Saturday, March 1, 2008

Two Days in February

Welcome to our new experimental (at least for us) blog. Please leave us a message about how you like this version of Our Life On Wheels compared to the older version. One big difference: we're showing you "thumbnail" versions of our pictures. If you'd like to see a larger version, just left-click on the picture, and the picture will show up larger! Important -- to get back to the blog, go way up to the top left corner of your screen and click on the back arrow. That's the only way to see the whole show.

Wednesday, February 27. We took a day for sightseeing. After picking up our mail at the SKP Saguaro park, we headed east on I-10, past the spectacular Texas Canyon area of the Dragoon Mountains, then south on AZ 191 to the tiny (pop.32) town of Cochise. We had read about the town in the Tucson paper and wanted to see it for ourselves. Secondly, we had heard that sandhill cranes were in the area and could be seen on local farm fields. We wanted to see the cranes as well.
In town, just past the elementary school, sat our goal: the Old Homestead Museum and Antique Store, and right next door, a small café. Both buildings announced they were “OPEN,” but no one was visible. We took a few exterior pictures.

While we stood there, a car pulled up and friendly local citizens told us all we had to do was to pass through the small gate, and a buzzer would sound in the house across the street. Someone would be with us right away.

Sure enough, about two minutes after we went into the yard, here came a neat lady by the name of Bonnie Samuel. She and her husband Ben own and operate both businesses, as well as several rental homes in town. Ben drove up just as Bonnie greeted us.

Bonnie led us into her museum / antique store, a funky little old two-story house from the early days of Cochise (the town, not the fabled Chiricahua Apache leader). We toured the “Shady Lady Parlor” and “The Cowboy Room,” but not the second story. They have had to close that off because the very steep stairway is an insurance nightmare.

Afterward we moved to the café for lunch. Outside, the cafe looks like an extension of the museum, but inside it's very simple.

Ben took our order for Philly cheese steak sandwiches, which he pulled from a freezer and heated in a microwave. The sandwiches came out piping hot and delicious.

Ben and Bonnie regaled us during our entire visit with stories of the town, then Bonnie led us a half-block further east to what she called “The Womack.”

The Womack used to be a two-story hotel / boarding house. When the owner’s wife fell from the second story window, seriously injuring herself, the owner had the roof raised, the second story removed and the roof returned to its current location. Bonnie and Ben own this house as a rental, but Bonnie wants them to move into it themselves.

As we were walking toward the Womack, Ben came hurrying out to ask if we’d paid for our lunch. We had been chatting just as old friends might, and we all had forgotten about the bill.

Down the street two blocks west, we came to two other original buildings: the Cochise Country Store, once a mercantile but now a private residence, and the Cochise Hotel, “est. 1882.”

The Hotel had in recent years been operated as a Bed & Breakfast, but according to Ben and Bonnie, the operator was too lavish in trying to run the place like a resort city B&B, and ran herself out of funds, just as her business was growing.

We said goodbye to Ben and Bonnie and turned south to look for sandhill cranes. True to our past experiences trying to find wildlife, we drew a blank, but ended up seeing some nice farm country along the dirt back roads.

Those same roads, however, led us to Cochise Stronghold, the site where Cochise (the fabled Chiricahua Apache leader) and his family and associates were able to find residence and safety from the white soldiers.

The stronghold is reputed to be the place where Cochise, his horse, and his favorite dog were buried, but no one has ever come across the burial site.
Cochise Stronghold is now a restful, quiet campground (no trailers in excess of 22 feet are allowed).
There are some nature trails and a narrative journey through the boulders and the oak and pine trees of this portion of the Coronado National Forest. Interestingly, this is the east slope of the Dragoon Mountains, the range we can see so clearly from our casita in Benson.
Thursday, February 28. This was a very mixed day. In the morning Suzy had some medical tests, which required her to fast. After the tests we had a delicious late breakfast at the Apple Farm, a new-to-us restaurant in Benson.
Then we called our dear friends Dave and Sandy Baleria who were staying at another RV park in town, and visited with them for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. We had met Dave and Sandy two years ago, and our friendship has grown quickly.

After that visit, we did a little tour around town and found another couple we know, Dick and Jeri Hamel, from Massachusetts. They were bike riding, and invited us to visit at their trailer.

Dick is a pretty fair photographer who has a web blog that we follow, and Jeri is an “emerging artist.” One of her paintings was selected to be part of the AARP Foundation’s 2007 calendar, and is currently on display with some of her other work at a major gallery in Bisbee, Arizona. Jeri presented us with a print of her award-winning painting, “Dot’s Diner,” which she autographed for us. We spent some good time with Dick and Jeri, and returned to our current park in Huachuca City, where we are staying for five weeks.

At 9:00pm, we got the phone call that Dave Baleria, whom we had visited not seven hours earlier, had suddenly passed away, as we reported in our last episode of this travelogue. Our late night vigil with Sandy brought what had been two grand days in February to a tragic and heartbreaking conclusion. Dear family and friends, as Dave regularly told us, you must live your life each day as if it were the last day of your life. The clock is ticking, and tomorrow is but a promise written on the wind.

So the winds do blow, and they have an affect on ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Absolutely fabulous! Love the story line accompanied by the photos! Nice work.

  2. Love the new format -- your adventures always sound like so much fun -- your story with the photos are wonderful. We miss you here in Gilbert and we are keeping very busy with the critters, work and family!

    JP & ME

  3. Hey - Cool site! I like this much better - it's easier to read and see the photos at the same time. Nice work!

  4. I know this is many years late, but I am so sorry about your friend. We truly don't know what is in store for us in the next hour or day. My dear friend dropped dead last Saturday mowing his lawn. He was younger than I am.

    We stayed at the SKP park in Benson last fall when we came through. I like that park but we spend most of our time in Apache Junction. Haven't made it to the stronghold yet and that is definitely on my list.


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