Sadly it was not the Tombstone I fondly remembered, the one with residents dressed in period clothing walking about, great local vittles being sold off western themed street carts (best fry bread I've ever had), historic old buildings and bordellos revamped as fun shops and the occasional and seemingly impromptu gun fights exploding out into the street enacted by dusty and appropriately garbed local actors. My first glance down Allen Street revealed an excessively groomed, too neat, too clean mock-up of a faux old mining town vista. It was more pristine than even Disney could have managed, manicured and molded into a modern lineup of mostly tourist traps, not one horse puckey in sight (despite the constant trudging of the poor stagecoach Clydesdales), not a crumb of character, not a whiff of western ambiance, not one damn gunslinger in sight. I actually looked at the street signs to see if we were in the right place.
All the things you wanted to see, the O.K.Corral, the World's Largest Rose Bush, The Bird Cage Theater, the Good Enough Mine and yes, even Boot Hill Cemetery are all now locked up and gated behind a ten or twenty dollar sign. You can peek in but if you want real history you'd better be prepared to pay a pretty peso or two hundred to get the real Tombstone. Allen Street is barricaded at both ends and you can ride the "Old Butterfield Stagecoach", for a price.
Kate's is now serving up their own branded pilsner in souvenir pint glasses which I wanted to try. But there's no big nose on that pint glass Kate, famous bar saloon singer and girlfriend of Doc Holiday, just a modern day blond cowgirl holding a six-shooter. Another blow to history since Kate was a songbird not a gunslinger, but the pilsner was good.
As for The Crystal Palace, thank heavens, it's still the great bar and restaurant I remember, no Faro or gambling of course, but "STILL SERVING GOOD WHISKEY & TOLERABLE WATER", and pretty decent burgers and food. And the barmaids are in period garb, boobage and all. This was where I spied the promotional tablecards for the Not Your Father's Beer and, eschewing my planned order of a shot of some local "Red Eye", I ordered a bottle.
Yes, it did taste like root beer and at the back you got the ale. The first couple of sips were pretty good. Then, slowly the sweet began to become too much, even for me and I didn't finish the bottle. Derle barely touched his (sorry D), and Melodieann quit a bit before I did. It was not badly priced, even in a tourist town, $13 plus tip for three bottles and I'm glad I tried it. But no six packs of this particular craft beer will be taking up space in my home bar.
Despite the controlled attempts to extract as much dinero from the tourists as possible, we did have a good time in Tombstone. Mostly thanks to The Crystal Palace and Big Nose Kate's, a couple of beers, some friendly bikers and our own good humor. But if you're heading to Tombstone for a glimpse of the Old West and some history be prepared to pay dearly for the privilege or just skip the tourist ideas and have a decent burger and a drink at The Crystal Palace or Big Nose Kate's, the only bits of Tombstone that seem to be still standing, then head on south to Bisbee.
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