Our move to Arizona has found us living in a town called Vail, at the far east end of Tucson. It predates the same named town in Colorado by about 100 years, but for most of it’s time was a small, dusty railroad stop. The Colorado town has nothing on the Arizona one, the mountains here have more vertical gain above the town – just without so much snow (thankfully).
In the last 30 years it has grown tremendously but still has that ‘outpost’ feel, being at the edge of town, next to the mountains and desert. This posting has random views of some sights around Vail and beyond.
While Route 66 is the most famous east-west route in the pre interstate days, in reality more people actually took U.S. 80 west to California. This route made it’s way across Southern Arizona, including a portion between Benson and Vail, on it’s way to Tucson.
U.S. 80 crosses Cienega Creek on a 1921 bridge, next to where two Southern Pacific railroad routes also traverse the creek. A cienega is a wetland unique to the Southwestern U.S., resulting in a landscape unlike the surrounding area because of the constant availability of water, with large trees lining the banks.
Just to the east is the ghost town of Pantano, another railroad stop in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Today only the water tower remains.
About 30 miles south of Vail is the town of Sonoita. As you cross the Empire Mountains the landscape changes yet again, with large fields of tall grasses, instead of the Sonoran Desert look of Vail.
A local propane dealer has a cool collection of decorated tanks.
While Saguaro National Park East has a Tucson address, it is in the Vail area. It was a good day to take the dog for a walk, and take a closer look at the cacti.
The Vail area, and all of Southern Arizona, have spectacular sunsets.
Lowell, Arizona is just south of Bisbee, and today is officially part of the city of Bisbee. Not only has the town lost it’s population over the years, but it actually lost it’s land as the massive copper pit mining was expanded.
Today a portion of the main street remains, with a collection of old buildings, cars, trucks and buses – but it has a unique appeal. It is the scene of numerous photo and video shoots.
It is only about 20 miles from Tombstone to Bisbee, but culturally it is a world away from the old west gun crowd. Bisbee is known as an artistic town, full of free spirits, having been named the ‘Best Hippie Town in Arizona’.
It was founded in the late 1800s as a mining town, and there is evidence of that everywhere, with the town situated in a steep valley with a 1 street commercial district, and houses scattered up and down the hills.
Many of the houses and commercial buildings have interesting architecture, but the crown jewel is the Art Deco Cochise County Courthouse.
When the mining eventually died out in the 1970s, the artistic crowd found the town perfect for them, with a fantastic climate, interesting architecture and affordability. Today the town thrives on as one of the destinations in Southern Arizona.
The tourist bureau says Tombstone, Arizona is ‘authentic old west’, and the town is on the National Historic Registry. While the buildings are old, it is tough to claim it is authentic when there is an Italian Gelato stand and Harley Davidson dealership.
We were there about 8 AM on a Sunday morning, before the tourists arrived so the only people we saw were the actors getting ready for their day. Regardless it made for some interesting photos.
And with that it is time to get the stagecoach out of town…..
The small town of Tubac is about 20 miles north of Nogales and the Mexican border. For decades it has been an artist colony, emphasizing on Mexican art. The Tubac Chamber of Commerce claims over 100 shops and galleries.
Madera Canyon is less than an hour south of Tucson, but a world away from an ecological perspective. While the base of the canyon is around 3500′ elevation, you can easily and quickly drive to over 5000′, and if you are energetic (I was not), you can hike to the top of 9456′ high Mt Wrightson.
We chose to hike around the lower areas of the canyon, which were beautiful, offer views from desert to fall tree colors.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the El Tour de Tucson, a bike racing festival with numerous races for different skills. The longest, for the professional and advanced riders, is over 100 miles long and came as far east as the town of Vail, Arizona. This posting celebrates the riders, as well as the beautiful views of the area.
Many riders ‘posed’ as they rode past.
The first of many flashing the universal sign of Shaka (Hawaiian for Hang Loose/Right On)
Over the dry river and through the hills to Grandma’s house for an early Thanksgiving.