We left Yuma a day early in order to try to beat the rain. We were successful! And boy, did it rain. We were happy to be settled in our spot. We did go out driving a bit and encountered some mighty big puddles. It really poured. On Friday, we stopped at Costco to have our eyes tested. Only $55 each. We will get new glasses probably when we are in San Diego because that is when our extended health benefit for glasses kicks in again (at the end of January). On Saturday while we were out looking for an RV show we came across a big bike race - the El Tour de Tucson. Participants cycle main event distances of 111, 85, 60 or 42 miles. When we saw then it was pouring rain. The RV Show was a bust as well - it was too wet and muddy to walk around.
Monday we took the coach in to the service centre about 1:00. They looked it all over to determine what needed to be done. We switched sites when we got back. The people beside us were not very nice so we moved, the beauty of RV'ng. We've always threatened to do that! Tuesday the coach was in most of the day. They were getting their diagnostics in place to forward the information to the Extended Warranty company. We wandered around in the car, stopping near the airport to eat our packed lunch. We lucked out because there were a bunch of F-18 fighter jets taking off and landing from right where we were parked. The parts for the coach will take up to two weeks so it's a good thing we're here for a month.
Over the next few days we did a few familiarization trips of the area. We also checked out other RV parks and found that none are really as nice as where we are although Rincon West seems quite nice. They all seemed quite empty. We bought a savings passport from the Visitor Info Centre and there are a lot of 2-for-1 coupons in there. They were having a turkey dinner here at the restaurant at the park on the 27th so we went to that. It was ok but the turkey was from a big roll and we think the pumpkin pie was from Costco! On Thanksgiving Day we went to Golden Corral - we heard they were having a Thanksgiving Buffet. They were, but when we arrived there just after six, they came out to tell us that they were closing at 7 and if we were still in line then, the food would be taken away. We did manage to get in and we did get some turkey. Their food is always pretty good. At least the turkey was real - they had however run out of cranberry sauce. Friday Maureen put up all the Christmas decorations. The place looks nice!
On December 1, while we were out we spotted "A" Mountain with a curving road up to the top. With the help of Berta, our GPS, we found it and went to the top. Incredible view of Tucson from all sides. Desert towns seem to be very spread out. We had decided to take a road trip to Bisbee so we booked a room at the Historic Grand Hotel for Wednesday. We had been watching the weather closely and on the morning of December 2, we decided spur of the moment to go right then and there. A quick phone call confirmed we could change our reservation so off we went.
We went out I-10 to Benson and turned south on Hwy 80 towards Tombstone. Using our first 2-for-1 pass we went to the OK Corral with actors presenting the story of the great gunfight. It didn't actually happen in the corral but close by. It lasted only about 30 seconds with about 30 bullets shot. Ike Clanton and Billy Clairborne got away but Billie Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury were killed in the gunfight. Morgan & Virgil Earp were wounded along with Doc Holliday but Wyatt Earp was totally unharmed. It was an interesting piece of history. We wandered along Main Street and stopped at the Crystal Palace for lunch. They had an interesting band of characters performing - a guitar, a banjo and a singer. They were actually very good. Th whole gang of actors from the gunfight came to the palace for lunch as well and played pool before there next show at 2pm. Larry talked with Ike Clanton and he said they do 5 shows a day, 7 days a week.
On to Bisbee. Bisbee is a mile high mining town founded in the 1880s. The mines closed in the 70s when the price of copper was too low to make an money from it. The guide told us that copper was selling for around 49 cents an ounce but it was costing them $1.32 per ounce to mine. There are many quaint little shops and buildings - most of which seem to be closed on Mondays!
We checked into our room at the Bisbee Grand Hotel Bed and Breakfast (http://bisbeegrandhotel.com/). There are seven suites and six rooms furnished with antiques, fine art, and extremely comfortable furniture. No two are alike and there is a theme for each. All rooms have their own private bath. As a part of the ongoing renovations and improvements to the hotel, in July of 2008 air conditioning was added throughout the hotel. Constructed in 1906 and restored in 1986 in Old West Victorian style, the hotel features six suites - The Victorian, The Oriental, The Captain's, The Hacienda, The Western, The Hollywood, and The Garden - in addition to seven guestrooms with their own unique decor. We were in the Hollywood/Western Suite. We were at street level - through a retail looking door. There was a common sitting room then two bedrooms and bathrooms. No one was booked into the second (Western) room so we had privacy. The hotel is very well kept, clean and doesn't smell old at all.
We wandered around a bit, finding some extremely narrow two-way streets up the side of the gulch. We went on the 3:30 Queen Mine Tour. We geared up with hard hats, water-proof jackets and lights. We had to ride the little tram like you would ride a horse - not so comfortable and quite squished together. The guide stopped at the 100 foot mark to make sure everyone was ok. At the 700 foot mark we all got off and walked up some stairs to a big cavern where he showed us the solid granite walls and the methods they used to shore up the tunnels. Then at the 1500 foot mark we all got out again and walked down a side tunnel where he showed us the way they used to drill holes and fill with dynamite. It was a very interesting tour.
We came back to the hotel and had a drink at the old saloon then on to dinner at Table which was pretty much the only place open. We had some very good pasta. The next morning breakfast was served upstairs. Scrambled eggs, bacon, banana loaf from a local bakery, fruit, bagels, coffee. They always keep the doors open to unrented suites so you can go in and see them. They were amazing. Everything was super clean and the staff clearly love caring for the old place. We met another couple at breakfast, Robin and Gary, who we had seen at Tombstone and who were on the mine tour as well. They were heading back to snowy Salt Lake City. It turned out they were also staying at Lazydays RV!
We were on the road again by about 8:30 (breakfast was early). Driving south, just around the corner, was Lavender Pit, an open pit mine that began in the 50s and shut down in 1974. It was very deep but small by today's standards. We turned west onto Hwy 92 and followed the Mexican border for a while. There are small towns all along the way. It turns out that Sierra Vista is quite a shopping area, so that is probably where Bisbee does its shopping (although they do have a Safeway there). Just north of Huachuca City we turned west again onto Hwy 82. Maureen had researched a place called Empire Ranch, a national historic site just north of Sonoita. It was somewhat disappointing so we just stopped for a couple of photos. Then back to 82 headed to Nogales. We stopped in a beautiful little town called Patagonia for coffee and a visit to a local artists shop. It's a pretty town because it's hilly and actually has trees that were in their fall colours. The people were very nice too.
Nogales was our next stop, founded in 1775. Due to its ideal location on the border and its major ports of entry, Nogales funnels $26 billion worth of international trade into Arizona and the United States a year in fresh produce and manufactured goods from Mexico. There were a lot trucks coming north. The highways meeting in Nogales comprise a major intersection in the CANAMEX Highway, connecting Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In Nogales we stopped at the Visitor Info Centre and found where their historic areas are. We saw the Old Courthouse built in 1904 and the Pimeria Alta Historic Museum built in 1914. We could glimpse the ramshackle houses in Mexico and the huge fence that divides the two countries.
Our next stop was Tumacacori National Historic Site. Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino founded the mission here in 1691. A small church was built in 1757 and used for about 65 years. Kino founded 24 missions in Mexico and Southern Arizona in his lifetime. Then in the 1800s a bigger church was planned and a portion of it was completed in 1821. This was a self-guided walking tour. Larry's scooter came in handy again.
Next was Tubac. It's a cute little town full of galleries and local art. This was a 2-for-1 stop for us. When Kino founded Tumacacori, Tubac became the mission farm and ranch. In 1752 it was established as a Spanish presidio (fort). It is Arizona's oldest State Park and one of the first established by Teddy Roosevelt. Arizona's first newspaper was also published here on the state's first printing press. It also contains the second oldest remaining schoolhouse in Arizona (1885). A unique smell pervaded the schoolhouse and somewhat in the lobby - they had cornered a skunk in there the day before!
As we neared Green Valley, further up I-19, we could see huge piles of dirt in the distance. It turns out these were the sides of open pit mines currently in production. If you Google open pit mines in Arizona you will be able to see some pictures of these massive pits. While it's very damaging to the earth, nearly everything we use electronically uses copper.
On the 9th we decided to drive out to the Biosphere 2, about an hour away. We got all the way there and determined that it wouldn't be worth Larry going in because most of it he couldn't see with the scooter. The cashier wasn't at all sympathetic. Apparently there would be about a mile of walking and 150 steps.
On the 11th we took The Presidio Trail tour. It's a self-guided walking tour of about 2 1/2 miles. Larry took his scooter and it worked great. The first stop was Presidio San Agustin del Tucson. Presidio means walled adobe fortress first built in 1775. There are only fragments of the original structure left but they have done a wonderful job of reconstructing a portion of it so you get the idea of what life was like. As you start the tour there is a timeline built into the sidewalk so you know a brief history as you start. There is a turquoise line painted on the sidewalks that you follow along. There were 23 stops along the trail, including a couple of little free museums. We saw many things that we wouldn't have seen if we were driving. After we were done the tour, we went and saw St. Augustine Church then back to the coach. The weather is beautiful, quite warm and sunny.
On the 14th, we drove out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It's an amazing museum that has lots of different sections, all things that apply to the local desert - hummingbirds, bears, wolves, mountain lion, snakes, spiders, lizards, prairie dogs, lizards - then several garden areas - cactus, grasses - geological. An incredible museum that was all accessible for Larry's scooter. This was another 2-for-1 opportunity. Then we stopped at Old Tucson Studios, where over 300 films and television shows have been produced since 1939. They still use the sets today. We went on a little walking tour and saw where several John Wayne movies were shot. Then after that we went to the San Xavier Mission. What an amazing place. It's known as the Sistine Chapel of North America. Very beautiful!
On the 15th we went to the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair. It's a half mile each way. There were thousands of people there. There were a lot of great vendors - we bought new pillows, a sushi kit and some pasta.
On the 19th we were finally able to take the coach in for the work to be done as parts arrived. We met some great people in the waiting lounge. Unfortunately, they were only able to fix the valves for the rear jacks and the next day the tail light. The motor for the front blind was defective apparently and they didn't have time to fix the toilet lever (it still works). Kind of annoying because we've waited so long. We plan to return on January 20 for the rest of the work - then from there head to Indio. It was also getting really lonely. Nearly all the rigs in the row in front of us left - and the one that remains, they are in Seattle for Christmas! The weather was a bit iffy again with some rain and the temperatures were cooler. We found some great pillows at Bed Bath & Beyond and now have 8 new pillows on board - 6 for Sechelt. We were able to take our others back to Costco even though we had bought them on-line in Canada. Yay Costco!
We headed to Casa Grande on the morning of the 22nd. Packed up the tree for the third time!
We would like to wish everyone on our list a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! Thank you for following our travels.