ARIZONA 2001!

In January of 2001 we had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Arizona. We'd never been there before, and we only had four days to explore, so we put a stake in Tucson as our home base and decided to do the southern half of the state. We had a fantastic time, and we hope that you enjoy taking the trip with us. You'll also find some Arizona travel information, and some suggestions on things to see and do. Let's get started...


Day 1: There's Gold in Those Hills!

Crashing in Mesa, AZ

If you've read through any of our other trips, you know that we try to stay in B&B's whenever possible. Since we wanted a place to stay up near the start of the Apache Trail, we spent the first night in a Day's Inn in Mesa. It was a nice, spacious room, but didn't have the charm that we find in small inns. This worked out well for us, but if we had it to do over again, we would find a similar place in Apache Junction.

The Superstition Mountains

We hit the road early in the morning for the Apache Trail. If you've ever heard the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine, then you know about where we were. We had just turned onto the Apache Trail when we got our first view of the Superstition Mountains, where the treasure is buried. They were beautiful, rising out of the desert on the horizon. It isn't hard to imagine how they have attracted everyone from the Apache Indians, who hold them sacred, to the treasure hunters hoping to strike it rich.

Goldfield Ghost Town

It wasn't far to the ghost town of Goldfield, which was our first stop for the day. During the 1890's, this place was a boomtown for a massive gold mine. Now, though, it's a stop for tourists along the Apache Trail... but we loved it! There's a restaurant, many shops, and just a lot of fun. If you'd like to see more of the town, just click here.

The Lost Dutchman Map(s)

One of the places that we found in Goldfield was the Lost Dutchman Museum. Along with many artifacts from various mining trips through the years, there is also a display of some of the maps that treasure-hunters were SURE led to the Lost Dutchman Mine. Tami is standing by a few of these that the museum has collected. Obviously, none of the maps paid out.

Mining Camp Restaurant

This place came highly recommended, so although we didn't know what to expect, we took the winding drive toward the Superstition Mountains. You can see them in the background of this photo. The price was about fifteen bucks each, and while we wouldn't have blinked at that for a dinner where we ordered off the menu, it caught us by surprise for a lunch where we had to pay at the door before going in. It smelled great, though, so followed our noses to the dining room that was lined with rough-sawn Ponderosa Pine.

Family-style Dining

We were seated at a table with tin cups, plates and saucers to set the stage for a mining-camp meal. Everything was served all-you-can-eat family-style, which means that bowls of beans, plates of sourdough rolls & raisin bread, and platters of meat were laid between us. We were offered all we could eat of roasted chicken and dressing, ham, green beans, break, cole slaw, twice-baked potatoes ribs, and more. Whew! Everything was absolutely fabulous. If you leave this place hungry, it's your own fault!

One-Armed Man Eating Ribs

Even with a shattered radial head (the point where the Radius bone connects to the elbow), Mitchel got very animated with their ribs. These could very well be the best ribs that we've ever had, and every time the plate got low, our waitress brought out a new one piled high with steaming-hot racks of ribs in an incredible sauce. They were so wonderfully messy that Mitchel ended up wrapping a napkin around his cast hand so that he wouldn't have to do the remainder of the trip with it stained in barbecue sauce.

The Mine's Up There Somewhere!

...at least that's what the legend says. Around the bend you can see Weaver's Needle, a towering rock that seems to figure into the directions left by the old Dutchman. Still, people have interpreted the clues to place the treasure almost everywhere up in the mountains. If you'd like an overview of the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine, click here.

Hiking in the Mountains

There are many hiking trails that are accessible from the main drive, and on this particular one we took an uphill jaunt to the top of the mountain. Kind of tough going up, but trip back down was a cinch! At the top, we were treated to this beautiful view.

Canyon Lake

After all the dry land that we'd been in, we finally came to this beautiful view of Canyon Lake. This is one of three lakes that we encountered on the Apache Trail - the others are Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake. It was a dramatic sight, with the mountain behind it and the Saguaro cacti standing in the valley in front.

Incredible Scenery

This is just one of WAY TOO MANY photos that we took of the mountains as we wound along the Apache Trail. The average view was beautiful, but every half-mile we'd run into something breathtaking! It's a long drive, and we didn't allow nearly enough time, but we highly recommend taking this trip.

Tortilla Flats, Arizona

This is an old, historic town - but today it's two stores and a bar, and WAY too many people. We had trouble finding a parking place, and when we went in all three places, it was literally body-to-body. It was tough to look around, tough to check out, and impossible to park. We genuinely like to look past tourist aspects of a place and enjoy the history, like we did in Tombstone later on in the trip, but it was almost impossible here. Don't overlook its potential as a bathroom stop, though!

Goodbye to Paved Roads

Upon leaving Tortilla Flats, the paved road disappeared. As it turned out, we had 22 miles of unpaved road to navigate. The scenery was spectacular, though - we just went a lot slower so that we could enjoy it while still making a safe trek along the trail. We also encountered several one-lane bridges, but everyone on the road was very courteous.

The Long and Winding Road

If we didn't know better, we'd swear that McCartney and Lennon had driven this road before writing their famous song. It was hands-down, no kidding, the absolute most crooked road that we'd ever been on. Most places had no railing, and as you can see in the photo, when it did exist it was minimal at best. The road was just barely wide enough for two cars, so we held our breath when we met someone. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat - it was exciting and fun!

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Built in 1911, this is the largest masonry dam in the world. It forms Roosevelt Lake, and this dam was a welcome sight for us. Not because it's an impressive structure, which it was, but because it signalled the point where we went off the dirt road and back onto pavement!

The Roosevelt Bridge

Just behind the dam, this incredible bridge spans part of Roosevelt Lake. It was so big that we could only get one end of it in a photo, and we could hardly wait to get to cross it. We followed the Apache Trail, though, and soon discovered that we were leaving the bridge behind us. If we hadn't been running so late, we would have turned around and done it just for fun. Oh well, maybe next trip.

Tonto National Monument

This National Monument preserves the southernmost cliff dwellings in Arizona. They were built between 1100 and 1400 by the Salado people. It's a half mile hike up a winding path to the lower ruins, the only ones that were open when we were there, and it was worth the walk - the ruins were one of the most dramatic things that saw on the trip. We have photos from inside the cliff dwelling that you can see by clicking here.

The Desert Dove Bed and Breakfast

We'd greatly misjudged the time that it would take us to do the Apache Trail drive, so it was late when we arrived. Thankfully, our hosts were very understanding and let us check in well past our anticipated arrival time. That kind of hospitality is what we discovered at this beautiful oasis in the desert - you can see several more photos by clicking here.


Day 2: Into the Desert

Starting with a Rainy Day

When we started out on this morning, it was raining - and raining hard. Our everlasting vacation motto is to "forge ahead", so we hit Walgreens (where they were having a 2-for-1 umbrella sale) then set out for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. At one of the scenic overlooks along the way, we stopped for a view of the countryside.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The rain was subsiding just about the time that we paid the entrance fee and headed into the museum area. We were thankful for that, since the majority of the exhibits are outside. The place was billed as "A Living Museum", but we didn't really know what to expect. What we found was a fascinating zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place.

The Walk-In Aviary

After passing though several doors, we found ourselves in the aviary. There was a winding path through the vegetation and over a stream, where we saw cardinals, Gambel's quail, ducks, doves, and 40 other species of birds in this sanctuary. There were so many birds to see close-up that we snapped too many photos - this is one of the most colorful birds that we saw.

The Hummingbird Aviary

This could have been our favorite stop in the Desert Museum, since we have hummingbird feeders at home and love watching these critters. We got to see several different kinds of hummingbirds up close and personal, and in fact, they were "buzzing" us as we walked around! We even got to see a hummingbird sitting still for the first time in our lives!

Ironwood Terrace Restaurant

There are several places to eat on the ground of the museum, including a coffee bar and a Fine-dining restaurant. We chose the Ironwood Terrace, which is a quick-service grill offering sandwiches, salads, pizza, hamburgers, etc. The taco salads that we both had were very good, and were hand-made right in front of us while we talked sightseeing with the chefs.

The Thing

We saw all kinds of wildlife there in the museum, all having a great time in their natural habitats. We watched this fellow for quite a while, and were very careful to write down exactly what kind of animal he was, along with some facts about him. Of course, we lost that page before we got home, so for a long time we simply called this fellow "the thing".

Someone did email us with the answer, though - this guy is a coatimundi! The Coati is a raccoon-like carnivore but is more slender and possesses a longer snout. It is a nosy, busy little creature with an insatiable appetite. And, was pretty cool to watch for a while.

The Valley View

From the "Desert Loop Trail" of the Desert Museum, we had a wonderful view across the valley to the mountains on the far side. This is just a sample of the beautiful scenery that we saw from our vantage points in the museum. We probably spent three hours there, but it would have been very easy to do an hour more. Several new exhibits were under construction, so when we return to Tucson, we're going to have to allow that extra hour, if not a few extra minutes to see it all.

Saguaro National Park

Pronounced "Su-war-o", at least by these two Texans, this National Park is named after the cactus that you've seen in so many western movies - the tall ones with the arms. We took a scenic loop drive in the western park, and it was amazing. There were just so many of these Saguaros that it looked like a forest! They went on as far as you could see, up into the hills of the park.

The Cactus with a Soul

The Indians believe that each cactus has a soul, just like a human. When the plant produces fruit, the Indians are the only ones who can legally harvest the fruit for ceremony. A wine is made and consumed at the end of the ceremonial period, and is a very holy time for them.

Dark Mountain Winery & Brewery

We found this place just south of town on the Eastern service road. They have several wines and beers to taste, and the tasting fee was $5/person. Most of the wines and all of the beers weren't to our taste, but we found a few interesting things. First of all, there is a Prickly Pear wine that is made from the fruit of the cactus with that name. Probably different from the sweet ceremonial wine from the saguaro cactus, it is still a uniquely regional wine that we decided to take home. The most dramatic thing that we found here, though, was their "Arizona Gold Cortado Sherry". We're not sherry drinkers, but at 2000 competition this one was awarded the Best in Class and the 2000 Governor's Choice. It has a smooth, butterscotch flavor, and we were sorry that we didn't have room to bring back more than a single bottle.

Nimbus Brewing Company

We set out for another microbrewery, the Nimbus Brewing Company. The guidebook said that it was extremely hard to find, but they were being kind! The tap room is at one end of their brewery, in the shadows of the giant vats where their beer is produced. Everything that we tried was wonderful: their Rillito Red, Palo Verde Pale, Belgian White, Nut Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, and the serious Old Bumble, a traditional English strong ale. Nimbus is tucked back into an industrial complex just north of I-10 around Palo Verde.

Pipian's Restaurant

Billed as "A Latin American Kitchen", this place came recommended by one of the locals that we met at Nimbus Brewing. Located at 509 N. 4th Avenue in Tucson, this area of town reminded us of the "Deep Ellum" section of Dallas back home. Lots of eclectic characters, a nightlife that grows proportionally to the lateness of the hour, and some wonderful restaurants.

A Delicious Dinner

At Pipian's, Tami had the "Galinha Asada com Verdes", a Brazilian dish consisting of roasted orange chicken with sauteed greens, served with steamed rice and butter fried bananas. Mitchel ordered an entree from Mexico, "Lomo de Res con Chipotle" - beef tenderloin on a fresh masa tostada with stewed vegetables in chipotle sauce. Both were outstanding, and we were very happy that this restaurant was recommended to us. If you need directions, their phone number is 520.903.0703. This place is definitely earmarked for a return visit when we get back to Tucson.


Day 3: Tubac And All Points South

Mission San Xavier Del Bac

This beautiful mission, known as the "White Dove of the Desert", is located just south of Tucson. It was founded in 1692, although the current building was constructed between 1783 and 1797. It is one of the best preserved of all the chain of Christian missions founded by the Jesuit Priest, Father Kino. You simply wouldn't believe how beautiful the mission is when you're approaching it from a distance.

The Interior of the Mission

The mission has undergone a complete restoration in the last few years, overseen by the same people who did the Sistine Chapel. Murals and statues cover the interior walls, and they are beautiful to behold. To the left of the main alter is a glass sarcophagus that holds a statue of Saint Francis Xavier, the mission's patron saint, who is believed to answer the prayers of the faithful.

Tubac, Arizona

In the 1690's, Tubac was a Pima Indian village. By 1730, however, the Spanish had moved into the region and begun settling it. In 1751 there was a Pima uprising, and the Spanish established a presidio (fort) there to protect the settlers. Since that time, the flags that have flown over Tubac are: Spain, Mexico, the United States, the Confederacy, and the U.S. Territory of Arizona, and now the state of Arizona. Tubac is currently an artists' community, with over eighty shops and galleries.

Tosh's Restaurant

This place came highly recommended, and we got there just before it got crowded. Since it was a nice day, we ate out on the patio and had some tasty Mexican food. For drinks, we tried their house specialty, the "Arizona RoadRunner". Made of Cuervo, Cointreau, Grand Mariner, and Lime, there was a house limit of two unless you had a designated driver. At $10 each, one was enough for us... they were delicious, though!

Downtown Tubac

This is one of the typical streets in Tubac, with informal rows of shops and galleries. This part of town is laid out in a square grid of three by four streets (approximately), which makes it easy to find a central parking place and explore the town. If you're like us, you'll be making a few trips back to the car to drop off purchases, so choose your parking place accordingly.

And there's more...

Along with all the shopping and browsing, you have to take a moment to look at the town itself. Its longevity seems punctuated by the old trees and cacti that are as much a part of the city as the galleries. In this photo, Mitchel is standing in front of a huge Yucca plant at the Tubac Center of the Arts. There is also a historical side to Tubac, with the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. It contains a museum and portions of the original fort.

A Little Pottery in the Mix

Tubac is known as being an artist's colony, but you'll find a little of everything here. Even though it is not a big town, there are many shops to explore, and it would be easy to spend an entire afternoon here.

Welcome to Nogales, Mexico

From Tubac, we drove down to Nogales, Texas. It has a sister border-town in Mexico. As you can see from the sign over Mitchel's shoulder, a simple push of the turnstile will take you out of the United States and into Mexico. There is no customs stop, no check point, just a metal gate. We'd parked our rental car in a lot so that it was tucked safely away, and walked through the gate into a different world.

Pharmacies a'Plenty

The first thing that we noticed was that there were pharmacies EVERYWHERE! After asking around, we discovered that you could walk into any one of them, have an "official" $15 consultation with a doctor or pharmacist, and then buy a prescription for whatever you want. With Mitchel's broken arm, you wouldn't believe the number of times that we were approached for pain medicine on the street!

Strolling down Obregon Street

We'd stopped at the Nogales, TX Chamber of Commerce and they gave us a map with a recommended route. We walked across the border, down Pesqueira Street, down Campillo, and finally turned onto Obregon. Every few yards there was a proprietor trying to persuade us to come into their shop, and on every corner there was a young girl with a child, begging with a paper cup. There were also federalies posted on every street, armed with shotguns and belts that held rows of shells.

Back Over the Border

After spending some time in Mexico, we decided to head back to the homeland. Getting back across was more of a formal affair, since we had to produce ID's, announce citizenship, declare any purchases, etc. It was relatively painless, though, and we found ourselves having a coke in McDonald's in short order. We heaved a thankful sigh to be back in the U.S., then got back on I-19 for our trip back to Tucson.


Day 4: The Trail to Tombstone

Tombstone, Arizona

We were flying home later in the day, but we took the 1.5 hour drive down to Tombstone. There are two ways to view the city: for the history, or as a tourist stop. We found the historical aspect fascinating, and wished that we'd prepared ourselves better with a little reading on the town.

The Birdcage Theatre

The birdcage was open between 1881 and 1889. In 1882 the New York Times reported that it was the "wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." It was named for the fourteen "bird cage" crib compartments that are suspended from the ceiling on the walls - you can see their red curtains in the photo. The "tainted angels" of the city entertained their gentlemen clients there, and also inspired the popular song of the time, "She's only a bird in a guilded cage..."

The Neverending Poker Game

In the nine years that it was in operation, this lusty den of iniquity never closed its doors - it invented the concept of 24/7 service! This room below the stage was the site of the longest running poker game in Western history: 8 years, 5 months and 3 days. The house game had a buy-in of $1000 in chips for a seat. It was incredible to walk through here, knowing that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday took the same steps over a hundred years ago.

The O.K. Corral

This is Mitchel standing in the old O.K. Corral, the place that has been portrayed in so many stories and movies. One of the things that we learned during the visit is that the famous gunfight never took place here. This is the actual corral, though, just like it was back in 1881.

The Gunfight

The actual "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" occurred on the property behind the corral. Today there are life-sized figures placed in the locations of the Earps, Clantons, Doc Holiday and the rest. An audio presentation outlines the fight between the Earps and the outlaw gang known as the "Cowboys". If you're planning on visiting Tombstone, you may want to rent the movies "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp" - both take some artistic liberties, but will give you the story of the gunfight and other pieces of town history.

The Streets of Tombstone

There are plenty of shops for people to stop and shop in, but the part of the city that we really enjoyed was the history. We ran out of time before we could take the tour, or see the courthouse museum, or even watch the ultra-touristy gunfight re-enactment. That's okay, though, because one of these days we're going back to Tombstone.

Don Teodoro's

We asked several people where to have lunch, and this place was the unanimous answer. One of the house specialties is their Sonoran-style Enchiladas, which we'd never had before, so we took a seat and placed our order. They were WONDERFUL! The enchiladas were open-faced, on a thick, doughy crust with a crispy bottom. Delicious - and so much food that we couldn't finish them.

Boot Hill Cemetery

On the northwest corner of town we found the Boot Hill cemetery, where many famous Tombstone citizens are buried. Shown in this photo are the graves of Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, all killed in the famous gun battle at the O.K. Corral. The grave of Frank Bowles leaves a message for all visitors: "Remember that as you are, so once was I. And as I am, you soon will be. Remember me."

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