Lake Havasu City

Finally, I got the call I’ve been waiting for. My replacement clutch cable was in at River Rat Motorsports. They’d said it would take one to five business days, and it took two. Consider me satisfied. That call came in literally while I was waiting to pick up my former neighbor Kendrick’s mail, who went there for a job so quickly he forgot to get it before he went. Also, Birgit and Tom returned for a couple of days before continuing their journey around Arizona. Between them and Melinda, someone would always be at camp, which meant I could leave my bike there and drive the van unencumbered. The stars had aligned. It was time for my first adventure since arriving in Quartzsite.

It felt good to be on the road again. Route 95 north to Parker is a boring straight shot, just putting miles behind me at 65 mph. After Parker, it gets a lot more interesting, with curves and hills through the mountains. It’s very scenic, and fun to drive, even in a big old van like mine. Admittedly, it did handle a bit better than I’m used to without 400 pounds of motorcycle hanging off the back.

My first stop was River Rat Motorsports, who had my cable — two, actually, so that I never have to go through this again — and no trouble at all. 10/10, would buy again. I met Kendrick at a Culver’s down the street. He kindly bought me lunch for bringing him his mail. We talked about all kinds of stuff (we have many common interests) for a while, then I went on to explore the city.

Lake Havasu City is a very new place. It’s only existed since 1963! Being from New England, any town established after 1800 is new for me, so this is unheard of in my experience. In 1968, when the famous London Bridge was being replaced, city founder Robert P. McCulloch bought it. He had it dismantled, transported to the Arizona desert, and rebuilt exactly as it was before. Why? Who knows. It’s become the second most popular tourist attraction in Arizona, though, after only the Grand Canyon. Contrary to popular belief, London Bridge is not falling down. I even drove across it.

What struck me most about Lake Havasu City is that it didn’t seem to have any real character. Again, blame my upbringing in quaint New England towns, but it seemed to me that this place just exploded in the middle of the desert with one of every kind of store you can think of. There are a lot of RV parks — snooty ones — and the local Walmart does not allow overnight parking. There’s plentiful BLM land just outside town, so finding a place to spend the night isn’t a hardship for people like me. That was my plan, in fact, followed by returning to Quartzsite in the morning to fix my bike.

Despite all the hype, though, the town just wasn’t doing it for me. As thrilled as I was to go into a Safeway and fully restock my pantry, fridge, and freezer with more than the slim pickings I can find in Quartzsite, I just didn’t feel any great need to stick around. I checked the time, ran some calculations, and found that I could get back to Quartzsite a little bit before sunset. I felt fresh enough to drive another 90 minutes, so off I went.

A bit before rolling into Parker, I saw signs pointing to Parker Dam in half a mile. I made a few more quick calculations, determined that I had time for a short side trip, and took a detour.

Parker Dam is 155 miles down the Colorado River from its big brother, Hoover Dam. Built in the 1930s, it’s the reason why Lake Havasu exists. The road across the dam is still open, though it’s quite narrow since it was built to 1930s standards. Big signs warn that trucks and RVs won’t fit. This was one of those times that despite its legal classification as an RV, it was still a van, and fit across just fine — barely. I pulled over on the California side for a photo opportunity, then went back to Route 95, and as predicted got back to camp just in time for sunset. I even made it to a gathering at The Lit Cactus.

I have no regrets about making the trip to Lake Havasu. Kendrick had offered to pick up and bring down my clutch cables, saving me the trip, but I wanted to see it for myself. Now I’ve done that, and really have no reason to go back unless I need something that only one of the stores there can provide. One thing I did notice, though, is numerous trails crisscrossing the desert throughout the BLM land there. It might be fun to load up the bike, camp out there for a weekend, and go exploring. First, though, I have to fix the bike.

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