Back in Lake Havasu City Again

With family and friends residing in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we find Lake Havasu City a convenient place to stop when traveling to and from California. We had a special reason to roll into town on November 2, 2019. My sister’s daughter and granddaughter were coming in from Missouri for a visit. We couldn’t pass up a chance to see the baby in person for the first time.

Our grandniece, Amelia, entertained us with her good humor and smiling face while we ate our lunch at the Blue Chair. The Blue Chair at the English Village is a great place for a meal with a view of the London Bridge and boats navigating through the canal.

What you doin’ over there, Uncle Jon?

Amelia entertained not only us, but also the waitress and other diners nearby. She has a way of smiling with her whole body that invites a person in to take notice and bask in her sunshine of happiness.

Our niece Jessi and grandniece Amelia
Amelia kept up the smiles the entire time we ate our lunch
I’ll have what you’re having

Lake Havasu Museum

As many times as we have been to LHC, we had never ventured near the museum. This trip was our opportunity. The self-guided tour starts with honoring the people who resided in the area before the US government forced them into reservations during the 1860s and 1870s. On display are individual stories about the Mojave, the People by the River, and the Chemehuevi, the Special People, and artifacts from their time.

Native peoples lived here before the Europeans arrived
Try your hand at grinding grain

Parker Dam was built between 1934 and 1938, creating Lake Havasu. The construction brought jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression, generated electricity and provided water for aqueducts that quenched the thirst of agricultural, industrial, and residents arriving in the Arizona desert.

Building the Parker Dam

Evidence suggests that Mexican miners worked in the mountains and the backcountry of Lake Havasu City as early as the 1830s. In 1857, Anglos discovered gold and mining continues to this day. Local prospectors often find a few nuggets using a method called placer mining, or sifting through gravel to find pieces of gold.

Mining then and now

Site Six was built during WWII as an emergency landing strip and later used as an R&R facility for Air Force personnel. Later it was purchased by McCulloch and used for testing his outboard motors. The city now operates a recreational boating facility on the property within the Lake Havasu State Park.

World War II Site Six

While looking at the display about Lake Havasu City history, one of the volunteers told us stories about the early years. She and her husband arrived in 1971 when he took over the practice of a retiring certified public accountant.

A city grows

She told us how Robert P. McCulloch arrived in Lake Havasu City in 1958 in search of a test center for his outboard motors and how his company, McCulloch Properties Inc., purchased 16,250 acres from the State of Arizona in 1963 for $73.00 per acre. The rocky undeveloped land became the city built on the shores of Lake Havasu.

The business that started it all
Promotional articles brought investors to Lake Havasu City

In 1968, Robert P. McCulloch purchased the London Bridge at a cost of $2,460,000. It took another $7 million and three years to label the granite bricks with markings indicating their arch span, row number, and position; ship the 10,000 tons of granite across the ocean, through the Panama Canal, and into the desert; and put the bridge together again. To allow for traffic over the bridge, the granite bricks encase a hollow core of steel-reinforced concrete. The channel where water flows under the bridge was dug out to create the island.

Museum display about the London Bridge

On October 10, 1971, the London Bridge was celebrated with fanfare that included skydivers, fireworks, marching bands, hot air balloons and a meal fit for King William IV who unveiled the original bridge in London in 1831. London’s Lord May attended along with actor Robert Mitchum and Dan Rowan of the Rowan & Martin comedy duo on television’s Laugh-In.

Although many thought McCulloch’s bridge was a waste of money and a boondoggle, it turned out to be a clever marketing scheme that grew the city from only a few hundred people in the early 1960s to 10,000 by 1974 and brought in visitors totaling two million.

The docent made sure to point out the heads on stakes displayed in the middle of the building. They represented people in London who King Henry VIII had ordered beheaded for their crimes. The king may have only perceived the people guilty and found his orders as a means to dispose of his enemies. In any case, displaying the heads on a 1500s version of the London Bridge was used as a crime deterrent.

Heads on a stake

The second head from the left represents Thomas Cromwell who died in 1540. He was King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister who supervised the English Church’s break with the Catholic Church. After arranging for the king’s marriage to the German Princess, Ann of Cleves, his fourth wife, the king blamed Cromwell for the marriage to Ann because she was not attractive. Cromwell was jailed on trumped-up charges and condemned to death without trial. His beheading occurred on the day the king married Katherine Howard, his fifth of six wives.

Red Onion and a Walk to Gawk at Classic Cars

On a late Thursday afternoon, we drove downtown for lunch at the Red Onion. While there, classic car owners rolled up to show off their rides, drink beer, grab a bite to eat, and engage in car talk. Food trucks were also on hand to feed the hungry.

Visit Red Onion Restaurant for breakfast or lunch
Chrome reflection
Pontiac GTO
Come on, let’s go for a ride
Look at that shine

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

We headed out to Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge one evening to snap a few photos of the sunset. Although not spectacular, I had fun playing with the tripod and settings on my camera.

Bill Williams Bridge
Lake Havasu beyond the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge
The colors really popped after the sunset

Visiting Lake Havasu City

Boredom is something that no one needs to worry about in Lake Havasu. With over 300 annual events throughout the year, there is always something happening: London Bridge Days, Winterfest Street Festival, Balloon Festival, music festivals, Parade of Boats, Buses by the Bridge, fishing tournaments, Havasu 95 Speedway, rodeos, and much more. Other activities include golfing, fishing, exploring the backcountry, or taking the ferry across the lake to Havasu Landing Casino. Oldsters, youngsters, and in-betweeners will find something to keep them busy.

Next stop: Lake Mead

Safe Travels

Late Spring 2019 Tour

Week One – Kickoff

Aah! It feels good to be back on the road exploring these great United States. Between heart surgery and recovery for me, and sciatic nerve pain for Jon, we were ready to roll.

We pointed at the landscape that zoomed by as we left the Bay Area. “Look over there,” I said. “The hills were still green in the Tri-Valley. At the Altamont Pass they turned the color of a teddy bear.” Further on, the fruit and nut trees along Interstate 5 had already leafed out, and newly planted crops painted the San Joaquin Valley floor in patchwork fashion.

We stopped for the night at our favorite way station in Bakersfield, the Orange Grove RV Park. Dove calls, the chip-chip-chip of quail, and the trilling and singing of other birds welcomed us to the grove. Sure, we have birds in the Bay Area, but the abundance of birds nestled in the orange trees was like a chorus.

Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, California

Guests are allowed to pick the fruit when in season so long as they don’t use ladders or climb in the trees.

It seems like we are seeing more and more solar panels in use where ever we go.

Solar Panels at Orange Grove RV Park

The next day, we continued oohing and aahing over the landscape. The sage, bristlebush, creosote, Joshua trees, and grasses colored the desert terrain green. Even yellow mustard still bloomed in the higher elevations.

A train of black tankers with double engines at the head, mid-train, and rear worked its way through Tehachapi pass. We wanted to know what the tankers held, where they were going, and where they began their journey. Our curiosity and taste for adventure returned quickly after the nine-month absence.

Lake Havasu City (LHC) came next so we could say hey to my sister Merri. Unfortunately, she had to work so we didn’t get to spend much time together during our three nights there. A breakfast meet-up at The Red Onion downtown and a quick goodbye at her place of business would have to suffice. We’ll have to make sure our next visit coincides with her days off.

A mural in downtown Lake Havasu City

One day while in LHC, Jon and I walked along the channel south of the London Bridge.

Lake Havasu City is home to replica famous lighthouses from across the United States. This one is of Currituck Beach Lighthouse constructed along the channel walkway.
The channel is a great place to boat and people watch
These little blackbirds are a common sight
JT taking a rest with the London Bridge in the background

We stopped in at Kokomo. A refreshing Mai Tai and a slice or two of pizza was the perfect snack.

Kokomo is not only a place to get drinks. You can play corn hole, drop a basketball in a trash barrel or jump in the pool for a game of volleyball.

Then we wandered about before making our way back to Rotary Park. It was a good thing the walkway included plenty of benches to sit and take a break in the shade. After almost a week of very little sciatica, Jon had trouble walking without pain for more than a few yards. We discussed turning back home, but he would not hear of it so we pressed on.

Love locks at the top of London Bridge
Trees are a welcome sight in 100-degree weather in Lake Havasu City
Closer view of the London Bridge

The weather forecast for May 19 predicted a high wind advisory for the state of Arizona and rain the next day in Cortez, Colorado, where we had reservations. We decided to skedaddle and called Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA for early arrival.

But before we left LHC, we stopped in to say goodbye to my Merri.

Bye, Merri. It was great to see you. Miss you already.

We made an overnight stay in Tuba City, Arizona, at the Quality Inn and RV park, and a quick stop at Four Corners Monument the next day.

Four Corners Monument
Photo op at Four Corners Monument

Then we arrived safe and sound at the KOA.

Site 46 at Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA
A bit of yard art at the KOA
View from the Cortez high school parking lot

Our decision to arrive early turned out perfect. Snuggled in our fifth wheel on Monday, May 20, we gazed out at RVers arriving, not in the rain as forecast, but in the snow. The freak storm surprised the park operators as much as it did us. Accuweather.com sure got it wrong. It wasn’t until late in the day the app actually acknowledged that snow had fallen.

Three little cabins sitting in the snow
A bit of green among all the white

The snow stopped after about four hours. I zipped up my jacket, pulled on my knit cap, and slung my new Sony A6500 around my neck. I needed some quality time with my new camera. The smaller form factor and weight was my goal for purchasing new gear. A bonus was the 5-axis in camera stabilization. I wasn’t sure I’d like going mirrorless. But so far I’m quite pleased with the lighter weight and stabilization. I rarely use a tripod and have noticed an improvement in the sharpness of my photos. Editing the raw images also seems easier and quicker.

Canon Rebel T3i with Tamron 16 to 300 zoom lens versus the Sony A6500 with 18 to 135 lens. Which would you rather carry around?
Ice on a branch
The snow melted fast once it quit falling
Little yellow wagon in the snow
Playground at Denny Park
Denny Lake with campsites in background
From 90 degrees in Lake Havasu to 30 degrees in Cortez, Colorado

For the past few days, we’ve stayed close to camp because of the weather, but also because of the return of Jon’s sciatica. The week before we left on this trip, Jon’s pain had eased considerably with physical therapy and exercises. After being on the road for a few days, the beast struck again. His walks of a 1/2 mile to a mile have reduced to a few steps. Will acupuncture give him some relief? “I’m ready to try anything at this point,” Jon answered.

Stay tuned for the results and a little bit about Mesa Verde National Park, if we’re lucky.

Safe Travels

Lake Havasu and Beyond

A visit with family and friends in Lake Havasu City AZ was the perfect place to kick-off our winter 2017 travel. With San Antonio TX selected as our ultimate destination, we only had to figure out which route to take and what we wanted to see on the way.

We selected Prospectors RV Resort as our home for four nights in Havasu. Prospectors offers paved streets, large graveled sites with room enough for off-road vehicles alongside the RVs, spotless bathrooms and all the amenities expected by the long-term winter visitor.

London Bridge is an icon in Havasu. The original bridge built in the 1830’s in London was dismantled and rebuilt in Havasu by Robert P. McCulloch as a tourist attraction for the town he founded in the mid-sixties. Today the city boasts a population of approximately 53,000. Havasu is a popular destination for RVers who live in colder climates (affectionately referred to as snowbirds), college students on spring break, and people who are passionate about watersports.

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As happened during the start of our spring and summer 2016 trips, truck trouble slapped us in the face when the check engine light illuminated. Visions of our two weeks stuck in Elko NV last summer came into view. The dealer got us in on Monday morning, and in the time it took us to eat breakfast at Rusty’s they had replaced a bad sensor, which was covered under warranty. Good thing we were back on the road so soon because Prospectors was booked solid and we would have had to leave whether we had a truck or not.

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Rusty’s Great Place for Breakfast

On January 17, we headed south on I95 and made a quick stop at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. Behind me on the hill is the Hillcrest Bay Development, which has fantastic views of the refuge.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was our planned stop for a few nights, but when we neared Gila Bend, we opted to stay the night at the Gila Bend KOA. We didn’t want to arrive too late at the monument’s campground since the spots are first-come-first-served. We had stayed at the KOA last year and were pleased to see that they continued with their improvements by putting in a pool, a patio behind the activity building, tent sites, and soon to arrive a new building to house restrooms and showers.

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Abandoned Building Near Gila Bend KOA

The next morning the campsites that greeted us at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Alpine Campground included wide long spots with plenty of natural habitat between them giving us the feeling that we were camping in the wild. An added bonus was that we had no neighbors beside us or across the road.

We ate lunch after our quick set up (no water, electrical or sewer hookups to worry about), and took the 1.3-mile trail to the visitors center where border patrol folks gave a talk on their responsibilities. The monument’s property extends to the border with Mexico and the visitor’s center is about five miles from the nearest crossing.

Besides the checkpoints on major highways, the border agents grade roads and paths that illegal immigrants and drug runners cross to identify locations where recent activity has occurred. They also use technology such as night vision, infrared, dogs, aircraft, and drones. It was interesting to learn that this border patrol region was responsible for the seizure of about 50% of all drugs seized in the United States and exceeds the illegal immigrants crossing the border.

Ever since Trump promised to “build a wall,” I’ve been worried about the 1,254-mile border between Mexico and Texas, which is defined by the Rio Grande River. Learning that border patrol will work with other departments to find the best solution should a wall be mandated gave me hope that the natural habitat and view along the Rio Grande border between Mexico and Texas may escape disastrous consequences.

Sprinkles woke us Thursday morning along with a little wind, but by 11:30 a.m. the sun was shining bright. We opted for the Desert View hike through Saguaros, Ocotillo, Palo Verde and other plants and cactus and shrubs. A cabana covered table was a great place to eat our tuna sandwiches after the hike before heading to the visitor center.

We arrived in time for a ranger talk on the leaf-cutting ants, Atta mexicana. It’s amazing that new colonies of the ants have increased over the years since only five of the 500 queens that fly out of the nest to mate manage to establish a colony. These ants form fungus, which is their fuel. They discard the leftovers outside of their nests, which provides nutrients to the neighboring plants in a symbiotic relationship.

Afterward, we drove the north Puerto Blanco Road where numerous saguaros grow. Like snowflakes and fingerprints, each saguaro has its own personality and no two are alike. Some grow arms out their tops some grow them low to the ground. Many sport baby arms that look like little fluffy balls next to their brothers and sisters outstretched arms.

Back at our campsite, the sky was ablaze. Smoke from a fire beyond the left side of the photo’s frame made it look like the setting sun was the center of the conflagration.

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There were plenty more hikes and things to see at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that we have to save for another trip. We didn’t bring our generator on this tour and our batteries required a fresh charge, so it was time to move on. Next stop? Benson AZ.

Safe travels.