The Only Blogger Who Hasn’t Been to Bisbee?

Another one of those “out west” places that feels like its approaching blogger cliché status is Bisbee, Arizona.   After following RV blogs for about six years now, making my list of places to visit from others who have been before me, Bisbee sounds like a place I would love. It’s warranted a post from just about every blogger making the rounds through southern Arizona, using words like “funky,” “hippie vibe,” and “quirky charm.” Those descriptions alone are enough to beckon me, let alone the promise of good beer.

The little Queen Mine RV Park is a gravel platform overlooking the historic town of Bisbee on one side...

The little Queen Mine RV Park is a gravel platform overlooking the historic town of Bisbee on one side…

Looking from the other side of the RV Park overlooks the Lavender open pit mine.

Looking from the other side of the RV Park overlooks the Lavender open pit mine.

Looking down into Lavender Pit Mine. The pit is 4,000 ft wide, 5,000 ft long, and 850 ft deep, Open pit mining started in 1917, ended in 1974.

Looking down into Lavender Pit Mine. The pit is 4,000 ft wide, 5,000 ft long, and 850 ft deep, Open pit mining started in 1917, ended in 1974.

As one who always strives not to repeat too many destinations, it should say something about Bisbee’s charm that I stopped not once, but twice.   I didn’t want to pass it up on my way out west this year for fear that I wouldn’t double back. So I made a quick swoop down on my way to meet my Atlanta friend Cheryl in Lost Dutchman State Park. But it also made a perfect meet-up place on my way back from Chiricahua to rendezvous with friends John and Mary on their way back to Maine after wintering in the desert.

It's fun just walking Bisbee's streets, checking out all the vintage shops and hangouts.

It’s fun just walking Bisbee’s streets, checking out all the vintage shops and hangouts.

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Just another quirky corner, advertising the Turkey Vulture festival on one side, and a peace movement on the other.

Just another quirky corner, advertising the Turkey Vulture festival on one side, and a peace movement on the other.

Good or bad news, depending on how you look at it, chocolate shop is only open on the weekends.

Good or bad news, depending on how you look at it, chocolate shop is only open on the weekends.

Reported to have "The Best Year Round Climate on Earth."

Reported to have “The Best Year Round Climate on Earth.”

Granted, Bisbee is all the things my blogger friends have said about it, but what I find particularly endearing is the little Queen Mine RV Park perched up on the hill within walking distance to town.  The compact RV Park sits up on a saddle of sorts, overlooking the Lavender Pit Mine on one side, and the Copper Queen Mine on the other, with the small town of Bisbee nestled between two intersecting canyons below.  Even if it weren’t “the only game in town,” I would still love this little park.   Though just a gravel parking lot, its small size (25 rigs) gives the feeling of intimacy, while the clean restrooms and laundry offer all the conveniences I need.  And the 5,000 ft elevation offers a welcome break from the heat of the desert floor.

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Note giant fly over door. Flies are a part of the Bisbee schtich. In 1912, there was an epidemic of fly-born diseases, so the city had a contest offering cash for whomever killed the most flies. Counts from cigar boxes and jars filled indicate 2 million flies killed.

Note giant fly over door. Flies are a part of the Bisbee shtick. In 1912, there was an epidemic of fly-born diseases, so the city had a contest offering cash for whomever killed the most flies. Counts from cigar boxes and jars filled indicate 2 million flies killed.

More insects...giant fly over the Bisbee theater, decorated with silhouettes of Beatles.

More insects…giant fly graces the front of the Bisbee theater, while also decorated with silhouettes of Beatles from the “HELP!” album.

Classy Cocktails...from Cafe Roka. Sit at the bar. If you are a bourbon fan, ask for the "Cynar Boulevardier." Smooth and sultry.

Classy Cocktails…from Cafe Roka. Sit at the bar. If you are a bourbon fan, ask for the “Cynar Boulevardier.” Smooth and sexy.

Just a five minute walk down the hill leads to Historic Bisbee, with street names like Tombstone Canyon and Brewery Gulch.  Main Street is lined with vintage shops selling walks down memory lane in the form of tie-dyes and turntables.

Bisbee, a former mining town, was all but wiped out when open-pit mining was halted in 1974.  In its heyday, it was producing eight billion pounds of copper, as well as gold, silver, lead and zinc, making it one of the world’s most productive mining districts.  Houses were built up the hillsides via a labyrinth of connecting staircases to afford close proximity to the mines.  Those stairs help contribute to the modern-day novelty by bringing in tourists for the Bisbee 1,000 Stair Climb in October.

Another of Bisbee's fun quirks are their many staircases that wind through the hillside homes.

Another of Bisbee’s fun quirks are their many staircases that wind through the hillside homes.

They have a race, the Bisbee 1000 every October.

They have a race, the Bisbee 1000 every October.

Is a black cat reason enough to skip this section of the Bisbee 1000?

Is a black cat reason enough to skip this section of the Bisbee 1000?

Some fun and funky fence gates grace along the stairs.

Some fun and funky fence gates grace along the stairs.

Open the car door and come on in!

Open the car door and come on in!

As much fun as I had exploring Bisbee the first time through, climbing the stairs and photographing the oddities along the way, it was even more fun the second time around.  It was the perfect meet-up place to see my friends John and Mary from Kennebunk.  Former View/Navion owners, they are now considered “SOBs,” (Some Other Brand) as they just traded their Winnebago Navion for a shiny Winnebago Aspect.    At least they stayed in the Winnebago family.  😉

Just down the road in one of the surrounding neighborhoods is the town of Lowell.

Just down the road in one of the surrounding neighborhoods is the town of Lowell, famous for its main street lined with vintage automobiles.

Lowell is famous for its main street lined with vintage automobiles. Harley Davidson riders always know where the best diners are, so just down the block is the Bisbee Breakfast Company.

Harley Davidson riders always know where the best diners are, so just down the block is the Bisbee Breakfast Company.

As a fan of riding the Mexican bus, I love this old "Strayhound!"

As a fan of riding the Mexican bus, I love this old “Strayhound!”

The aliens can't be wrong!

The aliens can’t be wrong!

Meeting up with good friends is always cause for celebration, and there are plenty of opportunities to imbibe in Bisbee.   From the top rated restaurant, Café Roka, where the bar takes center stage and the mixologist explains options to expand one’s palate, to chasing Double IPAs with popcorn at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.  But the night I will remember most was sitting in John and Mary’s new lair listening to good music, talking travel tales while sipping reds, whites and brews.

Perhaps the best reason to visit Bisbee...the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.

Perhaps the best reason to visit Bisbee…the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.

A tasting flight of gateway beers...

A tasting flight of gateway beers…

Belly up to the brew tanks!

Belly up to the brew tanks!

I have never been an IPA fan, but after their Double IPA, I am a convert.

I have never been an IPA fan, but after their Double IPA, I am a convert.

On a whim, John, Mary and I decide to take the tour of the Copper Queen Mine located just below the RV park. Though not for the claustrophobic, it was fun sitting astride the makeshift seats from old ore cars, riding the rails into the belly of the mine. The tour is led by retired miners who describe the evolution of mining methods over the years. In operation for 100 years, at one point the mine produced 50% of Arizona’s copper, eight billion pounds worth.

The doors to the Queen Mine beckon...

The doors to the Queen Mine beckon…

Who can resist a chance to ride a motorized iron horse?

Who can resist a chance to ride a motorized iron horse?

This is quite a popular tour, as former mine workers tell the history of life of a mine worker.

This is quite a popular tour, as former mine workers tell the history of life of a mine worker.

Lots of colorful rock. I never knew the semi-precious gems of turquoise and malachite were byproducts in a copper mine.

Lots of colorful rock. I never knew the semi-precious gems of turquoise and malachite were byproducts in a copper mine.

The mine supervisor's bike. All others keep off!

The mine supervisor’s bike. All others keep off!

John demonstrates "where to go" when you are a miner.

John demonstrates “where to go” when you are a miner.

I often times try to rationalize the amount of time I spend reading RV blogs. Bisbee is perfect example of why I invest the time. The chances of stumbling upon this cool, quirky town down around the Mexico border would have been slim to none without friends who had gone before me. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on whether I am trying to get a reservation at the only RV park in town. 😉

21 thoughts on “The Only Blogger Who Hasn’t Been to Bisbee?

  1. What fantastic photos! We were thinking of going there but never made it. Now it’s on the bucket list. Love the way you write and your approach to life. Thank you for sharing

  2. Excellent! As you know we love Bisbee and have written about it. The town seems to be getting its feet as a tourist destination, at least for some of us and that is nice to see. Roka was great and we will have to sit at the bar next time. Santiago’s is terrific Mexican and of course, the BBC for breakfast. All must see TV. Great photos! See you soon we hope!

  3. If we ever make it out to this part of the country, I would love to visit here. Everyone makes it sound so interesting and fun!

  4. So g;ad you finally made it to Bisbee! It is such a cute town. There are a couple of really neat hikes in the hills by the town. Of course one needs to complete the 1000 step challenge! Sure is a fun way to see the hidden gems. I do believe we have eaten at every restaurant in town. Cafe Roka is our all time favorite. The food is amazing! We always stay in Naco at the park/gold course. We split time between hiking and golf.

  5. Bisbee looks even more quirky and iconic than it did when we last visited there…I guess I would have to go look at my blog to remember the year. :) Loved your photos and stories. What fun! So glad to see YOU having some real fun as well.

  6. It’s such a cool little town…Hans even says we should think about living there every once in a while! We last visited pre-RV so we stayed in a wonderful little B&B on the hillside, great for immersion into the funky vibe! Thanks for taking me back to Bisbee!

  7. I haven’t been there, yet. Although many bloggers tell a good story as to why I should, including yourself. Glad I have a friend who lives there with space in the driveway for my camper. One of these days, but no stair races please.

  8. I have yet to visit Bisbee. I’ve been close by but never dipped south enough for a visit. You took some nice pics and wrote a good post.

  9. I was going to say “now I’m the only one who hasn’t been to Bisbee” but I see in previous comments that would not be true. I must say that every blog I’ve read which I imagine are the same ones you read, has shown different things about Bisbee and yours is no exception. How can a little town have so much variety? Can’t remember if anyone ever said how many full time residents there are but they must be a seriously fun group. So will you be back for the 1000?? Apparently it has the best year round climate on Earth and all the flies are controlled. Great post! Thanks!

  10. As cool as Bisbee is we enjoyed Lowell even more. Loved that “throwback” down and all the cars and shops. Glad to see you made it on the mine tour. When we were there we pulled into that small RV park thinking we could park our big rig up there while we took the tour. We had a heck of a time turning around!

  11. You had me at Cynar Boulevardier! We have not been to Bisbee during our time as RVers, but went during our Harley days. I’m sure it has changed a lot since then. Every time I read a Bisbee post, it makes me want to pack my bags and head out.

  12. The Bisbee Chamber of Commerce should at the very least present you the keys to the city & make you Mayor for a day. Well done!

  13. Great pictures (as always ). Good to see John & Mary too. Sounds like a fun trip, but you missed the Bisbee Bike Brothell. Always next time.

  14. There’s tons of these sort of towns, dotting the countryside. Calumet, Michigan , another copper mining town comes to mind. Beautiful stone buildings, Caruso sang there at the Opera house. in the 1900’s..and they’re mostly mining towns. Here today……gone tomorrow.

    Big holes left behind in Bisbee. and elsewhere I’ve been to Bisbee, liked it, but what a huge hole in the ground.!

    bon voyage

  15. Well, I haven’t been to Bisbee, Lowell or Chiricahua so there you go! Been to the Grand Canyon…when I was 8years old! So much to see in this country, always more to discover.

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