A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Rooseboom-Scott

Oct 14, 15 - El Paso, TX

Border Patrol, NM Highway 9, El Paso

sunny 34 °C

We headed out early from Bisbee. Our route took us into New Mexico, along Highway 9, which runs right along the border with Mexico. The Border Patrol presence was strong all along the route, with several stations and ominous looking installations that must be designed to watch for illegals crossing into the US. For much of this day we could see the border fence, not a wall just off to the side of the road.

There were two tethered balloons, which we understand carry high resolution cameras and other equipment to watch for illegals crossing the border. My hometown of Sarnia Ontario had an experience with one of these balloons hovering over the St. Clair River. Citizens were up in arms that the US government could see into their houses with the high tech cameras and eventually that balloon was removed. Perhaps it is one of the ones down here over the Mexico border.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant in Douglas NM, where we learned that the US government is beginning a construction project along the border...about $100 million for a 40 mile segment of wall. The restaurant owner says the project will make him rich, as there is very little other option to eat in Douglas. The food was pretty darn good in this place. As for the effectiveness of the wall, he has no idea if it will work at all.


El Paso is huge, with a population of about 1 million, which when added to the 1.5 million population of Juarez Mexico, just across the border creates a mega sized city, with the Rio Grande River forming the border between them.

We plan a day of sight seeing here before moving on to Carlsbad Caverns, and perhaps a stop in Roswell, NM, where a flying saucer is purported to have crashed on July 8, 1947, just two weeks before my birth. Perhaps I am an alien implant and my return to Roswell will trigger a return to pick me up :)

Oct 15 - It had been oppressively hot last night, but a cold front passed through overnight and this morning was a very pleasant 56F. The projected high for the day is just 72F, a big drop from yesterday's 99F.

A low key day is what we have planned. We started our tour with a drive to some local missions. The Socorro Mission dates to the 1680's.


On our drive across the city we came upon this building on the edge of a native housing project. A bit of a fixer-upper! :)


The mission is on the east side of the city and our next destination was the Magoffin Home in central El Paso. Magoffin was the Mayor of El Paso for 4 terms beginning in 1881. The house was built in 1875 and is a state historical site.


Courtyard Angel statue:


While we were at the Magoffin Home we talked with the two volunteer guides about immigration and what it is like to live in El Paso and its sister city Ciudad Juarez. The Rio Grande River forms the border here and every year people drown trying to cross into the US illegally. They also said that people also perish in the deserts of New Mexico.

They did say that many people cross daily to work in both countries and there is a system in place to make it easy for these people to cross, much like the Nexus system that Canada/US crossings utilize. There is a border patrol station that we passed on our drive back to our RV park that must have had 200 white/green pickup trucks of the border patrol. The border is serious business here in west Texas.


Our lunch was at the Ode Brewery in West El Paso. We each had a 12 oz beer and shared a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich. A good lunch.


We had planned on going out to a Mexican restaurant for supper, but neither of us was hungry enough to justify the expense of a dinner out, so we settled for some prepared food from the local El Super. This is a grocery chain that caters to Mexicans. It is a full service grocery store, and has a cafeteria style prepared food area. where you can order and eat at tables. Jenny had a burrito and I had a couple of flat tacos. Really good food and we spent less than $11 for supper.


We are on the downward end of our journey, and after Carlsbad intend to work our way over to Mission TX to visit with our travel buddies George and Karmen for a week or so until we begin our journey home to Nova Scotia.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:15 Archived in USA Tagged el_paso douglas_nm Comments (0)

Oct 10 - 13 - Bisbee, Tombstone, Naco, Mexico

Shootout at the OK Corral, Bisbee - Bisbee, a cool little town, Naco, Mexico

sunny 27 °C

We left Tucson around 9:00am heading just 175 miles south, to Bisbee AZ. We were targeting an RV park in Naco AZ, right on the border with Mexico. It turned out the Turquoise Valley RV park was not looking for much business...a gravel yard, across from a golf course. They wanted $38 plus tax a night, which would have been OK if the park had been worth it. No picnic tables, and no real shelter from the sun.

We ended up at the Queen Mine RV park in Bisbee, $35 a night incl tax, good wifi. We are road weary and Jenny is in need of a good haircut. I'm in need of a massage and we need these things sooner rather than later. We went to the visitor center and got a map of Bisbee as well as directions to both a masseuse and a haircutter, right next to each other in the same building. We booked appointments for the following morning, did a short exploration of town, which included a visit to the Bisbee Brewing Company for a shared pint of Ale. Very good.


Bisbee is a great little town, with a mining history. The mine, right in the middle of town, closed in 1975, but you can still get a mine tour, which we will do later this week. The town is built on rolling hills and the narrow street wind up and down. The main street dates back to the 1890's and early 1900's.

Our supper at Screaming Banshee Pizza was pretty good. Wood fired pizza oven, 10 good micro brewery beers on tap, in a funky old gas station. Our tab, just $28 plus tip for pizza and beer. Over supper we decided to stay here for 4 nights. There is enough to do, we like the town and we need some down time.


Oct 11 - Jenny got the haircut, I got the most thorough massage of my life. She looks pretty good, and I feel much better physically. All this before lunch time. We appear to be eating out a lot, all of a sudden. We had lunch at the Bisbee Coffee Company. A shared BLT and coffee.


The masseuse said I should take it easy the rest of the day, so that is what we did. We hung out at the campground, read, got some stuff up to date on the computer and visited with the neighbour's cat. The neighbour, who manages the park, lives in 1976 motor home, which still runs and is in excellent shape. The cat has taken a liking to Sully and sits on the car's hood while he receives attention from admirers. The RV park, with just 25 spaces, is perched right on the edge of the open pit mine that dominates the centre of town.


The weather has been perfect once again; sunny with highs in the mid 80's F and night time temperatures right around 50 F. A very quiet day for us, which was just what the doctor (or masseuse) ordered.

Oct 12 - We started our day with an early morning walk through old town Bisbee. The buildings are pretty cool, as is the statue of the copper miner, which stands at the center of town. I'll bet not many miners looked this buff back in the day!


Across the mine pit is the remains of Lowell AZ, all of it is the one small strip of city street shown in these photos.


We gassed up Sully and headed for the tourist trap that is Tombstone, AZ, home of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Now, I have read extensively, over the years, of the shootout. It lasted 30 seconds, and took place about 3:00pm on October 26, 1881, almost 146 years ago. Brothers Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp and their friend Doc Holliday, were on the white hat side, opposed by these bad guys...Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, as well as Tom and Frank McLaury. About 30 shots were fired over 30 seconds. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded, as was Doc Holliday. Billy Claiborne, Ike Clanton and Wyatt Earp were unharmed.

Stories surrounding the gunfight indicate that the black powder used in the cartridges fired from the Colt pistols so obscured the combatants that it was hard to see each other after the first shots, even though they were only 6-10 feet apart.

Later, in December Virgil Earp was ambushed and severly wounded, and in the March the following year, Morgan Earp was murdered. Wyatt then went on a vendetta, killing at least 3 other men involved in the shootings of Virgil and Morgan, with the assistance of Doc Holliday.

So, on to Tombstone we went. The town essentially died back in the middle of the 20th century, but has been brought back to life as a place to re-enact the gunfight, in three different locations, 5 times a day. There are stagecoach rides which take you through the town and explain the local history.


It was fun to walk the streets and see where this all happened. Interestingly, when you read the actual history of the event, and see the map drawn by Wyatt Earp, you learn that the shootout actually took place on a street about a full block from the corral. Calling it the Gunfight at the OK Corral was something Hollywood did back in the 1940's.


Again, a quiet afternoon back at the trailer, writing the blog, napping and reading. In the late afternoon we wandered on down to the Bisbee Brewing Company for a beer, then picked up supper at Safeway. The peace of a few days of doing very little is resting well with us.

We did see some rain this afternoon, bringing to an end our 48 straight days of sunshine. Even though the rain only lasted about 15 minutes, we did have to turn the wipers on in the car.

Oct 13 - We decided to check out Naco, Mexico this morning. We headed over about 10:30am, planning on spending a couple of hours exploring the little town, then having an authentic lunch. Turns out we went over too early. There is virtually nothing there to keep us occupied for 2 hours. We walked about a mile into town, along the main street. Sleepy, a few statues.


By the time we walked the mile back to the border it was only 11:15am...way too early for lunch. We decided to forgo waiting around and headed back to the USA. Just 45 minutes in total. We can't recommend Naco as a place to visit. A few pharmacies, a couple of cut rate dentists, and a bunch of closed stores.

Naco used to be one of the main points where people could illegally cross into the USA. We learned that many had died trying to walk across the desert. In 2006 the US built a wall here to control the border crossings. Seems to be an effective way to control at least this part of the border.


We used the free time from our aborted lunch visit to Mexico to do our laundry and get ready to depart Bisbee tomorrow.

We also did the Queen Mine Tour, which is directly beneath our RV park, and yes, we mean directly beneath the RV park. The tunnel into the mountain is massive. Over 90 years 8 billion pounds of copper was taken out of the local mountains. One of the largest copper mines in history. In addition, massive amounts of gold, silver, lead and zinc were mined here. They take you into the mine on a train and show you how the place worked. The mine tour costs $13 a person and is worth the price.


After our mine tour we headed back to the Old Bisbee Brewery where we sated our thirst, once again. This is the third time we have been back to the brewery in our time here. One of our very favourite micro breweries.


We finished our stay in Bisbee with supper out a Roka, consistently ranked as one of the top restaurants in Arizona. Jenny has sea bass, I had the beef short ribs, and we both had the restaurant's signature margaritas. Our most expensive meal out on this trip, at $90 including tip, but it was worth it.


We strolled back to TaJ through the streets of Old Bisbee, one of our favourite stops on our tour of the US. A good stop for us and our road weariness is gone, for the moment.

We head onward tomorrow to El Paso Texas.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 07:09 Archived in USA Tagged tombstone lowell bisbee naco old_bisbee_brewing. Comments (4)

Oct 8, 9 Tucson/Saguaro National Park

Auston Matthews Aunt, Saguaro National Park, Brewery for Lunch, Tucson Walkabout

sunny 29 °C

Our drive from Payson to Tucson was uneventful and we arrived early afternoon at the Prince of Tucson RV Park. 180 sites close to downtown, with good services and only $35 a night.

It was right around 100 F when we arrived so we decided it was a good time to get me a new pair of shorts, so off to the Tucson Mall we went. This mall seems to be thriving, and it might just be that the air conditioning brings people in on hot days. Anyway, found the shorts at Macy's and the clerk, when she learned we were Canadian, asked if we liked hockey. Well, it turns out her nephew just happens to be Auston Matthews, who might just be the one to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup, after an absence of 50 years. Huh, neat little experience!

It cooled off as soon as the sun went down, at least back into the 60's F so sleeping was pretty good. Tucson has exploded in population, and now almost 1 million people call this place home. Urban spread is really apparent here as the town stretches all the way to the Saguaro National Park to the east, more than 15 miles from the centre of town.

Saguaro National Park was our destination for the morning. We visited the Eastern portion of the park. A second portion of the park is located the west of the city.


The Saguaro is a magnificent beast, which grows almost exclusively in Arizona. The one beside me in this picture is about 60 years old. You should note that I got a new hat while here at the park. My old hat, purchased in Quebec City in 2012 is ready to move on to a new owner. The hat and some clothes I have now replaced will go to a charity bin. Jenny and I have a strict policy of not taking home more than we brought with us on this trip. Buy something, and something has to go.


Very slow growing, they don't even begin to grow arms until they reach 75 years and they live as long as 150 years.


The saguaro actually has ribs that help support its weight.


While we were driving the loop trail at the park this giant grasshopper landed on the car:


We did two hikes, or about 1 1/2 miles in total, in full sun. The temperature was in the mid 80's, but there was a decent breeze to keep it comfortable. We had promised ourselves lunch at a micro brewery if we got exercise in the morning.

This cactus continually adds fruit to each cluster until they grow so heavy they fall off. The clumps that fall off then root and start a new plant.


The other interesting thing we learned today is that the seed pods of mesquite trees provided a source of flour to the natives. The seeds were ground with a mortal and pestle and used throughout the year as food.


Our reward was a visit to this brewery in downtown Tucson. The city has 19 micro breweries. Lunch, plus a pint of beer, for just $9 each...not bad.


We walked around downtown Tucson looking for sites from the old days, but sadly, most of old Tucson downtown has been replaced, with the exception of this courthouse, which is being renovated.


This statue of Francisco Villa, in a downtown square is quite impressive, and obviously comes from a time when Mexico and the US were on friendlier terms;


Lastly, as we were walking back to the car we passed the historical train station. Apparently, on this site, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, shot and killed Frank Stillwell, who was suspected of shooting Wyatt's brother Morgan. I posed with the statues of the shooters.


We leave Tucson, heading south to Bisbee AZ, in the morning. Another good stop on our travels.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 18:24 Archived in USA Tagged tucson saguaro_national_park Comments (0)

Oct 7 - Circle Drive, Payson to Payson 145 miles

Lake Roosevelt, Tonto National Monument, Desert to Forest Drive, Sully gets a Car Wash

sunny 29 °C

We headed south from Payson, down Highway 87, which plummets 2,000 feet from the highlands to the valley below. Within a few miles the forest disappeared and we saw out first saguaro cactus. At Jake's Corner we turned onto Highway 188 and headed towards our first stop of the day...Lake Roosevelt.

Lake Roosevelt was formed when the Salt River was dammed in the late 1890's to provide year round access to water for the local area. Previously, the river would alternately flood in the spring, then run dry in the middle of summer. The dam created a year round supply of water as well as provided hydro part of the year. During construction 41 workers died, according to the sign on the overlook. An attractive structure:


The Highway 88 bridge in front of the structure is ranked as one of the top 10 bridges in America:


Lake Roosevelt's recreation areas are closed for part of the winter because it is a wintering spot for none other than Canada Geese:


People camp right on the beach here, at least when the water level in the lake permits:


Our main destination for the day was the Tonto National Monument. Here there are two cliff dwellings dating back to the 1300's, the lower one is accessible all year round, and the upper just for guided tours from November to April.

The area around the Salt river has been inhabited for 2000 years,. It is estimated that 10000 people lived in the Salt River Valley at its peak. Climate change in the 1330's made the valley less productive and forced many to leave, but one segment built dwellings in the cliffs and continued to live here until around 1450 when they too left the area. No one knows their fate, or why they abandoned their homes.

We hiked up hill (350 feet elevation gain) on a 1/2 mile trail. Steep! Along the path are many fine examples of Saguaro cactus. An sign informed us that Saguaro don't even begin to get branches until they are 75 years old and many are over 200 years old.


Of course there is the sign about how man has affected the area, particularly in the past 200 years:


The cliff dwelling are pretty spectacular, from a distance:


The climb up was very hot and we drank two bottles of water. And up close:


The view from the dwelling is pretty nice as well. The inhabitants continued to farm down on the flats by the river during their time here. As many as 60 people inhabited the lower dwelling and 80 in the upper dwelling:


After our visit to the Tonto National Monument, we drove back towards Payson on a secondary road: AZ 288, called the desert to forest scenic route, about 75 miles of switchbacks and climbing 2000 feet from the valley to the rim area. Well, with all the ups and downs on that road, we probably did the climb and descent three times. About 30 miles of it was gravel and we completely dirtied Sully. It was really interesting to see the change from desert to scrub brush to full ponderosa pine forest as we drove.

We left Payson at 9:30am and returned to town 7 hours later, at 4:30pm. We ran Sully through the car wash and spent a good half hour cleaning the inside. It looks like a Honda Pilot again, and not some dust covered lump of steel and plastic. :)

It has been a good stop here at Payson. This area has hundreds of miles of hiking trails and the views from the rim into the valley below are excellent. The temperatures down below are dropping into the high 80's beginning tomorrow and we are headed to Tucson.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:36 Archived in USA Tagged tonto_national_monument roosevelt_dam salt_river az288_desert_to_forest_scenic_r Comments (0)

Oct 5, 6 - Payson AZ,

Waiting out a heat wave in Phoenix up in the highlands, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, THAT Brewery and Pub

sunny 29 °C

Our drive from Holbrook to Payson was a short 100 miles and we were into the Payson Campground and RV Resort by early afternoon.

That gave us time to find the local visitor center and get some maps of local attractions. We booked in here for 3 nights, in part waiting for cooler temperatures to the south. It is currently over 100 degrees in Phoenix and the manager of the local Chamber of Commerce told us she grew up there. She says, if they are saying 100 degrees F on TV, you can bet it is 110 F out on the street. Without air conditioning in TaJ, we are staying put until it gets a bit cooler down there. he Weather Channel says temperatures should return to seasonal by Sunday.

Besides, it is pretty nice here. Lots of hiking opportunities in the Tonto National Forest and places to explore.

Oct 6 - We headed off bright and early for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home of a pretty spectacular deep canyon. Right on our arrival we came upon our first Javelina.


Back in 1877 a prospector named David Gowan was being chased by Apache Indians and in his escape he came upon this tiny canyon. He hid out in it for 2 nights. On the third day he explored the canyon and found this natural bridge. He later claimed squatter's rights to the property end eventually lived in the valley.

Access to the natural bridge is via steep trails that drop 250 feet to the floor of the little valley. Jenny and I did two trails over a 3 hour period, hiking 3 miles in total with 600 feet of elevation change, not to mention the rock scrambling in order to get into the area under the bridge.


Arizona schools have a two week fall break, which just happens to be now, so there were plenty of families with children down there. Seeing young people able to scramble over rocks really brings home how much flexibility we have lost.


Some really nice caves down there. The rock is travertine and water wore away all the lesser rock to create the bridge.


On our way back up we came upon a really fine example of a holly tree, complete with berries:


After our strenuous efforts we rewarded ourselves with a visit to a craft brewery for lunch. This brewery is located in Pine AZ and has good food and the beer was pretty nice as well. We picked up some coasters to add to our collection.


We spent the afternoon relaxing around the R-pod. We have another full day here tomorrow and plan to do another hike tomorrow as well as check out the town of Payson.

We are now at 40 straight days of full sunshine, since we left Prince Rupert in British Columbia. We might have forgotten what a rain cloud looks like. Both TaJ and Sully (our Honda Pilot) are coated in road dust and dirt and badly in need of a wash.

We expect our time in Texas will provide some rain, but that is still 15 days out into the future. The 10 day forecast in both Arizona and New Mexico calls for sunny days.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:43 Archived in USA Tagged tonto_natural_bridge payson_az that_brewery Comments (1)

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