Alpine is centered to a number of places that we wanted to see. Fort Davis, Marathon, Marfa and the Davis Mountains.
On Monday, February 11th, we went into downtown Alpine and found a spray wash so that I could wash the van. You wouldnít believe how dirty the van and Airstream get in the desert environment. Lots of dust from the wind, and it gets windy in Western Texas. After the wash, we found the library and made a note of it to check our Hotmail next day. Then we wondered around the downtown but a lot of the stores were closed. Only in Texas you say! While we were wondering around, we came across a gift shop that had a sign in the window. This sign you would not find in Canada. I wonít tell you what it is but Iíll make sure that the picture I took of it is included in the pics email for this report. Boy, Iím tellin ya folks, only in Texas is really true!!! Some of you may guess what the subject is, but wait and see. The picture will speak for itself.
On Tuesday, February 12th, we went up to Fort Davis to see the frontier fort by the same name. Itís much like the fort in Fort Stockton, but twice the size. Once again, it had been garrisoned mostly by black cavalry and infantry troops. I donít know if I mentioned this before, but when the cavalry and infantry troops went out on a patrol, the cavalry had to be sent out first because the infantry would outmarch the cavalry. How can that be you say?? Well, apparently, the cavalry had to ride their horses at a slow pace and every hour, they had to dismount and walk their horses for 15 minutes. Whereas infantry could keep going at as fast a pace and not break every hour for 15 minutes. Amazing. Not what is shown in the Hollywood movies eh? We toured the officers married quarters and had a book at the bachelors quarters then went over to the enlisted menís barracks. One of the barracks has been set up as a museum which show the different types of equipment used by the cavalry and infantry such as a wire framed horse which has all the equipment attached for the cavalry trooper. They also show infantrymen and how they operated. The infantry soldier used to pull his socks up over his pants as gators were not invented at that time. They also had a kepi, that small hat you see in civil war movies, that they wore around the fort, but when they went out on patrol, they used the same wide brimmed hat has the cavalry trooper. They carried most of their equipment in a blanket roll which held spares clothes and half a tent. The average cavalryman could only weight at the most 150 lbs as the horses they rode had a maximum carrying weight of 250 lbs. So 150 lbs for the trooper and 100 lbs equipment. The average weight of the cavalry trooper was 135-150 lbs and was no more than 5í3Ē to 5í5Ē. Whereas the infantry soldier did not have those limitations as they carried their own equipment. If you are ever in these frontier areas, I would highly recommend a visit to one of these frontier forts.
After visiting the Fort, we went to the Hotel Limpia for dinner. This hotel has been around since the early 1900ís and still serves buttermilk pies and fried chicken with hot biscuits from that era. The meal was excellent and the restaurant part of the hotel was interesting with a gift shop where Val bought a cook book of all the hotel restaurants receipts.
On Wednesday, February 13th, we took a tour of the Davis Mountains. About a 1 Ĺ hour trip. Quite scenic, and we came across some of those very large windmills used for producing electricity. On the one back through Fort Davis, we stopped at a restaurant called Mary Louís. It had been recommended to us by the office staff of the RV park as a good place to eat and also to try traditional home cooked style Mexican food. We got in just before 1400 and they were about to close but let us in anyway. I had something that was enclosed in hot corn tortillas and was excellent. Val just had a toasted cheese sandwich. Go figure! Itís a popular place as when we passed this place on our many forays into Fort Davis, there were always lots of pickups parked outside.
On Thursday, February 14th, we went back through Fort Davis to the Davis Mountains to visit the McDonald Observatory which is part of the University of Texas. They have three telescopes, and 87Ē, 107Ē and the monster was 11 meters by 12 meters made up of 91 mirrors. This last monster was a completely new design and is not your regular type of barrel type of telescope. The mirrors are out in the open, just sitting there. But it costs a lot less than a conventional telescope and does about 87% of the work that a regular telescope does. Iíll try and include some pics on this. We were given a tour and shown each telescope. But we were also given a lecture about the sun with a small telescope that is pointed at the sun. Very interesting info and an enjoyable visit.
Friday, February 15th. The Olympics had started and I knew that Canada was playing Sweden in hockey. I told Val that ďwe do not move on a game day.Ē End of story!! But I felt we could move on to our next destination which was Carlsbad in New Mexico, about a four hour drive. But I had come down with something on Friday morning and we decided to wait until Saturday to move on.
Saturday, February 16th. Still not feeling great, so we decided to stay over until the Monday since Canada was playing Germany on Sunday. But after the disaster against Sweden, I was already starting to have second thoughts about Canadaís chances for the Gold medal. Another day of taking it easy. So we went into Alpine and checked our email at the library. That night, I was feeling better so we decided to go into Marfa, a bout 31 miles away, to check out the El Paisano Hotel where the movie Giant had been made back in the 50ís with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. The three stars stayed at the hotel until local housing could be rented for them and there is a display case with photos of the movie and actors. On the way back to Alpine on the US-90, we stopped at a viewing area for the Marfa Mystery lights. These are lights that can be seen over in the mountains. They look like head lights of cars but there are no roads out there and no houses etc. Scientists have studied the phenomena but couldnít come up with an explanation. I took a couple of pics, but I donít know if they are good enough to include in the email. Iíll see.
Sunday, February 17th. Wow. Who would have known that the Germans would have kept it so close even though the play of the game was so much in Canadaís favor. Just a little more doubt about our hockey team!
On Monday, February 18th we left Alpine, which was one of the nicest Texas towns we had been in, and headed up the Texas-118 north towards Fort Davis. At Fort Davis we took the Texas-17 north towards Pecos. As we approached the I-10 we switched over to the FM-2903 north (FM stands for farm road in Texas) which would take us to the I-20. At the I-20, we took the I-20 east towards Pecos. At Pecos we got off the I-20 and took the US-285 north to Carlsbad, New Mexico. On the way along the 285 from Pecos, we started coming across oil well pumps in the fields on both sides of the road. If memory serves me correctly, and it quite often doesnít these days, the Pecos area is where oil was first produced in Texas. I think oil may well have been discovered in Oklahoma before Texas. But Iím no historian. We arrived in Carlsbad and turned west onto the US-62/180 and found the Windmill RV Park and Laundry. Yep. Thatís the right name! It was a Passport America park so we paid $10 US a night. We havenít paid that price since San Antonio.
On the Tuesday, we just did some grocery shopping and just took it easy for the day.
On Wednesday, February 20th, we took the US-62/180 west. About 20 miles down the road we came to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The Caverns were discovered, I think in the 1920ís by a cowboy. He explored the Caverns and started leading tourists into the Caverns. He lowered them down in a large bucket through a hole in the roof of the Cavern. They then had to ďclimbĒ down into Cavern to a depth of 850 feet! Today, there are two ways to enter the Caverns, the first is by elevator which takes you down to the 850 foot level. The second is to take the ďNatural EntranceĒ which now has a path made out of concrete with handrails all the way down to the 850 foot level. We chose the latter as just walking down is an experience and takes about an hour. After that there are different areas to go into, the Queens Room, the Kings Room and the Big Room. We chose the Big Room. Itís called that because it has an area the size of 14 football fields! I canít really go into detail because words canít describe what one sees, but just let me say that the Caverns are spectacular. I hope to send as many pics on this area as I can.
On Thursday, February 21st, we went to the Living Desert State Park in Carlsbad. Itís a walking trail through the desert area which names the different plants of the desert. They also have a bird Avery with turkeys. In the outside area they have a road runner which I took a picture of but he was not in the best position to show his full size. About the size of a chicken but with a long tail. There were prairie dogs, a black bear, a wolf which we didnít see, javalinas, which are wild pigs, elk, pronger antelopes and snakes. I never realized that elk were so large, almost as big as a moose. Another interesting place to visit.
Friday, February 22nd came about and it was game day. Canada versus the Czech Republic. A good game and I thought a draw was a good result. Canadaís getting better with every game. There might be hope yet!!
On Saturday, February 23rd, it was time to leave Carlsbad and move on to El Paso, Texas. God, weíve been in Texas for two months with the exception of this short foray into New Mexico! We left the RV park and headed west on the US-62/180 passing by the Carlsbad Caverns National Park for the last time. Once again we started a slow climb towards the Guadaloupe Mountains. Hope thereís no big hills out there! Thatís the only thing that I do get a bit concerned about, getting to that one big hill that I canít get up and thereís no way to turn around!!! But on this trip, there were a few 10% hills to go up and a long 8% to go down for two or three miles but nothing else. We stopped at a rest stop and took some pics of the Guadaloupe Mountains, which look beautiful. Iíll get those in the pic email as well. We kept on the 62/180 and came to El Paso. We actually could see the smog hanging above the city before we saw the city itself. A thin brown haze. Actually, Ciudad Juarez is just across from El Paso in Mexico and I wonder if that city was causing the pollution. At El Paso we took a shortcut on Lee Trevino Blvd down to the I-10. Did he come from El Paso? Can any golfers out there answer that question? As we were taking this shortcut, we went through nice bungalow type housing developments, but a lot of the houses had bars on their windows. And the RV parks all advertise that they are walled in with 24 hours security! Who are they trying to keep out, the Texans or the Mexicans! We took the I-10 east to Clint where we pulled into the Cottonwood RV Park almost beside the I-10. Easy on/off.
That night, we went to the Cattlemanís Steakhouse, which is on a ranch. Itís about 17 miles east of our RV park. Itís quite the set-up. A big place with other amusements set up for the family and it has burros, horses and long horn cattle which we did not see as they are in a different area. But the steaks were superb! One of the best steaks I have ever had, and we had a beautiful sun set to go along with it. By the way, the sun sets here are spectacular. Iím trying to get a good one to get a pic of.
On Monday, February 25th, we went into El Paso and visited the Hotel del Norte which is now part of the Hilton hotel. The del Norte goes back to 1912 when it was built and it has a beautiful Tiffany stained glass dome situated above the dining room which is now used as a bar. Iíll try and include some pics. We then had lunch in the hotel and returned to the RV park after doing some grocery shopping.
Tomorrow we head to Benson, Arizona where we will lay up for a week so we can receive our mail that our son will be sending to us from Ottawa. We were going to go to Deming, New Mexico and then visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings. But reading up on the Dwellings, we found out that we could not actually visit the Dwellings themselves. They can only be viewed from below. There are other cliff dwellings in New Mexico and Arizona, but they are in the northern parts of these two states; so we will give them a miss this trip and do them when we do Santa Fe which is also too far north. Too dam cold and the possibility of snow keeps us away from the northern areas.
On Tuesday, February 26th, we started hooking up, but the wind chill was -24 F!!! Thatís as cold as January in Ottawa, but not this year I suspect. After going in and out of the Airstream to warm up, we finally were ready and left the Cottonwood RV Park and headed west on the I-10 through El Paso towards New Mexico.
The winds continued to be very strong but fortunately, they were blowing mostly from behind giving us a nice tailwind. Any time the I-10 changed direction towards the west, we could feel the cross wind. But as usual, the Airstream was extremely stable and the winds died down after we got past Deming. The road after Los Crusces was very straight and more or less flat. When we entered Arizona and passed Wilcox, we started to go through mountainous terrain but nothing really bad and we arrived at the Escapees Park in Benson after about six hours of driving. Unfortunately, the park was full and only had dry camping available. We could only last for about two days on dry camping which means thereís no water, electricity or sewer hookup. So the office told us about another RV park just down the road that gives a 15% discount to Escapees. So we checked in there and it turned out to be a really nice park with concrete slabs for our chairs and stones for the Airstream. No dust! It cost us $112 for the week, double what we would have paid at the Escapees, but itís a nice campground. Weíve noticed one RV from Quebec, the guys from Boucherville on the south shore and we chatted for awhile when I told him I grew up in Montreal. We saw one RV from BC, two from Manitoba and one from Saskatchewan. Thatís it for Canada.
There are some things to see and do here. This was the home of Cochise, the Apache Indian chief who was a member of the Chiricahua tribe and they terrorized the whites in this area. Thereís also Tombstone, about 21 miles away plus Sierra Vista and Bisbee. So weíll see how much we do here. But frankly folks, we are starting to get a little tired from doing all this touristy stuff. We were talking the other day about how nice it will be to finally settle into the house and stop moving around. So I guess the full-timing lifestyle is not for us in the long run. But itís the only way we could see all that we have seen so far and we will try and continue to see things that interest us as much as possible until April when we are due up in BC. Lots of mountains around here and of course, the desert continues right across the country.
On Wednesday, the 27th, we looked around Benson and found the library so that we could check our Hotmail. Unfortunately, they donít allow any diskettes in their PCís and directed us to Cochise College where they felt we could get that kind of access. We went to the College and there were quite a few available PCís and spent about three hours there doing our stuff. I sent out my Report # 7 from there along with the pics emails. Hopefully I can get out this report from the College before we move on.
The Thursday was spent around Benson, doing grocery shopping etc. On Friday,
the 1st of March, we drove down the Arizona-80 to Tombstone, about 23 miles
away. When we entered Tombstone, the first place we came upon was Boothill,
so we pulled into the parking lot and went into the gift shop and then into
the graveyard itself. There was no charge to visit the graveyard, but there
were boxes there for donations. I took quite a few pictures of the different
graves and Iíll try and include some of the more interesting ones. Some of
the quotations used on some of the graves are quite hilarious while others
are less so. One of the main graves that everyone went to see contained the
three bodies of the two Mclauryís, Tom and Frank and also Billy Clanton who
were all involved in the gunfight at the OK Corral. More on this gunfight
later. Some of the graves but the comments below are from a brochure that I
bought at the gift shop which showed all the graves and who was buried where
and in many cases, how they died:
Margarita, Stabbed by Gold Dollar.
Two dance hall girls at The Bird Cage theatre quarrelling over a man, and Gold Dollar won.
Chas Helm, Shot, 1882. Shot by Wm. McCauley.
Two hot-tempered ranchers who disagreed over the best way to drive cattle, fast or slow.
James Hickey, 1881 Shot by Wm. Clayborne.
He was shot in the left temple by Clayborne for his over-insistence that they drink together. (This Clayborne gets around!!!)
Frank Bowles, 1880.
His horse became frightened and threw him off. This caused a rifle to discharge and badly injure his knee. He lay in camp for several weeks without medical attention and when friends took him to a doctor for amputation, it was too late. (This information was given by his daughter)
Jos. Wetsell, Killed, 1882.
He was stoned to death by Apaches. His friends were not far away, and it was thought the Indians wanted to avoid attracting their attention by shooting him.
Wm. Clayborne, 1882, Shot by Frank Leslie.
Clayborne while drinking, sought to settle real or fancied wrong with Leslie. This took place in front of the Oriental Saloon, where Leslie tended bar. (At last that Clayborne got his!!)
Dan Dowd, Red Sample, Tex Howard, Bill Delaney, Dan Kelly. Legally hanged, March 8, 1884.
These men were found guilty of killing several people during the robbery of a store in Bisbee. They were all hanged on one scaffold in the Court House yard.
John Martin, Killed 1882.
He was killed while working on the Huachuca water line. A tested pipe was unplugged and a blast of water hurled a jack against his chest. He was a native of England.
Taken from county jail and lynched by Bisbee mob, Feb 22, 1884. He was called the leader of the five men who were legally hanged and was said to have planned the robbery. He was hanged from a telegraph pole a short distance west of the Court House.
John Gibson, 1881.
Gibson, a driver for Nadeauís ore teams, fell from a wagon and his skull was crushed when a wheel of the heavy wagon ran over his head.
Hilly Hickson, 1882.
It was said that death never took a holiday in Tombstone. On this day, Hilly, a school boy, fell while walking on a pair of stilts and injured his back. He seemed only slightly injured, but next morning he died suddenly with a spasm.
Seymour Dye, 1882 Killed by Indians.
Dye, aged 35 and Harry Curry were wood cutters. This day they were bringing in a load of hay, when they were shot by Indians, who after their victims had fallen from the wagon, dragged them for 150 feet.
Geo. Johnson, Hanged by mistake.
Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences.
WM. Alexander, 1880.
An old prospector who was fatally injured when a blast went off prematurely. (Ahhh. Any relation to Bob Alexander who has been known to frequent these parts!!!)
Here lies Lester Moore.
Four slugs from a .44
No Les, no more.
Moore was a Wells Fargo agent at Naco and had a dispute with a man over a package. Both died.
Killeen, Shot by Frank Leslie, 1880
Results of a disagreement over Killeenís wife. Leslie married the widow.
Johnnie Wilson, Shot by King
Two gunmenís discussion of the fastest way to draw, ended here.
Died of smallpox and a cowboy threw a rope over his feet and dragged him to his grave.
Thatís it. Some of the more interesting ones. Pics of some will follow.
We then continued into Tombstone and visited the Court House which is now a National Park. The Court House is now a museum with the old court room on the second floor which has been restored. The museum shows old guns and information about Tombstone and some of the inhabitants. Of course, the Gun Fight at the Ok Corral was covered. An artist did some water colors of the fight after considerable research about who was where and who fired first etc. The pictures are on the wall and are numbered from the beginning of the fight to the end. The actual fight never took place ďinĒ the OK Corral itself but started in a space between two buildings next to the Corral. The fight ended up going into the street. Three men were killed, Billy Clanton, Tom Mclaury and Frank Mclaury. Everyone else was wounded with the exception of Wyatt Earp who didnít have a scratch. His brother Virgil was the actual Marshal and Wyatt was a Deputy Marshall.
We then visited the main street of Tombstone which is now full of gift shops, along with several saloons or bars. One noted bar is Big Nose Kates, which I should also note has been frequented by one Bob Alexander! We walked around and Val went into a chic classy store and ended up buying a stain glass terra cotta platter depicting a desert scene. It will be a nice souvenir of the area. After that we returned to Benson.
On Sunday, the 3rd, we went through Tucson on the I-10 and took the Arizona-77 north to visit Biosphere 2. If you remember, some guy built, what looks like a gigantic green house so that they could see if people could sustain themselves for a couple of years without any outside help. They would grow their own vegetables and have their own grasses and trees which would also give out enough O2, oxygen, to sustain life. Well, the guide told us that the experiment was successful other than the fact that they had to pipe in outside oxygen as the plants inside were producing enough to sustain the people who were living there for two years. Now, the University of Columbia runs the place. Itís supposed to be doing experiments on life on earth for plants and the environment. In 2011, the Biosphere will be handed over to the University and they will assume full responsibility for it. By the way, Biosphere 1 is the environment around the earth, the earthís atmosphere. It was interesting walking through the different areas from an ocean, to a bayou, a Savannah, a coastal fog desert and a high desert plain. We couldnít go into the rain forest because it was not open to the public because it is too delicate. Biosphere 2, is out in the boonies at about 3200 feet and the temperature there doesnít get higher than 103 F in the summer. After spending several hours at the Biosphere, we returned to Benson which is only about 60 miles from the Biosphere.
Itís now Monday, the 4th, and weíre having a quiet day doing things around the Airstream and also doing up this report which I hope to send out this week. I now have to select the pics and transfer them over to temporary diskettes which I will take to send out.
Tomorrow, the 5th, we head for Casa Grande which is about 40 miles south of Phoenix. We hope to see Bill and Doreen Proctor who will be not far away in the Pinal County park. Weíll probably spend four or five days there before heading on to Yuma and then to San Diego and the west coast.
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