Well, I'm beginning to have my doubts that I'll ever like Arizona as a Winter destination. Now I've spoken to others here and they feel the same way about Florida, so I guess it really comes down to what your preferences are and what you're accustomed to. Their complaint about Florida (and Texas too, for that matter) related to the bugs and the humidity. Can't argue with them there -- Florida and Texas have an over-abundance of both of those. We who grew up in these areas aren't bothered by these factors, just as Arizona fans probably aren't bothered so much by the desert winds, low temperatures, and the constant "dusty" feeling.
I arrived in the Yuma area mid-Saturday, December 18th. I stopped at a gas station to ask directions to Wellton, where there are 3 parks that discount to Escapees and I lucked out -- the man I was asking directions of asked me if I'd be interested in a free 4 day, 3 night stay at a local RV park and $20 gas money. Never one to turn down a free offer, I went on over to the park. Turns out it was a Colorado River Adventures park and I was asked to attend a 90-minute sales presentation on CRA, Coast-to-Coast, and Thousand Trails. Not a bad price to pay for 4 free days in a fantastic campground. They had a pretty fair offer, but with my current negative feelings about Arizona in general, I declined. I plan to add a little discourse about CRA in the section of my website dealing with camping clubs, however.
It turns out that, contrary to what I was told by several people I asked in Quartzsite, it is significantly warmer in Yuma. As I said in Chapter 3, the temps in Q varied from 30 to 60. In Yuma, it's running 44 to 76 -- quite a difference. The bad news is that the wind does blow here alot, causing the "dusty" feeling I mentioned above. Your hair always feels dirty/sandy and you feel like you need at least a couple of showers each day. It'll be interesting to see how my 14-day (or however long I last) free stay West of Yuma works out without full showers, but just a "sponge-off" each day. I haven't yet decided exactly what my next step will be, but the 14 days out past Winter Haven looks like the most attractive alternative at the moment.
I went out Sunday with the major objective of going to Mexico and checking out the situation on prescription drugs. About 10 miles West of Yuma on I-8, you turn off to Algodones, Mexico, park at the big lot at the border, walk over, and there are all the pharmacies, dentists, optometrists, and various types of shops you could wish for. I went to the Algodones Farmicia and learned that most of the prescriptions we need are much cheaper (like $16 for 60 instead of $102 for 30 pills), but are generics -- the plan is to ask our doctor if the generics are as good. Also plan to spend some time researching on the internet. Many people appear to be using these substitutes, however, so it looks like a fantastic way to save money. To jump to the page that tells where to go in Algodones, click here.
After Mexico, I decided to check out the Pilot Knob Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA) further out on I-8 and the 14-day free areas there. You get to both by turning off at the Sidewinder Road exit and turning left over the Interstate. The LTVA is a very large flat area devoid of trees, with RVs parked pretty well side-by-side. Continue on the frontage road past the LTVA 1.6 miles and you'll find the 14-day free area. Looks much the same as the LTVA, except without any water supply, trash dumpsters, or dump facilities. Of course, I think you're charged for about everything except trash dumping, so it's not clear what the LTVA provides other than a longer stay. Both looked really dusty, with a fairly constant wind blowing all the time. I'm told this wind is a Winter thing, but Winter is of course why I'm here. There are also some 14-day free areas at the next exit, Ogilby Road. All 14-day areas seem barely organized, with no apparent host to sign up with to get a permit. People just seemed to park where they wanted to -- I'm not sure how, or if, BLM checks to see who's been longer than 14 days.
Heading back toward Yuma on I-8, turn off at either the Winterhaven exit or next and get on S-24 to get to the Imperial Dam LTVA. It's a little more colorful than Pilot Knob, with trees, hills, etc. There are many little areas where only a few RVs fit, so I guess you just choose your spot and stay in it. There were a fairly large number of RVs at both LTVAs. I suspect it gets really, really crowded as the season progresses. You don't have nearly the space or scenery that Quartzsite offers, but this is undoubtedly balanced by the milder temperatures, proximity to Mexico, and availability of Yuma shopping, etc. There are also casinos nearby for those interested -- they have no "table" games like Black jack, etc., just Poker, Bingo, and slots. There are no longer any free areas at Imperial Dam (much to my chagrine), with the 14-day area charging $5 per day or $50 for the entire 14 days. Scroll down for Imperial Dam LTVA map.
Anyway, my big decision now is whether to continue pursuing the free areas, of which there are few, or bite the bullet and pay the $100. That would allow me to stay at any of the LTVAs, either around Yuma or back up in Quartzsite, as long as I want to. I guess if I stayed around 10 or so days, that would make the $100 expenditure worthwhile. I might even get up to check out the Hot Spring LTVA and see what that's all about. Oh well, I've still got two days to make that decision.
My big adventure of the day! -- I'm camped on the Laguna Dam Road East of Yuma. In my travels up to Imperial Dam, I stopped at a fruit stand at Laguna Dam to buy some locally-grown medjool dates (saw several groves of date palms) and oranges (both are delicious). The lady at the fruit stand told me about a gravel road short-cut along the South side of a canal that would take me back to Laguna Dam Road in about 6 miles instead of 15 or so. After fully exploring the Imperial Dam area, I found what I think was the short-cut and started out. At about mile 4, it began to look like a road for 4-wheel drives only. At about mile 4.1, I got stuck in a dry wash in sand up to my axles. I immediately thought of a story told me by a ranger a couple of days earlier at Palm Canyon about two elderly people who got stuck in a dry wash and died of exposure ... hmmm. After kicking myself several times, I started the long walk back to civilization. Luckily, a couple of guys came by on the North side of the canal in a 4-wheel drive truck with a chain and were kind enough to drive up to the end of the canal and back down my side to pull me out. I guess if they hadn't come along, I might still be out there. Decided to be a little less adventurous in the future.
Next chapter -- to LTVA or not to LTVA? Coming soon ...