Life on the Road

Car Trip – Tombstone

Tombstone's most famous place.

Tombstone’s most famous place.

I’m your Huckleberry.

I don’t know if Doc Holliday ever actually said that, but it sure was cool coming out of Val Kilmer’s mouth in “Tombstone” – the 1993 hit movie.

The town of Tombstone has the motto “The town too tough to die.” Well, maybe.

A lot of people died of “unnatural” causes in Tombstone between 1879 and about 1889. So yes, it was tough, but not really all that much worse than Dodge City or Deadwood or Abilene or a hundred other boom towns that sprung up all over the west in the later half of the 19th century.

In reality, the town didn’t die mainly due to luck and timing. After the silver mine that supported the town went south, it should have become a ghost town. That didn’t happen because it was the County Seat of Cochise County. The courthouse and other places important to the County were there. That changed in 1929, when the County Seat was moved to Bisbee, but by that time people were starting to find out about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

So bottom line, Hollywood movies and “tell all” books started to capitalize on the Wyatt Earp legend just in time for Tombstone.

I may sound a little cynical about this, but let me be clear. This was a great thing, because we still have Tombstone, and it is a gem. Yeah, there is a lot of tourist kitsch, and almost everything worth seeing costs money. There are a few places that were partially ruined because they were “fixed” in a way that wiped out some original details. I don’t care about those flaws, because so much still exists. More of the 19th century remains here than anywhere else I’ve been.

The Birdcage

The Birdcage Theater

One of the most interesting places in Tombstone is the Birdcage Theater. This place was really infamous. It was a combination burlesque theater, brothel, bar, and gambling hall. It’s been said that there are over 120 bullet holes in the walls and ceilings of the Birdcage. It was open 24/7 for most of its heyday. There was a poker game that went on in the basement, non stop, for over eight years! Some very famous people from the 1880s played in this game, and we aren’t talking just Tombstone locals. Examples would be George Hearst and Diamond Jim Brady, along with locals like Doc Holliday and Earp pal Bat Masterson. The Birdcage Theater shut it’s doors in about 1889, and was sealed up until 1934. As a result, the contents of the building were virtually untouched during that time. When the people who bought the building in 1934 saw this, they decided to turn it into a museum.

Items that are in the Birdcage Theater include the pool table that Morgan Earp was shot by (complete with blood stains), and the Faro table that Doc Holliday used as a dealer. The basement room that the long-running Poker Game was held in is still intact, as are the booths above the theater where “soiled doves” entertained their johns. The lobby has the original bar, and a famous painting of Fatima, a belly dancer. I’ve seen the painting in several books. It was really cool to see the original.

The original paining of Fatima, hanging in the lobby of the Birdcage Theater

The original paining of Fatima, hanging in the lobby of the Birdcage Theater

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon was another fun place. The building used to be the Grand Hotel, but it was damaged by fire during its heyday. It was repaired and re-purposed as a saloon with a gift shop called “The Shaft” in the basement, which you reach via a spiral staircase in the middle of the first floor room. You can still see some of the charred beams left as is after the fire. This place is a mixture of historic items and tourist kitsch, but it is great fun. It appeared to me that locals hang out here more than some of the other places. The bar is very long, and original to the building, although it has been moved. It used to be in the basement of the Hotel, and most of the famous locals of the 1880s have bellied up to it, including the Earps, the Clantons, the McLaury’s, Doc Holliday, and Curly Bill. When members of the “Cowboy” faction came into town, they generally stayed in the Grand Hotel. I enjoyed sitting at the bar. Food and drink are good at this saloon. I had a Reuben sandwich that the waiter said was “the best in the state” – and I believe it. Gobs of really good sliced corned beef. Laura had the Beef Brisket, which she said was very good. There is a very good IPA on tap. Laura doesn’t like beer, but she had a Sarsaparilla, which is very much like Root Beer. I’ll be back to Big Nose Kate’s.

The long bar at Big Nose Kate's Saloon

The long bar at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon

The OK Corral is said to be the site of the famous battle between the Earp faction and the Cowboy faction, on October 26th, 1881. In reality, the fight happened in a vacant lot next to the OK Corral, and on Fremont street, which is just behind it. You can freely walk to the actual site. It’s not behind any walls, and there is a plaque on the wall, along Fremont Street. The OK Corral is behind walls, and you have to pay to see it. There are reenactment shows of the battle done there several times daily. We got there too late in the day to see that, but when we go back someday, we’ll pay the fee to go in. There are some artifacts here that would be worth seeing.

OK Corral Plaque on Fremont Street

OK Corral Plaque on Fremont Street

The Campbell and Hatch Saloon and Billiard hall was the site where Morgan Earp was mortally shot. It’s now a Gift Shop, but it’s clearly marked. Not a lot to see there, though.

This building housed the Pool Hall where Morgan Earp met his end

This building housed the Pool Hall where Morgan Earp met his end

Boot Hill Cemetery is just a few hundred yards outside of town. We drove by it on a Ghost Tour in the evening, but it’s got high fences around it, so we really couldn’t see anything there. This is another place I will pay to get into when we come back here. Apparently it’s pretty interesting. There is a famous picture which was taken there that appears to show a ghost in the background. Is it real? That’s for y’all to decide. Here’s a link to the picture:

Link to Ghost Picture at Boot Hill

There were several other places there that we didn’t have time to see. The Oriental Saloon is one. If you’ve seen the 1993 film, this is the place where Wyatt Earp dealt Faro after taking the table away from a hot head (played by Billy Bob Thornton). Another was the courthouse – a stately looking brick building that is open for tours. The Longhorn Restaurant is in the building that used to house the Bucket of Blood saloon, another must see place which claims to be the longest continuously running restaurant in Arizona. There is also the Crystal Palace saloon, which was originally the Golden Eagle Brewery.

The Oriental Saloon, on the corner of this building

The Oriental Saloon, on the corner of this building

This stop on our car tour was right at the tail end, and both Laura and I were antsy to get home, so we only spent the afternoon and evening there. Then we drove all the way home to Redondo Beach, CA. It was a very long drive.

There is a small RV park right in the old part of town, so we plan to go back after we get our RV and stay there several days.

RV Park right next to the old part of Tombstone

RV Park right next to the old part of Tombstone

You know a place is interesting when it leaves something behind in you. Tombstone is one of those places for me. Can’t wait to get back.

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Back Home! And Izzy is Happy, Happy, Happy


Home Sweet Home.

After 20 days gone, we really mean it!

Our last stop was Tombstone (which Bob will more adequately post about our time there) and we were staying at one of our nicer places, the Landmark Lookout Lodge, a very cool pet-friendly place on the outskirts of town.  We had a view of the expansive desert, it was peaceful and they even had a cooked-to-order breakfast which was actually the best free breakfast we had on the trip.

We had the option of staying an additional night, and it was very nice, and we could have done more or driven down to Bisbee and hung out with desert hippies, but we just couldn’t do it.  Literally, we both knew we had to get home . . . no matter what.

(Parenthetical note:  I knew we had to leave as I counted our underwear and realized it was either we leave now, or we head to a laundromat.)

So the “Bataan death march” began as we got up early, watched the sunrise over the desert (wowza), ate that great breakfast and got the hell out of Dodge . . . er, Tombstone.

It’s a long drive through Tucson and Phoenix and then into the sprawl that is Los Angeles, which starts at Riverside.  Luckily, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. day which meant that some people were not working.  Had it been any typical Monday, it might have taken even longer to get home.

As it was, we made it home in good time.  As Bob disgorged the car, I made a grocery trip, and then we just stared at the TV set all night.  We stared at the TV because: (1) we were exhausted; and (2) we came home to a dead router, so no internet access – hey, welcome home!

It’s been a long trip and I think it helped us clarify some things which we’ll write about more here.

We also have a few trip reports to do which we’ll get to over the next few days.

Today, I took Izzy for her morning walk and she pulled me along to “her” gopher zone.  She gleefully pounced on several possible spots looking for the varmints.  No luck today, but as she bounced about, tail wagging excitedly, I thought I could hear her whisper, “Happy, happy, happy!”

Yes, it’s good to be home.

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Road Trip – Central Texas

Laura and I are spending about four days in Central Texas. We started in Austin for two days, then on to San Antonio (where we are now). In the middle, we took a look at Hill Country real estate. Tomorrow it will be on to Fredericksburg.

Austin State Capital Building

Austin State Capital Building

Austin is a pretty cool city. It’s known for several things. First, it’s the State Capital of Texas. It’s also a major center for music, mainly Country. And finally, it’s the only “liberal” city in Texas. We were there mid-week, so we didn’t get to see any of the music activities there, but apparently the weekends come alive with music in many places and many forms. We did get to see some of the liberals on parade. We parked in the City Hall parking lot. When we got there, a bunch of people were ready to protest. They had a big banner stretched across the entrance to City Hall that said “Hunger Strike against Flouride!” Hahahaha. There was another protest going in front of the Capital building – something about “Women for Peace.” Laura and I are looking for a place to settle long term, and Austin is one of the places on our short list. I liked it there, but am a little nervous about the politics. I don’t want to land in a city that wants to take away my gun rights or tells me that I can’t de-claw my cats or use plastic grocery bags. We have a city like that in California, right down the 405 freeway from where we live. It’s called Santa Monica (and it’s the place I was born, by the way). Many people in the surrounding cities call it the “People’s Republic of Santa Monica.” Some people love it that way. To each his own.

One place that is a must see in Austin is the Old Bakery, which is just across the street from the Capital building. It’s a really nice old building from the mid 1800s that has been preserved. The first floor is a visitor’s center and gift shop. The second floor has a small museum. There were very nice people handling the counter downstairs who love to talk about their city. Very interesting and enjoyable.

One big downside about Austin is the roads. They are extremely confusing. I won’t bore you with the details on that. I’ll just say this. Have a good GPS unit with you. Otherwise, you are liable to get lost.

Both Laura and I have heard very nice things about the Hill Country, so we decided to look at some housing tracts there while we were driving from Austin to San Antonio.


Hill Country Tract. Large house on a nice piece of land.

We looked at a couple of tracks in New Braunfels, one of the many small towns in the area with a German heritage. Wow. We really liked this area. The two tracts we looked at were mainly “pick the land, work with a builder” type communities. The first place we looked at had a model house. It was a HUGE 3700 Sq Ft one story house. Very nice, on a little over an acre. This model home was for sale…..for $570,000. That’s a lot for Texas, but it is more than $200,000 less expensive than our much smaller condo in Redondo Beach, CA. Location, location, location as they say. The second tract that we looked at was similar, but it was a gated community, and the taxes were a little bit lower due to the community it was in. We had very nice conversations with the brokers in both locations. Bottom line, we could get a 2500 sq ft house built on an acre or more in either of these tracts for about $375,000. That’s pretty tempting. We aren’t going to be pulling the trigger on a major move like that in the near future, but perhaps in the next 5 – 10 years it can happen. I liked the idea of the Gated community, because of the added security. We plan on being off in our RV for months at a time, so having that added level of protection while we are gone sounds kind of nice. Time will tell… thing that scares us is the fact that, if we leave SoCal, it would be pretty much impossible to get back there. And then there is the weather. Higher summer temperatures plus higher humidity. How much would that bother us? Hard to know.

Now, on to San Antonio.

The Shrine

The Shrine

San Antonio is one of my favorite cities. I’ve been here twice before, on business trips with my former employer.

San Antonio has the Alamo. This is one of the handful of places that I find really moving. Why? I’m not really sure.

Laura and I have a special connection with this place. I’m related to Sam Houston. Laura is related to Davy Crockett. That is kind of weird, I guess, but not that unusual. Like most other people who lived in the early 1800s, both of these historical figures have lots of descendants populating the world of today. My Grandmother on my Dad’s side is the connection to Sam Houston. She said the family pronounced the name “Houseton.” Grandma’s mother had Houston as her maiden name. The way my Grandmother told it, Sam was the black sheep, who cavorted with Indians and left the family behind. I couldn’t see much family resemblance between Grandma and Sam Houston. Then I saw a photo of Temple Houston, Sam’s last child. Whoa. He looked a lot like Grandma. But is this the reason I find the place so moving? I don’t think so.

The were two other places I’ve been to that make me feel in a similar way. One was a battlefield in a forest right outside of Sitka, Alaska. The other place was the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC. At these places, and at the Alamo, I felt something like a vibration when approaching, and then I’m tearing up to an extent that is hard to control. I’ve only been to Sitka and the Vietnam Memorial once, but I’ve been to the Alamo three times now (counting today), and it’s happened to me all three times. Am I feeling some kind of sorrow that is left behind at these places? No blood was shed at the Vietnam Memorial, but family members who lost loved ones have been there by the thousands. What’s up with Sitka? I have no idea. The battle was between Russians and the Tlingit people, but I haven’t read anything about that conflict being especially horrific. As we all know, the Alamo was a terrible battle, and all of the defenders of the Alamo were slaughtered, along with a large number of Santa Ana’s army.

Once we get our RV, and can travel to sites like Gettysburg or Bull Run, it will be interesting to see if they have a similar impact on me.

To round out the night, Laura and I took a stroll on the Riverwalk and had a nice dinner.



I always feel very much at ease when I’m in Texas. It was a good day.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Fredricksburg for more Hill Country exploring.

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Tale of Two Toothbrushes

2 toothbrushes

We’ve been on the road since January 1, a total of 13 days.  Just the other day, I noticed my toothbrush had been “used”.  I’m not sure what it was about it, but I knew it had been used in someone’s mouth and that mouth was decidedly not mine.

Now using someone else’s toothbrush is kinda . . . gross.  But then again, the only other person to use my toothbrush was my husband who I’ve been known to share spit with on occasion, so how gross could it be?

And I could understand his confusion.  We have an Oral B electric toothbrush set which only distinguishes the brushes by small colored bands.  When you switch out the heads as you’re supposed to every three months (ha!), you do have to be careful to not pick the same color as the other member of your household.  It’s only right and proper.

The other thing you can do is have a completely different brush head than the other toothbrush.  That’s what I did for a time – the set I bought at Costco had several different ones, so I used the “polishing” head which had weird little suction cups to mimic the polishing you get at the dentist’s office.

But before the trip, I thought to hell with that, I’m going back to the primary brush head that gets all the junk between my teeth out.  I’m a great believer in oral health.  I plan on dying with these teeth firmly affixed in my jaw which doesn’t seem to be an unusual goal.  In an earlier generation, it might have been, but not today.

So . . . I explained as gently as possible, “Uh, honey, the toothbrush with the yellow band is mine.” (subtext:  QUIT using MY toothbrush!)

Several times he’s looked at me puzzled and said, “Yellow?” and I nod sadly “uh-huh”.

No doubt he’s embarrassed that he’s managed to use my toothbrush several times.  I’d be embarrassed if I used his, too.

After all, boys have cooties – everybody knows that.

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