After the Escapade 57 RV Rally in Tucson, I travelled a whopping 30 miles south on I10 to Benson, Arizona. Benson was my home base for exploring the small towns of Benson, Bisbee, Tombstone and the Chiricahua National Monument. I also become a member of the Willcox Elks!
Benson is a city in Cochise County east-southeast of Tucson. It was founded as a rail terminal for the area, and still serves as such. The population of the city is around 5,105. There is an Escapees Park in Benson: Saguaro RV Park. The Escapees have many RV parks around the country. The parks offer co-op ownership for seasonal (or permanent) parking and open sites for temporary stays. The fee for a first time visitor is $50 for a week with full hookups. That is an incredible price! The park is located just a couple miles south of Benson. Most people here are fellow Escapees and are very welcoming and friendly.
I’m an Elk!
The first item on my agenda was to attend the induction ceremony at the Willcox Elk’s Lodge. Many of you are wondering why I would join the Elks. Well…here’s why. Most Elks Lodges offer RV sites with hook ups and a built in network of people that can recommend places in the area and provide help if needed. The lodges are safe, friendly places for solo woman RVers. The lodge was recruiting new members at the Escapade 57 so I jumped on the opportunity. Fifty-six Escapees where inducted on Monday night. As the ceremony began, I couldn’t help thinking back to my time as a Rainbow girl. The induction was very similar. Joining Rainbows was one of the smartest moves I made as a 12 year old! I learned so much about networking, giving to the community, making friends, public speaking and of course memorizing the rituals. I’ll never forget the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo and violet. Now that I’m literally a card carrying member of the Elk’s Lodge, in the future I will take advantage of their RV sites. Especially the Lodges located in cities that I want to visit.
Tuesday I headed 45 miles south to Bisbee. Bisbee is a small former mining town turned tourist area. It reminded me of Jerome, Arizona near Sedona.
“In 1877, a reconnaissance detail of U.S. army scouts and cavalrymen was sent to the Mule Mountains to search the area for renegade Apaches. What civilian tracker Jack Dunn found instead were signs of mineralization indicating the presence of lead, copper and possibly silver. The first mining claim was staked in what would later become the City of Bisbee. The filing of this claim, and a multitude of others sent prospectors and speculators scurrying to the Mule Mountains in hopes of striking it rich. Numerous ore bodies were located, and Bisbee soon became known as the Queen of the Copper Camps.” Thanks DiscoverBisbee.com.
I visited the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. With a history deserving of National Landmark status, the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum joined forces with the Smithsonian’s Affiliation Program. Once known as The Queen of the Copper Camps, Bisbee is located in the Mule Mountains, and known for its diverse minerals and wealth of copper. The first floor of the museum contains exhibits on Bisbee’s colorful history and the second floor provides information on mining and the various minerals found in the mines. Here is just a few of the “rocks” found in the mines.
On the second floor you enter through a changehouse (where the miners changed into their mining clothes) before winding through an underground mine with minerals, a crystal cave, and the history of hard-rock miners who blasted, drilled, and mucked more than 2,000 miles of tunnels through the surrounding mountains. The invention and implementation of electricity in homes and workplaces increased the demand for copper, a great conductor of electricity. You then segue into today’s world of open-pit mining, where new technologies address challenges posed by a high-demand marketplace and low-grade ore.
To learn more about the museum click here. If you find yourself in Bisbee, do not miss the museum. It is time well spent.
After lunch, a visit to the Bisbee Brewing Company was in order. I find myself sampling flights of craft beers and discovering I like a wider variety of beer. I explain to the bartender my taste in beer (smooth taste, not hoppy and slightly sweet). The bartender picks the samples for me and the tasting begins. It is fun, tasty and supports small beer businesses. An all-around win!
Chiricahua National Monument
Thursday I drove to Chiricahua National Monument to explore. It is an isolated mountain range rising above the surrounding grassland sea. The Chiricahua Apache call the pinnacles “standing up rocks”. The rocks are the results of eruptions of the Turkey Creek Volcano 26 million years ago and 1200 square miles of spewed ash. The super-heated ash melted together, forming layers of gray rock called rhyolite. Cooling and uplifting created joints and cracks in the rhyolite. Years of weathering and ice wedging and erosion by water enlarged the cracks. Weaker material washed away leaving an endless variety of spires, balanced rocks and other shapes. The national monument was established in 1924. I took the eight-mile drive to the summit at Massai Point for the bird’s eye view of the area. This, out of the way, national monument is definitely worth a visit. For more info on Chiricahua National Monument click here.
What do I have to say about Tombstone? Everyone probably knows a little about this old west town. Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, founded in 1879. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. The town prospered from about 1877 to 1890, during which time the town’s mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and now draws most of its revenue from tourism.
I’ll be leaving Benson tomorrow to head back up to Casa Grande to wait for my dear friend Sandy Sikora to fly in from Michigan. We will be Queens of the Road (tiaras and all, thanks to Jane) for two weeks. Don’t know where we will travel. But, rest assured, it will be an adventure!