It took me over five years to get to Arizona, after having moved out West.
And when I got there, it was all too brief.
We crossed the border into Arizona sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 on a Saturday morning, after having stayed up all night for the Rental Car Rally.
But we had much to accomplish while we were there: not only meet the naked owner of a local bookstore, but also get kicked out of a closed harness racing track for trespassing and hunt down some dome-dwelling ghosts.
It was after 6 p.m. when we finally got to the endpoint of our rat race, Tombstone—and although it's been a bucket list destination for me ever since I first heard the name "Doc Holliday," I'd have to wait until the morning to do any exploring.
And with only two hours for tourism before we'd have to hit the road back to California...
...we didn't get to see much.
So I tried to consider this brief visit more of a scouting mission—and it turned out to be a successful one, at that.
Unlike, say, Pioneertown or Calico, Tombstone feels like a real town—not a theme park.
And, in July, it felt like a ghost town. The summer heat is typically too hot for most tourists.
So we practically had the place to ourselves—and, without the crowds, were able to visit the Tombstone Courthouse State Park...
...a museum located inside the former Cochise County Courthouse, where you can examine original pieces of silver that were mined nearby...
...the gallows for hanging criminals...
...and, of course, the courtroom.
Besides the OK Corral, the most famous landmark of Tombstone is probably the Bird Cage Theatre...
...whose sordid history and fancy lighting fixtures have been amazingly preserved.
The Bird Cage was not only a theatre where the townsmen could catch a naughty show, but also a brothel whee one of the women for hire known as the "Shady Ladies" would give them their own private sideshow in one of the opera boxes.
Downstairs in the basement gambling hall, amidst bullet holes and short-skirted women, the longest poker game ever to be played took place over the course of eight years, from 1881-1889. The table where it was played by such legendary figures as Doc Holliday is on display.
Of course, there's no tombstone without Wyatt Earp—and while we felt his presence throughout the town, there was no time to explore the historical sites that are devoted to him.
Instead, we had to get to Tucson for breakfast at Waffle House, where we got to meet the world's greatest greeter, Freddy.
We had to wash our rental car one more time before returning it...
...at the most beautiful car wash we'd ever seen.
And we had to return to Quartzsite, home of the nudist bookstore, to witness the site of the last camp of Hi Jolly, the country's first and most famous camel handler.
Hi Jolly is laid to rest here, with a monument to his work for the failed endeavor of the Camel Corps.
When the Civil War started, and the enemy was no longer a Native American, the Camel Brigade was abandoned and the camels were let loose in the Arizona desert around here to fend for themselves.
Thankfully, the camels were already used to the desert heat—because during the summer, it's so hot that pretty much everybody either leaves Arizona or just stays inside.
But we couldn't just drive back to LA without seeing something. Even if it was just the world's largest belt buckle.
In the end, my scouting mission was a success—because now I know how much more there is to see and do in Arizona.
I just have to find another reason to go back—and another person to share the driving with.
Photo Essay: The Doomed Domes, Casa Grande's Other Ruins
Photo Essay: A Desert Oasis for Readers, and One Naked Guy
A Mission, Aborted
Photo Essay: Glimpses of Baltimore