Sunday, February 7, 2010

Benson Area Adventures pt. 2

On Friday, John, Zoe, Don and I went to one of my favorite places: Bisbee. It’s a historic town of about 5,400 population, but in its heyday of copper mining activity it boasted over 20,000 residents and was the largest city between San Francisco and St. Louis.

Our first stop was at the Queen Mine RV Park. The park sits on a leveled piece of land on the mountainside, with the Queen Mine and downtown Bisbee on one side, the Lavender Mine on the other side, and State Route 80 connecting the two.

Queen Mine RV Park

Everything surrounding the park is either a steep uphill climb or a precipitous drop! Bisbee’s historic downtown, on the opposite side of Hwy 80, was built in a narrow canyon, with houses and shops climbing the steep walls. Some houses can only be accessed by concrete stairways, as they sit on terraces above or below the roads.

Bisbee downtown

The approach to the park is quite a challenge for RV’s, but everyone seems to make it up the hill safely. The first time we were there about a year ago, I was driving the motorhome pulling Carrie the toad (towed), and had my heart in my throat as I made two quick, sharp turns into the park entrance. Just as I turned into the one-lane drive up the steep hill, Don said “There’s a 5th wheel coming down!” It turned out to be a rig parked at the top of the drive, with For Sale signs. I made it into the park just fine, but my knees were too weak to hold me upright for some time afterward.

QM Park

Don and John chatted with the park manager…QM RV pk

…while Zoe and I took pictures of the Lavender Mine below.

Lavender Mine

We drove around to the other side of the mine and discovered a large pond in the deep hole, due to recent rains in Arizona. Part of the mining road has washed away, too.

Lavender Mine 3

Our next stop was for some juicy burgers at Dot’s Diner.

Dots Diner

This authentic diner was moved to Bisbee from Los Angeles in 1996. There are 10 stools along the curved counter, and an outside seating area for use in good weather.

Dots Diner 3

The diner’s owner also owns The Shady Dell, providing 9 restored aluminum trailers plus a converted bus and a yacht, all available for rent.

Shady Dell2

In its early days beginning in the late 1920’s, gasoline was sold to travelers.

Shady Dell

All of the vintage trailers have sleeping quarters, linens, and fully-supplied kitchens complete with coffee percolators.

Shady Dell-1

Some of the trailers are small…

Shady Dell 4

…some are large.

Shady Dell 8

The converted bus has a shaded Tiki bar for entertaining.

Shady Dell 11

The bar was made from a canoe with outriggers for seats and oars for seat backs.

SD Tiki bar

The 38-ft. yacht even has its own deck, or dock.

Shady Dell 7

After lunch we toured downtown, including the Copper Queen Hotel…

CQ Hotel

…with it’s richly appointed lobby restored to original style and furnishings. I’m sure the three ghosts, said to roam the halls at night, are quite comfortable in these chairs.

CQ stair

For more on the hotel and its ghosts, visit

Here are some of the eclectic houses and another buildings in Benson:

Bisbee houses

Bisbee houses on hill

Bisbee art

Ruins of steps leading to the ‘cribs’ used by ‘ladies of the night’ during the mining boom can be seen. Iron bedsteads form a fence of sorts.


Zoe and I did some shopping on Main St.

Main St

The guys posed with another ‘donkey’…

Three asses

…and finally gave up waiting for us girls.

Guys await