Travelers that head south during the winter months to warmer climates are called “snowbirds”. Some are escaping the freezing temperatures and snow of the upper Midwest and Canada, while others just migrate south annually to be with their friends, whether they be in Florida, Arizona, or Texas – the popular destinations for RVers. We haven’t made it to Florida or Texas for winter stays, but we have been spending about 3-4 months every year exploring Arizona.
Since 2007, our winter travels have included Yuma for at least a week’s stay to get our Boomer-fix in late February and early March. A few of those years I taught seminars at the Gypsy Journal Gatherings RV Rally put on by Terry and Nick Russell, staying at the local Yuma County Fairgrounds. Other years we have just put the word out on our Escapee Boomer forums asking who was in the area and if anyone had an RV lot where we could stay. Our often go-to guy has been Dick Reed, former owner of the RV Driving School, who has introduced us to an area known as The Foothills.
ZONED FOR THE RV LIFESTYLE
The Fortuna Foothills, aka The Foothills, is a community that is developing its own personality on land that has been subdivided into RV-friendly lots. Most lots contain three walls of Mexican-style brick with parking spaces for 1-3 recreational vehicles. Most of the spaces have separate electrical meters, water and, sometimes, sewage waste dumps. Some property owners build small structures (casitas), park single or double-wide travel trailers/modular homes onsite, or full-size homes on the lots. They they rent out their open RV sites on a weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis to cover their costs. Typically, the longer you stay, the less per day the rate is. Being short-term renters from friends, we have been lucky to rent spaces for $10-15 per night.
When researching the demographics about the “Fortuna Foothills” area, I got a laugh out of this age distribution chart. We were surprised the first time we actually saw a school bus. Not many kids in the area. Dan Sheppard, a Boomer friend who has been living in the Foothills for the last eight years, gave us a good laugh the other day. He said every time the sirens start, another lot goes on the market. I suspect that is often quoted in other senior communities.
LOTS OF LOT CHOICES
We actually had choices of lots this year. Boomer Joy Melton was the first to offer us an electric-only space next to her home. We then heard from Dick Reed that the full-hook up lots where he and friends from our home area were staying would be opening up the exact week we needed it. We said yes to that offer and planned to arrive on Thursday, Feb. 20. We would get specific address and driving instructions on the way.
As it turned out, the lot we had been “assigned to” on 38th Street was owned by Paul and Pat, folks we had met at our local Elk’s Lodge in Auburn, CA. (Dick Reed is great at organizing “Taco Tuesday” get-togethers for his RVing friend from our home area.) Dick and his lady friend Joy and RV Driving School instructor Frank & his wife Sharon Piccolo would be pulling out and leaving the space for us.
Surprise! When we called-in we learned that Frank had broken a tooth and was going to be staying on so he could visit a dentist in nearby Algodones. But, never fear, they got on the phone and found another lot on 45th Drive., this one also owned by members of the “Taco Tuesday Gang” – Joe and Joanne Annuzzio. There was already one motorhome on site when we arrived. It was occupied by Mary and Ivan, two more TT Gang members from Meadow Vista, just up the road from Auburn. The lot and neighborhood looked extremely familiar. Turns out we had stayed on the site back in 2011.
(Top) Our neighbors left yesterday. (Bottom) Dick Reed’s former bus parked with a friend on our shared lot back in 2011. Notice the new addition in this year’s photo: a new Verizon cell tower right beyond our back wall!
After two very busy months of rallies, special events, socializing, and repairs, our stay in Yuma was intended as just kick-back time. We had no plans to travel across the nearby US-Mexican border to the town of Algodones for shopping, pharmaceuticals, eye/dental dental appointments or even the popular fish tacos. We never even hit a Wally World, but there was a well-stocked Fry’s food store.
Algodones, Mexico Fish & Shrimp Tacos
We did make it to a Boomer birthday party for our friend Becky Hazen. We normally help celebrate Becky’s birthday during the “Ed’s Birthday” celebration at the The Steps in Lake Havasu. This year, however, the potluck party was held at Joy Melton’s and about 30+ Boomers attended.
MEALS OUT WITH BOOMERS
By now, you know we eat out a lot with our Boomer friends. After spending an afternoon visiting with Barbara and Tom Westerfield at their site at South Mesa RV Park, we decided to head for an early dinner at Lin’s Super Buffet. We know the Lin’s chain from our many years taking groups to their Albuquerque, NM facility. (That location changed its name to Hong Kong Buffet after a franchise dispute, but the building and the outstanding buffet are nearly identical.)
We also had a chance to catch up with Jane and Russ Darrow on Sunday morning for breakfast at the Foothill Eatery. We first met the Darrows in Iowa when they were workamping at Adventureland with other friends, Gloria and Charlie Goss. We all attended the National Balloon Classic hot air balloon event after a fun happy hour gathering. We have been Facebook friends since and they were attendees at the 2013 Boomers and Balloons rally at the ABQ Balloon Fiesta. We had a good visit before they took off the next day for their stay at Anza-Borrego State Park.
The Boomers who visit Yuma during the winter have a tradition of attending a Wednesday afternoon movie followed by a group dinner somewhere different every week. We passed on his week’s movie choices, as did most, but 13 Boomers showed up at EAT Asian Super Buffet for dinner and conversation. We had the “Boomer Banner” with us so we brought it along for a group photo for the club newsletter. (I had forgotten to take it to Becky’s birthday party. )
The golf courses in Yuma use reclaimed water. This “pond” is actually the driving range. At night, pumps drain the pond for the sprinkler system use and then the range balls are reclaimed for another day of use.
SMOG TEST & LICENSE TAGS
When our forwarded mail arrived last week we received our license tag renewal paperwork for our Honda CR-V. Normally we can renew online, but this year we were required to get the car’s smog system re-certified – in California!
Since Yuma is on the Arizona-California border, we decided El Centro, CA would be the closest location (75 miles away) with a qualified CA smog testing station and DMV before the tags run out later in the month while we are still in Arizona. We made an appointment at Direct Honda in El Centro for Tuesday morning. Not knowing how long it would take, I did not make an appointment at the local DMV branch – mistake! The place was jammed as expected and we had about an hour wait. They had seating for 50 and probably another 40-50 standing along the wall. Once we got our number we moved to a piece of wall and used the smartphone to log onto the DMV online appointment website. While this has worked before, the next available appointment was two days away. Nevermind! We spent the time people-watching and we were done in just over an hour. With our tags in hand, we headed back across the desert to Yuma.
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES AND YUMA FARMLANDS
El Centro is located along Interstate 8 in Imperial County and, as Luke drove, I researched the area on the internet. The area, which is surrounded by sand dunes and desert landscape, is actually one of the Southwest’s largest agricultural areas. Click here to learn more about the source of the region’s irrigation water system fed by an aquifer system of canals and reservoirs.
The All-American Canal feeds the irrigated fields, which turn the desert brown into lush green crops.
Yuma is also know as the winter lettuce capital and two years ago we attended the local Lettuce Days Festival. Highlight of that event was the narrated bus tour we took out into the fields. A professor from Ag Extension told us about the field growing and harvesting processes. Yuma is home of Dole and Fresh Choice bagged lettuce where the crops are harvested, washed, and bagged right in the field. They get four crops per season with an overnight turn around between picking and replanting.
The 2014 Lettuce Days Festival is this weekend but we are headed north to Surprise, AZ on Saturday morning.
Leaving you with another sunset photo. This was taken from our lot in the Foothills earlier this week. Rain is coming … needed, but darn!
NEXT: “HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU…”