It’s Travel Tuesday, and today we’re going west, young man (and young women, too — we’re all young, right, ‘cuz we ain’t dead yet).
We’re visiting a town named for the furniture in a cemetery, but it’s not as dark as it sounds. Tombstone is off the beaten track — 25 miles south of Interstate 10 in southern Arizona. Unlike the cemetery, you only end up there on purpose because there’s no reason to be near enough on accident. It’s on the way to nowhere.
My Beloved and I visited Tombstone this spring on our way home from Yuma, Arizona (Hampshire residents, please don’t take offense at the proximity between “on the way to nowhere” and “on our way home”). If you’ve heard of it, it’s because of the O.K. Corral. Or the frozen pizza. Or possibly the 1993 movie starring Val Kilmer (sigh). But probably it’s the O.K. Corral, site of the legendary shootout featuring the brothers Earp against a gang of cowboys-cum-thieves.
Tombstone earns its tagline the hard way: By living it. The tagline? The town too tough to die.Tombstone today looks very much like it did in the 1880s, complete with wooden sidewalks and plenty of period tourist attractions with modern-day prices like old-time photo shops, stage-coach rides and shooting galleries. We skipped the daily re-enactment of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, but as a former newspaper reporter, I really enjoyed the Tombstone Epitaph Museum (the Tombstone Epitaph — isn’t that a great name for the local newspaper?). The bar food and live music at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon was worth a stop, too.
We camped at the nearby Tombstone RV Park & Campground, set in the middle of the desert. Watch for cactus, creosote bushes and other prickly native flora (but the sunsets were nice). The town of Tombstone got its name from the desert geology that gives rise to these dry-hardy plants. Founder Ed Schieffelin was scouting the area for valuable ore samples, and his buddies told him, “Better take your coffin with you; you will find your tombstone there, and nothing else.”
When he found a silver vein and filed a claim, he named his stake Tombstone.