Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oatman, Arizona

Saturday morning, we enjoyed a quick road trip to Oatman, Arizona, just about 45 minutes from Laughlin, partly on the historic Route 66.
Black Mountains
The drive is through some spectacular scenery. Along the way you'll pass through Bullhead City, AZ, which is much larger than it first appears. There are views of the Colorado River valley and the Newberry Mountains in Nevada, but the scenery really takes a turn toward the spectacular when you near the Black Mountains. There are companies that offer off-road excursions, hiking and horseback riding. Those would be a great way to experience this area. I would caution - be extremely careful. The heat you'll experience in the spring, summer and fall can be deadly.
The ladies from Heritage Clubs, International, plus the gunfighters!
And yes, as I mentioned earlier, we are here working! We are the Advisory Board of Heritage Clubs, International, having our mid-year meeting and scouting the location of the annual Peer Group Conference that's coming up next March. This dedicated group of Bank Travel Club Directors and tourism professionals are working hard to make sure that the experience our colleagues have at the annual conference will be outstanding.
Feeding the burros
When the miners shifted from burro power to horse power (in the form of diesel engines) the burros used in the mine were simply turned loose! They've since multiplied and each day arrive in town early in the morning to greet the tourists and beg food off of them. Their population is managed by the BLM, which owns much of the surrounding mountains. Tourists are cautioned NOT to feed them carrots or junk food. They get so much of it it causes health problems. Also, the babies will have stickers on their foreheads warning you not to feed them at all.
Cactus landscaping on main street - enter at your own risk!
Oatman is nearly a ghost town, with approximately 160 permanent residents. These highly independent and entrepreneurial folks do a good job of maintaining an interesting tourist attraction. The main complaint I have is the lack of interpretation. There are no plaques signifying the history of the buildings, the former uses, ages, etc. There is, however a sign warning tourists the locals may carry weapons.
Historic Route 66 sign... plus an indication on where locals stand on gun rights.
As you can see from the view down Main Street (Route 66), it is lined with quaint shops.
The view down main street
The one place where I did find signs is in the window of the Oatman Hotel. Here you find the warnings not to feed the burros carrots and junk food, and to be cautious with dogs. We found MANY folks with carrots in their hands who had no idea they weren't supposed to feed them to the burros. Perhaps a large sign upon the entrance to the town might be in order? That is, if they are serious about protecting the health of the herd.
Please don't feed the burros anything but the provided alfalfa cake. The carrots give them diabetes and other health problems. Plus... let the dogs beware of the burros!


The Oatman Jail, built in 1936.
Tucked away off of Main Street is the Oatman Jail. There is a $2 admission to go inside, which is very reasonable. You can have your photo taken in the gallows, and there is a small gift shop. Again, no interpretation of the historic nature of the jail except the sign that says it was built in 1936.
A mine shaft entrance on main street.
Near the south end of main street on the east side is obviously the ruins of a building and the entrance to a mine shaft. When you go into the mine, it turns sharply to the left and seems to go back quite a ways. I thought I had a flashlight app on my phone, but don't, so I didn't go very far. Absolutely NO signage to tell what the mine was, where the shaft goes, how far back it is safe to explore. Honestly... make up a story and give me an experience! Don't just leave me to my own devices.
The historic Oatman Hotel.
The cornerstone of the Oatman experience is the Oatman Hotel. Lore has it that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon night here, though I have found adamant assertions online that this is not true. However, it does make a charming story.
Michael Fox, local historian and entertainer.
There is a stage in the dining room, and Michael Fox, who has lived in Oatman for 22 years and obviously has a love for the place and its history, entertains there. It is from him that we heard the story of the Oatman family for whom the town is named, and some of the early history of the area. Thank goodness! This was the only source we discovered, except for some books for sale in some of the gift shops.
It is estimated there is more than $100,000 in single dollar bills fastened to the walls throughout the hotel and dining room.
Burro ears accompanying pulled pork lunch.
Delicious home made chips "burro ears" accompanied the meal.
Gathered on Main Street for the gun fight.
Though it didn't seem like there were this many people in town, you can see that the streets are lined with visitors waiting for the gun fight. 
Up close and personal with a burro

The burros obviously have the right of way on the sidewalks as well as the roads.
The gunfight
The highlight of the experience is the gun fight. The Oatman Outlaws regularly rob banks, insult each other, entertain the tourists, then pass the hat. The donations they collect go 100% toward Shriners hospitals. Their motto is "We fall down so the children can walk." To date they have collected more than $70,000 for the charity.
Lunch break.
This is one of the newer additions to the herd, foaled within the last week. You can see the sticker on his forehead warning tourists not to feed him.

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