Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Speedboats on Lake Havasu

Spent last weekend in Lake Havasu AZ.  We had a great time- the wife, me and the Minnow. Our Teenangster had to finish a bunch of projects, including making her own Prom dress! That girl just impresses the hell out of me.  And since she's mobile now, armed with a license and a 2001 VW Beetle, she opted to stay home.  The occasion was Spring Break and a chance to visit my wife's Aunt and Uncle who have wintered there from Wisconsin the past couple years.

Pretty interesting backstory to Lake Havasu City.  It was once a rest and rehab site for wounded WWII Army Air Corps Soldiers, or was it Airmen?  The land that is currently an island on the lake was once a peninsula which had a runway for training the Air Corps, named Kingman Auxiliary Army Air Field (AAF) #6.  It wasn't much of an airfield back in the day, as it was really just an emergency runway for the aircraft flying out of Yucca AAF 25 miles to the NE, or Kingman AAF #5 50 miles North. As you can see in the below picture, it was just an unimproved strip with no services or hangar facilities.


That changed in 1958 when the land was purchased as surplus from the Army by Robert McCulloch, of McCulloch Motors Corporation who wanted a place to test his outboard engines. 

Later buying up another 13,000 acres in '62, he teamed up with the designer of Disneyland to develop what was one of the first planned communities on the West Coast, and Lake Havasu City was established a year later.  The runway became an airport shortly thereafter as McCulloch needed a better way to get prospective buyers to the area.

A late 1950s photo of several personal aircraft at Lake Havasu Site 6                              Source
Air Charter became that mode of transport as between 1964 and 1978, when 2,702 flights brought 137,000 potential land buyers to Lake Havasu City in a huge sales push that targeted mainly people who were either frozen Midwesterners, or NorEasters who thought April was drunk and should go home. (See what I did there?)  But what's an airport without an airline?

McCulloch, who moved his company to California from Wisconsin in the early 50s, sold a bunch of chainsaws and boat motors to make himself rich.  He was probably already rich, but he added to his riches by manufacturing drone engines for the US Government and building his own airline to bring his future neighbors to Lake Havasu.

Lake Havasu Airpark in 1968 with all four Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft in its livery.                                             Source

Alright, with much of the history lesson out of the way, I'll get a little more up to the present and future with the rest of this post.  First off, we had a great time.  We've often vacationed in locations on or near inland waters which offered us the occasion to spend some time on a boat.  We've rented speedboats in Tahoe and Newport Harbor, jet skis in Big Bear, a pontoon boat in Panama City, river-rafted and kayaked on the Rogue River in Oregon, and have spent a lot of time on San Diego Bay and Mission Bay in all manner of craft.

This is how we spent most of Saturday, on a 32 foot Bennington Pontoon Boat, lazily moving down the lake and Colorado River for some swimming (a frigid 62 degrees).

We also did some fishing.

Ok, that's actually my wife's catch- a Largemouth Bass.  Mine was a little bit smaller.

Ok, that's actually a lure.  I was unsuccessful in my fishing endeavors.

We also took in a little sightseeing.

There are dozens of little coves and inlets, some winding up to almost an eighth of a mile back from the river.

The landscape varied from sand dunes, rocky cliffs, different rock and sediment, and many different colors.

A lot of little lighthouse replicas from around the country line the lake and river.

Hard to see, but there are two Rocky Sheep near the waterline behind the fisherman.

And either Mom or Dad stood watch on the cliff above.

 And a chance to relax.  Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of some of the more interesting landscape as I was either too busy relaxing, or my phone just couldn't get a decent shot.  If this blogger thing becomes more than a part time gig, I may want to ask the management to buy me a real camera.

We traveled about 15 miles down river to see the water that would be my shower in a couple days.

The pump station sending my drinking water to SoCal.
The city is very laid back.  We went to a steakhouse one night, and a Mexican joint the next.  I was overdressed wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  The residents are mostly retired folks, but there's a huge industry in supporting all the fun activities- boat sales and repair, jet-ski sales and repair, small engine maintenance, and stereo outlets to trick out your boat.  You can also trick out your all-terrain vehicles, which are almost as prevalent as the boats.  Anything to have fun with the boat is for sale or rent there as well- water skis, wakeboards, and tubes to tow behind for the kids or the less coordinated.  There are also lots of classic cars, Harleys, off-road motorcycles and bars.

Did I mention they have a lot of boats?

During Spring Break, the boaters are out in force.  They are out having fun on the lake of course, but they also have a more raucous type of fun along the Bridgewater Channel, where the booze flows freely and the bikini tops fall freely.  One of the top selling items are pasties- that strip-club accessory that keeps the police in check during the season.  A friend saw my pictures on Facebook and said we were wearing far to many clothes for Lake "I don't have a suit."  We were there late in the season though so my son was unable to view even a single pair of pasties, or body part sans pastie.  And what's Spring Break in Havasu without that?  heh heh.

Sorry about the quality of that video.  Not just for the shakiness, but the lack of decent scenery.

As I mentioned earlier, the island was once a peninsula.  In the late 60's McCulloch carved a channel through the section nearest the city as a place to put his London Bridge, which he had purchased for $2.4M when it started sinking into the Thames.  Rebuilding it brick by brick over his channel cost him another $7M.  Other than the lake, it's the main attraction for the city. 

I appreciated that the city hasn't forgotten its roots.

There is plenty of evidence of Lake Havasu's patriotism.  Besides every third car having a veteran's license plate or frame, the "We support the troops," stickers were everywhere and signs thanking our troops were just as plentiful.  There were other positives we saw there.  The gas prices were 50-60 cents per gallon cheaper than in California.  The property taxes are apparently considerably lower as well.  The demographics of the city were also to my liking- with more than two-thirds of the city registered as Republican. Our relatives there aren't going back to Wisconsin now that Spring is over- they've decided to officially become Arizona residents, abandoning their home state and its high taxes without any regrets.  And the cops don't seem to want to harass folks.  ATVs are ok on the streets, as long as they have lights at night and one isn't driving like an idiot.  Open carry?  Saw that too, but not much.  Drinking on the boats?  Have at it- as long as you aren't the one driving.  Arizona doesn't seem to have the same welfare mentality that California does either.

We had a lot of fun, and the weekend went by much too fast.  But the "Time Flies" title has a double meaning.  As we left our daughter at home, we realized that our kids were pretty much grown up and we were entering another phase of our life.  She'll be off to college next fall, and my son is about to leave his teen years.  And we don't know where the time went.  My wife and I found ourselves having far more in common with the residents there than the Spring Breakers.  We're closer to the retirement phase of our life than we are to being college kids, and we're looking forward to being empty-nesters.  We realized that part of what we liked about Lake Havasu, besides the boating, was the laid-back lifestyle, and its conservative political culture that is reflective of the state in general.  Fiercely independent, Arizonans aren't succumbing to the overly liberal attitudes that seem to be growing in the rest of the country.

Anyway, it was a great time and I'm sure we'll be back.  Maybe not to live in retirement, but having relatives there who own a boat will make it a fun destination.

And the best kind of boat is the one your friend owns.


  1. The boating looks like fun. And no engineroom, win, win all the way.
    When I looked at the photo of the four Connies, I thought about the number of engines and that each engine had a huge amount of moving parts. The modern jet turbine is much simpler, even though they do not run on steam like they should. Just saying.
    We have finalized our trip this summer and we have planned two full days for the Air Force Museum in Dayton.

  2. Well, now I've got some history and some background on the area that I didn't have before.

    All I knew about Lake Havasu before today was what I had seen on Cops, which admittedly focused more on the antics of college students behaving badly than the area itself.

    Lovely place, I shall have to visit it someday, even if it is in the middle of a desert!

    Well done Tuna!

  3. Fun post, Tuna, and nice historical overview. Had no idear...

    What I wouldn't give for a time machine that could place me on the ramp at Havasu Airpark in 1968.

  4. " kind of boat is the one your friend owns."
    Or a close relative.

  5. Man, the sight of four Constellations at the airpark gave me the shakes. The good kind.

  6. " kind of boat..."

    LOL, one of my best friends used to captain a 32'sloop on Lake Pontchartrain for an owner who let him use it for himself when the owner wasn't around. "Best boat I never owned" he used to say. :)

    I learned my lesson when living in Denver in Cherry Creek. A sales engineer in our condo had an in-board that he kept on a trailer in the parking lot. He spent practically every waking hour when not working one spring pulling maint getting it ready for summer. He took it out to Cherry Creek reservoir exactly TWICE that entire summer (and I was with him on one o his jaunts) So much for cost benefit analysis.,


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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