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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bullhead City, Arizona

Bullhead City, Arizona

Bullhead City is located across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada known for its Casinos on the river and river-related activities.  It is also within striking distance (50 miles) of Lake Havasu City, a nice section of Route 66, and a few lesser-known attractions.

The drive from Las Vegas is an easy one of around eighty miles with a nice stop in Stockman, NV at about the half way mark.  For those of you who are RVing, Stockman has an easy-in easy-out gas station with separate pumps for diesel fuel, a small casino (obligatory in Nevada), and a fast food joint.  At any rate it is a nice place to get out and stretch your legs. 

We arrived at Ridgeview RV Resort in Bullhead a bit after noon and went in to register.  We used our Coast to Coast Deluxe membership for this stop (up to two weeks for $10 per night).  While C2C is still one of the better deals out there for the money, it is getting more and more expensive as parks nickel and dime you to death.  This park charges an extra $3 per day for 50amp and another $3 per day for a Resort Fee.  When Lynda asked what we got for the resort fee, the very huffy young lady at the counter told us that we got the privilege of staying at her park (she turned out to be an employee and not the owner … probably has visions of grandeur), and that it cost the park to have “you Coast to Coast people in our park.”  We almost walked out and found other accommodations, but thought better of it and anteed up an additional $42 bucks for our stay.  This turned out to be a good decision as the park is very well appointed and with the exception of the princess (a name, we discovered, used by members for our snotty employee) the folk are very friendly.  The park serves a few meals a week for a small fee, had a great jam session on Saturday night, and is well maintained.

As luck would have it, a PRCA professional Rodeo was in town for the Avi River Stampede.  The rodeo featured bareback riding, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, saddle-bronc riding, steer wrestling, and bull riding.  We bought our tickets in advance and ended up with really great seats, very close to all of the action.  Here are a few pictures.

Another day trip took us to Oatman, Arizona.  Oatman was founded as a tent mining camp in 1906 and sits on historic route 66.  It has an array of typical shops selling the latest in Oatman attire (T-shirts) and souvenirs.  One of the unique features of the town are the wild burros that appear in town during the day and retreat to the nearby mountains at night fall.  We bought the obligatory “burro feed” and enjoyed the company of a couple of asses (not the first time for this experience … probably not the last either!).

On the way home from Oatman, we decided to catch a geocache and took off on another off-road adventure in the jeep.  Out in the middle of nowhere we found this old building.

One of the most interesting, out-of-the-way places we visited was the town of Chloride.  Located about 35 miles from Bullhead City, just north of Kingman, Chloride is what is left of an 1860’s mining town.  Recently, the silver and gold mine was reopened making it the oldest active mining town in Arizona.  The mine notwithstanding, the three most interesting things about Chloride are the unique art in town, the murals out of town, and the town’s still-active cemetery.

The town is known for its Fence Art.  Houses are decorated with everything from old bottles to boots, from ancient RVs to commodes.  Here is a small taste.

The cemetery should not be missed on this trip.  It reflects the unique, some say eccentric, lives of the residents as well as their independent spirit.  There are no rules for the cemetery so the deceased are honored in numerous was.  Here is one dedicated to a cyclist.

And another adorned with a plastic pig.

Our favorite, however, was this one: complete with a phone … just to keep in touch with family and friends.

The murals done by artist Roy Purcell are located on a canyon wall a mile or two from the town.  The road was challenging, even for the jeep, and is better negotiated by ATV, as we found out when a group appeared out of nowhere wearing Halloween masks to keep their faces warm.  When they first drove up we thought we might be in for some bad luck from some unsavory characters … but it turned out they were really nice folk just our for a jaunt.  One of them volunteered to take our picture.

Here are a few close-ups of Purcells art.  The work was originally done in 1963 and then repainted by the artist in 2003.  It was well worth the drive.

We couldn’t get this close to Lake Havasu City without going to see the London Bridge.  The following narrative is from the London Bridge brochure:

How did the world famous London Bridge come to make its unusual home in Arizona?  The tale of how the bridge came to Lake Havasu City began over 5,400 miles away in London, England.

The bridge’s storied past includes previous structures that spanned the same section of the Thames River before the current bridge was built. The old London Bridge of nursery-rhyme fame was built by Peter of Colechurch between 1176 and 1209, replacing an earlier timber bridge.  Due to uneven construction, the bridge required frequent repair. The bridge survived more than 600 years.

One of the more grisly periods of the bridge’s history was at the southern gateway between 1305 and 1660, when it was customary to display the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar to preserve them against the elements.  The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher in 1535, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540.  A German visitor to London in 1598 counted over 30 heads on the bridge.  The practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II.
Reconstruction of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, 1970.
By the end of the 18th century, it was apparent that the old London Bridge needed to be replaced.  It was narrow and decrepit, and blocked river traffic. Designed in 1799 by Scottish engineer John Rennie, the new London Bridge was completed in 1831.  As time passed, the new bridge began sinking at the rate of an inch (3 cm) every eight years, however. By 1924, the east side of the bridge was some three to four inches (102 mm) lower than the west side.  The bridge had not been designed to withstand 20th century automotive traffic. 
The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, current day.
In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge. Lake Havasu City founder and entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch placed the winning bid of $2,460,000 on April 18, 1968. McCulloch came by this figure by doubling the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was $1.2 million, bringing the price to $2.4 million.  He then added on $60,000 -- a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be reconstructed in Arizona.  (Contrary to popular belief, McCulloch was not under the impression that he was purchasing the Tower Bridge.)  Each block was meticulously numbered before the bridge was disassembled.  The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. Following reconstruction of the London Bridge, Lake Havasu City rededicated it in a ceremony on October 10, 1971.

The London Bridge, Arizona tourism’s second-largest attraction after the Grand Canyon, attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a popular stroll for people on romantic getaways in Arizona.

We had a nice time at the bridge.  We took a 3.5 mile glide on our Segways around the island attached to the mainland by London Bridge and then enjoyed a light dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water.  Here are a few pictures.

One last note.  We went searching for a penny slot machine and ended up on a nickel poker machine.  Kim hit a royal flush for 4000 nickels!  Happy Day!

Until next time, keep doing what you love.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Vegas Experience

It’s Las Vegas, baby!   Woo woo … home of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, but originally Bogart and friends in New York.)  Unfortunately it is really the home of the high roller these days.    It’s $10 a bet on the strip and downtown thinks it’s the strip and has priced itself out of the market.  Most of the real action is in the smaller independent casinos out on the fringes.  Some of these are really seedy, while others are surprisingly clean, and well appointed … while still offering entertainment for a reasonable price. 

We used to be big fans of the downtown area.  The Nugget was always a bit more expensive, but the Horseshoe had a great cafĂ© and $1 blackjack … while the Plaza offered quarter craps during the week.  We used to be able to purchase “a pound of pig” (big ham steak with eggs etc.) at the Plaza, but no longer.  Those days are long gone!  These days a $9.99 special is touted as exceptional and it’s $4.99 for the shrimp cocktail.  We spent a couple of hours touring the downtown area looking for anything resembling the old bargains. … forget it … they are all gone!

For meals we recommend the two for one special for seniors at the Palms on Thursdays that includes an excellent array of seafood (crab and salmon), oriental favorites, Lebanese specialties, American steaks, and a great dessert bar.  The Silverton has a $5.00 senior buffet on Mondays, but plan on standing in line for 45 minutes to an hour to get in.  Once in, the buffet is not bad and certainly worth $5.00.  Apparently, it’s a good time to be a “senior” in Las Vegas. 

We stayed at the Thousand Trails Park on Boulder Highway, a really nice, well managed park, that is close to Henderson.  Remember when Sam’s Town was the out of the way locals place? … no more!  It is now in the middle of the action and acts like it.  Avoid it and keep on driving.  For a real bargain try the $2.99 spaghetti dinner offered at the Jokers Wild in Henderson … also a nice casino to sit and play.  We played one-cent poker slot for three hours on two dollars … great entertainment for the dollar … they also have fifty-cent beer all day long and one-dollar shrimp cocktails.  It is our “go to” place to play for gambling.

We ventured out to Hoover Dam and took the expensive “Dam Tour” ($30.00 per person).  Really this is not the place to skimp on a tour … going into the bowels of the dam is worth the additional money spent!  Lynda’s maternal grandfather (Pop) was an engineer who worked on the dam for the Department of Reclamation.  It made it that much more interesting, knowing that there was a personal connection to this “Wonder of the Modern World.  Here are a few pictures from the tour.

One of the giant leaning electrical towers

Original diversion tunnel

Generating Electricity

Smaller Electrical generator that runs entire plant

Electrical Generation Room

America honored within the dam

Bridge over the Colorado River looking back at the dam

Lynda in an inspection tunnel

Kim in an inspection tunnel near the outside vent

Tunnel through the dam

On the outside of the dam ... the river continues down stream

Vent as seen from the outside ... we looked out from the inside

the dam is built into solid rock

Overflow area

Built during the Great Depression

Lynda remembers Pop by the Hoover Dam sign

One of the most disappointing tours we engaged in was the “Ethel M Chocolate Factory” tour.  The “M” in Ethel M represents her last name … “Mars”  … sound familiar?  The tour is self-guided and lousy.  At the end of the tour you get one small sample of chocolate and then exit into the candy shop where three small pieces of toffee costs $10.00.  We definitely rated this as a rip off.  There is also an M & M factory “museum” (think candy store) on the premises where M & Ms are sold for twice their normal retail cost.  When in Vegas … skip this one!

Kim ... Bored at Ethel M

Lake Mead is worth the drive.  It is relaxing and has some beautiful vistas.  Unfortunately, the lake is really well down and below its normal levels.  We visited the lake on one of the days we had the coach in the shop and we had Cody (our dog) with us.  He liked the views and the photo ops … but he gets carsick and didn’t care much for the drive.

Lake Mead ... Beautiful ... close to the dam

Lake Mead from the Boulder City Overlook

A bit further down the lake shows signs of the drought

About half way from Boulder City to Vegas

Lake Mead about 1/4 from Vegas

Lake Mead ... Getting very low on water

Kim & Cody enjoy the Lake

Lynda with Lake Mead in background
Shades of things to come on Lake Mead

Lake Mead is dry at Las Vegas Bay

The boat launch at Las Vegas Bay ... The waster is but a trickle

During our stay in Vegas we decided to take the coach into a shop to address the dash air conditioning and a few other minor issues.  After hearing a few more horror stories regarding fires started in the RV refrigerators, we also decided to replace our RV fridg with a residential “all electric” fridg (a two-door fridg with crushed ice and water in the door and twice the room as the RV model).  Other items we took care of were the repair of a drawer in the kitchen and the addition of an electrical outlet in the electric bay to accommodate a heat-wrapped hose during cold weather.  We used “Apache RV” service because of the positive comments online and we think we are happy with their work … we will know for sure in a couple of weeks if everything is still working well … but so far … so good!   

We spent two days tooling around Vegas while our coach was in the shop and finally found the middle and upper middle class neighborhoods … they are spread out on the outskirts around Hwy 215.  We also discovered that Las Vegas Blvd. (the strip) goes almost all the way to State Line.  On the way around town, these beautiful trees impressed Lynda.

Until next time … Keep doing what you love!