March 2011March 9th was the day I arrived in the USA to start a new chapter in my life. Green card in hand I went through customs at LAX without a hitch (last year they detained me for an hour to check all the “facts”!). Then it was on to a flight to Arizona for a week.
I headed for Scottsdale (suburb of Phoenix) which is a very fashionable area with an “old west” style downtown (keep in mind Phoenix is not even 100 years old – almost). A nice area to wander around, but not really what I was looking for. A Tourist Info guy told me about an aircraft museum down at an airfield in Mesa (another suburb of Phoenix), so I headed down there and it turned out it was the Commemorative Air Force – Arizona Wing museum which was a nice diversion with some interesting aircraft (unfortunately both the B-17 and B-25 were away on flight displays).
I also saw Motorhead at the Marquee Theatre!!!! Awesome show – so loud it hurt, but Lemmy is a god and when he asked the crowd if we wanted it louder, we all stupidly said YES! The last 2 songs were “Killed By Death” and “Ace Of Spades“, followed by an encore of “Overkill“. They played for an hour and a half and the crowd wanted more! So Lemmy extended the Encore for a bit. Brilliant fun. Scored an oversized guitar pick signed by the lead guitarist Phil Campbell which was pretty cool. Ears were ringing in hard rock happiness!
Tucson is home to the Davis Monthan Air Force Base and the famous “Bone Yard” where old military planes go to die in the desert (used for spares or preserved for later use – due to the rock hard ground and dry air). The tour out here went for just over an hour, you are not allowed out of the bus, but get to see a fair bit (vast areas of all sorts of aircraft from trainers, fighters, bombers, tankets, transports to helicopters).
Was a bit sad to see all the old F-111’s they were keeping there as spares for the RAAF (now that we have retired the aircraft all of these in storage will probably get chopped up and the metal used for something else). There are hundreds and hundreds of all sorts of aircraft sitting out there mothballed (including massive B-52’s). Quite fascinating to see.
Nearby is PIMA Air and Space Museum with approximately 300 aircraft from all over the world (!) from the 1930’s to modern day – lots of big bombers etc, my favourite is the 1950’s era Convair B-36 Peacemaker , the largest and strangest looking piston engined bomber ever built. A nuclear bomber it was designed to fly to Russia. this thing is seriously huge! The museum also runs the tours out to the “Boneyard”. I thoroughly recommend a vist to PIMA, they have an excellent collection. Whilst wandering around F-16 fighters, Blackhawk helicopters and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the nearby airbase were buzzing around.
Titan Missile Museum, a Cold War relic and the last of its kind, all 53 other sites were destroyed towards the end of the Cold War due to the SALT treaties signed by the US and USSR. 3 tonne blast doors and 8 foot thick silo walls protected the underground missile base. You go deep underground, through the massive blast doors, down into the control bunker where the crew would have had to use 2 keys to launch the nuclear missile, targeted at some non identified location in Russia. A missile was still in the silo. Again an interesting place to go, and they operated these for over 20 years on 24 hour standby with a crew of 4 people down there!
Famous for the shootout at the OK Corral on October 26th, 1881, involving Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Malcolm; and Doc Holliday up against the cowboys – Clanton and McLaury brothers; Billy Claiborne. This gunfight lasted only 30 seconds with 3 killed –Frank and Tom McLaury; Bill Clanton and 3 wounded – Virgil and Morgan Earp; Doc Holliday!). The Earp’s and Doc were run out of town not that long after as it was seen as a needless and bloodthirsty act! Regarded as murderers by townsfolk once stories came out that not all the cowboys were armed – the court did not charge them as such.
The cowboys wanted revenge, Virgil was badly wounded in an ambush incident a few months later but survived (although injured he lived until 1905, aged 62), Morgan on the other hand was killed in the streets before he could ever leave (5 months after the gunfight). Doc Holliday died of TB a few years later in Colorado (1887 – aged 36). Wyatt lived until 1929 aged 80.
Tombstone is still a functioning town (“the town that would not die”), but is decked out in full old western mode, lots of museums, old theatres, saloons etc. The Boot Hill cemetery was a nice diversion too – the tombstones on the graves were quite the eye opener (“killed by indians”, “killed by a Chinaman”, “killed by a prostitute” etc)! Tombstone was a fun and interesting place to visit. I also checked out the old mining town of Bisbee a bit further south of Tombstone – still has a lot of the original old buildings. Like a step back in time.
Note: There is somewhat of a strange obsession with Zombies down this way (not that there is anything wrong with that…..I have seen just about every zombie movie made!). Check out the window of the Tombstone gun shop in my photo – assorted zombie targets from Nazi’s to Taliban…….braaainssssss….
Large indian building and village ruins in the desert – Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. They were abandoned around the year 1450 by the ancient Sonoran Desert people. The structure is an impressive sight and became the first US archeological reserve in 1892, the site was declared a National Monument in 1918. To protect it the National Park Services have built a huge roof structure to go over the main ruins.
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