2009.01.02 Tombstone – The Town Too Tough To Die


The Larian Motel was a great little place to stay. The room not only had two beds, but also a sofa bed, so we did not have to squeeze three kids in one bed. Actually, we have been setting up a blow-up twin size mattress in our hotel rooms along the way, so we’ve not had to have three in a bed, but it was nice to have the sofa bed. The owner/manager of the motel looks like he is straight out of an old movie, with the gray bushy mustache and big cowboy hat.


Larian Motel


We drove just a few blocks from our motel, to Main Street Tombstone and headed straight for the O.K Corral. If you have ever heard of Tombstone, the O.K. Corral is why. This was the location where Wyatt Earp, along with his two brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the Clanton Brothers. I learned on this trip that Erin is related to the Clanton family on her mother’s side, and I thought that was a cool bit of trivia.

The O.K. Corrall puts on a vintage 25 minute “film” that gives a visitor the real history of what happened at the shootout. It was made back in the 1960s and it is narrated by Vincent Price. I have never seen anything quite like it, as it was one part film, one part diorama, and one part pictures. There was a 8-foot-tall rotating diorama and each side represented a different era of Tombstone. The gentleman who sold us the tickets was very personable, and we found out that he attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, for a short time way back when.

After the film, we were able to take a tour of the actual O.K. Corral and then back to the alley behind the Corral where the gunfight actually occurred. They had the 8 participants of the gunfight represented by mannequins which were positioned as they were in the gunfight, according to a diagram drawn by Wyatt Earp years later.


At the OK Corral


After our tour of the O.K. Corral, we took a walk down the Main Street. What a great place! All the shops and stores were open on each side of the street. There were various kinds of tours of Tombstone. You could get a tour on a trolley, a stagecoach, or a covered wagon. If we had the whole day to spend, it would have been fun to go on one of those. On every street corner, and walking down Main Street, where people dressed up as characters from the era, hawking their tours or places of business.


The sidewalk in downtown Tombstone.


Tombstone was the county seat for many years, and it was even promoted as the capital of the Arizona Territory at one time. The County Courthouse was built in 1882, and is now there to take tours of, as the county seat was moved out of Tombstone in 1929. Tombstone has the nickname of “The Town Too Tough To Die”, as the town survived two major fires in its history. While we were there on a Friday morning, there were lots of tourists walking around the town, taking tours, eating at the restaurants and in general, stimulating the economy.

On our walk from the Courthouse to our lunch spot, we ran into the manager of the Four Deuces bar. He was an Oklahoma State grad, originally from Chandler. Chandler was where we started this journey 8 days ago. It turns out that this fellow knows Erin’s Dad, and we talked to him for quite a while. We had heard about this fellow before we ran into him, because earlier in the day everyone else in our group had visited with him.

For lunch, we ate at Big Nose Kate’s, which was the name of one of Wyatt Earp’s wives. We all ordered pizza, burgers and reuben sandwiches. Scott and I washed ours down with a Sarsaparilla. This lunch spot was very crowded, and it came with free entertainment. There was a fellow dressed up in a cowboy outfit who sang to the diners. We heard classics such as “You can find me down at Big Nose Kate’s at closing time”. There was also a Cowboy who greeted the guests and interacted with all the patrons. He asked us where we were from. When we answered, “Oklahoma”, he said, “Welcome to America!”.


Lunch at the Big Nose Kate Saloon


From Main Street, we pulled out of town a mile or so and paid a visit to Boothill Cemetery, home to the three men killed in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, as well as quite a few others. There was not a lot to the cemetery, but it is listed as a National Historic Site, and it did have its own gift shop. So by any definition, it was a legitimate tourist stop.


Boothill Graveyard


We pulled out of Tombstone at 1:30 and set off on our journey to Roswell, New Mexico. On the highway between Tombstone and the Interstate, we had to pull over at a Border Patrol checkpoint. There were 9 Border Patrol agents standing around, just waiting for some action. The young man came over to the window, poked his head in, and asked if everybody in the car was a U.S. Citizen. After a positive answer from us, we were on our way. I suspect that the Border Patrol is fully authorized to use racial profiling in their job, as they could not have been any more disinterested in us.

As soon as we pulled out onto the Interstate, we began seeing billboards for “The Thing?”. What is The Thing? I have no idea, because we didn’t stop, but apparently this is a classic Americana tourist trap, which was established in 1965. In the 20 or so miles before we got to The Thing exit, we must have seen 40 billboards for it. The Thing will be a must-see stop the next time we find ourselves in this part of the country.


One of the many billboards we saw for “The Thing”


The drive across eastern Arizona and western New Mexico is not very stimulating. We drove on primarily flat highways, even though we were always surrounded by mountains. Miles and Mallory entertained themselves by videotaping themselves (with Mallory’s camera) conduct talk radio interviews. Marissa entertained herself by pestering Miles. Scott is providing us periodic bowl game updates, as he is able to listen to them live on KK’s satellite radio. Stephanie is reading books, and the driver gets to entertain himself by continually seeking through the radio dial for any decent stations.

For the first time on our 9 day trip, Marissa announced that we needed to make an emergency bathroom stop. She has been a great traveler; very easy going and agreeable.

As we were driving through Tularosa, New Mexico tonight, we passed a Lowe’s Grocery Store. Back during Stephanie’s television days, Stephanie recalled she had stopped at a grocery store in this area and purchased some fresh tortillas, made right in the store. She recognized the Lowe’s store, so we pulled in. It turned out that she had the grocery store chain correct, but the actual store where the tortillas are made is in a different town. However, this store did sell the tortillas, and she came out with several bags of them, along with a loaf of fresh French bread and a bag of fresh tortilla chips. We snacked on all of these items on the way to Roswell, and they were quite tasty. They would have been even better fresh out of the oven, but we’ll take what we can get.

We passed through yet another Border Patrol checkpoint during this stretch of road. I have lost count now of how many we have driven through during the past two days.

Another thing about the drive from Tularosa to Roswell, is that it seemed as though the entire stretch of road was straight downhill. The funny thing is that I do not recall climbing nearly as much as we descended. We did drive across the Continental Divide earlier today, so I guess we were already at our high elevation and no climbing was required.

We pulled into Roswell about 9:00. From the city limits all the way to Main Street, the only indication that we were in the UFO Capital of the World was a billboard promoting the local McDonalds as the “unofficial landing site”. The inhabitants of both vehicles were very unimpressed. However, once we turned onto Main Street, we found what we were looking for. There was the “Out Of This World Coffeehouse” and the “International UFO Museum”, among others. Also, we passed the aforementioned McDonalds and it is a sight to behold. It is the world’s only UFO-themed McDonalds, and they have gone all out. As we were approaching town, Miles asked if we were going to get to spend all morning looking at the UFO exhibits. I am a big Roswell fan, but KK and Miles have me beat – they are extreme enthusiasts!

After a quick check-in, where KK kindly admonished the desk clerk for not having a Flying Saucer in front of the hotel, everybody went straight to their rooms, and we’re ready for our last night on the road.

I am glad to report that PK is doing much better after her fall yesterday. She is still sore, but she has napped quite a bit today during our drives. I suspect a day of touring UFO memorabilia will be enough to put a spring in her step!

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