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Sal Visits Southern Arizona
Over the M.L. King Weekend
Sal, our friend from San Diego, was suspicious of this vacation right from the beginning. As he got off the plane in Tucson he asked, "What did you mean when you said Sierra Vista's motto is 'where visits last a lifetime'? Is this weekend going to feel like a year?"

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Blastoff!
So there you have it. A challenge right from the first 'hello.' OK, what's going to attract the attention of a jaded southern Californian? How about an encounter with the busy end of a nuclear-tipped missile?

Our first stop was the Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson. The United States had 54 Titan missile silos concentrated around Tucson, AZ, Little Rock, AR, and Wichita, KA. They were destroyed after the SALT disarmament treaty with Russia, except for this site. Outdoor exhibits show the rocket engines, warhead, refueling apparatus, communications antennas, and of course, the central attraction, the missile poised in its underground silo. The Titan II Missile is 101 feet tall and could reach a target 5,000 miles away in 30 minutes.

Descending the stairway to the underground world, we entered the command center, left, the underground silo, right, and the tunnel connecting the two.

Drawing from the Titan Missile Museum web site: http://www.pimaair.org/TitanMM/titanhome.shtml

Sal was selected the commander of our tour group, so got to sit at the control center console, turn the key, and simulate a missile launch. Fortunately for all of us, the result was similar to the response when he turns the key on his Volvo. Hello? Hello?              Cherie, in the pink hard hat, provided adult supervision.

The site was built to withstand earthquakes and atomic blasts, and everything underground was suspended on springs to absorb the shocks, including the tunnel with its giant shock absorbers, the overhead lights, and the maze of electrical boxes and wires. Whoa, with all that wiring and low ceilings, it was a good thing we had hard hats...but as the warning sign says in very, very small print, "watch out for hat hair."

"Won't find nothin' but your Tombstone"

Legend has it that Tombstone, Arizona got its name from that piece of advice a soldier gave Ed Schieffelin when Ed went looking for silver in the Apache-infested hills of southern Arizona in 1877. Sal and I retraced his journey, from the safety of Camp Huachuca, fording the not-so-mighty San Pedro River, stopping at Brunckow's Cabin—the bloodiest site in old Arizona and a base for Schieffelin's exploration— and on into Tombstone to quench our thirsts for historical knowledge ... and beer.

We started at the Tombstone Courthouse, where justice was dispensed at the end of a rope, either by lawmen or unruly crowds, whichever prevailed.
Photo of the lynched John Heath, from www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/tombstone
Sometimes the lawmen didn't bother with the courts at all, as was the case in October 1881 at the famous shoot-out at the OK Corral.

A picture of the three men gunned down by Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers shows the victims, members of the Clanton Gang, prior to their burial in Boot Hill. Sal stands by their grave site on a cold, blustery day. That takes a little warming up, methinks, and so we stopped in the historic bars thoughout town, including the bullet-riddled Birdcage Theater.

Bisbee ... a mountain mining camp

So...if Sal's wearing a jacket...and he's coming from San Diego with his Tiva's still on...why is he skeptical of this sign when it snowed that morning in Bisbee?

Lookin' for love
in all the wrong places...

Sal, always on the lookout for pretty women, is caught looking the wrong way in the Copper Queen Hotel bar. However, love came looking for him, when a gaggle of middle-aged women implored him to take their picture in front of the voluptuous woman hanging on the wall. I had to turn my eyes in embarrassment as they hiked their skirts in tantalizing poses for Sal's, er, their camera's unblinking eye.

Arizona from Top to Bottom! We showed Sal the heights and depths of southern Arizona, from the caverns inside the Whetstone Mountains...to the highlands of the Dragoon Mountains.
Kartchner Caverns
We ventured into the quiet underground world of shadows and stones, bats and bones, stalactites and stalagmites, and a humid 68 degrees...into the Big Room of Kartchner Caverns. Walking through tunnels and a series of double airlock doors, we emerged into a world painted by a mad artist with slashing brushstrokes in stone and water.


Dragoon Mountains
Home of Cochise Stronghold
Cochise Stronghold was where Cochise and his band of Apache Indians retreated to evade capture by Army soldiers in the late 1800's.
Eight of us took a hike into the Stronghold, land of fascinating hoodoos (rock formations). Mike and Carrie, Sal, Jeanne, Linda, Belinda, and Cherie and I scouted the haunts of the red men, but only found fellow palefaces along the trail.

Before The Hike

After The Hike
And During
We brought food in our backpacks, and when we reached the saddle area 3 miles up the trail, we spread out a tablecloth, laid out the cheese, bread, crackers, and fruit, and opened 4 bottles of wine to have a picnic—toasting Linda's new-found freedom in retirement and Sal's first hike in God's country (that would be S.E. Arizona, y'know).

Mike and Carrie cozied up to each other throughout the hike, but also left the beaten path to climb some of the rocks towering over the trails.

The gang pauses for breath along the trail

Mike emerges from a natural bridge formed by fallen rocks

The hoodoos, like clouds, can take on shapes according the viewer's imagination. This one looked like a bald eagle's head.

And if you squint your eyes and look cross-ways, you can make out a couple timeless in their devotion to each other.

At trail's end, Sal colapses into the car and moans wearily, "yep, where visits last a lifetime."

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