Friday, October 2, 2015

Things to do at Fort Huachuca - Bisbee

No stay at Fort Huachuca would be complete without a trip or two out to Bisbee. A former mining town, it has developed an eccentric identity of its own. The gradual closure of many of the local mines led Bisbee to move towards tourism as the basis for its economy in the latter half of the 20th century.

We can thank those who envisioned Bisbee as a tourist destination because it has given us a beautiful and interesting city to visit. If you are coming out to Bisbee on a weekend, I highly recommend getting up early and eating breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club.

After you eat at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, you can walk along Erie Street and check out the old Lowell motorcycle shops. A single motorcycle shop remains, but you can peer into the windows of the old buildings and see classic motorcycles displayed.

Moving on from the motorcycle shops in Lowell, you can get back on the highway and head back towards the historic part of Bisbee. There is a viewing area on the left side of the highway to peer into the old Copper Queen Mining Pit. The pit is almost surreal due to its size. From this roadside vantage point, you can't even see the whole mine. A covered area provides a history of the mine and information on local geology.

Once you've taken in the sheer size of the Copper Queen Mine, it's time to head North again. The main drag of Old Bisbee is a long winding road. It features lots of unique shops that carry interesting items and the works of local artists. I recommend taking the first exit as you head North and parking in the dirt lots near the on/off ramps. These two parking areas are free to park at. If you go a little bit further North, there is a paid lot available as well as on street parking if you are lucky.

Once you start walking up the road, you'll see the historical mining equipment outside the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. This Museum offers lots of historical detail on the history of The Town of Bisbee and the Copper Queen Mine. Many of these smaller museums offer a lot of detail on early residents and the development of the town. It is a really good stop at the beginning of your day because as you explore the town and mine, you'll be able to look back on the information from the museum to better understand the details of the town.

Museums can be a little stale for some people so if it's not your thing, don't sweat it. The $7.50 entry fee is a little steep for larger groups. I wish they would lower it to an even $5 or switch to a recommended donation box. 

Across from the Mining Museum is a building full of shops and restaurants. The architecture of this building leaves no doubt that it is a former school. The ground floor features the Bisbee Coffee Company, Bisbee's Table, and many small jewelry and knickknack shops. 

The most important feature of this building is the PUBLIC BATHROOM!! As far as I know, this is the only public bathroom in Old Bisbee. It is located on the second floor right next to the main stairs. 

From here, you have a few options. The main drag of Old Bisbee is past the Western Bank and Post Office. This is where you will find most of the shops in Old Bisbee. It starts out with lots of antique stores whose inventory doesn't really change much. As you move up the hill, you start to see more art focused and non-antique shops. The shop selection has gotten better in the past few years. Some of the stuff isn't as unique as you'd expect, but its much better than only seeing the stagnating antique shops.

You can also go up Subway street, which kinda looks like a back alley. Subway Street and the main road connect in several places between buildings. So you can duck between them if your looking for a change. 

The Main Street has most of the shops in Bisbee and a few smaller Cafes. Subway Street has some good shops too but they are a little bit more specialized, like with the knitting/sewing shop. 

If your looking to drink or eat, Brewery Avenue is where you want to be. Head uphill past the Mining Museum. You'll see the Copper Queen Hotel on the left. If you keep going, you'll hit Santiago's, Stock Exchange Saloon, St Elmo's Bar, and The Quarry. As you'll get to the top of this road, you can move over to OK Street and check out the Old Bisbee Brewing Company. 

These places can get really busy and there is always the possibility of slower service. 

My personal favorite place to eat is Screaming Banshee Pizza at the top of Tombstone Canyon Road. If Screaming Banshee is crowded, you can also walk over to Contessa's Cantina. There is parking along side Contessa's Cantina if you don't want to walk all the way up here. 

The High Desert Market and Cafe is also really good. The market features lots of food items you are unlikely to find in normal supermarkets. The Market is filled with pretty fancy stuff with prices to match. The Cafe is good and reasonably priced.

The area near Screaming Banshee Pizza also has the Cochise County Courthouse. The Courthouse is well known for its Art Deco Decor.

After you've seen Old Bisbee, it's time to check out the Bisbee Queen Mine Tours. The Mine Tour is a can't-miss part of visiting Bisbee. Tours leave a set times during the day with a limited number of people. If you have a large group, you should absolutely make a reservation. 

You will get to put on your mining gear and head down into the cool depths of the Copper Queen Mine. The large open pit is only half of the story with the Copper Queen Mine, the tour will take you into the underground mines.

Up Next

This blog post only covers a fraction of what you can experience in Bisbee. It is definitely one of those towns you need to see and experience for yourself. 

Lastly, as with all the entertainment around Fort Huachuca, it is what you make of it. Keep and open mind and go into Bisbee with a positive attitude and a few friends.

My next few posts will explore the Town of Tombstone, the wilderness around Sierra Vista, and Tucson.

If you haven't seen them, check out my other posts on Things to do around Fort Huachuca!

Things to do at Fort Huachuca - On Post

Things to do at Fort Huachuca - Sierra Vista Area

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Things to do at Fort Huachuca - Sierra Vista Area

I'm not going to lie, Sierra Vista is pretty bare on the entertainment options if you are in town for training. You are better off staying on base or venturing further out to Bisbee, Tombstone, and other surrounding attractions.

Several of these locations are bars/restaurants. If you are in training status for Fort Huachuca and can't resist the allure of a cold beer, you might be better off avoiding these places. 

Movie Theaters - You've got two options for movie theaters, the Cinemark 10 and the Uptown 3. 

The Cinemark 10 is just like any modern theater. It's located inside the Sierra Vista Mall and gets all the new releases. If a highly anticipated movie is coming out, you might want to avoid this theater. Every AIT student and citizen of Sierra Vista will be there as there is really nothing else to do in this town.sier

The Uptown 3 is old and cheap. The quality and maintenance here is lacking, but it's never that crowded. The movies will be older and they usually only carry 2 at a time. I'd rather go to the movie theater on post than the Uptown 3.

Sierra Vista Mall - Yes, it really is a tiny mall. But this is the only place in town to get those sweet Hot Topic T-Shirts. It is well known for the hordes of AIT students that wander the shops because the Fort Huachuca shuttle doesn't leave the city limits to take them somewhere worthwhile. It's worth the visit just so you can experience the disappointment.

Buffalo Wild Wings - B Dubs is a good place to watch major sporting events. As long as those major sporting events aren't hockey, which will only be playing on the tiny TVs in the corner. If your in training status and can't drink, the main attraction is see who can eat the hottest wings without crying.

Texas Roadhouse - This is my favorite restaurant in Sierra Vista. The food is good but it is often crowded at dinner. You can call ahead to reserve a table if you've got a large party. 

Veterans Memorial Park - one of the few large patches of green in the city. Picnic tables are located throughout. The Sierra Vista farmers market recently relocated to Veterans Park. Sierra Vista also holds a few special events in this area, such as a small faire with amusement park rides. Check the city website to see upcoming events. 

The Cove - Located on the back edge of Veterans Park, the Cove offers lap swim and open swim hours. This is a popular spot for the locals and the hours change with the seasons. So always check the website for something different. 

Sierra Vista Public Library - The Sierra Vista Public Library offers guided nature walks in the surrounding area.

The German Cafe - In a city filled with chain restaurants, the German Cafe is unique and highly regarded by locals. It's worth a visit if you want to stay in town.

Patterson Observatory - Patterson Observatory offers special classes throughout the month on astronomy topics. It's something different to do in Sierra Vista.

Hastings Entertainment Store - Lots of toys, books, movies, and games. Hastings Entertainment can keep you and your friends entertained for a while and you might find a good book to read.

Previous and Future Installments:

Please see Things to do at Fort Huachuca - On Post. I will add future installments here as I complete them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Things to do at Fort Huachuca - On Post

Nestled deep in Southern Arizona, Fort Huachuca has become one of my favorite posts in the Army.

The hot temperatures in the Summer are tempered by the arrival of the monsoons in July. The dry air makes those hot days bearable once you get past the hottest part of the day.

Winter can be relatively cold due to the elevation and climate. Make sure you have your Winter PTs and your hat for the runs up Reservoir Hill.

I am a big fan of Spring at Fort Huachuca. You get the benefit of moderate temperatures in the morning and comfortably warm days. This is probably why Southern Arizona is a popular spot for Major League Baseball Spring Training.

I have not had the chance to visit Fort Huachuca in the Fall so I am unfamiliar with the weather during that time. But I hope its similar to Springtime weather.

So, you've got the word that Fort Huachuca is in your future. You might be down here for a few weeks for a school or you are PCSing to this great post. No matter who you are, you need to recognize that Fort Huachuca is a sleepy post. You need to go out and find your entertainment. It takes motivation and a desire to explore to enjoy this post. If you want to just sit in your house or barracks room, you are going to feel like you are going crazy in a prison cell.

So what is there to do on post?

If you are in AIT, you are going to want to listen to this section. If you don't have a car or phase up privileges, you are going to be limited to the entertainment on post. There is a Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista Taxi Service that will help you get around, but you are going to be doing a lot of walking.

For everyone else with a car, Fort Huachuca actually has some pretty good things to do on post. So take some time to check everything out at least once. You can get driving directions for each of these area's through google maps.

Greetings From Fort Huachuca's Old Post
The Old Post - Camp Huachuca was founded in 1877 by Captain Samuel M. Whitside of the 6th U.S. Calvary. The Old Post features the Brown Parade Field, the historical home of Fort Huachuca's Commanding Officer, the Fort Huachuca Museum, and the Fort Huachuca Cemetery. There is also a trail-head into Huachuca Canyon and Reservoir Hill, which overlooks the surrounding plains and Sierra Vista.

You can walk around the old post and see many historical buildings. Placards are spread throughout the old post describing the history of the old buildings. It makes for a good early evening walk if you need to get out of your room. You can also walk through Brown Parade Field and see the Commanding General's home near the flag.

Fort Huachuca Museum - The Fort Huachuca Museum is not a single building focusing on a single topic. The main museum focuses on Military History in the Southwest and encompasses the main museum building and the annex building. The main building and annex for the Museum are located in the Old Post area of Fort Huachuca. The Army Intelligence Museum (MI Museum) focuses on the specific history of Army Intelligence from 1775 to the present. The MI Museum is located very close to the main museum and annex building.

It seems that every part of the museum is currently undergoing renovations, which it sorely needed. I've been watching their progress on their facebook page and I am impressed with the upgrades.  The Fort Huachuca Museum is also expanding with the addition of the Military Intelligence Heritage Learning Center within the CW2 Christopher G. Nason MI Library. Next time I am in the area, I will provide and update with my observations.

Huachuca Canyon - If you plan on hiking the Huachuca Canyon, there is a small parking area near the trail-head. Make sure you bring plenty of water, tell someone your plans and expected return time, and watch out for Bears and Snakes. 

Fort Huachuca Post Cemetery - A very quiet place of refuge on Fort Huachuca. Its location keeps it away from the bustle of the post. The gate is always closed, but it is not locked. As you enter the cemetery, look to your left to see the oldest graves of the cemetery. If you stop by the Fort Huachuca Museum before you come to the Post Cemetery, you'll likely recognize many of the names on these older tombstones. As you move to the back of the cemetery, you'll notice that the post cemetery is still growing.

Buffalo Corral - Buffalo Corral is by far my favorite attraction on post. It is located on Canelo Road past the Old Post of Fort Huachuca. If you are not familiar with the streets of Fort Huachuca, I highly recommend you pull up Google Maps and trace your route. It is easy to get lost navigating through the Old Post.

You need to call and make a reservation to go on the guided trail rides. You need to call during their business hours. If no one picks up, give it a bit and try again. Sometimes the person at the desk is getting the horses ready for a ride or helping customers.

The guide on the trail rides will tailor the ride to the group they are with. Some of the rides will take you into the mountains, others into the plains. If you have a request, don't hesitate to bring it up to the guide. Just keep in mind that they may know more about the area than you. The last time I went on a ride with Buffalo Corral, there were many reports of bears in the area. So we were a little more cautious in our trail selection.

Main Post Area

Desert Lanes Bowling Alley - Located right next to the Post Exchange and Movie Theater, Desert Lanes Bowling Alley is an older facility with 24 lanes and a game room. Yes, you are stepping into a time machine with the decor and the bowling balls need to be retired and replaced. But if you can get some people together, this is a fun night out. This is one of the few places that gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights but I've never had trouble getting a lane.

Jeanie's Diner - As you enter the Bowling Alley, you'll pass right by Jeanie's Diner in the same building. Jeanie's Diner is a 50's decor Diner with plenty of classic artery clogging meals and milkshakes. You can get some food here and bring it out to the bowling alley. The prices aren't bad and it's not DFAC food...

Fort Huachuca Theater - This is not the most up to date theater but it's cheap and you don't need to worry about getting back through the main gate late at night. The movie selection is a bit odd, but you get a nice spread of older movies and they do get big titles on opening weekends. If you've never been to a military theater before, be prepared to stand for the national anthem.

Murr Community Center - I'm not sure what is going on with the Murr Community Center. The MWR page for it is gone. This place is in huge need of a revamp so I can only hope that it's being remodeled or replaced. The Recreational Program and Tickets Office is located in the Murr Community Center. The last time I was here, they had some TVs with cable. I watched some Stanley Cup Finals games here, but the place is not very clean looking so I ended up moving to the MI Library to watch the games on my computer.

Post Exchange - The post exchange is fairly typical as far as post exchanges go. The small food court has a Starbucks, GNC, and a few shops run by Veterans. The last time I was there, there was a BBQ place, but non-chain restaurants have limited lifespans in the PX so who knows what is there now.

If you've never been in a PX before, remember to check out the Powerzone. The Fort Huachuca Powerzone is to the left when you come in, walk down the isle until you get near the gun counter and look to your left through the home goods and you'll see the hallway to the Powerzone. They have okay options for laptops if you didn't come to Huachuca with a laptop. They have plenty of games and accessories.

Just remember you will not be at Huachuca forever, don't buy a huge TV that your gonna need to ship to your first duty station.

Fort Huachuca Commissary - Located behind the Post Exchange, the Fort Huachuca Commissary is pretty standard for Commissaries. The entrance is through the doors on the right side of the building. Sushi and the Deli Counter are all the way to the far left of the building. If your new to the Army, you can get a huge sub custom made at the Deli Counter. It's cheap and delicious. Commissary Sushi is made fresh every day, but stay in the Army long enough and you'll hear about the unlucky person who says they got sick off commissary sushi. It's kinda like playing Russian Roulette but if your in a hurry, its the best option.

I also recommend the selection of health bars at the Commissary, they are pretty cheap if they are on sale. They are a good option for having a ready to go snack during classes. They can be found all the way to the right of the building, you'll see the hygiene items in a little nook and they are back there.

The Commissary is closed on Monday's due to national budget stupidity.

AIT Land

Welcome to AIT Land, there is nothing to do here but workout and eat. Thankfully, your company will let you know about the Taxi Service that can take you to other parts of post or to Sierra Vista. If you decide to stay in the area, you can hit up the Shopette with adjoining food court. The food court has a Charlies Grilled Subs, Popeye's, Baskin Robins, Taco Bell, and a sandwich wrap shop.

The MI Library is the closest form of "Entertainment" to AIT Land. You can rent DVDs from the MI Library and they have a pretty big selection. The MI Library is going through a lot of changes right now, they are adding a Museum section which will take up half the library. I am a big fan of the Library, they do really good work here and help students immensely with in-house and online resources.

Rest of the Post

Irwin Pool - Irwin Pool is a outdoor pool open during the Summer. It is located next to the Thunder Mountain Activity Center.

Thunder Mountain Activity Center - I have not heard anything good about TMAC. Seems like it is mostly used for the meeting space for special events.

Sportsman Center - The Sportsman's Center has paintball, archery, rifle/pistol, and skeet/trap ranges. They rent out equipment for all of these ranges. The hours are very limited, it is only open on Thursday, Saturday, and Sundays.

Mountain View Golf Course - Mountain View Golf Course is open to the public. The entrance is located off post on Buffalo Soldier Trail, to the South of the Main Gate. They have an 18 hole course, driving range, practice green, and pro shop. They also have equipment available for rent.

Future Installments

I will work on additional "Things to do at Fort Huachuca" as time permits. I plan to focus on Sierra Vista, Bisbee, Tombstone, and the surrounding area.

Edit: What to do around Sierra Vista is complete.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Seoul Part II: Shopping

Our first day in Seoul continued with lots of walking. The outdoor market in Insadong feels like a never ending road. That feeling is compounded by the frequent stops to explore the little stores. 

After lots of walking, I noticed that most of these stores sell very similar touristy items. Mother of Pearl boxes and cases, clothing, and other little knicknacks. I did find some cool items for family members, but unique and touristy do not go well together.

I think I enjoyed the people watching much more than the shopping. I just wish the market was better suited for people watching. Besides a few stone benches, there was really no where to sit. If your planning on a day of shopping in Seoul, wear good shoes and take lots of breaks. Some preemptive ibuprofen wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Seoul Part I: Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is an awesome place to visit if you don't have much time in Seoul. 

Our goals for the day were simple. See something historically unique to Seoul, eat Korean food, and go shopping. 

Gyeongbokgung Palace definitely fit the mold of historically unique to Seoul. We knew we didn't have all day to explore the full site, so we opted for the 1 palace ticket. After seeing the grounds of the one palace, I think we would have needed a few days to see all four palaces and the museum and enjoy them all.

The palace was packed with tourists and tour groups. As you move further back into the grounds it opens up a bit and people spread out more. If you don't like crowds, move through the first few courtyards quickly to get to the more open grounds.

As you got deeper into the grounds, you felt much further from Seoul. The atmosphere was quieter and the mountains seemed closer than the skyline of Seoul. These small ponds were filled with blooming lily pads and fishes skimming the surface for bugs. 

The additional palaces we opted not to purchase were located on the North side of the complex. They looked amazing from a distance and I'd definitely like to come back and see them. 

On the west side of the complex, we found the pots used to make kimchi and other fermented foods. All this talk of food was making us hungry. So we jumped on the Seoul subway to head over to Insadong for food and shopping. 

The Seoul subway was really easy to use and very clean. 

Coming out of the subway, we were greeted with the long shopping street of Insadong. If your going to shop here, wear good shoes.

We picked a restaurant off the main shopping road. The food was delicious and plentiful. I really liked all the side dishes and enjoyed mixing the flavors up in my rice. 

That's it for this blog post, I've got tons more photos of shopping for the next post :)

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