Nov 3, 2023 – Tucson to Tombstone, AZ
Finally, it’s time to leave Tucson. We headed south through the seeming never ending urban sprawl that we’d observed a couple of days earlier from Mt Lemmon. Near the southern edge of the city we saw a cluster of high rise buildings, something we hadn’t seen before. It turned out to be the University of Arizona with its classrooms, dorms and parking garages.
An hour and a half later we arrived in Tombstone. It was pretty much what we thought it would be. Several blocks of Allen St are blocked off from automobile traffic and the dirt street is bordered by old buildings that house the usual shops you’d expect to find in a tourist town. To its credit, the shops generally offered nice goods and not too many tee shirts. There were even a couple of original buildings. Everything in the Bird Cage Theater is still original, including the bar that was brought from Pittsburgh and the holes from gun shots that occurred in the bar.
Street View of Tombstone
Encounter During Gunfight Drama
Sandy Considers a Wardrobe Update
At the other end of the street is the infamous OK Corral and several versions of old time gunfight reenactments are offered. There are stagecoach and Conestoga wagon rides you can take and various docents are on the street dressed as gun slinging cowboys.
Stagecoach Driver Waits for Next Load of Passengers
Prospector Ed Schieffelin Discovered Silver in 1877
Sheriff’s Deputies Standing by to Keep Peace
“But why did people ever settle in this place?”, you might ask. The answer was silver. Discovered in 1877 by prospector, Ed Schieffelin, it triggered the Tombstone silver boom. There is a very nice monument to him in the town’s park and, as you might expect, there is a silver mine tour offered as one of the town’s attractions. We passed on the silver mine tour but did take in one of the gunfight shows.
We’d arranged to stay at a Harvest Host “boondockers” home for the night and drove the 20 miles to get there. Kate and Ted are retired military and also RVers. They offer the large yard behind their home to campers like us. We settled in and joined Kate at a campfire she set up. We enjoyed talking with her and seeing the milky way overhead. Yes, the skies are really clear here and there is very little ambient light. It was beautiful!
Nov 4, 2023 – Tombstone to Bisbee, AZ
We sat and talked with last night’s hosts in the morning and then headed out to spend a day in Bisbee. Along the way our route took us within a mile or so of the Mexican border. Visible at the foot of a mountain was the border wall, just a thin dark line. And, situated on the north bound sections of the border in this area we encountered a couple of immigration checkpoints over the past couple of days.
Border Wall is Dark Line Along Base of Mountain
Bisbee’s history is as an important copper mining town. In its heyday, Bisbee was the largest city between Houston, Texas, and Los Angeles, California. Over its history, 8 billion pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver and 2.8 million ounces of gold were produced. But by 1974 the ore reserves had been depleted. So the mine shut down and the town’s population shrank. But some people saw a future in tourism and this reborn town flourishes again.
Main Portion of Bisbee Open Pit Mine
Dot’s Diner Food Truck is Pretty Cool
Portion of Ore Car train From Hard Rock Mine
We were surprised how large the town was. The large population of miners could not be accommodated in the narrow valley where the town had initially been built. So the town fathers designed a planned suburb they named Warren to accommodate the workers.
There seemed to be plenty to do in Bisbee to fill our day so we looked for a nearby place to stay. Turns out there is a small campground, Bisbee Queen Mine RV Park, right down town above the visitor center. We were sure it would be full on a Saturday night but we stopped at the office anyway. Turns out they had a no-show so we got that site. Cool … we could easily walk to town right from our camper.
After signing up for a mine tour tomorrow morning, we visited the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. The museum guided visitors through the history of the town and its mining history. Upstairs, the displays illustrated the process of hard rock mining as experienced by the miners. As technology improved so that ores with lower metal content could be processed economically, they moved to open pit mining and, finally, to processing the old waste piles that loom over parts of the town. Displays of the different kinds of brilliant ore crystals found in many underground voids were particularly cool.
Miner at Work with Four Pound Hammer and Drill by Candlelight
Brassing In Board Kept Track of Who Was Underground
Examples of Crystals Miners Would Find in So-Called Oxidation Caves
Cross Section of Stalactite
Water Spray Reduced Dust in 1920s Era Pneumatic Drill
Titanic Tire From 320 Ton Haul Truck
We walked uptown, browsing the art shops and chose Taqueria Outlaw for lunch. It’s a small place and the menu, of course, was Mexican as was the beer. What, no IPA for Bill? But both the beer and the tacos were great. Bill’s fried cauliflower taco, a house specialty, was really top notch!
Interior of Taqueria Outlaw
Bisbee Houses Tower Over Each Other in Steep Valley
More shop browsing followed. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), we really can’t purchase much at all because we simply have no room in the camper. We then drove around Warren, the main suburb, and found nice homes and a large ball park. They were having a mariachi celebration there but there was no place to park and it would soon close so we passed.
On our way back to the camper we stopped in Lowell. This area, really only one block long, is mostly deserted today but old cars and even busses line the streets.
The fronts of several buildings have been converted to represent old store fronts including a Harley Davidson dealer and an Indian Motorcycle shop. The only operating businesses we saw were Old Lady Pickers antiques and Bisbee Breakfast Club, a place we plan to eat at tomorrow.
Antique Cars Line Street in Lowell
Cars in Front of Old Lady Pickers Antiques
There Is even an Edsel!
This Chevy Could Use Some Service from Old Garage
Suicide Shift Lever on Old Indian Motorcycle
1948 Harley Still Looking Good
Back at the campground we had a simple sandwich supper and relaxed inside as it got uncomfortably cold outside.
Nov 5, 2023 – Bisbee to Picacho Peak SP, AZ
By 8:30 we were showered and waiting for our tour of the Queen Mine in Old Bisbee. The tour building also houses the visitor center and we looked over beautiful displays of the kinds of crystals found in the area.
Our tour guides started on the dot, explained what we should expect and equipped us with brightly colored vests, hard hats and lights. We then boarded our train which was a long seat you straddled, one behind the other, like a motorcycle seat. It ran on the very tracks that had hauled millions of tons of ore out of the mine.
Suited Up for Queen Mine Tour
Getting Seated on the Tour Train
The Queen Mine is a traditional hard rock mine meaning that it was a horizontal tunnel blasted into the side of a mountain. We were on a level whose entrance was even with the surface but there were many other levels above and below the one we toured. Most of the time there was no light other than the ones we wore.
Our guide would stop the train periodically to tell us about what we were seeing. We got off the train a few times to walk into side tunnels and rooms where he explained how the miners worked. He had worked underground in the mine for nearly 20 years until it closed in 1974. Our guide was very informative and funny to boot. We worked out his probable age and came to the conclusion that he was about 86. Good for him! The Queen Mine was one of our best tours ever.
Not a Lot of Elbow Room In Mine
Peeking Down to Next Level
Large Room Would be Back Filled with Waste Rock
Where Ore was Loaded Into Cars
Lone Miner Works Pneumatic Drill
Evolution of Pneumatic Drills
Miner Style Porta Potty
No Old Bold Miners
Explaining Pattern of Holes Where Dynamite was Placed
Different Lengths of Fuses Joined to Light for Sequenced Explosions
Back at WAWA, we prepared to leave and then drove downtown to Lowell and the highly vaunted Bisbee Breakfast Club to eat. We weren’t the only ones who’d heard about the place and there was a half hour wait so it was a pretty late breakfast. Happily, breakfast was served right up until 3:05 closing so we were in luck. Sandy’s omelet and Bill’s huevos rancheros were both excellent. The recommendations we’d gotten were right on!
So, where to? We weren’t anxious to spend more time in Tucson or to stop in Phoenix. And we’ve never been to the south rim of the Grand Canyon or to Sonoma. So north was our direction and three hours of driving sounded about right. Our drive took us through varied terrain from the San Pedro Riparian area with lush greenery to dry, scruffy mountains. That got us to Picacho Peak State Park which sits at the base of a peak by that name. Being a Sunday night, most campers had gone home so there were plenty of campsites to choose from. We took one at the far end. It was Zoom night with Bill’s siblings but cell phone data coverage was spotty so we participated by phone. Then, after supper, we sat out for a bit to admire the not-so-dark-but-still-dark-enough sky to easily see the milky way.