Hiding Out, Rocky Sunsets, & Mexico – Yuma, AZ
As you’ve probably all gathered we’ve been “hiding out” at our new boondocking spot for almost 2 weeks now. Only a few, select folks have known where we are and they’ve been kind enough to respect our privacy (thanks guys!). Part of our time here has been spent getting over a flu that Paul brought back from Florida (ugh! not fun), the other time has been spent recharging in the wilds we love so much as well as kicking around some flea markets and taking a quick trip to Mexico for the dentist. It’s been the perfect getaway, but we’re coming to the end of the road. We’re approaching our 14-day stay limit so we’ll be moving on soon which means I can finally reveal where we’ve been (see how that works?).
But let me set the scene first…
The spot we’re in is one of the rockiest, bleakest boondocking locations I know. It sits at the mouth of the Chocolate Mountains around 8 miles West of Yuma, AZ. These imposing and unnaturally dark mountains, also known as the Cargos Muchachos are named, so the story goes, for two Mexican boys who found gold ore in the hills and came back with their shirts loaded = the muchachos cargados (loaded boys). The ground is frighteningly barren, even for a desert, and the rocky surface (in places) so hard and sharp it wears through your shoes. It’s achingly dry, to the point that you thirst just by looking at it and when the winds come (which they do often) they roar and tear across the empty plains like ghosts howling in the night. If it weren’t for the gold, I don’t think anyone would have ever settled here at all.
It’s an awful, cruel place. And darn it, I just love it here….
We’ve been coming to this spot near Yuma (right off Ogilby Road) since our second year on the road, and some might consider it an unusual choice. You see Yuma is a mish-mash of a place, a frugal snowbirders paradise just loaded (packed and packed) with super-cheap RV parks, flea markets and strip malls. It’s not a pretty town at first sight, and as you drive through the endless view of packed-in-like sardines RV Parks it’s enough to make any boondocker cringe and want to flee in screaming terror.
I honestly don’t even know why we stopped here first time around. For whatever reason those chocolate mountains drew me, we found a quiet spot to park and then the place started to grow on us. We discovered hidden mines, awesome ghost towns, fabulous hiking trails and the absolute, complete and utter glorious loneliness of walking amongst the rocky hills. Plus we experienced some of the most intense desert sunsets we’ve ever seen (the header on this blog, which is a true picture of the colors that evening, is taken from here). Before long we were coming every year and we’ve been doing so ever since.
Here’s just a few of things we’ve been up to this time around:
Yuma Flea Markets
Many folks think of Quartzsite as the epicenter of flea markets in Arizona, especially when it comes to RV stuff. That’s partly true (you CAN get just about anything at Q), but the more hidden secret, perhaps even the more authentic flea markets are in Yuma.
If your version of a dream is rummaging through piles of $1 stuff, then this is your spot. And there are so many RVers here that you can buy pretty much all the same RV stuff as Q (e.g. little knick-knacks, LED lights, flag poles and solar panels) just for a cheaper price. Honestly if you love flea markets, you’re going to drool and faint with glee over this place. The two biggest flea markets in town are these:
- Mexican Flea Market -> The cheapest and rowdiest of the Yuma flea markets is the Park ‘N Swap or what some local folks call the Mexican flea market. This is where you can find the cheapest bargains in clothes, the biggest rummage bins, the vastest selection of knick knacks and accessories….ALL for a few dollars a piece. Plus you can do all your shopping while rocking out to some Mariachi music and eating some authentic south-of-the-border street food.
- Arizona Flea Market -> The Arizona Marketplace is a slightly upper-scale market that in my mind this looks exactly like a huge tented version of Quartzsite. You’ve got a bunch of regular rummage stores intermixed with tons of RV stuff (chairs, matts, LED lights solar panels etc.), massage spots and more. If you can’t make it to Q, this will give you the same experience and there’s still plenty of good bargains for $5-$10. There’s a food court and few fresh veggie vendors too.
There’s one more flea market the Yuma Indoor Marketplace, but frankly it’s a teeny tiny fraction in size of the two above and not really worth the effort, so I’d stick with the others.
One of the big bonuses of coming to Yuma is that it is literally a hop and skip away from Los Algodones, the Mexican Dental Capital of the West. This little 10-block town is literally walking distance across the border (everyone walks to get there) and has no less than 300 dentists and dentist specialists, including spots to get prescription glasses and meds. This is a town that caters entirely to medical tourism and with prices, on average, 50-70% less than the US for top-quality work business is BOOMING.
We started coming here in 2011 and we liked it so much that Dr.Eva Urena is now our regular dentist. Hundreds of people go across the border each day, get some tooth-work done, pick-up lunch (and a margarita), do a bit of shopping and come on back home. Believe me that if you go, you will have plenty of company.
We went across to have our annual teeth cleanings ($35) done earlier this week, we well as get a couple of small fillings replaced ($50 each for me…two old fillings had fallen out). We followed this with a local lunch before joining the line to get back into the US (the line is short in the AM, but grows to ~40 mins wait after lunch). Easy, fun and inexpensive.
Going to Mexico for Dentistry is not everyone’s cup of tea, I totally get that, which is why I wrote a detailed 2-part series about Los Algodones a few years back that I’ve kept updated ever since. If you’re interested in trying this yourself, have a read:
- Getting Dental Work In Mexico Part I – Clarifying Myths & Facts
- Getting Dental Work In Mexico Part II – Our Los Algodones Experience
Hanging By The Rocks
The rest of our time here we’ve just been hanging by the chocolate mountains and enjoying the sunsets. We’ve had a few, select folks over to visit and been joined by our buddies Mike&Kelly for a few days. Plus we’ve been collecting a particularly fun Geocache series (the President Series) which has been taking us all over the area for hiking/biking, as well as teaching us a bunch of really interesting and little-known stuff about the various US Presidents. Most of the time though, we’ve just been hanging, enjoying, soaking in this crazy rocky environment.
That brings you up to date folks. Within the next days we’ll be raising our jacks and jetting off to a new mystery boondocking location. See you all there!
Related Links & Posts:
- Visit Yuma -> Official visitor guide site HERE
- Back In Time To The Heyday Of Gold -> Hedges/Tumco Ghost Town
- Yuma, AZ Has Grown On Me
- Off To Yuma….Gold….And Mexico!
- In Search of Gold – American Girl Mine, CA
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. WheelingIt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Glad you are enjoying your privacy. I would, however, like to defend Yuma to those who have not visited. We find it a very friendly, clean and safe city. Yes the RV parks are quite jammed together, not unlike Phoenix and area. There is a lovely park and wetlands area running along the Colorado and many more farmers markets can be found throughout the city. We spend our time 20 miles north at the Senator Wash LTVA, where we have all the peace and quiet we require, while not being too far from civilization.
It is not only for budget minded snow birders and retirees, there are some 5 star resorts too! Everyone can find a place here to suit them, and we all enjoy the wonderful weather, together
This place definitely grows on you as you get to know it. We’ve been coming here for 4 years now and like it so much we come back every year.
Sue Malone says
You know I love your stories, and your photos are always fun, but really, Nina, that last photo is just incredibly amazing. Just amazing. Made me do a double take! Have fun. We were on the other side of those Chocolate Mountains last week and they looks pretty rugged from the east side as well. I still have them on my blog header photo, in spite of the newer Joshua Tree photos I have in my bag.
Yeah, those mountains are pretty crazy. Apparently there’s some good hiking/exploring on the north side of them too, but we never seem to get that far when we’re here.
Eric Rondeau says
Not going to say anything bad about Mexican dentistry but the fees you mentioned in your blog are about what I charged in SD. I don’t think the fees have went up that much since I retired. If you went to a small town dentist you would be charged even less. Enjoy your blog. We are in our motorhome in Gulf Shores, AL.
Well I’m impressed. I’ve never been able to get a cleaning below ~$80-100 and I’ve priced that at dentists in Oregon, Iowa, Florida and California. Even the small-town guys (I tried a guy this summer in OR) was that same price. And fillings usually run $100 or more too. If you’re getting these kinds of prices in SD, I’d definitely stick with your dentist there.
That said, another inexpensive alternative for folks who prefer to stay US side are Dental Schools. They take a bit of planning to set-up, but will often offer cleanings and dental services at heavily discounted prices.
The only thing wrong with dental schools is it takes so many appointments. It’s been 40 years since I was in dental school but I doubt that that has changed. Next time you are in South Dakota let me know. Also many people think getting their teeth cleaned by a dentist is the way to go. I will tell you that you need to have it done by a hygienist and sorry most times it will take 1 hour. Dentist can’t afford to take that much time. Have to cover the overhead.
Yes, Dental Schools are tricky because of the appts. Sadly I’ve run into the same issue with hygenists. Almost every hygenist I’ve tried has had multiple months worth of bookings tied up. In my 5 years on the road I’ve only managed one appt. I tried to get in to see one this summer in OR for 2 months (I was on the waiting list) and never managed to get an appt there. Really tough to schedule these as a fulltime RVer when your schedule is never completely fixed. I’d like to find an easier solution since I prefer to have 2 dental cleanings a year rather than just one and I can only make it down here once a year.
I’ll definitely get your recommendation if we get back to SD.
Brian and Carolyn says
What a nice posting. I felt very relaxed after reading it. Keep those sunset photos coming!
Good! The sunsets have been fabulous here. Almost too many good ones to count. Not that I’m complaining in any way 🙂
Ogilby did over a nice bunch of rocks. I only stayed a couple days but will return soon and also cross the border for new glasses. Pretty nice sunset off Plomosa tonight.
It’s nice and warm here right now too. Best time in the desert!
Mary Hone says
We just left there last Saturday. We stayed in that area for a month last year, but only a week this year. We went to the dentist, the sand dunes and our very favorite mexican bakery for empenandas. The ogilby road is really a pretty great place to boondock. We will visit there again next year for sure.
Looks like we may have crossed paths. This is a big area though so it’s easy to hide.
Curious minds want to know. What’s your favorite Mexican bakery here?
Mary Hone says
It’s called Elviras, on 8th street. Sooooo good. Good tamales too.
Greg Close says
Wow, another exceptional post full of interesting info and great images; you really make the landscape come to life…thanks!!
Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Tom Robertson says
Hi Guys – Love following you guys and great articles this month. I’m with EEZ RV PRODUCTS and just wanted to thank you for including a picture of our mats and booth with your article. Always appreciate free advertising. 🙂
You’re welcome. You guys have some nice products (I know several RV buddies who use your TPMS systems) and your booth at Arizona Marketplace was well-stocked.
Stephen Agnor says
Nina, Has it come to that? Having to “hide out”. Sorry to hear that. Enjoy your posts. Keep it up.
We just had a VERY social Christmas and needed some complete alone-time. We got what we were looking for, so we’re recharged and ready to go again.
Yuma has a special place in our hearts, as that’s where we found our bus conversion. We totally need to head that way this winter, so thanks a bunch for all the info on places to check out in the winter (cuz, in the summer?? It’s a ghost town.)
See you soon in our secret rendezvous 😉
We also found an AWESOME Taqueria this time around in a cute, little food court. Very tasty indeed:
Dave Davis says
Yuma does have a lot going for it, mainly location. Great boondocking areas on the West and East side. The dental and flea markets make it a worthwhile destination. I stayed here for a month and I’m dying to leave.
The road is calling!
With wheels, the road calls so I can totally understand the need/want to leave. Good travels to you!
Cindy the pet sitter in Mesa, AZ says
Wow….definitely gotta visit Q one of these days!
Seriously though, how do you keep yourselves from buying too much stuff?
Lack of space? Seriously, there’s only so much stuff we can keep in the rig, so when we make a purchase it’s gotta count. I love rummage sales, even if I only end up with a few items. Paul, on the other hand looks like he’s about to become a zombie after about 20 mins in these places. So, I generally go alone 🙂
John and Pam Wright says
We’re heading to Yuma next week but probably only for two nights while we check out Kofa NWP. This is our real destination, but we want to drive up and check it out first since we’ve never been there. I’d like to just boondock there and not drive back and forth from Yuma to hike and ride the Jeep around. Then, we are off to Why for a couple days to visit Organ Pipe before we head into Tucson for the MH doctor’s appointment. Maybe we’ll see you around this winter:)
Sounds like a wonderful itinerary. We don’t have much of a plan after this next stop. We’ll see where the wind takes us. If we go Tuscon way we’ll try to hook up with you.
Ed Hackenbruch says
Have you tried the shrimp tacos in Algadones? Really good! Also if you are going to stay in Yuma for any length of time it is cheaper to go out to the Foothills and rent a rv lot than to stay in a park. More room, no freeway noise, and a lot nicer area.
I’m allergic to shellfish, but I had some awesome carne asada tacos when we were there.
Renting a lot for longer term stays in the area is a great suggestion. I know several RVers who do this and you’re right…a lot is so much more pleasant and quiet than an RV park. The Foothills are a nice part of Yuma too.
Yuma is my home town, I graduated Yuma High School (Criminals) in 1966. Sadly I don’t get back home as often as I like, I really miss the Mexican food Yuma is famous for (at least it is if you grew up there). If you go to Yuma find the original Cretin’s or La Fonda and have a toasted cheese tortilla and anything else on the menu that looks good!
Good tips! I’ll be sure to look those spots up next time we pass through town.
Jodee Gravel says
The silhouettes are exceptional! One could certainly jazz up their headgear from those flea markets (you never know when you’ll need to head butt someone with spikes). How does Polly do on the sharp rocks? It’s the one thing our vet has warned us about for Tessa. Thanks for another great post 🙂
Polly has really tough paws so she does well, but we do have to ease her into it. If we do too much hiking when we first get here, she gets sore. However if we ease her into it, she has enough time for her paws to adapt.
Some folks buy paw covers, but we’ve never done that.
When you make dental appointments for cleaning……do you make the ahead of time or do you just walk in… if you make appointments do you call or email…
I make the appt a few weeks ahead of time and I call the office to do it.
Merikay MacKenna says
We’ve been to Algondons a few times for dental and it was an OK experience, but I think I liked my US cleanings better. We have stayed at the Rio Bend RV park and found it a hidden Jewel. Passport America for a few days only.
Good tip on the RV Park link. Thanks.
Glad you got some time to totally kick back and chill. Hope by now Paul has fully recovered.
Yes, we’ve both recovered thank goodness. We’re back in the game!
Jenny Waters says
I’m sorry to hear you got the flu. We got it, too, and it hasn’t been fun. I remember your post from Ogilby Road last year, and it looks like a great place to check out. Those mountains are quite photogenic. I think you will stand out a bit in that feather hat, though.
The flu we got this year hit us badly, probably even more so because we haven’t been sick in years. It took almost 2 weeks to shake it off and there were multiple days we were just completely wiped out. Ugh!
No feathers for me, you think? 🙂
Jenny Waters says
Sometimes I wonder if anyone buys those sorts of things at flea markets. I suppose they make a fun gag gift if you don’t have limited space.
The flu hit us hard, too, and we rarely get sick. I got it on Christmas Eve and have thought I was better twice, just to get sick again. I am now sick for the third time with bronchitis and sinusitis, and on an antibiotic. 😛 My husband has been a little less severe, but is saying he still isn’t feeling well, either. I’m glad you got some rest, I think we should have slowed down more.
your in my side of town! awesome! hope you guys keep enjoying your stay here in Yuma Az.
— Yuma Swap Meets: It might be useful to clarify: the Yuma Swap Meets are only Thursday-Sunday (and Sept-Mar only). And on Thursday they were a bit of a wash-out: less than 10% of the stalls were open (and this was end of January, just the week after “Quartzsite week’). Better to go Saturday, or busiest Sunday. The best ‘RV stuff’ Swap Meet is in the south-east corner of town, south end of Avenue 4E.
— Los Algodones Opticians: (Info for others considering it): Researching the net, there are several dentists people recommend, but few opticians. We went with a short list (Best Optical, Jabal Optical, Algodones Optical) to pick one ‘at random’. We plumped for Algodones Optical. It turned out they have FIVE branches in town, and have taken over Best anyway! To cut a long story short all went well, and made great savings. Even sceptical Kim was impressed! Best to get there first thing (8.30am) – I miscalculated the timing, I read somewhere they are on Pacific time: wrong! Arizona time – so arrived 9.15; it was 10am by the time our order went to be made, and because Kim’s was a bit ‘extreme’, took more than 3 hours. We joined the Border Mass Exodus at 2.20 and took one hour in line to pass through! (2-3pm is the worst time).
Thanks for pointing out the swap meet days. It’s in the links to the meets, but it’s best to make it clear up-front.
Cheers also for the tips on Los Algodones Opticians. Neither Paul or I use glasses so it’s great to have a personal recommendation from someone who’s actually been there.