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SPRINGTIME in Unique and Fascinating Douglas' Gadsden/Bisbee, AZ (Part 2)
Story and Photography by Larry Turner
HighOnAdventure.com   April 1, 2013

  Bisbee AZ   Bisbee AZ street  
Bisbee street

If you want to get off the beaten path in April and May—or anytime of the year—for sunshine, uniqueness, the unusual, pleasure and relaxation, Cochise County, Arizona, will meet and exceed those travel wishes with such historic towns as Douglas and Bisbee, pleasantly sequestered in the state's southeast corner on the border of Mexico.

It has a storied past with the likes of Cochise (Apache fame), Wyatt Earp (OK Corral fame), Pancho Villa (Mexico Revolution fame), General Pershing (WW1 fame) and a variety of Old Western actors such as John Wayne (who often stayed at Bisbee's Copper Queen Hotel). Much of the countryside is the same as these famous characters knew it, but the small cities of Douglas and Bisbee have grown comfortably, offering many choices for today's adventurous traveler.

Before going last Spring, I did my research and asked questions about the safety of this area in view of the Mexico drug cartel problems. Friends and others told me that they had experienced no problems whatsoever here and that they felt safe wherever they went. I found it to be no different than what they had told me and actually, I found it safer than most places I've traveled. The locals also echoed what I had experienced, so don't be deterred from traveling into this exciting zone. It is much better than the overrun of tourism in many places on the planet. And it is bargain traveling to boot. If you like the out-of-the-ordinary, this is a great place to visit.

  Gadsden Hotel   Gadsden Hotel  
Gadsden Hotel
Bisbee Gym Club Suites balcony
  Gadsden Hotel   Gadsden Hotel  
Gadsden Hotel
Gadsden Hotel room
  Gadsden Hotel   Gadsden Hotel  
Gadsden rooftop
Gadsden Hotel cake auction
Gadsden Hotel   Gadsden Hotel   Gadsden Hotel
Teen China Poblana costumes at the Gadsden


Douglas's The Gadsden Hotel—advertised as the last of the Grand Hotels—is a sight to see. It commands the center of downtown Douglas. We arrived May 13th last year for Douglas's 49th Annual Mother's Day Cake Auction, an auction of sumptuous cakes—of all shapes, colors and sizes—sorta like looking through a kaleidoscope—that brings in thousands of dollars to benefit people in the community of Douglas living with disabilities. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this colorful and unique event, so put it on your calendar to attend (email www.hotelgadsden.com or call them at 520-364-4481 for details). The event takes place in the Gadsden's spacious and beautiful gilded lobby. The cakes are to-die-for (make sure you eat the cake first before kicking the bucket tho'!), the cause is very worthy and there is much pageantry involved with the Teen China Poblana costumes and other costuming as well.

Staying in the Gadsden is like staying in a beautiful time warp—a slower paced time without the harried and hurried pace of the modern era. Our room on the second floor was large with desert orange tiled floor, exposed beams surrounded by stucco and a Jacuzzi to languor in, especially romantic with a series of lit candles on the tiled counter and steps. Outside the room was a table for two that overlooked the lobby—a great place to read, to use a computer or to write.


The great heyday of the Gadsden may belong to a different era after it opened its' doors in 1907 (reportedly Pancho Villa soon after—this was when Arizona was still a territory—rode his horse up the steps of the marbled interior lobby), but it is still has a deep charm and beauty. The cost of rooms per night range from $60 for a double bed to $150 for an added Jacuzzi and for governor's suites. What a deal! And it has a rare hand-operated elevator that manager (and part-owner) Robin Brekhus or receptionist Samantha Tardibuono would be happy to give you a lift in.

Parts of many movies have been filmed in the hotel's lobby, including “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, starring Paul Newman and directed by John Huston. The Gadsden was a lodging, eating and waterhole for many famous and not so famous people. The El Conquistador Dining Room (we had a wonderful Mother's Day special of lamb and Gadsden shrimp), The Famous Saddle and Spur Tavern and the Cattleman's Coffee Shop offer a variety of fare north and south of the border that will not break your pocketbook.

In 1976 The Gadsden was proclaimed a National Historic Monument.

Bisbee back alley   Bisbee home gate   Bisbee restrooms
Bisbee back alley
Bisbee home gate
Bisbee restroom
Bisbee steps
  Gadsden Hotel elevator    
Gadsden elevator
  Bisbee coffee roasters   Bisbee Gym suites  
Old Bisbee Roasters
Gym Suites Hotel night view
  Bisbee Gym Suite Hotel   Bisbee Gym Hotel  
Gym Club Suites Hotel
Gym Club Suites Hotel view
  Bisbee Tym Suite Hotel room   Bisbee El Conquistador  
Gym Club Suites room
El Conquistador


No getting around it, Bisbee is just a fun place. Located just a hop, skip and jump west from Douglas on Highway 80 toward Sierra Vista, Bisbee offers the adventurous traveler a menu of many things, including history, art, healthy food, entertainment, exercise, relaxation, humor, walks (including ghost), eccentric-ism, character and characters.

Beautifully and remotely located in a famous copper canyon, Bisbee is indeed unique; a haven for artisans, writers, hippies of old and hippies of new, long-time descendants from the fecund copper ore days, new people on the block who have come for a simpler and quieter life, ranchers, merchants, retirees.

One such person is Grant Sergot, the owner of Optimo Custom Hatworks (www.optimohatworks.com) in the heart of Bisbee. The former timber-faller and -skidder from Michigan, opened up his shop in 1980. He is now one of the world's premiere hat makers, specializing in Panama hats (his PHD) and felt hats (his second PHD!). His logo best says it, “To see it is to smile. To touch it is to feel good. To wear it is to know...optimo.” Optimo is a term meaning the best of the best...and all you have to do is to walk into Grant's shop and you'll immediately see that. If you want the finest hat that can be made, your search ends here. Grant also specializes in cleaning, reblocking and restoring hats. If it is an antique hat and you ask for these services, you'll make him smile.

Up a few streets from Grant is another such person: the kindly and hospitable Angel Hsiung, manager and owner (with her husband) of Bisbee Gym Club Suites (www.gymclubsuites.com). Lynette Shirley and I stayed in room 402, the 'Ravens Rest' with a deck view second to none in Bisbee. Don't let the name fool you on staying here. It's not like your high school or grade school gym. This is way more deluxe! This four story building was constructed in 1903 as a YMCA. In the 1980s, it was renovated for apartments and now it is a sweeeeet hotel! Spacious and airy, this is a place in which you'll want to stay a few days or even a week. It is worth it just for the night city and sky views...and you'll find no host as accommodating anywhere as you will in Angel.

  Bisbee lawn art   Bisbee car art  
Bisbee lawn art...
...and car art
  Bisbee Grant Sergot hats   Optimo fitting  
Grant Sergot
Optimo fitting
    Bisbee Vixen metal art gallers    
Vixen Metal Art Gallery


Bisbee is like walking into a piece of art...and art is a vital part of Bisbee from the traditional to the absurd, with plenty of in-between. Galleries are abundant throughout the city and every second Saturday of the month there is an art walk called Bisbee After Five (www.facebook.com/bisbeeafter5). One gallery not to miss is the Belleza Fine Art Gallery (www.bellezagallery.org), operated in conjunction with http://www.renaissance-house.org/about.htm which helps homeless women. Bisbee has also been a haven for filmmakers and films, including Steven King's Desperation, Groom Lake, Young Guns Two and Legend, just to name a few. Bisbee is known for live music in many places, especially over weekends. There is a local ghost walk, too, along with tours of the famous Cooper Queen Mine.

Bisbee has a vibrant interest in sustainability, locally grown and locally made. Among the places that I recommend you visit and patronize is the High Desert Market and Cafe, Old Bisbee Roasters, Bisbee Food Coop and The Source Within.

Don't hesitate. Bisbee is waiting for your adventuring. More information can be found at www.discoverbisbee.com.

Larry Turner is a national and international photographer with credits in publications too numerous to mention. He is also a travel writer. You can reach him—if interested in signed print purchase or licensing of images—at www.larryturnerphotography.com , skiturn789@yahoo.com or on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/larryturnerphotography.

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