Yuma is right on the Arizona side of the border with California and just a few miles from the Mexican border. I didn’t know anything about it other than that there is a Marine Corps base in the area, that it is in the desert, and that it is hot there. After leaving California, we were planning on heading straight to Tucson, with an overnight boondocking stop at some BLM land halfway there. As we were entering Yuma, we pulled off the freeway for a lunch break and happened to park at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park .
After eating sandwiches, we decided to check out the old prison. It turned out to be quite a treat to see the old cell blocks and learn about the history of Arizona’s first prison, which opened in 1876. What a horrible place to be locked up! I wonder if we’d have as much crime today if prisons were still like that. The cells were right there baking in the hot sun, with six men to a tiny room almost too small for all of them to stand in at once.
Then there was the dark cell, where unruly prisoners were locked up for days and weeks at a time in an 8×8 foot iron cage. It didn’t matter how many men were already in there, if someone needed to be punished, they would be shoved in.
While at the prison, we picked up a Yuma brochure and decided to stay for a few nights after finding out there is so much to do there. We found a great and reasonably priced campsite at McCoy RV Park in Winterhaven, just down the road from downtown Yuma. After checking out the area a little more, we decided to stay for a full week. It didn’t hurt that we had a spot in the RV park right next to the pool. We really like this little park and would like to stay there again next year if we pass through.
A Little Bit About Yuma
Did you know Yuma is America’s Winter Vegetable Capital? Yuma county is the third largest vegetable producer in the nation. If you eat a salad in the U.S. between November and March, there’s a 90% chance it was grown in Yuma.
Yuma grows more Medjool dates than anywhere else in the world.
Yuma is listed by Guinness World Records as the sunniest city on earth with sunshine over 90% of all daylight hours. It’s also the least humid city in the United States.
Things to Do near Yuma
During our week-long stay in Yuma, we found plenty of things to go do and see. Some of our favorites were:
- Visiting a date farm and trying a date shake. Very tasty. We bought a couple bags of jumbo dates, too. Those got eaten up really fast.
- The Arizona Market Place flea market. Lot’s of stuff to look at. We bought a big jar of raw honey and I got nice hat for $5.
- Visiting Algodones, Mexico. It was a lot of fun to walk around and look at things and interact with the merchants. Also got new glasses for Nate & Angie
- The Quartermaster Depot. A major supply point for the U.S. Army in the 1800s. Supplies were brought up the Colorado River from San Francisco and distributed by 20 mule team wagon trains to Army posts all over the Southwest.
Official Center of the World
One of the most interesting places we visited was the Museum of History in Granite located about 8 miles west of Yuma in Felicity, California. This spot has been proclaimed as the “Official Center of the World” and has over 700 granite panels inscribed with pictures and text detailing the history of the human race, a history of the United States, and a U.S. Marine Corps Korean War Memorial. We each got to stand on the “Official Center of the World” and got an official numbered and signed certificate testifying to it. How cool is that?
Oh, and the museum also has a section of the original stairs from the Eiffel Tower. Ali really got a kick out of that.
Since we visited Mexico, it was a perfect week to make Mexican food. We made a big batch of refried beans in our Instant Pot, our favorite kitchen gadget. It only took a little over an hour to turn dry pinto beans into super tasty refried beans.
We also had to do laundry. After a couple months at Camp Pendleton where we were able to do laundry for almost nothing, it was a big shocker to spend $34 on the 8 loads we needed to do. This is definitely one of the big downsides of our lifestyle. But the upside is it only takes 2 hours to do 2 weeks worth of laundry.