We spent a week in Lake Havasu City, Arizona and we spent much of that time slightly confused. Let me paint a picture: You head west from Tucson and find yourself driving through the desert… desert and desert and more desert. It all looks something like this:
Eventually, you stop for the night in a tiny middle-of-nowhere town called Gila Bend where this is the sign that greets you at the campground office:
You silently give thanks that the RV park has included handy illustrations on their sign. This way, you won’t have to wonder what’s crawling on you at 3:00 a.m. You’ll immediately know that it’s a scorpion. Such a time saver!
After a fitful night’s sleep, you keep driving, briefly passing through another middle-of-nowhere town called Quartzsite. Quartzsite is famous among RVers because every winter, hundreds of thousands of them convene in the town for a massive gathering. Different groups all hang out with each other, socialize, attend seminars that are offered by their clubs, and buy various products from vendors who show up to market to the crowd. We just missed this year’s gathering (which was ok… it all sounds a bit overwhelming to us.)
Anyway, as you’re driving through Quartzsite, you stop because, while routing the trip, Kevin noticed a place called “Daniel’s Really Good Fresh Jerky” on Google maps and has added it to the route. You roll your eyes, but after trying several types of jerky at Daniel’s, you find yourself repeatedly exclaiming: “Man, this is really good!”, causing you to conclude that Daniel was not lying about his jerky.
After buying half a cow’s worth of jerky, you keep driving through more rather dull desert when, suddenly, you start to see all kinds of cool mountains and water. Lots of water. It’s really quite jarring.
After hours and hours of looking at this:
Suddenly, you’re looking at this:
And you think, “Well, I guess that makes sense: The name of this place is LAKE Havasu City.” But then you remember, this isn’t a natural lake. No… it’s the Colorado River. It’s just been dammed downstream, creating this rather enormous reservoir in the middle of the desert.
In addition, there are lighthouses. Lots of lighthouses!
But they’re not just any lighthouses, but rather, miniature replicas of famous lighthouses found along the coasts of the country
There are almost twenty of these replica lighthouses all around the waterfront.
Here’s us for scale….
Why are there tons of lighthouses on a lake in the middle of the desert? Because a group of highly motivated and very talented citizens built them….They wanted to make the lake safe for nighttime boating and instead of just using boring commercially available lights, they decided to build these beautiful replicas instead. Pretty cool, huh? You can read more here.
So, in addition to there being a fake lake in the middle of the desert surrounded by miniature lighthouses, there’s also the London bridge. The actual London bridge. Like… the one from London… Weird, right??
I mean, at least the Parthenon in Nashville isn’t the actual Parthenon (though, if Nashville could pull that off, it would be a total coup…) With the London Bridge, this is the real deal: disassembled in England and shipped over to Arizona in crates, to be reassembled on fake Lake Havasu back in 1971.
Even better, the story goes: the real estate developer who bought the London Bridge actually thought he was buying the Tower Bridge and he was confused when they assembled the London Bridge and wondered where the rest of it was.*
For those who are unfamiliar, this is the tower bridge:
I often reminisce about life before the internet, and this is the simple answer to the question “What did people do before Google?” They bought the wrong damn bridge from England. That’s what.
Anyway, all that aside, it is a lovely bridge. And Kevin and I managed to snag the perfect table at a nice restaurant overlooking said lovely bridge on his birthday. And because we had such a lovely view, we stayed long enough to watch the colors change as the sun started to set….
So, what’s the deal with this desert city that’s located on a man-made lake, surrounded by miniature replica lighthouses, and home to the London Bridge which was not the intended bridge, but it’s nice anyway?
Well, the town is basically the winter habitat of two distinct groups: Snowbird RVers and spring break kids.There are a ton of very popular RV parks that are all jam packed during the winter months, and in March, just as the snowbirds are starting to head home, the whole town gets inundated with college kids. We were told that the shores of the lake are almost impossible to walk through because there are so many college kids partying on the beach and in their (parents’) boats.
We saw some evidence of how rowdy it can get as we walked across the bridge:
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest it’s not the snowbird retirees from Canada who need to be reminded that they’re not permitted to cannonball off the London Bridge.
Anyway, our timing was pretty good and we landed in town while it was still active with RVers but not insane with college kids. More importantly, our arrival there coincided with the presence of some terrific people we were happy to hang out with.
Ingrid is a prolific blogger and photographer (her blog is Live Laugh RV) who has been on the road with her husband, Al, for about five years. I’ve been following her site for as long as I can remember and ever since Kevin and I hit the road, she has reached out to me numerous times to suggest places to go and things to see as well as provide us information about campgrounds and routes. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m telling you, the folks we’ve met while doing this have just been awesome, and Ingrid is a perfect example of that.
We met up for lunch at a local brewery and then took a walk down by the waterfront and into Lake Havasu State Park. They showed us around and gave us a bunch of helpful information about what to see while we were in town.
Additionally, they helped us out with our immediate need for a mechanic for our car. As I mentioned in a previous post, we had some engine issues that needed to be addressed and life on the road means never seeing the same mechanic (or hair stylist or doctor or vet or anyone else) twice. Because they’ve spent a lot of time in Lake Havasu, they had an excellent recommendation for a mechanic who not only fixed our car, but did it for a fraction of the cost we expected. Yay! Beer fund restored!!!
In the meantime, a reader of my blog, Jana, who happens to live in Lake Havasu, had reached out and asked if we wanted to get together while we were in town. On the one hand, I had no idea who she was and she doesn’t have a blog so there was no way for me to figure it out. On the other hand, as I’ve said in the past, there’s a lot of good that can come from simply saying “yes” to opportunities that present themselves. Plus, I figured, “what’s the worst that could happen?” I mean, if I’m being honest, “the worst” that could happen from meeting a total stranger on the internet would be for us to get kidnapped, murdered, and buried in a shallow grave in the Arizona desert. But, really, what was the likelihood of that? It’s not like we were in Ohio or something. Anyway, Jana and her husband, Mike, were absolutely lovely and we had a great time chatting with them. And not only that, but an hour after we went our separate ways, Jana emailed me and offered to let us borrow her car while ours was in the shop! Seriously…. Who does that?? (I’ll give you a hint: It’s “RVers.”)
See? Just say yes. Assuming you don’t end up an FBI statistic, you’ll meet wonderful people!!
The Desert Bar
So… about that meet-up… We spent the afternoon with Jana, Mike, Ingrid, and Al at the famous Desert Bar – a true institution near Parker, Arizona.
The Desert Bar is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to six, from October through April, and in order to get to it, you need a high clearance car. There are actually two roads that lead to the bar – one is a true offroad trail which we didn’t even consider because we hadn’t had our car repaired yet. The other is a more reasonable road that doesn’t require 4WD but does require plenty of distance between the ground and the undercarriage of your vehicle.
The bar is a destination for visitors as well as the many locals who own off road vehicles in the area.
The drive is about five miles into the middle of nowhere, but when you get there, you’ll find a rather huge bar with live music, several restaurants, and tons of people having a great time.
The entire bar is powered by solar arrays that line the roofs, there are some trails you can climb behind the bar to get a view of the entire area, and there are all kinds of old cars and trucks, artwork, and this teeny tiny “church.”
It is a truly unique place and one that is absolutely worth the trip. Here’s an interesting article about it. Also, Ingrid arrived an hour before it opened and got some good photos of the bar and scenery before it got crowded. See her article here.
All in all, it was absolutely worth the effort to get out there (hell, that was half the fun), and we highly recommend this “can’t miss” spot if you find yourself in the area.
We head into the heart of the California desert for some hiking, some culture, and a whole lot of sunshine.
Where we stayed: Cattail Cove State Park
*internet research indicates that this whole “Tower Bridge/London Bridge mix up” story may be a myth, but I have never focused on things like “facts” or “accuracy” on my blog, and I see no reason to start doing so now.
Fun post! Ha! The “lake” is lovely and really must be a welcome change in the desert. I think the desert bar is intriguing, too, even if a little remote/dusty for me! What would you have done if the warning sign had a big spider on it??? As for the London Bridge, maybe they should have bought a bridge from Brooklyn. Just sayin’….. glad you had fun meeting up with great people!!
I think you would like the desert bar. It’s kind of a hard place not to like… though, I don’t think you’d be getting any Gray Goose cosmos there. And if you did, which, I promise, you wouldn’t, it would be served in a small plastic cup. Ha! So wrong. 🙂 As for the sign, I kinda feel like a scorpion is the worst version of a spider… all the damned legs PLUS poisonous? What could be worse?? Ughhhh…..
Why bother with facts when you can always make up your own “alternate facts?” JUST KIDDING. Bad joke.
Anyway, I have to admit, Lake Havasu has never been high on our list of places to visit…but you paint a bizarre enough picture that it sounds intriguing. Glad you missed the Spring Breakers — that’s never fun anywhere! Well, unless you want to join them in cannonballing off the bridge. Sounds like you had a blast and enjoyed more fun with RVing friends!
Well, we are living in a “post-fact world,” you know. Seriously. That’s a thing now. So I feel like I may as well just go with it on my blog too! Anyway, while we avoided spring break in Lake Havasu, I think we’re gonna be getting a huge dose of the younger kids version here in San Diego. So, we may be spending more time at the breweries and less time at the zoo. Suffer, we must….
Another great post filled with plenty of humor keeping me entertained. Thanks for such a nice mention, and I may be short BUT not that short ???? I knew the minute I squatted down for that photo so Jana and Mike could be seen would make me look a foot shorter lol. I’m glad the mechanic worked out well for you.
We’re going to try and get together for dinner with Jana and Mike before we head out of town next week. It’s time for us to have a change of scenery. Unlike you though, I don’t think I’ll find any lush greenery where we’re going. Once again, it was great meeting up with you guys.
Yeah, that whole picture made me laugh. You’re tiny. Jana and Mike look like they’re photo bombing us. Ha! I hope you do get to spend some more time together before heading out. That was all good timing! I can absolutely imagine that you guys are ready to bust out of there by now. You’ve been there a good long while and while it’s pretty, I’m sure you’re ready for a different view out the window. Safe travels and hopefully we’ll see you soon!
So glad you found this gem of a little spot! We’ve been to Lake Havasu twice and so enjoyed our visits. We stayed in the state park both times and enjoyed the fact that we didn’t have to drive to get to town. Hope you found the trail from the park to the town. Then, biking around the bike trail to see the lighthouses is fun. There are some great hikes in the area that take you to neat little private coves along the water. You’ll have to check them out next time! RVers are the best sources of info and such kind, helpful people.
I think we would have been a lot happier had we stayed at the state park for exactly these reasons – we love being able to just park the car in a destination and walk wherever we want to go. Plus, we would have been much more likely to use the bike trails and everything. This was a weird stop because we had to have work done on our car (on two different days), so we didn’t have the usual amount of time to explore, but if and when we go back, we’ll definitely want to stay in the state park and take advantage of these things we missed. It’s certainly worth spending the time to explore and find these things.
As always a very entertaining post with lot’s of laughs … thank you! We haven’t done the Desert Bar yet, but it is high on our list.
Thank you! Definitely check out the Desert Bar next time you come through – it’s a true one-of-a-kind destination!
Fake facts! I love it! We, too, enjoyed our time at fake Lake Havasu. We stayed at the state park and had a lakefront site, making second cup and happy hour simply divine.
I am jealous… I tried getting a spot there when I booked our reservation months before and it was already completely booked up. Who knew it would be so popular? Though, given how great it is, I can certainly see why. Next time, I’ll have to try to book it even earlier. Getting into some of these places takes serious effort!
Our campground here in Texas has that same warning sign! And we aren’t the slightest bit interested in going to Quartzite when the crowds are there either! I would like to visit Lake Havasu though, so thanks for the overview.
Yeah, we may go to Quartzite one day just for the experience, especially if we know other people who are going to be there, but otherwise, it just sounds like a lot to deal with…. We don’t like being in RV parks that are too busy, forget hundreds of thousands of RVs parked all over the desert. Too much…..
Fake lake. Funny. If your criteria for “fake” is the damming of a river, you will find that many (dare I say most) lakes are the result of damming. In the immediate area Lake Powell and Lake Mead come to mind. Ironically, these “fake” lakes are formed from the same Colorado River.
As for Quartzsite, we just bought property there (read our blog) so watch it. 🙂
Lake Havasu is a fun spot but you have to pick the time to be there. Not summer obviously. And definitely not during Spring Break. At other times, it’s great for shopping, restaurants and events. As an example, in January there is a spectacular Balloon Festival, Fireworks Spectacular over the (fake ) Lake, etc.
Just love reading your posts. Your a nut case, and so am I. 🙂
The poor Colorado River. They just won’t leave that thing alone, huh? 🙂 Anyway, I did read about your home purchase and it makes perfect sense! Quartzite itself is in a great location for taking advantage of all different towns, recreational opportunities, and types of environments… I just think the actual RV gathering in January would be crazy. But, maybe not. We should go before I assume we won’t like it…. You never know! Anyway, congratulations on the house purchase. It makes a lot of sense to have a home base in a good location where it’s warm in winter. Maybe we’ll cross paths next time we come through the area!
Thanks for another great taste of life on the road! You are one of the few people on earth who can turn auto repair and a long drive to a bar into entertaining and heartwarming stories! Love it!
Aw thanks Jennifer! I appreciate it. There’s a lot of fun stuff all around. It’s nice to have a reason to take note of it and write it all down. I hope you are doing well!
Sounds like a cool place! I totally know what you mean about the scary insect signs. ???????? Love meeting up with other RVers too—nice to connect with like minded individuals.
Agreed. As much as we love the travel part, meeting all of these really nice people has been a highlight. It just makes the whole experience more fun.
This cracked me up. 🙂 Great blog, as always, Love your sense of humor in your writing.
“I often reminisce about life before the internet, and this is the simple answer to the question “What did people do before Google?” They bought the wrong damn bridge from England. That’s what”
Thanks Brenda. I’m glad someone other than me finds me amusing. 🙂
I’m snickering at the “Ohio” reference! Hahahaha! Has CFE read this yet?? Wonderful pics as usual and thanks for the fun update!
I don’t know… the problem with Cat is she’s fiercely loyal to Ohio but she’s also way too nice to tell me to shut the hell up. It must be that whole “midwestern kindness” thing. I don’t know for sure… all I know is it works out well for me. 🙂
I LOL’d at the Ohio part too, which is fun because it makes me feel less like a random internet stranger and more like a long-time reader who gets the joke.
Well that’s good because I am definitely going to keep making fun of Ohio in random posts. 🙂
As always you have a way of entertaining us with your humor. Perhaps you may be wondering why Steve liked Cattail Cove 🙂 I did too for it was far from the hustle and bustle of Lake Havasu. We did however bike from there all the way to the Lake and Id say I almost collapsed on our way back, ha ha .
Anyhow, had we known Kevin likes jerky we could have shared with you Steve’s homemade jerky!
Wow! That is a LONG trip…. and not flat either! I can imagine how tough that would have been. And yes, jerky recipes should be traded. Kevin is quite the jerky connoisseur!! He makes his own every couple months. and, I must say, it is darned tasty stuff!
Great post! I love the story of your blogging friend offering to let you borrow their car. RV’ers are the best! That Desert Bar just looks like too much fun! I wish we had known about it when we stayed at Cattail Cove State Park about 10 years ago! Thanks for following my blog!
RVers really are the best. We keep being surprised by it, but perhaps we shouldn’t be by now. It’s a pretty great community to be a part of.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Lake Havasu. I was only there a few hours but it is a neat place. Lots to see. I missed the Desert Bar, next time. Love Daniel’s jerky!
There’s definitely enough there to fill up several days, and it’s located close enough to the main east/west arteries that it’s a decent place to stop on the way. I’m sure we’ll be back sooner rather than later (if for no other reason than to restock the jerky supply).
We’ve made the same stop for jerky, I can take it or leave it, Dave really liked it and we ended up going back for more. We didn’t make it to Lake Havasu this year but hope to when we’re back west in a few year. Great blog and I look forward to following your adventures.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting. This blog has been a great way to connect with people and it’s nice to feel like our community is continuing to grow. Hopefully we’ll cross paths out on the road at some point and can chat in real time. Safe travels in the meantime!
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