Friday, March 14, 2014

Tombstone & Picacho Peak, AZ: Miners and Cowboys and Soldiers, Oh My!!! (Part 2 of 2)

We left Bisbee (if you missed the first half of this trip, you can catch up here) and headed up the road 30 minutes to Tombstone, which is the site of the famous "Gunfight At The OK Corral."  I imagined a kind of tourists' hell, with every stupid, overpriced, cornball experience imaginable, and carnival-style hawkers accosting us from every doorway and street corner to come visit their t-shirt shop or watch their stagecoach robbery or drink their sasparilla.  Imagine my surprise when the truth was:  I loved Tombstone!

Don't get me wrong ... it is definitely touristy.  But it's a kind of amusing, kitschy, enjoyable touristy that was a lot of fun. It feels both authentic and designed-to-delight, at the same time. 

Before the trip, Philip insisted that we should know our history by watching not just one but two movies: "Tombstone" (Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer) (RUNNING TIME 134 MINUTES) --- and also "Wyatt Earp" (Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid) --- (RUNNING TIME 291 MINUTES--- eeeek!  Both of these movies take significant cinematic liberties, but I do have to admit they definitely enhanced our enjoyment of the town.

We loved our historical walking tour with "Dr. Jay," a retired dentist who now works as an actor and definitely knows his Tombstone history, which is presented in a very entertaining way.

We watched a re-enactment of the famous Battle of the
O.K. Corral and cheered and booed along with the crowd. 

We were particularly interested in the fact that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were not necessarily the "good guys" and the Clanton & Co. cowboys were not necessarily the "bad guys," but rather they were all a bunch of hooligans and ruffians and schoolyard bullies who really just wanted to avenge a bunch of town gossip and badmouthing of each other.  Who knew that the Battle of the OK Corral is basically repeated in every South L.A. high school pretty much every day of the year?

There are lots of fun things to do in Tombstone, including trolley tours, visiting the Boothill Graveyard, mine tours, ghost tours, stagecoach tours, and the Rose Tree Museum, home to the world's largest rose tree, which is over 120 years old, still flowering and which covers 8,600 square feet. 

BUT if you only do one thing in Tombstone, it should be to visit the Birdcage Theatre, a frequently overlooked and fascinating place. This combination theatre, saloon, gambling hall and brothel was closed up, fully furnished, in 1889 and was not opened again until 1934, when the new owners were thrilled to find everything left "as is" and undisturbed, as it remains today, with wineglasses tipped on their sides and jackets hanging on the back of chairs. You can wander through at your own pace and stay as long as you like, imagining what it would have been like to be there during those crazy days of the late 1800's Wild Wild West. It is supposedly haunted and certainly feels incredibly eerie and mysterious to step back in time.  DO NOT MISS IT if you go to Tombstone!

Western skies loom over a lonely cowboy as he patrols the streets of Tombstone looking for outlaws.

Alas, we only had one afternoon to spend in Tombstone, and the Lucky Charm was back on the road, heading to Picacho Peak, two hours north and about 1-1/2 hours south of Phoenix. Destination:  Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch.  Really?  An ostrich ranch?  YES.  An ostrich ranch.  Where we had the BEST time -- our favorite event of a really fun trip.

We had a blast riding in their mega-monster truck as it ripped through the desert.

We learned a million fascinating things about ostriches (for example:  you CAN eat ostrich egg, but 
one egg is the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs -- so you better invite a lot of friends to join you!).

We went ostrich-fishin' - feeding them fruit on the end of a long pole as they fought each other for the goods.

We got to feed lots of different kinds of animals -- 
donkeys, deer, goats, prairie dogs, ducks and more -- 
some via very clever delivery methods!

And our favorites -- the lorikeets!  They were NOT shy!

The following morning, we went to a Civil War in the Southwest  Re-Enactment  at Picacho Peak State Park.  Did you know that Picacho Peak was the site of the western-most battle of the entire U.S. during the Civil War?  Every year at this festival, three historic battles are re-enacted, and it was cool to see their authentic costumes, artillery and Civil War camps up close.  Besides the re-enactments, a variety of exhibits and demonstrations really bring the Civil War to life! 


Spectators in the natural ampitheater of Picacho Peak!
 (Smart people brought chairs.  Those rocks are way-hard.)
 You could also go right up to the edge of the battlefield as evidenced below.
Pre-Bob Hope USO-style entertainment.
These types of theatrical troupes were sent into Civil War camps to boost morale.
They sang, acted out short plays, did comedy routines, played musical instruments and more.

Alas, our trip back in time came to a close and the Lucky Charm returned back to home base.  We loved this trip and exploring more about Arizona and our history of miners, cowboys and soldiers!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bisbee, AZ: Miners and Cowboys and Soldiers, Oh My!!! (Part 1 of 2)

Spring Break, 2014:  The Lucky Charm was pointed to Southeastern Arizona to basically relive the 1860's-1900's through visits to Bisbee (mining history), Tombstone (western cowboy history), and Picacho Peak (Civil War re-enactment history).  Tally-Ho!!!!

View of town from the Lucky Charm
At its heyday around the turn of the century, Bisbee was not only by far the largest city in Arizona, but was in fact the largest city between St. Louis and the coast of California.  Now a small, quirky little mining-town-turned-artists-colony, it seems to inspire everyone we’ve ever met to say “OH YOU SIMPLY MUST VISIT BISBEE! So charming!  So magical!  You will fall in love with it!”  We had heard this from everyone, but weren't sure ... should we believe the hype?  Blindly follow the crowd?  Join the cult?  Would we drink the Bisbee Kool-Aid?  OH YES ... we would!!!

Philip, Brandon and Max in the first of many forced photo-ops.  They smile anyway.

We stayed at the Queen Mine RV Park, a charming semi-circle of spots perched high on a hilltop overlooking the town, which is in easy walking distance.  In the photo below, see the semi-circle of white RV's in the upper right at the top of the hill?  That's us, with a great view and 5 minute walk to downtown Bisbee!

It is apparently against the law to visit Bisbee and NOT do the Queen Mine Tour.  Although it is slightly corny, and nobody looks good in a yellow slicker, it was still fun and we learned a lot about the life of a miner in 1900, when most mining was done with teams of two basically hand-driving metal stakes of increasing diameter into the rock for hours on end, until the hole was big enough to insert dynamite.  

Mining is backbreaking, monotonous, soul-killing work and just as dangerous for the things the miners were breathing in (arsenic, lead, silica) as for the possibility of bodily injury, leading us to an "ah-hah moment" to understand someone would instead become a farmer. For this, the most experienced miners were paid the handsome sum of $0.38/hour, a very high pay rate for the time.  A better-paying career in Bisbee, however, was legalized prostitution, wherein most ‘ladies’ (a loose term) made $3.50-$4.00/hour.  

We enjoyed the town, a predictably quirky mix of shops, galleries, cafes and so forth, with one excellent fine-dining option, “CafĂ© Roka", that frequently makes national lists of top restaurants. 

Cafe Roka's homemade gnocchi with summer squash, roasted corn and basil pesto cream sauce
A little farmers-market yielded fresh homemade tortillas that made me swoon! 
(That guy in the picture makes me swoon, too.)

The teens were good sports about climbing aboard the obnoxiously-painted lavender jeeps (perhaps a blatant ripoff of the Sedona pink jeeps, but so-painted because the big pit mine in Bisbee is named the Lavender Mine after Harrison Lavender, a Phelps-Dodge Mining Company executive) and the historical information on the tour was excellent – highly recommended.

Max wants a Jeep like this for his first car so he can squire his friends around.

We really enjoyed the fun Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, smack-dab in the middle of town, which was super-cute, very informative and just the right size, i.e. in and out in less than an hour.  

Let it be known ... Philip is not actually a queen!

Because Bisbee is literally carved into every available sheer facing mountain in the area, there are narrow staircases of varying lengths leading everywhere throughout the city ... miles and miles and miles of staircases!

Every October, Bisbee hosts the “Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb” where 2,700 people descend upon this little town to do a 3.8 km run (or walk, or shuffle, or whatever) that along the way includes 9 separate staircases of 75-200 steps each.  They call it the Bisbee 1000 but the actual total is like 1,032 steps -- and let me tell you, those last 32 are a real bummer!  If you're really crazy, you could also partake of the Bisbee Ice Man Competition, designed to honor the history of men delivering blocks of ice by hand before the advent of refrigeration, in which entrants race up staircases carrying a ten-pound block of ice with antique ice tongs!

One afternoon while hubby was working (poor guy), I followed the route of the Stair Climb, and although it was tiring, it was fun to discover the many unique, strange, fun, charming artistic touches seen below, that I otherwise would have missed.  

Detail of wall above

Patio gate - you are greeted by your pooch every single time!
Master gardener at work

Welcome home!

Before the trip our friend John bet us a bottle of rum that we couldn't find this bathtub in which he had previously been photographed in Bisbee.  Pay up, Johnny Boy, you lose!!! >>>insert evil laugh here<<< We may have skipped feeding the children and engaging in personal hygiene in order to run around amongst the ruins of hundreds of abandoned shacks and home sites throughout Bisbee, like crazy people on a wild goose chase, but we did it!!!

We are not big shoppers but did fall in love with  local artist Robin Davis's painting of Frank Boardman Eadon (1860-1958), known by all as "Pistol Pete," who was an American author, cowboy, scout, Indian fighter, and Deputy US Marshal, but whom was best known for being adopted as the official mascot for Oklahoma State University!  Do you see the pistols painted into his shirt?

Bisbee was wonderful but the real joy was spending time with our "little" boy.  Next stop ... Tombstone AZ and the site of the famous battle at the OK Corral!  Wagons ho!!!