February, 9, 1999
After spending two great weeks on BLM land south of Quartzsite, AZ we decided it was getting way too crowded. The traffic on Highway 95, the only way from our LTVA camp area to town, was backed almost six miles one day and at least a mile or two every day since. We decided that the next time we visited we would stay north of town on the BLM land there. There are more options from that end of town because the 'permanent' part of the town is there with houses and streets and back roads to get around on. Then even if the main roads were clogged you wouldn't be trapped.
On Thursday morning we hitched up in LaPosa South/Tyson Wash, south of Quartzsite, AZ, and hit the road heading north on highway 95. Traffic was not too bad, it only took us about 25 minutes to get through.
We stopped in Parker to get gasoline. Where ATM's don't work at the pump I usually go in to have the pump turned on for a fill-up. I told the woman that I would stay as collateral if she'd turn on the pump by the brown pickup. She stretched to look over me to see where and then chuckled and said "I guess we get to keep you... he just drove off!" Cute. People are really easy-going and tourist-oriented around here.
We had planned to go to Buckskin Mountain State Park but since it was only about an hour from where we had been, and since we had stayed longer at Quartzsite than we had planned, we decided, instead, to continue on to Lake Havasu City. That's about all it takes to change our minds or make decisions these days!
The country between Parker and Lake Havasu City is totally different and totally beautiful. The hills/mountains and canyons are incredible ... like the and before time on one side of the road and the beautiful river with cabins or cottages, houseboats, yachts and docks on the other side of the road. I love this country!
We got one of the last two vacant spots in the State Park here ... and one of the best, I think. The spaces are first come first served and people who just want a place to overnight off the highway are sometimes relegated to one of the huge day-use parking lots. It's dry camping anyway so all they really lack is the 'privacy' of a real space and the picnic table that goes with each. There are no hook-ups for anyone but the camp hosts.
We are just across the road from the lake and the view is only hampered by a tall, dense stand of brush, but there is a nice wide path through it to the water and a lot of other trails and hiking places to enjoy the outdoors. After settling in and having lunch we went to find the London Bridge. Now there's a fascinating story.
A businessman/entrepreneur named Robert Paxton McCulloch saw potential in the Havasu Lake area when he flew over it several times on business.
His business was the McCulloch chainsaw company. He purchased a huge (26 square miles) plot of desolate land on the Arizona side of the lake for $73.47 per acre. He was a world champion hydroplane racer, the inventor of the 'personal' chain saw and he had inherited a considerable sum of money from his grandfather. He and a friend, C.V. Wood, decided they needed a hook to get people to come to the area and buy land from them and build homes. About that time the London Bridge was put up for sales.
The bridge had been sinking into the earth at the rate of 1 inch every eight years and Londoners knew it had to be replaced. McCulloch made a deal to buy it. His was not the lowest bid, but London liked the idea that their bridge would be going from one of the oldest cities in the world to one of the newest. The price was set at $2,460,000. And the bridge became the largest antique ever sold. That was April 1968.
The bridge is 1,005 feet long and contains 22 million pounds of granite blocks.It took three years to dismantle it, ship it 7000 miles by boat and truck (300 miles from Long Beach, CA to Havasu, AZ) and put it back together again. It was complete by October 1971.
Interestingly, the bridge has five arches and the location McCulloch had chosen was a large peninsula into the lake. Five great mounds of earth were built up, on the peninsula desert, to support the arches as the bridge was reconstructed. When finished a channel was dredged out beneath the arches letting the water of the lake flow under it into the bay the peninsula had created on the downstream side decades ago. Now the peninsula is an island connected to Arizona by the London Bridge. When rebuilding it, steel supports were added, and solid footers, to assure that it will last forever and never again sink into the earth.
However, the bridge is just two-lane which was sufficient at the time, but now another bridge is being considered due to the amount of traffic at this tourist attraction.
Lake Havasu (the lake) became a wide spot on the Colorado River when Parker Dam was built in the thirties. Havasu means blue water and that's what color it truly is on sunny days... which is about 360 days a year.
Lake Havasu City was a favorite boating and fishing starting place for many, but McCulloch made it into a tourist attraction and retirement community plus. For many years McCulloch chainsaws were manufactured here. The local Economic Development Corp. says that NAFTA fixed that.
The Chamber of Commerce says local industry still includes boat and motor manufacturing, but construction is the biggest employer and tourism is second. McCulloch bought (and then resold building lots) on the gradual upgrade of the desert from the Colorado to the Hualapai Mountains giving almost all property owners some sort of beautiful view.
Shopping Centers hug the Highway 95 corridor and seem to be thriving. Multiple story (skyscrapers?) hotels are plentiful and seem to be well occupied. Unfortunately some of these tall buildings block the view of the Bridge from the highway and a lot of the other local roads.
There are not many 'regular' trees, they are mostly palm trees or shrub types. There are more and larger trees on the California side of the lake. Lawns are non existent. Yards are covered with smooth stones smaller than rocks but larger than gravel. Golf courses stand out because they are bright green spots in the desert... sometimes just a green spot at the tee and another at the green with splotchy areas along the fairways. It is beautiful, in a rugged, desolate sort of a way.
Sunrise and sunsets are outstanding... and almost daily!! It rained the first day we were here and sprinkled some the next night, but that was nice, we haven't seen rain since Lancaster, except for about 37 drops in Quartzsite one day.
We drove up through Bullhead City (AZ) and Laughlin (NV) one day to check it out. RV parks there are usually packouts. There are some really nice ones though. One county park is next to the river just below Davis Dam where the water is always smooth and clear and deep.
Saturday and Sunday we stayed pretty close to Lake Havasu City and the campground. We had missed sunsets because of cloudiness or because we were not around but Saturday there was a great one for us to see.
Saturday afternoon we sat on the beach with our lawn chairs, table and umbrella. It was great! The middle of February and the lake was filled with boats. A ferryboat made regular runs from the London Bridge landing to the casino across the lake in California.
Sunday we went to what is advertised as the 'world famous' London Bridge Swap Meet and then looked up Wal Mart to get some film developed and get a battery for the video camera. We picked up some lunch at a drive thru and headed back to our 'beach house'. Spent the afternoon watching the wildlife which consisted of four bunnies, and flocks of quail, house finches, sparrows, starlings, doves and four or five frisky little chipmunks! I tried taping them but mostly it was just fun to watch them fight over the lettuce, carrots and wild bird seed we had gotten for them.
Monday we hitched up and moved to Spirit Mountain RV Park... in Mohave Valley, AZ... where we have our own telephone service for a week!!!!! Not to mention water, sewage and electricity! .... and all the Bingo we can endure! It's an Indian Casino RV Park. We can spy for the one in Colusa since they are planning an RV park.
It's Tuesday now and we are settled in at the new place. Steve is carving and I am finishing this up to get it out. I am trying to figure out how I can get the telephone and both computer hooked up to the phone line. I have some email on the laptop and some on my big computer and it's all very confusing!!
The wind is blowing here and the television says there is lots of rain in northern California. I'll take the wind. It is unusually warm for the season according to the TV weather forecaster.
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Last modified on: February, 11 1999.