Thursday, March 13, 2014


Yesterday we drove to Tombstone for the afternoon. I don't remember being there since sometime in the early 60's with the family. They call themselves "The town too tough to die" which it appears they still are. There were a fair number of tourists wandering the streets and shops.

I seem to remember that they used to stage reenactments of the shootout at the OK Corral right on the main street in town, but it is now held in a separate location where you have to pay to watch it. It's kind of like the Old Tucson set. There are guys dressed in period outfits all over town trying to get you to go see the show. There's also the OK Corral itself, (which you have to pay to visit) and the Birdcage Saloon, (which you have to pay to visit) and some other historic buildings, including one with real "ghosts", (which you have to pay to visit). I think you get the picture. Every building is either a shop selling tourist trinkets or someplace you have to pay to see.

We wandered the streets and read all the signs explaining what each building was, but we didn't visit a single shop. I guess we've just seen too many tourist traps like these in our travels. We did shell out $5 apiece to visit the Tombstone State Historical Park in the old courthouse. It is now a museum and quite well done. It has displays and artifacts explaining the history of the town and Southeastern Arizona.

We also made the obligatory stop at the Boot Heel Cemetery. It is owned by the city and is free, but you can only enter and leave through the gift shop of course. Almost all the headstones have been replaced with standard sized and freshly painted boards that I suspect bear little resemblance to their originals. Still, it is a real cemetery, and the people whose names are on the markers are actually buried there, even if it did feel like Disney built it.

It was a simple and inexpensive outing, only an hour from Tucson, and we learned something about the town and area. Still, I wonder what the future holds for them long term? My generation grew up with cowboys, Indians and outlaws from the old west on TV. There were more westerns on TV than cartoons, and not just on Saturday mornings. Westerns made up a good portion of the prime time shows as well. But that changed with my kids, and the subsequent generations. I venture to say that very few kids today have ever heard of "the shootout at the OK Corral". Although it is spring break this week, and we did see a few families in town, the vast majority of visitors were our age. That can't bode well for "the town too tough to die."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Organ Pipe National Monument

In an attempt to follow up on my recent return to blogging, here's another post already! Will wonders never cease?

After dropping off Dale at Colossal Cave for his continuing journey on the AZT, we moved out to a boondocking location about 2 miles south of Why. One really does need to ask why. There are a few houses, a gas station, a cafe, a couple RV parks and lots of Border Patrol agents. There's not much else.

On Thursday we drove about 15 miles south to the Visitor Center at Organ Pipe. We watched the 15 minute movie, took the very short nature walk, and then took the 21 mile loop dirt road around Ajo Mountain. Some of the road was in pretty good condition but there were places a Jeep would have been a better choice than a Lexus.

We stopped about half way around and took a 2 mile hike up Arch Canyon. There is a double arch, one above the other, that is very interesting to see. On the loop we saw plenty of organ pipe cactus. This is the only place they exist in the US but they do grow further south into Mexico. Although the arms look a lot like a Saguaro, they have a very different internal structure. Instead of the wood ribs that form the trunk of the saguaro, the organ pipe has a single wood like shaft in the center. It's quite large in comparison to the ribs of the saguaro. They appear to be up to 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

Friday we drove about 20 miles up the road to Ajo. It was built as a mining town in the early 1900's and is architecturally interesting. There is a central plaza that reminds me of Santa Fe, and the old school, which is now an apartment building workshop space for artists, is also interesting. The entire Ajo area is dwarfed by the huge piles of tailing from the mine and smelter. We drove up to the open pit lookout but it was closed. Nonetheless, we were able to see almost all the way to the bottom from another vantage point. It is one huge hole. The mine closed down in 1985 but the town seems to be going relatively strong.

Today we moved back to Tucson and are staying at the Pima County Fairgrounds. We plan to be here about a week before returning to Mesa.