A One Night Stance in Bisbee, Arizona

I almost felt like I was entering an ashram when I opened the old wooden door and heard the bells ringing, but the building quickly made
itself known as an old boarding house.
Myra

Two friends, Myra, Ruth Ann, and I arrived at our hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Myra was the designated driver, I was in charge of reserving the hotel, and Ruth Ann sat in the back very quietly biting her lips and gesturing with her index finger the way we ahould turn as we became confused and circled a roundabout 5 times before we exited. The drive was 3.5 hours from Phoenix. It was not a straight shot. We stopped at a monastery, St. David, bought homemade prickly pear jam, walked around the meditation garden, took pictures, visited the cemetery, and entered the church. I bought a small medal and had it blessed in hopes that it will ward off any future dangers.

St. David’s Monastery

Bisbee is an old mining town inhabited by ghosts, antique shops, locally owned restaurants, bars, and hotels. The Lavender mine is located on the outskirts of town. It was one of the main employers from 1950-1974. Phelps Dodge opened the mine in 1950. The mine produced 86 million tons of ore averaging about 0.7% copper. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.
There aren’t many miners running around town these days. Some of them have returned as ghosts and are said to inhabit our hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock.

Lavender Mine

I chose the hotel by cruising through the listing on booking.com. The first hotel I made reservations with was the School House Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was listed as a room for three people. Four days later I went to review the reservation. There was a picture of only one king size bed. I knew we were not all going to sleep in the same bed. Those days are over. I wanted to keep these friends. I canceled the reservation and made another one at the Inn at Castle Rock. There was a room with three separate beds. Yes, we will take that one.

A delightful quirky, squeeky , old building with lots of history… Nothing fancy. Frank (Comment on booking.com)
“Kitschiest, strangest property, but really interesting and cool.” – shannon

Quirky, unique, quaint

I became nervous as we approached the hotel. We arrived about 5:00 pm. The front desk clerk, a very friendly young man, carried our luggage up a narrow steep flight of stairs to our room on the second floor. I unlocked the room and walked in. I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t sure what was going through the minds of my friends. Would they trust me to find the hotel on our next excursion or will this be the last time they ask me to make the hotel reservations? We were all very happy to see that we would have our own beds. There was a balcony outside. The balcony was decorated with very colorful “Christmas” lights, red, green, and blue. The porch had a rocker and two chairs. The location was great. We could walk everywhere. We parked the car and didn’t use it again until the next day when we went home.

We sat on the porch, chatted, and watched the people go by.  I was worried that my friends did not share my interest in the hotel. Should I ask them what they think? Maybe later.

Entry into the hotel was past what appeared to be a hitching post in days of long ago. The sign clearly stating Kiwi Parking Only mystified all of us. The door was not welcoming but gave the suggestions that one enters at their own risk. The lobby, and I use that term loosely, featured a natural spring that one could look over the edge of it and see what appeared to be water.
Ruth Ann

The owner is from New Zealand

We returned from dinner about 7:00 pm. The room didn’t have much light. There was a ceiling light which appeared to be yellow, and lamps on each bed table. Not enough light to read a book. A view of the Peace Memorial and a projection of a bat on a rock were directly across the street. A bathroom with a kitchen sink. A shower we couldn’t use because the water was too cold. We didn’t let the water run long enough. A fake wall between the bathroom and a very small private bedroom. Two beds in the main room, one double the other single. Pictures of interesting people on the walls. Strings of colored lights on the balcony, outdoor gazebos, and two fireplaces in the community rooms. A breakfast room with coffee available at all times. Breakfast included: cereal, bread, toast, bananas, and a few oranges. Help yourself. Don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them in the sink. Everywhere we explored we found a “surprise”.

We sat on our beds and chatted until about 11:00 pm. The beds were comfortable minus the nylon sheets. There was a little noise coming from the outside. We were on the main drag. The noise died down about 11:00. We slept and no one snored.

The double bed

The picture above the bed

It was hilarious and I’m sure not too clean, but the room named Return to Paradise was way too dark to make a judgement. It had the required three beds for us. It did have a delightful porch overlooking main street, but as my feet were planted I had the feeling one might go through the very old plywood floors. We sat in rocking chairs looking out across the street at a giant boulder where the hotel had displayed the Bat call signal from the Batman television series.
Ruth Ann

Our friendly front desk young man, Alex, gave us a tour. The hotel was built over the flowing Apache Springs Well. Yes, there is a well next to the front desk. Every room has a theme: Jungle, Victorian, Cherlys, and Return to Paradise. We stayed in Return to Paradise.

Apache Springs Well

The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1890 as a miner’s boarding house. The mine shaft is in the dining room of the bed and breakfast serving as a koi pond. The hotel has survived fires and floods including a fire in 1908

Did you sleep well last night? asks the lady at the front desk
Did you see any ghosts?
Ghosts? we asked

Little did I know we had just slept in a hotel that is haunted by some of the miners who lived there .
One miner has stayed around as a ghost. Slept in the same room we did, Return to Paradise. He is rumored to play with your toes if you sleep in his bed. He wants to disturb your sleep so he can get his room back.

One story from the early 1900’s is of a soldier cleaning his rifle on the front verandah when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting a woman walking up the other side of the road. It is said that she still searches the Inn looking for the reason. The shooting is documented in local news of the time.

The boarding house opened up as an Inn in 1980. The owner of the hotel, Chris Brown, is from New Zealand but settled in Bisbee in 2002 “because it is the nicest place in the world”. It is his vision to bring the Inn back to its former glory.

I was disappointed because I wanted to eat at Hazel’s Table 10
Hazel is from Nicaragua and a successful interior decorator. She came to the states with one of her wealthy clients. He died in Las Vegas. She tried to live in Phoenix but it was too hot for her.
She rented a room at the Inn at Castle Rock and launched Table 10. She only cooked three evenings a week. According to the reviews, her meals were a surprise to all. She no longer lives in Bisbee. She moved to Tucson.

Were there bugs in the room? Was the carpet clean? Were the sheets clean? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. There was no strange smell and the bathroom was clean. Ruth Ann brought a nightlife for the bathroom. That helped.
Were there ghosts? If there were, they didn’t bother us. We just ignored them.
Would I stay here again? Sure, it was a unique experience. Would my friends stay there again? I am not so sure.

We had breakfast at the Market and Cafe.  It is a five-minute walk from the Inn at Castle Rock. We sat outside on red plastic chairs with brightly colored red and blue umbrellas.  The store sold homemade cookies, honey, biscuits, and juices. Pottery, odds, and ends, and quirky items. The food was tasty. A great way to end our one night stance. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would my friends? I hope that would.

Welcome to Historic Old Bisbee’s High Desert Market and Café
Come enjoy our gourmet food and gifts market, our delicious café offerings,
and our new smoothie, juice and espresso bar.
Open 7am to 7pm, 7 Days a Week!

 

 

The Last Final Exam

“Exams test your memory, life tests your learning; others will test your patience.”
Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal – No. 3

It is 2:00 p.m. Thursday the last day of exams for our program. It is also my last time to give a final exam. I can’t count how many final exams I have given in the past  forty-two years of my teaching life.

Nineteen students file in and place their beloved cell phones on the table in front of the room. They sit in alternate seats so that they don’t cheat. The rows in the class are set up as five sets of desks going across the room and six sets of desks in each row. They place their backpacks on the floor next to them and take out only an eraser and a pen or pencil.

One student does not have a pencil and asks his friends if they have one he can borrow. This student has not been prepared for class since he walked in the door seven weeks ago. One of my very well prepared students offers him a choice of two pencils and he chooses one. I pass out the test to the students in the front rows and they pass them back to the other students in their rows. There is complete silence and anxious faces. I go over the directions and ask for any questions. The student who did not have a pencil asks me to put the time on the board. I point to the wall clock in front of the classroom and tell him to watch the time. He and the other students never knew there was a clock in the room. The only way they keep track of time is with their cell phones. They vibrate in their pockets when the class is over.

The students have seventy-five minutes to take a reading exam. The exam is worth 15% of their grade. This was a good class so I expect most of them to pass. The test begins and I keep an eye on them. I have never been one of those teachers who feels comfortable reading my e-mail, grading other papers, or searching the Internet during a test. Students have figured out so many ways of cheating. I once had a student who wrote an essay on five ways to cheat during a test.  The information was not very surprising, but when your future depends on a test you will try anything.

Twenty minutes have past and students are reading the passage flipping the pages back and forth because the first part of the story is on the front page and the second part is on the back. Some students begin to crack their knuckles, some are tapping their feet, and others are staring at the clock. The students have been in my classroom for seven weeks and I know who will get a passing grade and who won’t. Fortunately there is only one who will not pass. Yes, you guessed right. The one who came to class without a pencil.

Ten minutes are left in order to finish the test.  Ten students have finished and handed in the exam. They grab a brownie, wave goodbye , and head out the door. As time goes by more students are finished and leave the room waving with brownie in hand.  Time is over and the last student to hand in his test is the student who did not have a pencil. He hangs back until all the students have left and asks me if he is going to pass. I must give him the news which he already knows , no he will not pass. He asks me if there is anything he can do to pass. I tell him it is too late and I am very sorry. He looks at me sheepishly, takes his brownie and waves good-bye.

“The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves”
Joseph Campbell

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1cd0This is the last final I will ever give . I will miss my students and I will miss walking into a classroom and seeing the expressions of my international students who had to listen to stories that I told them about my life when I was a student and how easy their life is. As I sit  here looking  at the empty classroom, I begin to feel sad. Teaching has been my life, but it is time to move on.

Goodbye students! Goodbye teaching!

A Gem in the Desert

The Desert Heat

Hot, sizzling summer days with temperatures of up to 112 F are coming to an end. No more waking up at 4:30 a.m. to walk the dog around the park or hike. Fountain Hills, Arizona is one of the best kept secrets. It is located about twenty five minutes from the greater Phoenix area  and is home to the tallest fountain in the world which shoots up to 560 ft everyday on the hour for about 15 minutes.  The fountain is the main attraction of the park. People come from all over to take pictures.

Summer activities that take place everywhere in the USA take place in the Fall and Winter  in Fountain Hills. People come out of their summer caves and walk the trail that goes up a hill and another that goes around the park. The distance around the park is 1.5 miles. The park trail is popular with families, couples and dogs. Walk anywhere between 5:00-7:00 a.m. and you will find all kinds of dogs with their owners. People are very friendly and greet you with a “Good Morning” and a smile.

October is the time when the “Snowbirds” begin to find their way back from their summer retreats in their home states . Half of the population of Fountain Hills in the fall and winter months is made up of short term visitors. In the Fall and Winter there are disk golf championships, outdoor festivals, two extremely well know art festivals and outdoor markets where you can buy local food. Arizona is known for its lemons, grapefruit, lettuce, cotton, and cabbage.

The fountain is in the middle of a man- made lake which is filled with reclaimed water. There are signs everywhere warning people not to swim in the water. Fishing is not allowed. The ducks don’t seem to bother to read the signs. There are many geese, ducks, blue herons,egrets who nest and hatch their babies in nests that are high up in the trees. Coyotes roam the neighborhood at night and in the early mornings therefore these birds spend much of their time protecting their babies from these predators. Carp is the main type of fish that is found in the lake. There are also rare sightings of turtles and frogs.

 

President’s Corner and More

Fountain Park is a place for strolling around and looking at the numerous statues that are hiding in the park. Sculptures that are memories of people in the city who have passed are nestled under trees and perched on pedestals. A sculpture of a cocker spaniel with it’s head resting on the toes of a pair of bronzed hiking shoes, is a memory of his owner who passed away from cancer. The sculpture sits under a palo verde tree which blossoms with beautiful yellow flowers. Another sculpture is a little girl perched on a pedestal holding a butterfly and extending her hands out to everyone who passes by. As you approach the corner of the park you will see one of the most sought after photo locations in the park. Five presidents, Ted Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington sitting and standing around a bench discussing the politics of yesteryear.  Visitors sit on the bench or in the laps of the presidents for their “picture with the president”. The corner is referred to as Fount Rushmore or President’s corner by the locals.

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An Abundance of Desert Flowers

A variety of desert flowers and cacti such as the Argentinian Giant which produces one of the biggest flowers sits proudly  in the garden with her arms laid out in front of her. It is a photographer’s dream to capture a great picture when in bloom. People stand in line to take pictures of this great plant. Other cacti include the giant saguaro with its many arms stretching as if it reaching towards the sky. Some of the saguaro cacti in the desert are more than a thousand years old.  They are protected and it is illegal to cut one down. The garden is well taken care of by volunteers. Flowers are always blooming in Arizona, even in the winter.

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Sunrise! Sunset!

Families with children, retired couples and singles with their dogs sit on the benches and watch the sunset and the sunrise. The sunsets and sunrises are the most beautiful in Arizona because the background is the mountains. Cloud cover will produce the best pictures ever.

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Fountain Hills is surrounded by mountains. It is one of the most beautiful places in Arizona to visit in the Fall and Winter. There is a small trail, Lake Overlook Trail, that can be hiked in no more than forty-five minutes. Once you get to the top of the trail, you will find a photographer’s paradise. As you look around you will see mountains, fruit orchards, and the Fountain Park. In the winter the mountains are snow covered, no worries, you will not have to drive through it or shovel it off your sidewalks.

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Fountain Hills, Arizona

Coyotes and Javelinas, wild, aggressive, really ugly pigs, roam the neighborhood as if they own the place. They usually come out in the early morning and late evenings. You can hear the coyotes howl on many winter nights usually after they have caught their prey. They feed on the jackrabbits who run around in the desert.

It is easy to walk around Fountain Hills because it is small. You can walk to the downtown area, get a cup of coffee, sit outside and talk to your friends. You can do all of this while your friends are dodging snowstorms, shoveling snow, and wearing heavy outerwear in other parts of the US.  They will be envious! Put this article down and come to Fountain Hills and see for yourself.

Facts:

Fountain Hills has a local population of 23,235.

The Average High in summer is 115F

The Average Low in winter is 42F

 

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