There was an error in this gadget

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tucson, Arizona - Part 1

Over the years, we’ve been to destinations across Arizona.  The Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Prescott, Oatman, Bullhead City and Laughlin, Phoenix , Scottsdale, and Yuma have all seen our van pass through.  One glaring section was missing, however, the southeast corner of the state.

Watch the Video!

Tucson is an all day drive from L.A.  We broke it up by spending the night in Yuma along the way.

It’s midafternoon when we finally pull into our hotel, the Radisson Suites located east of downtown Tucson on Speedway Blvd.  We have a true two-room suite with a separate living room and bedroom.  The bathroom area is also two rooms, the bathroom itself and a dressing area outside with a closet and a sink.

In the bathroom, there is a bathtub with a shower seat provided by the hotel, a roll-under sink, and a no-step shower.  Not quite a roll-in, but you could put the shower seat there and transfer to it in the shower…as long as you’re not too wide.  The bedroom has a flat-screen LCD TV while the living room has an older picture tube model.

Outside is a large pool in a lush, landscaped courtyard with a spa and a large firepit for the evening.  A restaurant and bar off to the side provide a generous breakfast buffet in the morning, meals throughout the day, and a happy hour at night.  The breakfast was included for an extra ten dollars.

After unpacking, we eat our first meal in the city at Rosa’s Mexican Food on Fort Lowell Road.  This is Willie Nelson’s favorite place to eat in the city.  It’s in the back of a nondescript strip mall and is your usual Mexican restaurant.  We start off with mediocre margaritas (made with mix, not from scratch), some really good enchiladas and chile rellenos, and finish off with sopapillas which are fried dough covered with honey and served with whipped cream.

Except for the margaritas, it was all very wonderful and inexpensive.

We take a quick drive over to downtown Tucson, which is in the middle of redevelopment.  It looks like a fun place.  I stop off at the restored Fox Theater there and pick up some tickets for a concert the next night.

With that done, we get a bottle of wine, some bread, cheese, and settle in for a quiet night in. 
Except that it wasn’t that quiet.  A large group of kids were in the hotel making a lot of noise late.  I slept right through it but Letty and Tim had a rough night.  Had I’d known, I would have called hotel security to shut them up.

In the morning, I went in to take a shower.  The shower head was set to the widest possible spray and I could barely get any water on me.  The water took…and I timed this…9 minutes to warm up.  The bathtub shower head was limp and in serious need of Viagra…it just wouldn’t stay up.

After breakfast, we took our concerns to the manager who moved us upstairs to a similar room with working fixtures.  We also complained about the noise and did not have any more problems with it during our stay.  The water still took 9 minutes to warm up, though.

After eating and moving, we drove out of Tuscon.  Along Kolb Road, on our way to the Interstate, we saw hundreds of military planes, sealed up against the elements, stored on the tarmac.  This is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the planes are part of AMARG – the  Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – which maintains over 4,000 aircraft here in readiness and for surplus.

After the planes, we get to Interstate 10 and head east.  Our destination, 70 minutes away, is the old historic town of Tombstone, better known as the locale of such wild west sites as OK Corral and Boot Hill.

Once in Tombstone, we drive around the old part of town and have a devil of a time finding parking.  We learn that the lot on the other side of Highway 80 designated as OK Corral parking can also be used as a general parking lot for the town and it’s also free so we park there. 

Luckily, traffic is not so intense here so crossing the highway is no big concern.

Letty and Tim have been debating through the morning about attending the gunfight at the OK Corral in the afternoon.  Tim’s disability has the effect of his eardrums not being able to tense up at loud noises like normal folk so he really dislikes loud, sudden noises.  Letty wants to see it and offers to put in earplugs and cover those up with shooter’s headphones.  Tim tentatively agrees…we’ll see.

We start off by going to the visitor’s center.  While the gentleman there is friendly and lots of brochures are available, he won’t provide us with prices for the various attractions around town.  We are told we’ll have to visit each one and ask.  I think that’s what a visitor’s center should do but…

Off we go, strolling down the main street, mixing in with cowboys, gunfighters, soiled doves, and more.  While some of these people work here in those costumes, it also seems like a lot of the locals just like to dress this way.  There is also a contingent of people who also like to come here and play dress up.

Our first stop is to wet our whistle.  We go into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon.  I have to ask one of the employees to open the second side of the double-door so that Tim can get his wheelchair through.  He shows me the trick of pulling on a chain attached to the door that releases it…a little tip that would come in handy time and time again as we visited the various shops in Tombstone.

We belly up to the bar…or roll up to it in Tim’s case…and have a shot of tequila.  Letty visits the gift shop, located down a tiny, narrow, spiral iron staircase downstairs and I request some outlaw country songs from the singer while Tim and I sip our shots.

It’s crowded, but it’s a lot of fun and you need to spend a little time in the saloon where Doc Holliday and the Earp’s used to hang out in.

We continue up the street, visit the lobby of the Bird Cage Theater, turn around and stroll slowly back towards the OK Corral at the other end of town.  

Along the way we see a little plaque saying that Wyatt Earp’s brother was murdered in the shop we were standing in front of.  Of course, we have to go in there and find the spot.

Finally, at the other end of town we arrive at the OK Corral.  It’s 12:30pm and the gunfight is at 2.  Tim is having none of it and offers to wait in the car during the show.  I can’t really let him do that, so the gunfight is scratched from the schedule.  It’s $10 dollars to go into the corral and see the gunfight.  If you don’t want the gunfight, then it’s only $6 so we opt for the cheaper ticket so we can at least visit it.

Inside, at the site of the real gunfight, there’s an audio show with some rudimentary robots standing in for the Earp’s, Doc Holliday, the Clanton’s, and McLaury’s.  The recreated gunfight takes place in an adjacent arena.

We look around, take in some exhibits including a prostitute’s shack, and then visit with the blacksmith who is very friendly and makes a custom horseshoe for Tim.

After that visit, we head back to the other end of town…far away from any gunshots…and have lunch at the Longhorn Steakhouse where we have some very good burgers while waiting for the gunfight to end.

One wonderful thing about Tombstone is that we did not find anything to be inaccessible to wheelchairs.  There are basic...very basic...accessible restrooms at each end of town and it's a very easy 3 block stretch from end-to-end.

After lunch, we drive to the north end of town to the little western cemetery there better known as Boot Hill. Here is where the town buried it's dead back in the wild west days.  The dead from the OK Corral are buried here, as are numerous criminals who were hanged...some "legally" as their headstones say.

Not to forget, the infamous Lester know, "four slugs from a .44.  No Les, No More."

The cemetery is mostly wheelchair accessible.  It's dirt, so expect so bumpy, rocky paths but for the most part, you'll be able to visit it.  It's also free, although a donation is requested.

Back in the car, we settle in for the drive back to Tucson.

There’s more to come, stay tuned for part 2 of this trip.

Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


  1. I am not a big fan of the Old West but Tombstone actually looks like a place I would enjoy! Arizona has a lot of great places to explore. My wife went to school in Flagstaff and I liked that area when I visited.

  2. I'm not a huge Old West fan, either, but I really enjoyed this tour. I also appreciate the warning about the store-bought magaritas. Thanks for posting!