Just Beyond the Border
Winterhaven is just across the river, and the state line, from Yuma, Arizona. The RV park we were in is called Sleepy Hollow and is not exactly in Winterhaven but rather Andrade. Winterhaven post office serves the Andrade area. Andrade is not an official town but serves only as the border crossing location. The RV park, BLM land and a parking lot for those who don’t take their vehicles into Mexico are the entire contents of Andrade, CA.
Sleepy Hollow RV Park is on the Quechan Indian reservation and is shaded for the most part with rows of Salt Cedar trees. Salt Cedars, I have found via the internet, are not very popular trees to have around. They consume vast amounts of water and spread their pollen everywhere in the winds. They grow fast and large and drop their needle-like ‘leaves’ year round.
Where we were parked was about a quarter mile from the Mexican border town of Los Algodones. A lot of ‘snowbirds’ have already departed the area and headed for their summertime homes. However, many are still in the area hoping to find greater ease in getting medical and dental appointments with the smaller, off-season tourist throngs.
The BLM land and the area in and around the RV park, is frequented by Border Patrol vehicles including helicopters that ‘watch over’ us night and day. One night’s TV newscast from Yuma told of an RV with 51 illegals in it that was found near the Andrade crossing. They showed a picture of it and it was a motorhome I had seen earlier parked just across the highway from the park’s office/rec building. It isn’t even as long as ours and I don’t know how they got that many people into it.
Other than some prisoners that were reported to have escaped from a prison in Mexico, I don’t think those who cross the border illegally are particularly ‘bad’ people. Probably most of them are just trying to better themselves and their lives by coming here to look for jobs that will pay more than they can earn in Mexico. Language is the root of a lot of misunderstanding and they are, after all, illegal which causes them to be sought by the Border Patrol. I can’t condone the illegal action but the folks who try it are totally ill prepared for existence for any length of time in the dry, barren desert.
The night after the authorities had rounded up more than a hundred illegals the Border Patrol helicopter was doing extra duty checking the area. One craft hovered over the desert area just south of us for quite a while searching the river and surroundings with a spotlight.
Steve stepped out into the darkness around our house to get a better look at the helicopter as it hovered so low in the air. As luck would have it, along came a neighbor from down the road in the RV park. She was headed for the restroom. She seemed unaware of Steve standing there in the almost total dark. He didn’t want to frighten her as she passed by and might suddenly see him there, so he said “Hi, how are you doing?” She was startled and freaked out. He tried to reassure her and finally calmed her down (we’re not sure if she still needed to use the restroom...).
Life in this park is never dull. After dark it is difficult to tell if the vehicles with the flashing, revolving lights are ambulances here for ailing RVers or Border Patrol SUVs rounding up illegals. Both type officials are usually ‘chaperoned’ by low flying helicopters. One day we picked up the mail in Winterhaven and drove on into Yuma for supper. Afterward Steve asked if there was there anything I wanted to do before we headed home. I said no... it didn’t make much sense to pay sixteen bucks to go see a movie when we could watch high speed chases in the BLM land from the comfort of our rig.
We came to the area for dental work and quickly learned that finding a dentist in Los Algodones isn’t difficult. There are more than 250 of them in the area according to a website. And many of our fellow RVers had already dealt with the system so they all had someone to recommend. This was good.
We crossed the border with a list we had accumulated. The street into town is lined with young men holding out handfuls of more advertisements and information about dentists and maps to show where they are located.
Some dentists were booked for the current week and we preferred not to wait until the next week. A receptionist in one of our stops suggested one who might not be as busy, so we headed there. Scrunched in behind a crowded row of sidewalk vendors we found the office. We found out that we could be seen that week, in fact if we could wait a sort time the dentist could do a consultation that day! Wow.
So we took turns in the dentist chair. Steve sat patiently in the waiting room while the dentist worked on me... but when he was in the dentist chair I went shopping!
Another day after picking up our mail in Winterhaven we headed on in to explore Yuma a bit. It’s been a while since we were there, but it was our lucky evening. As we passed the Marine Base we noticed the AV-8 Harrier jet aircraft was practicing vertical take-offs and landings. We had seen it perform at an air show a couple of years ago, but did not get to see it take-off or land. That process is awesome.
While awaiting the removal of temporary caps and installation of the permanent ones we spent several days visiting with friends Gayle and Buddy Lee. Our east side of Yuma friends... the Roger and Diane, Pat and Bill, Norm and Marge... had all snowbirded north by the time we got here.
Gayle and Buddy always have suggestions for a new and yummy place to eat Friday’s supper. The next day we all went to see Sahara at a new movie complex and then had mid afternoon breakfast at a fifties diner. Sunday the Lees invited us for dinner at there place in the Cocopah RV Resort. They have expanded their park model so it is roomy enough to enjoy and yet easy enough to maintain and still have time to do all the fun activities in the park.
Monday we went back across to the dentist and had our permanent caps installed. That completed all the work we wanted to get at this time, but we decided to wait a day to see if everything settled in well in our mouths. The park was peaceful, the weather was pleasant and high winds were predicted for the next few days.
Friday morning was calm so we hitched up and headed west along the 8 and north, choosing the route to the west side of Salton Sea. When we reached the 10 the wind was back as we had expected in the canyon we call ‘the wind tunnel’. Gasoline prices are a new form of dieting... you think if you don’t have fries, a desert or large soda you will be able to buy another half gallon of gas!!
Except for encroaching smog and heavy traffic, the climb up the hills from ‘down below’ to the Antelope Valley was pleasant because the hills were greener than we had ever seen them. But we decided that coming up through Twenty Nine Palms, Yucca Valley and Landers is our favorite way to go... just too much traffic down below.
And now we are parked with full hook-ups, including cable and internet faster than our satellite service in the Crawford RV Park, Space A, in Lancaster, California.