Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tombstone, AZ

Tombstone, AZ is a funky little tourist trap of a town that manages to laugh at itself and admit its hokiness. However, there is a long, long history here and you can absorb a lot of that if you check out the museums and attend the "Shoot Out at the OK Corral" and wander Boot Hill.

Tombstone got its start as a mining town after Ed Schieffelin came to the area searching for silver. His friends told him he'd find his tombstone rather than silver, so he gave the name of "Tombstone" to his mining claim. Other people soon followed to try to cash in on the mining craze and the town of Tombstone slowly developed. Rowdy and raucous, home to gunslingers and gamblers, Tombstone became famous for that shoot out at the O-K Corral between the Earps and the Clantons. Over the years, the gold and silver mines flooded with water and many folks moved on. During the war years, manganese and lead was mined in the area but afterwards the need for those minerals started to peter out and the townspeople of Tombstone had to figure out what they were going to do in place of mining. They decided to recreate the town of Tombstone into a tourist destination and the rest is history.

You can spend a full day at Tombstone just wandering the shops, but you can also tour the town in a replica of a stagecoach or a Conestoga wagon where your driver will tell you the history of the town. There is a recreation of the "Shoot Out at the O-K Corral" that's fascinating when you see the small area that the shooting occurred in, making you wonder how anyone could have walked away from that gun battle alive. Currently there's also a trick-riding/Wild West show and another gunslinger/shooting demonstration that's shown daily. You can also tour the Tombstone Epigraph newspaper building, where the oldest continuously published paper is still being printed today.

Of course, as you head north out of town you have to stop by Boot Hills to read the "tombstones" that have been recreated (the graves are real). Funny, sad and thought-provoking, the cemetery gives you a small idea of the types of folks who lived during Tombstone's heyday. Stop by the gift shop on your way out and pick up some delicious fudge for a perfect end to a very enjoyable, educational day.

To get to Tombstone from Tucson, take S/B Interstate 10, exit 303 (Hwy 80). Follow Hwy. 80 southbound for about 20 miles to Tombstone.

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