Monday, December 4, 2017

Back to the playground

November 15 - 30, 2017:

It was a 106 mile ride today on route 80 through Tombstone to Benson where I get on I-10 west to Tucson.  We are now back at the senior playground of Desert Trails RV Park where we will reside for our winter break until mid March.  We have a new campsite across the road from our previous one which is a big improvement.  It has a much more private sitting area behind the RV bordered by cactus, creosote and palo verde trees and lots of birds.  Alice loves it !

I make a stop at the Horse Show Cafe in Benson

The backyard

I have a long list of things to do this winter, I won’t be bored, but since we won’t be traveling much I will reduce the blog frequency.  The social activities are in full swing here already with a 4 PM happy hour somewhere every day and all sorts of activities to participate in if desired.  The weather has been clear and dry with above average and some record high temperatures, in fact they say  November has had the hottest average temperature for Tucson ever recorded, but I’m sure that will change soon.   

On the live music front there is always something going on here;   I went to the Hotel Congress for a show opened with a “Sweet Ghosts” band trio, followed by a solo Billy Sedemyer and then a segment with a Gabriel Sullivan backing band.  The highpoint as usual was a spirited rendition of “Tucson Kills”.  Afterwards a Swedish singer whose album is being produced by Sullivan did a performance backed by the band.  I left shortly afterwards practically fighting my way out the door through a line of college age kids, mostly girls in tight fitting dresses with excessive anatomy parts exposed, their fathers would not approve.

Billy Sedemyer, Gabriel Sullivan and blues great Tom Wallbank

I had missed seeing Kevin Pakulis at a Desert Trails show a day before we arrived where he had noted during the show something about me not being there.  As a result, Twinkles and I made sure to go to his weekly Sunday Sessions at Borderlands Brewing.  We had seats at the bar right in front and it was about as good as it gets.  He had a packed room, the Sunday Session’s have definitely gained a following.  We return the following week with another couple from the campground who are interested.

Our first Desert Trails concert was to see Danny Kreiger and Steve Grams who we I have seen many times, but they are always entertaining.  These guys are both inductees into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and play with several other area bands.  

I was at Monterey Court a few times; first to see a duo called “Gypsy Stew”  from California at Monterrey Court who were very good and entertaining.  They were a married couple with interesting bio’s, he once toured nationally with Kim Simmons and the Savoy Brown Band and she was an artist.  He was a very talented guitarist and she played an interesting drum set made up of tin pans and other such stuff.

Next was another trip to Monterrey Court with a group from the campground for a special event celebrating the sixth anniversary of Monterey Court.  The band was not exactly a favorite music style of mine but they were very good musicians and everyone had a good time. 

I also made it to LaCocina to see my friends Lana Rebel and Kevin Mayfield do their usual interesting show. They have the “Old Paint” record store at the “Old Town Artisans” that is loaded with original artwork, posters, comics and classic vinyl records.

I’ve been concentrating mainly on RV maintenance issues so far since arriving .  Our hot water heater tank had developed a leak a few months ago.  It is a Atwood Heater which has a replaceable aluminum tank. I ordered  the tank from Amazon and it was delivered promptly as usual.  It is a pretty intensive job to replace it, you have to remove the heater assembly, disassemble it and replace the inner tank.  The only real hard part is installing the retaining rings that hold the tank to the heater housing.  It’s another instance of bad engineering’s, it would be so much better if there were brackets on the tank to bolt it to the housing.  I’ve also been busy cleaning the roof, resealing an area of the front seam and applying a coat of UV protectant.

Twinkles has been going out in the desert behind the campground for a few miles each morning towards reaching her daily step goal.  I usually pass on this activity, but we have done one of our favorite hikes at Brown Mountain. 

The view from the Brown Mountain Trail

A large Saguaro fallen across the trail 

View from the top is special

I also went on a hike at Madera Canyon with a group from the campground.  It was steadily uphill hike to a saddle and then downhill back to the parking lot for a total of approximately 6 1/2 miles.  It is a heavily forested trail with great views making it a very interesting hike.

Heading up the trail

View from the trail gives the impression that we have gained considerable altitude 

Sign for a group of scouts who perished here during a storm in 1958

Marie, Jeff, John, Linda and me pose at the saddle

A few additional photos taken in the desert behind the campground.

I found a Cactus Bob's geocache just wandering around out there

A very special Saguaro skeleton  

They are a work of art

The lowly creosote bush has beauty too !

As does the spines of Teddy Bear Cholla trunk

If put an empty box out, our baby "Alice" will find it and crawl inside.


We have a big activity filled weekend coming up so this is a good place for a break.  Keep watching, it’s going to get crazy in December !

Also watch other obsessive wanderers on:

Twinkles and Slick

Friday, November 24, 2017

Bisbee, Arizona

November 8 - 14, 2017:

It’s a beautiful ride of 167 miles from Silver City to Bisbee, Arizona on routes 90 to I-10 to 80.  The scenery was stunning in places with blue sky and large white cumulous clouds.  Route 80 is fairly desolate, more of a backroad, with less traffic.  No matter how many times you travel to Bisbee, the views of the huge Lavender Pit Mine off to the side and the red colored hillsides ahead are just WOW !  The setting of Bisbee amongst the surrounding mountains is really special, there are a few other places that compare, maybe Telluride Colorado, but most of them have been ruined by upscale development.

Checking the rear view

How long before the arms go numb holding those ape hanger handlebars ?

Had to stop and admire this view on route 80

I always stop at the Geronimo surrender monument

We are staying at the Queen Mine RV Park on the hilltop next to the Copper Queen Mine overlooking Bisbee.  It’s a great campground as its walking distance to downtown.  We are here for a week and this is our last campground, #61, before our winter layover in Tucson.  Bisbee has that southwest liberal “be kind” vibe similar to Tucson that appeals to us.  I easily fit in here, there are many bearded gray haired ponytail guys walking around town.

View from the campsite looking towards downtown

The campground from this vantage point appears to be in the mine

Bisbee started when Lt. Anthony Rucker of the 6th US Calvary led an army patrol into the Mule mountains in 1877 hunting for renegade Apaches.  They found no Apaches but Jack Dunn, a scout for the patrol did find traces of copper in the rocks.  Rucker and Dunn were unable to go to Tucson to file a mining claim, so they hired George Warren to go and file the claim in their names.  George did go to Tucson and file the claim but did so in his own name and it therefore became known as the Warren Mining District.  George being an alcoholic and a drifter soon squandered away his 1/9th ownership of the soon to be fabulously rich Copper Queen Mine on a bet that he could outrun a horse in a foot race.   Lt. Rucker didn’t fare much better, he drowned a year later in a flash flood.
(In researching this I find several slightly different versions of this, not unusual, who really knows?) 

Bisbee was running out of living space and in danger of being swallowed up by the Copper Queen Mine, so a new planned development, Warren, was established a few miles away with better housing and amenities for the mine workers. There was even a trolley line running from old Bisbee and the Copper Queen Mine to Warren.   The new Bisbee area has some attractive houses, in particular the “Douglas Mansion”, but there isn't much of interest for the tourist there other than the Warren Ballpark, one of the oldest in the US.

The Douglas Mansion

The town of Lowell is on the other side of the Lavender Mining Pit from old Bisbee.  It was originally a separate town but is now part of Bisbee.  It is the site of the "Breakfast Club", where I must go on every visit to Bisbee.  It's a town that remains stuck in an earlier time period, relatively unchanged, that appears to be primarily owned by someone who made much money with the "Broken Spoke Saloon" chain of motorcycle bars.

Lowell has a bit of a "time travel" feel to it

The "Broken Spoke Party Squad" keeps the peace here

Nostalgic old gas station

Memories of a 55 Chevy station wagon like this one that I once owned

The Breakfast Club

We usually go to the Saturday Bisbee Farmers Market when we come here, it’s a very good one.  Cowboy / Country musician extraordinaire, Johnny Bencomo, is still playing at the market with his 24 string guitar.  He is perfect for the Farmers Market crowd and seems to know many there by first name.  We have seen him several times at Desert Trails RV Park where we winter in Tucson.  He also plays in Bisbee at the Copper Queen Hotel on Monday and Tuesday nights where I see him once again. He is a real historian on country & western music and the real deal as far as a singing cowboy!

After the mines closed in 1947 most of the residents of Bisbee left and the town was on its way to becoming a ghost town.  That’s when the hippie crowd moved in buying up the very cheap property, rebuilding, opening up shops, art galleries and developing the current tourist trade.  While nearby Tombstone calls itself, “the town too tough to die” , Bisbee with its free spirit artistic mentality takes pride in calling itself “the town too high to care”.  It’s refreshing to be in a place like this, but I’m not optimistic that this will continue after the older crowd dies off.

A nice appearing woman outside the Library starts telling me about someone on Facebook accusing her of waving a gun around in the post office as she was getting something out of her purse.  She said she's been living too long in this town and she is sounding a little irrational and I’m just wanting to distance myself from her.  There are some very strange people around here.  

That's the classic downtown Bisbee view with the "B" visible on Chihuahua Hill

The Bisbee tourism bus

They call this statue the "Iron Man" but
since this is a Copper mining town and
it's copper plated, I call it the "Copper Man"

I always admire the arts works on the back alleys 

Another classic Bisbee view

Much of the Bisbee sits precariously on hillsides and the houses are connected to the nearest street with long steep stairways. Years ago someone came up with the novel idea to organize a stair race which has over the years become the popular “Bisbee 1000 stair race event”.  A satellite (Google Earth) view of Bisbee is pretty crazy looking.

Bisbee1000 sign, most of the original wooden steps were
replaced as a WPA project in the 1930's.

Google Earth view of Bisbee hints at its rugged location

Twinkles is making an attempt to do all 1,000 steps of the Bisbee stair climb route.  She couldn’t have done this last year as she had much knee pain, but this year after losing some weight has almost no knee pain and is doing the steps really well.  Now, I am shamed into doing them as well and some of these long steep stairs are wicked.  We will not be entering the competition however.

A view form one of the stairways

Good advise for stair climbers

There is much beauty on these stairs 

The steps take you practically through
peoples yards

An interesting sign on a retaining wall

We take a hike up to the top of Youngblood Hill where the shrine is located, it’s sort of an annual pilgrimage.  It’s a steep climb on the city streets getting getting to the trailhead at the “famous chicken house”, then another steep climb to the shrine.  The view from there is great and if you continue to the next hill top you can look down into the Lavender Pit Mine, it’s even better.

The view from the hillsides are special

The trailhead to the cross, the chicken house is behind the truck

Twinkles gazing out into the mountains

That's an inspiring view

The rocks are beautiful too

A portion of the shrine, it's heavenly !

Bisbee far below in the gulch

We revisit the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum which is an excellant one, better than we remembered.  They are are an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

The Bisbee deportation when striking miners were rounded up
by armed "men of the loyalty League" who marched them to the
Warren Ballfield where a "Kangaroo Court" decided who would
be released and who would be shipped out of town in boxcars

Everyone turned out for the opening of the new street car
line from Bisbee to Warren

Lemuel Shattuck made the most of his situation in life 

Bisbee burned down several times, but came back
Occasionally miners broke into rooms such as
this "Crystal Cave", thousands of such rooms of all
sizes were found around Bisbee when mining

The Side Pony festival is much more organized this year with a schedule listing all the bands and where and when they are playing.  It a crazy event with (94) bands, mostly Arizona bands, not exactly household names, coming to Bisbee for three days of music at (15) venues around town.  The bands play 45 minute sets and then rotate to another venue during the day.  You get quite a bit of exercise if you jump around to multiple venues during the day. Most of the decadence occurs on Bisbee’s renown “Brewery Avenue” especially near the St. Elmo Bar.  Most of the venues are close by so it is easy to make the rounds, listen from outside for a minute, if you like what you hear, go inside.  The best thing is that it is a totally free event.

Side Pony Poster

A favorite blues guy was “Rocking Chair”, Gene Moran, who is in a wheel chair and is accompanied by another good player on a old resonator guitar.  I was mesmerized and inspired by the joyful look on his face when he played and he actually had a good blues voice, I bought his CD for that alone. 

Sitting alone at the Stock Exchange one night, a young woman sat down next to me and asked me about the band that has just finished playing which she had missed. She figured anyone wearing a hat like mine, would know if it was good or bad.  After giving her the lowdown, she invited me to get my face painted and join the “Tribe”, I declined, but was kind of sorry afterwards. 

On another night in another bar an attractive young woman approached me with a smile and set a shot glass in front of me and then walked away.   Maybe age does have some rewards ?

I have to admit that as idiotic as it is, I still love the deafening sound of a gyrating, head thrashing hard rock guitar band like “Stinkeye” in the back room at St Elmo’s Bar.  Also the more thoughtful psychedelic flavored sound of the band, “Parlor Birds”, at the Stock Exchange Bar.

I had seen singer-songwriter Robert Kuhl, from Houston Texas, the week before in Silver City, New Mexico.  I then saw him several times over the weekend, the last time developed into a bit of a jam session with other musicians after his set at the Silver King Hotel.  Twinkles got a chuckle when as we were walking in town, he passed us in a  car and said out the window, "Hey Dude". He told a story about falling in love in Bisbee on a previous visit, in a parking lot, how it was so beautiful but ended so badly which related to a book he later read about love in our modern society that served as an intro for a song.  I was quite impressed with the poetic story.

He has a true gypsy spirit and everywhere I went
around town I kept running into him

A very powerful sounding rock band, “Larkspurs”, fronted by a dynamic Violin playing young woman was very impressive at the Copper City Saloon.  I looked around the room at one point and everyone was watching in rapt attention to her playing.

The Larkspurs had a unique sound

The “Auld Lang Syne” band from Utica, NY were especially good and for the last song they brought their three young cute children up to join them in a song.  The onlookers loved it, everyone’s cameras came out.  I'm quite sure these kids will be musicians themselves in a few years.

They were very good

Another favorite band was “Quinn and the Confluence” who weren't so exciting to look at but were very good musically.

Quinn and the Confluence

There was a folk musician, Joe Quinn, from Glasgow, UK who was very good but the couple seated in front of me were having trouble understanding him due to his a strong accent.  He was joking with them about the communications breakdown.

I had the feeling that Joe Quinn has seen it all

I thought that the front man of the "Manic Monkeys" band had real potential, he had the voice, the moves, the looks and attitude to be a star.

Star quality ?

It's been a very strange trip indeed !

The travel year ends on a high note for me, it's been a good ride.
Our next and final stop is Desert Trails RV Park in Tucson;
Twinkles and Slick