Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The silver is gone, but the tourists are gold

As the story goes, prospector Ed Schiefflen came to southern Arizona looking for silver, and folks warned him that all he’d find was his own tombstone. Well, he found silver, and he founded the town of Tombstone. The town bustled for as long as the silver held out, drawing honest workers as well as no small number of criminals. Around 1900 or so, Tombstone was said to have a higher rate of homicide than New York City.

It’s under 300 miles from our home in Las Cruces, so we finally packed our cats, George and Gracie, into the RV to check it out. G & G were underwhelmed by the whole experience, homebodies that they are, but Nancy and I quite enjoyed the trip. We stayed in an RV park within sight of the O.K. Corral, where lawmen shot it out with malefactors and sent them off to Boot Hill Cemetery to rest in graves like this:

It’s a small graveyard with freshly painted epitaphs on wood markers. Like almost everything in town, it is maintained for the benefit of the tourists who keep the town alive. Now, folks can tour the town in horse-drawn wagons.

—and when they’re through, they can whet their whistles at Big Nose Kate’s, a saloon named after the girlfriend of Doc Holliday:

—or they can check out what is billed as the world’s largest rosebush, a century-old Lady Banksia that is large enough to walk under and covers about 8,000 square feet:

Above is the view from a specially-built stand that provides a better sense of the breadth of this amazing bush. Here is the trunk:

You can also pay to see fake shootouts at the O.K. Corral, but Nancy and I spent our cash on ice creams instead.

By the way, G & G would be upset with me if I didn’t show them in the RV. Here’s George:

And here is his sister Gracie:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Taking the RV to Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park

Our friends didn't think we’d go on Monday, because the weather had been so bad here in New Mexico. But we had already left Las Cruces for Big Bend in Texas before the weather soured, and were clueless until our return today. Passing through El Paso, we could hardly see the nearby Franklin Mountains, which were a ghostly outline through the swirling sand. The wind whipped across the border from Juarez, occasionally limiting the visibility to a few hundred feet.

So by virtue of our RV trip, we missed most of a big howler. Good thing. We had headed east on I-10 to Van Horn, and then south through Valentine, Marfa, Alpine, and Marathon, with gorgeous weather nearly the whole time. We saw a family of javelinas by the roadside, but by the time I could stop and grab my camera, they had escaped deep into the chaparral. Same luck with the antelope we saw. There were lots of free-range cattle, and Nancy had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting a bull that had wandered onto the highway. He had trouble with his footing on the asphalt, but he found his way to safety. As we started back this morning, we saw five vultures perched on a wire fence and looking at a dead animal—like personal-injury lawyers checking out a potential client, I thought.

We met interesting people at the RV park in Marathon. A retired couple, for example—she a former prosecutor, he a former police detective. Back in the 1990s, they had just been back from their honeymoon about a week when she saw him on live television in a shootout with a man who had just murdered his girlfriend. Our companions were both fascinating; we could have listened to them reminisce all night.

Ocotillo in bloom

Our RV in Marathon, Texas

Cholla with nest (cactus wren, I think)

RV park grounds, Marathon, Texas

Big Bend National Park