It turns out there are a cornucopia of reasons to stop in Yuma beyond refueling your rig and taking a potty pit stop on the way to San Diego. Yuma County, the nation's supplier of winter lettuce, greens and vegetables is promoting agritourism to give visitors a fresh taste of its bounty.
Foodies can take farm tours, pick vegetables and then enjoy a farm-to-table lunch prepared with the vegetables they picked by culinary students at Arizona Western College. There's also "date night in a date grove" and tours of area date farms.
Yuma boasts that its the sunniest place on the planet, which is a good reason to visit in the winter, spring or fall when the rays feel warm but aren't scorching your skin.
An early Yuma hotel operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad advertised that meals were free for guests if the sun did not shine on a particular day.
Other area attractions include the Castle Dome City Mining Museum and ghost town, Yuma Territorial Prison and the Colorado River State Historic Park. The state park features restored buildings of the Quartermaster depot that supplied military forts in the Arizona Territory from 1865-83.
There's also a state park exhibit about the Plank Road -- a boardwalk for cars across the sand dunes west of Yuma in use from 1915 to 1926. A preserved section of the Plank Road is 12 miles west of Yuma at the BLM Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, south of Interstate 8. The dunes attract a swarm of ATV enthusiasts who camp in their toy-hauler trailers.
Visitors can rent a bicycle at the state historic park to ride bike paths along the river and explore downtown Yuma.
The Castle Dome City Mining Museum is about an hour northeast of Yuma and 10 miles off of US 95 at Milepost 55. It's a collection of dozens of buildings and hundreds of relics from mines in what is now the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. The exhibits are well staged and it's worth the trek out to this remote desert site where silver and lead were mined starting in the 1860s.
Another area attraction is the Yuma Proving Ground where visitors can take a tour to witness firing of some of the military's big guns. And for a quieter exprience, Yuma has restored its riverfront along the Colorado with bike and walking trails, and a revived wetlands area that attracts hundreds of bird species.
The river crossing is the historic reason for the town's existence. The landmark Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge, completed in 1915, was a vital crossing of the Colorado River. Visit the city's Gateway Park at the foot of the bridge to see the river and the wildlife it attracts.
Another historic span, is the McPhaul Bridge, north of Yuma near milepost 38 on US 95. It's an 800-foot suspension bridge built over the Gila River in 1929 and used for nearly 40 years before it was replaced. The bridge is within walking distance of the Farm, a market with fresh produce, tacos and vintage collectibles.
Mexican food, like Yuma climate, is hot
In Yuma, we tried and loved the red chile chicken enchiladas at the Chile Pepper restaurant, which Juan and Bessie Gutierrez opened at a different location in 1954. The family also operates Mr. G's.
Duron's El Zarape Grill, 1905 W. Eighth St., is another good homegrown Mexican food stop.
There are a number of bars and restaurants in early 20th century buildings in downtown Yuma. Grab a burger and play pool at Lute's Casino. Try the Prison Hill Brewing Co. for Jailbait Blonde or a Grand Theft Hefe.
Grab some cocktails and play pool with the locals down the block at Red's Bird Cage Saloon. And it goes without saying that you have to pack your sense of Yuma when you visit.
One other footnote in the town's history: Yuma was a hitching post for Californians in a rush to get married from the 1920s into the 50s. California had a 3-day waiting period for couples to marry, a so-called gin marriage law. That prompted lovebirds to travel US 80 to Yuma to exchange vows at the town's wedding chapels.