Archive for May 5th, 2008

On our 3rd day we rode to a place in the sun called Lake Havasu City.  The Colorado River flows south from Lake Mohave and runs about 50 miles from the David Dam to the Parker Dam between Laughlin and Bullhead City through Lake Havasu to Parker.  It’s a boating waterway paradise with shore lined motels, condo’s and rental homes for miles and miles.  Lake Havasu got its start as an Army Air Corp R&R camp during WWII and now has over 1000 businesses, 2 newspapers and a college.  The first thing we noticed coming out of Laughlin was the wind really picked up overnight and we were seeing wind gusts of up to 30 MPH.  Great riding when it’s behind you, but makes for a long day when you’re bucking that strong of gusts.

One of the posse met up with some OC buddies and did the “Sandbar”.  When it comes to a place on the water with post-college crazies the Lake Havasu sandbar has a head shaking, smile-making reputation.  People head to the sandbar to tie up and party together and sometimes the masses get so massive you can walk from boat to boat without ever touching water. 

This is a photo (left) from a couple years ago, but not much changes except the size of the swimsuits!

The larger group reached Lake Havasu in time for lunch and we enjoyed the scene on the lake as well as checked out the London Bridge. Yes, it’s THE London Bridge.  In 1962, London Bridge was in a state of disrepair. Built in 1831, the bridge couldn’t handle the increasing traffic demands across the Thames River. The British government decided to put the bridge up for sale, and Robert McCulloch, Founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation, submitted the winning bid of $2.46M.  The bridge was dismantled, and each stone was numbered. Everything was shipped to Long Beach, Ca., and then trucked to Lake Havasu City. Reconstruction started September 1968, with a ceremony including the Lord Mayor of London, who laid the cornerstone. On October 10, 1971, the bridge was dedicated.

London Bridge crosses a narrow boating channel (Bridgewater Channel) that connects with Thompson Bay on the Arizona side of Lake Havasu. On the Google Map aerial view, the “A” mark is the London Bridge Resort, and just to the left is McCulloch Boulevard and the location of London Bridge.  It’s a good bet that on any given day the Bridgewater Channel will be busy with people and boats filling the shoreline and when we got there it was no exception.  There were large crowds of boaters with big block motors and women with inversely proportional swimsuits to the size of boat motors, all enjoying the blazing heat. We had lunch at Barley Brothers Grill (Island Mall & Brewery) and watched the boaters in the channel.  We made our return trip to Laughlin via Needles fighting the wind the entire way. 

That night the headliner at the Aquarius (old Flamingo Hilton) was Foreigner.  Led by British rocker Mick Jones they released the self-titled album in 1977.  The album sold more than 5M copies with hits like “Cold as Ice”, “Feels Like The First Time”, and later with hits like “Jukebox Hero” and “Head Games”.  Lou Gramm was the original lead singer of the band, but currently Kelly Hansen (formerly of Hurricane) is the lead showman.  That 90 minute set at the Aquarius was most memorable.

Day 4 is up next…

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The posse was up early for a good breakfast and even an early enough departure to see the sun still on the rise in the desert plain.  We decided to head out to Oatman.  It’s a turn of the century mining town along Route 66 in Arizona, about 30 miles outside of Laughlin.  As we headed out we got a taste of the snarl of traffic.  A constant parade of Harley’s and “gawkers” line the main street moving about 3 MPH.  I even noticed some of the same people doing the loop from the night before.  We crossed the Colorado River and turned into Bullhead City, AZ.  The first thing we notice was all the bikers without helmets.  It’s legal in AZ and we continued the slow ride for a few more minutes until the traffic thinned out and the pace picked up.  Bullhead City seems to go on forever…a town that has a “sprawl” problem, but in the desert you build out rather than up.

Finally we hit the Oatman cutoff road and thought about getting on the throttle, but every biker was waving at us to slow down…it didn’t take long to figure out why.   About every 2 miles there were Arizona State Police with radar guns checking that anyone going over the state-mandated 45 MPH speed limit would get pulled over.   It’s not so boring doing 45 MPH, but the beefed up presence of State Police puts a bit of a rain cloud on any ride.   Then there were the sobriety checkpoints.  In previous years they had checkpoints on the way out of Oatman when heading toward Laughlin.  This year they blocked both lanes and checked everyone going in and out.  Harsh!  I guess in the “old” days (circa: 1995) Oatman was a rip-roar’n party town.  People doing burnouts, drinking in the streets as well as partially clothed passengers showing off, but then a person was killed and the reactionary town fathers took control.  Now 13+ years later it’s all about vendor booths, drug sniffing dogs and hot dog stands hawking t-shirts to get as much of the suburban biker wannabes wallet share as possible. 

Oatman is a fun town even with out burnouts and if flashbacks to the old mining days are your thing, you’ll be able to get your fill. Sunburned riders lounge around enjoying the atmosphere and weather.  And at a minimum you can score one of those antique style photos of yourself holding a rusty rifle and dressed like a barkeep. There’s even a free petting zoo in the middle of the road.  Burros walk aimlessly along the main street acting somewhat annoyed at all the attention.  They are protected by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act 1977 (pdf), but the Oatman Burros have no fear of people or bikes.  And if the Burros don’t draw you to the town there is the Oatman Hotel.  Built in 1902 it’s the oldest 2-story adobe structure in the Mohave and is a famous landmark for the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard who stayed there after getting married in Kingman.

Speaking of Kingman, we were looking for more distractions than what Oatman had to offer and headed out on what’s called “The Gold Road” which is one of the oldest and most historic sections of Route 66 over Sitgreaves Pass.  We stop at Cool Springs Camp for a soda and honey bucket visit.  This camp was a pile of rubble for many years, marking where a store and gas station once stood.  It burned to the ground in 1966 and the owners from Chicago have been rebuilding it for years.  We chatted with the care taker on the property who told us the Chicago owners were putting it up for sale (although no signs indicated it was).  It’s worth a stop for the almost frozen soda and to look over the mini-museum of autographed album covers.

We followed Route 66 down into the desert which eventually meets I-40.  We took the interstate, but you can pass underneath, and follow the signs to the north and east, to stay on Route 66. This will take you up the old Santa Fe railroad gorge into Kingman.  We arrived at Kingman and stopped at a bright pink-and-turquoise building. This is Mr D’z, one of the few remaining, original (okay, renovated) Route 66 diners. They’ve even had an Oprah sighting!  We were hungry and stopped in for a famous hot dog and a mug of their home-brewed root beer to wash away the dust of the trip.  After lunch we followed Highway 93 out of Kingman, up and through Coyote Pass. This is a wide, four-lane highway, as it is part of the main route to Las Vegas and took us back in to Laughlin.

We spent the evening talking how we soaked up some incredible scenery and walked through the numerous vendor booths.  We caught some of Chris Hiatt’s tribute of Stevie Ray Vaughan at The Edgewater.  He even had the signature black flat-brimmed hat that made Vaughan so famous.


Day 3 of the Laughlin River Run coming up next….  

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