Today I was a tourist and got to indulge my curiosity and need to wander. I was very curious about the town because my friend Ginny lived here briefly in the 1990’s. Silver City was number 11 on the list of top places to retire in the USA. And I can understand why. An article in the New York Times, January 13, 2006 gives a good nutshell description of the city:
PEOPLE who live in Silver City like to say that their town of 10,000 offers “the real New Mexico experience.” Perched on the edge of the Gila National Forest in a high-desert wonderland of ponderosas, deep gorges and red-rock mesas, Silver City is a bit rough around the edges, especially compared with places like Santa Fe and Taos – but that’s the way the locals like it. The town was founded after silver ore was discovered in 1870, and soon transplanted Yankees built the large Victorian houses that still loom over newer structures in the historic downtown. The silver industry crashed in 1893, but the town was becoming a haven for tuberculosis patients – including Billy the Kid’s mother – because of the desert air and healing hot springs. (Billy himself passed some of his youth in Silver City.) By the 1900’s, TB patients started going there en masse. After 1910, large-scale copper mining began, and that continues to be the basis of the economy, making Silver City a place where miners, artists, ranchers and extreme sports types mix easily.
People were very friendly. A woman stopped me outside of the grocery store because she saw the sign on the truck. She was a reporter for the local online county paper and had just lost a friend to ALS. She was very interested in our story. Later I was directed to a great little coffee shop called Three Dogs. I had an excellent cup of drip coffee and a cinnamon nut roll that was a real treat. I enjoyed the Silver City Museum and wandering around the historic district. Very colorful southwestern buildings with Victorian and Art Deco touches. Lots of art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars. it’s an interesting blend of outdoor-hippie-artsy-west. I visited two bike shops and enjoyed talking with the owners as I distributed our business cards.
The most unusual part of town is The Big Ditch. It is now a nice park in a ravine with a stream running through it. Prior to a 1902 flood, it was Main Street! Copper mining had stripped away enough of the surface growth upstream of town that several floods destroyed the street and buildings with it.
I caught up with Dave a little after 1 pm. On the route I passed a huge copper mine, still a mainstay for local employment. The Rider was tired after a grueling day pedaling up and down big hills, but he kept at it till 2 pm to get a head start on climbing the highest peak yet. Later he took a little gas nap.
We went into town to visit the Gila Bike and Hike shop. The guys were really interested in Dave’s ride. Next door is the Q Southern Bistro that I had checked out earlier to see if they would be showing the Marquette Sweet Sixteen NCAA basketball game. They said yes, so we went there to relax, watch the game and eat dinner. They beat Miami 71-61! It is unlikely that we will be anywhere near a TV for the Elite 8 game this weekend, so I was happy to see this win.