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.
Gray and I set out for VLA, the biggest radio telescope in the world. VLA is an acronym
for Very Large Array. Funny name, yes. This is one case where the acronym is an improvement.
VLA appeared in alien movie with Jodie Foster. Never saw it myself. Guess I'll add it to my movie list. Weather Northwest of here looks menacingly dark and stormy. We drive forth with hope it will blow over. Nearing Soccoro weather is dry. We pass through the pleasant village of Magdalena. Countryside has rolling hills dotted with dark green sagebrush. Reminds me of Alentejo, Portugal. Pale yellow buffalo grass stretching far as one can see on the flatlands. Cone shaped mountains are spaced out.
Rain suddenly starts pouring down. So hard I have to slow down. The sky is dark gray thick clouds. We see in distance the array. Turn into entrance. The temperture drops and wind is kicking up. Its freezing cold. We watch a film at the visitor center which explains how this radio telescope works. There are 28 dish/antennas that work together via super computer. Antennas move on a giant Y shape on railroad tracks into 72 different configurations. Antennas in the array weigh over 230 tons and are 82 feet across and 90 feet high. Immense endeavor! VLA is used by people studying space all around the world. VLA uses radio waves gathered by all these antennas to create an image of our galaxy and beyond. It has identified a supermassive black hole anchored in the heart of our galaxy. We walk along the self-guided tour but it’s SVC (so very cold) we cut our visit short. This place blows my mind. People yearn to know what lies beyond and have invested their hope in this amazing giant eyeball. On the return we stop for a brew at only bar in Magdalena. There's 4 middle age guys in cowboy hats. They seem a bit surprised to see us. Somehow we started talking. One of the guys was a Sullivan who's family owned property next to Kristi's place. Suddenly we weren't strangers anymore.
We got back to Apacheria late. I fed dogs and to bed early.
Helped Gray all day. Photographed him assembling Accordion Craft Kit to use as slideshow instruction for website and U-tube. Useful for showing people how cool an activity for kids and seniors. Check out video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsovOH3jgGE&feature=youtu.be
Drove to an open field collecting wood to burn. Filled up my truck. Plan is to leave in the morning, after camping at Apacheria for 12 days. Decided to take another day because of wind gusting.
GG discovers a rattlesnake hiding in the dark corner of garage while Gray is working.
Gray hears the rattle and quickly warns me to get GG away. She obeyed my call and that probably saved her life. Gray had regretted killing the last rattler so this time he grabbed a garbage can.
He used the hoe to pull the snake into the can. I slammed the lid on.
We drove the snake a mile away to Rattlesnake canyon and released. Got some great snake shots.
Headed for Las Cruxes tomorrow.
We drive 2.5 hours to Silver City, through Mimbres Mountains.
Nearing Silver City we stop in at Wolfhorse Outfitters and visit Joe, Kristi’s good friend. Joe leads horseback riding tours through Apache country. Cool guy. Couldn't resist buying one of his great silk-screened shirts.
In Silver City we join a procession of about 20 people. It’s All Saints Day and this procession is led by a woman in cape and face paint. We wind though the streets visiting one altar after another. Each time she says a short blessing/prayer, raising her hand, waving burning sage smoke and speaking a few words. Alters are decorated with bright flowers, skulls, photos, bread, fruit, cookies, lace, colorful blankets, lights, and candles. Each is personal and carries a different theme, or emphasis. I’m touched by reverence of these people. I’m really an observer and not a believer, but participating. I feel accepted. After making 14 or so stops, we come to the end. It was a nice way to see Silver City. It has numerous galleries and has a down home feel. Kristi leads us back to her friends place and are welcomed in.
There are five or six people with whom we share in eating blessed bread.
I received warm wishes and affectionate good bye hugs from Kristi’s Apache friends and we were on our way to Pinos Altos. Kristi guides us to the Buckhorn Saloon (circa 1860) and Opera House. To think an opera house in this tiny western town, once bustling with gold mining, bizarre. Observing the building exterior is time traveling. This is no Hollywood reenactment. Real thing here. Wood deck out front with adobe wall construction. Opera house is in separate building accessable from inside bar.
A few offensive tourist-attraction touches: a whore dummy scantily clad on ledge in sexy pose. Then there's the drunk Indian dummy on slot machine in the back near restrooms. Oh, and there are three or four naked women murals, painted crudely) Loved the opera house most. Six booths above the main floor for the well to do, framed in velvet curtains. Reminds me of where Lincoln was shot. Stage is in tact. Grand chandelier hangs above center of room. There’s another bar in the back corner. Black and white photos of Indian chiefs are posted around walls, including a nice one of Geronimo. The restaurant looks period correct wall treatments. Wains coating and patterned wall paper. A glass case with hundreds of native pieces on display on view in dining area. Beaded moccasins, vests, pipes, head dresses, arrowheads, and ceremonial items and other garments. All this was happening just 150 years ago. Same time period as civil war. Witnessing this place and places I’ve been on this journey are giving a more real context, making a time line I can understand. Why did I think the wild west was in the 1700's? Oops.
Gray, Kristi, and I enjoyed a beer together and drove back to Placita listening to books on tape.
Some believable and absurd story featuring slices of life around Vincent Van Gogh and Impressionists.
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