A Tale of Two Cities
From Sea to Shining Sea, Days 28 & 29: Lordsburg, NM, to Tucson, AZ
|SEARCHING FOR A LETTERBOX POINTED US TOWARD THIS SCENIC LOCATION.|
|THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH YOU CAN ASK, EVEN OF STEEL-BELTED TIRES.|
|BORDER PATROL HAD A VISIBLE PRESENCE IN DOUGLAS.|
Thirty miles further west on AZ-80 took us to the fascinating town of Bisbee (pop. 5,575). We arrived in early afternoon with the intention of visiting for an hour or so and driving on to Tucson, but we found ourselves so captivated by this quirky outpost eight miles north of the border we decided to linger longer and spend the night. The following day on our way north to Tucson we stopped in Tombstone (pop. 1,380), just 23 miles north on Highway 80. We were struck by the profound differences between the two towns, so close together and with such similar roots.
|DOWNTOWN BISBEE TODAY|
|DOWNTOWN TOMBSTONE TODAY|
The economies of both cities were almost exclusively dependent on mining. In 1887, Tombstone's silver mines penetrated the water table, drowning the mining industry there, as one pump system after another failed to keep water out of the mines. The economy faltered, and the town dried up, its population plummeting from 15,000 to 650 within a few years. Only its status as county seat kept Tombstone from becoming a ghost town.
In neighboring Bisbee, the mines continued to produce for almost a hundred years. As the town prospered, the Cochise County seat was moved there from Tombstone in 1929. When underground mining became less productive, Phelps Dodge, the town's primary mining company, added open pit extraction. Not until 1975 did Bisbee's mining industry pull out of town, taking with it more than 5,000 jobs.
In its heyday, Bisbee had produced more than eight billion pounds of copper, but, like Tombstone, its day in the mining world had ended. And, like Tombstone, its population rapidly dwindled. But Bisbee's longer period of prosperity, and its entrance into the modern era, gave it more to offer, even as its economy shriveled.
|BISBEE'S THRIVING COMMERCIAL DISTRICT TODAY (photo by Barca Tanko)|
|FORMER MINERS ACT AS TOUR GUIDES ON THE QUEEN MINE TOURS IN BISBEE.|
|PROFESSIONALLY CURATED EXHIBITS AT THE BISBEE MUSEUM|
|PART OF TOMBSTONE'S THREE-BLOCK DOWNTOWN ATTRACTION|
|STAGECOACH RIDES EVER AVAILABLE ON TOMBSTONE'S ALLEN STREET|
|WE HAD A PRETTY GOOD PIZZA FOR LUNCH AT BIG NOSE KATE'S SALOON.|
|INTERIOR OF BIG NOSE KATE'S SALOON|
As Tombstone flounders, Bisbee was proclaimed "Best Historic Small Town in the US" by both USA Today and Sunset magazine this year. Local crafts, a thriving arts scene, and a funky Bohemian appeal have contributed to the town's appeal and its success in living up to its self-proclaimed designation as "An American Original." Whether Tombstone will fulfill its town motto is more uncertain: "The Town Too Tough to Die."
We enjoyed both towns and especially learning about their parallel stories. We finally made it to Tucson on Wednesday. Tomorrow we'll put on the brakes and get serious about preparing and mailing holiday cards before continuing west.
TUESDAY, 13 DECEMBER & WEDNESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2016
• Ended in: Tucson, AZ
• Miles driven: 299 [trip: 4,506]
• Weather: 36° to 76°, clear, hot
• Letterboxes: Found 9, Planted 0 [trip: F80, P13]
• Walked: 4.9 mi. [trip: 74.8]
• States: NM, AZ [trip: 7]
• Counties: 3 [trip: 103]
• Towns: 12 [trip: 213]
Loved: We really didn't know anything about these towns until we stumbled upon them when our original plan went awry. They turned out to be a highlight of our trip.
Lacking: Shade. Even when temperatures seemingly aren't that high, the sun in this part of the country can fry you in a brief time.
Learned: Obviously we learned quite a bit about the history of this part of Arizona and about mining in general.
More Photos from Today
|BISBEE VISITOR CENTER AND MINING MUSEUM IN COMMERCIAL DISTRICT|
|ARTISTIC HOME DECORATIONS IN BISBEE (YOU DON'T SEE THINGS LIKE THIS IN TOMBSTONE.)|
|ART DECO COCHISE COUNTY COURTHOUSE IN BISBEE|
|BISBEE MINING MUSEUM SHOWS SYSTEM TO KEEP UP WITH MINERS.|
|LAVENDER PIT MINE IN BISBEE|
|SAMPLES OF THE MAJOR LODE OF TURQUOISE MINED AT BISBEE|
|A "5¢ BEER" DELIVERED TO KEN WHEN HE ASKED WHAT WAS THE SMALLEST BEER IN THE HOUSE|
|BEER KEG URINAL AT BIG NOSE KATE'S. RECYCLING??|
|BABY BOOMER-FRIENDLY LIVE MUSIC AT KATE'S|
|KATE'S FILLED WITH PATRONS, BUT VERY FEW UNDER 60|
|TYPICAL OF TOMBSTONE'S HOKEY APPEAL|
|AND NO TRIP TO TOMBSTONE WOULD BE COMPLETE WITHOUT A VISIT TO BOOT HILL CEMETERY.|