Thursday, October 13, 2016

Summary of the 2016 Western Trip - Part Nine - Gallup, New Mexico, Nogales, Mexico, & A Return to Tombstone

Monday, August 22 - We drove out of Colorado the night before, and again, it was later than I had really wanted or expected it to be. Still, we had really made the most out of a long day (especially for me!) in the Rockies and visiting Mesa Verde. It was beautiful, and felt satisfying to have finally at least gotten a taste of the famous Rockies - the spine of North America! We drove mostly in the dark to Gallup, New Mexico, only stopping for a bite to eat along the way, although we stopped once or twice for gas. The first stop had been an urgent one for gas, as the gas light went on while we were still high up on Ute Mountain as we were leaving Mesa Verde. We reached Cortes, which had the cheapest gas I had yet seen on the trip. After a blessedly uneventful and relatively stress-free drive to Gallup, we reached our hotel, which was on the old historic Route 66. The room was magnificent, and the hotel staff was very friendly! There was a computer, and so I got to actually write a bit more than the normal notebook thing, which was refreshing! We had a decent night's sleep, and the next day, we had a very decent and filling breakfast at the hotel, after which I did a bit more writing. The weather outside had been intermittently rainy since the prior evening, although the sun was out now, and there was an amazing rainbow! Took some pictures, and after finishing my writing for the day, we were all set to begin another long day of driving, although I assured my son that this was the last monster day of driving. In fact, he had been excellent in terms of his patience and behavior throughout this trip! We reached the end of New Mexico surprisingly quickly, and I had not realized how close to the border of Arizona we were. After that, we drove and drove through some beautiful scenery. We reached Holbrook, which we had visited the prior year, and is famous for being the entrance to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert  National Park. We parked in one area and looked for some small pieces of petrified wood, and both found some relatively easily and with little effort or strain. We continued driving (I stopped just as we were leaving Holbrook to take a sign showing that this was the old route of the famed Pony Express. But then, it was a long drive through some strange sounding towns (who knew there was a Snowflake, Arizona?), before we got to a very green area dominated by pines. Before long, the altitude started to get serious, and we were in what seemed almost like a miniature of the Grand Canyon, as my son put it. It was really spectacular and, for us, also pretty much unexpected! Once again, we were driving up extremely curvy mountain roads, although once we climbed back down, we were back in the southwest desert, complete with cactus on the side of the road. Maybe half an hours after this, we saw our first Saguaro cactus tree, and knew then that we were fully back in the same famous southwestern desert that we had been in the year before! Of course, we were trying to make it to the Mexican border while there was still daylight, so we just kept driving and driving, until we finally reached it. There was Route 19, which is done up in Kilometers, the only American highway that I know of which is measured in the metric system, which I love! We arrived at Nogales in the late afternoon/early evening, quite a bit later than we had last summer. Still, we were here, and it was time for a visit! I exchanged some dollars for pesos (not much), and then realized after crossing that, as far as Mexican sellers were concerned, this was not a good move. They preferred American dollars! We did not have all that much time, and so we walked around, going perhaps a bit deeper into Nogales than we had last summer. We got to see the inside of the church this time, as the bell rang our for services. We walked around, much like we had last summer. At one point, I looked at a souvenir shop, and eyed a wooden carved statue of a Saguaro cactus plant, which seemed like a nice gift to get for my parents. We haggled a bit, and eventually found a price agreeable to both sides. Of course, I snapped a bunch of pictures while there, and my son told me that he really loved these trips to Mexico that we had taken (only the two of them, and just across the border, although still, they felt like something special). Before long, however, it was getting late, and so it was time to get back stateside and drive over to our hotel in Sierra Vista. There had been an incredibly long line to get into the States when we had crossed into Mexico (again, with no checks this time), and so I was worried. But I need not have been, because the line was almost totally gone, and we walked right up to the American border, and waited maybe a minute or two, tops, before the border guard took us. She joked a bit with my son, who showed off the small souvenir that he had purchased in Nogales, Mexico, and then we were on our way, another pleasant trip to a border town south of the border behind us. After that, I drove to Sierra Vista while my son slept in the back, just like last year. We checked into the hotel, and shortly thereafter, our night was over, and we slept.

Tuesday, August 23 - We woke up in Sierra Vista, and had ourselves a decent breakfast. My son had the do-it-yourself waffles, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Afterward, we were both pretty filled up, and then it was time to make our way for our own "Return to Tombstone." This town is the old western town where the most famous showdown of all in the days of the wild, wild west had taken place at the OK Corral. These days, Tombstone essentially thrives off of this reputation, and so my son really enjoyed this last year. This time, if anything, he had even more fun! We arrived in plenty of time for the 12:00 show, which would show the reenactment of the infamous showdown at the OK Corral. My son really, really got into it, which was great. If you watch the videos below, you will get an idea of just how much he enjoyed it, and it warmed my heart to see that he was not growing up too fast, after all. Afterwards, we visited the museum, then walked the dusty streets of Tombstone. He had wanted desperately to go to the shooting range, and for the first time in his life, to handle a "real gun." And so he did, and he had a blast! I myself am not particularly knowledgeable of guns, not being such a big fan, although I certainly did not want to stand in the way of his having fun on this day especially. After all, he had loved Tombstone last year, and spoke of that day with such reverence, that there was a feeling that this visit had been truly one of the happiest days of his life. I felt very happy, even privileged really, to have been able to set things up to provide him with that, and hoped that this, his second visit, might prove to be even better. Money was tight by the time we reached Tombstone, so we could not spend as freely as I had hoped, and had to curtail some of the things that we had wanted to visit. I had especially wanted to visit the famed Boot Hill, and also hoped to go on a coach ride around town, and perhaps visit the Birdcage Theater, which is the only actual period building still standing. We did go into the lobby of the Birdcage Theater, and indeed, saw some knife slashes and bullet holes dating back to those days when this was the pinnacle of the wild, wild west, so that was satisfactory. In last year's equally brief visit, we had not been told all of that. This time, we were, and we got to see it free of charge, although I did not pay the entrance fee to catch a glimpse of the inside of the theater itself. Again, everywhere you go in Tombstone, everyone wants money, money, money. I was almost overjoyed to see him lose himself in the spirit of the town, and just have fun and be a kid. But for me, as an adult needing to keep an eye on my wallet, there was more than a little source of stress to it not entirely different than the feeling that I had gotten when the California tourist agent had casually told me that a trip to Alcatraz would be about $160 or so per person, and did we want to pay by cash or credit? Of course, at least in Tombstone, you can lose your money in drips, rather than in a flood like with what that agent (who looked surprised and dismissive when I reacted in a shocked manner to how expensive a visit to the famed prison island would be). After our visit, we headed towards Phoenix, although I wanted to find a place in Tuscon that would have the Sonora dogs that, by now, both my son and I wanted to try. Also, I wanted to find a good spot to take an awesome desert picture or two, with at least one or two Saguaro cactus trees, and the mountains in the background, during a colorful (hopefully) desert sunset. We came close in both regards, although no cigars quite in either case, unfortunately. We were late by about ten or so minutes for a truck stand that did serve this elusive local specialty, and having wasted so much time looking for the damn Sonora dogs, we were now running a bit late for the sunset, as well. Got some decent sunset shots, but nothing quite like what I had imagined. Sigh.

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