Three years ago, when we talked about making "bucket lists" - the things we wanted to do before we die - Pat's 34-year-old son David volunteered his list of things he wanted to do before he turned 40.
Pat and I offered to help him work off one of his top five items by taking him on a birthday trip to a football game in the "Big House" at our alma mater, the University of Michigan.
That started a family tradition. Since then we have taken David on birthday trips to Bisbee/Southern Arizona and to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We just got back from this year's birthday trip to Silver City, N.M.
Silver City, founded in 1870, has a rich silver- and copper-mining history. Silver mining pretty much ended in the 1890s with the government devaluation of silver, but copper mining continues in two of the world's largest open-pit mines - Santa Rita and Tyrone.
Today Silver City is acknowledged as one of the best small towns in America, with a steady population of about 10,000. Besides copper mining, the area has become a destination for retirement and tourism, and continues to develop its art-gallery credentials, much like Bisbee has done.
Silver City is 200 easy road miles from Tucson, east on Interstate 10 to Lordsburg, N.M., then northeast on State Route 90. The trip took us about four hours, including a short stop for food.
We were looking for a nice place to stay for a relaxing weekend. On this trip, David was bringing his girlfriend Krista, who also was celebrating a birthday that week. A friend of Pat's recommended we try Georgetown Cabins, which is 18 miles northeast of Silver City. So we rented two cabins there for three days and had a wonderful time.
Georgetown Cabins takes its name from the silver-mining town of Georgetown, founded in the early 1870s, growing to a population of 1,200 people, and active until the late 1890s. The cabins are nestled on the side of a forested mountain at 6,300 feet elevation and overlook the old town site - with virtually nothing of the mining camp visible today.
These are not your typical cabins; forget the rough-hewn log enclosures you may have experienced elsewhere. The six Georgetown Cabins are more like upscale wilderness condos, designed for couples, offering everything from full kitchens to a new community spa.
The cabins are widely separated, invisible to each other, contributing to privacy and an almost unbelievable quietness. The forever views and tranquil beauty are spellbinding.
The cabins' owners, Jon and Susie Eickhoff, are not your typical innkeepers. Jon has a mechanical engineering degree and Susie has a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology.
They owned a computer engineering company in Michigan that was once featured in Fortune magazine, but because of Jon's health problems they sold the business and moved to Silver City in 2001.
In 2007, the Eickhoffs bought the 10 acres for Georgetown Cabins from descendants of the original mining camp settlers, after doing a lot of research on the history of the area to establish land rights and titles. They entertained their first guests on Valentine's Day 2009.
The couple put a lot of effort into developing their remote mountain retreat. They used their technical backgrounds to design the cabins and include eco-friendly resources: solar power, propane gas and well water.
Each of the six cabins is named after a well-known character of the Georgetown mining camp and displays a collection of local history books, papers and photo albums.
We took it easy on activities during the day. We toured the art galleries in Silver City, visited a newly-opened Mimbres archeological site, and stopped to stare into the enormous Santa Rita open-pit copper mine.
Jon and Susie gave me a tour of the Georgetown mining camp site and showed me evidence of the old diggings such as traces of building foundations and open tunnels.
Pat and I hope to return to Georgetown Cabins. We have many activities yet to explore there, appreciate the restful scene, and, as Jon said to another guest, "Where else can you get your place cleaned by a Ph.D.?"