Ajo and Yuma

Just got to Ajo late yesterday, out in the boonies, close to the border. What a interesting town, built around mining and now trying to hang on by making it an artist’s center and history of the mine. Some amazing buildings built by the mine company to attract workers, many little bungalows are now for sale, a town trying to hang on.

A sharp contrast is the amazing town square cbuildings, some designed by AIA George Washington Smith (famous for Santa Barbara architecture and establishing Spanish Colonial revival) and city plaza layout partially influenced by Frederick Law Olmsted, famous landscape architect most well known for design NYC Central Park. What a contrast, it’s hard to fathom.

IMG_1948What an adventure…Organ Pipe National Monument…not what I expected. In search of birds and wildlife. We had heard of a pond or spring close to the Mexican boarder and we wanted to go there. Also the park service had recently opened a loop road that winds thru the desert and passes this pond. There is a two way dirt road that leads to this pond and from there it turns into a oneway 4 wheel drive only road. The problem is the direction is backwards if go to the pond first.

IMG_1918So we chose to do the 4 wheel path first….ITS 40 MILES.. This is way out no where. We only saw 2 other vehicles making this loop. Glad this GMC has 4 wheel drive as we needed it to get up a couple washes. When we reached the place where the pond was to be we were 100 feet from the boarder fence looking into Mexico watching the cars and trucks drive along Mexican  hwy 2.

Some how we missed the pond. When we returned to the visitors center and ask, they said it was about a 100 yards from where we were and had to walk in. I guess we were so taken by the traffic across the boarder we did not look hard enough. Maybe we were intimidated by the big sign warning of illegals and not to walk alone etc.



As we head back from the that point the road run in a wash for about a mile….guess that why the signs say do not travel this portion in the rainy season. For about the 14 miles back to the main road this parallels the boarder. No wonder why there are so many crossing here…just walk across. We were driving less than a 100 yards from that highway..

Yes…thats the boarder!  Thats a gas station on the other side of thst fence..

One very sad thing here is the story about the illegal immigrants. We were told this is one of the busiest corridors for illegals to come through. When you see the minuscule fence you will understand why. 80 people died here in the desert inthe last three years. A humanitarian group has now placed crosses at the locations people have died and decorate them as many have no identities and so they feel compassion to honor them in this way.



Also we came across a few blue water barrels left by this group thatare marked by a tall waving flag, put there for the illegals as many have died from dehydration. Part of the park drive we took was 14 miles along the border and we saw how shockingly easy it would be to hop the fence. There is a very active presence of border patrol in this area, mostly on ATV’s racing across the desert. We came across a few in a chaise.




Friday the 13th


In Yuma..this must be the RV retirement capitol. I bet there is 350,000 RV around here in more RV parks than you can count. All out in the desert.

The Palms RV resort , where we are, must be one of the best. Really first class resort.

Yuma….Over all this is just a desert with a lot of RV infrastructure…lots of sprawling strip malls and really nothing much to do. The Territorial Prison is the big focus. The CA side if the river has the Casino and Indian lands. Jayne enjoys the old buildings, which there are not many remaining.

We took a bike ride along the river, but compared to places…a 3 on a scale of 10. I guess we just like the more remote places. Went to a restaurant called the The Landing for lunch…interesting decor…all old photos and antiques of the early 20/30’s. This is the site of the first airplane to land in Arizona ….a bi-plane.

Three nice big Busses came in on Sunday afternoon. All traveling together and all Black families. The one next to us stopped to say hello and was a real nice guy. They just came from the rally in Indio. Said he was getting some teeth work done tomorrow …at first I thought why here….your from Sacramento…then I remembered. Right across the boarder is Algodones..where everyone goes for dental work.

Fry’s is the big grocery chain here in AZ, and there is a BIG one not far from our RV site. Compared to the one in Sierra Vista, this is a 5. Some how the produce was not a nice, seems to just cater to the old folks where Sierra Vista was much better. More personable and great produce. Mayne because it is an Army town.

You can tell this s a big retirement/RV place….just down the road is a big open air market..BIG covers lots of ground and covered with tents in rows. Some produce but mostly RV stuff and all the junk like shirts nic nat hardware. Reminds me of the week end market in the desert. But down the road there is also a big hardware store that has everything. Never seen a place like this..dishes, RV parts nuts bolts just about everything you can think of. I spent an hour just wondering the isles. They did not have a coffee pot I am looking for though, but they did have coffee pots

This is Jaynes take on Yuma…

We are in Yuma for a week, taking a break I guess. The RV resort is “one of the top in the Southwest” and it is nice but Yuma is a pit. So many snowbirds in RVs here in Yuma that it’s crazy crowded. This place must be like a ghost town when the season changes and they all head north. I have searched and searched for something interesting to take a picture of or a bird to see, but this is scrub brush, dune buggy land.

I never did like this area and still don’t. Larry brought me to this area when we first started dating to go water skiing on Colorado River and I hated it then. All I remember is getting bit on the butt through my swimsuit as I floated face down on a water float thinking that if I was out on the water they couldn’t get me. It was so bad that to eat a peanut butter sandwich you had to literally run back and forth swatting the air to keep them off your sandwich. Yesterday we took a ride on our bikes down by the river in a new restored wetlands area. There were so many gnats that you had to keep you mouth shut or they’d fly in. Even my dog knew the area was a dump. We stayed in some crummy resort an Buster immediately jumped on the furniture. There wasn’t enough water pressure to flush the toilet and the door knob fell off on the floor to the bathroom. Larry was convinced Buster would stay on shore by the camp while we water skied much to my objection. I watched as we left him on shore to go skiing and soon he jump in the water and started swimming towards us. We had to rescue him and that dog weighed about 90 pounds. It was like hauling up a 100 pound halibut onto the boat. He was so tired he just lay on the floor panting.
Supposed to be lots of cowboy history here, you know, always mentioned in the old westerns (3:10 to Yuma and others), so thought maybe the old section of town would have some interesting buildings. I guess they did but somebody got the stupid idea that restoring an old building was slapping a thick coat of stucco over everything, even wood trim. So stupid. Ever heard of Depression Era Art Deco style? Neither have I but that is on their list of buildings to see. It’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen and for someone to put on a list of “must see historic” is mind boggling.
We are going to the old Yuma prison today to see that. Hopefully something is left to see there that hasn’t been stucco’d, but I think it has mostly eroded away.
Haven’t found a good place to eat yet. We ate at a place called the Landing yesterday. it’s an icon and been here for years. Loved all the old photos on the walls, but the food was borderline. Larry was burping up he “old dehydrated chicken tacos” all afternoon.
This RV resort is like one big retirement home. They’ve got a swimming pool, shuffle board, pottery and jewelry making classes, and even an entertainment theatre with “big name” entertainers (have never heard of any of them). Also, about every two hours the sirens go off and you know somebody has probably gotten into a car accident. When we arrived there was a crash at the nearby intersection, two old people, and before 30 minutes the tow truck was there and everything was removed, lickity split. So every time we hear the sirens we think, well either somebody has kicked the bucket or it’s another accident to clean up.
Well, we have a weather alert today. Heavy fog in the desert. What? Been supposed to rain each day but not a drop and now fog. Who ever heard of fog in the desert?
Next stop is Quartzite where thousands and thousands of RVs gather and park in the desert. It’s supposed to be something to see. We will see.


We’ve been doing our best to have fun to see whatever there is to see in this God for saken desert area of Yuma. Never liked it and still don’t but did learn a lot about the history that I never knew.

Didn’t realize that at one time the Colorado River was so big and flowed so fully that they actually used to bring supply ships up from the Gulf of Mexico to supply settlements and forts along the river. Now it’s the most dammed river in the world and has been reduced to a kind of a trickle as it finally reaches and dribbles out to the Gulf.

I kept complaining that with all it’s history, where are the old historic buildings? There is not much left except a few rock dugouts for the Yuma prison. Well, talked to some docent at the visitor center and learned there was a huge flood in 1916 (which also by the way, decimated a good bit of San Diego). It was so bad here it washed out many of the old buildings on Main street, which was in the flood plain, that includes the old pioneer cemetery. Apparently hundreds of corpses and coffins were unintentionally unearthed and floating down Main Street by the great flood of water from the river. We found this out because I saw a sign up on the hill from the river, one of few hills in the valley area) that said “”Yuma Pioneer Cemetery.  Yuma (1 of 1)-15Yuma (1 of 1)-16
I couldn’t resist taking a closer look and we were amazed at all the unmarked graves. 100’s are now just marked with small stubs of concrete stuck in the sand (lots of sand around here, mostly used by dune buggy-iers). There were hundreds of these markers. Apparently these are the corpses that were floating down Main Street and reburied up on the hill out of the flood plain. Also when the railroad came Yuma they plotted it right through town and the old cemetery and therefore had to move all the graves and no names, etc. We were also surprised to find many other markers, more current, without ID’s identifying just the date the person was found and gender. We didn’t get an answer on those but guessing they are immigrants coming across the border and didn’t make it, just found in the desert? Who knows. I’ve looked and looked on line to find out more info but no luck.

Did not realize this was such a main route for travelers throughout history. That is because it was the narrowest spot in the river and therefore easiest to cross. So it goes, back to the Spanish, the Gold rush (when 60,000 came through), and now Interstate 8. It used to join up with the Gila River which is now a dry bed and only thing left is a huge iron bridge that now goes to nowhere and a dry bed of sand. Yuma (1 of 1)-14This is because a guy from Massachusetts in the turn of the 19th century invented and patented an odd looking machine that actually took the sandy water from the river, cleaned and purified it for drinking and other uses. Only reason I know about that is because we came across this machine, all rusted and bent on a concrete pad under the Interstate with a small placard. It’s still there out in the elements for no one to look at except a person off track. He then devised a scheme to reroute the huge amounts of water coming through here for agriculture, including dikes and culverts and canals and now ta da, there is a huge agricultural business in the driest sandy desert.

You’d think when we were fighting the Mexican American war we would’ve taken more of Mexico, at least to the port on the gulf where the ships were coming up river but no, California would have none of it because it did not want competition for ports. See, they were crazy even back then. Another smart decision from the La La state.
The other thing of note, that I learned, besides the old Yuma prison now being a tourist attraction and mentioned in many old Westerns (3:10 to Yuma) is when they disbanded it and it was used as emergency Depression Era housing and after that squatted by hobos (train stop), and finally school rooms when the local high school burnt down. During that time Yuma high school had a game with Phoenix and Phoenix lost ” biggly” and out of spite the Phoenix school called them “criminals”! The name has stuck . The mascot for the Yuma High School is “Criminals”.Yuma HS Mascot

One last note, during the depression, when all the “Okies” were heading West, this was an important route for them but guess California back then didn’t want American poor coming in and they were stopped them at this crossing, so many got stuck here and settled so many decedents are still here.

So guess I did find something interesting here. Just thought it was a stop on the long stretch of the Interstate to get somewhere else, with chain fast food and motels and a place for professional base ball players to practice, and also for desert rats to dune buggy it, rock hounds and now 1000’s and 1000’s of snow bird RV rats, many Canadian, French Canadian too. Guess that’s because it’s so cheap around here. But, this year since the dollar is so weak, there aren’t so many Canadians here. I’ve seen a few here at the RV park, with all their toys, motorcycles, buggies, outside camp fire bbq’s, etc. etc. They aren’t popular with the rest as the French have a bad reputation for being rude. They still stay outside like they are camping talking until late in the night, while the rest of us consider our neighbors and “quiet time”. They did the same when we were on the boat going through the canals, always pushing and butting in your way. They still are pushy and loud and rude, just come across one in the gigantic Fry’s market down road from. That’s another story and that is that market. It is the biggest sucker we’ve seen yet. At first I was so thrilled at all the stuff and fresh produce that I thought I could live in it. But after a few days I dread the trek to it. It’s full of RV’s trying to get the cheapest price on everything and grabbing and pushing. It’s so huge that you are exhausted when you get out. You are herded around in a path that eventually leads to a mile long line up of unfriendly checkers and then a long trek out to a parking lot so big that you better remember where you parked before you get it or the exhaustion after getting out, will prevent you from walking around the lot to find you car. The mad rush here only lasts for a few months in the prime weather months and then this area clears out, leaving empty dusty sand spots and the marine base and less than half staff at the Fry’s market.

What a strange stop this place has been. I did my best to find something to photograph that I found interesting but nothing of any artistic quality exists at least for me. They are trying to restore the river by re-establishing wetlands and claiming you can see hundreds of different varieties of birds. Yuma (1 of 1)-9Kind of hard looking up for birds when you have to watch you feet for rattle snakes! Most of the restoration is done by the Chuachuan Indians who still own the hill across the water on CA side. Most of their land was taken over once the guy from Mass invented water drainage system. The indians own this famous nob of a hill where historical Yuma Fort is. The buildings, what’s left of them are still there waiting to be saved and put on display along with two early 20th centry churches, but the fort is falling apart. The buildings, many that still there and could be “fabulous” in an old Western way, but no one seems to care. I looked on their website and the biggest thing they promote and are proud of is the new ugly casino just down the hill by the wet lands. Yuma (1 of 1)-6What caught my eye to this hill at first was the beautiful small white stucco cathedral on the hill, overlooking the whole valley, but it was stunted and out shined by two modern gigantic white water cylinders plopped stupidly right next to it. Who in God’s earth would think to do that? So stupid and just down the hill, on the ugly scared hillside is the remains of the old train station and steam boat stop. It is in ruins and only wa to get to it is off a dirt side road. No one seems to care or even have an interest in what it is.

To add to the absurdity of it all, some brilliant “planner” back in the day, decided at some point to run Interstate 8 completely through the important historic area. You can get a quick glimpse of the fort, cathedral and Yuma prison if you don’t wink as you speed by at 75 miles per hour on your way to Phoenix.

Anyway, that’s my take on Yuma. Now we are headed to Quartzite, not because I want to but because Larry wants to. He has put up with lots of bird treks so it’s my turn. Wonder what take I will have on it? Soon we will be in Palm Desert, and nice restaurants and clothing shops, and gated golf courses, and grass! Something green for a change! Thank God California is out of the drought now.