After our adventures in Gila National Forest, we were back on the road and headed towards Tombstone, Arizona. 2.5 hours dropped us at the Arizona border, and the landscape was already changing.
I’d always lumped Arizona and New Mexico together in my mind, so I was pretty surprised to see so many differences between the two states. After spending the night in the decidedly scrubby town of Benson (more on that at the end of the post) it was time to visit Tombstone.
Ryan was surprised that I had added Tombstone to our itinerary, and seemed pretty amused by my excitement over visiting “The Town Too Tough to Die.” But I was not to be dissuaded; I’d grown up watching The Lone Ranger and reading Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey novels, and was eager to do some nerdy wild-wild-westing.
We took a quick loop through town to decide what we (okay, I) wanted to do first. I wasn’t too interested in the shops selling touristy trinkets, but I did want to see one of the OK Corral reenactments. We spent an embarrassing amount of money on the tickets, and headed off to find some lunch while waiting for the next show.
We settled on the Crystal Palace Saloon as an excellent place to get historically-accurate food like … nachos.
We also visited the museum of Arizona’s oldest newspaper, the aptly-named Epitaph. Then it was off to witness the reenactment of the infamous shootout at OK Corral.
The show was entertaining, to say the least, and the actors did a good job of hamming to the audience. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp were cheered, while the McLaurys and Clantons were booed by a highly-enthusiastic crowd.
After the reenactment we went to a showing of the Tombstone Historama, which ended up being a totally unique experience. It was a mix between a movie and a spinning diorama, described better than I could by Roadside America:
“The story of Tombstone unfolds through blinking lights, recorded sound effects, and a projection screen that lowers and raises to show Western movie clips, although it often raises and lowers in the middle of whatever it is that you’re supposed to be watching. The screen also serves to hide the lump, which silently, magically has turned to reveal a new scene when the screen is raised …
To depict the fires that destroyed Tombstone, tiny red light bulbs flicker in a few representative buildings. To show the murders of Morgan Earp and Frank Stillwell (who killed Morgan), small wooden people have their internal supports pulled away, allowing them to collapse onto the turntable with an audible “tonk” of wood on wood. We’ll leave it to you to guess how the flooding of the silver mines is depicted.”
My thirst for a thoroughly cheesy wild west experience sated, we grabbed ice cream on our way out of town and continued heading west. It was on to Tucson!
Campground: Benson, Arizona KOA
- Tent site, no hookups.
- Cost: $26.72 (with tax, minus VKR rewards discount)
- Pros: Spotless showers with lots of hot water and great water pressure. Decent & inexpensive laundry facilities.
- Cons: Everything else about this KOA was a solid “meh.” We were happy to have a place to sleep, but it was expensive for a tent site with no hookups, the picnic table provided was pretty busted, and the whole campground was pretty drab. Also, the tent area wasn’t segmented sites — it was just a round, fenced, sand/grass area where people could just throw up a tent anywhere. Luckily it was almost empty when we got there, but it was a less-than ideal situation for car camping.