Sunday, January 27, 2013

A busy week in Bisbee

January 27, 2013:

A very busy week here in Bisbee and trying to get back on a more healthy diet, planning to hike more often as we both seem to have gained about 5 pounds at the last campground, Desert Trails. The town of Bisbee is built right into the mountainside with the houses sort of built on steps and they have these long stairways going from one level to the next.  In October, Bisbee has a very popular event called "The Bisbee 1,000", The great stair climb.  It is sort of an ironman competition, racing all over town climbing the stairs.  This may become part of our workout plan ?
On Monday we did the Copper Queen Mine Tour where they take you into the mine on the old mine train.  You get to wear a bright yellow jacket, a helmet and a flashlight.  They have old miners actually working this tour who explain how things were done.  They told everyone before starting in the tunnel;  If your helmet starts to come off, just let it go, don't try to catch it.  No, this didn't happen to us, but Twinkles did somehow manage to drop her purse inside the tunnel.  Luckily it didn't go under the wheels and was not damaged.  I had been giving her some grief about bringing her purse on the ride, and tapping her helmet in the tunnel, so somehow, it was my fault ?  

On Tuesday a hike, about 6 miles, on the the "Miller Canyon Trail" and the "Clark Spring Trail" through a forested area that had burned a year or so before.  It was a unusual hiking through the blackened trees, but the colors and starkness was somehow beautiful.  On the way back we stopped at "Jimmy's Hot Dogs" near our campground.  It is a bright yellow building with a small Airstream trailer (takeout window) attached and it features Chicago style hot dogs.  It was great, Twinkles says, best homemade potato chips ever !  It goes on the Favorites list !

Wednesday I went to Erie Street to take some photos of the really cool old buildings, old chevy dealership, automotive and Indian motorcycle shop and old signs.  Erie Street is on the other side of the Lavender open pit mine from downtown Bisbee.  I noticed a couple of signs on buildings saying "welcome to  Lowell, Arizona" and wondered why, never occurred to me that it could be a separate town.  Latter I googled Lowell, Arizona and to my surprise it was referred to as a ghost town ?  It seems that Lowell is actually a separate town that was deserted years ago.  It now has several businesses open again, so I don't quite understand the ghost town status ?  One thing for sure, it is a step back in time and has really cool stuff, like one of Indian Larry's motorcycles.

I visited the infamous St. Elmo Tavern in downtown Bisbee to catch the open acoustic jam session.  The St. Elmo claims to be the oldest continuously operating Bar in Arizona, since 1903, another step back in time.  It is also a very revered dive bar and locals hangout.  I had nice clean jeans and shirt on and I felt a little over dressed.  The reviews of the St. Elmo on the web are great reading!  

On Thursday we went for a hike to the "Cochise Stronghold" in the Dragoon Mountains north east of Bisbee.  The famous Chiricahua Apache chief "Cochise" and his followers hid out and evaded the US Army for a long time back in these mountains.  The Apaches were a very hard core group, who pretty much terrorized everyone around them.  We hiked on the Cochise trail (a real indian trail), three miles in to the "divide" then back out.  As we were hiking in we encountered the hiking group from our last campground, Desert Trails, (the odds of that are like winning the lottery), I should go buy a ticket ? 

Friday night, I was back to Bisbee at the Copper Queen Hotel to see a couple of the local Bisbee musicians, Terry Wolf and John Cordes.  I planned to only stay for an hour, but I really liked their stuff, Terry's singing and John's fiddle playing were perfect together and I ended up staying until they finished.  I also met a nice friendly couple from Scottsdale at the bar and went with them to the St. Elmo where a rock band was playing. It was a fun night. 

Saturday I went to Tombstone, Arizona and walked around town, took many photos, went to the amazing Bird Cage Theater with so many old artifacts from the wild west period.  I also stopped at the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper building, started in 1880, which is still published and learned the incredible story of John Clum, the newspaper's founder.  I then had to go into "Big Nose Kate's Saloon" for a beer, a real tourist trap.  There is so much interesting history in this town, but sadly the stupid shootout in the OK corral gets most of the attention.  On the trip back to Bisbee, I detoured over to the San Pedro River riparian conservation area where at the "San Pedro House" there is a huge Cottonwood tree with a 36 foot circumference.  This area is considered a world class birding area. 

Sunday, was a breakfast day at a highly rated restaurant called the Bisbee Breakfast Club.  It was beyond  expectations, I had a biscuit with my meal that was a meal by itself, lasted me all day !  Add another one for the favorites list.  Now down for the day !

I suggested to Twinkles that we go "unplugged" for a few days to practice boondocking here prior to our next stop in Quartsite, Arizona.  Her response was , No way Jose, or something to that affect !!! 

That's all that fits.

Into the Copper Queen mineshaft

All a board the Copper Queen mine train

Geo Cache I found on top of rocks off the Clark Spring Trail

Bisbee's Copper Man statue

Jimmy's Hot Dog's near our campground

View from the Clark Spring Trail, note the burnt trees and snow in the mountain

Art Deco Cochise County Courthouse in Bisbee

Old gas pump in Lowell, 33 cents a gallon

Indian Larry on display in Lowell window

The Shady Dell Motel in Bisbee where you can stay in a classic Airstream trailer 

View from Cochise Trail in Cochise Stronghold

Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone - original

The old Butterfield Overland Stage at Tombstone - original !

View from my seat at Big Nose Kate's Saloon

Great cloud view along route 90 outside Bisbee
I can't believe I ate the whole thing !

Huge Cottonwood Tree at San Pedro House

Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to Bisbee, Arizona

January 21, 2013:

Last Friday at noon, after a round of goodbyes, we pulled out of Desert Trails RV Park, heading for Bisbee, Arizona to start another chapter.  It was a bit sad and kind of weird, like we were leaving the comfort zone and going back out again into the great (mean old world) unknown.  Once on the road for an hour, the scenery started changing a bit, and the thrill of seeing something new again took over.  Route 80 to Bisbee took us through the interesting towns of Benson and Tombstone and then into the mountains as we approached the town of Bisbee. 

Our destination, the San Jose Lodge, is just a few miles south of Bisbee and only 3 miles from the Mexican border town of Naco.  In fact we can see the border fence in the distance from our RV. The San Jose Lodge has a restaurant, a lounge and full hook up RV sites in the rear.  It is not crowded, there are only four other RV's here and one of them appears to be a permanent set-up.  The campground is adjacent to the Customs and Border Patrol complex, so we feel pretty safe.  The cable TV connection and the WiFi are both free and are the best we have had since leaving New Jersey.

Bisbee is very artistic with a rough and rumble, wild west heritage and as the tour guide said, a bit quirky, and they hope to keep it that way.  This town is nestled one mile high amongst the mountains and old mines.  Bisbee in its boom years claimed to be the largest city between St Louis and San Francisco. The Copper Queen mine was one of the richest Copper mines in its day.  The mine eventually became less profitable and was closed in 1975, other jobs were scarce and most residents fled town, Bisbee was then in danger of becoming a ghost town.  This changed in the early 1970's when an influx of hippie artist types from California moved in, many as squatters, and starting fixing up the old buildings and opening shops which resulted in a todays art colony atmosphere.

On Sunday, we took a ride north to the city of Sierra Vista , stopping along the way at the Coronado National Memorial, which had interesting exhibits on the Spainish Coronado expedition of 1540-1542.  They had traveled through this area from Mexico searching for silver and gold and the lost cities of Cibola.  We did a short but steep 2 mile hike there on the "Cave Trail" to an actual cave that you can go into and explore for a few hundred feet. I had no flashlight and didn't know what to expect inside, wild animals, desperadoes, etc, so I didn't go in.  However, on the way back down we passed several hikers and I latter saw photos showing school kids inside a large room inside the cave. Next time we go in !

On the way back to Bisbee, we stopped at the historic, 100 year old, Brown Canyon Ranch which was very interesting and original.

Stay tuned, more to be revealed latter.

Twinkles at one of the famous stairs in Bisbee

The oldest continuously operated bar in Arizone

Bisbee Mural

Bisbee Mural

Sculpture on Bisbee roof top

Bisbee Sewer cover

The smallest bar in Arizona, holds 4 people

The Miners and Merchants Bank in Bisbee

Bisbee Mural

Road to Sierra Vista, Mexican border in distance

The Corando expedition

Twinkles at the Cave entrance

The historic Brown Canyon Ranch

View from the Cave Trail

Windmill at the Brown Canyon Ranch

Sunset from the RV doorway

The corral at the Brown Canyon Ranch

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goodbye Desert Trails

January 18, 2013:

Winter now seems to be over, it went out with bang on the 15th with a Tucson record low of 17 degrees.  That was a good test for the heating system of the RV, at 17 degrees the heater had to run about 70% of the time to maintain an interior temperature of 65 degrees.  I really don't expect or want to be anywhere colder than this.

I took advantage of the cold spell to go skiing at Mt. Lemmon on the 14th.  I was more into driving up the Catalina Highway (about an hour) from Tucson at 2,500 ft. elevation to Mt. Lemon at 9,100 ft. elevation than the actual skiing.  It is a incredible highway with scenic vistas everywhere and takes you through several climate and vegetation zones along the way.  The outside temperature indicator on the truck dropped to 11 degrees by the time I reached the top, the ski shop said it was 3 degrees at the summit.  The ski area is small and sort of dated, kind of like something from the 1955, one old slow lift to the summit, the bathrooms are cold Porta-Johns outside in the parking lot, no apres-ski events here !  What they do have though is real natural snow, altitude, great summit views and good ski terrain.  It is the southern most ski area in North America and it truly is a place where you can golf or go swimming in the morning in Tucson and then go skiing in the afternoon.

I took a hike behind the campground to the "Mines" area.  This is an area about 2 miles behind the campground where there are several old small mines.  The mines are either sealed shut or have fences around them with warning signs.  Old prospector's have roamed every inch of this area back in the day and these small mines are all over.  I expect they are from the early 1900's or even earlier.  I am always looking around for some old treasure, so far no luck.  

It was another outstanding concert at Desert Trail from Johhny Bencomo on Tuesday evening.  This guy is the real deal, a real singing cowboy, incredible 12 and 16 string guitar player with an equally great voice, great stories, with a huge repetoire of old country, cowboy, and mexican songs.  It is always amazing to me when I see people like him who are virtually unknown, but are so good, better that the stars. 

We went to Biosphere with a couple of friends from the campground today, we had a great guided tour and learned lots of interesting environmental facts. This was an amazing project that continues on as a research project now under the University of Arizona.

This extended stay at Desert Trails has been wonderful, most likely be back next winter, lots of new friends, but we must ramble on, stay tuned for more exciting travels.

Macro photo of Saguaro cactus

Snake skeleton on Saguaro arm

Catalina Highway to Mt. Lemmon

View from Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley

View form Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley

View from the Catalina Highway

View from the chair lift


Mine entrance



Monday, January 14, 2013

Freezing in Arizona

January 14, 2013:

I promise this will be the last talk of the weather !  We are having a near record breaking cold spell here in southern Arizona, low 20's tonight, but it's a dry cold !  Others may complain, but I don't mind, (unless the pipes burst), it's actually kind of nice to wear jeans, long sleeve shirts, boots and coats again.  I'm thinking that ten months out of the year is enough time for sweat, sunburn, sandals, shorts and tee's, plenty of time for that stuff latter.  

We are giving the furnace a workout (hopefully not a wearing it out) and now going through a tank of propane about every 5 days. The heated basement area seems to be working pretty well. The weather forecast has it getting much warmer over the next week.

I went to the Friday evening concert at the campground, the Silver Thread Trio, three very attractive women who play fiddle, guitar and washboard, sing beautiful harmony and acapello and share a flask on stage. You have to like that !!!  On the way back to the RV in the dark, perfectly clear night, so many stars, beautiful, one of the wonders of this lifestyle. 

I'm reading the new Neil Young book, "Waging Heavy Peace" and finding it very entertaining.  You might not agree with all his politics, but you have to admire his dedication, perseverance and commitment to his various causes such as Lionel Trains, The Bridge School, Farm Aid, Electric cars, alternate fuels and now better audio sound quality. 

On a walk behind the campground, I spotted a complete snake skeleton up on top of a Saguaro arm, very odd, wonder how it got there ?
Twinkles and I went back and took it down, I suppose we will add it to the collection.

Also another short hike on the Yetman trail at Saguaro Park with nice cloudy conditions that spice up the photos out in the desert.  So many hiking trails here, all good.

I went to the 2nd Saturday event in downtown Tucson which is an event they do every month trying to get people back downtown.  They had a stage set up with a few bands playing and and food vendors.  It was below freezing so not very well attended.  I then stopped at two restaurant/cafes to listen to live music, the Iguana Cafe with a rough, hard, dangerous looking crowd, but a pretty good band. I then went a couple of blocks away to Elliot"s on Congress which is more of a college crowd where one of the hot new Tucson bands, Copper and Congress, was playing.  I love this band, (Copper and Congress), but the music was actually better at the dive !

I'm planning to go skiing at Mt. Lemmon on Monday, it is over 9,000 ft elevation, the southern most ski area in North America and the report is that there is lots of natural snow.  

This is our last week at Desert Trails, it's time to move on, next stop is the San Jose RV Resort in Bisbee, Arizona. 

Just seems wrong ?

View for the Yetman Trail

View for the Yetman Trail

View from the Yetman Trail

View from the Yetman Trail

View from the Yetman Trail