The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork, Special Edition

Breakfast Club Visits Bisbee, The Inn at Castle Rock



28 & 29 May 2005
by Warren McIlvoy

I can not quite put my finger on any particular reason that makes me want to keep coming back to this old town of Bisbee, Arizona. After all, this is my seventeenth trip here and by now one would think that, what else is there to see or experience. It's not that the town is loaded with 5-star resorts or hotels or has any ranking in the travel guide's hottest 100 list. Nor is it on any main travel route from east to west commonly known as Interstates. No, it is none of these. I believe that it attracts me because it is so rich in history of the times that my Grandfather or Great-Grandfather experienced first hand. It is the kind of history that you can rub elbows with and get you hands dirty if you so with. You can touch and embrace it in your arms, caress it with your hands, and feel it with your very soul. I long to touch and feel things that the pioneers lived and breathed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The hardships that they endured while opening-up the West, as it was know at that time, come to life while traversing the up and down streets of this old town and browsing the old buildings with their shops. Yeah, that must be it and you know what, I am looking forward to doing it again.

Our indulgence in the past began with an early morning flight from modern-day Phoenix towards the southeastern part of this great state. After crossing the Phoenix Class B airspace, we made a direct turn towards San Manuel, a small mining town in the San Pedro River Valley. This area is to the east of Tucson and is separated from that bustling metropolis by the Santa Catalina Mountains. From San Manuel, it was a straight shot to Bisbee while passing over such notable places such as Benson and historic Tombstone and finally, the Mule Mountains. The town of Bisbee is nestled in crook of the mountains of the south side with the Bisbee Airport being a mere 5 miles south of the town. Upon exiting our aircraft, we were met by Asa & Cheryl Dean, and Bert Davis (who had arrived the previous day). Bert would take Ken Calman and his son to town in one of the "airport limos" and I would take the Dean's with us in another. To get one of the free loaners, it was just a case of checking-in with the airport manager, Mr Swan (no relation to the historic Swan family of Bisbee), and off you go.

The ride into Bisbee took us through the residential and business areas of the Warren section of town. From there it was through the oldest "round-about" in the USA and into the historic, old town Bisbee. We slowly made our way through the narrow streets and on the edge of the old town area, we arrived at the
Inn at Castle Rock. The Inn is situated on the site of the first exploratory mine shaft that is right across from the rock formation know as "Castle Rock". The mine shaft did not get very far as it intruded upon a natural spring and the shaft quickly filled with water. Since the shaft was no longer of any mining value, the hole was utilized as a well and a source of fresh water. Today, the well is inside the dining area of the lower level of the Inn and is stocked with what appear to be large gold fish. Upon exiting the dinning area, you ascend two short flights of stairs to the first floor office and the first floor rooms. Since we had arrived to early to check into our rooms, the office folks had arranged for us to leave our bags in a room right across from the office. We then retraced our steps to the lower level dinning area to join with the other Breakfast Club folks that were already seated. There were a number of tables on either side of the well and the north side of the room was lined with windows that overlooked a large, sunken drainage trough between the Inn and the street, that would accommodate the sudden water run-off from storms that would soak the adjacent Mule Mountains. Along these windows was a self serve area that contained a number of items that rounded-out the breakfast menu. There was fresh coffee, a variety of juices, fresh sliced fruit, Danish rolls and muffins, and an assortment of jellies and jams. I quickly opted to partake of the "rocket fuel" (commonly known to some as coffee) and sat down and chatted with Breakfast Club folks. It took a while to get our food orders but the same person who delivered your food, served double duty as she also tended to the folks who were needing assistance from the Inn office. I enjoyed a cheese omelet with bacon that was very well prepared along with some of the sliced fruit.

I spoke with Jeanine Babcock daughter of Jim Babcock who purchased the Inn some time in the 1970's. Jeanine told me that the family lived in Colorado and her father was a geologist by trade but an avid amateur artist by avocation. He father traveled to Bisbee for his interest in geology but the multitude of Victorian structures and other architecture quickly drew his attention. She said that the Inn was constructed about 1890 as a boarding-house for the miners that worked the various mines. At the time, the building was the largest all wood, Victorian structure in the country. The mining activity slowly waned in the first half of the 20th century and the Inn was converted to apartments in 1930. She did not know if, at the time of the original construction, what the Inn was called. Her father slowly changed the Inn from apartments to a "bed & breakfast" facility when he purchased it and it officially became known as
"The Inn at Castle Rock". Most all of the artwork that adorns the walls of the Inn are the creation of Jim Babcock. Jim Babcock passed-away in the mid 90's and Jeanine has continued the work that her father started. As the budget allows, rooms are remodeled and modernized but the Victorian theme is maintained. As Jeanine put it, "the Inn is a works in progress".

After breakfast, my wife and I and Asa & Cheryl Dean chose to take a jeep tour of the historic mining areas and little "villages" that were spawned by the diverse population that were drawn to this area. Bert & Dee opted for the Queen Mine Tour. The mine tour is very interesting but since we have done that about 14 times, I felt that the jeep tour would add more memories to my Bisbee experience. Ken Calman and his son were only down for the breakfast so they were heading out to the airport for their return flight. I called the folks at Lavender Jeep Tours to confirm our time and agreed to meet them in front of the Inn. In a matter of about 5-minutes a lavender colored jeep arrived at the Inn and Damian ushered us aboard for the short drive to their office to take care of the necessary paper work (also known as "paying-up"). After leaving the office, Damian made the first of many stops at the Lavender Pit which, at one time, was the largest open pit copper mine in the world. We drove past what appeared to be a small trailer park but in reality, they are rented out just like a hotel room. A 50's looking diner adjoined the "trailer hotel" that resembles an eatery here in town called the "Fifth & Diner". Another stop was at the local cemetery where many of the headstone and monuments, have the names of famous folks who helped to establish this area. Damian regaled with stories of some of the famous and infamous folks interred here who had colorful, if not infamous, pasts who were a part of the lore that abounds. George Warren was one that had a whitewashed monument with his name on it but he is not buried there. It seems that George was grubstaked by some eastern investors who had a financial interest in the potential riches of the area. It became apparent early on that those investors were not aware that George had a penchant for the "devils brew" and short order, drank-up his grubstake. George found some local money and was soon bankrolled for another try at staking claims on some profitable mines. The claims that he had established were for the local money and the eastern folks were lift out in the cold.

Some of the mining claims that he established, were very successful and he had partnered in some of them but he lost his fortunes when he made a bet that he could outrun a horse. He had set the course that favored manoeuverability but he lost out because he was to drunk to take advantage of the course. A photographer from Tombstone named Fly, took a picture of George Warren with his arms resting on a pick on one side and a shovel on the other. That silhouette now adorns the seal of the State of Arizona. A man know locally as a town drunk became part of the Great Seal; I guess that it was/is appropriate.

The tour continued around the north side of the No 7 dump that dates back to 1917. This dump consisted of low grade ore and "overbearing" that was removed from the Lavender Pit. The mines of the day were only interested in the high-grade ore that made mining so profitable during their hay-days. On the north side of this dump, is a new precipitation plant that uses the "magic" of chemistry to extract the remaining ore. Thought the plant is relatively small, the end product is almost pure copper at a low cost per pound to produce. Since the No 7 dump is quite large, it would seem likely that this plant will have a very long life.

Damian took us through some of the residential areas that house the local folks today with some of the mansions  where the elite lived. The Greenway house looks more like it belonged in Wisconsin with its many gables. The house is currently on the market with an asking price of $1.7 million. The Douglas house is just to the west of the Greenway house and has 43 rooms. The house has been totally restored and has current residents. Damian parked the jeep on a small rise that overlooks the ballpark. This ballpark was where the local sheriff rounded-up hundreds of striking miners known as "Wobblies" and loaded them aboard boxcars of a nearby train, and transported them into the New Mexico wasteland and dumped them off and told them not to come back.

The next leg or our tour revolved around the historic sites within the "old town" part of Bisbee. Damian drove the jeep up the hill in Brewery Gulch. As we ascended the narrow, steep road, Damian would point-out interesting facts regarding some of the old houses both up the sides of the hill and along the street. I recall one tale about how a person was fatally injured after being run-down by an errant piano that was being hauled up the steep stairways to a house well up on the hill. I asked Damian if he died "on a sour note"...........groan. We passed-by the old Bisbee High School that is listed in Ripley's Believe it or Not as being the only 4-story building with street level entries on each floor. As our tour ended, Damian dropped us all off at the Inn and we went into the Inn office to finish our check-in chores.

Our room called "Faraway Ranch", was located on the back side of the Inn. To get to our room, we walked through a small pair of doors that led to the 2nd level veranda and walked to the west end of the Inn. The "trail" continued around to the back side that is up against the hill. The rear walkway was covered with a lattice material and that was covered with corrugated, fiberglass panels. There were assorted planters that lined the curving walkway with some of them containing bamboo that was more than two stories high. This was a very secluded and quiet area. The Deans had the room next to ours and the Davis folks had a room on the 3rd level or second floor.

After about a half hours regeneration, my wife and I went back to the veranda and sat on the swing overlooking the street. The afternoon skies were now clouded over and looking to the west, we could see lightening and heard the thunder that would echo off the canyon walls. We were soon joined by the Deans and we got to discussing our dinner plans. I said that we would hike down the street and check-out the possibilities. We stopped by four places and finally decided on Winchesters at the Copper Queen Hotel. We then strolled across the street to the ice-cream store to get a double dip cone and then head back up the street to the Inn. I met-up with the Deans and told them that we would meet at the Inn entrance at 5:00 and head down to the Copper Queen. I said that I would let Bert and Dee know about out dinner plans. We all arrived at the Copper Queen Hotel at about 5:20 but the restaurant did not open until 5:30 so we sat on the old leather sofas that were in the hotel lobby and waited for our dinner call. After a leisurely and very enjoyable meal, we made our way back up the hill towards the Inn and encountered a few drops of rain along the way.

Back at the Inn, we went to the second floor sitting room where the TV was and we watched the 2nd half to the Suns and San Antonio basketball game. Following the disappointing outcome of the game, my wife and I went back down to the first floor veranda to enjoy the cool evening air. While sitting there, I noticed that there was now a parking place that was much closer to the Inn entryway so I decided to move the car. By now the rain had become a bit more enthusiastic so I did not spend a lot of time enjoying the street scene. Several time during the night, I could hear the rain sprinkling on the fiberglass cover that was on the rear walkway of the Inn. It must have been some time around 5:00am that the rain stopped. Since I am, by habit, an early riser and the dinning area does not open until 7:00, I decided to resume my position on the veranda swing to await its opening. At around 6:30, I could smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafting-up to the first floor level. As I see it, that is an open invitation to get a cup of coffee and relax on the swing and do my morning cross-word puzzle. At around 0715, the rest of the group showed-up and we all headed down to the dinning area. Breakfast was for the most part, as far as our entrees were concerned, a repeat of Saturday morning.

The weather had cleared rather nicely and we decided to meet at the entrance to the Inn by 0900 for our departure for the airport. Following a quick shower and a scan of our room to make sure that we has all of our gear, we headed-out for our rendevous with the rest of the group. We loaded-up the "airport limo" and retraced our route back to the Bisbee Airport. One by one we hauled each aircraft over to the stationary fuel station and Mr Swan deftly dispensed the "liquid gold" into our fuel tanks. Asa and I decided to retrace our inbound route to Bisbee and return via San Manuel. Bert and Dee were going to return via Tucson and up I-10. We departed left downwind from runway 17 and climbed to 8500' and over the eastern slopes of the Mule Mountains. As we neared San Manuel, we encountered some scattered Cumulus clouds so I dropped-down to 6500' and Asa climbed to about 9500'. The air was quite bumpy for a while but smoothed-out a bit as we neared Firebird Lake for the crossing of the Class B airspace and back to Deer Valley Airport.

For more information on the Inn at Castle Rock and Lavender Jeep Tours, contact:
Jeanine Babcock at the Inn at 1-800-566-4449 or visit their web site at
Tom Mosier at Lavender Jeep Tours at (520) 432-5369

The Bisbee Crew

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 4544X, BC-1
  • Bert & Dee Davis in 44806, BC-42
  • Asa & Cheryl Dean in 48803, BC-52
  • Ken Calman and Son

Click on the Bisbee event link to view photos of this fly-in event.