A GUIDE FOR THE INDEPENDENT TRAVELER IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
"With the completion of the Interstate Freeway System, it became possible to travel all the way across the country, from coast-to-coast, and never see a thing...." Charles Kuralt
|The 1st Gadsden Hotel burned right straight to the ground in 1928, but its original owner, who alledgedly made a fortune in the liquor business during prohibition, rebuilt it using all steel & concrete, to its former splendor. The lobby of the Gadsden is still a grand place, an elegant marble stairway, just perfect for that grand, sweeping entrance, towered over by tall pillars reaching a high ceiling covered by gold leaf probably worth a fortune at today's prices.
"And I've described it before as the town's living room," said Robin Brekhaus who, along with her husband, owns the hotel, "and that's just what it is, the town's living room. They come and play dominos in the lobby, and it'll be a different group every day. Somebodies going to have visiting relatives, 'well, just meet me in the lobby of the Gadsden and I'll take you to my house.' Nobody has to give directions, 'cause you can see us from Bisbee, practically."
He has since passed away, but years ago we interviewed Floyd Kimble, who stood up on the roof of the Gadsden and watched a pitched battle just over in Mexico between Pancho Villa forces and the Federales...a battle for the control of the border town of Agua Prieta.
"You could see everything very distinctly through binoculars. And some funny things happened during the course of the attack. I'll start with the termination, when a bullet hit the wall behind us. Everybody became an ex-observer at that point."
"One of the most famous legends, "said Robin, "is that Pancho Villa rode his horse up the stairs and chipped the 7th stair from the bottom. And the chip is still there."
The Gadsden Hotel drifts sleepily in and out of its fortunes. Cattlemen still elbow up to any convenient tall counter and talk cattle, the morning sun diffuses through the Tiffany stained-glass windows at the top of the marble stairway. There's still an elevator with a real-live elevator operator, and...like all respectable, old buildings...there is a ghost. The ghost wears khaki pants and he's headless and he can be seen almost anywhere in the hotel, but mostly he's seen down in the basement. Down where it's dark...and spooky there's always little noises and always...shadows. The ghost will come sneaking up behind people and tap them on the shoulder, he'll grab their legs, he whistles, but sometimes...you'll only feel a presence. It is a grand old hotel. It's easy to let yourself walk off the street and in to a different time, a different place.
The town of Douglas is located in the SE corner of Arizona and right on the Mexican border. There are enough things to do there to keep you busy for several days.
Agua Prieta is the Mexican town just across the line and shopping there is nice because it does not have the in-your-face intensity shop keepers in other border towns display. Ask locally for a couple of nice places to eat.
A short drive to the west is the old copper mining town of Bisbee, which is worth a couple of days itself. The Copper Queen Mine tour takes you on a little yellow mine train back into some of the old tunnels. On your way to the mine tour, stop and ogle the now inactive open pit Lavender Mine.
On west from Bisbee is Tombstone, "the town too tough to die." Visit the Ok Corral, watch a shoot out on the street, visit Boothill Cemetary, and wet your whistle at the Crystal Palace Saloon...all in the footsteps of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday.