12-21 April 2015 Arizona - Benson & Tombstone

Sunday 12th April

This morning we made our way to Benson in Cochise County a small town south of Tucson. The town was founded in 1880 as a stopping point for the Butterfield overland stage and mail route. Soon after the Southern Pacific Railroad came into Benson . As the name of the county suggests this is the area Cochise the Chiricahua Apache chief lived back in the 19th century. We're staying at the Benson KOA campground which is a mile out of town, down a track on the edge of the desert. There is a good pet run on the site, in fact they have just sectioned off a bit of desert, therefore we have to keep close eye out for rattlesnakes. The weather is cloudy and much cooler, only 17 degrees today. At lunch time we went to the Horse Shoe Cafe and Bakery in town for a lovely home cooked lunch. We all had sweet cured ham and the quality was outstanding.

After lunch we made our way east to the Dragoon Mountains and the Amerind Foundation Museum. The museum is an archaeological research facility and museum of art, history and culture of native people of the Americas. The large mission style building has pink stucco walls and is in a quiet desert setting which was originally a ranch before being bought by William Shirley Fulton, an archeologist who set up the museum in 1937. The artefacts and archeology gave a lot of information on Native American life and history. The art museum had a collection of western/cowboy and Native art on show, very impressive stuff. The grounds have a trail around large bedrock boulders identifying wild plants that grow naturally on the property and have been used by human inhabitants in the area for thousands of years. Yucca, Beargrass, Agave and Sotol have been an important group of plants acting as 'superstores' used for pharmacy, clothing, housewares and liquor. They have provided medicines, fibre, soap, shampoo, food, drink, tools and building materials. Local Native Americans still come to Amerind to collect these plants to make products. There is a large flat rock amongst the boulders at the back of the house with rounded depressions as a result of repeated seed-grinding. It is not clear how old this ancient grinding stone is or what was being ground but it's likely to have been oak acorns, mesquite beans and wild seeds and pods. A fascinating afternoon where we learnt a lot about the history of the local area and Indian communities. One of the staff had mentioned that there was a bird of prey nesting in a tree just outside the entrance road to the museum. We spotted the nest easily, there was no sign of the aduilt but we thought it was a hawks nest. Tony took a photograph and was delighted to see that in amongst the twigs was a little head.

Monday 13th April

This morning we headed south on the US-80 to Tombstone and the OK Corral. On the way a large Coyote ran across the road and was narrowly missed by an oncoming car. The minute we entered Tombstone it felt like an authentic western town with wooden sidewalks, saloons and cowboys. Established in 1878 as a silver mining town it has miles of tunnels underneath the town. Firstly, we went to a comic shoot out show with a lot of tongue in cheek humour about the town and the old west.

Next was a very informative trolley bus ride around town with a commentary from the driver about the history of the buildings and the characters that lived there. It was time for refreshments so we made our way to the Crystal Palace Saloon for a beer. Inside was a large saloon hall with an original highly polished dark wood bar, ideal for sliding your beer glass along and having a shot of red eye.

Next was lunch at Big Nose Kate's Saloon which was very very busy and had live music. Big Nose Kate was an actual person, she was married to Doc Holliday.

Next was the Gunfight at OK Corral which didn't actually happen at the OK Corral but in a vacant lot on Fremont Street on October 26th 1881. The story is that members of a gang of cowboys had a run in with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp with help from Wyatt's friend Doc Holiday. Thirty shots later Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury were mortally wounded. The events are very well staged by actors and the audience is encouraged to hiss and boo at the appropriate moments.

Afterwards we went to have a look around town at various small museums portraying the history of the town and its characters.

John's last evening in the US and we went into Benson for a meal at Mi Casa, a small modest place on West 4th Street. We had a mixture of fajitas and burritos with tasty sauces and mixed fillings of meat salad and rice. Everything was beautifully presented. Lastly, the home made puddings of carrot cake and flan had to be taken home to eat. The only down side was they didn't sell alcohol. So back to the RV and the third episode first series of Breaking Bad, I bought all three series in the local supermarket. Neither of us have seen it and we have got hooked straight away. Having recently been to New Mexico where the series is set, it was also interesting to see the scenery.

Tuesday 14th April

Up at 7.30 to a warm and sunny desert day. John goes home today so the morning was spent packing, updating the log and relaxing in the sun until it got too hot. We did the 2 hours 30 minutes journey to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and got John there in good time. We said our sad goodbyes after a whirlwind three weeks of travelling from Texas across New Mexico and Arizona. From the big city to cool pine forest mountains to hot dry deserts, we have covered over a thousand miles. On the way back from the airport the sun was going down and the light was wonderful on the back drop of the mountains that surrounded us. Clouds started to gather and the sun reflected off them producing all sorts of colours, magenta, purple, mauve, pink, crimson, it was quite a display, with a few rainbows thrown in. What a treat of nature.

Wednesday 15th April

We have moved to Butterfield RV Park in Benson where we are in walking distance of shops and restaurants. It is a nice town park with excellent facilities, pool, kitchen/dining room, library/computer room, and an observatory, not as natural and out in the wilds like the KOA camp but it is in the heart of things and there are no rabbits running around to wind Sandy up. As soon as we arrived Ron came over to say hello, we got chatting and he gave us a lot of information about good places to see around the US and how to find free or economical camping sites. Ron is a retired New York Police Sergeant and has been travelling for 15 years, before that as his children were growing up he took them all over the US and he really is a fountain of knowledge. Took a walk to Safeways supermarket to get some groceries, that's how near we are to everything.

Thursday 16th April

The laptop has finally died. We were having problems with it way before coming to the US but now Tony cannot even sign in. We have had difficulty getting wifi and last week photoshop stopped working. All this and various other issues has stopped us getting the website up and running properly. So this morning we bit the bullet, went into Tucson and bought another laptop, an Asus,15" touch screen/i7/8GB of RAM/1TB of memory, that should solve the problem. Tony has spent this evening setting up the new laptop which is proving difficult because of the intermittent wifi signal we're getting here which causes problems registering with Microsoft. Until we set the laptop up so that we can use the Radiolabs disc to get the wifi booster operating we can't improve the signal. A chicken and egg situation.

Friday 17th April

Sat outside in the warm sunshine this morning eating breakfast listening to BBC Radio 4. Tuning into the Archers and the goings on in Ambridge whilst in the Sonora Desert feels a bit weird. Tony continued with setting up 365 on the laptop. He has found a hotspot at the RV park office and things are downloading better but still taking quite a while. Walked to the main road and had a meal at the Pablos Steaks and More restaurant, it's great not having to drive. Tony had ribs and I had fish, chips and coleslaw, all very good. Came back and watched another episode of Breaking Bad.

Saturday 18th April

Another warm and sunny day temperatures are expected to reach 25 degrees today, although the nights are still chilly. The park is getting very quite as lots of people are leaving. Most have been here all winter and are now going back up north for the summer - known as the 'snowbirds'. Went into Tucson this afternoon to collect Tony's old laptop the hard drive from Best Buy (similar to PC World) where we bought the laptop. The 'geek squad' there have downloaded all the files from the old laptop onto a portable hard drive. On the way back we called into Bobby Joes Irish Pub which is just outside town for a drink and something to eat. We sat on the stools at the bar and had our drink and eats. Quite a lively crowd of locals in there and very friendly bar staff. We left just as the karaoke started.

Sunday 19th April

Called Chris this morning to discuss arrangements for picking her and Dave up at LAX in a couple of weeks time - can't wait to see my old mate and Sandy can't wait to see Dave her very best mate. Warm and sunny day, sat by the pool updating the log and the website. Tony went food shopping. Had BBQ for dinner and watched the sun go down over the mountains.

Monday 20th April

Did a few chores today and laundry. Stayed around the pool, just chilled. Weather beautiful.

Saw a couple of Gambel's Quail today just next to the park. Sandy was beside herself, desperate to run after them

Tuesday 21st April

Met Jackie and Lee Gordon today. I was sitting at the pool and Lee said hello and asked where I was from, I replied the UK and he said whereabouts, Birmingham? I said yes, oh he said my wife is from Birmingham, I'll go and get her. It turned out that Jackie was from Sparkhill and had come to the US forty eight years ago as a nanny for a family in California. Two months after arriving she met Lee, they got married and had three children. We spent a nice evening with them both talking about travel, RV's, California and of course Birmingham. They live in Santa Clarita, north Los Angeles and gave us lots of advise on where to stay and what to do.