcut, Long Cut and Way Around was revealed to us by the late Rob Lentini. Rob was a rider's rider and a true gentleman. He mapped out a route for us that included Old Highway 80 between Gila Bend and I-10 for our first ride out to Death Valley and Death Valley Daze. Back then the Old Highway was pretty deserted, not much traffic of any kind. The occasional tractor and a hay bailer or two was about it.
As you get about half way to Hassayampa you cross over the Gila River on a steel truss bridge that was completed in 1927 at the old Gillespie Dam. The dam suffered a major failure in 1993 when record floods took out more than 120 feet of the center of the concrete dam. The water you see as you cross the bridge is irrigation runoff. It is being pumped into a small canal for the farmers and ranchers south of I-8.
Today there’s lots of activity along Old Highway 80. Several years back a new power plant was constructed about 2 miles north of Gila Bend . You can see the stacks from quite a ways off. A fresh water shrimp farm has a small store along the way. If you see the owner’s SUV out front stop and you can take a tour of the actual farm. A huge solar farm is in its final construction phase, taking advantage of all that desert sun. Then there’s what we call the water ski stop. Seems a boat community called Vermaland was started about 20 some miles north of Gila Bend. There’s a small lake with a dozen or two boat docks. On more than one occasion we have stopped and watched water skiers running a short course. You never know what you’ll find just a few miles off the freeway.
Old Highway 80 is a great Shortcut, Long Cut and Way Around!
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