Met a friend in Frisco. We went south to Rosarita Mexico in his car with JP and GG. Had a few weeks of beach life with Valerie and Marie. Celebrated my birthday eating Chinese in Mexico, one highlight of many. Returned to Frisco. Collected 5th wheel and
Roll into Ojai about 3pm. GPS is amazing tool. Look to my left and spot Michaele on the sidewalk. She sees me at the same moment, waving from truck. We smile and greet. Nice to see a friendly face. All grown up at 40. Last I saw her she was 17 klunking across the floor in Doc Marten boots. Her teenager angst drove me up the wall. Now she’s a beautiful woman, no longer rambling nonsense (now it's me rambling nonsense!) Checking driveway I see immediately a problem. I do not have required backing skills for such a tight operation. The driveway’s 12’ narrow with plenty of length. An oak and pine tree on one side and a telephone pole the other. After crunching the AC at gas station I don’t even want to try it. The neighbor happened out and we start out with a few niceties. She has an RV in driveway and mentions her husband drives big rigs and heavy equipment. Nothing to lose so I ask her if he might back my RV into driveway. She says she'll get back to me. Otherwise I may have to find a campground to park. I leave RV on street and Michaele gives a tour of her mothers home. Has the comfortable feel of country cottage, same as her home on Seattles' Queen Anne Hill. Gigantic oak tree with arms 60 feet long twisting and winding reaching out and up towards the sky. A decorative brick paved walk to porch. Stucco with wood windows and doors. Inside is homey with brick fireplace. 5 cats! Kitchen, small and it works. Backyard has a central pond with fountain, bird feeders, and abundant plants. A nice size lot. A building in back size of a double car garage. A bit rough but Michaele is happily living there, bohemian style!
I get a call from neighbor. Her husband’s home. His name is Danny. Friendly blue collar type of guy. Scopes out the situation and after some talk we get down to business. His son helps to stop traffic as Danny very deftly guides the 28’ rig through a space with no more than 2 feet on each side. I thank him profusely and leave a case of Coors Light (his brew of choice) at front gate. Michaele and I meet Sylvia at a cool restaurant called Deer Lodge. We have a few appetizers and chat for an hour. It's like 10 years was 10 minutes. Sylvia looks the same. On the other hand, I’ve started a belly, wrinkling and sagging. Cool thing about Sylvia is these cosmetic things don’t seem to matter. Down to earth, unconventional and practical as can be, some of her viewpoints are surprising. A bit unpredictable. When she took a job teaching fashion illustration in Saudi Arabia I go “WHAAA?” She’s living in a secured encampment for foreigners teaching at private women's college level. Teaching young Saudi women figure drawing! How is that possible? Drawing human figure is against Muslim Sharif Law. I guess it’s ok to draw just a head, or just a body, but not a head with a body. She’s limited where and when she can go. She wears head cover and is not allowed to drive. She's used personal finances to make a cat rescue center at encampment. So far, 125 cats have been spayed or nuetered and are cared for on a daily basis. Sylvias an inspirational person. A bus picks her up, takes her to school, and drops her back home. Once you get to know the Saudi people she says, makes her realize how much we’re really the same. Men dress in shorts and t-shirts, like American counter parts. No alcohol is allowed in Saudi Arabia. Not even wine. Women dress elegantly and sexy most of the time, at home and beneath cloaks in public. Men are allowed up to 4 wives (with 4 wives maybe then men could be faithful).
In my opinion our own human nature is what we have to be afraid of. Somehow we are struggling against our better and worst selves. You can find that struggle in oneself.
My tarot reading this morning says “come out of your shell and express inner thoughts. Make sure your life’s tasks are big enough and worthy of the energy you bring to them.” It's nice to have the freedom to say what you want (well, you may lose your job)
1/1/2016 New year has come. Good bye 2015. I’m here for another 4 nights, exploring area during day. Hiked with dogs a rocky trail up through Rice Canyon to Kennedy Ridge. Met a woman on horseback and a guy on mountain bike. Ojai is a town split clearly in two. Clean stucco walls mimic ones of the old country; Spain. The shops in downtown are truly unique. Corporate franchises not allowed downtown. The other Ojai is earthy, hippie, and blue collar. Michaele calls it ghetto as a term of endearment.
We visit Ojai Sunday Market where one may find the best and freshest produce I've ever seen. I have a hankering for beets; tomatoes look splendid; I indulge. Not many crafts offered; a farmers market.
Ojai is serious about being local and different. Lots of oak trees situated along multi-canyons.
Gotta nasty cold and it’s hampering activities. Dipping to 30’s at night. Colder than usual I’m told.
Sylvia took me to one of her favorite spots; Meditation Mount. Follow a short trail, lined with beautiful trees, shrubs, and cactus. The ridge leads out to an overlook viewpoint to take in the spectacular view of canyon with Ojai in distance. The valley is lined with citrus farms. This is a spiritual retreat where people come to meditate. The following day we go to Taft Gardens and Nature Center, a privately owned non-profit garden retreat. Tucked away and kind of hidden. Amazingly Awesome. Breathtaking. Operated by the Tafts who live in splendor on a ridge close by.
Its fuller and more plant abundant than most botanical gardens I've been to. We had the whole place to ourselves on a sun dappled afternoon. Colors and textures to delight the eye. Several deer in the garden continued grazing while we strolled by.Got a load of great pics.
We had a light lunch at Lennons in Meiners Oaks.
Saying goodbye to Sylvia and Michaele on Wednesday.
Going to Ventura and have RV tended to. Then head up California coast on 101.
Landscaping at Two Springs is great. A mature park with plenty of palms. Wind energy copters (windmills) come right to edge of park. I kinda like'm. Not as disturbing as one may think. I stay for 2 days (complimentary) and consider lots ‘for sale’.
Lots go for 35K. Buy the lot but don’t really own it. You buy the rights to use it for 99 years. On top of that you pay monthly dues, $200+ They can increase dues at any time. Last day here is downright blustery. Wind shakes my trailer. Reminds me of how important it is to know what you’re buying. North Palm Springs is too windy for living in an RV.
Changed my mind about leaving PS today. Just not ready to go. I drive on Dillon Rd. towards Desert Hot Springs and come to an RV Park which honors Passport America club members. Cuts price in half. Just $22 a night. Desert Pools RV Resort.
Landscaping is underwhelming. More like parking lot style, grounds covered with gravel some hedges. Desert Pools has natural hot spring fed pools for guests to soak in. There are large signs which look to be done in the 1950’s claiming mineral springs have great health benefits. I must say, the pain in my neck was gone after one soak. I relaxed in the pools three or four more times over a few days. Had the pools mostly to my self.
The park is less than 50% full. I like it, but it can’t be good if you own this place.
Christmas is just another day. In fact the whole countdown to Christmas is a commercialized scam. Religious Christmas is something I don’t do either because I don’t believe in supporting organized religion. Gift giving is a nice practice until it turns into a competition; or worse a popularity contest.
Christmas dinner here at RV Resort is $15 a plate. Ham, potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad, pasta, and desert. The framed prints on the walls are of desert scenes, painted with a bit too much flair. There is an announcement from Desert Pools manager before dinner. There’s been a split with their national affiliation causing a riff in membership. I guess members lose part of investment from what I can understand.
Looking around, these retirees seem unconcerned. Business as usual. Maybe they've become numb to being screwed over.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Pulled out of Desert Springs and on toward California Coast. Heard about some wild fires near Ventura, shutting down lanes of 101. I hold off travel for a few hours, hoping to avoid a rush hour. Stunningly beautiful mountains along 210 to Redlands and on to Pasadena. If it weren't Monday I’d be stopping in to see Van Gogh sunflowers at Norton Simon Museum (closed Mondays). Great collection there and my first original VanGogh experience (huge).
Pass through the Tujunga/Sunland area. Towns set against Los Angeles National Forest. Must be great living here. Traffic is noticeably increasing. Drivers too close for comfort. I'm going 55 following rules, these folks going 65 and faster. Stretch from I-5 to 126 West is fast and furious. Off with radio to concentrate on pulling my house.
Deliberately riding along outer outskirts of Los Angeles.
Driving by Filmore am completely awed by tree farms and other crops clawing up the hillsides. Magnificent scenery makes me want to hang out here. Take dogs for a hike and enjoy.
At Santa Paula I decide to rest stop. Fill tank. Get haircut. Drink Guiness at an Irish Bar ($7!)
Son of a Bitch. I scraped underside of Valero gas station roof with top of air conditioner. Cracked the ac shroud along the front edge. Left a few small marks on edge trim of roof. Clearance 11’6” (RV’s 12’3”). Been driving beneath dozens of stations. Guess I’ve taken it for granite they’re a standard 13’. Kicking myself. I give attendant insurance information. Drat! Much wasted time to correct this blunder.
I take pics of damage caused as well as pre-existing damage. Heading on to Ventura and up to Ojai
Losing track of days flying by. Getting into a joyous rhythm here. Enjoying the peaceful pace. A glimpse into what retirement feels like. Pondering not having to make money! What a shift.
Everything changes. Just when you get a handle on living life, life changes and you need to change it up. I better get good at Bocce Ball if living in Palm Springs!
Been having fun exploring. Not buying anything much. Just looking is exciting enough. Watching what others are buying's new sport to me. I’ve become wary of buying anything. When I sold house in Seattle it took 3 months to clear out stuff. I still have 3 storage units full even though I sold half in garage sales and via Craigslist.
Palm trees are amazing. Everywhere lining the streets. Casting interesting shadows and
dashing sky with beautiful forms. Buildings low to the desert. A sleek village feel. Shops are tastefully packed with stylish stuff. Christmas decor is not over the top here. Tolerable (me not big on Xmas).
About cost of living in Palm Springs. Food costs noticeably more here than anywhere on my 6 month journey. There is Ralphs, Vons, and Costco where I do most grocery shopping. All in all it may be better to eat out at night. Restaurants I’ve checked out are very reasonable. Generous portions. Several times I took extra home. Gas costs more here. Around 2.50/gallon right now. In New Mexico gas was 1.89!!! Don’t know what gas is in Northwest. Buying land here is abstract. You buy the lot but not the land. The land's a patchwork with some offered for lease from Indian tribe. Horizon sells mobile homes for 10-25K. Seems cheap! however, there is an additional monthly rent around $600/month. So, that doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.
There is a city ordinance against parking an RV on an empty lot. Thats what I’d like to do: buy a lot and park a three months every year. If everyone did that it would look ghetto here. Gotta work with the rules. Still sniffing out best deal to park here.
Houses are cheap compared to Seattle. A nice average home can be had for 300k.
Very tempting. Temps get up to 110 in summer. Yikes.
Met with an artist friend from Seattle, John Hansen and wife Jane, in La Quinta. They’ve made a wonderful home there, very comfortable with large backyard and pool.
Was a foreclosed fixer upper. They did the desert landscaping with top notch result.
We hiked in the cove with dogs, drinking in the desert wonder. Great mountains jut up like knives. They invite me for dinner with a couple friends from Idylwild (west over mountain). They are New Yorkers, delightful and intelligent conversation.
The mayor of Idylwild is a Golden Retriever ! Max has a website: www.mayormax.com
What a night life! If I take a nap I can go past 9. Many fun bars to crawl in Palm Springs. Many older faces make me feel welcome. PS could be a great place to retire. Good thing about wheels is you can mix it up, stay or go, enjoying contrasts life has to offer. Total peace and quiet of the wilderness or the busi-ness/culture of city. I have a mobile phone and a mobile home. My mind is becoming mobile centric. Sounds positive. On the other hand there is great comfort having roots. Oxymoron to have both?
Met with Dave Calver again at Koffi, the modern sleek coffee shop near 'The Curve' in south Palm Springs. Dave is like cheese, he has improved with age. Google Dave Calver to see his brilliant artwork. Can’t wait for graphic novel to be published as it will be intriguing masterpiece. I showed him my secret project. He was encouraging.
Been checking tarot cards lately and am amazed by readings. Cards keep telling me to dream. Be myself. Let go of inhibitions. Dispose of hopes and fears. I keep drawing The Star card. Tarot's fun but I don’t put much stock in it. It's good to stop and consider your past present and future time to time.
These dogs've been great companions. Sometimes I think JP and GG are better people than most people. Watching this socio-political crap unfold on TV. People hating each other. Friction and terror are being played in media. People are entertained by this hysteria. Religious war. If you ask me, there’s much more history going on in the present than there should be. People believe a lot of crazy stuff. How’s this for advice? People: Believe what you can observe. Stop believing in tired invisible entities (religion) presented as gods. Destruction is the consequence of your delusions. Irresponsible ‘bearing fruit and multiplying’ is harming Earth. We need to pay attention to nature. Be responsible and respect laws of cause and effect. These old beliefs and superstitions are crippling everyone. Also, stop talking so loud! Stop laughing after everything and anything you say! That alone would improve the world (you know who you are).
Another good thing about RV wheels. Crowd control. I can get away from people as long as I can fill the tank.
I care about beauty, creating art, dogs, football, beer (and wine), travel, money.
You know, I keep trying to engage in conversation and have new experiences. People regurgitate recordings (myself included). All perfectly predictable and boring. I’d like to find a partner to share remainder of life with but I’ve not been able to promise anyone anything. How can anyone own rights to anyone else? Freedom. I have trouble with these basic ideas and thus am destined to be a loner.
Today I’m headed into Desert Hot Springs to nose about. Found a bar called Playoffs to watch Seahawks play the Browns. I’ve learned the hard way that even if one gets Dish it doesn’t mean all games are accessible. Direct TV has all the games available but because of a misleading promotional I nixed Direct TV.
Tonight I’m staying at Two Springs RV Resort. They offer a 2 night stay, free to prospective property buyers. I checked the dozen or so lots for sale. They are about 2500 sq feet. Ample for an RV, storage shed, patio, and place to park a vehicle. The lots are surrounded with tall hedges, surprisingly private. The amenities: big deluxe pool, spa, tennis courts, bocce ball, putting greens, community center. The cost is 35K. A desert oasis. I like the idea of owning the property so I can sell it when done with it. I ask if I'd own the land. No, he said. I'd be buying the lot. Whaaaat?
Ultimately its a lease. Where I come from, when you buy property it belongs to you.
That's not how they sell real estate here in Palm Springs. I guess you're buying access. Sounds too much like a shell game. I'm wary but still considering it. After all, there are 194 lots here and 180 or so are taken. What would happen if this company went bankrupt? These people do not have deeds.
Maybe renting the space when I'm visiting is the obvious answer! That would save me a lot by not buying the lot.
Palm Springs has me in its’ palm. I feel lighter here. Each morning sunshine starts my motor. Can’t help but wondering how gray it must be in Seattle. I miss Seattle a bit when I’m lounging by the pool. Booked a spot at Horizon Village Mobile Home Park in southeast Palm Springs for a month. Loving it. Checking into real estate and possibly living here part of year. Snow bird lifestyle. Met up with an artist friend I knew from Rochester New York. Dave Calver, well known illustrator, very successful, talented, stylish, everything I wanted to be in my earlier manifestation. I was earning a meager living as a newspaper illustrator in Rochester New York, won some journalism awards but never quite “made it” as an illustration career before the profession changed (dried up). I’d been admiring Dave’s wild, totally unique style in the early 80's. First time I called Dave was out of the blue while living in Rochester. Nice guy, down to earth and hip at the same time. Illustrators hardly ever become mainstream famous like “fine artists".
Norman Rockwell. That’s about it. There’s a whole world of illustration which Art Directors and other illustrators know. Most people, like say 85% of folks have not a clue this art world exists. Many people think these pictures are made by machines. Illustration world is a secret society that doesn't want to be secret. Crying to be loved. Begging for attention. Illustration is a trade that keeps cannibalizing itself. An individual talent like DC is refreshing and rare. He's a regular guy, not full of himself. No act or persona. Humble and insightful, good sense of humor (laughs at my jokes). We made an art exchange back in 1984. He has one of my “Joe Nose” suites (Finger Lakes printmaking award in 1984). I selected 3 or 4 of his spot illustrations (from hundreds) and gave the best one away to an artist friend who is a big Dave Calver fan. I think Bart introduced me to Calvers' work. So we meet again after 30 years or so, at Koffi, the stereotypical, hippest, modern coffee shop you will ever sip. We talked for a few hours about everything: art, love, money, future, aging, plans. He’s very happy here in Palm Springs with his love of 30 something years. Dave says the editorial illustration business as we knew it has dried up. No wonder I bowed out and took a different path! (Could have beat that dead horse and been living on welfare).
Teaching in Seattle bought me some time to re-invent myself.
Still many new opportunities for illustrators out there! One must be adaptable to changing tastes and trends. I suggest new opportunities to him including licensing and manufacturing products with his art. DC, you’re an inspiration!.
Check out this interview: www.pencilkings.com/dave-calver
I hunker down in PS. Begin relaxing. Staying close to new “home”. Feeling good about being lazy. Checking best times to sit in spa and swim in pool to avoid crowds. Turns out maintenance and managing team at Horizon Village Mobile Home Park are folks I knew in Seattle, on Capitol Hill ! John was a regular bartender at Encore! He seems to remember me when I mention I use to carry a sketchbook, drawing crowds (pun). His partner, Kurt seems familiar to me also. John is friendly, talkative, and large personality. Good to see him again.
The Araby Trail traverses the rocky mountain face right outside my front door.
Perfect for walking dogs. Don’t need to haul them across town to go hiking. Bob Hopes’ famous home shines with Hollywood glow. Elegant Palms line the private gated drive to top.
We walk the steep trail a mile closer and feel the vibe radiate from round building, known by locals as the parachute building. Landscaping is awesome. Everywhere in Palm Springs, landscaping awesome. I sketch the mountain and notice a correlation: geological strata coincides with economic strata. Higher you go on the hill the richer the homes are. Starting on the street level with homeless people pushing grocery carts, moving up to mobile home ghetto and to RV’s and trailers, then higher to a layer of modest homes, higher up to next level of classic well kept mid century-modern, higher still to noticeably fewer and more expensive/expansive mansions and on to a few gems on mountain tip-top. The diamond is Bob Hopes former spread. Who knew being a funny man can put you on top of the pile? Biggest joke is the trickle-down economy Reagan sold us on. This mountain could be a portrait of Palm Springs and caste system in America.
Horizon Village Mobile Park reminds me of a once adored actress, plastic surgery failing and hot flashes flashing. Grounds are well landscaped and maintained but gravity is winning. The trailers themselves are not elegant from outside. Some look like third world shacks. Some are charmingly decorated. Tiny desert garden plots, carefully tended, teem with various succulents, trellised bougainvillea, patio areas of stones, trashy yard ornaments, light strings, sculptures, fountains, and you name it, a real mix here. Exciting and tacky. At night the trailer park's transformed! Dramatic lighting effects are magical. All the ticky-tacky is cloaked by the night. Kurt said it reminds him of gay ghetto on Capitol Hill, which no longer exists. Theres a nice pool area, spa, and relaxing fountain. Streets in this park are named after planets: Neptune, Saturn, Sun, Rigel, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus. Other parks have themes too; Sahara Park with streets like Oasis, Caravan, Safari,Tangiers, Nile, and Cairo.
Days here in PS fly by, filled with sunshine. Contrasted by nights bone chillingly cold!
I draw a little each day on my secret project and doodle in sketchbook.
Seattle Seahawks prevail! Just barely over Steelers. Still have a shot at playoffs. I’m jazzed about that. Minnesota should be a tough test this Sunday. If Hawks lose, I cannot afford investing anymore emotional energy...I’ll have to wean myself! I still have faith.
I take a drive north to Morongo Valley, curious about PS outlying areas, curious if buying a half acre and fixing it up to accommodate an RV would be an option.
Buying land in Palm Springs is a thought worthy of investigation. Love this place.
Take highway 62 through field dotted with hundreds of monumental windmills and up to mountains. Morongo is a rough and rugged small town in a valley. Most roads are unpaved hard dirt.
There is a sign saying Art Colony Gallery Show. So I stop in for a look. There are 2 women, an elderly man, and a sweet Yorkshire terrier.
This art says “look how groovy and free we are". Looks like fun. I’m glad they give me space and pretend to ignore me. I leave after a polite amount of time.
I continue on through Yucca Valley (very nice place) and on to Joshua Tree. I could live in either place as there is mix of ample amenities and open space. Hills are beautiful and barren at the same time. Need to check real estate listings for an idea of property prices. Heading back through Yucca Valley I turn toward Pioneer town about 5 miles up through the canyon. Entire town’s a western movie set still available for filming. Another tourist attraction. Why do I love this stuff? Dunno. Its just old dilapidated building fronts. Weather worn gray planking, false front buildings, lace curtains, carts, the signage, the corral, the barns; it all adds up to a way of life passed by. Somewhat famous restaurant, Pappy & Harriets is closed today.
Travel back to Palm Springs with new information about surrounding land to north of PS.
With Kurt as guide we visit Thursday night street fair in Palm Springs. We take free bus called The Buzz. Main street is closed off and tents line both sides of street. The place is half bustling. Kurt says it's usually packed with people this time of year. We stop into Legends of Palm Springs, the bar where John is tending. John wants to introduce me to a gallery owner, trying to do me a favor. I thank him but not looking for gallery representation.
I excuse myself to use the bathroom. Sometimes its difficult to explain these things and it really doesn’t matter to explain these things so I’ve learned to not explain. Most people think an artist needs a gallery. I've forged my own way, not caring to have notoriety. More concerned with earning a living.
Kurt and I walk the street show. I’m looking for products similar to ones I produce and find one booth which sells products along the same line as what I sell. I can offer a better product at half the price should I be motivated to do this. We wind up night with a glass of wine at Legends and ride back to Horizon Park.
Palm Springs Art Museum
Some of my favorites on view.
Friday the thirteenth in Tuscan Arizona. Very nice day as I drive on 10 to west Tucson. I randomly pull into an RV Park on Prince Street. The woman manager is nice and price is $25 a night. Its mostly a trailer park. I sign on for 2 nights. I take the dogs up to Starr Pass on a desert hike. Wow! rocks with turquoise scattered about. Can’t help but collect a few pebbles. Saguaro cactus is everywhere. Its really like a cactus forest up here.
The trailhead is near a high end residential community and golf course. Walking 500 feet into the hills and all that is left behind. Back to the wilderness feels great. Its dry heat, and very hot so I keep an eye out for snakes. Ground is hard and rocky. I keep dogs on trail since so many varieties of prickly cactus populate the land. We hike for a few hours and head back to camp.
I have a few hours to visit the Tucson Art Museum. There’s a cowboy comic exhibit today. My good luck. Original inked pages on view. I’m only one here except for 2 guards who are busy talking way too loud about party last night. This show is relevant but nobodies here to appreciate it. I visit the other galleries, an amazing life size Day of Dead exhibit. About 20 loudly colorful figure/skeleton playing musical instruments in a parade/celebration. Dark fun. Another gallery has a more traditional collection of western art, including an exceptional portrait of an Indian woman by Nicolas Fechin. The strokes are fresh and expressionistic. This painting is a painters painting. Cannot find another painting that moves me so it's time to go.
Next day we ride over to Old Tucson Studios where many old westerns were filmed.
Fake town created just for westerns. Love it. Still being used for movies and working as a tourist attraction. Very fun. Got a lot of great pictures to use in any Wild West project that may come up. From there we head to the Desert Museum. Beautiful displays of desert flora and fauna. Have to skim since it's close to closing.
Looking forward to Seahawks and Cardinals this afternoon. Laundry must get done. On and off rain today. I bring slide out in to minimize chance of leaking.
Half way through November already. Forecast for first freezing of year here on Tuesday. Winter has been chasing me since Jackson Wyoming. Been in ten states on this journey so far. What is wrong with Seahawks this year?
Driving through Arizona with minimum stops.
Crossed California border and happy about nearing Palm Springs. Found an RV park on the edge of a large salt lake, Salton Sea Beach Marina. Due to all the dead fish lying on beaches decided not to stay overnight. I was amazed the monthly rental rate would be just $200. Headed up through Coachella and Cathedral City to Palm Springs.
Drove along Frank Sinatra Blvd. to the first RV Park, Horizon and liked it. Not too ritzy but decent amenities. I chose a spot on southern edge of park next to steep edge of rocky hill where dogs can do business and I can feel some privacy. Most are permanent tenants in large trailers. Signed up for a month. The park has plenty of beautiful palm trees, sparkling swimming pool, spa, laundry, showers, and common area.
Old Tucson Studios
Driving on, I reach Tombstone Arizona. Immediately this town puts me under it’s magic spell. The entire town, “too tough to die”, has gone with a wild western theme. Stepping into middle of the wide dirt street’s enough to flash back to 1880’s, Tombstone’s boom time. Famous for one event in 1881, the shootout at OK Corral. It lasted about 28 seconds and the legend still draws crowds. Some original buildings still exist but 80% of town was burned to ground in two fires of 1882. Has anyone speculated Clanton gang may have had something to do with fire? After all, the Earps and Doc Holiday gunned down 3 Clanton gang members near OK Corral in October of 1881. Doesn’t seem too far fetched that the fire was arson. Legend is fire was caused by a cigar lighting a whiskey barrel. What if fire was deliberately lit as the cowboys revenge? Just saying.
Magic of Tombstone presents good as victorious over evil. Law over anarchy.
Like everything else, it’s more complicated than that. Lawmen virtuous over criminal cowboys and indians? OMG. Wyatt Earp,Earp brothers, and Doc Holiday were good guys? Yikes.. Indians fighting to defend homeland are bad guys?
I visit many shops and boutiques along Allen Street, all catering to the tourist. I walk every street in Tombstone absorbing sights and sounds. The entire town is a stage like in a theatre.
Wood planked sidewalks. Raw wood, adobe, and stone buildings. Cowboys, rustlers, and lawmen dressed actors and horses pulling coaches (some empty and some with tourist payloads) back and forth and clouds of dust kicking up. Spell is cast.
I attend OK Corral reinactment and am entertained and enthralled. Actors are smooth and well rehearsed. Doc Holiday character is ‘host’ as he stays in character even when addressing audience. From there I find a bar near the mining side of town. A guy from New Jersey dressed as a cowboy pours me a beer. He’s here to help his father out for the season but he’s not into the “western thing”. I continue south down Allen Street to the Bird Cage Opera Theatre. It is one of a few original buildings, very much in tact.
One can walk through the museum and get a feel of its bawdiness. Bullet holes riddle the ceiling. Gambling tables where Faro was played, many artifacts, original light fixtures, kerosene lamps, chairs, wall paper, pianos, curtains and much more. Three of the madames rooms are completely intact. There is a framed and signed business license, allowing Bird Cage to operate as a whore house ($7.50 a year).The gift shop was added on the back of building and is a lot of fun to peruse. The nice woman running gift shop swears the Bird Cage is haunted.
I check out The Crystal Palace and am wowed by the bar. I call about a few properties for sale. A 3,000sf building just south of Bird Cage, with some land for 500k. Another property for sale is a bar and B&B for 400k. Neither in good shape. They need work. I’m sure these folks would take a lower offer if I wanted to operate out of a republican dominated town. How long could I stand the whining from “I hate O’Bama” republicans?
They are everywhere in Tombstone as several residents point out. They seem nice enough but as I get talking they advise me to don’t mention my political affiliation unless it happens to be republican. Of the two towns I’d say Bisbee would be a better place to live, though I'm a sucker for a tourist trap!
Drove from Douglas to Bisbee. Stopped into the Breakfast Club and had a California omelet. Most excellent. You wouldn’t think anybody was here but there’s another part to this town. A deep pit splits the town in two. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Surrounding hillsides are terraced like Japanese farms or Mayan temples. Only these are chiseled out of rock. Mining for silver, copper, and other minerals has ceased. Now the tourists are being mined with tours. I look through the museum area and find no compelling reason to go on mining tour.
I stroll through lower Brisbee. Its like everyone walked away, left everything in 1952.
Old cars parked in front of auto shops with old gas pumps. Original painted graphics on walls and equipment. Most shops are closed up. Out of place is the fitness center in the middle of block. I drive the rig up through the valley to Upper Bisbee. This place is the opposite of lower Bisbee. Vibrant, bustling with people. This place reminds me of Italian Cinque Terra, the way buildings are packed into hillsides. Narrow streets and colorful.
This looks fun. Can’t find anywhere to park my rig so I keep driving. Good thing at top of canyon I find an entrance back onto highway. Passed several small art galleries and artist studios. Would have loved to explore Bisbee but it was too problematic with rig. In hindsight, should have parked in the pay lot right below mining museum.
Get up for an early start. On Highway 10 to Deming. Love the vast open landscape. Winds gusting push against my rig. Reports call for gusting up to 50mph. Stopped into Deming with the thought of staying over night. Town is very quiet. Nobody seems to be here. I stop in boot store. Try on some cowboy boots. I like the fit and look so I buy a pair. Check that off my list. Went into the town museum and find some cool stuff. An exhibit of a cowboy chuck wagon with all authentic gear. The wagon reminds me of my wagon (RV). I’m feeling a cowboy connection as I travel through the west and sample the relics. Love the Pueblo Peoples pottery collection.
Decide that this town is too dead. A ghost town is much more interesting than this little blah-zay place. I get back on freeway and decide to risk the blustering wind.
There’s a fresh pre-fab house tipped over on the median. A big rig lost its load in the wind. Disaster. The next town is Lordsburg. Spoke to a few folks at the truckstop. Truckdrivers reassured me wind direction is ok for traveling and I’d be fine in RV. Made it to the highway 80 turnoff and took it south toward Douglas. Absolutely no traffic. Just me.
So I stop my rig in middle of highway, take a selfie, and let dogs out to do business.
Stopped at Geronimo Monument to mark the nearby point of surrender at Skeleton Canyon. A moment of silence. I have a deep respect for the native peoples who once thrived on this land. The story unfolds and Geronimo was imprisoned with his people for over twenty years in Florida, for trying to defend his homeland. There’s a great image out in the world with a picture of Geronimo and three of his warriors, headline: Homeland Security: Fighting terrorism since 1492.
Rolled into Douglas Arizona around 7pm. Cruised down main street then off into some random residential area. Found a dive bar called La Frontera, painted in wobbly letters on the side of a low cinder block wall. Went inside. Very poor. looked like a gypsy shack inside.
There were 4 people, including bartender. I ask for a Bud on tap. The bartender has a few missing teeth. The place is filthy and I try not to touch anything. They have five or six TVs playing different stations. I ask if we can watch the republican debate. The bartender is a young pretty woman. Sad she has a dental problem. She’s not letting her teeth issue slow down on the smile action. She turns the station for me and the ‘debate’ has just started. Trump rattles on about building a wall to stop illegal immigrants. I expect a reaction from the Mexican ‘crowd’ but no reaction. Numb to politics.
It was late so I stayed parked on the residential street just 5 blocks from Mexican border. Every house here has a dog in the yard. Every dog is barking when I walk by with JP and GG. I want to apologize to these folks for disturbing the peace. Some yards have plastic lit religious decor on the lawns. Homes seem run down and neglected.
I give thanks and bid farewell to Apacheria. Back on the road again, south to Las Cruces. I’ll be crossing paths with Kristi, since her friend Harold had an emergency and was admitted to hospital in Las Cruces. (Hugs and thanks to you Kristi!) I arrive to Las Cruces and experience a bit of culture shock. Been wandering in the wilderness and have become accustom to open spaces, peace, and quiet. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by traffic, streets, signs, and hundreds of people rushing in all directions. Feels like a calamity. How would I pull this rig and navigate strange city streets without GPS mapping? Wouldn’t want to try.
I find my way to Memorial Hospital and stop in to visit Harold. He looks good and surprised to see me. We talk for half an hour. A kind and open heart. He opened an invitation to visit him in Monticello any time. I find an RV Park on Valley Drive and unhitch, set up camp. The camp manager is another Washington transplant. She has a UW welcome mat! I'm laying low for the day. Plot out a few points of interest. Old Mesilla looks interesting. I head over in the evening, just a few miles to Old Mesilla. This plaza has some colorful history. Indian camp, Outlaws and rustlers, confederate soldiers, raging politics, capital city of Arizona and New Mexico Territories, Mesilla , established 1849, was once a bustling town. People of Mesilla turned down the railway in 1881 and people of smaller Las Cruces voted to allow the “Iron Horse” through. Thus the shift in wealth and power to Las Cruces. OOPS! Historical signs are posted all around the plaza. One can’t help but feel a connection to the old west when standing in front of the adobe courthouse which housed the state capital and the location where Billy the Kid was sentenced to hang. The courthouse is now a tourist attraction where souvenirs are sold.
I check out their coaster offerings and find none in the style that I make. I’m finding many opportunities to sell my wares along the old west trail.
I stop into bar on the corner called El Patio. Order a beer and find friendly folks and a homey atmosphere. I would definitely hang here if I lived in the neighborhood.
Judge Roy Bean, Doc Holiday and Billy the Kid drank here, according to a Mesilla resident.
I have a smashing vodka martini at the Double Eagle restaurant which is a National Historic Landmark. The bartender is super friendly and encourages me to nose around the six different dining rooms. The decor is ritzy; much authentic and in tact. The hand carved oak bar, corinthian columns, crystal chandeliers, tin ceiling, amazing plantings, and an eerie story of tragic ghost lovers.
Next day I trek to El Paso Texas in search of a pair of cowboy boots. Leaving Las Cruces I notice the amazing mountains, the Organ Mountains. Who named this magnificent formation? wow what a woeful name.
I pass several border patrols and worry a bit about the joint in my glove box. Decide to let it ride. No problems getting through to Texas. I notice immediately signs of wealth.
There are no more spotty piles of rusting autos or broken down trailers. Buildings look newly maintained, freshly painted. My first venture into Texas. I’m trying to find the outlet store for Tony Lama cowboy boots. I get happily lost rambling through Upper La Mesa suburb shopping centers of El Paso. Its one after another, shopping marts extending seemingly forever.
I check my GPS and spot my faulty turn. I correct my course and am soon trying on cowboy boots at Tony Lama. Put a few pairs aside, promising patient sweetheart saleswoman I’d return after some comparison shopping.
I stop at Office Depot and buy an Epson scanner, something I need right now.
I drive around El Paso a bit and realize I’ll have to explore this on another trip. There’s just too much to see and I’m overwhelmed. Tall buildings are beaming. Just not in the mood to deal with elevators and city people.
I head on the highway and get lost again, this time in the Franklin Mountains State Park, largest urban park in the US. I float around on the trails and take in the sweeping view of El Paso below. I miss the dogs. Head back to camp.