We’d been driving through the Mojave Desert and thought it would be a kick to spend a day in Lake Havasu City. You may know that Robert P. McCulloch, chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation, bought London Bridge in 1967 from the City of London, shipped it to California, and installed it in his new Lake Havasu City. That’s what we knew before the visit.
We drove through block after block of small 1950’s styled bungalows, large pickup trucks parked out front, and “muscle” boats parked in the driveways. With everything painted white or a very light color, the effect in the hot April sun created a terrific glare, so strong that, even with sunglasses, our eyes started to burn. In this desert very few trees or shrubs thrive to counter the effect. Landscaping with white or light stones sprinkled across the front yards, in fact, increased the glare. The only relief from the bright white glare was the azure blue ribbon of the Colorado River shimmering in the distance.
We decided to wait until sunset to walk from our motel to the London Bridge. After one block of walking, the sidewalk abruptly ended. We returned to our car and drove to a parking lot near the Bridge. Parked. Then, we cut through another parking lot, and there it was: the rather stolid grey stone London Bridge. Nothing sleek or fancy. Palm trees were lit up and sparkling on the nearby shore. The bridge definitely looked out-of-place. We walked across the bridge and continued walking toward the beach. Within a block the sidewalk ended. It didn’t look safe to continue walking on the road, so we turned around and went back. As we strolled back across the bridge, night slipped in and the party scene at the watering holes by the bridge cranked up.
A planned city, Lake Havasu, was begun back in 1960s. Is this really what the founders had in mind or did things take an unplanned turn? To us, this new town depends on a petro culture without color and life; with no sidewalks; dependent on gas guzzlers; and with the London Bridge as its desert centerpiece? Yet, apparently, many others enjoy living here or escaping to it for weekends and holidays.
The next day, as we drove away, back into the beautiful Mojave Desert, we imagined we’d seen a rather strange mirage called Lake Havasu City. The beauty of the natural desert beckoned, and we were happy to drive quickly from this “man-made” mirage.