Saturday, December 31, 2016

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area

   Besides serving to preserve a unique landscape, the conservation area is also the home of the Empire Ranch which has been a working cattle ranch since 1871. In 1876 Walter L. Vail bought the ranch and made additions and improvements to a small adobe house located on the property in preparation for the arrival of his wife from New Jersey. The Vail family owned the ranch until 1921, expanding the original herd of 612 cattle to over 40,000. The next owners, Frank Boice and his family lived on the ranch until 1969. After the Boices sold the ranch it passed through several owners including a couple of companies that were planning on mining and developing the land for housing.  Fortunately the plans for development stalled and the land was obtained by the federal government. It’s managed jointly by the BLM and the Empire Ranch Foundation.

   The Empire Ranch Foundation works to preserve the historic buildings which include the original 1871 adobe house plus the additional rooms that were added through the years. The house and many of the out buildings are opened for self-guided tours. Artifacts and interpretive signs are located in the buildings and on the grounds. A short interpretive trail loops through a stand of cottonwood trees.

The site is partly accessible but wheelchair users may need to have help because of rough and uneven ground. Many of the rooms in the house have ramps. The interpretive trail is hard packed dirt with a slight downhill slope. The last section is rough and steeply uphill so backtracking may be necessary.

  The parking areas at the ranch are large enough for any RV. There are two officially designated primitive camp areas that provide free camping for up to 14 days. We stayed at Cieneguita Camp Area which is a very nice grassland with scrubby trees and good views. Dispersed camping is okay too but only in areas that have already been used.   Las Cienegas    31.76551, -110.62929


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tombstone Museums

  Tombstone survives on tourism so there are plenty of souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, and RV parks. Stage shows and shootouts, tours of all descriptions, and eight small museums provide entertainment. Prices for the shows and museums range between $5.00 and $20.00 with a few that are free. We chose a sampling of everything and went to the O.K. Corral gunfight, the Epitaph Museum, the Courthouse State Park Museum, and the Bird Cage Theater Museum.

The Epitaph Museum has old printing equipment on display plus story boards about the adventure filled life of  John P. Clum, the founder of the Epitaph newspaper. The museum is free and if you go to the O.K. Corral gunfight you’ll receive a coupon for a free historic issue of the paper. The museum is accessible.

  The Courthouse museum has two floors of exhibits about Tombstone, Native Americans and silver mining. The second floor is not accessible although a book of photos is available on request.  Admission is only $5.00 but without access to the second floor or the courtyard it’s not worth the price.


The Bird Cage, which opened in 1882, was in continuous operation, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for eight years. A combination theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel, it was considered “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast”. The coolest thing about it is that when the doors closed in 1889 nobody touched it until 1934 when the new owners established the museum so it’s essentially a time capsule with the original bar, furniture, paintings and even stacks of junk in the storage area. The main floor is accessible. The stage is accessed by steps and is not accessible. The basement is accessed by leaving the building and entering again at the gift shop. Several period lodging rooms have viewing windows that are too high for visitors using wheelchairs.

   The town of Tombstone itself is almost level. The boardwalk sidewalks and ramps are in very good condition. Most of the entrances to the shops, bars, and restaurants are level with the boardwalk.

   RV parking is on South 6th Street. It’s a gravel lot and downhill from the main street. Most of the other lots are marked “ No RV Parking”.  We found a parking space on one of the side streets but this will probably not be possible during busy times.

Attractions   RV Parking Lot - 31.71082, -110.06506


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tombstone Arizona & the O.K. Corral

  Tombstone was founded in 1879 two years after Ed Schieffelin discovered a vein of silver ore close to the surface and easy to mine. By 1881 6,000 miners were working around the clock in the mills and mines, generating more than $168,000 a week (approximately $4,273,800 today) in income. Five years later a series of misfortunes  – water in the mines, a fire that destroyed a pumping engine and a drop in the price of silver – turned Tombstone into a semi ghost town almost overnight.

  Tombstone probably would have settled into being just another almost deserted old mining town except for the public fascination with the story of the gunfight between the Earp brothers (on the side of the law) and a gang of cattle rustlers known as the Cowboys.  A 30-second shootout took place on October 26, 1881, resulting in three dead Cowboys and three wounded lawmen. Numerous documentaries, movies, novels, and television shows have been based on the story.

   If you visit Tombstone it’s obligatory to go to the reenactment of the gunfight. ;- ) It’s hokey but fun. Admission also includes a historama show, five small buildings with artifacts and displays, and a copy of a 1880’s newspaper.

   Most of the O.K. Corral site is accessible. The outside display area is surfaced with gravel and can be a bit difficult to push through. The gunfight stage has bleacher seating without any open spaces for wheelchairs so visitors in wheelchairs block access to some of the steps.

   RV parking is on South 6th Street. It’s a gravel lot and downhill from the main street. Most of the other lots are marked “ No RV Parking”.  We found a parking space on one of the side streets but this will probably not be possible during busy times.

O.K. Corral   31.71296, -110.06759


Monday, December 19, 2016

Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

  Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880. 8 billion pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver, and 2.8 million ounces of gold were pulled from the ground but by 1974 all mining ceased as it became increasingly unprofitable. The town steadily lost population but was saved by a growing influx of artists and retirees who helped make it into a tourist destination. Galleries, antique stores and unique gift shops line Main street. Murals and graffiti art decorate many buildings and walls.


   We were able to visit the ground level of the museum only because the elevator is broken and is not likely to be fixed in the near future. The main entrance has steps so call for access or have one of your party alert the staff to open the side door. Follow the sidewalk to the west side of the building for the accessible entrance. The museum has very good exhibits. The ground floor exhibits are centered on the people of Bisbee, how they adapted to living in a mining town and the conflicts between the unions and the mine owners.


  Bisbee like many mining towns is very hilly but the main street is almost level. The sidewalks and curb cuts are in good condition and about half of the businesses have accessible entrances.

  Most of the parking lots are small and there’s little on-street parking. We parked in the large Copper Queen Plaza Convention Center Lot on the east end of town. A sign with parking prices was turned face down so we didn’t have to pay but the RV price is $15.00 a day.   Museum   31.44189, -109.91449


Lavender Pit Viewing Area

   In the early 1900s, Copper Queen Mine was the most productive copper mine in Arizona. After underground mining removed all of the high grade ore Phelps Dodge Corporation, the owner of the mine, began open pit mining of the lower grade ore. The pit mining operation, which started in 1950 and ended in 1974, left a 900’ deep hole with a small pool of water at the bottom. An overlook with interpretive signs allows visitors to look into the pit.

  The overlook is accessible. Safety features include a guard rail made from pipe and a chain link fence. The rail has openings to access a sidewalk bordered by the chain link fence. The openings are narrow so wide wheelchairs and scooters may be blocked from the sidewalk. The chain link fence has holes cut out at adult and child level for an unobstructed view of the pit.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Both access points have a dip where the road meets the lot so go slowly.
Pit   31.43584, -109.90036

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Chiricahua Desert Museum

  The name of this museum is a little misleading. It’s really just snakes! There are a few Native American artifacts but mostly it’s snakes! There are live snakes, snake sculptures, snake paintings, and snake skeletons plus some lizards and turtles.

  The museum is accessible but some of the terrariums that house the snakes are too high to view. We missed garden because we weren’t aware of its existence but from the photos on the website it does not look accessible.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.

   Museum    31.8703, -109.0353

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum

  Along with historic exhibits on ranching, the military, Hispanic culture, Czechoslovakian immigrants and local businesses the museum also has large collections of donated items – geodes, bells, liquor bottles, Native American pottery, shoe button hooks, dolls, toys, nutcrackers, and many other things. The beautiful condition of museum and displays is a source of pride to the friendly volunteers who run the museum.

   Follow the sidewalk from the accessible parking spots to the side door and ring the bell for access.  An elevator accesses the second floor. The museum has no obstacles  and most of the exhibits are easy to view.

  Short RVs will fit in the spaces and long RVs can be parked lengthwise across the spaces.  Museum    32.26652, -107.75699

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

  There’s a lot of variety in this museum and all of it is very nicely done. The outdoor section known as the “South Twenty” has corrals and barns sheltering different breeds of cattle, sheep, and goats raised in New Mexico. Many pieces of antique farm equipment are also on display.
  The indoor galleries cover the history of the area beginning with the Mogollon tribes who began farming in New Mexico several thousand years ago. Spanish settlers arrived in the 1600s and were soon joined by Anglo settlers from the US and Europe. Artifacts and wonderful period photographs round out the stories of  these diverse groups of people. Several galleries feature changing exhibits keeping with the theme of farming, ranching, and rural life. It’s easy to miss sections of the museum so make sure to explore all corners of the building.

  The outdoor exhibits are partly accessible. The main path is paved. The other paths are surfaced with loose gravel that is very hard to push through.  A shuttle tour is available but it does not appear to be accessible. The indoor galleries are accessible.

  The parking lot is large but there aren’t any long spaces so RVs must be parked lengthwise across the car spaces.
Museum   32.29974, -106.72181
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