It’s been years since we first heard of Bisbee from our friends and previous full-time RVers at Tales From the Mutiny. But you don’t drive past Bisbee, Arizona. You’ve got to drive to it…a destination on the way to nowhere else.
As we were making our way west once again, this time along the far southern edge of the country from Big Bend National Park, we finally charted our route to Bisbee.
We spent three nights in town and could’ve stayed longer. While the small town’s quirky, substance-altered vibe may not make everyone want to stay forever, there’s definitely something charming about it all.
Our RV Campground in Bisbee
There are several RV park options in the Bisbee area. We opted for Queen Mine RV Park because it’s a short walk from town and the nightly rate was reasonable (full hookups).
This is not a large park, so you should definitely call ahead. The sites are back-in, arranged in a circular gravel lot. There were some big rigs in there, including fifth wheels and Class As, but parking was definitely not fun for them. The sites are about as skinny as it gets.
I was grateful for a laundry room on-site, and it was a huge plus to be right in town, able to wander at will.
How to Explore Bisbee
Our travels have been fast lately, and we’ve simultaneously had our heads down in a number of work projects. So instead of making plans, I mostly let Bisbee happen to me.
Early each day while we were in town, Caspian and I would walk into the fading desert cool of the morning. We found Bisbee Coffee Co., where I enjoyed a coffee and we shared a pastry–like a scone or cinnamon roll. The outdoor patio is a good size and perfect for people-watching.
From there, our goal was to find stairs.
The Stairs of Bisbee
You wouldn’t think stairs would be much of an attraction, but Bisbee is famous for them. Each year, there’s something called Bisbee 1000, called “the most unique physical fitness challenge in the U.S.” From the official website:
Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb is arguably one of the most unusual and challenging events in the world. The 4.5-mile course features nine staircases (over 1000 total steps) connected by winding roads. While enjoying the challenge, runners and walkers alike see some of the most scenic parts of Old Bisbee.
I used the (difficult to interpret) race map online to find as many of the staircases as I could. (Note: someone told me there was an app with a map, but I couldn’t find it.)
We ended up doing three of the nine staircases. Caspian climbed all on his own and rocked a total of 406 stairs over two mornings.
Where to Eat in Bisbee
We have financial goals right now that require scaling back on our eating out. We only ate 38% of meals at home while we were in Bisbee, so apparently our goals are a work in progress.
We had two meals at Santiago’s, and ordered the exact same thing the second time. I loved the shaded outdoor seating and house margarita. We took a chance on the short rib nachos and ended up loving them. The plate is huge–more than enough for two people to eat as a meal.
Bisbee Breakfast Club
Our last morning before leaving town, we had brunch at Bisbee Breakfast Club in Lowell. Eric loved it and said he would return to try a few things on the menu. I wasn’t very hungry and accidentally ordered way too many carbs. If I had asked for a real meal, I think my experience would’ve been better!
We had to wander the time-machine main street of Lowell before going. We ran into a local who grew up in Bisbee and now lives on the main street in Lowell. He offered us some really interesting insight on the history of the area. There isn’t a lot of money available to revitalize Lowell, but the individual property owners have been working wonders with more renovations underway.
Activity Highlight: Coronado National Memorial
Coronado National Memorial was Caspian’s 37th National Park Service unit. This site commemorates Francisco de Vásquez Coronado’s entrance into the American southwest.
After popping into the visitor’s center, we made the drive up to Montezuma Pass Overlook. The last stretch is off-road, but any vehicle can make it (except maybe in poor weather conditions).
The view from the peak was incredible. Behind you, you reflect on Coronado’s journey of conquest. In front of you, Coronado National Forest rolls into mountains. Some of the peaks you see are located in neighboring Sonora, Mexico.
Caspian’s First Two-mile Hike
We didn’t have any big plans for our visit to Coronado National Memorial. But Caspian kept asking to go hiking, so we found an easy/moderate option. Windmill Trail is out-and-back, two miles total, with an elevation change of 200 feet.
We didn’t plan to hike the whole thing. But if we did, we knew it would be a big milestone: Caspian’s first two-mile hike unaided.
We stayed sensitive to how #LittleNomad was faring, but he just kept going. It wasn’t without some work on Eric and my part: we told stories, sang songs, and set small goals that would get us just a bit farther (look for the big agave plant).
We’re not sure what happened to the trail, but it didn’t have a clear end-point a mile in. We know we hit at least a mile, thanks to our iPhone fitness tracker (Eric doesn’t wear a FitBit anymore, which is inconvenient when trying to break toddler hiking records).
So, yay for Caspian! He completed a mile-long hike when he was one, and now he’s conquered two miles…at two years, four months old.
Guess we need to start working on three miles now.
Closing Thoughts on Bisbee
Anyone who’s been to Bisbee will probably be appalled that we didn’t take the Queen Mine Tour. We’re sure it’s awesome, but the age minimum is six. Rather than switch off, Eric and I figured we’d come back in a few years. Caspian became obsessed with mine cars during our short time in Bisbee, so he’ll probably be able to lead the tour by then.
We highly recommend Tales From the Mutiny’s blog article on Bisbee, written by Lynn Bonelli. After years of travel, Lynn called Bisbee her favorite small town, and her passion shows through in her writing.
While Bisbee may not be my favorite small town, I enjoyed our time there and would definitely like to return some day.
Where Else Have We Been?
Like I mentioned, we’ve been traveling fast. Since we left the Austin area on April 18, the longest we’ve slept anywhere is four nights.
Life being what it is right now, there’s no way on earth I can keep up with travel logs if I write an article for every single place we stay. So here’s a quick look at our stops since Big Bend on Easter weekend.
Everyone Says You Must See Marfa
When people ask where we’re from and we tell them Texas is our home base, 50% of followup questions are, “Have you been to Marfa?” Apparently people are obsessed with this artsy, out-of-place little town in West Texas.
Until this month, my answer was always no, we’ve never been.
But we tumbled in to Tumble In RV Park in Marfa on Easter, to a fabulous surprise. While we were checking in, one of our longest-time RV friends, Kerensa Durr (Drive. Dive. Devour., RV to Freedom) sauntered out of the laundry room.
We got to park right next to Brandon and Kerensa and enjoy some fun times together during our one-night stay.
Because it was literally the only place open in town that we could find (for Easter Sunday lunch!!), we ate at The Water Stop. Fortunately, it was an enjoyable meal.
Other than that, Eric and I did hit up the Marfa Lights Viewing Area after dark, while Brandon and Kerensa stayed with sleeping Caspian. As “Texas Monthly” wrote, “The Truth Is Out There.”
At 8 a.m. on Monday morning, there was no open coffee shop to find in Marfa. I know little towns can be sleepy (most of Bisbee didn’t open until 10 a.m.), but this was a little much.
Fortunately, we wandered into The Hotel Paisano to see if they had a coffee shop, and were rewarded with complimentary coffee. I repaid the favor by purchasing Big Bend Coffee Roasters beans at one of the perfectly curated shops in the hotel.
Before this section about Marfa becomes article-length, a friendly PSA that Prada Marfa is definitely not in Marfa. It’s technically in/outside the town of Valentine, TX, about half an hour up the road.
Digging Into Harvest Hosts
Since finally pulling the trigger on a Harvest Hosts membership after RV Entrepreneur Summit this year, we’ve stayed at three locations:
- Tara Winery – Athens, TX
- Licon Dairy – San Elizario, TX
- St. Clair Winery – Deming, NM
All three of our nights were positive, some of them amazing. I literally can’t wait for our next stay. Lots of our friends have been asking for more details, so I do have a full article planned. I just want to stay a few more times before I spout profound conclusions. So…stay tuned for those, I guess.
Driveway Camping in Tucson and Phoenix
I know I’ve been calling it moochdocking, but I’m trying out “driveway camping.” Which do you prefer?
We’ve had two more dry camping stays since we left Austin. Brien and Beth hosted us at their home in Tucson and were the most gracious friends.
We know Brien from overlanding circles, particularly Overland Bound, so we had to go off-roading together. He went out with Eric to Saguaro National Forest one night, and then we all went together through Coronado National Forest.
Our best meal in Tucson was at Lindy’s, which we visited last time we were in town. It’s at a new, much bigger, location now.
Plan your visit to Tucson using our previous blog articles:
We also had a one-night stop at Eddie and Brenda’s new home in Sun City, outside Phoenix. Despite a monsoon of health issues and home repairs, this couple welcomed us with open arms. Old friends are gold.
Where Are We Now?
To recap our madness:
Austin ➡️ Sonora, TX (1 night) ➡️ Big Bend (2 nights) ➡️ Marfa (1 night) ➡️ Licon Dairy outside El Paso (1 night) ➡️ St. Clair Winery in Deming, NM (1 night) ➡️ Bisbee (3 nights) ➡️ Tucson (4 nights) ➡️ Phoenix (1 night) ➡️
…Peace and quiet. We’re wild camping in Coconino National Forest between Cottonwood and Sedona, AZ.
This place is special to us, in a somewhat humorous way. I’ll share more this week. Until then, a little throwback to 2016:
What the heck has happened to our travel rhythm?!
What Else Has Been Going on?
We haven’t been playing tourist much. Even in places we’ve never been before, I’m not yielding to FOMO like I have in the past. We’re prioritizing visits to National Park Service units and looking for good, local food. Other than that, we’re living more like locals and just enjoying the day-to-day.
In honor of National Small Business Week, I’ll talk work–which I rarely do here. After Winnebago published my article, “Stimulating Your Child’s Growth Through RV Travel,” our friends at AdventureKT published my “Packing Guide for Your RV Trip.” I’ll be writing for both companies again this month.
Looming large on the calendar, we’re thrilled to be presenting at Overland Expo for the first time, May 17-19, 2019. At Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, our three speaking events are:
- Overlanding While Working Full-time…Is It Possible? (our solo presentation)
- Regional Q&A: Mexico and Central America (roundtable)
- Overlanding With Kids (roundtable)
Please drop a comment if you’ll be at Overland Expo West this year! We’re planning a meetup through Jeepsies and we’d love to see you there. We’ll be dry camping with friends at Lake Mary during the week before expo, and you’re invited.
Finally, I’m looking for someone to hang out with Caspian during our solo presentation, which we’ll be giving twice over the weekend. <3