Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quiet Quartzsite

Before we left Tucson, Rob and I took a day trip to Tombstone and Bisbee. Where Tombstone is a tourist destination to see old, western buildings, museums, shops with real Native American jewelry and art, and shoot-out shows with actors always in character as people like Doc Holliday, Bisbee is the non-tourist, living, breathing, real-deal, old, western town, although retrofitted for the modern age. Tombstone was fun to see with its wooden sidewalks, and, before you hit pavement, dirt edges to the street, which gave the dusty feel of how it must've looked and felt way back when; hitching posts, and a stagecoach, in which you could pay to ride, helped finish the effect. But we spent way too much of our day walking around there. By the time we got to Bisbee, we were a bit worn out, especially Rob. I was disappointed that we didn't start the day in Bisbee because I would love to have found the cemetery to search out my great great aunt Daisy's grave. My mother's story about her great aunt is the reason I went to Bisbee. This is what my mom wrote to me in an email:

"Hi, again. You are going to be passing fairly close to another place where ancestors settled - Bisbee, Arizona - southeast of Tucson close to the Mexican border. Hettie Kuykendall Ligon's sister Daisy moved to Bisbee after either a failed marriage or being widowed, I don't know which, and remarried after several years in Bisbee. She came to visit Hettie before WW2 and Hettie was dismayed to find "her sister" smoked cigarettes, dyed her hair and wore lipstick! Shirley (my mother's cousin) and I loved her and she must have liked us because on her next trip west (still before WW2) she brought me my first doll with "real" hair - I still have that doll. I will never forget her bright red hair and lipstick. I don't remember what she brought Shirley."

I wondered, as I looked around at the hills and at all the houses as we drove through the town, just where aunt Daisy had lived.

Founded as a copper, gold and silver mining town in 1880, there didn't seem much to Bisbee other than it being a picturesque place with authentic, old western buildings and homes that are still occupied today. The Copper Queen Hotel continues to be in business and has been since 1902. Apparently, it is known for paranormal activity and was featured in both TV shows Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Now wouldn't that be an interesting place to spend the night? Bisbee is also the county seat and the courthouse is built incongruously with its surroundings in the Art Deco style. Not only is it's architecture quite splendid, it was fitted with absolutely, gorgeous entry doors, for which I just had to run up the steps to photograph.

Bisbee is a hilly town full of charm. Most of the homes we saw are small—like quaint, little matchboxes—but painted in bold, cheery colors. A good number were nestled in the crevices of the rocky hills. Many of the homes were built in the Mule Mountains and, to this day, are unreachable by vehicle—hence the name 'Mule.' I don't know for sure, but I guess by mule might still be the way to transport loads of goods to one's property—either that or ATV. It is also the home of the 1000 Step Climb, a 5 kilometer run that goes through the streets and up and down over 1000 steps. My buns and thighs burn just thinking about it.

I do wish we could have stayed longer. Another time.

We reached Quartzsite at the end of the high season. Most of the wintertime businesses have shuttered or pulled up stakes to move on to their summertime locales. When we arrived, there were several RV parks with many lingerers but, since then, even those have thinned. In the desert, on BLM land, dry-camping RVers, many sporting solar panels, lined up one after the other just a couple of weeks ago and, now, only a few dot the landscape here and there. At the Holiday Palms, we seem to be the only transient RVers left. We have a rig or two come in for a night, maybe two but, otherwise, they've all left before it gets too hot. A couple of days the temperature climbed to over 100°F, but its coming back down—for now.

I imagined there'd be plenty of downtime for me here in Quartzsite. I'd planned to spend all my time learning Photoshop and to do that sort of thing I need an atmosphere of non-distraction, but we'd made several friends the last time we were here and some haven't left to head back home. So, unexpected but welcome, socializing became part of my agenda. I can learn Photoshop in bits and pieces but, I know me, I have to keep at it and focus or I'll forget everything I learned in between my lessons.

The first folks we stopped in to visit were Phil and Linda, who live in Oregon during the summer months. Its been a pleasure to get reacquainted with them. Phil took both Rob and me out into the desert in his ATV. Rob one day, which was hot and windy, and me the next day which was hot and not so windy. Phil took me to several vistas, which I photographed, and stopped when I asked so I could take more photographs. Phil drove me out to see Native American pictographs and bowls worn into stone where they once ground corn and other grains. We drove by a little community called Rainbow Acres where the original intention was to build homes. I could see that a couple lots had homes constructed in the adobe style, but otherwise it was all land with a low wall around the whole place. Well, we all know what happened with the economy, so the landowners rent their lands to snowbirds during the winter instead. It is a ways from Quartzsite, but not too far, so you can simply drag your chairs out into the desert and watch the sunset (or sunrise), and stare at the stars at night to your heart's content with nary a city light to pollute the sky.

That evening, I took the card out of my camera to download all the photographs onto my hard drive. My computer said it couldn't read the card. What?! I fiddled around and tested my card reader, which appeared to be operating correctly. I know I saw my photos on my camera! There couldn't be anything wrong with my card! I popped it back into the camera and what did I see? A message—something to the effect that the card wasn't formatted. I always reformat my cards! All my photos from the day are lost. Rob said it was 'just a glitch. It happens' (as though that was supposed to make me feel better?). Sigh. The first photo of the day had been a bunch of beautiful cactus flowers that would be spent by the time the sun got too high and hot. Phil said it was called an Argentine. Gorgeous! They looked like someone had plopped a bouquet into a cactus vase. Lost those, too. But, the good news is Phil emailed some of his photos to me—a few from the day and a few to show some of the things he's seen while out in the desert with other ATVers; and, Linda emailed me her shots of the flowers. This means you get to see them, too.

I remember thinking, as we drove west through Arizona toward Quartzsite, that I just don't like the desert. Although I admired the Saguaro and Occotillo cacti as we sped past the gray-brown, dusty terrain, I felt as though it was too desolate and I couldn't remember what I saw in it after having been through the green of the east. But I remember now. I've been reminded of it's unique appeal, a beauty teeming with life. Where else can mountains and buttes reflect the brilliant colors of a sunset like they do here, or find rocks beige on one side and burnt black from the sun on the other? If there is anyplace, I haven't been there, yet.

The second folks we stopped to see were Jeff and Nonda, who also spend summers in Oregon. They have an RV windshield business and last year we facilitated an introduction between them and our friends who we met in the Imperial Sand Dunes, Mark and Jeannine, from Lake Havasu City, who have an RV window repair business. They now work cooperatively by referring business back and forth according to the customer's needs. By all accounts, they had a fantastic season this year. We couldn't be happier for them. When we leave Quartzsite, we'll be in Lake Havasu City and will be getting together with Mark and Jeannine. I sure hope they can fit us into their work schedule. We have a couple of windows that need attention.

The night the sky was on fire with that vibrant sunset that I saw so many photos of on Facebook, we joined Phil and Linda, Nonda and a few more couples around a campfire. We all sat about 6 to 8 feet back from the flames because we certainly didn't need it for heat, just atmosphere. The evening marked the last jam session of the season in the clubhouse as well, so we enjoyed live music while we ate/drank jello shooters, provided by a fun-loving gal by the name of Charlotte. Thank you, Charlotte. Those shooters were yummy!

We found out from our friends, Mike and Deb, that a couple of friends from our motorcycle riding days spend their winters in Yuma, so we invited John and Charlene up for the day. We talked and talked and found we had more in common than we'd ever known before. We barbecued steaks, and had baked potatoes and salad for dinner. We had a wonderful time catching up and will be driving down to see their place in Yuma on Monday or Tuesday.

I don't know what I was thinking when I thought we'd be having a 'quiet' time in Quartzsite. It hasn't turned out that way at all. Thank goodness!

I love this life.

Here are Phil and Linda's photos:

The road to nowhere—or so it seems.

Phil and Linda's Tarantula encounter.

So much to see in the desert.

Linda's photo of the beautiful, blooming Argentine cactus.

ATVers gathering for a ride.

Nice shot, Phil!

That's me taking one of the lost photos.

The pictographs.

How awesome is this scene!

And this one!


And there's me, again, getting ready to photograph this old, stone house.

And, now, my photos:

The stagecoach in Tombstone. The horses were getting cooled down with a spray of water.

Rob with his new friend.

Cool doors.

More cool doors.

The actors waiting around for the next show.

I loved this mule bench.

Even Tombstone has hit hard times.

One of the prettier buildings.

The Art Deco Courthouse. Front, right, is a statue of a copper miner.

Part of the 1000 steps.

Cool looking manhole cover.

Offices and a restaurant next to the 1000 steps.

Stunning Art Deco Courthouse.

And, it's doors.

Old downtown Bisbee. Charming.

The haunted Copper Queen Hotel.

Heading back to Tucson.

The clouds were amazing that day.

At the Holiday Palms in Quartzsite.

I love the saguaros.

Another lovely cactus in bloom.

Sunset reflected.

The night the sky was on fire.


  1. As usual I love the adventure, and I enjoy reading the Blog and viewing the wonderful pictures. The different doors are amazing and all have there own story Until next blog!!

  2. Hi from Idaho!! I had great memories of your travels above. We travelled those spots last year and found the beauty of it all. I was very impressed with the Bisbee copper mine and the plans to take it back to its original state when they finished remining the trailings. Beautiful pit. Quartzite was a bust for me and used as downtime to recover from a crappy cold. We were there during the market shows/sales. Not sure we'd return there, but maybe with the right company. That's always fun.
    Have you tried to download your lost photos direct from your camera. I had that happen with a SD card which lead me to find the USB cord for the camera. It and my photo efforts I thought lost. Happy trails. Stay in touch. ~ Road Gypsies