Exploring southeastern Arizona
We're suckers for a short driving day, and had an itch to try out our new generator, so from Tucson we headed south into the grasslands to the Las Cienegas Refuge.
In just under an hour, we left behind cacti forests for open fields punctuated by stocky Mesquite trees and backed by snow capped mountains.
We couldn't have asked for a better initiation to boondocking*, and it was hard to pine too much for Tucson and Gilbert Ray in such a pretty spot.
The refuge is also home to the Empire Ranch, a working cattle ranch for 140 years that passed through ownership by two major ranching families, a corporation that had planned to mine the area, and finally the BLM who opened the land to the public. You can take a self-guided tour of the old ranch headquarters and meander the trail around it, which we paused to do on our drive out.
*For our non-RV'ing friends and our folks — boondocking just means off-grid, free camping where you're not plugged in to water or electric hookups. Sometimes there are official camp spots made by the Bureau of Land Management, and in some places — like the desert — it's just big open areas.
The thing about boondocking is — there's no laundry. We stayed as long as we could, but eventually the call of clean underwear beckoned us into Tombstone, where we also got a chance to meet up with fellow Airstreamers & Portlandians Jenn and Shaun from Living Driven.
Meeting new road friends was definitely the highlight of Tombstone for us. We got to chat about life in 188 square feet, learning to drive a rig, the hilarity that ensues in the beginning and destinations. Plus they shared an amazing Oregon Pinot Noir with us, which basically makes them lifetime friends in our book (if you're ever thousands of miles away from Oregon in a Pinot desert, you'll understand). We loved the Tombstone Courthouse Museum where we saw awesome paintings like the one above, but the whole old-timey costumes, daily gun fight shows and $5 ghost tours isn't really our thing.
One of those places that seems to make all the "best of" lists, Bisbee is a small gem of a town in southern Arizona about 10 miles from the Mexican border.
After checking into the Queen Mine RV Park — a handful of spaces perched above the old mine — we hightailed it down the hill in search of coffee and adventure.
At our first stop at Old Bisbee Roasters, the owner, a gregarious guy who we're pretty sure drinks more coffee than anyone else on earth, poured us each 3 shots of espresso to taste and told us a little about what it's like to live in Bisbee, and a lot about coffee. He talked about how, yes, everyone knows everyone's business, but he liked that it's a place where you kinda have to be social. The town is built so steep that the post office won't deliver, and the garbage company won't pick up. Want to get your mail or to throw away your recycling? Head to the center of town and gab awhile with your neighbors while you do it.
Forty-five minutes later, hopped on caffeine and small town love, we trekked up stairways, through alleys and down the steep streets admiring each small and improbably situated house until we deemed it time for gelato, a chat about Arizona wine with the French fellow who owned the gelato shop and then home.
We passed the rest of our time in Bisbee in much the same way, huffing up stairs, finding something delicious, talking to locals or other visitors and just generally enjoying life.
We could have stayed in Bisbee awhile longer, but with the weather warming up, and our appreciation for Arizona only growing, we decided to backtrack to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon before heading into New Mexico.