Yuma, AZ, Day Three in Cocopah RV & Golf Resort, 577 Kah Nee Ta
Seven months in our bus.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23. WE DRIVE TO YUMA, AZ.
On Sunday, we were ready to leave Phoenix and head south for Yuma. But pulling out of our site in Sun City posed a bit of a logistics problem because it was so tight. First Dennis surveyed the situation. Then I was posted to watch certain impediments as he pulled out.
Our trip to Yuma took us four and a half hours — but we took a fifty minute lunch break. We drove 195.3 miles. Our route took us west on I-10 and then south on AZ-85 S. In Pima we joined up with I-8 S and that brought us to Yuma. Yuma is located in the far southwest corner of Arizona. It is located next to the borders of California and Mexico.
Cocopah is a different kind of resort. It isn’t adult only and it is far less dressy than Paradise in Sun City. They don’t have the amenities in terms of classes and craft rooms. Our site was on a street with other RVs. There were also streets with mobile homes but the whole effect was less dressy. I got the impression that this was more of a place for families and athletic types. I like the feel of a pretty resort without the sense of being uptight. However, the primary reason I chose Cocopah was not only because it had good reviews, but also because several people wrote about the pet area.
Like Paradise, Cocopah is also divided into pet and non-pet areas. The pet people are near a designated Pet Area which was a lawn that had to be at least an acre. Pet owners wrote reviews about this and they raved about the opportunity to let their dogs run free. Shortly after we arrived we walked over to the lawn with the dogs to check it out. In theory you keep your dogs on a leash. But after we hung out awhile with other small dog owners we let them loose. There were a few large dogs also loose but the lawn was large and there seemed to be an unwritten rule where they stayed on one side and we stayed on the other side.
Margot and Rudi had a great time! So did we. We talked to other pet owners and complimented each other on the good looks and abilities of our dogs. Oh my, it was fun. It was almost like our Cotton Club — my weekly Coton Playdates when we lived in Los Altos.
DYANNE DEMAREE RADKE AND TOM RADKE
Dyanne Demaree Radke is the reason why we came to Yuma. And it was Dyanne and her husband Tom Radke who made a Christmas celebration for us. I’ve been corresponding by email with Dyanne over the past year ever since she and Gretchen contacted me. We all attended Seaside Elementary together and we all graduated from the eighth grade at Riviera Elementary. Hollywood Riviera was located on the hill above Redondo Beach but it was part of the Torrance school district. Gretchen moved to Santa Monica High but Dyanne and I graduated together from Torrance High School in 1957. Gretchen and Dyanne were trying to organize a Riviera reunion that would coincide with the fiftieth high school reunion scheduled last August in Torrance. (In the end, neither Dyanne nor I were able to attend.)
Dyanne and I have felt a special attraction because we both share the RV way of life. She gave us advice and encouragement, as Dennis and I made ready to buy our bus and begin our new way of life. So we were very anxious to meet the Radke’s. They still own their home in Ohio but they run from the snow each winter. After years of winter travel they bought an RV site in Yuma and now they settle here every winter. Over the years they’ve accumulated dozens of snowbird friends who also stay in Yuma every winter.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24. CHRISTMAS EVE WITH THE RADKE’S
On Christmas Eve we were invited to meet them at their house in the afternoon and then we were invited to join them at the home of friends for a Christmas Eve Soup Party. We found the Radke’s living in southeast Yuma and discovered an entirely new kind of suburb. This one is designed to house and shelter people with big coaches like ours. A half-house has an attached carport roof that is big enough and high enough to shelter a 13’ bus. The house has a patio and sliding doors that admit you to a living room. Beyond is a bathroom and kitchen. Behind the kitchen is a two-car garage. The Radke’s also have a side yard and driveway that allow guests to park a bus while they stay for days or weeks to visit. Both couples can share the extra space available in the house. It is really a new way of looking at a vacation home.
Tom and Dyanne are very friendly and easy to get to know. They showed us all around and we sat on the patio to visit. Later we drove a few blocks away to a party in a regular house with larger accommodations for a party —living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. Something like a dozen couples were gathered for the Soup Party. They are all snowbirds and they all stay in Yuma for most of the winter. Tables were set up in the living room and a buffet set up on kitchen counters. The hosts, Garry and Sue Wilson, of Sandy, UT made three kinds of soups and there were many other side dishes as well.
Garry sat next to us and we discovered that he is a talented artist. He makes framed pictures out of small, multicolored pieces of wood. The technique is called Intarsa. He showed us several photo albums of his completed work. I was amazed. Sitting next to us were Garry’s neighbors, Larry and Janet of Iowa. Janet went home and brought back the rendering that Garry made of their dog, Brittany. I believe she was an English Spaniel. The carving was wonderful and we all admired it.
Yuma has given us an overwhelmingly friendly welcome. We no sooner pulled into our Cocopah site then another Allegro Bus couple hailed us and came over to talk. Our neighbors in a Terry Quantum fifth wheel came over to welcome us. They had a “patio” set up outside their RV with extra chairs and a little patio propane fire pit. They invited us to join their group at any time. This is unusual and it gave us a feeling of cheer as soon as we arrived. Maybe it is because of the Christmas season. The atmosphere everywhere is informal and welcoming.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25. CHRISTMAS BRUNCH WITH AN “OMELET IN A BAG”
Early Christmas morning Santa dashed through Yuma and stirred up a sand storm in his wake. It woke me about three AM and that was my first thought: “Santa must have just blown by.” Our bus shook and I wondered if we should bring in our slides. In the morning I saw that our Terry Quantum neighbor still had his awnings up. Then I noticed they were tied down with lines secured in the ground. He’s used to these storms. Their chairs and other effects were scattered everywhere but no damage done. I peeked out the window and saw trees blowing and decorations swinging. With fascination, I watched the expert blackbirds find shelter from the wind as they settled on the ground in the lee of an RV or a concrete pad.
The dogs, our kids, were excited with their little stockings filled with doggy treats. Soon we ventured out in the wind for another outing at the pet park. Then we left them and carefully drove 35 minutes to the Radke’s house for a Christmas morning Omelet-in-a-Bag Party. There are warning signs in these parts about dust storms, which can cause you to pull over with zero visibility. With the wind and sand I was worried about arriving safely and also being able to return. The amount of sand blowing across the freeway was a remarkable sight.
The party at the Radke house was tremendous fun. Their guests, Ron and Sue Pyeatt of Washington, were the official hosts. I was very curious to see how one does an omelet in a bag. We learned and now I can’t wait to stage a similar party. What a fun idea! As we sipped our mimosas and supervised the assemblage of our individual omelets. we met the same people we’d met the night before and became better acquainted. We talked with Betty and Einar of Montana, Dan and Dianna Kerzarin of Salt Lake City, and Ingvar and Ramona Vik of Livingston, Montana.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26. WE VISIT ALGODONES, MEXICO
Dyanne read my report of our visit to Mexico when we crossed from El Paso to Juarez. She said she wanted to introduce us to a much better border town experience. So we made a plan to visit Los Algodones on the day after Christmas.
Tom picked us up and we rode in the Radke’s van. Cocopah is actually situated in the corner of Arizona right next to California and Mexico. We could see I-8 and California and the Mexican border from the pet park and lettuce fields of Cocopah.
There are many articles available on the Internet about Algodones. One states that it is less than five minutes from Yuma. However, from Cocopah, it took us 35 minutes. To drive there we had to backtrack through Yuma to I-8 exit 2 and then drive across the state border into California and then to a parking lot owned by the Quechen Indian Tribe. They charge $5 per day and it is a very short walk from there into Algodones.
What a difference between Algodones and Juarez: no long and depressing prison wire bridge and no hassle from the vendors. A quick walk by a building and we were there. Algodones is considerably more sophisticated than Juarez. A serious attempt is made to have the streets, shops, restaurants, and public bathrooms be neat and clean. Vendors speak English and while they encourage you to enter their shop, they don’t hound you and follow you around. The atmosphere was more like an arts and crafts faire where everyone is friendly and having fun. This was helpful to us but I think our experience was also greatly improved simply because we were with fellow Americans who knew their way around and acted as our guides. We were able to relax and have a good time.
Like thousands of other winter visitors, Tom and Dyanne go to Algodones regularly. They buy their prescription drugs there, get their prescription glasses there and visit their dentist there. They also like to shop and buy gifts or decorative items for their house. They are very familiar with the town and confidently walked us around the three by eight blocks between US Customs to Ave “A” through Ave “C” and from Zaratoga and Canal Alamo through 1st St. to 3rd Streets up to San Felipe & Mexicali. See map: http://www.losalgodones.com/map.htm
The Radke’s showed us where they buy their prescription drugs and made an appointment with their dentist. We explored some shops and then went to lunch. They took us to Rincon Ristorante. We could have sat indoors or on the patio but although it was a cold day, we decided to brave the chilly air so that we could sit outside on the upstairs balcony and watch the street below. The menu and food were no different from any of the many Mexican restaurants where we eat in the states and our waiter was friendly, humorous and spoke excellent English.
After lunch we went downstairs to the plaza and took time to watch the spray paint artists. They work very fast making paintings (framed instantly) or decorating vases and other objects with painted scenes. Clearly they have made hundreds of the same scenes and they execute the development of a painting with amazing speed.
We were ready to leave at 1:20 PM and we did find a line and waited 35 minutes to go through customs. Algodones provides a shaded walkway and waiting benches. The waiting crowd was cheerful and we all joked and talked in line. On a busy day I was told the wait could run up to three hours.
On the way back the Radke’s showed us the old downtown area of Yuma. I picked up some brochures at the Visitor’s Center. We are enthusiastic about Yuma and plan to return, especially now that we have friends to visit. Tom and Dyanne definitely made our Christmas and our visit to Yuma. Despite our fifty-plus ties from grade school and high school we were essentially strangers. Dyanne made it all happen and I am grateful to her. We paused to rest a minute in the bus and then hugged goodbye with promises to get together again soon.
Remember The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell and his three personality types, the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, and the roles they play in social epidemics? (Gladwell’s use of “epidemics” refers to everyday life changes in ideas, products, messages and behaviors that spread quickly. I thought this book was fascinating.)
Gladwell says, “What makes someone a Connector? The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people.”
I suspect that Dyanne is a natural born Connector. I think it is an amazing trait.
WE TAKE A WALK IN THE DARK AND I TWIST MY ANKLE.
After our return, Dennis and I set about getting ready to leave the next morning for Lake Havasu City where we plan to visit the Walton clan. Of course, we had to take the dogs for a walk after our return and I took a few more photos of Cocopah RV Resort. On our drive back from Algodones I took a photo from the freeway in California of Cocopah. Then from Cocopah I took a photo of the horizon where the Mexico border is located. It is strange to be within walking distance of these borders!
That Wednesday night, December 26th, I fell and turned my ankle. We think it is a bad sprain and not a fracture — I hope. It happened because we decided to walk the dogs before going to bed. It was dark but we had a flashlight. The Radke’s gave one to each of us Christmas morning after breakfast. It’s a little marvel that works without batteries. It has a metal piece that goes through a coil when you shake it. But Dennis didn’t keep it on as we walked. It didn’t seem necessary as we walked on the empty macadam road towards the pet area. Usually your eyes get adjusted to the dark but it was a black night and there are no lights by the field where we walked.
We were talking and I was looking up at the stars so I wasn’t paying attention. I guess I wandered over to the side of the road and didn’t realize it. My right foot was parallel to the right edge of the road but half of it stepped on the road and half rolled off four inches down into the dirt shoulder. My ankle twisted over to the right and my anklebone hit hard on the ground. I fell forward. Wow, I was shocked. What a surprise. I’m not the type to have accidents or hurt myself. I’m not particularly athletic and I’m very careful.
Poor Dennis couldn’t get to me because both fool dogs started to bark at me as if I was a chupacabra sneaking up on them to suck their blood. He had to get them under control before he could help me to sit up. He helped me to get to a parked car and I leaned against and held Rudi’s leash while he took Margot back and got our car. He drove me back to the bus and I laid down on our bed. Oh boy! The ankle was swollen up — especially on the right, as if a balloon had sprung out of my anklebone. Dennis thought we should go to a doctor but I didn’t want to get in the car and go wandering around a strange town and then spend hours in emergency. I said I thought it wasn’t broken because I could move wiggle my toes and move my ankle. Dennis put ice in a bag and we wrapped that around my ankle with a towel. I kept it elevated for the rest of the night. We left the next morning for Lake Havasu as planned. I figured I would deal with it later.
SIDEBAR 1 LOS ALGODONES, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
Algodones, Mexico is an unusual little border town. What’s so unusual about Algodones? We heard that within a four block radius there are more pharmacies, doctors, dentists and opticians than a similar four block area anywhere else in the world! And, this “border medical land” attracts thousands of Canadians and Americans weekly. What’s the big attraction? You can find heavily discounted prescriptions, eye-glasses, and medical and dental care. And, if you listen to your friends in the snowbird RV parks, they can tell you that the care from their Algodones doctor or dentist is as good as anywhere back home.
Good new! You can eat the food served in the local restaurants and have a margarita without worrying about water-related issues. The water, I am told, is Yuma, Arizona water. And indeed, we had salad, Mexican food, a Margarita and had no problems whatsoever. Keep in mind that the Margaritas may be pretty potent so adjust your consumption accordingly. We enjoyed dining al fresco at El Paraiso, The Garden Place. The patio is not easy to find as it’s in the center of one of the shopping blocks. Any vendor can direct you though. We enjoyed our lunch, listened to live music and got a kick out of the begging tortoise that roamed from table to table begging for lettuce. Vendors also went table to table. While this added to the color of the experience, we were glad that they easily took “no, gracias,” for an answer. Prices? We had a full lunch, extra guacamole and a large Margarita for $19.00 for the two of us.
We also heard that Pueblo Viejo restaurant, close to the border crossing is good. Pueblo Viejo looked clean and cool inside. It would be a good stop on a hot day.
Los Algodones, Mexico loves to receive visitors from the United States and thrives on the American dollar for its livelihood. It offers city blocks of curio shops, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, open-air cafes in the plaza, sports bars, and more to attract tourists coming through the gates. The merchants plan several festivities around the influx of winter visitors, which include a welcome party in December, a 20th anniversary party celebrating the plaza curio shops in March, a spring party, also in March, and more.
The friendly atmosphere encourages shoppers to spend money—and almost all of the vendors are willing to dicker on price. Most everything you can buy across the border is cheaper, and visitors must only pay attention to the limits on quantity (three months of prescriptions) as they buy.
Curio shops go on for about six city blocks. Photo By Mary Reynolds
Dental and medical care is tremendously less and the quality matches their American counterparts. There are a couple hundred dentists and doctors in Algodones, specifically to cater to foreign visitors.