Tucson, Bisbee, and Fort Huachuca

(Been trying to post for 3 days now, hopefully this time will be the charm!)

AFB Military Family Camp Somehow, without paying attention, it became Monday.  At the moment, on Monday afternoon, I am propped up on the bed with pillows and the computer with the late afternoon light sifting in the windows through the shades.  The air conditioner is running pretty steady now, after a lovely day with the Fantastic Fan keeping us cool enough till mid-afternoon when we came in and turned on the air conditioner.  It’s probably in the high 70’s, low eighties today in Tucson, and the breeze is brisk enough that we took down our awning, but not so brisk that it isn’t pleasant.

Great dog park here at the AFB camp

AFB Military Family Camp (3)Three days have passed in the blink of an eye, punctuated by visits with friends, walking tours, long drives, and cool evenings.  Ahh, it’s the desert.  Home in Klamath it is snowing again, and a few text messages from my daughter have made me very happy to be here and not there.  This was a “catch-up-day”, you know those kind, when you do laundry, sit in the chairs and watch the sky, and hopefully manage all the photos and try to remember the last busy times.  I haven’t had a particularly fast connection here at the base, so haven’t kept up on blogs.  We also don’t have a satellite, and the TV stations we have dialed in are in Spanish, so I’m not sure just what is going on outside the world either.  Kind of nice to disconnect a bit, I think. 

Downtown Tucson has some amazing colors

Tucson Mar 26 (10)A highlight of the day was a delightful visit from Randy of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  We knew he and Pam were in the park, but weren’t sure of their rig, so every day we would walk around looking for South Dakota plates trying to see if they were around.  Finally this morning I saw a rig that I thought might be theirs, and timidly knocked on their door.  It’s always a bit of a dilemma deciding whether or not to bother someone without all the texting and emailing back and forth beforehand and we hadn’t done any of that.  Randy and Pam blinked into the sunlight and said “Hi” most graciously while they tried desperately to remember just who I was.  We shook hands and didn’t stay long.  Later, however,  Randy came over to our place and we had some laughs and great conversation once he sifted out the details and picked us out from the dozens of bloggers who follow Randy and Pam across the country doing amazing Habitat for Humanity volunteer work.  What a charming couple.  

Tucson Mar 26 (5)When we arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB Family Camp Friday night there were no spaces available so we opted to dry camp in the overflow lot, quite a pleasant place actually, with the dog park just outside our door.  We were in sixth place for the 12 sites to be vacated on Saturday, and just had to be there at nine am to claim a spot in the park.  Without a hitch, we got a perfect end site with a view of the mountains to the north, and full hookups for $17.00, although there is no cable TV.  The Wi-Fi isn’t bad at certain times of the day, but other times it crawls along miserably.  We heard there would be reveille in the mornings and taps at night, but since it was the weekend, we didn’t hear anything until this afternoon.  This is one of the larger Military Family Camps with lots of amenities, and almost in the very middle of Tucson, so there is an incredible array of entertainment available.  For us, we just wanted to be close enough to visit some friends in the area in addition to at last seeing the town of Bisbee.

Tucson Mar 26 (24) Once settled in to our spot, with a 3pm visit scheduled to our friends in Sahaurita south of town, we decided that a visit to downtown Tucson would be a nice way to spend the rest of the day until then. We found the downtown visitor center, a place to park in the shade with no time limits on a Saturday, and followed the turquoise line for the 2 1/2 mile tour of the downtown part of the city.  We just happened to be on the right day for a fabulous art show at the Tucson Museum of Art, with white canopied booths in all directions filled with real art, not just crafts, but “art”.  I was amazed at the color and creativity of the artists, and only managed to get away by the skin of my teeth without buying more “stuff” for walls at home that are already too full.  It was great that we could take Abby on the walk with us, and we found many people walking about town with their dogs. I especially loved the Presidio, with its murals of early Arizona life on it’s interior adobe walls. 

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Tucson Mar 26 (47) Wes and Gayle are summer residents of Rocky Point, with a lovely home next to ours, and their main home in Sahuarita.  Gayle is a great cook and they both love to entertain, so we knew we were in for a treat.  When we arrived,  they immediately loaded us up in their SUV for a drive to Madera Canyon, near Bald Mountain, not very far south from their home.  There are hiking trails and birding viewpoints along the way, and there is a special migratory parrot that only comes here from South America.  We didn’t see the parrots, but there were lots off other birds enjoying the feeders at the bird viewing platform along the canyon.

Home again to a great supper and some more of the extra special Cosmopolitan’s that Gayle makes.  When we were here for New Year’s in 2007 I had one and have ordered them now and then since and still never had anything as tasty as that Tucson Mar 26 (54)cranberry/pomegranate/lime thing that Gayle makes.  Oh yea, I think there is vodka in there as well.   It was a great evening watching the roadrunner and quail in the yard, checking out Wes’s new cactus gardens and shop, and enjoying Gayle’s sparkling conversation.  We saw sad evidence of the winter just past, with many of their plants permanently damaged from the bitter cold.  The tiny leaves on the mesquite trees have yet to come out, but many of the palms around Tucson are brown and tattered with only a bit of green emerging from the center of the trees. This last winter broke all records, as many snowbirders can attest. The blog stories of the Arizona winter were fairly extreme this year.

picture pretty quarters On Sunday we decided to drive a circular route to Bisbee, visiting Fort Huachuca along the way and returning via Tombstone.  Originally we had planned to stay at the Military Family Camp at the fort, but changed those plans when we realized how close many of the things we wanted to see were to Tucson.  It seemed much smarter for us to park the rig that gets 10 mpg and drive the one that gets 30, and to stay in one place and visit the others.  Even though gas here at the base is only 3.27, that is still pretty darn expensive to be running around when we really don’t need to.  Besides, it’s nice to stay put a bit.

parade grounds at the base of the mountains, graduation ceremonies are here We wanted to check out the campground at Fort Huachuca, but Mo also wanted to revisit the base where she attended training as an intelligence analyst in 1985.  She spent three months there during the winter and had good memories of the experience.  Once on the base, she said that much of the area had changed and it was hard to find parts that were familiar to her, but the mountains were lovely, with the base against the sideslope with a gorgeous view of the desert to the northeast.  We found the older part of the base with beautiful historic officers quarters, the parade ground, and the Fort Museum.

Bisbee (11) After our visit to the base, it was just a short drive beyond Sierra Vista to the winding road to Bisbee.  So many folks have so many good things to say about Bisbee that I was a bit skeptical.  Could it really be THAT great??!  Turns out that yes, Bisbee is that great.  It’s a charming mining town, with interesting people, great art, lots of things to do, good restaurants, and it is extremely dog friendly.  We found the ice cream shop, wandered the main street, with many shop keepers urging us to bring Abby in with us rather than having Mo wait outside on a bench while I browsed.  The people were friendly and conversational, and I enjoyed visiting with some of the shop owners.  When I asked one woman how things were going, she opened up and said, “Not so great.  Most of us are doing about half what we did last year, and do you notice that no one is carrying anything they have purchased?  No one has a bag in hand.”  She loved it, though, seemed to love her shop and her life and was ok with how things were going.

the woman's hat is made of plastic bags for bag awareness concert On down the road, however, the story was a bit different.  We walked into a lovely little shop with amazing huge brilliant copper plates among the art.  An older woman invited us in with the dog of course, and I decided that a small version of one of those copper plates would be a perfect memento of our trip to Bisbee and would look great on our newly painted walls at home.  After buying the plate, I asked the owner how long she had been in Bisbee, if she liked it.  Her story was haunting.  She had bought the shop 8 years ago, with the idea that she could build the business, sell the shop, and return home to retire.  She was from the northwest and almost cried as she told me her story.  Her hair was very gray, she was at least my age, and she said she would leave today if she could.  She missed the rain, she missed the water, she missed the ocean, she was trapped in a dry mining town thanks to the crashing economy, and she felt she would never be able to leave.  We all have our heart home, and Bisbee wasn’t hers.  I loved Bisbee, but I would miss the trees, the rain, the water, the ocean as well.  My heart hurt for this woman.

Bisbee As we left town, we wound our way up the steep road to check out the Queen Mine RV Park, reviewed by Laurie here and just about the only place to stay in Bisbee in an RV.  I can see how much fun it would be to stay there for a bit of time, but I don’t think I want to do it in January when it can actually snow! 

By the time we reached Tombstone, it was too late in the afternoon to see all the famous staged gunfights, but the town was filled to bursting with bikers and tourists, especially the Shady Lady Saloon, which is THE place to go, I hear.  We didn’t try to step in there with the dog, but it looked like a pretty lively place.  I know some folks love this town, but for me it was a bit too touristy to really get into it that much.  Wyatt Earp was my childhood hero, and just last fall we visited Dodge City, so boardwalk sidewalks but asphalt street I thought I might like Tombstone, but just as in Dodge, most of the historic attractions are behind fences and are invisible unless you pay the fees and listen to the folks play cowboy.  I think I might rather listen to some of Al’s real cowboys than do the Disneyesque thing at Tombstone. I was glad to see it, and probably don’t need to see it again.

I have several albums on Picasa of the last few days, although I certainly can’t even begin to take photos like Al did of Bisbee.  Go check out his blog here if you want to really “See” Bisbee in a way that I could never do.  Otherwise, you can see my view by going to my Picasa site here.

Tomorrow we will visit another long time friend south of town, and she plans to take us to Tubac, another historic town, but this one is filled with art and food.  UhOh.  I might be in trouble again.