Off I-10 along the banks of the San Pedro River, Benson (pop. 4,870) was founded as a Santa Fe railroad connection to booming Tombstone and the Mexican harbor town of Guaymas. Trains still rumble through town, but there’s not much to see apart from fading roadside signs. Reb’s Café and Coffee Shop (1020 W. 4th St., 520/586-3856) and the Horseshoe Café and Bakery (154 E. 4th St., 520/586-2872), across from the railroad tracks, are where locals go to eat. Thanks in part to the popularity of Kartchner Caverns, Benson has a number of motels congregating around I-10 exit 304.
From Benson, our route cuts south on old US-80 (now Hwy-80), while I-10 races east over the mountains that 100-plus years ago were a stronghold of Apache warriors under Geronimo and Cochise. If you’re following the interstate, a couple of sights are worth looking for. The more satisfying of these, the Amerind Foundation Museum (520/586-3666, Tues.-Sun., $10), lies 13 miles or so east of Benson, off Dragoon Road a mile southeast of I-10 exit 318. Started in 1937, the private nonprofit museum is devoted to the study of local Native American cultures, with everything from ancient arrowheads to contemporary Pueblo pottery on display in the spacious mission-style buildings. Not surprisingly, the best collections are of Hopi, Navajo, and Apache artifacts, with well-presented exhibits of ceremonial and domestic objects—kachina dolls, rugs, and ritual costumes.