Tuesday, May 18, 2010

oasis in the desert

We just got back from 3 days and 2 nights in Bisbee, Arizona, a historic former mining town turned arts and antiques mecca, a place we've visited many times on day trips, which we always enjoyed in spite of the frenzied-tourist pace they seemed to require. Bisbee sits in a narrow canyon with streets and houses built on steep slopes.  Here's a view from near the top of the town; beyond the buildings you can see the top of the huge, no longer operational, copper pit mine that was once Bisbee's economic base.
     We stayed on the other side of the hill and east (left) of the mine, in the Shady Dell (www.theshadydell.com), a real step-back-in-time motor court that's been written up in Country Living, Sunset, Arizona Highways, and probably some other magazines.  All the lodgings are restored travel trailers from the 1940s and '50s; there's even an authentic period restaurant on-site, Dot's Diner, also brought in from its earlier location (and possibly saved from the scrap heap) and lovingly restored.  The food's good, too.
     The little trailer to the left of Dot's is the smallest one at the Shady Dell.  We were in the one just to the left of it, the El Rey, built in 1957, and a little larger, with an adequately furnished small kitchen area and a bathroom containing a sink and a toilet. Originally it had a shower; the whole tiny bathroom then became the shower stall, with a drain in the floor in front of the toilet.  The shower's been decommissioned but the Shady Dell offers very nice showers and bathrooms just a few yards away.  Here's the sketch I did of our little temporary home the evening we arrived.
And here's the dinette table.  Note the melmac plate and  vintage curtain fabric.  The book below my wine glass is an authentic "Guest Log" containing comments from people who stayed in the El Rey before us, some from various places across the U.S., some (like us) from elsewhere in Arizona, and some from Paris, Sweden, and the U.K. It was so much fun to read. One entry, by a couple named Hope and Matt, particularly caught my interest. Hope wrote about where they'd eaten in town, how much they liked the El Rey, and what wonderful conversations they'd had. After her entry, Matt wrote "I'm the boyfriend, and she doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to propose to her very soon!"  It is indeed a romantic spot, and completely unpretentious. Relaxed, low-key, totally comfortable. The folks who work there are (like most of the people we've met in Bisbee) just regular, down-to-earth people who love being where they are.
     The Shady Dell is right next door to the Evergreen Cemetery, and some former guests wrote about taking late night walks there.  We did go for a walk after dark our first night, and were dazzled by the velvet blackness of the sky and the brightness of the stars. It was like the night skies of my childhood in Idaho, when the Milky Way was something we took for granted and there was no city glow (or light pollution - whichever term you like) to diminish the view. It's easy to forget, when you live in or near a city of any size, how many stars there are out there.

     After that little adventure we slept very well in a bed that was definitely not queen-sized but very comfy nonetheless, in spite of the possibility of ghosts just over the fence and a strong wind in the cottonwood tree beside us. In fact, the wind lulled us to sleep, and the next day was even better, but I'll have to post more about that later, in Bisbee, Part Deux.


  1. What a fun place to stay! I'd love to stay in an old trailer like those. A few months ago we stayed in a rental house up the coast from Sonoma (Sea Ranch is the area) and I was looking through that house's guest book and what should I find but an entry from my very best childhood friend. She and her family had stayed in the same house when we were 12! Too funny.

  2. Yes, I know Sea Ranch, though I've never stayed there - beautiful spot! And what a funny coincidence!