An Arizona Sampler…

November 28, 2009

When we entered Arizona on I-10, we continued on to Willcox, made arrangements for a night’s lodging, then headed south from there to the Chiriachua National Monument, high atop the Chiriachua Mountain range, at an altitude of ~9,000 ft. The Chiriachuas are a part of the old Chiriachua Apache Indian reservation, from days of yore. At different times of the year, they host many different species of rare birds and animals not easily found elsewhere in North America, for one example, the Elegant Trogon. But nary a bird did we see in our short visit. We did get to see some beautiful rock formations though, left behind by a volcanic eruption of 27 million years ago, I’m told.

Rock Formations as seen from Masai Point, Chiricahua National Monument

There are several more photos of different rock formations in our daily gallery; check them out? High mountain ranges such as the Chiriachuas are sometimes called “Sky Islands,” rising as they do from the desert floor, with the grassy desert floor acting as the “sea” from which they rise. This photo conveys a sense of the “island” feeling:

The Desert floor from high atop the Chiriachuas

And, driving along the road along the desert “sea” at dusk, I was struck with the subtle lighting of the area:

“Whistle me up a melody, whistle me back where I long to be, whistle me a tune that’ll carry me, to Tombstone Territory” (theme song  from old TV show “Tombstone”). As you might guess, next day we drove down to Tombstone Territory, and dined at the Nellie Cashman Restaurant, the oldest building in Tombstone, built in 1879, they said. Nellie was a very interesting character. If you read the literature on her, you get someone of the magnitude of Annie Oakley or the like, this woman did so many things in her life. For example, it’s said that she once led a party of six men with 1,500 pounds of provisions into the Frozen North to relieve a group of miners afflicted with scurvy in the Alaskan gold fields. She was Puritanical by nature; even though she owned a saloon, she hired a man to run it, and never went near it herself. As a matter of fact, we had a good and enjoyable lunch at the current Nellie Cashman’s Restaurant, complete with dessert of home-made pie.

As the sign above suggests, Tombstonians were well aware of the devious ways of Politicians; the Law was often interpreted and administered on a very local basis, and guns spoke louder than words. Of course, the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral happened in Tombstone, but not at the O.K. Corral. It occurred in a fifteen- to twenty-foot space between Fly’s Lodging House and photographic studio, and the MacDonald assay house west of it. By some good luck (and also by laying out the $$ for admission tickets), we were treated to an interesting re-enactment of this armed melee. Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday fought Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Claiborne, Ike Clanton, and Billy Clanton. Within a few seconds, the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton were dead. (Billy was only 19) The Moral of the Story? Don’t mess with Wyatt Earp! (For the bloodthirsty, there are more snaps in the gallery)

We’d planned to do some more touring, but darn it, the driver (me) came down with a bronchial cold; so instead, we headed straight up to Tucson, had a nice meal, and roosted there for the night. Next day, we took Highway 79 up to Phoenix, so we could go visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Oddly, we came to a sign: “Tom Mix Historic Marker.” There was this monument out in the middle of nowhere, with a bullet-riddled galvanized horse atop, and a paper photo of the old-time Western star taped on the front. What was this about? So we got the photo, and I thought maybe I could read the plate from that, but it was illegible. Enter the Internet: This was the spot where Tom Mix died! A short Tom Mix bio: (January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) He was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. He made a reported 336 films between 1910 and 1935, all but nine of which were silent features. He was Hollywood’s first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed.

The story I’d heard about Mix’s death (from my Dad) was that he was driving a fancy Cord automobile when the front axle froze up, causing him to crash. Uh-uh, it seems. My research says that Mix was driving along Hwy 79 at an excessive rate of speed. (It wasn’t clear whether or not he was sober) As he rounded a curve on two wheels, he saw a construction project in progress right in the road, and slammed on the brakes. Well, the Cord stopped so fast that a big metal suitcase in the back seat flew forward, hitting Tom on the head, and breaking his neck. When the car stopped, he stepped out of it, then quickly collapsed and died.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona

But we did get up to Phoenix and on to Scottsdale, where Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is situated. This place is so integrated into the landscape that it isn’t easy to just snap a photo and say, “Look, there’s Taliesin West.” But Wright was in love with the landscape of this region, and took every measure to integrate the structures with the surrounding desert. He didn’t even use glass at first, more canvas and other natural materials struck his fancy. Taliesin West is still actively functioning as an accredited architectural school, an interesting place to visit. Several more photos from there abound in our gallery of the day; take another look! 😉

Well, this ol’ blog has about had it. It’s almost three months old now, and about to start getting stagnant. Once we’re back home in a few days, I’ll frankly miss all the many adventures we’ve experienced over our drive around the U.S. One more post ought to about do it, don’t you think?

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5 Responses to “An Arizona Sampler…”

  1. Gerry said

    Very nice. How’s that Prius holding up? N ew tires yet? lol

  2. Marilyn Stratz said

    We’ll all miss your merry adventures. I’ve saved every one. Thanks for sharing with us. See you soon in sunny Los Altos.

  3. Jan said

    All has been very interesting – thanks SO much for sharing your past three months!! Loved it! Jan

  4. Cheryl & Jeff said

    It has been a real joy to enjoy your adventures vicariously.
    Hope to see you in person soon. C & J

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