Letters From a Bus
December 2007: Holiday Travels
6th entry for December
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Visiting the Walton's in Lake Havasu City, AZ

Lake Havasu City, AZ, Day Two at Havasu Falls RV Resort, Site: 76

Saturday, December 29, 2007 — Seven Months

We left Yuma on Thursday, December 27th.  Having sprained my right ankle the night before, I was little help in our preparations to leave the next morning.  During the night, as best I could I kept my foot up on a pillow with ice wrapped around my ankle.  The balloon swelling by my anklebone was reduced the next morning but the general swelling on the top of my foot and around the ankle was still considerable and very painful.  However, I was able to put enough weight on my foot to be able to move around the bus.

We got under way at 10:30 and waved goodbye to our marvelous Pet City lawn and also to the road that precipitated my fall.  Gingerly I propped my foot up on the dashboard and I continued to apply ice throughout the day.  Cocopah is situated southwest outside of town so we drove by the lettuce fields and the irrigation canal and back through the suburbs to our exit highway, US-95 E.  This we followed east and then north for the next 83 miles. 

At the SW edge of Cocopah facing north towards I-8 and the border of Yuma and Imperial Counties and the Fort Yuma-Quechan Reservation. Yuma, AZ 12/27/07
We leave the lettuce fields on the California/Mexico border and our Pet Area lawn heading towards downtown Yuma on W. Riverside Rd. alongside of the West Main Canal, a drain from the Colorado River. I prop my swollen foot up as best I can.
Headed east on US-95, we see newly set palm trees at an entrance to something big in the desert outskirts of Yuma. Shortly after, we approach an Inspection Station. They wave us through. What is their profile? What are they looking for? Fruit? Drugs? Illegals?
After we passed by the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, US-95 turned north to parallel the Colorado River and the California-Arizona border.

For awhile we followed an RV with the door handle left sticking out. Someone forgot to push it in. It will get knocked off on a tight right turn unless someone notices. I tried to signal to them when we passed but I don't think they noticed.

We passed through the Yuma Proving Grounds and the Kofa Mts. Nat'l Wildlife Refuge as we approached the famous RV dry camp mecca, Quartzsite.

We approach Quartzsite and notice the large number of RVs simply parked in the desert without hookups. There isn't much of a town but RVs are camped in the desert on all four sides of this well-known crossroads at US-95 and I-10. The green highway signs mark the intersection where I-10 crosses US-95.
We followed US-95 to join US-72 where we detoured west to Parker. At last we were able to glimpse the Colorado River.
Continuing north on the east side of the river, we cut through Buckskin Mountain State Park and came to Parker Dam.
From the dam northward there are RV parks situated all along the river on both sides. This is the mouth of the Bill Williams River in the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge.

Our trip from Yuma to Lake Havasu City was a short distance of 165 miles and we expected to arrive in the north part of town at Havasu Falls RV Resort about 2:00 PM.  However we traveled an extra twenty miles and arrived a half hour later because our destination RV park was very badly marked and our GPS did not recognize the street address, 3493 State Route 95 North.  I had called for directions and received some but they were not specific enough.  We swept by the address without knowing it. Once we passed the airport and knew we were out of town there was nowhere to turn around.  We had to go a long ways before we found a side road where Dennis pulled over and unhooked the car.  I drove up the side road to scout out a place for the bus to turn around.  Fortunately there was a little housing development at the top of the hill and a place for Dennis to make a big wide U-turn.  We talked on our cell phones and I waited until I saw Dennis make his turn.  Then we came back to US-95 and I continued to drive the Honda as we made left turns back towards Lake Havasu.  I called Havasu Falls again and got more directions and this time we managed to spot the entrance.  Although there is an entrance wall with a sign and palm trees, the entire entrance remained mysteriously invisible for the duration of our visit.  It was easy to miss.

Havasu Falls RV Resort was not a “resort” of the caliber we were exposed to in Phoenix and Yuma.  However, it was quiet and pleasant. It was on a ridge above the lake and it was perfectly adequate with enough space. 

Dennis walks the dogs down the road of Havasu Falls RV Resort towards the end where there is a view of the lake. Beyond is a trail that goes out on the ridge that overlooks houses on either side. Most days Dennis walked both dogs while I limped slowly behind him. Several days after our arrival, I tried to walk on the trail and then gave it up as a bad idea.

We came to Lake Havasu for a gathering of the Walton Family.  Jan Walton moved to the area eight years ago.  She bought five acres east of Lake Havasu and lives in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.  I’ve heard all about it from Jan, her granddaughter, Meranda, and sons, Scott and Brent.  I’ve been curious to see it for years.  Our timing was perfect because Scott brought his three children from their home in the Santa Cruz Mountains to visit their grandma after Christmas.  Brent was already here staying with his mom while he recuperates from his knee operation.  He’ll go back to work at the masonry after New Year’s. 

The plan was to go to Jan’s for dinner that night.  But because directions to her property were nonexistent, I told Brent he had to meet us and lead us out there.  Brent and his niece, our granddaughter, Meranda, came into town together and beat us to Havasu Falls.  They were waiting for us when we pulled in.  It was wonderful to see both of them.

Our beautiful Meranda will be sixteen next March. She and Rudi have a special bond because she used to come to his puppy training classes with me. Meranda loves animals and is very good with them. She has a job working with horses at a stable after her high school classes.
Meranda helped Dennis to walk the dogs and then we were ready to follow Brent in our Honda.  Jan lives about 20 miles from Lake Havasu City.  We took US-95 north to I-10 (exit 8) and then turned west towards Flagstaff.  Eleven miles later, we took exit 20 at Santa Fe Ranch Rd. and turning right, we were immediately faced with the choice of three dirt roads. Brent led us onto one of them as we headed south into the desert. It only took a half hour to drive to Jan's property.
Brent kicks up dust as he drives on the dirt road ahead of us. Brent turns east onto an entrance road that leads to a few five-acre properties.
It was getting dark, windy, and cold and I was anxious to stay off my foot so I didn’t spend time looking around outside.  We quickly came into the house to greet Dennis's ex-wife, Jan Walton, Meranda’s dad, Scott Walton, and her half-brother and sister, Natalie and Nathan Walton.  I quickly found a place to rest where I could keep my foot propped up and yet be near the action.  Jan was busy cooking and Meranda was helping her but they quickly brought me a wonderful Ace pad that holds an ice gel pack and wraps around the ankle with Velcro.  I made a mental note to go buy one the next day.  It felt wonderful.  Brent and Dennis sat at a table near the twin bed couch where I had perched and Natalie joined them.  Scott came and went as he monitored his youngest, Nathan. This family is always a whirlwind of activity. They never sit still and they never stop talking. They are very loving and very tempermental. All of them seem absolutely like storybook characters to me.  If I were on drugs I'd say I was sitting there watching a TV drama — or is it a comedy?
Grandpa Dennis and Meranda are so happy to be together. Maragot is nervous and tries to sit behind Dennis's head on the couch.
Grammy Elsa looks terrible. Clearly my ankle and the long day have taken their toll on me. Margot chooses to camp out with me. We watch the activity together on a little bed near the kitchen. Doesn't she look sweet?
Next to me is a round table where Dennis sits. He is joined by his son, Brent, and his granddaughter, Natalie, who turned five last September.
Grandy Jan poses with her son, Brent, and cooks in the kitchen with her dog, Bebe, who keeps a close eye on her progress.
Natalie gets on the exercise bike and her daddy, Scott, stands nearby.
I turn around and take a photo of the desert sunset through the window behind me. All my photos had to be taken from where I sat. Scott and Nathan were never within camera range.
The next morning the family met for breakfast at I-HOP in Lake Havasu City.  I didn’t know that Jan has a married sister, Dee Downs, and that they live in Lake Havasu.  Dee joined us for breakfast and I was fascinated to meet her, for the two sisters are very different.  We had a good time getting acquainted over breakfast.  Scott and Brent are both wonderful with small children.  So it was also lots of fun to watch them mugging and watch the reactions of the grandkids.
Scott's girlfriend, Suzanne, poses but Scott is busy crayoning and clowning with his son, Nathan. Nathan is a carbon copy of his daddy — very sweet and a bundle of energy. He turned three last July.
Uncle Brent is busy clowning with his niece, Natalie. She knows he is very, very silly. Sisters, Dee Downs and Jan Walton pose together over breakfast at I-HOP.
The children stop to give an I-HOP snowman a hug goodbye. Dee decided to come over to see our bus. It turns out that she and her husband Dan, own a 34 foot Tiffin Allegro called "Maggie."
Meranda and Brent came back to the bus also. Meranda immediately borrowed my computer to do — what else — check up on her emails. Then she decided to work out some of the horrible mats that Margot has accumulated.

The Development of Lake Havasu City

Robert Paxton McCulloch was born May 11, 1911 in Missouri.  His grandfather, John I. Beggs, made his fortune by implementing Thomas Edison’s electrical power plants in cities around the world.  McCulloch inherited part of this fortune. His first manufacturing endeavor was McCulloch Engineering Company, located in Milwaukee Wisconsin. There he built racing engines and superchargers.  In his early 30’s he sold the company to Borg-Warner Corporation for 1 million dollars.

McCulloch then started McCulloch Aviation, and in 1946 he changed his company’s name to McCulloch Motors.  The first chainsaw with McCulloch’s name on it was manufactured in 1948.  It was used to cut frozen lake ice into large cubes as well as for cutting lumber. In the following year, McCulloch revolutionized the market, with his 3-25 one man, lightweight chainsaw.

McCulloch Motor’s continued to pursue their quest for the outboard market during the next decade.  This led McCulloch to Lake Havasu, in search of a test site.  He purchased 3,500 acres of lakeside property along Pittsburgh Point. In 1963, on the courthouse steps of Kingman, Arizona, McCulloch purchased a 26 square mile parcel of barren desert, that would become the site for Lake Havasu City.  At the time it was the largest single tract of state land ever sold in Arizona.  The cost per acre was under $75.

In 1964 to spur the growth of the infant city, McCulloch opened a chainsaw manufacturing plant in the new community. Within two years there were three manufacturing plants, with some 400 employees.

In 1968, McCulloch was searching for a unique attraction for his city, which eventually took him to London.  In the early 1960’s it was apparent that London Bridge was gradually sinking into the River Thames and that a new bridge was needed.  Rather than raze the existing bridge, city fathers decided to put the historical landmark on the auction block.

When casting his bid for the bridge, McCulloch doubled the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was 1.2 million dollars, bringing the price to $2,400,000. He then added on $60,000 — a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be raised in Arizona.  His gesture earned him the winning bid.

It took three years to complete the project. The structure was dismantled brick by brick, with each section marked and numbered, in much the same way the bridge was originally built. The granite pieces were stacked at the Surrey Commercial Docks, and then were shipped through the Panama Canal, to Long Beach California. From Long Beach the granite blocks were trucked inland 300 miles. Reassembly was done, matching the numbered stones and by filling in the area under the bridge with mounds of desert sand to support each arch as it was reconstructed.

The reconstructed attraction was officially opened on October 10, 1971, with a gala celebration. Opening day included elaborate fanfare with fireworks, a parade, entertainment, and celebrities, such as Bonanza's Lorne Greene, and dignitaries such as the Lord Mayor of London.

—Paraphrased and quoted from a Wikipedia article.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_P._McCulloch

We got back to the bus about noon with Dee following in her car and Brent with Meranda following in his car.  We hung out visiting and Dee told us funny stories about her golf-happy husband and the motor homes they’ve purchased. 

In the late afternoon we set out in the Honda with Meranda and Brent ready to show us around town.  Brent took us over London Bridge to Havasu Island in the lake.  He and his mother both love to fish and he showed us where we could find a dock to go fishing.  Then we came back to the bridge and parked where I spotted a promising looking restaurant.  It was a little shopping complex overlooking the portion of river that passes under London Bridge.  With me limping, we walked directly upstairs to an excellent restaurant. Shugrue’s had a beautiful view of the bridge and an excellent menu.  Dee later told me that Shugrue's is the best restaurant in town.  (I have a talent for finding good restaurants.) 

We sat in the bar with soft drinks to wait for twenty minutes until the restaurant opened for dinner at 4:30.  Meranda is a very mature fifteen year old and with her stylish little hat she looked so demure and so much the sweet young lady while she sat at the bar sipping on a coke.  But she misunderstood and thought we had to wait for an hour so she asked me to walk around the shopping complex with her.  Despite my foot, I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to hang out with my granddaughter.  For a few minutes she made me feel like a teenager walking with my girlfriend in the mall. I recalled how it feels to be impatient, impetuous, imperious and totally assured in the rush of youthful energy. We walked downstairs and of course got into trouble immediately when we walked into a tourist clothing store called Island Brew.  I found a brown cotton knit jacket with a hood and zipper front. It is made by one of my favorite designers, Fresh Produce.  Meranda found a very cute black and red top.  (The cut looked just like an old fashioned swimsuit from the forties with a little peplum skirt. But these days it is a blouse to be worn over jeans.)  I made our purchases and then we ran upstairs just in time to be seated for dinner.

We had a wonderful table with a lovely view of the bridge and the river and the tour boats docked by the walkways on each side.  We had a terrific waiter who gently teased Meranda and we had delicious food.  This was a real treat for all of us. 

This is our view of London Bridge from the window at our table in Shugrue's. Our waiter took a photo of us at our table.
Meranda and her dad both ride motorbikes in cross-country races. Her Uncle Brent likes to drive a quad across the desert sands. This is an athletic family. Later I took a photo of the paddleboat on the other side of the river by the bridge.

Would you believe I did not look for an Ace bandage with an ice gel pack that I could put on my ankle that night?  Somehow, we were too busy all day Friday.

By Saturday I had passed the point of Tired and entered the realm of Cranky.  My foot looked and felt worse, not better.  It was still swollen all around the top of the foot, the heel, anklebone and ankle.  I knew I was overdue for a day of quiet solitude. 

But then I am ever curious and I hate to miss out on anything so I didn’t want to skip the events of the day either.  The event planned was murky and obscure to me.  It had something to do with fishing and boats.  Whether the ultimate locale was to be a harbor, a dock, a boat or a beach was unclear to both Dennis and me.  Plans were communicated to us with garbled enthusiasm.  Jan called at eight to outline the day.  Now Jan is a highly energetic and enthusiastic personality.  She said we should come over for breakfast and then about ten they were going to go fishing. Iit was a beautiful spot and we would love it and have a lot of fun.  Afterwards we would go back to her place for a BBQ.

I nixed the breakfast plan while we were on the phone.  From our central location, Jan lives 30 minutes one way and apparently the fishing was to take place 30 minutes the other way.  The idea of fishing did not appeal to me. We had some errands to do and I said we would meet them at the fishing place.  “Just call us when you’re ready to leave.”  Breakfast, a BBQ, and an all-day water expedition for a grandma, a teenager, a girlfriend, two brothers and two small kids — I knew they’d never get out of there by ten. 

Jan was bubbling with enthusiasm but short on specifics.  They were going to Topock.  It was off I-40 going towards California.  The exit would say Topock and maybe Bullhead City.  From the background Brent yelled at Jan saying we should go to the “World’s Worst Harbor.”  I said I’d look it up on Mapquest.  Mapquest showed Topock and Topock Marsh at exit one — 27 minutes away from Havasu Falls RV Resort — no problem.

We talked several more times by cell phones and they still hadn’t left at 11:30 when we left the bus to do some errands.  I found a cold gel wrap for my ankle at Walgreens.  By then I was hungry and we stopped for a fast snack of quesadillas at JB’s Restaurant next to Walgreens.  By 12:50 we were on our way and got another call.  They were there.  The exit sign didn’t mention Topock but it did say Bullhead City and Golden Shores.  This still turned out to be exit one and we followed Jan’s directions to turn right, go under the railroad tracks and look for a marina.  We spotted Brent's pickup truck and then saw the sign.

We found the WORST Launch Ramp — at least in Topock. Scott was waiting to take us on the river in Brent's boat, here tied up at the dock.

Scott was waiting for us.  I figured (hoped) we had arrived at our ultimate destination. Every movement I made was an effort for me so I didn’t immediately take my bag of supplies out of the car.  But the next thing I knew we were getting in a boat and setting out.  It happened quickly.  If I’d been feeling better I would have walked back to the car and gotten my stuff and asked some questions.  Instead I just passively got in the boat. Scott said it wasn’t far but it was and I kept thinking I need to ask for us to turn around to get my stuff.  I didn’t bring a jacket and I discovered I didn’t have my camera in my purse.  I was unhappy as I raised my collar against the whipping cold wind while we picked up speed and headed south down the river.  We went under some bridges and ten minutes later we landed at a private river beach on the east side.  Enclosed by grasses and trees, the dogs couldn’t wander off and were perfectly safe.

It was an idyllic scene.  Natalie and Nathan, stark naked, were standing by the shore holding fishing poles.  They looked very absorbed. Scott was busy caring for his children.  (Most of the time they were at the other end of the beach and I didn't get any pictures of them.) Jan and Dee, set up with easels, were painting watercolors.  They had picnic supplies and some chairs.  Jan had thought about me.  She brought me a cane and showed me a chair where I could sit. 

But I was mentally unprepared.  Tired and cross I immediately announced that I had to go back for my things.  I was the crotchety old lady who wasn’t happy with this perfect scene.  Brent and Meranda were the young folks determined to keep the old folks happy.  They immediately volunteered to retrieve my stuff.  They got the car keys and took off on Brent’s Sea-Doo.  It can go better than 45 mph — perhaps faster than the boat, because they soon returned.  Mollified, I relaxed and sat on the sand with my foot propped up.  Most of my photos were lousy because from where I was sitting, I had to take them facing into the late afternoon sun across the river.  I didn’t try to walk around on the sand.

A reflective moment: Meranda is lost in thought. Jan watches her son Scott, who watches daughter, Natalie, who drags a stick in the sand.
Dennis and Brent stand by Brent's boat and watch Meranda throwing up a wake on the Sea-Doo across the river. Dee pauses to watch the scene.

The dogs were immediately in seventh heaven.  They took off and started racing up and down the beach.  Soon Rudi was retrieving sticks out of the water.  Margot’s job was to interfere with him.  There was much barking and throwing up of sand,  The water colorists got sand on their paintings.  Both Jan and Dee are very artistic and very accomplished in the arts and crafts.  But they didn’t take their efforts seriously.  They thought it was funny and said the sand improved their paintings.  I was shouting at the dogs and trying to put them on a leash.  Jan told me not to worry.  This is a dog-loving group and clearly no one minded.

Rudi is already wet. He has a stick and he's waiting for Dennis to throw it into the river. Rudi retrieves a stick while Margot watches.
Back on the beach Rudi is distracted by a bird down the beach. Margot takes off to run wildly towards the easels and painters and then back.
Rudi is tired but desperate to save his precious stick and keep it from Margot. He's digging a hole to bury it.

Meranda was just learning how to ride the Sea-Doo.  She spent her time racing up and down the river.  She offered Dee a ride and Dee accepted.  Dee put on a warm life jacket vest, booties and gloves and off they went.  Meranda earned points for taking her on an enjoyable ride but not getting her wet.  Next Brent encouraged Dennis to go out with him.  Dennis had a great time.  Then Meranda offered me a ride.  I was worried about putting weight on my foot and because of swelling I couldn’t put on the booties so I went barefoot.  I wore the vest and gloves.  It felt so odd to be hanging onto the little girl I used to take care of when she was four. Meranda went fast but avoided crossing the wake of other boats that would get us wet.  It was great fun.  She took me up to Moabi Regional RV Park and showed me RVs parked right by the river. (That's where the family wants us to stay next time — then they can reach us by car or boat!)

The cold water sloshing around my ankle felt wonderful.  By the time I got off the Sea-Doo my ankle felt much better.  Or to put it another way, it was numb and I couldn’t feel much of anything.  I later found out that it is recommended to treat a swollen ankle with cold plunge treatments.  Who knew?

Dennis struggles to put on booties while his ex-wife watches and the dogs kick up sand as they race around the area. Dee paints as Dennis gets settled on the Sea-Doo behind Brent.
Uh-oh Dennis. You better scoot forward and hang onto Brent before your son speeds up and makes a sharp turn. Brent brings Dennis back with no spills and not too wet..
Here is a typical portrait of the Walton Family. Everyone is busy and in motion. Jan is at the easel that Brent gave to her for Christmas. She is talking to Natalie who is painting at a small easel. Meranda and Brent are doing something with the Sea-Doo. Dennis and Dee are talking about their rides on the Sea-Doo. Now it's my turn with Meranda.

Too soon the kids were tired and it was time to leave.  Meranda and I came back to the marina to put gas in the Sea-Doo and we found the whole tribe already transported by boat from the beach.  The boat and Sea-Doo were loaded on a trailer and stored in a lot above the marina.  Scott, Meranda and children planned to leave early the next day so we kissed them goodbye and shortly thereafter we came home.  A BBQ dinner at Jan’s was out of the question for me.  We got home at six and with the Ace bandage around my ankle, I was asleep within the hour.  I slept hard all night.

We pose with the Sea-Doo.

Super hero Brent stands behind Dee, Elsa & Dennis;

then behind Dee, Jan & Elsa;

and then he poses with Meranda.

Brent has trouble pulling the trailer with his boat out of the water. The water is low and the trailer is caught on a boulder. After several tries Brent guns his truck and humps the trailer over the boulder and pulls his boat out of the water. Super Hero Brent! Dennis is laughing at Brent's triumph over the Worst Launch Ramp on the River.
Scott and family left to return to Jan's place. Brent and Meranda left to get gas at Pilot on I-40 at exit 8. Jan came with us in our Honda so she could show us the Moabi Regional Park on the California side of the river. This was where Meranda showed me RVs parked right by the river. Next time, the family wants us to camp there so they can visit us and be right by the water with their boat and Sea-Doo.

On I-40 we drove west across the river and got off at the first exit. We drove around the RV park. There are sites in groups of four with hookups that are located right by the river. We saw some level spots and some big rigs. It's a great location by the water but not convenient to town and not a particularly clean or appealing looking park.

We drove back to Pilot where we met Meranda and Brent. They took Jan back home and we went home where I collapsed in bed.

We enter Moabi Regional Park and then drive down a dirt road parallel to the river. Here the park has placed side roads leading to sites by the river. There are hookups for four RVs at each site.
Scott, Meranda, and the children were gone but we planned to stay on through New Year's Day to continue our visit with Jan and Brent, to become better acquainted with Dee and Dan Downs and to make further explorations of the area.
Elsa Walton, Havasu Falls RV Resort, Lake Havasu City, AZ, Saturday, December 29, 2007