When we told a few people we were headed to Yuma, they shook their heads and didn’t seem to understand why we’d want to come down here.
Well… we’re not alone.
At least a hundred thousand RVers come down here each year to spend the winter. Full-timers and snowbirds pack the city, which already has dozens if not hundreds of RV neighborhoods.
Our plan was to spend some time here before moving on through New Mexico and into Texas, then over to Florida and up the East coast come spring.
That was the plan, anyway.
But first, Yuma:
Driving south of town toward the KOFA SKP Park, it’s hard to miss two of the other key things that make this area hum.
The Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) — more on that in a later post — and the thousands of acres of fruit trees that surround the city.
Everywhere we looked, we saw groves of trees, including this lemon grove right across the street from the park entrance. Good thing the park included this in the list of rules:
“It is a felony in Arizona to pick fruit from the orchards.”
Notice that I’m just *pointing*!
It didn’t take long before a sign along the side of road advertising “U-Pick Mineola Tangelos” got the best of us. We followed the signs that led us to the very end of a sandy road where a wonderful man gave us the basics in picking our own tangelos: clip them at the stem; when the stem comes out of the end of the fruit, it will go bad faster than if the stem is still in it.
I was thrilled! Here we were, picking our own citrus fruit from the trees:
A five-gallon bucket full for $5!
Not to mention the fresh grapefruit, lemons, and limes that also make for some great juice!
Picking our own fruit was its own reward — walking amid the trees, spotting the perfect tangelos or grapefruit, and plucking them from branches that always seemed to be just high enough that we had to stretch to snag them.
So to meet someone we began to call The Tangelo Man because we didn’t know his name, was a special gift. When I admired his caged birds, he happily and proudly gave us a tour of his aviary, explaining each species of pheasant. I only knew that I was seeing some amazingly beautiful animals!
While he opens his tangelo groves to the public for fruit picking, he has nearby lemon groves which are committed to one of the large corporations. Dole and Sunkist are just two companies with a presence in the area.
Hundreds (maybe thousands!) of acres around Yuma are dedicated to produce. Every day we passed truck after truck piled high with boxes — romain hearts, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage were being harvested all around us. We loved spotting the boxes with bright green labels that said OHIO on them. Wonder why Ohio gets such special treatment…?
Here a truck loaded with freshly picked lemons passes one of the commonly seen white buses used to transport laborers to the groves (though this one doesn’t seem to be hauling the usual trailer with the porta-potties behind it).
We sure didn’t expect to see so much agriculture — the number one industry in the area. Yuma is, after all, in the Sonoran Desert, right?!?
An intricate matrix of canals and ditches channel water all over the area, irrigating large fruit orchards and rural residences alike.
They also attract all kinds of great birds… but we’ll save that for another post!