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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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. 😉