Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Six

I wish I could say I had a good night’s sleep as most nights had been on this trip, but the wee hours found me wide awake fretting over wacked-out BG numbers…stupid highs that didn’t respond to corrections, followed by afternoon/evening freak-out low (in the 40’s). But, as the sun rose I shook it off, and we met my Dad and stepmom for breakfast at the buggiest restaurant I've ever been to. Then, on to Tombstone, Arizona for the day.

Papa Bear had appropriately prepared the Cubs before we left home by watching “Tombstone” with them, so they were amped up and ready to see the town. Our first stop…

...where we saw one of the most famous grave markers in the history of the West...

The markers and graves have obviously been restored and maintained, and we later found out it had been “condensed” to its present land-efficient layout. The overwhelming majority of occupants died in 1881 and 1882, the years that fires destroyed half, and then almost all, of Tombstone. There were also a lot of occupants shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed during those years, including...

...Marshal Fred White, whose death was depicted in the movie “Tombstone”.

Then, into the old town itself. It takes a little doing to get past the tourist trap aspect, with all the shops selling cheap chotchkies, and the shops selling expensive chotchkies, and the corny reenactments…but, once you know where to look, you’ll find some interesting history. We enjoyed the stage coach ride during which the driver gave a brief history of the town at its height.
The stagecoach we rode in for our history lesson.
Not the coach we rode in..don't think we'd have fit.

We had lunch at the Crystal Palace, where T-Bear gave our waitress (who was in period saloon costume) a hug because “This food is so good!” Then, off to the infamous Bird Cage Theater, the only original building surviving in Tombstone, which has been turned into a museum of sorts.

"Should we go in?"

The building is a unique piece of history because when it shut down in 1889 much of the furnishings and everyday objects remained locked inside until the building was re-opened decades later.

Lamps and unopened barrels still containing whisky located in the cellar.

The original bar and mirror are still there (complete with bullet holes), as well as a painting of the infamous Fatima (also with a bullet hole) which has hung in the same spot since 1881, and a very impressive collection of law books from the period (no bullet holes that I noticed). Through a door and into the theater where there is a collection of period-era articles, everything from coffee grinders to dishes to medical tools and curiosities. If you’ve seen the movie “Tombstone”…

...according to the owners of the museum, "This is the original faro table where Doc Holliday played and dealt faro over 118 years ago. Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo had there (original spelling) famous duel between the faro table and….

…the grand piano.”

The theater featured “bird cages” along two walls where customers could watch the show while being…ummmm…entertained by the ladies working there.

This is "the" stage (don't fall off!) with the piano just below...

…where Wyatt Earps’ love interest, Josephine, played. She also did other things in the downstairs bordello…
Original furnishings for entertaining customers.

This is the original business license issued to “Sadie Jo” to operate a “House of Ill Fame” in 1881, signed by Wyatt Earp as Deputy Marshall. They kind of glossed over that part in the movie. There's also a nice nearly-nude photo of her, which they touched on in the movie.

At its height, it is estimated there may have been up to 20,000 residents of Tombstone, 190 saloons, and as many as 1,000 licensed prostitutes. Not exactly a family-friendly place, and definitely a dangerous place considering how many drunken cowboys were walking around on a nightly basis. Also now housed in the Bird Cage Theater is the “Black Mariah”, the horse-drawn hearse which delivered all but five of the residents of the Boot Hill Graveyard.

Okay, enough of that...

Just in time to enjoy a light rainstorm we headed across town and took in a reenactment at the Six Shots. Actors play out six of the most famous shoot-outs that occurred in Tombstone, including the shooting of Marshal White by Curly Bill (grave marker above). We learned the origin of the term “shot” in reference to measuring hard liquor. Originally liquor was measured out in a “dram”, which in Tombstone in the 1880’s cost about 18 cents. Since workers were generally paid only once a month and were often mostly broke, barkeepers began accepting one bullet as payment for one dram of whiskey…thus, the “shot”. At least, that's what the actor told us :)
The last reenactment included some audience participation in which Brother Bear was accused of shooting the Marshall’s pet parrot.

"He did it!"
Yes, the kids did break into “The Dead Parrot Sketch” after the show.

We drove back to camp in awe of a huge thunderstorm that was dumping rain in various spots throughout the valley…

…and found Popper’s awning sprawled on top of her roof. Oops, should have put the awning down before we left. Also should not have left the kids bathing gear and towels out to dry; our campground host was kind enough to gather them all up and wash and dry them for us. Very nice. Then, off to dinner at Dad's place in the sleepy little community of Dragoon, where BroBear and the rest of the Cubs fell in love with another visitor…

Brother Bear and Sassy.
….and we enjoyed some of the best BBQ we’ve had in quite a while, along with some locally grown organic peaches. And another ghastly low (43).

After saying goodnight, returning to camp and tucking into bed, we were treated to a spectacular thunder and lightning storm at around 3:00 am. Thanks to the cooling effect of the afternoon and evening storms, we did not have to run the air conditioner. Some aspects of the desert I really love.


  1. You have a wonderful journal of your travels... Thanks for taking me along!!!!

  2. No wonder you were kept awake at night. Sheesh. Hang in there though, you're doing fine! This is an unusual and very active series of days.

    Tombstone looks like a lot of fun! Love the headstones and the history. And the cool desert night sounds just divine.

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