Bisbee's St. Elmo Makes National 'Dive Bar' List

Courtesy of St. Elmo (via Facebook)

A longtime watering hole in the old Arizona mining town of Bisbee recently was recognized as a "historic dive bar" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

St. Elmo was one of seven dive bars honored by the organization as part of last month's National Dive Bar Day. The National Trust says such businesses "are an integral part of America’s historic character," in that they "emulate the love and energy we put into our communities."

Of St. Elmo, the National Trust had this to say:

The longest continually operating drinking establishment in the state of Arizona, St. Elmo survived Prohibition by converting into a soda shop and was later regularly patronized by celebrities such as John Wayne and Charlie Sheen. The current owner of the bar, Phil Yossem, says the vibe is most similar to that of the Mos Eisley Cantina in "Star Wars," according to a story from The best drink on the menu is the Bloody Mary, which uses a special “chili water” to give it some extra kick.

Longtime Arizona Highways readers might remember St. Elmo from our October 2013 issue, when it appeared in a Bisbee portfolio by photographer Jill Richards.

The other six bars on the list were in New York, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Texas and Idaho. You can read about the rest of them on the National Trust's website.

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Grand Canyon Using GPS Collars to Track Elk

Elk at the Grand Canyon. | Dave Knox

Grand Canyon National Park's wildlife experts are using a high-tech tool to help them track some of the Canyon's best-known animal residents.

Ten of the park's elk are being outfitted with GPS collars so wildlife biologists can gather data on their movement, the park announced in a news release last week. That data will be used to help develop a management plan for the animals, which can often be seen around the developed areas of the South Rim.

According to the news release, the elk will be tracked for two years to help biologists understand their movement and interaction with South Rim visitors and residents. The scientists will be looking at what areas of the park are attracting the elk, along with how they move seasonally around Grand Canyon Village.

The adult elk selected for the project all weigh at least 300 pounds, the park said. The collars weigh 2 pounds, will not harm the animals and will fall off once the project is complete, according to the news release.

Park officials also reminded Grand Canyon visitors to stay at least 100 feet, or two bus lengths, away from elk at the Canyon.

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Tucson Mustang Club Preserves an American Icon

Courtesy of Southern Arizona Mustang Club

Bold. Strong. Hot-blooded. Exciting. Back in 1965, this was how Ford described the Mustang in one of its first commercials for the model. Surely, members of one of the oldest Mustang clubs in the world would describe it in just the same way.

Few products in recent American history have reached the Mustang's iconic status. The sporty, affordable vehicle became an instant success the day it was released in 1964, and 22,000 wer sold in just 24 hours. Since then, the car has shaped the automobile industry, appeared in hundreds of films, and become popular among gearheads and casual drivers alike.

Just a year after the Mustang came to market, a handful of Mustang lovers in Tucson formed the Southern Arizona Mustang Club (SAMC), and in its 52-year history, the club has grown from 20 members to 280. Today, some of the original members still belong to the SAMC, but the club continues to recruit new members who own all different models of Mustangs.

Although hundreds of Mustang clubs have been formed worldwide, few are as longstanding as the SAMC. In a recent article, the club was recognized by Ford as the world’s oldest Mustang club — a title its members are proud of.

Each month, members take their Mustangs on scenic cruises around Tucson, host meet-ups and participate in fundraising events for local charities and schools. They also sponsor car shows throughout the year, including Fords on Fourth, a popular show open to owners of all Ford models. The show, now going on its 12th year, is held annually in March and takes place in Tucson’s historic Fourth Avenue district.

Aaron Sapienza, current president of the SAMC, says people come from all over the country to attend and participate in the show. Like many of the group's events, all proceeds from Fords on Fourth benefit local charities. This year, the SAMC opened the show to 275 car owners and sold out. Next year, they’ve decided to increase the show to 300 participants.

Although it’s the Mustang that brought the members of the SAMC together, Sapienza says the club has become much more than that over the years.

“It’s not so much about the cars,” Sapienza said. “The people that we have in the club are just fantastic people. I can’t say enough about them. The Mustang is a great car, and it’s an American icon, but it’s the people that really make the club. Anybody could have a Mustang club, but it’s all about the people who are in it. It’s like a big family to us.”

To learn more about the Southern Arizona Mustang Club, visit or find the club on Facebook.

— Emily Balli

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Paving of South Mountain Freeway Begins

Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

PHOENIX – You’ve got to start somewhere.

And for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, “somewhere” is near Elliot Road and 59th Avenue in Laveen, where the first lane mile of pavement is in place for the state’s largest single highway project ever.

Laying pavement began in late July and has occurred in one of the flattest stretches of the South Mountain Freeway project, from north of Estrella Drive to Olney Avenue.

Mainline paving throughout the project will continue until just prior to the opening of the 22-mile freeway by late 2019. Paving will begin later this summer in the Pecos segment east of 40th Street in Ahwatukee.

“This is a huge milestone for the South Mountain Freeway project,” said Rob Samour, ADOT’s senior deputy state engineer for major projects. “The start of paving brings us that much closer to delivering traffic relief to Phoenix motorists and providing a much-needed alternative to I-10 to travel between opposite ends of the Valley.”

A 4-inch-thick asphalt base has been paved, and additional layers of pavement will follow.

To date, paving has not required any traffic restrictions.

The work involves several dump trucks delivering the asphalt, paving machines spreading it and rollers compacting it. Connect 202 Partners, the developer of the South Mountain Freeway project, can put down up to 3,500 tons of asphalt per day with a single paving pass. 

The first step toward paving is creating an embankment and compacting it to the designed height needed for the future roadway. Approximately 10 million cubic yards of earth, the equivalent of more than 800,000 truckloads and enough to fill University of Phoenix Stadium 13 times, is being hauled and compacted for the project. Once the earthwork is finished in an area, paving can begin.

Following the paving, crews will add lighting, curbs and gutters, signage and landscaping and complete other related work.

The South Mountain Freeway, which is scheduled to open in late 2019, will provide a long-planned direct link between the East Valley and West Valley and a much-needed alternative to Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix. Approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985 and again in 2004 as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, it will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system.

You can stay informed about the South Mountain Freeway project and sign up for updates and weekly traffic alerts at

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ASU Will Offer Graduate Degree in World War II Studies

Courtesy of Arizona State University

Arizona's largest university is partnering with a New Orleans museum to offer the nation's first graduate degree in World War II studies.

Arizona State University and the National WWII Museum say classes for the online master's degree program will begin in January and will feature five professors from the museum and three from the university.

The classes will feature video lectures and artifacts from the museum's archives, according to a news release.

"The museum's mission has always been to educate future generations on the American experience in the war that changed the world," Gemma Birnbaum, director of the museum's media and education center, said in the news release. "By partnering with Arizona State University, we are offering students the unique opportunity to learn from leading experts who can provide the most comprehensive view of a global conflict that still shapes our society and political structures today."

For more information on the program, visit ASU's website.

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It's Tortoise Adoption Season

Courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department

It's that time of year again: The Arizona Game and Fish Department is looking for new homes for its population of captive desert tortoises.

In a video posted to Facebook this month, the department said its wildlife center is "full up on tortoises." Every year, the agency adopts captive tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild. Doing so could introduce diseases in the wild population, Game and Fish says.

If you're a permanent Arizona resident and are looking for a new pet, desert tortoises are easier to care for than you might think. You'll need an area of your yard that includes a shelter where the tortoise can hibernate during the winter months, and you'll need to keep food, ideally native plants, available for it to eat.

Perhaps most importantly, you'll need to commit to the reptile for the long haul, including making a plan for what happens to it after you die. Desert tortoises can live for 100 years or longer, Game and Fish says.

As a reminder, it's illegal to take desert tortoises from the wild.

For more information on tortoise adoption, visit the department's website.

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, August 1964

From the issue: "'Broad-Tailed Hummingbird' by Bill Ratcliffe. Portrayed here is the broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus). Typical of the nests of many hummingbirds, this nest was placed on a branch over a mountain stream, about eight feet above the water. The nest measured just less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter."

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Arizona Prairie Dog Tests Positive for Plague

Gunnison's prairie dogs. | Bruce D. Taubert

A prairie dog in Northern Arizona tested positive for plague last month, and now, Arizona wildlife officials are offering tips for preventing the spread of a potentially deadly disease.

As ABC15 reported earlier this month, the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced that the plague-infected prairie dog was found in Coconino County. The disease, which is transmitted by fleas, can infect a variety of wild animals, along with domestic animals and humans. Moisture during the summer monsoon often helps the fleas proliferate, officials said.

Game and Fish offered the following tips to prevent the spread of plague:

  • Do not handle sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas. De-flea pets routinely. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
  • Avoid rodent burrows and fleas.
  • Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present (campers, hikers, woodcutters and hunters).
  • Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.
  • Do not camp next to rodent burrows, and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.
  • In case of illness, see your physician immediately, as treatment with antibiotics is very effective.

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Arizona Could Add 1 Million Residents by 2026

Cathy Franklin | Phoenix

A new report projects that Arizona will grow by 1 million residents and add 500,000 new jobs in the next eight years.

As The Arizona Republic reported this month, the estimate by the state's Office of Economic Opportunity indicates that the Grand Canyon State will add nearly 543,000 new net jobs by 2026. The projection is based on a 10-year estimate that includes this year and last year, The Republic reported.

That rate of jobs growth would be a 1.7 percent annual growth rate, more than double the 0.7 percent annual growth rate expected for the country as a whole during that time, The Republic reported.

The report also predicted that Arizona's population of 7.1 million will increase to 8.1 million by 2026. Most of that growth will be in the Phoenix metro area, which will grow from 4.8 million residents to 5.5 million, according to the report.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and Yavapai County, which includes much of the Verde Valley, could see the highest rates of jobs growth, The Republic reported.

Such rates would be a marked increase from the 10-year period that ended in 2016. In that period, Arizona averaged just 0.2 percent jobs growth annually, according to the report.

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