Instead of pulling into the livery stables when I arrived in Lowell to water, feed, and board my steed, I guided my two wheeled beast into the Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court, an oasis of refurbished, kitschy trailers that first started serving weary travelers in 1927. I’ve rented the 1955 Crofster and after a quick shower and change, I made my way up to Brewery Gulch in Bisbee, which during its heyday boasted a whopping 50 saloons and was considered to be one of the liveliest spots in the Wild West.
Perched on the southeastern flanks of the Mule Mountains at 5,500 ft, Bisbee, AZ, was once one of the most prolific mining towns in all of Arizona and saw its population peak at 20,000 in the early 1900s, making it the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco at that time. During almost a century of mining, 8 billion pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver and 2.8 million ounces of gold, along with millions of pounds of zinc, lead and manganese were produced. The obvious downside to this was the huge environmental damage done to the town’s water table and the surrounding hills. While Bisbee Blue sounds like it might make a good strain of weed, it’s actually some of the finest turquoise in the world that comes from the infamous Copper Queen Mine, which sits abandoned on the edge of town, its toxic pit a blight on the beautiful desert landscape.
After a proper greasy spoon breakfast at the sole eatery in Lowell, Bisbee Breakfast Club, which is walking distance from The Shady Dell, I set off for Tombstone. The early morning miles of day two were mainly paved, and more barren, as I pedaled east towards the snow capped Chiricahua Mountains and then north towards Gleeson. The asphalt, however, is quickly forgotten when I turn on to North Ghost Town Trail, a ribbon of buff gravel that undulates its way north towards Pearce, a forgotten spot on the map that has a few historic buildings and a handful of residents, basically a living ghost town. Out of Pearce I turned west towards the Dragoon Mountains on Middlemarch Road and began my ascent into this range, which once provided a safe haven for the Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people.
When your town’s tagline is “Welcome to Tombstone, Arizona, the most authentic western town left in the United States,” you better bring your boots and spurs if you want to fit in. While I had neither, I did feel like a cowboy of yore rolling into town at sunset on my tired beast, weary from the day’s adventure, ready for a hot meal, some frosty libations, and a place to rest my head. And historical authenticity be damned because the town made famous by the shootout in the O.K. Corral, turns out the gun battle actually took place in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, but that’s not as glamorous as the historical fiction that’s been told for hundreds of years, or the reenactments that happen on an hourly basis that entertain tourists eager for a taste of the old west.