Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Wild Wild West

Well - we spent this week in “The Wild West” having a blast and re-learning about where we both grew up!

Monday we left Phoenix and headed south for Tombstone with a ‘lunch stop’ at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. In many ways DeGrazia’s vision of what he wanted to do in creating his art, bringing it to the public and developing his property outside of Tucson reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright and his visions for his architecture and Taliesin West. While both selected properties in the foothills of their respective towns (far from development) back in the early 50’s - both are now encircled by development. The gallery, DeGrazia’s art and his story were all quite interesting.

After one slight little mishap (we managed to get Magic on a two lane road with no exit - oops - just a little traffic tie-up while we turned THE BUS around) we arrived at our next camping spot in ‘Historic Tombstone’. We had such a good time - the Shoot Out at the OK Corral - pics with Doc Holladay - Boot Hill Cemetery - the largest rose bush in the world - what more could anyone ask for. Oh yes - the day before St. Patrick’s Day we had lunch at Nellie Cashman’s Restaurant. Nellie Cashman came to America from Ireland at the age of 5 in the 1850‘s with her mother. By 1880 she had made her way to Tombstone, via San Francisco, where she started a restaurant to feed the miners. She was called the Angel of Tombstone - as she never let a man go hungry. She also started the hospital there. When she heard of new mine strikes as far away as Alaska - she was on her way. We can’t wait to see if she shows up on our Alaska trip this summer?!?!

Gunfight at the OK Corral

Doc Holliday and Friends

From the OK Corral to Boothill

Some Mistake!!

A Rose is a Rose?

While in Tombstone, we took a quick trip to Bisbee to check out the old Copper Queen Hotel (opened in 1902) and the Lavender Open Pit Mine (produced most of Bisbee’s 8 Billion pounds of copper!).

The Lavender Pit in Bisbee, AZ

From Tombstone to Las Cruces we passed through land that was Mexico instead of USA prior to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, was part of the Butterfield Stage Line and also existed due to the railroad - no wonder there were lots of ‘ghost towns’!!!

The history of Las Cruces and the surrounding area is VERY interesting. This area was inhabited for thousands of years by the ancient Native Americans called the Mogollon, who left their record for us etched in rocks and canyon walls. Later - in 1598 - Don Juan de Onate, on behalf of the King of Spain, led men from Mexico through the Pass that is now El Paso to what is now Santa Fe on the route that is now known as El Camino Real or the royal road. (I did say 1598 - the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Rock in 1620!!!) So - as you might think - this was the first major European colonization of North America. Sorry Pilgrims:-(

The land around Las Cruces remained a part of Mexico until 1854 when the Gadsden Purchase annexed land in (now) southern New Mexico into America at a cost of about $10 million. This provided a reliable route to the west coast avoiding the mountains to the north. In 1858 the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Line set up its regional headquarters in Mesilla, the largest town in the southern part of the New Mexico Territory (Las Cruces and El Paso were tiny towns with only a couple hundred residents!). In 1861 Mesilla was declared the capital of the New Mexico and Arizona Territories.

Mesilla was the center of activity during the late 1800’s. Like Tombstone, it was a stage stop - and had its outlaws. In fact, Billy the Kid ‘hung out’ here just as he did in Tombstone. Shortly after Billy the Kid testified about the shoot out at the OK Corral (he was there but not involved in the actual shoot out), he returned to Mesilla, was involved in his own shooting incident, tried in the courthouse on the Mesilla Plaza and sentenced to hang.

So - our activities in Mesilla included checking out the Historic Plaza, the building that housed the courthouse, the building that housed the Butterfield Stage Line Office/Stop and the Basilica (rebuilt in 1907).

AKA William Claiborne

Can you imagine 2800 miles on a stage coach? We'll take the Magic Bus any day.

Basilica of San Albino

I must add that the building that housed the Butterfield Stage Line Office is now La Posta Restaurant serving the BEST Mexican food we have ever had!!! And that is saying a lot, since I was raised on Los Compadres in Phoenix. It was soooooo good that we had three out of three meals there (dinner, lunch and dinner) - the only place we ate the whole time we were in Mesilla!! Their red chili con carne and flan were out of this world!!:))

The stage coach at our favorite Mesilla, NM restaurant.

We didn't eat anywhere else while in Mesilla (Las Cruces)

Between lunch and dinner at La Posta today, we did manage a trip out of town - to the White Sand Missile Range Museum & Missile Park (WSMR) and to the White Sands National Monument. It is pretty interesting to see where our armed forces (and their contractors) actually test all those missiles. And, Gary got to reminisce as he saw that old MACE Missile that he spent so much time guarding in Okinawa!!

Verrrrry Interesting

Gary guarded many of these Mace missiles(the BIG diagonal one) when stationed in Okinawa.

White Sands NM is someplace we had both heard much about but neither had ever visited. Seeing all that white sand - and not an ocean in sight - was quite interesting. We also took a Sunset Stroll with a Park Ranger which was very informative - and beautiful.

Just like sledding at home only on gypsum sand dunes.

Amazing sculptures from nature in the dunes.

Just having FUN!!

Day is done

NOW - I must tell you about my ‘revelation’ during these last couple of days. We were listening to the audio book, Game Change, while in Tombstone (VERY interesting). Such turmoil within the Democratic party during the primary - and the usual bitterness between the Republicans and Democrats in the general election. Makes you wonder how we have evolved to this - and makes you want to vote then ALL out of office. THEN you are shocked to find out this is NOT all new. There was much discussion in Tombstone about how the shoot out at the OK Corral ‘may’ have had political motivations?!?!? Yes there was a Republican Sheriff who was not ‘performing’ as perhaps he should. The President sent a new Federal Marshall, Virgil Earp to get things under control - ‘issues’ with Mexico, stage lines, etc. Was the whole shout out politically motivated?? THEN, we get to Mesilla. It wasn’t just the outlaws and rustlers that caused problems. In 1871 both Democrats and Republicans decided to parade on the plaza on night. This resulted in a fight that left nine dead and many wounded. As each had a band, the fight was called the bloody “Battle of the Bands”. I think they had the solution - just shoot them all!! At any rate - I guess these ‘battles’ between the parties are just ‘old hat’!

One other question for all of you (just want to see who actually read all of this). Any thoughts as to why, out of all the gun fights in the Wild West, the shoot out at the OK Corral in little old Tombstone is so famous?? Let us know your thoughts.

Talk to you all again soon (we are going into state parks and national parks for the next week - so may be out of touch for a week) -

Nellie Cashman and Doc Holliday

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