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I’m Your Huckleberry

August 7, 2014

The big events for Wednesday were fighter planes and a shootout.

We woke up about two hours from Tuscon, so the first order of business was to get there. In Tuscon we hoped to do four things: visit an air and space museum that has an Air Force graveyard (for planes, not people), drive 27 scenic miles to the top of Mt. Lemmon, pick up food for Shabbos at a local deli, and get haircuts. (You may have noticed from the pictures that Sam has gotten pretty bushy.)

The challenge was to do all of these things by 2 p.m. so that we would have time to drive the hour to Tombstone (yes, that Tombstone) in time to see a reenactment of the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral. The problem was that the last show started at 3, so we really needed to hustle.

Also, Sam had no idea what Tombstone or the O.K. Corral were. So in the car on the way to Tuscon he watched the movie Tombstone, with Kurt Russel as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. There have been a few movies made about the shootout, and Tombstone is easily the best of them. It’s rated R, which gave me pause before letting Sam see it, but I really thought it was the best way to make it all come alive, and I was sitting right there next to him. He ended up disliking the movie for the same reason it’s rated R: the violence. He understood and appreciated the story but he was really grossed out by all the blood.

But back to Tuscon.

The Pima Air & Space Museum has the third largest collection of military aircraft in the country. First is the Smithsonian in D.C. and second is the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. All I can say is that third place has never looked this cool.

You know how some museums give you a little sticker to put on your lapel that shows that you paid for admission? Well, on our first road trip we got those little stickers at the dinosaur museum in Bozeman, Montana. When we left the museum and got in the car, Sam took the sticker off his shirt and, on a whim, stuck it on the dashboard in front of his seat. Several months later the whole family went to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens and we got little stickers again. Sam put his on the dashboard right next to the Bozeman sticker. And ever since then, every time we go somewhere that gives us a little lapel sticker, Sam puts it on the dashboard with the others. It’s been three years, and the dashboard is now so packed that he had to put a couple of stickers on the inside of the passenger door next to the dashboard. So far on this trip Sam has added four stickers. When we bought our tickets to the museum in Pima this morning, we got little orange stickers. We immediately looked at each other and smiled. I love that he gets excited about stupid little things like being able to add a new sticker to the dashboard, and I love that in ever museum that gives us one it’s a little happy secret between the two of us.

Of course, this museum didn’t need any help getting us to like it. It’s spread out over several acres, with exhibits inside a handful of scattered hangars but with most of the grounds used as an outdoor collection of aircraft of every type and from every era. The indoor exhibits were OK, but the real fun was the planes outside. You’re allowed to walk around by yourself and go right up to the planes, but it was 100 degrees in Tuscon today, so we wimped out and paid a few dollars for a tram tour of the grounds. This turned out to be a great decision, partly because of the oppressive heat but equally because of the knowledgeable narration of our tram driver, who is an Air Force veteran and who really knows his stuff.

Sam and I are not especially into planes. That said, pretty much every plane we saw was supremely awesome, and we saw more than 150 planes, including a Harrier jet, the first ever plane to be used as Air Force One, a military jet flown by Eisenhower, and so much more. I’m not going to bore you with all the details or all the pictures, so let me just say this:

Blue Angels jet

This awesome jet used by the Blue Angels was nowhere near the coolest plane we saw on the tour. Not even in the top 10.

Pima ended up taking a little longer than I expected but we weren’t too far off schedule. I decided to put the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway on the back burner in case something needed to be cut, and we headed to the deli that had our Shabbos food order waiting. Unfortunately the deli turned out to be completely on the other side of town and half of the roads to get there were under major construction. So by the time we finished getting the food it was already time to head to Tombstone. No Scenic Byway, no haircuts. But at least we’d be able to see the gunfight.

Before I get there, though, I feel the need to mention that the food was both unconscionably expensive and poorly packed. Most of the dishes we ordered were dumped into those Styrofoam clamshells that stack poorly and never stay closed. And the chicken soup was put in a large Styrofoam cup with no lid and wrapped with cling wrap. Cling wrap! On soup! You would think that a deli would have some idea how to deal with takeout orders. I hope the food is at least good. Heck, I hope the food makes it until Friday in one piece.

The ride to Tombstone is an annoying one, as the second half of the trip is on a one-lane road whose speed limit changes drastically and often, ranging from 65 down to 15. But we got there with about 15 minutes to spare before the show. What’s cool is that the whole town is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and a surprising amount of it is preserved, including not just the corral but the few blocks surrounding the corral and several original businesses and homes. The main street, Allen Street, is blocked off to vehicular traffic but does feature a couple of historic stagecoaches that give narrated tours. It’s populated with a mix of old and fauxld (That’s “faux old.” You heard it here first.) businesses, some of which are in the original buildings. The O.K. Corral is also on this street, and it’s been turned into a museum about not just the shootout but the history of the corral and the neighborhood in general.

O.K. Corral

O.K. Corral

The horse stalls are now populated by historical items like carriages and saddles and such.

And as you can see, we are putting our new cowboy hats to good use.

One of the things explained on a plaque in the corral is that the shootout did not actually happen in the corral; it happened adjacent to the corral, right outside the photography studio where Doc Holliday was renting a room. But the bad guys came through the corral on their way to confront Holliday, and “The Shootout at the O.K. Corral” sounds way better than “The Shootout Outside Fly’s Photography Studio.” We did get to see the actual spot of the shootout, which is currently inhabited by animatronic Earps and outlaws. Fly’s is still there, and so is Doc Holliday’s room, which we got to see.

Doc Holliday's room

(The woman is Doc’s girlfriend, who supposedly watched the shootout from the window.)

Just steps from the actual location of the shootout is the little outdoor theater where the shootout and the events leading up to it are reenacted three times a day. The show was very cheesy but pretty cute and fun, and Sam got to pose with the actors when the show was over.

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday

From left to right: Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Sam, Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp

Sam and I have generally been getting along extremely well on this trip, but we did a bit of arguing both before the show and after, mostly due to misunderstandings and overreactions. How ironic that we went to see Wyatt Earp and we ended up needing someone to keep the peace. Eventually we pulled it together and wandered around the area a bit to see some of the historic sights. As a former journalist and general fan of newspapers, my favorite was the local paper, The Tomstone Epitaph, which claims to be Arizona’s first newspaper.

Tombstone Epitaph

The Epitaph still publishes today, and $25 will buy you a yearly subscription. Inside there’s an exhibit about printing methods in the 1880s, and another about the life of founder John Clum. They also have copies of the current paper as well as copies of the edition that reported the shootout, and we got a copy of each for free with the price of admission to the corral.

I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but I generally despise Arizona’s politics. For years it was the only state not to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and it only changed that policy in order to host the Super Bowl. It has fought tooth and nail in the courts to avoid separating Church and State. It has passed ridiculous laws that allow the authorities to discriminate against anyone vaguely Mexican-looking. And it refuses to recognize Daylight Savings Time.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well, Martin Luther King Day is in January so that’s not really an issue at the moment. But Tuesday at the state capitol there was a giant stone Ten Commandments statue, which I found not inspiring but just plain odd as I wondered who is helped by the presence of this statue. I love the Ten Commandments and I try actively to live by them, but I have no desire to display a giant version of them on my front lawn. And Tombstone is just 30 miles from the Mexican border, so on our way out of town we had to stop at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint to make sure we weren’t smuggling anybody north. And then as we crossed the border into New Mexico we lost an hour that we should have lost when we left California.

Right about when that hour disappeared we stopped off at a rest stop along the Interstate to make dinner. The nine days leading up to and including Tisha B’Av are considered a period of semi-mourning during which we don’t eat meat or listen to music or get haircuts or other such festive activities. After nine days of gross dairy dinners out of a box, we were thrilled to be using the grill again, and we rewarded ourselves with a hearty meal of ribs, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Today we got to see the coolest planes in the world and walk through history and finally eat some beef. We did a little too much driving today for my tastes and we missed out on the scenic byway and our soup is wrapped in cling wrap and we never did get those haircuts, but there will be plenty of pretty scenery over the next 10 days and we’ll keep an eye out for barber shops and … actually I have no idea what to do with the soup.

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