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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tombstone Continued

There was no gunfight to witness, so we walked further down the street to the famous Bird Cage Theatre, also referred to as The Bird Cage Opera House Saloon.



Back in the 1880's this was a combination saloon, gambling hall and a house of ill repute. In 1882, the New York Times referred to the Bird Cage as, "the Roughest, Bawdiest, and most Wicked night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." It has been said that for nine consecutive years it never closed its doors, operating 24 hours a day. During this time period, 16 gun and knife fights killed 26 people. There are still 140 bullet holes through-out the building, in the ceilings, walls, and floors. Most brawls happened in the barroom, which has many bullet holes. One of the most brutal killings was that of Margarita, a lady of the evening, who was sitting on the lap of a gambler, Billy Milgreen. Billy's regular girl, Gold Dollar, entered the room, flew into a jealous rage and cut Margarita's heart out with a double edged stiletto. She fled out the back door when she heard that the Marshall was coming. No charges were pressed because they couldn't find the murder weapon. Surprisingly, 101 years later, the weapon was found behind the building and is now on display inside.

We toured the lobby of the Bird Cage, viewed some bullet holes, saw the beautiful wooden bar and large mirror above it, and saw the famous stairs leading up to the rooms upstairs.







We did not take the tour for $10/person that takes you behind the scenes. After reading more on this theater, I think it would be worth it next time we're in town.


We browsed through a few shops and then stopped to see a small show about the ghosts of Tombstone as told by Doc Holiday. It costs $5/adults, $4/seniors. I wouldn't recommend it; as a matter of fact, I think it's a rip off. There is about four rooms that you walk through, and in each room you press a button. Doc Holiday appears in a hologram among some old things in a room. There's some special effects like guns popping and air blowing, but not worth it.

We walked a couple of blocks over to the Courthouse. That cost $4/apiece to enter. It was filled with a lot of period pieces. The best places were the courtroom and the outside gallows.




The last place we stopped before leaving Tombstone was Boothill Cemetery. It is free to get in, but you can pay $2.00 for a descriptive list of the graves. Boothill Cemetery was originally called, "The Tombstone Cemetery" and was the burial place for the town's first pioneers. Around 1884, what is now called Boothill cemetery, was opened as a burial place. Because of the many violent deaths of the early days, the cemetery became know as Boothill Graveyard. Some of the people interred here: outlaws with their victims, suicides, hangings, (legal and otherwise), and regular citizens of Tombstone's early days. Boothill Graveyard got its name because many of the people who were buried there with their boots on. The soil was pretty hard, so the graves are shallow. The stones are piled high upon the body. The cemetery is filled with small mounds of stones and wooden crosses.



It was a breathtaking drive back to the campground watching the sun set behind the mountains, leaving the looming giants in the dark while the sky turned from blue to pink to purple and finally to midnight blue.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Town Too Tough To Die




We spent the day in Tombstone, which was about a 25 mile drive from our campground.

According to Tombstone's official website, "The Town too Tough to Die," Tombstone was perhaps the most renowned of Arizona's old mining camps. When Ed Schieffelin came to Camp Huachuca with a party of soldiers and left the fort to prospect, his comrades told him that he'd find his tombstone rather than silver. Thus, in 1877 Schieffelin named his first claim the Tombstone, and rumors of rich strikes made a boom town of the settlement that adopted this name."

This is the place of the infamous shoot out at the O.K.Corral where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp fought the Clantons and McLaurys on October 26, 1881.

Now it is a touristy town with most of the activity happening on Allen Street, which is about three blocks long. You are immediately thrown back into time with the stagecoaches, covered wagons and horse-drawn carriages (all for sight-seeing) that traverse the dirt roads. No automobiles are allowed on the road. Employees of the local establishments are dressed up in character and can be seen both in the stores and walking the streets. It was not uncommon to see cowboys wearing chaps, holsters with guns, hats, or vests. There are many gift shops, saloons, and restaurants lining both sides of the street.

I wanted to go to Big Nose Kate's Saloon but we couldn't get in unless we wanted to wait for over a half hour. Big Nose Kate is believed to have been the first prostitute in Tombstone. But her biggest claim to fame was in the company she kept - she was Doc Holiday's girlfriend. It seems ole Kate helped break Doc out of jail in Ft. Griffin, Texas before he was about to be hung. Together they traveled West earning money, Doc by gambling, Kate by doing tricks, and I don't mean by playing "fetch".

Big Nose Kate's Saloon was formally known as the Grand Hotel in 1880.




It is said to be haunted by "Swamper", the janitor who lived in the basement of the hotel. The basement, deep below the surface of Tombstone's streets, was not too far from the many mine shafts which ran beneath the town. Swamper spent many a nights tunneling an entrance from his bedroom to the nearby mine shafts. When his tunnel was finished, he hit the mother lode, accessing a thick vein of silver. What he did after hoarding his silver is unknown, but many believe it may still be hidden somewhere beneath Big Kate’s Saloon. Swamper has appeared in photos and has been seen roaming the halls, stairways and especially the basement. Some believe that he hid his silver in the building and returns to protect it.

We passed up our opportunity to eat at Big Nose Kate's and continued on down the street to the Crystal Palace Saloon. Before it was the Crystal Palace Saloon, the Golden Eagle Brewery stood in its place, built in 1879. The establishment suffered damage from fire on June 22, 1881. The brewery did not reopen and in May, 1882, when the town suffered yet another fire, the building was destroyed.

On July 23, 1882, the Crystal Palace opened its doors for business. The idea behind the "Crystal" Palace was to attract the "finer" people of Tombstone by providing "crystal" tableware, the best drinks, and as many as five bartenders on duty around the clock.



It is still a bustling place. A bar runs along the length of the whole side of the rectangular room. It has a huge mirror above it with a wooden frame around it.




We met two other couples there from Phoenix who were very nice. One of the women told me that this was her 6Th visit to Tombstone. She said that every day at 3:00 pm a gunfight breaks out in the street. It continues down the street and a crowd gathers to watch. The gunfight moves down the street to the front of the O.K. Corral. To see how the fight ends, you have to pay. Well, it was about 2:55 at this point. I gobbled down my hamburger without even enjoying it so I could witness the gunfight and take pictures. I left Jim to pay the bill. I grabbed my camera, hurried outside, and started taking pictures of what I thought looked like gunfighters. Jim finally came out, after I'm sure a leisurely lunch, and still no gunfighters. Finally Jim asked around and no one seemed to know what the heck we were talking about, so we were misled. I could have sat and enjoyed that nice juicy hamburger after all.

TO BE CONTINUED.....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble, gobble or is it peep, peep?








Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We are now in McNeal, Arizona, which is right outside of Bisbee, which is just south of Tombstone, and way southeast of Phoenix. Whew! Clear as mud? Let's just say this...We're pretty close to the Mexican border. We pulled in here yesterday. We are staying here through the weekend and then we'll make our way up to Mesa where we'll park our trailer for the winter for 4 months.

We had a little rain last night and this morning, so the clouds were hanging around. Big, white, puffy clouds, along with dark ones , once in awhile. I decided to take the camera out and try to get a few shots. It was really beautiful out. There are mountain ranges on three sides of us. I will have to look them up to find out their names. As I was wandering around, I discovered that the campground has three horses, a mule, and one longhorn cow. The horses let me pet them; two of the three tolerated a few pats then went on their way. The first one started to walk away, and as I was taking pictures, he lifted his tail and started pooping. Great! An action shot! I turned my back to give him some privacy, and the next horse came trotting over. Again, just a few pats then he walked away. All of a sudden he lifted his tail a little and I heard this rush of air and I thought to myself, "Did he just fart?" No sooner did I think that and then he, too, started pooping in the EXACT spot as the other one! Are horses like dogs and they have to go in the same spot if they smell it? The third horse was a smaller one, and I think female, (I didn't look). She was just begging for attention. I patted her face, scratched her ears. Then she turned her whole body against the fence and I scratched her side. She just loved it. She put her whole head on my shoulder, or her face on my chest. I'm going to have to ask the owners if I can feed the horses apples or carrots. I think the horses stay outside year round because I didn't see a barn. They didn't look too well taken care of; I mean they certainly aren't brushed every day.

Today is the big TURKEY day. I hope you all ate till your tummies were full, took a nice nap on the couch, and that the kitchen fairies flew down and did all the dishes while you were sleeping. Oh, wait, I WAS dreaming....

We didn't eat turkey. I made Cornish hens. They're like little turkeys who didn't reach their full potential. Who said "Size Matters"? I just think they are so cute looking and I get my own little turkey all to myself. I also whipped up some wild rice and steamed some fresh green beans and called it a day. Oh wait, Jim and I did have a toast with rum spiked eggnog and I DID have a pumpkin spice candle burning for some ambiance so I gotta get some points for trying here. Although I lose some for having a store bought pie instead of making one.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!





The plan was to get up early enough to see the sun gently kiss the Oregon mountains good morning at 6:45 a.m. and take great pictures. But I didn't set the alarm and woke up around 7:10 a.m. I quickly dressed and was out the door by 7:15. Right across from the campground was an open area with a trail that lead over a wash. I was a little frightened that I might lose my way in the shrub as the path twisted and turned and it was quite hilly. But I thought to myself that if I kept the campground on my right at all times that I would be okay. So I walked in the crisp morning air happily snapping pictures. Then I caught a glimpse off to my left of a coyote bounding through the brush. I swear I had Marty Feldman eyes - one bulging left at the coyote, one bulging right towards the campground. (For those of you young 'uns who don't know who I'm talking about...)



Thank God I had my camera strapped around my neck, or I would have dropped that sucker like a hot potato. I ran as fast as this pudgy ole body could run. That's all I could think of was me tripping, falling, and landing flat on my stomach and being surrounded by a pack of coyotes licking their chops and saying, "My, look at this juicy morsel that just dropped into our laps!" (I KNEW I shouldn't have eaten those French fries last night!) Meanwhile, the buzzards are circling. I shook that vision out of my head and ran like hell. I leaped over bushes, I zigged, I zagged, I'm telling you that I could have made the Olympic team, albeit the middle-aged, overweight team, but Olympic, nonetheless. I made it back to the trailer safe, in record time, and gasping for breath. Nothing like a little vigorous exercise to start your morning.

We were just planning on doing grocery shopping and then hanging around the trailer for the day. But I did some exploring on the net and found out about a neat town right near where we were staying called Mesilla. It is a famous little town. Billy the Kid was once jailed here and tried in 1881. Judge Roy Bean, the famous Texas Hanging Judge, got his start in Mesilla.

But we specifically went to the town of Mesilla because of the famous Double Eagle Restaurant. It is haunted by two young lovers. It is the oldest structure on the plaza and is on the National Register of Historic Places.



This restaurant was originally a home, beginning in 1847. The first family who ever lived in this house, which was the largest house ever built in Mesilla, was the Maes family. They were import/exporters from Santa Fe. When the Mexican-American War ended in 1847, giving more of northern Mexico to the United States, the Maes family decided to move south to Mesilla to make it a permanent home. The Maes were a well-to-do family, and with such a large house, had many servants. Their eldest son, Armando, had eyes for one of their young servants, Inez. As the days went on, they fell madly in love. Armando's mother got wind of this and was terribly angry with the situation. She fired Inez and forbade Armando to continue to see her. Who could stop young love? Supposedly the townspeople helped the couple because they knew the young couple were really in love. One day Mama Maes came home early and heard voices in Armando's bedroom. She went in there and found the two of them in each other's arms. She ran out of the room and stumbled over her sewing basket. She saw her sewing shears, grabbed them up, ran back into the room, and in a rage, stabbed Inez in the chest, killing her instantly. Armando jumped up to stop his mother and she accidentally stabbed him, too. He died 3 days later. It is said that he did not die from the wounds, but of a broken heart.

The REAL Clue Game:
Murderer Mrs. Maes, sewing shears, Carlotta Salon (Armando's Bedroom)



The ghosts of the young lovers haunt the Carlotta Salon (Armando's room), and the restaurant, to this day with the likes of broken glasses, knives on the floor, and overturned wine bottles. There are two upholstered Victorian arm chairs in the Carlotta room that are said to be the ghosts' favorites. They have worn areas where it looks as if someone is sitting in each chair. The front of one seat is worn exactly where two legs in pants would be. The other, the entire front of the seat is worn exactly as if someone was wearing a skirt. The restaurant warns visitors to beware of these chairs if you dare sit in one of them. Unfortunately, I didn't read the brochure about the chairs until AFTER I was out of the room. I sat in different chairs in the room.

I saw the two painted portraits of Mr. & Mrs. Maes hanging on the wall. The one of Mr. Maes has a bullet hole through it.



The restaurant has many rooms to dine in; we ate in the Billy the Kid patio. It has a seven foot carved stone fountain in the center, surrounded by Cycad palms. The red brick floor was installed in the late 1850's. The patio had been open to the weather until 1984.




Each room had its own charm. The Gadsden room had a large back lit stained glass ceiling surrounded by tin ceiling tiles. The stained glass was salvaged from a hotel in San Francisco after the Great Quake of 1910.



The Maximilian Room, named after Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, who was made Emperor of Mexico in 1864,contains three Baccarat crystal chandeliers, measuring three feet wide and seven feet tall. They are in the classic French shape containing 18 brass arms with more than 1,000 hand cut lead crystals. The ceiling is covered in 18 carat gold, except for one tile which is covered in 24 carat gold. The original design called for the complete ceiling to be done in 24 carat gold, but the owner at the time caught the interior designer in the act and ordered him to cover the tiles with the less expensive gold.





I was reluctant to leave the restaurant, but we were done eating, I had wandered in the majority of the rooms, and lest I wanted to work in the kitchen, I fear my time was up. So we had to leave.

The old part of Mesilla is set up pretty much like the majority of the old towns of the southwest. Everything is set around a town square. So picture a large square, or rectangle, if you will. In the center is a gazebo, park benches, and just open space. Along the two longer sides and one short side of the rectangle are shops and restaurants.



At the other short side is a church. We stopped in to pay our respects to the Basilica of San Albino. This is the third church to stand on the same site;it was built in 1908.




The bells of San Albino are an important part of Mesilla. The first bell was cast on September 1, 1876. Shortly thereafter the second bell was made. The biggest and last bell was not made until December of 1887. The bells still ring today. They wake the townspeople to early mass at 6:30 a.m.. The ring for deaths, funerals, baptisms, and marriages. Here is the room with two large bell pulls hanging down into the room.

Carlsbad in the Rearview Mirror

I hated to leave Carlsbad. We had such a great time there and it was a real nice town. Add that town to my list of favorites. (That list is growing!) Within the hour of driving we were in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park located in Texas right on the New Mexico border. The scenery was stunning. El Capitan is an 8,085 foot high monolithic landmark that can be seen for fifty miles.




But the highest mountain is Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet. We had to drive right through the national park to get to our destination so we "killed two birds with one stone" as they say.

Continuing on Interstate 180 we drove past the Salt Flats - wide open spaces and salt on the ground as far as the eye could see.




I got a kick out of seeing several of these while we were driving. They are called "stiles" - a step or steps over a fence. Luckily there was one at the rest stop area so I was able to take a clear picture of it. I thought, "What was the use of having a barbed wire fence if you had steps to go over it?" So that's your word of the day - STILES.



I was excited to see a REAL cowboy just riding along side the road - was able to snap a picture of him while we zoomed past him. Well, maybe zoomed is too strong of a word with Jim driving. Let's just say I was able to snap a picture of the cowboy while we passed him. I think the speed limit was 75 mph and Jim was going 55 mph - a full 20 miles BELOW the speed limit! Do you see my eyes rolling here? But he wanted to get good gas mileage, et cetera, et cetera.




We pulled into the campground in Vado, TX, in the late afternoon. We had traveled almost 200 miles, which might not seem a lot, but in truck/trailer miles, that's about 1.5 times the distance than a regular car, kind of like dog years, based on the numbness of my butt, the stiffness of my neck, hips, and knees. We were happy to just settle down for the night. We were awarded with a beautiful sunset.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And that's no bull




Ok, so where was I? Oh yes, so we decided to go to Sitting Bull Falls. I packed up the lunch, we filled up the tank with gas, and off we went.

The scenic drive to the falls was approximately 40 miles from the campground. The road winds through small mountains dotted with prickly pear and Santa Rita cacti, along with century plants and cholla cactus.




It is all open range country, so cattle can roam free. That means BEWARE. BEEF - It's what for dinner if you're not careful!






I had to stop several times for photo ops of the cattle - one old gal chewing her cud like there was no tomorrow.




One cow caught my eye because she had one horn growing up and one horn growing down. That poor thing. She was probably ostracized from the group. You know how bitchy females can be!

As a matter of fact, the only other cow standing near her was another defected cow - this one only had ONE horn!


So the two misfits were standing together.








There is a $5.00 fee to enter into the Sitting Bull Recreational Area. If you have the aforementioned "Old Man Pass" or "Interagency Pass" they will accept it.

Jim and I ate lunch in a stone shelter at the foot of a tall hill. There were only a couple other groups of people there in the park. After lunch, we followed the pathway to Sitting Bull Falls. It's not too long of a walk, only about 800 feet. Then it opens up and overlooks a small oasis. To the right is the tall cliff and waterfall that runs down, at the bottom are pools of bright green water where the water falls into. There are some large, flat rocks and barren trees. It was very quiet except for the wind blowing through the area. It was gorgeous and peaceful.



















We drove back through the desert in the setting sun and headed towards town. I wanted to take a picture of the local tattoo parlor because I thought it had a cool name. The big gentleman in the doorway waved me in as I was taking this picture. Noooo thanks!




It was near dinner time and Jim and I were both getting hungry. We decided to try out a barbecue restaurant that the campground owners had recommended. We were very disappointed to see that it was closed. We drove to this restaurant:




Only to see that it, too, was closed. It seems that a lot of places rolled up the carpet on Sunday evenings in the town of Carlsbad. We stumbled upon another barbecue restaurant that turned out to be pretty good. There were a lot of people there; we weren't sure at first if it was because it was one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday night, or if it really was because of their food!

I noticed this couple sitting a few tables away from us who looked awfully familiar to me. I thought maybe I knew them from our hometown, or something like that. It was driving me crazy. Finally I said to Jim that I was going over to speak to them.

I walked over to the couple and introduced myself. We chatted for awhile and Jim came and joined us. Their names were Richard and Mary Ann and they were from Seattle. He had worked for the FBI for over 30 years as an agent. When he retired, he got a job doing drug testing for the NFL. He loved his job and was disappointed when they hired a different company to do the work. Richard and Mary Ann sold their home, and are exploring the country in a POP UP!! No more complaining for me!! I have all the luxuries I could ask for and this woman has to shower in a public bathroom every day! I couldn't imagine getting up in the middle of the night and walking down to the bathroom to pee! Been there, done that when we had a pop up, but we weren't FULL-TIMING it! Jim kind of had a smug look on his face like, "See? She can do it without any complaints, why can't YOU?"

We sat with Richard and Mary Ann for about a half hour, comparing notes as to where we've been and recommendations for where to go. Then we bid our goodbyes. Oh yeah, you want to know why they looked familiar? They were staying at the same campground as us! I probably saw them walking around there!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feeling Batty

Today we took a drive out to the Carlsbad Caverns. It's located about 20 miles from our campground. It was a cool morning, in the 40's, and the breeze had a bit of a chill to it. But the drive to the caverns was beautiful, and the sun soon warmed us up in the truck. We were able to get into the caverns for free with Jim's "Old Man" pass, as I like to call it. The official name is Interagency Senior Pass. Jim was eligible for it when he turned 62. It cost a total of $10 and is good for life. He can get into any National Park for free, and up to 3 people who are with him. That's one reason why I married him. Ha, ha. Regular cost into the caverns is $6.00 for adults.

There are many ways to see the caverns; we chose the easy route. We took the elevator down 700+ feet and then toured the Big Room. This is a one mile easy walk that takes approximately 1 1/2 hours, depending upon how many pictures you may take. It took us about 2 hours. The guide who rode down the elevator with us shared funny little anecdotes and told us to be sure to use our "library" voices in the cavern because our voices will carry. I didn't think about that till later, when I handed Jim my vest. He already was carrying my coat AND the camera case. I told him that I was working up a sweat with all the walking, stopping, and taking pictures, and that by the time we get to the end of the tour, I'd be naked. Just call me the naked photographer! Then I realized how loud I was talking and I started to laugh. I tried to tell Jim what I was laughing about but then I began snorting. That didn't help matters because then I had to pee. Jim asked me if he needed to call for help which just set me to laughing even more. I stumbled down the path snorting and cackling. Whose the first person I should meet coming right at me? A ranger, don't cha know? "Hey, how are you doing?" He asked me. I giggled "OK" and prayed I wouldn't wet my pants as we continued on.



The rest of the tour was uneventful. Thankfully there was a bathroom at the end of the walkway. We decided to grab lunch in the restaurant upstairs because then we were going to go on the Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. The sandwiches were decent, but the little cup of the "today's special" salad was yucky.

If we were here anytime from late May-mid October, we'd have been able to witness one of the biggest attractions at the caverns - the "Bat Flight". And I ain't talking about Batman here, folks. I'm talking bats - billions and billions of them. Ok, so I exaggerate. But lots and lots of them. They cling to the roof of the caverns just a half mile down, waiting for the evening. When sundown begins, the bats start their nightly foray in search of food. "By the thousands they spiral upward into the night sky. There is amphitheater seating available to those who want to set aside the superstitions surrounding these unique creatures and enjoy their dance," per the caverns brochure. I'm sorry we were not able to see such a wonderful event.

The Walnut Canyon Desert Drive is a 9.5 mile long one-way loop drive through desert landscape. The gravel road twists and turns, and goes up and down hills past prickly pear cactus, Santa Rita cactus, century plants, to name a few. Jim had to stop several times for me to hop out for a photo op.



We finished with the caverns and drove all the way back into town, directly to the Pecos River Flume. The flume was originally built of wood, but after a flood in 1902, it was rebuilt in concrete. At the time of its 1903 construction, it was the largest concrete structure in the world. The aqueduct is still in use today carrying Pecos River water from Lake Avalon across the river as part of the Carlsbad Irrigation District. The flume was once featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the river that crosses itself.



The funny sign of the day hanging in front of a storage place.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's that smell?

We left good ole Abilene on a cold and overcast morning. The wind was wicked. Jim's cap blew off his head twice, and he had to chase it like a tumbleweed that got caught up in the wind. I had to wipe the grin off my face by the time he got back to the truck. Two c-130's took off before we left and I managed to get a picture of one of them.

The drive to Carlsbad, NM from Abilene is somewhat off the beaten path. Lots of open spaces with nothing but oil wells on it. And nothing in the air but the smell of gas...methane gas that is. Jim explained to me that is what comes out of the ground when the oil is being drilled. I could not imagine living in those parts. Smelling that stuff all day? Yuk! I had a headache most of the drive. I suppose you'd get used to it. We saw a sign that read, "Caution - Poisonous Gases", and then, not 100 feet away, there was a picnic area! Go figure!

The area from Texas to Southern New Mexico is dry, dusty, and desolate with nothing but oil wells. With everything so dry I know fires are a concern here. As a matter of fact, we came across two brush fires that had recently been started (probably by a careless toss of a cigarette butt). There were workmen gathered around to spray something on the smoking fields.




We did pass fields of cotton. Sometimes I'd glance out the window and think it was snow.




Every once in awhile we'd go through a small town. Most of the towns were broken down, stores closed, homes crumbling, and yards trashed. Sometimes there would be a regular town that seemed to be making it with today's economy.

Funny signs of the day:

I saw this on a hotel marquee but wasn't able to take a picture:
"Free Rooms! Tax $53.25"

Funny Street Names: