By the time I drive through Phoenix…I’ll be whining……

Phoenix, a huge metropolis in the desert….I’m not a city person, and I’ll admit it.  I don’t mind visiting a city for a couple hours or a day, but longer than that and I don’t do it willingly.

We were actually driving to Scottsdale to camp at Westworld and attend the Arabian Horse Show that is held there every year.  Phoenix/Scottsdale drivers put any of the other crazy drivers I’ve seen to shame (and I’ve driven Los Angeles, the east coast and in Europe).  Rude, pushy, driving 10-20 miles over the speed limit, I couldn’t wait to get the RV parked.  It was definitely better when I was just driving the Jeep, but still could be challenging.

Camping at Westworld isn’t bad…just power and water, with a dump.  You’re basically camping in a parking lot. The best spots, if you have a dog, is along the polo field.  Great place to run your dog, there are no fences though… so a recall is required.  There are leash laws, so be aware…of course there are signs around for fines for not picking up after your dogs and I was shocked at the amount of dog feces that covered the place from the folks attending the horse show.  Price $28.48 a night which includes tax.

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There are numerous dog parks, but plan on having lots of company.  Same with hiking trails, parking lots are full with hikers, walkers and runners on the known trails.

Being a desert community, many of the restaurants have outside dining and some are pet friendly. Be sure and call ahead.

A couple of links with dog friendly places and hikes:


There are some great museums to check out, I didn’t find the time (or want to spend the money) to see any of them.

We did take a drive to Carefree, which has a lovely park with cactus and succulents from around the world.  An interesting sundial takes center stage, at the gardens.  It stands 35 feet tall, extends 72 feet and is 90 feet in diameter.  It points to the north star.  The sundial was completed in 1959, and is one of the largest sundials in the US.   It was designed by architect Joe Wong and solar engineer, John Yellott.  The huge dial is made of steel and plated with anodized copper and the metal gnomon, the shadow-casting portion of the dial rises 35 feet above the plaza.  There is seating all around the park, a couple with outdoor fireplaces for a cozy evening visit.  The park is dog friendly with poop bag/garbage stations.

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A trip to Cave Creek is fun with lots of interesting items for sale. Be sure and bring a large amount of cash to buy most of their offerings though!

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The food offerings around Phoenix, Scottsdale (I had someone from Gilbert say they call it “Snotsdale” for the snooty people) 😉 and Tempe are amazing.

My favorites, not necessarily in order:

Coconuts, which originated in Maui and now has two other locations in AZ.  Fish and Shrimp tacos were the delicious choices I had (ate there 3 times) and reasonably priced.

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Andreoli’s Italian Grocer was a top 10 for me, everything is made on site, including all their pastries (sfogliatella is a MUST HAVE) and even their prosciutto and other meats .  Prices are spendy but you won’t be disappointed.  If you can, show up on Mondays or Tuesdays when they have a fellow strolling through playing the guitar and singing Italian songs.  He does requests so bring some favorite titles.  My friends requested Lazy Mary which was a fun, rousing song. Andreoli’s was showcased on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on the Food Network. If you like Italian food you will LOVE Andreoli’s!

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Speaking of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives… another place showcased is right down the road from Westworld.  Tom’s Thumb, also known as The Thumb is a combination gas station, car wash and detail shop, gift shop, wine cellar and BBQ restaurant.  “Just Your Average Gas Station” is the tagline.  Delicious smoked BBQ with a variety of sauces from mild to extreme, all done on location.  The chef and owner Kipp Lassetter is a former surgeon!

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For Mexican, check out the upscale Sol Mexican Cocina.  Go for Taco Tuesday, great specials at great prices.  Including their house, made from scratch, Margarita!  Another great Mexican place is Mariscos Playa Hermosa, in Phoenix.  It’s a must visit, especially if you love seafood.

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Don’t go here for the pizza (ok, but nothing to write home about) but for the entertainment.  Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa has an impressive Wurlitzer and pipe setup.  They have a few organists that play, we saw Charlie Balogh.  He played many well known favorites for children and adults alike.  He also took requests.

A little history on the Wurlizer and the Organ Stop Pizza restaurant: “A Wurlitzer organ was acquired from the Denver Theater in Denver, Colorado. In the theater, the Denver instrument had 15 ranks, or sets of pipes. The instrument was totally rebuilt, and the decision was made to enlarge the organ to 23 ranks for its debut in the new Mesa Organ Stop. In 1984 the Mesa Organ Stop was sold to longtime employee and manager Mike Everitt and his business partner Brad Bishop. Under the new ownership, improvement of the pipe organ became a high priority. Over the course of the ensuing years, careful acquisition of rare pipework and percussions were made, culminating in what is now the largest Wurlitzer pipe organ in the world. With the change in ownership, the restaurant continued to gain in popularity. Inevitably plans were made to move into a facility twice the size of the original in order to accommodate the ever increasing number of patrons and ever-expanding organ. This new mega facility, located at the corner of Stapley Drive and Southern Avenue, was designed specifically to accommodate the expanding scope and size of the Organ Stop Wurlitzer. Construction of the new facility began in May of 1995 and the grand opening was Thanksgiving weekend of that same year. In its new and improved location, Organ Stop Pizza and its Mighty Wurlitzer have come to be known as the biggest and best in the world as attested to by many of the world’s finest theater organists and, more importantly, the hundreds of thousands of patrons who visit each year. There are continuing efforts to make additions and improvements to the organ, endeavoring to fine tune the instrument closer and closer to perfection.” –

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Next, onward to Casa Grande!





A bend in the river….

Gila Bend was named after an almost 90 degree bend in the river where the town resides. Not sure that you would make Gila Bend a destination, though it is along the historic Butterfield Trail.  It’s also known for UFO sightings and even a sighting of Bigfoot!

A bit of history on the Butterfield Stage route that ran through Gila Bend:

“When dust from the Gold Rush began to settle, most of the ’49ers discovered the best that they could hope for was a working-man’s wage. They began to miss the homefolks. Getting a letter from California to the states back East was nearly impossible. Some of it went around the continent on ships, and other mail went by private companies at inflated rates. Nothing was done to improve the lack of communications between the East Coast and West Coast until 1858.

Government officials in Washington decided to establish a mail route using the wagon route blazed by the Mormon Battalion 12 years earlier. A government contract was awarded to John Butterfield who resided in New York. He would be paid $600,000 a year for six years to carry mail from St. Louis to San Francisco. Stagecoaches left St. Louis and San Francisco twice a week. The journey was completed in 25 days or less.

John Butterfield was a true entrepreneur. In 1850, he founded the American Express Company. American Express was the result of a merger between the Wells Fargo Express company and Butterfield’s own Butterfield and Wasson Express Company. The result was American Express with Butterfield in the top chair; however, Henry Wells and William Fargo both owned huge shares of the new company. The next time you see an American Express card, take a moment to reflect that it all started with a stagecoach.
Butterfield probably would have fared better if he had not won the bid on the mail contract. He spent the first two years’ proceeds just getting the Butterfield Overland Mail Company started. Although the contract’s primary purpose was mail delivery, passengers could also make the 25-day journey (2,800 miles) by purchasing a $200 ticket.

Most passengers probably only made the trip once. One writer described it as a “trip through Hell.” In order to average more than 100 miles a day, the wagons were driven 24/7 at the fastest speeds allowed by the terrain and the team pulling them. They averaged slightly more than 5 miles per hour.
There were no sleeping quarters, the food at the stage stations was horrible, and they were subject to the full range of weather conditions. Attacks by Indians and outlaws were also common. The lack of water and the condition of the water in other locations added to the misery of the journey.

The Butterfield Overland Mail Company continued its trips twice a week in each direction for the next 2-1/2 years. During that time, Butterfield was pushed out of American Express due to huge debts. Wells and Fargo took over the Butterfield Overland Stage Company contract. They were almost immediately facing a new problem due to the Civil War. In 1861, Texas joined the Confederacy, so the route had to be moved.”


If you’re looking for a reasonably priced place, to spend a night or two, Holts Shell RV Park is the place. If you have Passport America or Escapees membership you can have a nice spacious site, and full hookup for $12 a night.  Level spots, clean laundry and showers/bathroom.  Dog walking in the desert.  The downside is it’s at a truck stop and the noise from the trucks during the night/early morning can be annoying.  Try to pick a spot the furthest away from the entrance.

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The Shell station and RV park has a fun air about it, with large metal dinosaurs, Rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters located here and there.  If you’d like a metal sculpture to take home with you they have an assortment by the station/store as well as other souvenirs.

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I will say that they have one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve eaten at, and it was also reasonable.   Little Italy is it’s name, pasta al dente, lots of delicious choices.  Their claim to fame was in 2011 when Prince Harry enjoyed a pizza there while training at the nearby Air Force Base. 🙂

We were only their for one night, heading to Scottsdale for our next two weeks.

Ajo, AZ a artistic oasis….

We spent a week in Ajo, I could have stayed longer.  It’s a quaint little place with artists tucked into the tapestry of the town.  It’s historically a mining town, a large abandoned copper mine takes up a large part of the land.  There is rumors that it may start up again, which I’m not sure if it will be a good thing or not for Ajo.  It definitely would bring in more money, but it also would probably take away the warm heart of the town.

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We stayed at Belly Acres, right as you come into town.  It is a smallish, inviting park with everyone being friendly.  The host of the park, Dennis Ochsner,  is quite the character.  He definitely gives the place a western feel, with his pistol at his side, cowboy hat and sometimes sporting a sheriffs badge.  Full hookups are $25 a night with the 7th night being free .   I had a nice location, tucked into the back corner…but most of the park is pretty tight.  You could hit it when there aren’t a lot of other RV’ers, but it was full when we were there.  That, I think, would be my biggest gripe that it was crowded.

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They have lots of get togethers for birthdays, watching the game or just having a pot luck in a building specifically for that at the back of the park.  There is a propane tank if you need a fill up.  A laundry and showers.  Next door is an auto/RV repair and parts place owned by the same man that owns Belly Acres, Kord Klinefelter.  Kord is another character, and I think you either like him or hate him.  He gets mixed reviews from people that deal with him.  He does cuss a lot, but that didn’t bother me.  He also was able to fix a part on my Jeep for minimal cost that another mechanic didn’t want to deal with.

Another thing about Belly Acres is they really don’t have a great place to walk your dogs. There is a wash behind the park, but it was used to dump things in the past and there is broken glass, metal, and other debris.  Little dogs are allowed to wander loose, but big dogs are not.  (Not that I would let my girls wander around loose anyway).  Night time you will hear coyotes, close. So don’t let your little dogs wander then.  We would see them at dusk strolling along town roads.  We also had Javalinas (Collared Peccaries) come around our vehicles in the early morning hours.

There is a nice dog park, the E.S. “Bud” Walker dog park, right in town.  It has a small dog area, and a large dog area.  There was rarely more than one dog, if any, at the park when I took the girls.  I did take them for walks in the washes, and by the airport.  You do have to be careful there again, as coyotes, javelina, range cattle, etc. may be encountered.

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The center plaza in town is lovely, with a nice grassy area in the middle.  Lots of dogs can be seen walking around on it.  There is a Saturday Farmers Market, and fresh produce, baked goods and artwork can be found there.  Get there early before they sell out!  There are some little shops surrounding the park, including a coffee shop and a visitor’s center.  The newspaper building, around the corner, has a great book and art store inside.  There are two photogenic churches close by.  The Curley school, also within walking distance, is historic and named for the mine superintendent, Mike Curley.

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John Campbell Greenway was the man responsible for the mine and the town.  He was a fascinating man, and if you get the chance to go to the Ajo historical museum you can learn all about him and the story of all that has happened in the surrounding area. The museum was originally the St. Catherine’s Indian Mission.  Jose Castillo is one of the docents there, he is a 2nd generation Ajo-ite.  He and his father both worked in the mine. His grandfather immigrated from Mexico.   Bob Hightower, is the other docent, and he was a history teacher in town.  They were both a wealth of information and well worth spending time with.

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More about Greenway. He was a rough rider with Teddy Roosevelt and was there at San Juan Hill, where he earned a silver star.  He also served in WWI and received a distinguished service cross.  It would take a book to cover all the interesting facts about this man!

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He developed the New Cornelia mine in Ajo, the first large open copper mine pit in Arizona. He also was involved with the Lavender Pit Mine in Bisbee and the railroads that carried the ore.   He created the town for the workers, wanting it to be a good place for the miners to raise their families.  Spanish Colonial Revival was chosen for the architecture, and it fits beautifully in the desert landscape.

Throughout the town you will see painting on buildings, statues and other forms of art.  There is an “art alley” that has many different paintings by various artists. The last set of art photos depicts the collection and processing of the Saguaro cactus fruit.

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Ajo is a great jumping off place for exploring the Organ Pipe National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife refuge.  You will need a pass to access some of the Cabeza Prieta refuge as it’s on military land.  You can get the pass after watching a video and providing vehicle information, at the Cabeza Prieta Visitors Center in Ajo.

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While I loved the people at Belly Acres, I think if I return I will look at staying at the Hickiwan Trails RV Park, that is next to the casino on the way out of town towards Why, AZ.  Both the casino and the RV park are operated by the Tohono Od’Odom.  They have full hookups,  gravel pads with cement patios.  Surrounded by beautiful desert and only $11 a night.


A desert wilderness…Organ Pipe National Monument

We drove in for the day to Organ Pipe National Monument.  This monument was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. It preserves over 330,000 acres and it was named a International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 by the United Nations.  It’s intact ecosystem has attracted scientists from around the world.  

It has a dark side though,  as signs warn you about illegal immigrants and the monthly finds of bodies that don’t make it across the dangerous terrain.   In the 1990s the monument became a hotbed of illegal activity, with human and drug traffickers seeking routes to bring their contraband from Mexico to the US.  In 2002 a park ranger, Kris Eggle, was shot and killed by drug smugglers.  This caused most of the park to be closed down to visitors for awhile.

Now there is a very visible presence of Border Patrol,  additional law enforcement and park rangers.  There are vehicle stops that are well staffed with Border Patrol officers and dogs.  It’s safer but you still should be aware of your surroundings. 

There are two campgrounds within the monument, one by the visitors center, Twin Peaks can accommodate up to 40 feet in length. They don’t take reservations but you can call 520-387-6849 extension 7302, to confirm the availability of a campsite. All the restrooms have running water and flush toilets. Three restrooms have solar-heated showers. Potable water is available throughout the campground. A dump-and-fill station is provided for RVs. The cost is $16.00 per night. Holders of the Golden Age/Senior Pass and the Access pass receive a 50% discount on camping. Additionally, the park entrance fee is $12.00

The other campground, Alamo Canyon, is for tent camping only.   It is $10 a day and limited to a 7 day stay.  There are 4 sites at this location.

Exploring the area fully would take weeks, we chose to drive the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive.  It is a dirt and gravel road with the occasional asphalt on some of the steeper, or wash areas of the road.  You can drive the road yourself or take a van that the center offers January through March. It’s a 3 hour long ranger guided tour.

The drive is awe inspiring, vast expanses of desert and mountains.  Organ pipe, Senita and Saguaro dot the landscape.  I also noticed Cholla (teddy bear and chain fruit (jumping) varieties), Prickly Pear, Barrel cactus as well as Ocotillo.   The usual suspects were there as well…Creosote, Brittle Bush, Palo Verde as well as Jojoba. 

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  We didn’t see any wildlife, other than a few birds. Including one of my new favorites, a Phainopepla.  These birds have a symbiotic relationship with the mistletoe in the spring.  The birds eating the berries,  spread the seeds of the mistletoe by either wiping a sticky seed from their beak on a branch that will become a new host.   They also will pass the seeds through their system and those will may also be deposited on a new host branch. 

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I highly recommend a visit to this monument, however if you plan on doing any hiking I would leave my dogs back in my air conditioned RV if you are camped outside of the park.   If you are just going to drive the loop and not get out much, they are fine to ride along with you though they are only allowed on two short trails and at a very small dog area at the visitor center.  If you are camping at Organ Pipe, they only allow generators to run during certain hours, so plan accordingly for leaving your dogs at your campsite. 


A day (and night) in Dateland

On our way to Ajo we stopped for a night in Dateland.  Dateland is basically just a truck/gas stop, but it has a gift shop and a place to get one of the best date shakes around. Dateland has been around since the 1920s.   If you stop here and like/love date shakes be sure and try one of their blends.  I also bought a piece of date bread and a date/pineapple cookie.  I was disappointed in the baked goods, however, as they were dried out and flavorless. 


The Oasis RV park is where we stayed and it’s definitely a hidden gem.  $25 a night for full hookups.  Level, gravel sites with brick “patios”.  Roomy spots and unending desert to walk your dogs in.  There are desert trails, washes and roads that lead to the Aztec Hills and sand dunes. Barrel cactus dot the landscape and if your lucky they will either be in bloom or in fruit.  It is well off the highway, though there are trains that are within hearing distance.  They don’t blow their horns at crossings, so the only sound you hear are the clacky-clack of the cars rolling by.  There is a pool, pay laundry, propane sales, desert access for quad riding, Cabana with restroom and shower.  It’s a low key park, with everyone being friendly.  They have get togethers for ice cream socials, potlucks and I heard the owners even had a prime rib dinner for guests!

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There is not a lot to see in Dateland. You can travel to Gila Bend and go to the Painted Rock Petroglyph site.  There is also another Petroglyph site closer but more difficult to get to (4×4 or ORV only) named Sears Point Petroglyph site.  I didn’t make it to either of them, but hope to return to check them out another time.

We did go out to Spot Rd (heading east) to a rock house that we read about.  We got there as sundown approached so didn’t have a lot of time to explore.  About the house: ” “The name “Bill Cody 1902” carved into the interior wall of the house might have been the famous Buffalo Bill Cody, AKA William F. Cody “Buffalo Bill” (1846-1917). In 1902 longtime partner, Nate Salsbury, dies. Cody forms a mining company and begins investing heavily at Oracle, Arizona. The small town of Oracle is located 177 miles to the east of Dateland Arizona, which makes sense. This house could have belonged to Nate Salsbury and Cody could have carved his name before his departure to Oracle.” -ghost   It was a interesting small building to look at, the wood windows in places were still standing where walls had tumbled down.  There is a nice stone fireplace.  It was with great sadness that we saw that the carving suspected to be done by Bill Cody had been vandalized.  Someone had knocked that part of the wall down and it looked like they were trying to take it.  It had broken in pieces though, so probably they decided the value wasn’t there any more. 😦

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Next morning after an hour and 1/2 walk with the dogs we headed for Ajo!


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Yuma…land of the ancient ones…

And I don’t mean the Native Americans that roamed this land….

I imagine there are other locations in Florida and other warm locales, but here….wow!  It might have something to do with the fact that I am now travelling in an RV and staying in an RV park, but it really hit home that I am among the retired.

We stayed at West Wind RV park.  I picked up a coupon for it at the RV show in Quartzite.  It was for two nights free, and you could add 5 more days at 1/2 price.  That works out to $19 a night for full hookups, a restaurant, bar, shuffleboard, 3 par golf course, tennis, woodshop, laundry, pool and hot tub.  They have live entertainment as well as other events. The RV lots are small, many park model homes, as well as temporary RV spots.

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This has been the best location so far for walking the dogs.  They do expect you to keep your dogs on leash in the park, as well as walk them in the middle of the street on the way out to the desert.  If you stay here ask to be placed as close as main dog gate (between spaces 985 and 986) as possible.  Once through the gate you have a nice area right there to walk you dogs, or do like I did and head down the dirt road out into the desert.

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There is all you need in this town,  just be aware when driving for the unaware, and expect slow moving people everywhere…especially noticeable in the grocery store!

As can be expected, since it’s a good size town…there are plenty of restaurants.  My two favorites were Los Manjares De Pepe at 11274 S. Fortuna Rd and Julianna’s Patio Café at 1951 W 25th St.   At Los Manjares I had the Pepe’s Special (pork in tomatillo sauce) and also tried a bite of their Chile Relleno. Both were outstanding, and I’m sorry I didn’t have time to go back again.  Julianna’s main draw is their parrots (macaws) in an area adjoining their dining patio.  The décor is fun, both inside (a bit more elegant) and out.  I had their Cubano and I have to say it is the best one I’ve ever had.  For a drink I had a Coconut Mojito and it was a bit sweeter than I like.

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A short drive from Yuma and you are at the Mexican border.  It’s best to park in the Quechan Indian parking lot and walk across to Los Algodones.  It was $6 to park.

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Los Algodones is popular for their dentists and pharmacies.  There are 350 dentists (and I’m sure still growing) just on the other side of the border.  Pharmaceuticals are at a bargain there as well.  They don’t have everything, my friend was trying to get eye drops for his dog, and you need to be aware of costs as I think some may not be that great of a deal.  We walked into one of the liquor stores, but there were no prices to be seen…so not sure if they were a lot less expensive.

We walked a short distance to a courtyard, where Restaurant El Paraíso was located.  Delicious food and strong margaritas.  I had Prawns Veracruz and it was delicious.  There is supposed to be a tortoise there that walks around, but I was told he was sleeping in the kitchen.  My friend said that they had told them the same thing when they were there last year.  On our way back out we stopped at a prawn vendor.  Freshly caught prawns in 3 sizes.  They were all $10 a pound and we chose the middle size.  After returning back to the RV park it was discovered that he had tossed in a couple of the largest ones too!  What a great deal, and they were as good as could be expected!

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A little about Los Algodones from Wikipedia: “Los Algodones, Baja California, is a small Mexican town located on the extreme northeastern tip of the municipality of Mexicali, approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) west of Yuma, Arizona, USA. Its official name is Vicente Guerrero also called Molar City. It reported a population of 5,474 as of the 2010 Mexican census. It also serves as a borough seat of its surrounding area.
Los Algodones is the northernmost town in Mexico, and at its northeastern tip is the northernmost point in Mexico, and in Latin America. Another interesting geographical distinction is that if someone were to travel in any of the four cardinal directions from anywhere in Algodones (due north, due east, due south, or due west), they would cross a U.S. border.

I would definitely go back to Yuma again to spend some more time. I would have liked to have checked out the prison and museum and the Castle Dome mining museum and ghost town.   Next stop, Dateland!