Heading to Yuma

We left our hotel in Tucson at 7:45 am and headed toward Yuma, Arizona. Yuma is a couple miles east of the Arizona/California border and is a border town with Mexico.

On our drive from Tucson we saw a lot of irrigated farm land in what had been a desert. This water comes from the Colorado River.

We took I-8 that runs south of Phoenix. We stopped for a potty break at an exit at Gila Bend. The rest rooms were pit toilets. Two “facilities” (one-holers) were both marked both men and women. Whoever was next in line took the next open facility (think: extra large, permanent johnny-on-the-spots). No “men finished – 12 women still in line” in Arizona. There was no water to wash hands and the sanitizer was out but all “scholars” travel with our own less-than-3.4-ounce bottles so I was covered. Plenty of TP and fairly clean so I was “relieved”.

I-8 mostly follows the first railroad in Arizona, the Southern Pacific. In 1877 Collis Huntington’s new railroad ran east from Los Angeles to Fort Yuma. It was extended to Tucson by 1880 and eventually went all the way to New Orleans. It was known as the Sunset Route and carried both passengers and freight.

Can you see what is odd in the picture above (besides my handwriting)? For a small stretch of I-8 the east bound lanes (opposing traffic) are on our right hand side. Think about it – in the US and most of the world, except most United Kingdom countries, the opposing traffic is always to the left. Our guide claims this is the only place on the Interstate system this happens. Does anyone know otherwise?

We ate lunch in downtown Yuma at Lute’s Casino. Lute’s is not actually a casino. It is a hole-in-the-wall pool hall/domino parlor/restaurant/bar with LOTS of character. Although it looks fairly tame from the downtown main street side (above) the entrance from the parking area where we entered was an alleyway arched with a “Lute’s Casino: Where the Elite Meet to Eat” sign with a rather imposing wooden hombre welcoming patrons.

Lutes is in a building constructed in 1901 as a grocery on the street level and a hotel above. From about 1920 to about 1945 it was the Casino Billiard Parlor. Then about 1945 “Cocky” Powers acquired it but borrowed $10,000 from RH Lutes. Powers couldn’t pay off the loan so Lutes acquired it. He added tables for dominos and began serving food. In about 1959 or 1960 his son and current owner, Bobby Lutes, took over and acquired the next door shop to enlarge the place. He also added a wall of pinball machines that are still there. About this time he began collecting “memorabilia”. He calls the décor “early eclectic” or “interesting junk” and it is floor to ceiling – and on the ceiling. I was so overwhelmed as I wandered through the place looking at the stuff that I forgot to take pictures inside!

The menu was typical bar food with a mix of Mexican and American. Several women in our group ordered the Caesar Salad with chicken and it was huge. I had chicken quesadillas that were very good. The menu included hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, Polish kraut dogs, tuna melts, pastrami Rueben, fish & chips, grilled ham & cheese, etc., etc., etc. The Special, “since 1951”, is a cheeseburger and hot dog combination. They suggest topping it with their homemade salsa. I have to say a word about the waitress. This woman obviously is an experienced pro. I imagine many tour bus groups stop here. She handled all 24 of our orders pretty much alone. Unfortunately, the kitchen had trouble keeping up.

Although this is not a destination place, if you are anyway near the area it is worth a stop. And plan to stay a couple hours just to gawk.