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WEARING DOWN THE TREADS WITH THE COLEYS - A WRONG TURN, A DAY I

  • A WRONG TURN, A DAY IN PRISON, BOBO & MORE

    APRIL 13, 2021

    Hello again!  It’s been so long since I blogged, that I had to go back to February’s issue to see where I left off.  We have been BUSY between then and now!

    When we last chatted, I told you that we had taken the 3:10 to Yuma.  Wweeeellll…the day started out EXTREMELY foggy!  We could only see about twenty feet in front of us.  We probably should have turned around and gone back home, but we ventured forth. 

     

    Due to the heavy fog, we missed our turn to Yuma and drove 130 miles in the wrong direction. I kept saying, “I’m not seeing any mileage signs telling us how far it is to Yuma”. But, we kept trucking.  After an hour or so, the sun finally burned away the fog and the rest of the day was gorgeous.  The landscape along the way was beautiful:

     

     

     

    We stopped to snap some pics at Organ Pipe National Park just before heading into Aho, AZ:

    Though we were headed in the wrong direction, the drive was lovely and we drove through the towns of Gila Bend, Aho, Why and Lukeville before seeing the Wall and the “Entering Mexico” sign.

     

     

    Not wanting to enter Mexico, there was a small gas station just this side of the border where we pulled in just to turn around.  I told George that we’ll probably create suspicion for making the U-Turn and the Federals will be chasing us down.  They didn’t.

    So we headed back and found the first direction sign stating, “Yuma”, made the turn and drove the 155 miles to Yuma.  The drive to Yuma wasn’t as pretty along the route.

    YUMA, AZ:  Since we’d pretty much wasted half the day, we didn’t get to see all the sites of Yuma before things closed down, but I really wanted to see the old prison.  When we pulled into town, we saw the Southern Pacific train engine next to the Hilton Garden Inn.  Note the house number.  AND, just as we were getting out of the truck, George looked at his phone and the time was 3:10 pm…all in reference to the movie, “3:10 to Yuma”.

     

    The view from the train shows mountains, desert and the Colorado River:

     

    The Ocean to Ocean Bridge was the first vehicle bridge built to cross the Colorado River from Arizona to California.  It is still a one-lane crossing.  There are traffic lights at both ends to direct traffic and a pedestrian walkway on both sides. 

    YUMA TERRITORIAL PRISON:  Located at 220 N. Prison Hill Road, Yuma, AZ the prison was open for thirty-three years, holding 3,069 prisoners for crimes ranging from polygamy to murder.  Twenty-nine of them were women.  Prisoners were forced into labor, building their own of the prison.  The first seven prisoners entered on July 1, 1876 and due to overcrowding, the last prisoners left in 1909 for the newly constructed Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, AZ.

    Yuma Union High School burned down in 1910 and the board rented four of the prison’s structures until 1914.  The school’s athletic teams became known as “The Criminals”.  The facility was then utilized by the county hospital until 1923.  The Southern Pacific Railroad demolished part of the prison to build tracks in 1924.  Train-riding hobos and homeless families stayed in the cells during the Great Depression.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars leased the guard's quarters in 1931 and used it as their clubhouse until 1960.

    Local residents began raising funds for renovation of the prison in 1939 and the guard tower and museum were constructed.  The City of Yuma operated the facilities until 1960 when they sold it to the Parks Board for one dollar and it was opened to the public in 1961.

    The Yuma Territorial Prison has been featured in several movies including, "Three-Ten to Yuma" in 1953, "3:10 to Yuma" in 1957 and remade in 2007, "26 Men" in 1957 and one episode of the TV show, “Bonanza”.  

      

    Once known as the “Country Club of Colorado”, with electricity, two bathtubs and three showers, forced ventilation, a library with 2,000 books, an enlightened and progressive administration and a prison band, the prison had more modern amenities than most of the homes in Yuma.

       

    The Dark Cell was pitch black inside.  I could feel the desolation those prisoners felt inside there.  Imagine complete darkness, wearing a ball and chain and snakes being dropped from above and slithering around you.  I shiver at that thought.  The cage in the photo below is the size of each of the cells.  They held six inmates with three stacked bunks on each side with no other furniture, no toilet, except for a bucket that was emptied once a day and no wash bowl.  It was very, very hot inside those cells.

     

    The prison was also known as the "Hell Hole". Prisoners hated and feared the Territorial Prison, beause of the insufferable heat, that made the place an inferno.  It was surrounded by rivers, quicksand and desert in every direction.  Standard punishment was an inhumane "Snake Den" (snakes inside the Dark Room) while wearing a ball and chain.  Tuberculosis was rampant and the prison was impossible to escape.

    Here are some pics from inside the museum:

    Below are some photos of some of the most notorious inmates of the prison:

    Our prison guide, the prison bell and a pic of one of the cell ceilings:

    Learn more about the Yuma Territorial Prison at www.yumaprison.org.  George and I were accidentally captured on a YouTube video at the prison.  If you fast forward to 9:34, you’ll see us in LivinRVision’s latest installment.  A Few Installs & Updates | Then We're Going to Prison! - YouTube

    ESTRELLA STAR TOWER:  George and I took a short drive toward the Estrella Mountain Regional Park to visit the spiral tower located at 8175 South Hillside Drive, Goodyear, AZ. It was designed as a spiral configuration resembling the shape of the Milky Way constellation. The feature is a tribute to the area’s many historical stargazing cultures. 

        

    We leisurely strolled along a tranquil pathway with bridges and man-made streams and a waterfall then climbed the fifty foot tower. There are steps.  We could see beautiful views for miles.

     

     

    SUPERBOWL 55:  Some of the folks in our park got together for the big day with corn hole and lots of food.  Everyone in this group is Covid-19 aware.  They rarely leave  the park, only to pick up groceries or restaurant take out, so we felt very safe.  What a fun day!!

     

     

    Here are three stages of the sunset that evening.  What a great ending for a great day!

    BOBO THE BABY CAMEL:  The park held a family day and there were dozens of kiddies in the park.  The main feature was Bobo.  He is a rescue.  He was just too, too cute.  And loud.  LOL

    SPRING CLEANING:  We’ve been doing some pitching of items that we have found we don’t need.  There was a “garage sale” in the park and we parted with quite a few items.  I’ve gone through every cabinet, closet and the pantry.  We’re trying to use up as much as possible, as our departure date of May 20th is approaching. 

    We’ll be heading back to Rantoul, IL.  That is the half-way point for family visitation and we’ll also be “work camping”, which means that I’ll be in the office a few hours per week and George will get bathroom duty.  Free camping is a good thing.  We CANNOT wait to see family!  We miss our kids.

    WHAT’S NEXT:  George is mapping out our route back to Illinois so that we don’t repeat where we’ve already been.  Since the Covid thing, we want to halt traveling this summer and spend time with family in Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana before we come back to Arizona next November.  Hopefully, the world will begin turning again and we can resume traveling next summer.

    So, that’s all for now.  We’ll keep you informed.  Stay safe, be happy!

    Pam and George