Friday, March 17, 2017

Tombstone and Bisbee

We stayed at the Encore park in Benson Arizona for basically the first week in March.  The park is typical of the RV parks in the southwest.  A large gravel parking lot with utility hook ups and if it is billed as a "resort" it will have a pool and hot tub.  We generally don't take advantage of the resort amenities.  However, we did see a few nice sunsets.

 A few miles east of Benson there is a mountain pass through the Dragoon mountains where there are  rather interesting house-size boulders scattered over several square miles. From the Texas Canyon a rest area on I-10 you can get a good view of the rocks. The area from the Dragoon Mountains south to the Chiricahua mountains was the home land of Cochise and Geronimo apache leaders.

The above photos were taken at the nearby Amerind museum.  The picnic area surrounding the museum was quite picturesque.  The museum (like most) does not allow photography inside the buildings. However, we found the museum to be a first class record of American indian culture both pre- and post-columbian periods.  The companion art museum was very impressive with extensive collections of water color and oil images of old west and indian scenes.
The town of Benson, Arizona had only a few run-of-the-mill stores and business to include a Super Walmart.  Of the several restaurants, the Horseshoe Cafe seemed to be the most popular.  We had breakfast and a lunch there.  The food was very good.

We were not in a hurry to visit the town of Tombstone as it has a reputation as quite a touristy town.  Although the town has its share of staged OK corral gunfights and old west characters wandering the streets, we found quite a lot of real history to experience.  The town court house museum is definitely worth the $5 admission. 

The court room in the building is maintained fairly close to the original.

 There are displays summarizing the biographies of many local characters who lived in the town in the 1800's.
 We made the rounds of the many gift shops.  Among them was the building where Morgan Earp was killed.  In the movie Tombstone he was shot and dies on a pool table in the front of the saloon.  It turns out the pool table was in the rear of the saloon.  Also Morgan, who died several hours later was shot by an assassin through the windowed doors from an alley in back of the saloon. The gift shop had pictures from the 1880's which showed the interior as it existed in Earp's day. The windowed doors are still there as well as a sky light which was above the pool table.

The gallows has been reconstructed on its original location in the courthouse side yard.
 After a morning touring Tombstone, we traveled another 30 miles south to the border mining town of Bisbee.
 With its narrow streets and mountainous terrain the town is very interesting.  Copper mining is its main industry.  We had lunch at a local restaurant, but did not have time for the tour of the copper mine.

We stayed a week in Benson taking care of a veterinary appointment for Barney and a commissary shopping trip to nearby Fort Hachucca.

Table Mesa BLM

We decided that the drive northward from Tucson was longer than we would like to do in one day.  I located a section of BLM land along I-19 where camping is allowed and is free.  Most of the time we like to limit our drives to no more than four hours.  We've found that the RVer rule of twos makes for a pleasant journey (e.g., stop by two o'clock and stay for at least two days).  In this case we stopped by two o'clock but stayed only overnight.

On most BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) the public is allowed to camp for up to 14 days for free.  The Table Mesa area is a BLM recreation area used for target shooting and by off road ATVs.  We found a gravel turn-around after a drive on a gravel road  for 2 or 3 miles.  Except for a few jeeps and ATVs there were no other people.  We did have one group off load some four wheelers in the evening and then return and depart the area at nearly mid-night.  Hopefully they were not drug runners.  Anyhow they did not bother us at all and we had a peaceful sleep.

The next day as we traveled northward and gaining elevation, the Saguaro cacti were becoming less common.
Above is the evening sunset at our Table Mesa boondock site.  We are currently staying at the Verde Valley RV Resort, a Thousand Trails campground near Sedona, Arizona.

Tucson Arizona

In Tucson, we stayed at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base FamCamp.  The FamCamp is one of the best military RV parks we have seen.  Davis-Montham (aka the Bone Yard) is a storage and salvage facility for deactivated aircraft.  Three years ago we toured the bone yard which continues to be  a very impressive sight.
 The FamCamp has some excellent desert landscpaing.  We were lucky to get a 50amp site. The park does not allow reservations.  Two days after our arrival, the park office had a waiting list for hook-up sites and was sending new arrivals to their overflow no-hook-up section.

So far this is the only campground where we have found a pet bathing kiosk.

Although our primary reason for stopping in Tucson was to refill our medical prescriptions, we had the chance to visit our  friend Stephen Phillip and to met his lovely family.  Stephen BBQed some outstanding pork chops and we had a great time getting to know the family and trade "war" stories.

After several days our prescriptions were transferred from the Virginia military pharmacy and we picked up the refills.  Our next stop was to the north of Phoenix.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Big Bend Ranch to Benson Arizona

Rockhound State Park

Since the last posting we traveled north from Big Bend Ranch State park intending to stay at the Marfa lights viewing area.  After stopping for lunch in the town of Marfa and having a nice lunch at the Paisano hotel (see the pictures below); we decided to travel on to El Paso since it was still early in the day.

We discovered that Marfa, Texas is a very pretty town with a gorgeous county government building.
 Also a great looking church.
The Paisano hotel was built in 1930 and was the staging location for the movie "Giant".  Many of the scenes were filmed in locations around Marfa including the Big Bend area.


We arrived at the Fort Bliss Famcamp late in the afternoon.  Unfortunately the park was booked full with no sites available.  The camp host told us that it was perfectly alright to boondock on a nearby parking lot (next to the PX gas station).  We had a fairly pleasant evening with the solar system allowing TV watching and web browsing all evening.
Boondocking at Sunrise at Ft Bliss

The next morning the park had a vacant site we available where we stayed for three days.
Ft Bliss must have one of the largest PX food courts.

On the advice of our neighbor, Mario (whose home town is El Paso), we had a wonderful steak dinner at the Cattleman's Restaurant.  The restaurant is located southeast of El Paso out in the middle of the desert.  There is quite a ranch facility which includes a petting zoo and a small lake.  The ranch was also the scene for a number of movie shooting locations. Anyhow, the steaks and the service were awesome.

Petting Zoo

From El Paso we headed west for a relatively short drive into New Mexico.  Near Deming New Mexico there are several nice state parks.  Three years ago we stayed at a commercial RV park. This time we decided to try the nearby Rockhound State Park.

What an awesome park!  Gorgeous views on the west side of the Florida Mountains.  This very popular park was nearly full with only a few no hook-up sites available. Still a deal at $10 per day.  Our solar installation paid off allowing us a very comfortable three day stay.  The temperatures ranged from the mid-seventies during the day to lows at night in the forties.  Our propane catalytic heater kept the coach comfortable without draining the batteries.  See the great video of the park posted by the "Love Your RV"folks.

We did have some dust storms blowing thru the valley below.

To shorten the drive to Benson Arizona (our current location), we stopped for a one night id-way stop-over at the Willcox Playa Wildlife Refuge (Willcox, AZ).   The camp site at the refuge was nothing more than a gravel turn-around.  It was a very quiet peaceful campsite with only the sound of an occasional passing car or truck.

The refuge is a stop-over point for the sandhill cranes on their migrations.  Unfortunately, the cranes apparently had already left for northern nesting.  We only saw a roadrunner .

The next day it was only a short hop to Encore park at Benson Arizona, Valley Vista RV Resort.  Valley Vista is one of the Encore parks included in our Thousand Trails membership.  A week of full hook-ups for free (another great deal).

 While at Benson, we only did little in the way of sightseeing.  Our few activities will be the subject of the next posting. If you like to follow our travels, you can subscribe  to this blog via email or via RSS feeds (see the "Subscribe..." and "Receive Posts..." section on the right side of the page).