#1212. Roadside Attractions – Arizona State Route 79

By Paul Barclay | Travel Photography

Jun 20

This past March we once again made the journey from Seattle to Tucson, Arizona, for some sun and heat therapy. 

Shortly after arriving in Tucson we needed to travel North to Phoenix to join friends and family for lunch. During the drive north I spotted these road side attractions that are captured here. Except I couldn’t stop. We had a schedule to meet and it was mid-morning.  I thought I could stop on the return trip. But the desert had other ideas, and sent us a dust storm that convinced us returning to Tucson via the main highway was a better idea. Fortunately, 3 weeks later, wind, weather, and our schedule cooperated to give me high clouds and a free evening to explore these roadside attractions along Arizona Highway 79.

 The first stop is the Tom Mix Memorial. For those of you who don’t know Tom Mix, he was a movie star between 1909 and 1935, and is best known for Western films in the silent movie era. He died at this location on October 12, 1940, while driving between Tucson and Phoenix, because a flash flood washed out a bridge on the highway and he was not able to stop. An interesting observation of this location is, the brass plaque in the memorial is still there. I passed a couple of historical markers on this road and the brass plaques were removed, and probably stolen.


Our next stop is just a clearing alongside the road with a large For Sale sign. Looking at the sign, this property has been on the market for a long time. Though I was more interested in the faded state of the sign and the light coming through the clouds than in getting the phone number. In addition, I was a little distracted by the second image while walking up to the fence.


Traveling farther North we come to the outskirts of Florence, Arizona, and these attractions.


While returning to Tucson, the light was fading fast. But I had to make second stop at the Tom Mix Memorial to capture the light on the clouds. When I finished with the close up of the riderless horse on the monument, I turned to find the moon alongside this tree at the entrance to the memorial. I took several images, but this one with light trail gives the image a “Close Encounters” sort of vibe.


Paul Barclay


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  • John Wilson says:

    Paul – What a great location and the choice of BW (and infrared?) is perfect for the light and the mood. The moon shot does have that dreamlike slightly spooky “close encounters” feel. Nicely done Sir.

    Also nice to hear you are just down the highway from Vancouver. Drop me a line at jc_wilson@telus.net … I have a proposition I’d like to discuss with you.

    • PaulB says:


      Yes, the afternoon and evening were very good for light and mood. And Infrared. 😉

      PS. Message sent.


  • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

    Yep, desert Southwest is a beautiful place… and your photos do it justice. That fence/saguaro shot is wonderful. Surprised you did not find Casa Grande with this bunch… or is that for another time?

    • PaulB says:

      Hi Jeffery

      Thank you for the comments. Casa Grande was a bit of a trek for this trip. We may stop there in the future since relative like to spend time there during the winter, assuming our schedules will work together.


  • Lad Sessions says:

    Paul, Thank you so much for this luminous post. I’m old enough to remember Tom Mix (“Shave and a haircut, two bits. Who’s the barber? Tom Mix”). But the images! Wow! The wide angle and monochrome (looks like infrared) really give a sense of place, especially conveying the big sky—the clouds, the clouds. The cactus is my favorite. I wonder what a few shots might look like in color, but these B&Ws are great on their own. Now I can’t wait for more!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Good Lord! I used to love watching Tom Mix films at the local Ozone or Star on a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid. It cost what I suppose was about 5 cents your money – sixpence, for us, then (we didn’t decimalise the currency until the mid 1960s). So in the late 1940s/early 1950s we were getting films made several years before I was even born? Never mind – the films were great, we all loved them. And Hopalong Cassidy! William Boyd and Gabby Hayes?

    His (Tom’s) horse looks a bit tired – no wonder, after all that time.

    Paul these photos are all taken with a larger camera? To get those detailed highlights and shadows? There’s an almost ethereal quality to them all.

    The final shot you describe as moonlit, but it seems more like an infra red image.

    • PaulB says:


      Thank you for the comments. I’m glad I could bring back some memories for you.

      No, the camera was not a larger one. In fact it is smaller. I used a Panasonic Lumix G9 M43 camera. The sensor does seem to punch above it’s 20mp weight, plus Capture One does a fine job in bringing out the image.

      Yes, you, John, and Lad are correct, the photo is infrared (720nm), which helps with the details and provides the ethereal look.


      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        LOL – pros seems to wax lyrical over sensors in a range between 20 & 26 – and suggest that they only need a larger sensor if they have been asked to produce a print larger than A3.

        I have one FF with a 45MB sensor, and four other cams with sensors mostly in this 20-26 range. And, as I print my photos – even after cropping! – I rarely notice a huge difference between them.

        Pascal’s Hassy of course is another story.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Thanks for sharing your evocative images of roadside attractions, Paul. You’ve done a wonderful job capturing the mystery and the history as well as those fabulous cloud formations. Nicely done!

  • Pascal O. says:

    This is one area of the world where I genuinely want to go back.
    My parents had a subscription to a magazine called Arizona highways and one picture was more beautiful than the other.

    But they were mostly if not all color.

    Your black and white set is genuinely superb, let alone the story that goes along with it.
    Thank you, Paul!

    • PaulB says:


      Thank you for your comments. Arizona is definitely worth repeating.

      I agree with you, Arizona Highways was, and still is, a top tier source of beautiful photographs. At one time they published an issue of B&W images a year, though most issues are mostly in color. I think that color preference is because Arizona is such a colorful place, though B&W images do get selected at times.


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