Stop in for a hamburger in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve written about the Wayside Inn before in this blog. In my post, creatively titled “The Wayside Inn,” I go into a lot of detail about the place and a visit there by helicopter back in 2003. You might find that piece interesting reading if you enjoy long, rambling stories about my helicopter travels. (Some people do.)
The short version is that the Wayside Inn is a small trailer park with a restaurant in the desert about 5 miles south of Alamo Lake. It’s accessible from Wickenburg and the rest of the world by two routes: the 40+ mile long dirt road that starts near Date Creek off Highway 93 or the combination of paved and dirt roads starting in Wendon (on Highway 60) and stretching to Alamo Lake. There’s another road from the north and I have no idea where it starts, but I do know that when the lake is full, the road is under water.
You can get an idea of its remoteness by this Google satellite image, which also includes Wickenburg. The red X is the Wayside:
The Wayside Inn has been a destination for pilots for quite a while. It has a landing strip, but the strip has been left to get overgrown with bushes and weeds and is not maintained. So instead, pilots just land on the dirt road in front of the place. I’ll admit that there aren’t many pilots who do this. It’s mostly the folks who fly taildraggers and aren’t afraid of landing on something that isn’t a real runway. And helicopter pilots, of course.
About a year ago, the Wayside Inn burned down. I didn’t know the details, but had noticed that the building was missing when I flew from Wickenburg to Las Vegas last November. The building was simply gone.
But a few weeks ago, I saw a flyer up in Ed’s hangar. Ed is the local aircraft mechanic and he does some of my engine work, including oil changes. The flyer announced that the Wayside had reopened. I put it back on my mental list of places to go for a quick bite to eat in the middle of nowhere.
On Sunday, October 19, I had an opportunity to check the place out. I was taking a video guy and a journalist along on my Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure. Another video guy would be meeting us in Sedona. We had a few hours to kill before we were due to arrive at Sedona Airport. I figured that a stop a the Wayside would kill some time without taking us too far from our course.
So I flew us out there. The journalist took this photo as I made my approach to landing. I set down on the big triangular area at the crossroads, across the main road from the trailer park.
The old building had been replaced with a double-wide manufactured building. Inside, the layout was much the same as the old building had been: bar, tables, pool tables, and a limited amount of groceries and fishing supplies for sale. All of the Polaroids of fishermen and their fish were gone. The drop ceiling panels were decorated with good-luck dollar bills signed by patrons. Before we left, we added one to the collection.
The video guy interviewed the owner of the place. Turns out, he’d bought the place right before the fire had burned it to the ground. After the interview, he made us breakfast. When it was time to leave, he rode his ATV out to the helicopter with us while his dog rode on the back and asked my journalist friend why she hadn’t eaten her bacon. (She’s a recovering vegetarian.)
We’d stopped in for just about an hour. The meal was good, the price was reasonable. The atmosphere was pure Arizona “remote.”
If you’re ever out by Alamo Lake and want to stop for a bite to eat, I hope you’ll look for the Wayside Inn. If you stop in, tell them that Maria in the red helicopter sent you.