Our plan is to drive a reasonably short distance each day, saving time for walks and sightseeing. But inclement weather, or the lack of interesting places to walk, or established habits of driving too fast and too far, often conspire to thwart our plan.
We started our day driving through part of El Paso, looking at the colorful but tumble-down houses just across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez. We have no Mexican insurance, so didn't cross over for a walk.
Rather than drive the freeway, we took New Mexico 9 across the southernmost part of the state. Almost immediately the countryside was deserted, with reddish sand mounds topped by yuccas and creosote bush. Both sides of the road were fenced, although it was many miles before we saw cattle. To the west and south were rain squalls; we ran through them all day.
We spotted a herd of resting antelope not far from the road, and when we stopped to watch them through the binoculars they obliged by getting off and prancing a hundred yards further away. Lovely sight. But we saw the antelope without even getting out for a walk.
The town of Columbus had a historical museum. Why didn't we stop for a walk? Possibly because we've visited too many historical museums in small western towns.
Before we knew it we had passed right through New Mexico. The rain squalls were swirling around the mountain tops, and we knew when the sun came out it would look just like the cover of Arizona Highways, with colorful canyons and cactus with mountain profiles in the background. The road signs warned of flash floods, and we didn't go off road looking for a walk.
We stopped briefly at the Geronimo Surrender Monument in Van Horne. The plaque tells about the Army negotiating surrender terms at Geronimo's camp in Skeleton Canyon, up a dirt road. By now it was raining with every indication of continuing, so we didn't drive up and take a walk.
We found Douglas, Arizona to be another border town; it had lunch, but the shopping streets, filled with clothing, second-hand goods and auto parts, didn't seem appealing for a walk.
Then we came to the copper town of Bisbee. We stopped to see the Lavender Pit (named after the GM of Phelps Dodge) which was started in 1950 and shut down in 1975, leaving a lot of unemployed hard rock miners and a very big hole in the ground. We decided to detour to the old historic town, founded in 1888. It's a warren of frame houses and hotels and bars and art galleries. There were a few tourists, no parking places (some entrepeneur was selling space in a muddy lot for $4) and a number of grizzled drunks watching. It looked like the bars and the unemployed men dominated, so we moved on without taking a walk.
We had first passed through Tombstone thirty-five years ago, when we were delighted by the cemetery and the weather-worn buildings. Today Tombstone has struck it rich in tourist dollars. The streets were aswarm with people and the weather-worn buildings now sell quilts and dolls and books of regional interest and western cooking. The volunteer in the tourist center told us that there are plans to build a 40-million dollar hotel/convention complex nearby, a project which will, he said, take too much of Tombstone's water. We decided against walking the streets of Tombstone and hit the road again.
We stopped next in Benson where we checked into a motel and did laundry and wrote our notes, of course without taking that walk.
Perhaps tomorrow we'll do better.