We only only spent two nights in Carlsbad, because the town itself had so little to offer and so we decided to notch up some miles on Friday, aiming for a cheap hotel in Lordsburg, another of those tiny towns that only seem to exist to provide somewhere to stop along the interminable interstate 10.
The first part of the journey was pretty good, as we drove through the local mountain range but then came another of those plains that abound in Texas and New Mexico. Tim worked out that we actually went for sixty miles without going around a major bend. They do, however, really love road runners around here..
There was a gap of over a hundred and fifty miles between fuel stops and we hardly saw any cafes at all, not even a MacDonald’s…gasp! We were intrigued that you could buy or rent ten or twenty acre plots of land in the middle of nowhere for a pittance
and we saw some tiny little dwellings built on them so far from civilisation, that we wondered how they managed with such basics as plumbing and drinking water.
We passed some impressive salt flats
and resisted to see how fast Camel could go over them.
Finally we drove around the outskirts of El Paso, a most uninspiring experience, and then through the very attractive mountain range near by.
The interstate actually had a bike lane over the mountains for tough types… (can you imagine allowing cyclists on the M25?)
We were back into New Mexico after cutting back across the Panhandle of Texas, not that it was too different. The plains around here play tricks on you, as you can see so far away. The mountains never seem to get any closer. I could just imagine how soul destroying it must have been for the people on the wagon trains heading west at a walking pace. You walk for days and days over the plane, have to scale some pretty challenging mountains and then you have to repeat the same process over over and over and again.
All along the road there were signs like these
and it was all to easy to imagine how scary it would be if a dust storm came through, as we saw a dust devil
When we finally rolled into the Econo-lodge the receptionist asked what brought us to Lordsburg. When we said we were passing through, she said, yep, like everyone else. She was not too happy to be living there, she said that her husband had been tricked into taking a job there being told that it was a lively place. When they got there she was so appalled that she made him promise that they could leave after his six month probation period was up. That was two loooong years ago, poor lady. There was a surprisingly good restaurant over the road (dry , of course) that served the best liver and onions I have had in ages.
The next morning, over the complementary ‘cook your own waffle’ breakfast, we got chatting to a nice old farmer from Minnesota who asked if Tim remembered the war and then supposed that we must be in our sixties! Meh, I have nearly two years before that happens.
On Saturday we drove on to a campsite near Tucson, a mere hundred and twenty miles along the 10, which was guaranteed to have tent sites (yeh!). The books available in the camp store were interesting
We managed to squeeze onto one of the little tent pitches and enjoyed a very pleasant evening. One guy stopped by in his pickup, intrigued by our Tentipi. I ended up talking talking to him for ages and I was interested to find out that he had actually voted for Obama twice! He was a real Anglophile and thought that the country would be run better if it was still part of the UK! Good grief! As often is the case, we talked about guns and weapons and he said that, although he didn’t carry a gun, he kept a baseball bat for self defence. He also pointed out that a penny loafer made a pretty good weapon, because you could put it back on your foot after you bashed the other guy, so it then became legal thing to carry. It was great chatting to him, but I was more thrilled to catch a photo of a hawk that was hanging around on a pole soooo close to our pitch
The wonderful thing about staying near Tucson is that you are close to the Saguaro National Park. Saguaros are those massive cacti that you see in all the old western movies with the two arms pointing upward. The joke is that they only grow in much greener areas than places like Death Valley, as they need more water. And none of them have two arms. They are, however, simply massive. They start as seedlings smaller that your fingernail and then over the next hundred and fifty to two hundred years grow up to seventy five feet tall and eight tons in weight. There used to be many more of them in the park, but there were a couple of cold snaps back in the 1930’s and 60’s. Nobody could understand why they didn’t grow back until they worked out that the free ranging cattle were trampling the seedlings. The National Parks Authority have now bought the grazing rights so they can keep the cattle away and so the magnificent cactus forrest is now starting to regenerate. You have got to love the National Parks Authority for what they are doing, despite how bossy they can be!
I was thrilled to bits to catch this beauty in the bushes!
We went for a walk around these rocks where the javelinas like to hang out (pig-like creatures, but NOT pigs, they get upset if you call them that!)
along with four different species of rattle snake (FOUR!!!!) and hairy scorpions. Luckily we didn’t see any of them, but I did make Tim go first. (Sigh, my hero!!)
The next day we decided to go and look at Tombstone, to see if was as tacky as it sounds and it truly was. The drive there took us through countryside that you can see in any old western.
We could easily imagine the ‘injuns’ riding over the ridge towards us as we raced to safety or the bad guys riding away from the posse to hide out amongst the rocks. All we needed was somebody with charisma like John Wayne and we would have a runaway hit. The town (motto; ‘the town that was too tough to die’) looks like a lot of other towns in the area until you get to the old town, which is full of tourist tat and ‘genuine’ western bars.
There are about five old bars, each with a full cast of gunslingers in full costume, claiming to tell the true story of the history of the town, including the gunfight at the OK coral which did/didn’t happen on the street outside the local saloon.
The top place to go is Long Nose Kate’s, which was heaving and had a long queue outside it. Long Nose Kate was, apparently the girlfriend of Doc Holliday, so it is meant to be truly authentic, but….it’s not exactly very well preserved what with all the TVs in it, but the waitresses do wear period costume. We couldn’t be bothered to wait (probably because I had a pretty full bladder at the time) and so we went for lunch in the OK Cafe (which had such western classics as BLTs and croissant sandwiches) (I was hoping for beans and side meat!) and met a woman from London who spends three months over here every winter. The buffalo head on the wall made me realise just how large they are
and it could explain why they are held to be so dangerous.
The old courthouse was the best thing we saw. It told the story of the town pretty well and had photos of many of the more colourful characters that had lived there. We found out that it was called Tombstone because the first prospector to make a claim there was warned it would be the death of him because the local Indians were a pretty fierce bunch. He prospered and so did the town; they managed to extract so much silver that the price per ounce plummeted and a lot of people lost their jobs. We found out about Cochise, the local Indian chief, who eventually made peace. There was a guy called English who was a bit of a rogue. His antics included betting that, if it rained on a certain day, he would stand under a drainpipe stark naked. It rained so he did. At one stage he was fined twenty five dollars for contempt of court, to which he told the judge that twenty five dollars could not possibly cover the contempt he felt for the court.
We got to sit in a reproduction saddle,
which was surprisingly comfortable and saw the old courtroom and offices. Who would know that there are so many different types of barbed wire?
Considering that the town was only 150 years old and that its glory days hadn’t lasted all that long after the silver mines flooded, due to pump failure, it was an interesting little museum.
i must confess that I was probably most excited to see some genuine tumbleweed tumbling as we headed out of town.