Bisbee Flyout, October 27-29, 2011

Four years have passed since the last Arizona Blue Sky Flyers fly-out to Bisbee. That   trip took place in late October 2007, a week before Halloween. We had such an enjoyable trip and since then have often said we should go back again, only next time, let’s plan the trip on Halloween. So, in our 2011 activities planning session, we put Bisbee at Halloween on our events schedule for this year.

On this trip, we hoped to learn a little more about Bisbee and the people that live there as well as enjoy many of the sights and sounds of Bisbee at Halloween, particularly as it relates to the town’s celebration and “craziness” that goes on during this festive time. It is rumored that ghosts inhabit some of the rooms at the various hotels and other establishments; we had hopes of actually getting to see a ghost this time. A few years ago, AARP highlighted what they called the most 'alive' places to retire in the U.S. ; Bisbee was a runner-up as one of the "quirkiest" towns in America.

A little about Bisbee….

Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine. Mining in the Mule Mountains proved quite successful: in the early 20th century the population of Bisbee soared. Incorporated in 1902, by 1910 its population swelled to 9,019 and it sported a constellation of suburbs, including Warren, Lowell, and San Jose. In 1917, open pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the heavy copper demand due to World War I.

By 1950, boom times were over and the population of the City of Bisbee had dropped to less than 6,000, but the introduction of open-pit mining and continued underground work would see the town escape the fate of many of its early contemporaries.

The sudden flood of real estate onto the market and crash in housing prices, coupled with an attractive climate and picturesque scenery, led to Bisbee's subsequent rebirth as an artists' colony in the early 1970s. It became a haven for artists and hippies fleeing the larger cities of Arizona and California

The rediscovery of Bisbee by baby boomers in the 1990s saw it develop a more polished look, complete with coffee shops and live theater. Many of the old houses have been renovated, and property values in Bisbee now greatly exceed those of other Southeastern Arizona cities.

Today, the original city of Bisbee is known as "Old Bisbee", and is home to a thriving downtown cultural scene. Old Bisbee is also noted for its architecture, including its Victorian style houses and elegant Art Deco courthouse. Because its plan was laid out before the automobile, Old Bisbee has an almost European feel. The town's hilly terrain is exemplified by the old four-story high school: each floor has a ground-level entrance.

Quirky or not, Bisbee makes for an interesting place to spend a couple of days. For those of us that fly in, the only ground transportation really needed is the van ride to/from the airport. There are plenty of popular sights to see all available within a short walk from any one of the downtown hotels. Though you can get around without using them, there are more stairs in Bisbee than you might ever imagine!  The Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb, a yearly event, is a five kilometer run through Bisbee that goes up and down 1,034 stairs!

This trip’s cast of characters included:

Margaret & Keith Monet, Gert & Jim Little, Sandy and Dewey Harnagel with guests, Jim McCaw & Rosie.      

With a great weather forecast in hand, Keith and Margaret in their Skylane were first to be airborne, their routing from Deer Valley Airport (DVT) took them first to Payson for a brief stop to pick up friends Rosie and Jim McCaw. Jim and Gert, along with Sandy and Dewey in Jim’s Piper Archer, adjusted our departure time so that we would all arrive at the Bisbee airport at about the same time.  

We had a most enjoyable ride south with plenty of Arizona scenery to be taken in. Departing DVT, we flew around the east side of the Phoenix metropolitan area continuing on a southeasterly course that kept us immediately west of most all mountains providing views, including that of a rather majestic Mt Lemon and other peaks within the Pusch Wilderness Area as we flew over the Tucson area.


Whenever flying over Tucson, a point of interest is to see the “Boneyard” where military aircraft no longer in service are kept. Traveling southeast, the views of hundred’s of aircraft in open storage is soon followed by scenes of Saguaro National Monument and the numerous Saguaro Cactus scattered all over the desert floor and mountain sides. Turning a little more to the southeast, we headed for our next checkpoint - Tombstone. At Tombstone, a slight turn to the south put us on our heading for Bisbee’s airport and kept us out of the restricted airspace surrounding Sierra Vista. I elected to navigate around the east side of Mount Ballard located in the Mule Mountains on the north edge of Bisbee while Keith chose to fly around the west side. The east side was prettier! This maneuvering sequenced us so that both of us didn’t arrive for landing at the same time. Clear skies, a slight east headwind aloft prevailed along most of our route.  

With no other traffic at Bisbee and the wind out of the east, we entered the pattern to land on runway 17. This provided us an unobstructed bird’s eye view of the border with Mexico, just a scant 2nm, maybe less, off the south end of the runway.

Our Sassy Transport LLC van was waiting for us and as soon as all our baggage was stowed, we were headed for the Bisbee Grand Hotel. We placed our bags in Sandy  and Dewey’s room since all the rooms weren’t quite ready for check in. With our bags secured, we decided to have lunch at the Poor Bitch Café located in the hotel. Though there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, someone suggested that we choose this restaurant just so we could say, “poor bitch”. AND, as if that wasn’t enough, our “Prez” ordered the “poor bitch salad” as listed on the menu!!

Here, seated around the Poor Bitch lunch table, from left to right, Jim McCaw, Rosie, Sandy, Margaret, Gert, Jim, and Keith. Dewey took the picture.

After a filling lunch of Poor Bitch Salad, and some sandwiches too, at the Poor Bitch Café, and now with our hotel registration and room assignments complete, we just had to go check out each other’s rooms as each room in the hotel is different. Some even have names. Rosie and Jim signed up for the Old Western Suite which the hotel claims is probably the most unusual suite in the country. This suite features a covered wagon that was built to accommodate a queen sized bed in the back of the wagon. Once finished, the wagon was dismantled and rebuilt inside the suite! When you stay in the Old Western suite, you actually sleep inside the covered wagon. The suite also includes a two person jacuzzi tub.

Sandy and Dewey reserved the Oriental Suite, it’s theme carries through its sitting room and bedroom, and its focal point is an authentic antique Chinese wedding bed that dates back to the 1890's. That king sized bed, encased in wood, came with two reverse paintings, dim lighting, and a mirror. The bathroom has an antique claw foot bathtub. Closets in these rooms are shallow, as in less than a hanger’s length deep, meaning that hangers had to go in sideways!

After finishing the room tours, we headed out for a walk down Main Street going in and out of numerous shops. Shops filled with all kinds of paintings, sculptures, antiques and all things that attract us tourists. When you get off Main Street and go down some of the side streets such as Brewery Ave., there, you see signs, pictures, people, etc., that suggest you’ve stepped back into the era of the early 60’s and might be passing thru the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco noted for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement; highly decorated vehicles, brightly painted buildings, oddly decorated figurines. There were signs too having to do with the “Occupy Wallstreet” protests going on across the country, decorated electric poles, windows, and vacant lots.

Halloween in Bisbee can be cold and it was downright chilly this night! Not much chance of seeing any ghosts or skimpily clad goblins running around the streets. Dinner this first night was at Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant, next door to the Copper Queen Hotel.

We toured the Queen Mine on Friday morning. First opened in 1976, we learned of the many hardships faced by the miners working in these deep shaft mines. We also learned of new platinum mining operations now being set up at a Superior mine. They are hiring and the wages certainly sounded attractive, $45 - $75 per hour depending upon the task assignment. Maybe I should consider coming out of retirement for a short while – I know how to handle a pick and shovel. After all, I’ve planted shrubs in my caliche laden yard in New River!!

We took a long walk around Bisbee, up and down many of the streets and some of the stairs too, in and out of numerous shops. After our feet grew tired, we headed back to our hotel to refresh and get ready for the evening’s dinner.

Our second night in town, considering that it was the weekend, our “host” at the hotel advised us to make reservations early for dinner, we chose the Bisbee Grill. This was a wise choice and making the reservation early was a smart decision. There were numerous other tourists like us in town including a Corvette Car Club from Phoenix with their plastic Chevy’s. The Bisbee Grill – broad selection of very good food and excellent service.

Dinner at the Bisbee Grill.

Dewey received an extra serving of broccoli. Seems a large amount of Brocolii was included with Rosie’s dinner order………..Rosie no like broccoli……….Dewey likes broccoli……….Dewey got Rosie’s broccoli………..even before he had a plate!!

Another cold night in Bisbee but the heat was on at the Grand Hotel. After dinner and the walk back to our hotel, all of us congregated in Sandy and Dewey’s suite. Dewey got out the guitars, Sandy got out the “survival packs” prepared by Margaret and, as if by magic, a couple of wine bottles appeared. Maybe they were provided by the ghosts! Keith picked up one of the guitars; he and Dewey proceeded to serenade us and anyone else from the hotel that happened to stop by the room. Between songs, Rosie, barefoot in her short PJ’s and matching ball cap, would go off to the hotel bar downstairs to have her wine glass refilled.

Saturday morning, the sun was shining brightly and there was a lingering chill in the air. A call to Flight Service confirmed that we wouldn’t have any weather issues, conditions all along our route were clear and we could expect a smooth ride home. A breakfast buffet was provided to all hotel guests. Soon, it was time to be getting ready for our flight back to Deer Valley. Rosie wanted to do a little more shopping and she did.

The Sassy van arrived as scheduled and back to the airport we went. Fuel tanks filled, preflight checks completed and soon we were on our way. The weather folks were working in our favor today with conditions as advertised - clear and smooth. In fact, we even had a gentle push to help speed us along our way.   

The beginnings of a “tradition” have been in the making, that of heading over to Culver’s on Deer Valley Road at the conclusion of such flights to reminisce about such adventurous trips; this trip though, ended with everyone going off in different directions. Keith had to go to Payson to drop off Rosie and Jim. Dewey had a gig that evening and needed to get home to get ready and Gert and I had a neighborhood dinner to go to. So, we elected to save a visit to Culver’s for our next adventure.

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Below, a random selection and in no particular order, more pictures from this trip have been added along with comments. If you would like to enlarge the picture for easier viewing, just click on the image.


Click on the thumbnail for a larger view

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Complete with figurines, bright colors and other architectural oddities, this Bisbee house draws a lot of attention.

It’s Halloween……..It’s Bisbee!

Seen on the street in Bisbee.

Street scene.

Boat sticking out of window…….did the water really get that high?

House for sale, immediate occupancy.

Downtown “Old Bisbee”.

Uniquely decorated Bisbee Volkswagen.

Sandy…………I’m ready, let’s go!

Blue Sky Flyer “Miners” ready for the tour of the Queen Mine.

On the train, headed into the Queen Mine.

Mining 101, learning all about mining and the way it was done.

Dead people’s things.

Most thought this man was a statue;

actually, he was a very old street mime that could stand very still for long periods of time. Just kidding…… is a statue.

“Don’t Fly”, sign in the Poor Bitch bar.

Street side entertainment, downtown Bisbee.

Keith and Dewey.

Jim, Rosie, Keith on guitar

Bisbee Grand Hotel, entrance to the bar and the Poor Bitch Café are on the far right.

Back home…….safe and sound.