QUOTABLE: “Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?” ~Alan Shepard (To Mission Control regarding the delay before his Freedom 7 Mercury launch on 5 May 1961.)

Saturday, May 25 finally arrived!! We’d been preparing for this day for months…the beginning of Little Booger’s Great Adventure. Well, he’s almost a teenager, so I guess it’s more appropriate to just use his name…Liam. [Each grandchild, or Booger as I call them, gets a great adventure tailored to their interests for their 13th birthday. Mr. Wonderful’s (MW’s) grandmother took he and his brother on one-on-one trips that he has never forgotten. We took her idea and tweaked it a bit.] Liam was flying as an unaccompanied minor on American Airlines from Charlotte, North Carolina, into Phoenix Sky Harbor. We planned to head to the airport late in the morning so that I would have plenty of time to make it out to the gate before he walked off of the plane. We sat around enjoying the weather and view for the morning, then got a call that there was a small problem…he missed his flight in Charlotte. They arrived in plenty of time, but security was a madhouse. His luggage, however, made the first flight. The American agent was amazing and got him on a flight that left less than an hour later. Awesome! Since the boy was now going to arrive more towards supper time, Mr. Wonderful (MW) decided we needed to check out the In-N-Out Burger for an early lunch. I didn’t think the burgers were anything to write home about, but did find it interesting that their menu is still the same after 75 years…burger, cheeseburger, double burger, double cheeseburger, fries, drinks, shakes. They’ve never added all of the specialty stuff that everyone does now, which was unique.

After lunch we were still too early, so we headed back to Priscilla for a bit. Then it was finally time to go get the Booger. MW dropped me off at Departures about 1-1/2 hours before the plane was supposed to get in, and headed into Phoenix to check out the Book Gallery. (They will only let one of us go past security to meet Liam at the gate, so there is no reason to pay for parking at the airport to sit there.) After the issues in Charlotte, we wanted to make sure I was at the gate when he got in, but it turned out, the extra time was not necessary. American had a Special Services counter, so I didn’t have to stand in the long line of folks trying to make a flight. Security took about 8 minutes, and I was actually sitting at the gate within 15 minutes of being dropped off. I used the time to get some writing and bill-paying done. After a bit of delay letting the passengers off of the plane, I finally caught sight of my boy. He didn’t recognize me, though. LOL. Remember, I cut my hair off. Although we found our way to the huge baggage claim area easily, locating his suitcase was a chore. By the time we were finally headed out to the curb, MW was waiting in the cell phone lot. Oops…which curb? I’ve never been to an airport that had exits from baggage claim on opposite sites. I had no idea whether we should be on the north or south side. MW sent us to the north side, then had to figure out how to find us. It took a couple of tries. The layout is probably efficient if you use it often, but for us furners, it was a little confusing. When we finally got on the road, we were all happy to be out of the airport and associated traffic!

SIDE NOTE: Do you older folks remember what air travel was like back in the day? I remember the excitement and dressing up, because the whole thing was a special adventure. Now it feels more like we are being herded onto cattle cars, and people are tired, grouchy, and rude. Plus, the dressing nice thing has gone out the window. In fact, the dressing at all thing appears to be on the way out, too. Don’t get me wrong…thanks to TSA requirements and the overall discomfort of airplanes with their tight seats and cramped spaces (don’t get me started on either of those), I usually fly with jeans/pants and slip-on shoes. It is still odd to me, though, to see folks dressed in pajamas, bedroom slippers, hair in curlers under a scarf, and the like. I miss the days when people from all walks of life thought it was important to wear the underwear on the inside and leave the sleepwear at home. Today, though, I saw one of the strangest cases I’ve seen. A woman walked by while I waiting for my security pass. Without the pounds of makeup, she would be a very attractive black lady. It was waaaayyyyy overdone, though, including fake lashes that…no exaggeration…looked like caterpillars and 2-1/2″ fingernails shaped like claws. What caught my, and everyone else’s, attention, though, was her outfit. I suspect she had large implants in lots of places, including her rear end. She was wearing a crop top that showed her abs with leggings. The distressing part was that both were less clothing weight and more like opaque panty hose weight material. You couldn’t see through them, but you could definitely tell everything that was under there. Why in the world did she get dressed, look in the mirror, and think that was appropriate for an environment filled with folks of all ages and every walk of life? Why have we become a country where people dress like strippers and then hang out in the produce section? Why does anyone think that is okay? And why do beautiful young women feel that they need a 22″ waist and 48″ chests and cheeks? We definitely need to do better with self image in this country. This is much more serious than a Barbie thing. Parents need to be taking a close look at what their kids are getting out of social media, “reality tv”, and influencers. We need to teach our kids that “influencers” are becoming rich by getting them to do stupid stuff. How ridiculous is that??!! We need our girls and boys to understand that altered physiques are not normal, including those changed by steroid use. They also need to know that no one looks like a red carpet model all the time, and photos on the internet are doctored constantly. That last part includes the pics their friends post on Facebook using filters that change the way they look. Bravo to the famous people who dress up for big occasions, then appear in public without makeup and hair in a messy bun, showing that they are just normal people. Kids need to see that! Okay, I’ll stop now.

We knew that Liam would be hungry, so our first stop was for supper at Rito’s Mexican Food in Mesa, Arizona. The food was good, but pricey, and we found out that Liam is not an adventurous eater. Afterwards, we stopped in at Bashas’ next door, because it seemed like an ice cream celebration was in order. Liam’s one bit of input for his adventure was seeing the desert, so back at Priscilla, we started by taking a walk on the nature trail. There he got his first look at the open desert landscape, including a variety of cacti in bloom. It didn’t take long for him to find the sharp, pointy bits. He stepped on a small piece of cactus that had broken off, and the long spine went right through the sole of his shoe. Welcome to the desert!

Usery Mountain Regional Park was another in a series of amazing places. Made a park in 1967, the 3,600 acres at Pass Mountain in the western end of the Goldfield Mountains is named for a King. Well, actually for a guy named King Usery. (How’s that name for pressure from your parents?!) He didn’t live up to it, though. He was a cattleman and, no surprise by now, a criminal. He held up the Globe-Florence Stage, stealing $2,000 worth of gold. After getting out of prison, he stole a horse. So it makes sense to name a park after him, huh?! It is a beautiful place that backs up to the Tonto National Forest, which provides a lot of extra hiking possibilities. Park facilities include the Nature Center, a nature trail, an amphitheater, an archery range, a group picnic area, day use areas, and a bathhouse. Other activities include hiking (alone or ranger-led), biking, and horseback riding on over 7.4 miles of trails. Lodging options include several cabins, several group campgrounds, and the Buckhorn Family Campground. The latter includes 75 sites that can accommodate up to 45′ RVs and have water, electric, picnic tables, grills, and fire rings. We REALLY liked this park. It was relatively quiet, with minimal noise from the road, the sites were spread out, and the views were absolutely gorgeous. We would definitely stay here again. For this stay in May 2024, we paid a little over $35 per night for 50-amp.

Despite having to move north on Sunday, MW worked out a plan for us to make it to church. The first stop, though, was the Morning Glory Brunchery in Mesa, which was good, but pricey. We have a theme going with that, but maybe it’s just being in the Phoenix area. Next we went to North Valley Baptist Church on the north side of town, where we heard a nice sermon by Pastor Brent Loveless on being faithful to God’s word. My favorite line…”more bible, less world”. They were very welcoming, both this morning and before we came. MW called a few days ago to see if there was a place to park the truck and trailer. When he was just finishing the message on the answering machine, someone picked up and told him that we could absolutely park there. They even have an RV spot with hookups, although they apologized that someone was in it right now. The next day, the pastor checked in after hearing the message the other fellow forgot to delete, then thanked us for wanting to come there. When we got back on the road, we headed north up I-17 to Flagstaff, then took I-40 west over to Williams, Arizona, and the KOA. After setting up, we headed over to check out the town, then stopped in at The Grand Canyon Brewing Company for supper, and picked up groceries. There were lots of people in town, but Memorial Day weekend is actually just the beginning of their busy season. The town is called “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, and thousands come through every year. The Grand Canyon Railroad departs from downtown, and there are quite a few things to do. I would like to come back, but maybe in the spring or fall when it is less busy. Back at Priscilla, we watched a little TV, then hit the hay early in anticipation of the zero dark thirty wakeup planned for Monday. Liam is not an early riser, but the time difference is helping him get onto our schedule.

The town of Williams, Arizona, has a Charles Lindbergh connection. A year after his solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic, he began scouting a route for a transcontinental airline. On that trip, he checked out several cities in Arizona, including a stop in Williams. Ultimately the Transcontinental Air Transport route focused on Winslow, but Williams still has a soft spot for the famous aviator. Holy Smoke!! When I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, a couple of years ago, I could have been in Lindbergh’s footprints!!

Monday morning we were up and out at 5:30 AM for the long drive over to Peach Springs, Arizona, on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. There we waited around to get checked in, then took another hour ride on a bus down into the GRAND CANYON!! The driver was full of information and stories, but his accuracy was a little questionable at times. Some of his plant facts were definitely off, but who knows about the lore. It was entertaining, though, for a long ride in the heat. Finally at the launch point, we started our 56-mile rafting adventure with Hualapai River Runners on the Colorado River. What a blast!! The temps were pretty hot under the blazing sun, but the cold (50-55 degree) water kept us comfortable. We ran about 10 sets of rapids, the highest topping out at about 6-1/2 or 7 on a scale of 1-10. After the first few sets, we stopped for a hike/climb up into a cave with a waterfall that was pretty darned cool. Then, we finished out the rest of the rough water and stopped for a lunch of sandwiches and chips on the beach. The last couple of hours were just cruising along enjoying the amazing scenery with canyon walls reaching about 4,000′ above us. For us, this is definitely the way to see the Grand Canyon…no crowds, comfortable, and fun. Our young raft captain, Fernando, was very helpful and informative, giving us native stories and lore and other bits about the canyon. We think we lucked out there, because the other two captains appeared to be almost non-communicative. By the time we made it to the bus pick-up point, we were all pretty tired. There was still a 1.75 hour ride to a pit stop in Kingman, Arizona, then another 45 minutes back to where we left the truck. Along the way we passed thousands of Joshua trees, including some of the largest I’ve ever seen. Too cool! (The slower portions of the trip were not as relaxing as they could have been thanks to two kids who whined, bickered, and picked at each other constantly. The girl was probably about 8, and the boy was almost 13, but very small for his age. The parents blamed ADHD for his behavior, and Dad said he KNEW that it was going to be rough for them during the slow parts. So…why do you bring two kids who are basically going to be miserable and make those around them equally so for 5 hours if you KNOW IN ADVANCE it’s going to happen? It reminded me of a cruise/tour we took years ago in Alaska where parents brought a baby to celebrate her SECOND BIRTHDAY on a trip that required being on trains and buses for 7-8 hours EVERY DAY. That poor little thing fussed, screamed, and cried constantly, and her parents should have been flogged for putting her, plus everyone else on the trip, through it. I firmly believe that vacations with children should be tailored to what the kids can handle, both for their sake and out of respect for fellow travelers who have paid for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.) We decided to have a quick bite at the Diamond Creek Restaurant in the Hualapai Lodge before driving the last 1.25 hours back to Priscilla. To say we were all tired is an understatement, but I don’t think any of us would have missed the trip. It was exciting,

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of these signs! There used to be a series of them going up to MW’s family home in north Georgia. They also used to be along Route 66. The Burma-Shave company started these advertising campaigns in 1923 and continued through 1963. After that, they became a kitschy thing to add along your property.

We were exhausted on Tuesday morning, but had to get up and out fairly early to drive over to Flagstaff. There we climbed up into the trees and worked our way through the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. There are a total of five circuits in the course, each with between 10 and 17 obstacles or ziplines. We worked through rope swings, wobbly bridges, scrambling walls, hanging nets, and a few surprises. There was even a bridge that flipped completely over half way through the obstacle!! The morning began with being strapped into harnesses followed by a safety briefing and video. Then we headed out to the practice course, where we learned how to work the clamps. Each harness straps around your waist, down your front, and around each thigh, and the system was pretty ingenious. Opening required magnets, which were strategically placed throughout the course. Only one magnet could be open at a time, so you had to clamp the open one onto a cable for the other one to function. I have a pretty good fear of heights, but I really never felt unsafe despite being 20-40′ above the ground doing some pretty crazy stuff. (The last circuit actually makes it up to about 60′ above ground!) After the second circuit, we climbed down for a break, then headed back up to do the third. Each is more difficult than the last, and there was some tough stuff! MW and Liam both completed all of the third, but I had to throw in the towel two obstacles before the end. I have double knee replacements, and after 2-1/2 hours of climbing, stretching, crawling, etc., my legs were very wobbly. The obstacle that made me cry uncle was a progressive step up situation where you had to step into a swinging rope, then into another a little higher one foot at a time. In the middle was a swinging wooden platform that required a pretty good step up, then more rope steps. I watched MW do it ahead of me, and he said it was HARD! I threw in the towel and had Clayton, the spotter watching from the ground, come up and get me. He had a really cool system of hand tools and ropes to climb straight up the tree, then lower me to the ground easily. I was a little disappointed not to do as well as the boys, but also happy to have made it as far as I did. Let me just say, if you have a ropes course near you, pop over there and check it out. It was fun, hard, and a REALLY good workout.

We were all starving by the time we made it back to Big Jake, so lunch at Raising Cane’s was next on the list. (If you haven’t eaten there and like chicken, they have really good fingers.) We lingered for a little bit, mainly because I just needed to sit a while, then headed north of town to check out something else Liam has never seen, volcanic rock. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is part of the San Francisco Volcanic field located a little ways north of Flagstaff. It last erupted around 1085 and is surrounded by lava fields. We checked out the Visitor Center, drove up to the Cinder Hills Overlook, then took a walk on the A’a Trail. It was beautiful, and we got to walk on lava rocks. Too cool! (There are quite a few hiking trails in a range of distances for those interested in a walk in the lava.) By then we were all pooped, so it was time to head back to the campground. Liam and I headed down to the pool so that he could swim for a while as I did a bit of writing. By bed time, I was already pretty sore and we were all ready to hit the hay.

Williams/Circle Pines KOA Holiday was pretty cool. Located just minutes from Williams and just off of I-40 you can get to lots of local attractions, and there was a corral and stables next door where people appeared to be saddling up for trail rides every day. While not our favorite type of campground, it had tons of stuff to do for families. In addition to the office and huge camp store/gift shop, there was mini-golf, a dirt bicycle course, a jumping pillow, a large playground, K-9 camp, go-kart track, indoor pool and hot tubs, laundry, cafe, mining station, horseshoe sites, wiggle train (don’t ask me what this is), walking paths, hiking trails, and several bathhouses and bathrooms. Lodging options include lodges, cabins, covered wagons, tipis, glamping tents, and the campground. RVs of all sizes can be accommodated with a few back-in and over a hundred pull-thru sites with 30- or 50- amp, some full-hookup and some water and electric only. There are also a few tent sites scattered around the property. Most sites have a fire ring and picnic table, and some deluxe locations have a patio area. As you can probably tell by the list above, it was not quiet. In fact, one night one of our neighbors was playing dance music really loud and leading a line dance party in the road. Things did settle down after quiet hours started, but running the fan or a/c would probably be required unless you sleep like a log. This would not be a destination campground for us by any means, but would be a lot of fun with kids. Liam enjoyed the pool, but didn’t have much time to check out anything else. It was expensive, though. We paid just under $78 per night for this stay in May 2024. Sorry, I was just too exhausted to get pics!

Wednesday it was time to head south, but first we took time to check out the animals at Bearizona Safari Park in Williams, Arizona. This is a drive-through animal park with an additional walk-through section, restaurants, picnic area, and a stage that is open year-round. It is very well done, and has a pretty good assortment of animals in very nice, natural settings. Who doesn’t love seeing bears and wolves and otters??!!

After getting back to the campground to finish hooking up Priscilla, we took I-40 over to Flagstaff and stopped at Firehouse Subs for lunch. We were going to be early for check-in, so we drug our feet for a while before continuing south on I-17 and west on AZ-260 to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona. We got everything set up quickly, then headed over to Sedona, Arizona, for the next stage in our adventure.

It has been about 20 years since MW and I were there, and we didn’t recognize anything. For us, it is too crowded and filled with traffic to make it fun, but the area is absolutely beautiful. We checked in at Arizona Safari Jeep Tours for our sunset jeep ride through Diamondback Gulch with our awesome driver, Lea. This was a rough, bouncy ride, and I don’t recommend it for anyone with back or other issues, but it was awesome! My muscles were very sore from the ropes course, and bouncing around in that jeep was a little bit like a massage. The entire trip was about 3 hours and away from town where all you could see was the back country and nature. The scenery was amazing, but only wildlife we saw was a coyote running across the path in front of us as we headed back to town. The pics turned out pretty good, too, considering the bounce. LOL. We were all starving when we finished up and stopped in at the Tavern Grille in Cottonwood for a quick bite on the way back to Priscilla. Once there we hit the showers to wash off the thick layer of red dust! Then it was off to bed in anticipation of our upcoming REALLY early wakeup.

Thursday was the last of the really early wake-ups for Liam’s Great Adventure, and wouldn’t you know, I had a migraine. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad, so I took my meds and got myself together. We had to meet our ride at 4:40 AM, though, which meant pulling out of the RV park at 4. On the up side, there was a really cool moon to practice camera shots on as we left. We met our pilot, Daniel, in the Sedona Goodwill parking lot and loaded up in the van where we were whisked out to an empty piece of desert at the edge of town. There we watched as they unloaded our actual ride…a hot air balloon from Northern Light Balloon Expeditions!! I think Liam was stoked!! MW and I went up in one about 20 years ago here and loved it. Daniel and the team unloaded the basket and the giant balloon ball, then unfurled that. They start by blowing air in to open up the fabric, then hit it with heat to make it rise. The whole process took about 25 minutes and was amazing. Then we climbed aboard. Our group was a nice couple about our age from New Jersey and a late 20s trio of two girls and a guy who currently live in Chicago but were originally from Brazil. Oh and Daniel. He was essential! If you’ve never seen anyone pilot a balloon, it is truly an experience. The wind temperatures and speeds change at every altitude, so as you ascend, the pilot is looking for the altitude that will take him in the general direction he wants to go. There were lots of balloons in the air that day, and the pilots were all reporting altitudes, directions, and speeds over the radio to help out their buddies. Daniel had an altimeter and something that showed him the rate of climb and descent. To see what the wind was doing below us, he spit off the side and watched where it went. Seriously…how’s that for old school! As the ride progressed, he was in constant contact with the ground crew with updates on which landing site he would be targeting. We floated around up there for about 85 minutes enjoying the sunrise, scenery, and cool air. About 10 minutes before we landed, he picked his target for the crew, then he sat the balloon down right where their van was parked. It doesn’t always work out that way if there are surprises, but mostly it does with a skilled pilot. After we all piled out, we watched them put the balloon and basket back into the cargo trailer it came out of, which only took about 15 minutes. At our last stop, we met one of the other balloon crews for apple fritters and mimosas. (No, Liam did not have the latter.) Ballooning is such a peaceful way to spend a morning. I’m trying to talk MW into getting his license…a regular pilots license with a LTA (lighter than air) certification…so he can fly me around regularly. So far he’s not biting. Wouldn’t that just be awesome, though??!!

Coming In For A Landing!

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The two young Brazilian ladies on our balloon ride were beautiful and, amazingly at 5 AM, totally made up and decked out. Both were definitely into selfies, but one spent almost the entire ride taking them while making kissy faces and peace signs with the mountains in the background. No kidding…she was doing it every time I looked that way, so it had to have been 50 or more pics. She wasn’t looking out and seeing the big picture, but focusing on the small slice captured on her little phone screen. Every pic she has will be of her, large in the foreground, and a tiny piece of scenery behind. Later as we were exiting the van back at the parking lot, she told her friend she had already compiled a video of all of her pics and uploaded it. I’m not much of a selfie fan except to capture me with other people. I figure I know what I look like, but I want to remember as much of what was out there as possible. It seems like the world is quite self-obsessed, though.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a really nice park, especially considering it is right in Cottonwood, Arizona, and just about 30 minutes from Sedona. Situated on 423 acres adjacent to the Coconino National Forest, it offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, canoeing/kayaking on the Verde River or in the lagoons, picnicking, fishing, or cooling your toes in the water. Lodging opportunities include cabins and five camping loops with clean, well-maintained bathhouses nearby. For RVers, there are both pull-through and back-in sites with 30/50-amp electric and wanter, and rigs up to 65′ can be accommodated. There is also a primitive loop for tent campers with water nearby. Because of the Great Adventure schedule, we only spent one night here, but would definitely check it out again if in the area. For this stay in May 2024, we paid a little over $33 for one night.

Once we made it back from the epic ride, it was time to quickly pack up and head further south to our final campground for the Great Adventure. We retraced our route on AZ-260 to I-17 south. At Phoenix we went west on I-10 to refuel at the Flying J a couple of exits over, then stopped in at the nearby Whataburger for a quick lunch. Then it was I-10 east through Tucson to Benson, where we hit AZ-90 down to Kartchner Caverns State Park. With our zero dark thirty wakeup, I had promised Liam a long car ride for a nap, but he stayed awake the entire 5 hours. I, however, did sneak in a catnap. After setup, MW and I were pooped. Liam was, too, but took a walk to check out the nearby trails around the campground.

Friday we all needed a break, so we took our time getting out. By the time we made it to our next tourist spot, Tombstone, Arizona, it was lunch time. We stopped in at the O K Cafe for sandwiches, then headed over to get tickets to see the O K Corral show at 1 PM. That included the re-enactment, The Historama, a film and diorama deal covering Tombstone’s early history, the museums at the O K Corral about a variety of interesting people and things, and The Tombstone Epitaph Newspaper Museum. After checking out the first three, we headed down the street to the Fallen Angel Sweet Sin Parlor, where Liam walked away with some ice cream and MW and I picked up a little chocolate for later.

Our next appointment was for the Good Enough Mine Underground Tour, which was pretty cool. While Tombstone is most famous for an 8-man gunfight, it started as a mining town. A guy named Ed Schieffelin came to these hills in search of silver and gold and found it in 1877. Word got out quickly and before long the area was covered up with prospectors, miners, lawmen, and lots of unsavory types looking to take whatever they could get their hands on from the hard working folks. For the next 40 years, almost 40 million dollars worth of ore was pulled out. The work was back breaking, and once the ore was brought out, it had to be carted 10 miles over the steep, rugged terrain to the San Pedro River, the nearest water source. The miners thought life would get easier when water was struck 520′ down in the Sulphuret Mine. Then they struck it in all of the other mines, too, causing a problem. How do you get the water out to get to the ore? Pumps…big ones. Installed at the Contention and Grand Central mines, the solution worked, briefly. The Grand Central pumps burned in 1886, and the remaining one couldn’t handle the water. Most mining came to a screeching halt and remained that way until 1901. That year the Consolidated Mining Company was born and seven of the mines were reconditioned…Contention, Empire, Lucky Cuss, Silver Thread, Toughnut, West Side, and Grand Central. New pumps were pulling almost 4 million gallons of water out A DAY! That worked until 1909, when bad fuel caused pumps 1,000′ down to seize. New compressors and boilers fixed the issue once again, but by 1911 it was clear that battling the water along with falling silver prices and low quality ore proved too expensive to make a profit. All pumping was stopped, and the mines flooded back up to the 600′ level. While there was still a small amount of mining after that, production was relatively minimal. The mine tour was really great, and the guide, who had been in mining for 30 years, gave us lots of great information. Plus…bonus…it’s cooler underground!! Back on the surface, we stopped in at the gift shop now located in the space where Morgan Earp was shot in the back while shooting pool. Who could miss that? By that time the Crystal Palace Saloon was calling, offering cool drinks and a place to sit. Originally the Golden Eagle Brewery that burned in the town fire in 1882, the building was rebuilt quickly and named Crystal Palace Saloon, which doubled as a theater. Prohibition tried to kill it, but it soared back after the ban was lifted. Oh and U. S. Deputy Marshall Virgil Earp’s offices were upstairs. Today it has been restored to its 1881 condition. It was finally time to head back to Priscilla, but a street hawker convinced us to check out Puny John’s BBQ, saying it is in the state’s top ten. We made it just before they closed and ordered to take home. Later Liam headed out for another walk. He is really enjoying this campground!

In addition to the O. K. Corral and the Crystal Palace, there are a few other historic buildings still standing in Tombstone. The Bird Cage Theatre and Schieffelin Hall were built in 1881 and the Cochise County Courthouse was built in 1882. (The county seat was later moved to Bisbee.). The current location of the Tombstone Epitaph is where it originated in 1880. It is the oldest business in Tombstone, Arizona’s oldest continuously published newspaper, and a National Historic Site in Journalism. You can even get a subscription today! Its founder, John Clum, had already published the Tucson Citizen before moving south. His associates there joked that he would be writing his epitaph, so that is what he named the endeavor. In a way we can thank (or blame as the case may be) Clum for the legendary fight at the corral. He encouraged the Earps to step into law enforcement roles in town and, along with other townspeople, backed their play. The Tombstone Epitaph, then helmed by George H. Kelly and his son William, started Helldorado Days in 1929 to celebrate the towns 50th anniversary. That festival has been going strong with the 95th celebration slated for October. Another interesting John Clum fact: He is the only U.S. authority to capture Geronimo. He was serving as the government appointee in charge of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation at the time. Geronimo was later released and finally surrendered to the Army in 1886.

While waiting for our barbecue, MW noticed an Air Force certificate on the wall. Turns out that Puny John is actually Master Sergeant John W. Marshall who was an air traffic controller in the Air Force. The award is the Lt. General Gordon A. Blake Aircraft Save Award, and Marshall received it for preventing a mid-air collision between a T-6 and an F-18 during an air show at McGuire AFB. He was not working traffic, but was up on the tower watching when he realized the T-6 had an emergency and made a 180 back to the runway with an F-18 on short final for the crossing runway. He hollered down to the active controllers who had not picked up on the issue and jumped to fix it. Nice save!

Saturday we headed out at a reasonable time to spend Liam’s last day out west. Our first stop was at the Grand Buffet for an early Asian lunch at Liam’s request. Then they dropped me off at McDonald’s and headed off for some guy time at the Pima Air & Space Museum/390th Memorial Museum in Tucson. This is one of the best aircraft museums in the country, and it also happens to have an EA-6B Prowler there that MW parked his butt in during Desert Storm. No kidding! How cool is that to see an actual plane your Grandpa flew in a war??!! They also have a Connie (Lockheed Constellation) similar to the WV-3 Super Constellation that his Great Grandpa Guillebeau (my Dad) was in at VW-3 while typhoon hunting out of Guam in the Navy. He also got to see my favorite, and the most beautiful airplane ever made (that’s just fact, people), the SR-71 Blackbird, another Lockheed creation. I know a good bit about airplanes, but this is Papa’s element, and having him as a one-on-one guide will stay with Liam forever. Besides, I’ve seen Pima before and had plenty of writing to catch up on! (I hadn’t even started this post and knew it was going to be a LOT!!) When the boys picked me back up a few hours later we ran some errands. A typical teenage boy, Liam was hungry again by the time we headed back, so he got to check out the In-N-Out Burger, which they don’t have back home. Back at Priscilla, we cleaned up and packed the Booger up for his flight home in the morning. Liam did make it out for his last desert sunset walk before bed, too. (The airplane pics came from Liam.)

Sunday we were up and out early to arrive a couple of hours before his 9:30ish flight. This time he would be changing planes in Dallas, so we briefed him on what to do in the event he ends up without an escort. (It was all for naught as he texted later to say all went as it should have. Better to be prepared and not need it, though.) MW dropped Liam and me off and headed off to Denny’s for breakfast. Liam and I had bagels after getting out to the gate area. Then, in no time at all, he was pushing back from the gate and I was waving goodbye. Honestly, it was sad to watch him go. It has been exhausting, but a total blast, and hopefully he will remember his Great Adventure long after we are gone, which is one of the objectives. After MW picked me back up, we headed to Vail Valley Baptist Church in Vail, Arizona, southeast of Tucson. Elder Wayne Floyd gave a good sermon about us being poisoned by the things in our hearts, not what we take in. He touched on the hurtful things we say to other people and how social media is making it way too easy to be mean and nasty. Afterwards we spent some time talking to him and his wife. She said he was born in Huntsville, Alabama. So was MW. His dad retired from Redstone Arsenal. So did MW’s. His military service came up somewhere in the conversation. He was in the Navy on a nuclear sub. MW’s degree from the Naval Academy is in shipborne nuclear power plants, and he originally thought about subs. Wow…twins! As you can imagine, we chatted for quite a while before heading out. Our final stop on the way back to Priscilla was at The Horseshoe in Benson for lunch. Then we both had naps and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

This is our second stay at Kartchner Caverns State Park (see review here), and it is still awesome. The views are terrific, and Liam really enjoyed the desert trails. For this stay in June 2024, we paid just under $31 per night for a 50-amp pull-through with water.

Wow…I told you it would be a LOT! Next up…recovering!! See you on the path.


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