Sunday, January 10, 2016

Funny How Some Places Don't Change, While Others Are Completely Different

Our last night at Rio del Sol it pours rain for several hours, and we wake to cloudy skies. We make our shortest travel day yet at 3.4 miles, and are all settled in by 1 PM. 

The clouds bring no more rain so we run a few errands in Parker and decide to take a drive to see what we can see. We've commented several times since we arrived that even with all the new resorts, and the huge number of RVs and snow birds in the area, Parker has changed very little in 40 years. The new Walmart, a couple other stores, and the casino, all on Highway 95 are the only significant changes, while the main town looks very much the same.

Poston, AZ, sounds familiar when I look on the surrounding map, and checking online I see that it was one of the Japanese internment camps we read about during our visit to Manzanar in October.

About 25 miles from Parker, we drive through acres of agriculture to check it out. It is an easy monument to miss on the small two-lane road with no signage, its beige colors blending into the desert landscape.

Poston is only a small market and a large fire station. And the Poston Internment Camp Memorial. The breeze is chilly, and in ten minutes we've read everything, taken some photos, and are back in the warm car. No landscaping, no benches, a single drinking fountain, little indication that anyone knows about this place. It is interesting to note that the memorial was built with funding from the local tribes, placed on their land.

Nothing here explains the meaning of the oddly shaped monument

A single, small flag is the only sign of "life" here

Although depressing in a completely different way than Manzanar, I'm glad we made the trip to visit the monument dedicated to over 17,000 Japanese Americans held here over three years.

Bill tells me to turn left instead of right, and we're on the "back way" to Big River. Through another beautiful gorge, along a long stretch of undeveloped Colorado River, we take our time enjoying the quiet desert. 

Once again we talk about how much we love having the opportunity to just "be" out here in nature, taking our time, making our own schedule. Such a blessed life we live!

Lake Havasu City is not a place we want to be on the weekend, but we do want to see how much it's changed in the 35+ years since either of us has been there. Thursday seems like a good day to make the 33 mile drive.

This section of Highway 95 along the Colorado River is - you guessed it - beautiful! Unfortunately there are very few places to pull off and take photos. You'll have to come here and see it for yourself - you won't be sorry.

Just outside of Lake Havasu City we pull off toward a local park to see some of the red rock up close.

Bill sees a face in the rock that I just can't find. He captures it with the camera and aha! the native warrior looks back at us.

I'm hungry and getting cranky when I can't find the eateries that I'm sure are just under the London Bridge. Poor Bill survives my erratic driving and we finally find what I'm looking for after we drive over the bridge. After a good lunch at Shugrue's on the water I return to my normal, delightful self, and we take a short walk below the bridge.

Robert McCulloch founded Lake Havasu City in 1964, and four years later paid $2,460,000 at the auction of the London Bridge. Spending another $7M to have it moved, the bridge became part of its new home in 1971.

One doesn't think "London" when they see palm trees

A shorter span than the London location, but all original stone
It was big news at the time, and Dad found out the last leg of the journey for the dismantled bridge would be passing by Iron Mountain Road. Dozens of us were there when the flat beds passed by, carrying all the bricks and other stone pieces to Lake Havasu City. Several months later, Dad and I drove to see the completed structure. Many thought it was ridiculous, others applauded the idea of having such an historic icon in our little desert. No matter one's opinion, it is still pretty cool to see something so old, from "across the pond", now very much a part of this city's own history.

With a population of 8,000 in 1971, "city" was a stretch. But today we are both shocked by the size of this place. Large businesses, hotels, hospitals, dozens of large neighborhoods, parks, schools, and a plethora of sporting goods stores, rentals, and repair shops. Lake Havasu is truly a City now, and completely different from our memories.

More sprawling metropolis than desert oasis
Maintaining the theme of bringing other places to their city, when lights were needed to improve safety for night fishing and boating around the lake, they went with miniature lighthouses. Not just simple and mundane structures, the 1/3 scale navigational aides are built to the specifications of famous East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes lighthouses. Most of the 20 around the lake can be hiked to, while some are only accessible by boat.

Functioning lighthouses provide safe navigation at night
In addition to the Colorado River, the Bill Williams River also enters Lake Havasu. The area around this meeting is very different from the rest of the drive.

Instead of continuing back in Arizona, we cross the Parker Dam to California. This dam has been here since 1938. Although very small "on top", 235 feet of its total 320 feet is below the riverbed, making it the deepest dam in the world.

I'm not a proponent of dams, but I feel a bit nostalgic about this one, having first crossed it in a bassinet in the back of our 1956 Ford station wagon, and then dozens of times for the next thirty years.

More memories just up the road as we pull off to take a few pics, and there on the shoulder are three wild burros.

The wild burros have been here at least as long as the dam, have little regard for vehicles on the highway, and make up many legends. While they are sadly trusting of humans, their skinny bodies don't look like they take many handouts.

When I was 7 years old Dad and I were on this road at night and hit a burro at about 40 miles an hour when she surprised us around a blind corner. It is a horrible memory as the highway patrol officer had to put her down, our impact not killing her immediately. I remember my dad being devastated by the accident. I also remember the 1942 De Soto sedan being towed back to Iron Mountain, and never running again. Seems it was a draw between vehicle and animal (despite no seat belts, Dad and I were fine).

A couple years later there was word of a pure white burro in one of the herds, and wonderful stories surrounded it's arrival. Very few ever saw it, and then always from a distance. Camping out with friends one night we awoke to several burros nosing around our cots - and one of them was white! What a treat to see it in person, and so close to us - and to excitedly tell our envious parents the next morning :-)

So some things don't change, others do. I feel lucky to come back and spend time in these places of my youth. To see which ones have, and which ones haven't.

Watching the skies change from our front yard


  1. We really like the area around Parker. Some of it has to do with not a lot of people and the traffic jams aren't ones that take you hours in to get to anything.

    We visited Lake Havasu for the first time in 1972 when they were just putting the town together. There has definitely been a lot of changes since then.

    1. It is weird that with all the RVs in all the resorts, there really aren't a lot of people out and about. We're enjoying our time here.

  2. Jodee, you have such fascinating memories of this area! We've never been to Lake Havasu City (I must admit, it has always seemed a tad bizarre with the London Bridge, miniature lighthouses, etc.) -- but reading your post, I think we really must stop there next time we're in the vicinity. Love the image of the white burro visiting you in the middle of the night. :-)

    1. The surrounding area is some of the prettiest we've seen. And there is great hiking (we've read) in Buckskin Mountain. I think you and Eric would love that park! We thought we were very special having been visited by that burro :-))))

  3. How neat are your travels as you relive so many things from your past. I found it so fascinating that you watched the arrival of stone for the bridge. So you must have seen the bridge on dry land before they decided to build the canal. That must have been a strange sight. We really enjoyed our time in Lake Havasu SP last year. It was our first visit and we ended up extending a week because we had so much fun. Great hiking near by at SARA. You must have thought you were dreaming when you woke to the white burro! I figured it was just a fable til you said you saw it. I didn't know that the Parker Dam was the deepest. Thanks for sharing:)

    1. Yes! They built the bridge and then dug the canal - I wish I still had the pics from my Brownie camera of that day!! Dad was one who thought they were a bit nuts :-) The Dam looks so small to me now, hard to believe it's so deep.

  4. So interesting to see you go back to so many places with memories for you. And to be able to share them with Bill is even better. So different from my childhood memories. I always thought the Brits were idiots to sell their famous bridge. Seemed a bit like selling your mother but apparently the Lake Havasu founder had plenty of money and that's what talks. Those poor burros look so thin. We adopted two from death valley and they got pretty plump over time. Such wonderful animals. I'd love to see a white one. How can that happen? Wouldn't he have to be a mule to have white genes?

    1. Of all the places it could have ended up from the auction, Lake Havasu, AZ, is probably the weirdest! We saw three more who weren't nearly as thin so she might have been ill :-( The baby was pretty plump. I don't know that anyone ever saw the white one close up in daylight to see if it was an albino. It was also smaller than the gray burros rather than larger like a mule - a true mystery to this day!

  5. Lake Havasu, 1971...there's a memory! We had a couple who lived across the street from us in suburban Detroit who retired and moved there in the summer of 1971. I remember that quite well, as my dad and I said goodbye to them before jumping in the car to go to the 1971 All Star Game at Tiger Stadium. At the time, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the London Bridge was moved to the desert. Isn't it crazy how your childhood memories took me back to mine, thousands of miles apart, Jodee? Wow!

    1. That's wonderful :-))) How fun to share such different memories of the same time and place!

  6. A shame about Poston, then and now. There was nothing much to explain or memorialize the Dalton Wells camp in Utah either. Looking forward to that beautiful stretch of 95 along the river in about a week. Glad I'm not the only one gets cranky when hungry. Great memories to go with your explorations.

    1. I suppose the bleak memorial was fitting given the bleak history, but sad nonetheless. Weather looking very good for your visit - in the 70's even for a couple days!

  7. Such a fun day! We haven't explored that area yet...thanks for sharing so many stories and fond memories.

    1. It sure was :-) It's worth a detour to spend some time "over here" when between AZ and CA.

  8. Hi, Bill and Jodee
    I visit here from RVSue's blog and found the photo of the monument in Poston. Very interesting.
    I know the story of it because I am Japanese. I've visited Manzanar 2 years ago but not Poston.
    Other photo taken in some cities and areas, I've been there and seen them.
    You are in Q now, aren't you? Also I've been there twice in summer. Ghost town near LTVA in summer, but very lively now, isn't it?

    Have a good time, Bill and Jodee
    Fuji-maru in Japan (Sorry for my poor English)