Up, Up and Away…to Lake Havasu


After nearly two months in one place, a road trip was calling us. We pulled up stakes on a Thursday morning – well it was actually afternoon by the time we’d gotten everything disconnected and packed away for the jaunt – and started west toward Lake Havasu City, bypassing Quartzsite on the way. Our plan was to spend a couple of days taking in the Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu before returning to check out the draw of RVs in Quartzsite.

It was getting dark by the time we arrived in Lake Havasu and found the Good Sam parking area where we’d booked a spot for two nights. The price was right at only $20 per night. Although it was dry camping (no electricity, water or sewer, also known as boon docking) it was close to the lake and the site of the Balloon Festival, to which frequent shuttle buses were supplied. We had dinner in the motor home, read the information provided by the Good Sam Club, and then turned in early so we could be up at dawn for the first balloon launch.

The next morning we were on the shuttle bus by 6:30 am, after a quick breakfast and no coffee. We watched while numerous balloons were inflated and readied for launch. Multi-membered crews pulled ropes and organized the various stages while trying to keep spectators from getting in the way. It was an amazing thing to watch.

Laying it out

Laying one out

Crew at work

Crew at work, pulling it up

At 7:20 am the Opening Day of the Balloon Festival began with a Flag Ceremony and the first balloon was launched,rapidly followed by many others.

Inflation Begun at sunrise

Inflation Began at Sunrise

Nearly there

Nearly there

Flag Ceremony

Flag Ceremony

Up, up and away

Up, up and away

Balloons filling sky

Balloons filled the sky

For $200 each we could have taken a ride in one; for $20 we could go up a few hundred feet in a tethered balloon. The former would have been fun, but was too expensive; the later didn’t hold much interest. We waited to see the massive Wells Fargo Balloon leave the ground, but learned that it would only be tethered, so we finally wandered to the mile-long circle of vendors in search of more breakfast.

Wells Fargo Balloon

Tethered Wells Fargo Balloon

After filling our bellies with a shared jumbo breakfast burrito, and re-energized with coffee, we toured around Vendor Circle where we were impressed with the variety and quality of products for sale. We snapped pictures of vintage cars on display.

1962 Studebaker Avanti

1962 Studebaker Avanti

Vintage Car

Who knows what this one is?

At 1:00 pm we were getting weary so waited in line for a shuttle bus back to the campsite, only to be told that the school buses being used were tied up transporting school children until 3:00, so we went back through the gates, found a table under the tent and enjoyed Teriyaki bowls while listening to the musician performing on the outdoor stage. Then we roamed some more, discovering more balloons in the sky and more treasures in the Vendor Circle. We drank several bottles of water. The temperature had climbed up over 80˚F. The weather turned a little too breezy for a few hours, so the balloons gradually returned to the ground. At 4:00 pm we finally caught a shuttle bus back to the RV to rest and unload the extra clothing and purchases that we’d been carrying around all day. But we had to go back again at 6:00 to catch the “Night Glow” or “Field of Fire”. As the sun set, we stood beneath a ceiling of colourful balloons lit up by the gas flames that inflated them. What an awesome experience! Exhausted, we fell into bed very early again that night.

Night Glow Balloons

Night Glow Balloons

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The next morning we were up early enough to have coffee and donuts with our fellow Good Sam members at the campsite, and we took more pictures of the launched balloons from the roof of the RV before setting out on the road again.

Balloons from RV roof

Witches, Butterflies and even a Pink Elephant

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We made a stop at London Bridge, in downtown Lake Havasu City, before finding a place to fill up the propane tank. We would be boon docking again in Quartzsite, so we had to make sure we had plenty to run the furnace (it still gets cold at night), water heater and stove.

London Bridge

London Bridge

Then we were on the road once more.

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Desert Botanical Gardens Not to Be Missed


Botanical Gardens in the desert are certainly different than what we see at home. This time of year especially, there isn’t much colour as most plants are finished flowering until spring. But, the varieties of plants and species are fascinating, and at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, until February 28th, the addition of colourful glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly spread among the cacti makes up for the lack of flower blossoms.

Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens and Chihuly Glass Art

Desert Botanical Gardens

Agave scabra

Agave scabra, main ingredient for Tequila

Desert Botanical Gardens and Chihuly Glass Art

Desert Botanical Gardens and Chihuly Glass Art

Desert Botanical Gardens and Chihuly Glass Art

Desert Botanical Gardens and Chihuly Glass Art

Chainfruit Cholla

Chainfruit Cholla

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We were lucky to see a few of these as well.

Butterfly

Butterfly found a blossom

Cotton Tail Rabbit

Cotton Tail Rabbit

Tomorrow we’re pulling up stakes temporarily for a trip to Lake Havasu and then to Quartzsite. We’ll be without amenities so I’ll save my stories until we return in a few days.

Trouble in Paradise


Wednesday evening a note was posted throughout the park warning that the water would be turned off on Thursday morning from nine until noon, for needed repairs. Not even the park staff knew that that would be the least of the worries.

Thursday morning everyone was up early getting showers over, coffee made and breakfast dishes done while water was still available, when the power suddenly went off. Of course, because we have battery back-up, our lights only flickered. Almost immediately I heard two people talking on the street:

“Did your power just go off?”

“Yes.”

“The transformer just blew up!”

Blew up was an exaggeration, but the recently newly installed transformer had indeed malfunctioned. Soon, a congregation was assembling on the street corner, and work crews were pulling up to the big transformer located a half block from us.  The rumour mill began. Most people hadn’t yet had their coffee, so there was lots of grumbling. We learned that only half of the park was affected by the power outage. By ten o’clock, when we walked up to the park entrance for a curious look at the new park model homes on display, we found that a large crowd had gathered to take advantage of the free coffee and donuts promised during the Open House. The outage was the topic of conversation. Some were already worried about the food in their fridges and wondering how they’d keep warm if the power wasn’t back on after dark.  We were thankful for our generator, something that fifth-wheels don’t have, unless they carry one in the back of their tow vehicle, and certainly no park model has.

As the sun came out to warm things up, people began to go about their daily business, except if they had something planned for indoors.  There were no lights and no computer or internet access. Some people made use of the pool and hot tub while they were still warm; others gathered on the patio to chat with friends. Somehow they managed lunch, either at home or out at restaurants.

When the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly, as is usual here. The grumbling began anew. Work crews were still on the scene. The water was turned back on, but it looked like the power would remain off for a while.  The rumour mill said it wouldn’t be back on until Saturday. That night most people were in bed very early because there wasn’t much else to do in the dark and bed was the warmest place to be.  Even though we had heat from the propane tank, and could turn on the generator for electricity, we had to conserve, so we too turned in early.

Friday morning we shared our coffee and toast with our new neighbour and friend, Mary Lee, before going to see if The Country Store (a weekly market of local vendors) was in operation. It was, but only with enough vendors to fill the outdoor lounge. It was too dark inside the hall for the others. At the office there was another notice posted: Power would be restored by 2:00 pm, if not earlier, and there would be free hot dogs given out for lunch on the patio. As we were walking over to get the free lunch, a tractor and trailer pulled in, carrying a new transformer and a huge generator.

Transformers and generators moving in

Transformers and generators moving in

A large crowd enjoyed lunch with friends while sitting in the sun listening to the resident Dixieland players, who had moved their Friday morning jam session outdoors. The atmosphere was far more positive.  Two o’clock came and went; then three and four. The atmosphere changed. Crowds began to form around the work area again. Free pizza delivered in the back of a Cal-Am (the parent company who owns the resort) pickup truck was offered to the spectators. It was a good way to get to know our neighbours, at least. Gradually everyone drifted off to the comfort of their beds when it became apparent that there would be no power again that night. The generator was running, but for some reason it couldn’t be connected to supply power to residences. Again, rumours as to why spread around. Sometime in the early hours it was turned off and the workers went home.

Early Saturday morning our back-up propane tank was empty, so our heat went off. Fortunately there was still enough gas left in our main tank to heat the place up once more.  We called to get the backup tank replaced, and were informed that they could come on Monday! We again shared breakfast with neighbours and Mary Lee later loaned us her car so we could go to Home Depot to purchase a small propane tank that would last us for the weekend.

A new posting appeared in various places around buildings and parking lots of Mesa Regal.

Posting

The line was long, but moved quickly and we appreciated the pulled pork sandwiches, chips and fruit salad.

In the afternoon we gathered down the street for a block party, where we shared a pot luck meal of fruit, raw veggies, crackers, dips, cookies and cupcakes, and lots of laughs. We met most of the new people who had arrived after Christmas.

Block Party

Block Party. No electricity needed!

Best of all, when we got home at 5:30 the power was back on. I wonder how many went next door to Tower Point (another Cal-Am property) for the free dinner.

Everywhere we went during this ordeal people had opinions, stories and criticisms. I heard of one woman telling someone in the grocery store that it had gotten so cold in the night that two people had been taken to hospital by ambulance because of hypothermia! Fortunately another Mesa Regal resident overheard the conversation and set the record straight, but that’s how rumours get started and spread and become more exaggerated.

Yes, the outage was inconvenient and stressful to many people, and yes perhaps there might have been ways to prevent it, but sometimes shit just happens and there is no way to be prepared for everything. What’s more important is how it is handled.  In my opinion Mesa Regal worked hard to fix the situation and to make amends as quickly as possible. These things take time.

A Beautiful Day to Ride


At 10:00 am yesterday morning, fourteen motorcycles carrying twenty people set off from Mesa Regal toward the open road.  Jim and I were among them, having just hooked up with a group of regular riders. Most of the bikes were Harleys, but another Suzuki and a Honda were part of our minority. That didn’t seem to matter.

Pat led us out Hwy 60 and then south towards Florence, where we made a pit stop at the River Bottom Grill, and had a bit of time to get to know a few people better. It turned out that Pat and Catherine are from another Arizona city just north of here – Prescott. I told her that I’d lived a good portion of my life in the community of Prescott also — Prescott, Ontario that is. We chuckled over our different pronunciations of the word.

Riders, taking a break

Riders, taking a break

From there we turned west onto Hwy 287 and then south on Hwy 87 through Coolidge. The day was warm and sunny, although a haze of sand could be seen in the distance at the base of the mountains.

Desert Haze

Desert Haze

In a couple of spots the winds got really strong, hampering my efforts to take pictures. We passed fields where cotton had been harvested and clumps that had escaped lay on the ground in a rectangle marking where the bales had sat. I would have liked to pick up a handful.

We continued south until we hit Hwy10 and rode north-west for a few more miles until we reached our destination – Eloy, home of Sky Dive Arizona. No, none of us planned on jumping, but after an excellent lunch in the Bent Prop Saloon & Cookery, we sat outside to watch plane-load after plane-load of braver souls silently and skillfully drift to the ground with their colourful parachutes above them.

Jumping from plane

Look closely. See the man below the tail?

Coming down

Perfect landing

Perfect Landing

The ride home was by a more direct route, and, except for a ten minute delay in a construction zone, much faster. There was some confusion when Pat pulled into a parking lot and we were waved on to follow the next bike in line. We lost a few more along the way, so never got to say thanks for the ride to anyone but Dan. We enjoyed it.