Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bisbee, Arizona and a Visit with Friends

Friday we drove to Bisbee, Arizona, to visit our good friends Dick and Jeri Hamel. Dick and Jeri have a home in Massachusetts, and are very glad they aren’t there right now! Instead, they are in Bisbee where Jeri has some of her oil paintings on display at the Verano Art Gallery. They first came to Arizona about five years ago, and Jeri was inspired by the striking colors and textures of the desert, began painting what she had seen, and is now a featured artist at the Verano Gallery in Bisbee.

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Bisbee is about 45 miles from Benson, close to the Mexican border. Bisbee is an old copper mining town, once dominated by the Phelps Dodge Company. Now the mines are mostly quiet and the town has become a tourist Mecca, with art galleries, antique boutiques, and coffee houses and restaurants, both funky and fine.

One of the old time motor courts, Shady Dell, has been in existence through a series of ownerships, since 1917.
Today, Shady Dell is kind of an RV park, but most of the sites have been or are about to be converted to rental units, each featuring a restored vintage RV from the early days of travel trailers.
This little trailer is called the "Honeymoon Suite." It was home-made from a Popular Mechanics plan many years ago.

The old blue bus is called the "White Elephant." Don't know why they didn't call it the Blue Elephant, and we didn't ask.

The trailers are being restored to their original elegance and furnished with period pieces such as TVs, LP stereos, coffee pots and toasters.

Dick and Jeri pulled their trailer into one of the last remaining RV spots, and will stay there for two months. (That's Dick and Jeri, but it's not their trailer!)

One of the highlights at Shady Dell is Dot’s Diner, which Jeri selected as the subject for one of her paintings, the one that brought her acceptance at the Verano Gallery. Her painting was also selected as the picture of the month (October) for AARP’s nationally published 2007 calendar! The diner is currently being remodeled by the new owner, so we couldn't eat there.

Instead we had lunch at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, which we had heard about from friends at the Saguaro SKP Park in Benson. They are open for breakfast and lunch only, in the old Rexall Drug Store, now converted to a restaurant.

We feasted on fish and chips – Icelandic cod in a beer batter, with French fries and homemade tartar sauce. The only thing we missed was a side of cole slaw, or some kind of salad. Each serving consisted of three huge pieces of cod and a heap of fries. We each brought home one piece of cod, which will become the center of fish tacos one of these evenings.

We had a fine day visiting with our friends, who gave us a cook’s tour (literally, as we shall see) of Bisbee. We saw art galleries, the old Copper Queen Hotel, craft shops, and coffee houses. Here, Jeri is standing beside one of her Arizona landscapes in the Verano Art Gallery.

Everything is Bisbee is built on a hillside; most of the streets are narrow and steep, and the old landmarks, such as the Copper Queen Hotel, have struggled to be “accessible.”

To visit the hotel, Suzy drove Big Red, her scooter, down a narrow walkway to the kitchen entrance, then through the kitchen and dining room into the main lobby. The kitchen staff were most accommodating, both on our entrance and our departure. They even moved their stainless steel work tables to allow greater mobility for the scooter!

The interior of the hotel has been maintained in its original style.

We looked at the main entrance to the Copper Queen Hotel, and decided that it would be far better to go back out through the kitchen! Don't try the staircase, Suzy!
We always like to include a picture of local churches. This one peeks through the trees behind the Bisbee Mining Museum..
This ceramic shop had colorful displays to attract the visitor ... and his wallet!

We drove home to Benson as the sun was settling in the west, through a Border Patrol checkpoint, through tough old Tombstone, and past the Benedictine Monastery in St. David. What a fine day we had, moving about again, in … Our Life on Wheels!


  1. Bisbee sounds great! We will add it to our "Things to do in Benson" list!!

    Great pics too!
    Suzanne & Brad

  2. We enjoyed our day together . . . and the wonderful lunch at the Bisbee Breakfast Club. It was a perfect day for walking Old Bisbee. Great photos and nicely written blog recounting your visit to Old Bisbee and The Shady Dell. It was nice to see you both again and looking forward to our Benson visit next week.

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