Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tucson And The Desert Museum

On Sunday, we packed our bags so to speak and on Monday morning headed out of Yuma on our way to our next destination – Tucson.  It was an uneventful trip of 220 miles, just the way we like our travel days.   There is not a whole lot of anything between Yuma and Tucson.  We passed some cattle farms, irrigated alfalfa fields, and a giant solar power plant – that was about it.

DSCN0658We had read at least a couple of blogs lately that were raving about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.  It also rates as Tucson’s number one attraction on TripAdvisor.  So off we went there on Tuesday.  First, we traveled through the west unit of the Saguaro National Park.  We had seen many saguaros in southern Arizona but this was the first place where we saw a “forest” of them.

The Desert Museum ( is a property of about a hundred acres that is part museum, part zoo, and part gardens.  We very much enjoyed our visit as there were a number of “firsts” for us as shown in the pictures below:

A beautiful Mountain Lion




A hummingbird in her nest


The Fairy Duster plant.  Back at Quartzite, our friend Mark Nemeth of the Escapees organization shared with us some very special mead (honey wine) from honey where the bees had feasted solely on the Fairy Dusty plant.  It was an amazing taste treat with an aftertaste very similar to maple syrup so we were pleased to see the plant that produced the pollen for this honey.


A Silver Fox


A Tarantula


A Mexican Wolf


And, the ears of a bat


If you are ever in the Tucson area, it is a place very well worth visiting.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Burgers and Beer

Sounds like a good combination!  Actually, it is the name of a chain of about five restaurants in this part of the world.  They had an excellent happy hour and it became our favorite go to place in Yuma.

Now if we meet any of you out on the road somewhere, you should be careful with those, “if you are ever in ……, be sure to look us up”.  We will do it.  And that is just what we did with our friends Dan and Jenny Shepherd.  We first met them a year and a half ago at Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville, Louisiana.  And everyone becomes acquainted at Betty’s.  And it just so happened that after Betty’s we were both booked at Escapees Rainbow’s End Park in Livingston, Texas and we wound up at the same table for Thanksgiving dinner.

20140220_200444And they gave us on of those, “if you are ever in Yuma, be sure to look us up”.  So here we are in Yuma and that is just what we did.  We gave them a call and suggested we meet up at a central location for all of us which just happened to be Burgers and Beer.

It was nice to see them.  It is always good to catch up with people who you have met on the road.  They have a property here for their motor home but like most Winter Yumans (if there is such a word), they head north for the Summer.  They will be heading this year to Washington State to see family and friends in the area where they used to live.  Washington State is on our itinerary.  And once again, they made that mistake of, “if you are ever in ……be sure to look us up”.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Yuma Territorial Prison

20140218_114405About the biggest tourist attraction in Yuma is a prison that closed over a hundred years ago and a prison that may now be best known from the Russell Crowe movie, 3:10 to Yuma (even though it was not seen in that movie).  The Yuma Territorial Prison was built by its first inmates in 1875/76.  It was operated as a prison until 1909 when it was closed in favor of a larger prison in another town.  It was a territorial prison as Arizona did not become a state until 1912.  It seems somewhat hard to imagine that Arizona was the last territory to become a state among the contiguous 48 States.
The Yuma prison was not a huge one.  It was the only Territorial prison in the Yuma Territory and housed both men and women.  Some of the cells were carved out of a rock dome on the property with the carved rock used to help build other cell blocks.  All prisoners had to work in either the fields or shops.  Conditions were oppressive in the Arizona summer heat and crowded cells.  The wooden bunks, two towers three high to each cell had to be replaced with iron bunks because on ongoing infestations of termites, lice, bed bugs, and others.  No prisoners were executed there but over 100 prisoners died while incarcerated with many buried on the grounds.
20140218_115448On the other hand, many locals considered the prison a “country club” as they had an electrical generator long before the town did and they used it to pump water up to a reservoir.  The main guard tower was built over the top of the rock-walled reservoir to provide it some shade and cover.  Many prisoners had TB and the prison had a modern-for the-time hospital to try to treat them.  It was later was used as the town’s hospital.

Yuma’s high school burned down right about the time the prison was closing and the school district held its high school classes there for four years until a new high school could be built.  To this day the mascot of Yuma High School is Criminals and the school’s mascot image is the face of a hardened criminal.
During the Great Depression, so many “Okies”  from the “Dust Bowl” were streaming into California that California police started blocking the bridge at Yuma and refusing entry to those who didn't have money or confirmed jobs.  Many of these people took refuge in the prison grounds and by default had to settle in Yuma.  Others lived on the grounds for up to 10 years. 

From 1940 to 1961, the prison grounds including a museum were operated by the city until they became Arizona’s third state park.  Now immortalized as the destination for Russell Crowe in the 3:10 to Yuma movie, it seems to have found a whole new clientele of visitors.  Many people were streaming through the place along with us on a Tuesday afternoon.  Finally, Gary couldn't help but get himself in some trouble while he was there so he had to beg for mercy with the “I’m innocent” sign as they booked him.  But he quickly escaped and was seen in the nearby downtown happily seeking refuge in the “casino”.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Valentine’s Day………..Meat Loaf?

Gary has been fussing a bit lately that he doesn’t get to cook enough or more correctly get to cook the comfort food dishes that he especially likes.  So to kill two birds with one stone, I agreed that he could make me dinner for Valentine’s Day and knock out one his comfort food favorites in the process – meat loaf.  Now I have to say, Gary makes the best meat loaf I have ever eaten.  And how can you not love for Valentine’s Day a meat loaf shaped as a heart and even with Cupid’s arrow through it.  With baked potatoes, steamed asparagus, a fresh fruit salad, and a couple of our precious Noche Buenas, it was a wonderful dinner.


20140215_132639We need to do some more stuff in our last week here than just enjoy the weather.  But is it hard not to hang around the park and go to the pool when it has been hitting 90 the past few days.  Gary even blew up the air mattress for a nice relaxing “swim” in the pool.

Gary had an exam with an Ophthalmologist which he now alternates with Optometrist visits as he grows older.  He has some family history of macular degeneration and cataracts but got a clean bill of health and a new eyeglass prescription that we are going to try to fill in Mexico.

We stopped one day for the Yuma River Days festival but came away disappointed that there were only 30 arts and crafts vendor booths at the most.  But that didn’t stop me from finding a pretty pendant for myself and a couple gifts; I am always on the lookout for presents for the next Christmas.

The poker pro had his second straight outing with no luck at a casino just across the river in California.  We also met up one night for a Chinese buffet with our friends the Hills.  They had come down from North Ranch to, what else, have their new motor home washed and waxed.  See, we told you they all would be doing it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

They’ll All Be Doing It

Have you ever watched Emeril Lagasse on TV where he puts some special ingredient in his dish or employs some unusual method, the crowd goes wild, and he puts his finger to his lips to hush the crowd and says, “shhhhhh, they’ll all be doing it”.  Well, such is the way with RV washes in Yuma, Arizona.  It is so cheap here, they are all doing it, but no one is particularly trying to keep it a secret.

DSCN0639Seems a good many of the people who went to Quartzite passed through Yuma on either the way there or afterword.  And in reading the various blogs we follow, they all were doing it – getting their RVs washed that is.  Hopefully most all of them were doing it after Quartzsite as a rig become incredibly dusty both inside and out setting in the desert for a couple weeks.  I have to vac and dust and then wash down the entirety of the insides of the rig.

DSCN0640But for the outside, all the bloggers were saying that Yuma is the cheapest place in the world to have a rig washed and waxed.  The last time we had a quote for a hand wash and wax it was back in Denver last year and they wanted $400+ (plus tip).  Here the grand total was $130.  Yes, that is right, a hand wash including them bringing their own soft water in a tank in the back of their van, a hand wax, and a tip added for $130 on a 40-foot motor home.  The only other time we actually paid to have it washed the total was $100 for a wash only.

DSCN0637We used Benjamin’s which had been recommended by at least two other bloggers and which seemed to be on the majors on the RV wash circuit here.  Jose and Ramon did a fine job and were done in less than three hours.  They told us Benjamin’s has five regular crews and at times a sixth.  And who knows how many wash crews there are across all of Yuma.

At these prices, yep, they’ll all be doing it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lettuce Bowl

DSCN0620Is that the name of yet another post-season college football bowl game?  Not yet, but it could be a good one for the Yuma, Arizona area.  The Yuma area is known as the country’s “winter salad bowl’'.  From about November through March, 90% of America’s lettuce is grown here in the Yuma area.  The rest of the year most of it is grown in the Salinas Valley of California up near Monterey but it is too cold there for lettuce at this time of year and it is grown in Yuma where it then becomes too hot for lettuce the rest of the year and they turn to other crops.

So how can Yuma, just another dusty part of the Sonoran Desert grow so much lettuce?  Well, in a word, the answer is irrigation.  It is that same Colorado River that provides much of the water to big cites like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix that also provides water to farmlands including those in Yuma that would otherwise just be more dust and scrub.  There are irrigation canals all over this area and there are lettuce fields everywhere you turn, including right next to our campground and in the city of Yuma as well.



There is head lettuce, romaine lettuce, red and green leaf lettuce, and who knows what all other kinds of lettuce.  It is picked, packed and shipped right from the fields. There are fields of broccoli (being grown for seed) and and celery too.


And we also saw that there is some citrus being grown in the region as well so we sought out a u-pick farm for tangelos.  We picked 40 pounds that we are juicing – ah, fresh squeezed orange juice again.  We also picked a few lemons as well and the cost was the same – 25 cents a pound.  How can you beat fruit and greens this fresh?


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another Incident At The US Border

Back in July last year, we reported on the incident where we “ran” the border coming back into the States from a day trip  to Canada. Thereafter we were reluctant to take the motor home into Canada for fear of what US Customs might do to us on the way back into the States.  We figured we were sure to be pulled over for a thorough inspection or worse so we did not go the Canadian Rockies.

IMG_0478Well, last week it was time for us to test a border crossing by going to Los Algodones,  Mexico here in the Yuma area. (You actually pass from Arizona into California and then into Mexico).  We parked in a lot just north of the border crossing and walked into Mexico.  That part was just fine as we expected it to be.  We are cross wise with the US authorities, not the foreign ones.  Moreover, when walking into a Mexican border town it seems you don’t even have to fill out any papers or see any authorities.  It was that way last year too in Nuevo Progresso across the Rio Grande in Texas.

We had a few missions in mind for visiting Mexico.  The first was to have a nice Mexican meal.  We had a recommendation for a restaurant very close to the crossing.  We had a nice lunch.  I had the classic combination plate as it seemed to be the only way to get a tamale which is what I really wanted.  Gary was a bit more adventurous ordering the bacon wrapped Hawaiian shrimp.  Why he wanted Hawaiian shrimp in Mexico is beyond me but they were quite tasty.  They had live music even at lunch which we also found a bit odd as it was all American music including Elvis and Johnny Cash, Guess they don’t play Mexican music in border towns.


100_5557Gary wanted to buy a special gift for his brother who is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers.  So, here it is, a Green Bay Packers Mexican sarape.  That is quite the blending of cultures.





IMG_0488Then we headed off in search of something we really wanted from Mexico – Noche Buena beer.  It is a special Christmas-time beer available only in Mexico.  We purchased some in Nuevo Progresso and we wanted to buy some here before this season’s batch was all gone.  We went into three stores only to have heads shake no.  At the third store they told us of a place that could possibly have some in stock.  We walked another three blocks, entered the store, and there in all of its poinsettia-boxed glory – two 12-packs. 

IMG_0481We had taken a couple fabric bags with us just so we could carry it back across the border.  We loaded them up and headed for the long line to cross back into the States.  It was about an hour wait to get to the Customs checkpoint.  We had some apprehension about just how they were going to react to us.  Would there be a flag in their system such that we were going to be subjected to a body cavity search in retaliation for the grief we caused them last July?  They processed people one at a time even if they were a couple so Gary proceeded to the counter first.  He sat his beer on the counter and handed the officer his passport.  He ran the strip through his machine, didn’t pull his gun or otherwise seem concerned, handed Gary back his passport, and he moved down the aisle a ways to wait for me.  I proceeded to the counter, had my passport run, and got mine right back too.  Almost as an afterthought, he said “what is in your bag”.  So, I said a sarape and some beer.  We had some concern that the sarape could be an issue as it had Packers insignia but he didn’t ask any further about it.  The next question was, “how much beer did you buy”.  I said, “a 12-pack”.  To which he said, “and is that your husband over there who just went through and with a 12-pack as well?’'  I responded, “yes”, and he said, “the two of you will need to go back to this other counter”.  My god, what now, can’t we just have a simple border crossing?  So the officer at this counter tells us we haven’t violated any federal law but there is this specific California law they have to enforce that says you can only bring back one liter of alcoholic beverage whether it is beer or spirits.  Gary said, “can’t we just pay duty or excise”?  To which, “nope, we must enforce California law and that is one liter each, I am afraid I must open all of these and pour them down the drain.”  Gary then said, “can we at least keep 3 bottles or a liter’s worth each”?  The officer said that would be ok and then proceeded to dump the other 18 bottles.

At least we got 6 bottles of Noche Buena for the price of 24.  But another officer at the second counter was busily entering another incident report on us into the Customs computer.  We are going to be flagged for sure now.  You better believe we are going to savor these glorious Noche Buenas as they likely are our last for a long time.