OK, so you can guess which one is which!
Blam! Blam! Blam! Wingo blows the smoke from the barrel of the Colt revolver he is holding and looks my way. I nod in encouragement. We are in Tombstone, Arizona, and Wingo has just fired six perfect shots from his weapon. Fortunately for us all, he’s shooting at a target and the Colt is tethered to the table. He’s pretty chuffed. We’ve hit Tombstone for a short stop on our way south to Bisbee from Tucson. As you’d expect, the heydays of Tombstone were some time ago, in the 1880s in fact and the town has descended into tourism tackiness. Although the buildings are reasonable authentic, the stagecoach rides, vintage car rides and myriad of souvenir shops are not. This is the town where the Gunfight at the OK Corral occurred, where the Earp Brothers and Doc Holiday killed Tom and Frank McLaury, but now the only outlaws are the ones dressed for the tourists, hustling a few bucks to have their photos taken.
We breeze into Bisbee, just at lunchtime and after a brief orientation, walk into Contessa’s Cantina. Bisbee has been an important contributor to the wealth of Arizona and gold, silver and copper have all been mined here over the last two and half centuries. But in the mid 1970s the huge open-cut mine closed and the town became a haven for “hippies, weirdos and transients”. We learn this at the bar of the Contessa talking to John Wright, a friend of friends from Washington State, who with his long grey wispy beard and even longer hair, fits the description perfectly. When we talk politics with him he describes Bisbee as “a Liberal oasis in a sea of Republican shit”.
Next day in Tucson we meet our first Republican, at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tuscon. Although he doesn’t actually admit it, we can tell that this compact, contained, ex-military flyer in his pressed chinos and perfectly ironed polo shirt is probably one of the Trump supporters. The Pima museum is the perfect boys’ day out and we enjoy seeing the aircraft on display; from the original Wright Flyer to a SR71 Blackbird that kept the West safe during the Cold War and still holds many records – including the world’s fastest plane.
We sniff the creosote bushes and search for the bobcats at the Desert Museum and make nice with a divine barn owl.
We visit the Biosphere 2 project where, at the end of the 1980s, four men and four woman were locked up for two years to conduct a study to determine whether they could be self sufficient and whether eight people could live together without coming to blows. Wingo and I agree we are conducting a similar social experiment in our rented Dodge Charger.
Stopping briefly at the Hoover Dam, (which is at its lowest ebb that I ever remember), we hit Las Vegas to find it is full of unattractive, overweight people. Many, many unattractive, overweight people. We walk the Strip at night, religiously avoiding eye-contact with the hustlers, the scammers and the beggars. We visit the world’s only Pinball Machine museum; we splash out on a show full of high kicks and Broadway show numbers and we did not spend $1 on gambling.
We are now at Fresno in California. Tomorrow we will pack for the final time, drive into San Francisco for lunch with a young friend, and then catch our flight home. We assumed that Fresno would simply be a stop on the highway, but soon after we check into our motel I search the Internet and find a microbrewery just six minutes away. Wingo and I pull up a seat at the bar and he orders a beer for us each. After 3½ weeks we have each other’s palettes sorted. Mine is Red to Brown. His is Brown to Dark. I chat to a couple of chaps beside me. He is trying to find work as a butler – he is vastly experienced, but is having no luck. Wingo is talking to the man on his left about Aussie Rules. The couple of blokes beside me, (yes, I’ve picked them as Friends of Dorothy), offer advice regarding food and invite us to the club where one (the butler) is singing tonight. Wingo wanders off oblivious to this exchange to locate the local Deli to which they’ve referred. The younger, Mexican part of the couple shakes my hand and introduces himself. “And what”, he asks, “Is your boyfriend’s name?”
We choose not to go to the aforementioned club, but take supper in our motel room drinking a bottle of branded Australian Shiraz we paid just $4.69 for in the local supermarket. I acknowledge Wingo’s part in this adventure and thank him. I could not have done this without his good humour, his sense of adventure, and, as Captain Kirk said; his willingness to go where no man has gone before.
When we turn the car in tomorrow at San Francisco airport, we will have driven 4,700 miles. Nearly 8,000kms. We could have driven from LA to NYC and halfway back. Or more than two-thirds around the coast of Australia. We agree that Bryce Canyon was probably the best National Park, but that the highlight of our road trip came last night in Vegas watching Showstoppers at Wynns with a 30 piece orchestra and an even larger cast of singers and dancers. When, for the finale, the orchestra swelled, the mirrors revolved and the whole bejewelled, sequinned and top-hatted cast turned to One from A Chorus Line, it was pretty damned special.
Wingo and I have accepted each other’s foibles, our polar opposite political views and we have smiled when we have each repeated a joke we told two weeks ago. We have crossed seven states, slept in 13 different motels, and drunk some exceptional beer in more Brew Pubs than I could hope to count.
Wingo – the next round is on me!