The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn




The Knife & Fork





Breakfast Club Aviates Into Historic Bisbee, Arizona


Lodges at Copper Queen Hotel



Our original fly-in destination for the September overnight event was to be Sedona but with the closing of the restaurant and a reluctant Sky Ranch Hotel, the Breakfast Club crack(ed) event committee scrambled for a replacement destination.  How could you ever go wrong with historic Bisbee, Arizona?  Over the years, the Breakfast Club has visited Bisbee somewhere around 16-18 times.  I believe that we have stayed overnight on all but maybe 4 occasions. 


The weather on our departure morning was perfect for flying.  There was not a cloud for 200-miles in any direction and the air was as still as a polar icecap.  The only downside at that hour was flying to the southeast where the sun is right in your face and you could hardly see a thing for the first 15-minutes.  Upon reaching GRINE intersection, I turned more to the south which greatly improved my forward visibility.  From there we flew along what I affectionately refer to as the Copper Highway” of Arizona.  It is along this route that some of the countries most productive copper producing mines dot the scenery.  From well known places such as Superior, Globe, Kearny, and San Manuel to smaller, less well known hamlets like Sonora, Kelvin, Winkelman, Hayden, and Mammoth.  All have contributed to the rich history to this region of the State of Arizona.  Southeast of San Manuel, we find ourselves in a part of the state where silver and copper competed for land with the ranching and cattle interests.  There were numerous confrontations between these diverse interests but none more famous than the “Gunfight at the OK Corral”. 


Our approach into the Bisbee Municipal Airport took us over the heart of the Mule Mountains and almost over the City of Bisbee and over the famous Lavender Pit copper mine and onto a left downwind for runway 35.  There were a number of aircraft on the ramp but it was not overly crowded.  I was not the first to arrive but a long way from the last.  I had arranged for two vans for the weekend, one for those that were staying overnight and one for those only making a day trip.  After securing our aircraft for the night, we signed-out the two vans and headed into town and breakfast at the Copper Queen Hotel.


Upon arriving at the Copper Queen, I stopped the van right in front so that our folks could unload their gear before I parked the van a little further up the slopping street.  A person manning the desk had us follow here to a room down the hall where we stowed our gear and then it was off to Angela’s.  Although the dining room still had some reminders from it was called Winchesters, it was still unmistakenly Victorian.  Our cell phone calendars said that it was September of 2010 but it could well have been 1910.  The one charming thing about the Copper Queen Hotel is that no matter how many times that it has been updated, there is no mistaken where her roots are firmly planted.  No matter what name the restaurant may be known as, it is still “Copper Queen. 


 The breakfast menu had a fair number of traditional breakfast items with purely Copper Queen inspired names.  I happen to be a sucker for eggs Benedict but on this menu, they are known as “ghostly eggs”.  By the way, if you are not familiar with the lore that permeates the “Old Town” Bisbee, there is not a single hotel, motel, or bed & breakfast, that does not have a resident spirit.  There are numerous books (most locally published) that tell of the particular spiritual inhabitants of most any building in town.  If you were to be silly enough to attempt to open some iteration of a guest accommodation with out a resident spirit (either hired or inspired), you don’t stand a “ghost of a chance” in succeeding (I could not resist). 


After breakfast, 3-folks decided that they would take a short hike up the street and then head back out to the airport.  My wife decided that since she had done the mine tour at least 10-times, that she would do some “window shopping” (potentially the most expensive option of the day), while the rest of us would visit the Mining Museum that was just below the Copper Queen Hotel.  It had been a while since I last visited the museum and it was obvious from the start that it was quite different than my last visit.  The right side of the first floor was dedicated to the history of Bisbee with many artifacts and dioramas depicting life in Bisbee in the very late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  They also had items that were used in the underground copper mines of those days and also some dioramas of life in the mines when you would get .75 for a ten hour day.  The left side of the first floor had the familiar Board room that was decorated in beaded wood paneling on both the ceiling and the walls.   Of course it had the mandatory oak executive desk and typewriter of that era.  That office would cost a fortune to do that today.


The second floor had changed completely in that where it had a large room that might have been a City Counsel meeting room to a floor completely dedicated to the more modern open pit mining operations that are so common today.  All-in-all, a very interesting and worthwhile investment of our limited time. 


After exiting the museum we decided to take the underground mine tour that was about a 3-block walk and two long flights of stairs away.  The waiting area was virtually empty and we soon discovered why, the mine tour had just departed and the next tour was 90-minutes later.  Since we had time to kill, we decided to retrace our steps back towards the Copper Queen but just up Brewery Gulch by about 75-yards to the Stock Exchange Bar.  The first thing that catches ones eye after entering, is the huge stock quote board that completely covers one wall.  As it turns-out, Bisbee was one of only two stock exchanges west of the Mississippi River when copper mining was king.  I would not be averse to bet that there were more financial deals done over a glass of beer in this bar than in all the local banks combined.  Weather or not you made a good deal may have depended solely on how much of the local brew that you imbibed before making the deal.


After sampling some of the ice cold brews and boosting the local economy, we headed back to the mine tour office.  Part of the mine tour ritual is donning the waterproof turnout, helmet, and battery powered light and then straddling the seat on the mine train cars.  Before the train enters the mine, it stops and the operator inquires if anyone has any issues with entering narrow mine tunnel.  The temperature of the mine is a cool 54-degrees so the turnout was a big help in warding-off the chill.  The main drift where we were (the 3rd level) is the primary entry and exit from the mine.  From this drift, there are tunnels for other mines that us this passageway.  There were two levels above us a hundred feet apart and six levels below us. 


The train made two stops along the route.  One stop required the ascent of a flight of wooden steps to a stope that was maybe a hundred feet across and 35’ high.  This was a common practice when a vein was discovered and they just kept expanding the stope until it was no longer practical to dig there.  The next stop was where the drift branched and we walked along that branch to where there was a bank of vertical shafts with hopper doors at our level.  Ore from the two upper levels was dumped into these shafts and then loaded into ore cars and hauled out of the mines by mules that spent most of their lives in the mine.  A little further up this branch was a variety of pneumatic drills of different vintages that depicted the technique for drilling the holes for blasting out the rock.  In that same location was the two lifts that transported the miners to both the upper and lower levels of the mine.  At this point, we were about 1700’ into the mountain and it was time for the return trip to daylight.


After the mine tour, we walked back up to the main street to get a sample of the local fare.  We stopped into the Mercantile Exchange which is a collection of shops, an upscale restaurant, and most importantly, an ice cream shop.  A double dip was in order and the line quickly formed to sample the ice cream treats.  I called my wife on my cell phone and she came down from our hotel room to join in on the festivities.  After enjoying this gastronomical delight, we had to walk-off some of our excesses by heading up the street towards the Inn at Castle Rock.  The Inn is a B & B that we have stayed on several occasions and it is all uphill from where we started.  By the way, everything in Bisbee is uphill.  It would seem that even if you on top, it is still uphill to get down.


At about this time, I had enjoyed about all the hiking that I could stand for one day and retreated to our hotel room for a brief catnap.  After a quick charge of my “batteries”, I decided to do some exploring of the upper floors of the Copper Queen Hotel.  On the 3rd floor balcony, I came across Austin and Richard who were sitting with their feet up on the rail and taking in the sounds of Bisbee.  It seems that this weekend, Bisbee was hosting an art festival and the plaza in front and below the hotel was lined with examples of artwork done by every age group.  There was also a jazz band playing under a tent in the plaza and sounds were echoing amongst the buildings and the canyon that rings the old town section of Bisbee.  The weather was just plain gorgeous and sitting on the balcony seemed like the perfect solution to the physical activities for the day.  Earlier, I had made dinner reservations for a 6:30 dinner on the dinning room patio that overlooked the street in front of the hotel.  I returned to my room for a quick shower and another quick “recharge” of my internal batteries before meeting for dinner. 


The really neat thing about dinner on the patio is that you get to hear the “sounds of the city”.  On the opposite side of the hotel was the saloon and the sounds of the live entertainment wafted throughout the surrounding area.  Since the patio overlooks the adjoining street, you also get the occasional motor cycle or other vehicle chugging up the hill.  We had a great meal and a chance to exchange conversations with other Breakfast Club folks.  The dinner hour is really one of the best opportunities to get to know more about the folks who shared the day with you and to truly relax.  Before the group headed-off to the evening city activities, we arranged to meet for breakfast at 0700. 


Austin and Rich opted to move to the other side of the front patio and partake in the offerings from the Saloon.  We joined them for a while to share conversation and to take-in the live entertainment that was jut inside the door.  The hour was getting late so we decided to head up to our room.  I believe that Austin and Rich extended the evening by walking over to a local nightspot called St Elmo’s.  I have heard that this is the place to be for Bisbee nightlife. 


After breakfast, I repositioned the van right in front of the hotel so that everyone could load-up their gear.  Following our hotel check-out, I had to go back up the hill and make a sharp left turn onto a very narrow “street” to get back on the main drag and then eventually drive the route back to the airport.  We added some fuel like everyone else did even though the price was slightly more than back at DVT but since the Bisbee folks were so accommodating to our needs, that we just had to repay them on some small way.


Since there was no wind and runway 17 was slightly downhill, we choose to take-off to the south which would give us more time to climb high enough to cross over the Mule Mountains.  The cloud layer that was in the area of the airport, were gone about 15-miles north of the mountains. 


For a truly relaxing and thoroughly interesting fly-in weekend, Bisbee is hard to beat.  You can experience history and see how people lived and worked in the rough and tumble days of yore.  Though the attendance was not great, there were just enough Breakfast Club folks to make this event an experience to remember. 


The Bisbee Gang


  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Glen & Judy Yoder, BC0—7
  • Paul Fortune, BC-201
  • Rich Kupiec and Austin Erwin in 6693M, BC-47 & BC-48
  • Doug Doehrman and Greg Coomans, BC-52 & BC-48
  • Mark and Bill Hess



What’s Next?


The October Breakfast Club event will see us traveling north to Flagstaff and the Little America Hotel.  In November, we will be flying south (like the birds) to Tucson, Ryan and Todd’s Café.  That’s all for now but remember, fly safe.


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