The reason I’m combining these two days is not because I was too busy to post, or I forgot – day 5 of our road trip was nothing but road. Well – road and sand and dust and wind and sand and cacti and sand and … you get the idea. We left San Francisco and drove through the Mojave Desert to Barstow, CA. What’s in Barstow, you ask? Dust and sand and wind and sand and … yeah, not much. It had a hotel to sleep in and a Walmart where we could pick up supplies.
Day 6 was much more interesting. Not that we weren’t still traveling in the desert, but we actually had some points of interest along the way. Our first stop was Lake Havasu City, Arizona. There was a time when Lake Havasu had only one thing more than sand and dust and cacti, and that was water (Lake Havasu is a reservoir on the Colorado River).
Once owned by the government, the abandoned air strip was given to Robert P. McCullough at no charge, with his promise to develop it. McCullough, a wealthy oil magnate, was looking for a retirement spot and decided to develop the piece of land into a retirement village. One problem – it was in the middle of nowhere, and he couldn’t sell the real estate. So in 1967, with the encouragement of his real estate agent and partner, McCullough bought London Bridge. The hope was that it would become an attraction and would bring in buyers, and it worked. McCullough bought the bridge, had it dismantled and shipped at a reduced cost by a shipping company that needed to get a new vessel over and would have made the trip empty. He then had a concrete bridge built, and the London Bridge granite slabs which had been numbered, applied as facing to the new bridge. The reason London sold the bridge was because the 1831 structure was no longer sound to hold modern traffic and it had begun to sink. London Bridge really was falling down! Today the bridge does not span the Colorado River or Lake Havasu, rather McCullough put the bridge on a point, then dredged under the bridge creating a channel and an island. Despite spending $2,460,000 on the bridge itself, plus $240,000 to ship, plus another couple of million to rebuild, McCullough made back all his money and then some.
One fun fact – There were heavy import tariffs on materials like manufactured granite. To avoid adding to the enormous cost of the bridge, Customs declared that the 137 year-old London Bridge was not slabs of granite and iron lamp posts, but an antique, and therefore duty free. This decision set the standard that anything historic over one hundred years old is classified as an antique This standard is still recognized internationally. At the time, the bridge made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest antique ever sold.
Although the dry heat was something Mr. Dickens was not accustomed to, Charles seemed to enjoy the stroll we took across the bridge. He had been feeling a little homesick and seeing the bridge he’d been so fond of made him feel right at home. For those of you who didn’t know this, Mr. Dickens not only liked to frequent the bridge himself, but it was the setting in several of his stories. In Oliver Twist, Nancy met with Rose and Mr. Brownlow on the steps of London Bridge to pass on information. She was seen by Noah Claypole which led to her grisly murder. David Copperfield, like Dickens, liked to sit on London Bridge and watch the people go by. Gabriel Varden, the locksmith, crossed London Bridge to visit Mrs. Rudge in the book Barnaby Rudge. We were honored to bring Mr. Dickens back to visit this familiar and beloved structure.
From Lake Havasu, we got off of the Interstate and onto historic Route 66. It was more desert, but somehow driving on such a historic road made it more interesting. I will say, I’m glad we didn’t break down anywhere along the way. Other than the occasional Road Runner zipping across our path, there was nothing or no one out there, as far as the eye can see.
Then we came to Oatman. Arizona. Oatman is a former mining town. It is named after Olive Oatman, an Illinois girl, who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe, made to work as a slave, and eventually traded to the Mohave Indian tribe, who adopted her as a daughter. She was eventually released near the site of the town. During the Gold Rush, Oatman was a thriving community. The town survived after mining operations ceased because of it’s location on U.S. Route 66, however in 1953 the Interstate was built to bypass the area. By the 1960’s Oatman had become a ghost town and it’s surviving buildings were all but abandoned.
Recently, new interest in the old Route 66 has brought Oatman back to life. Quaint old west buildings including the haunted 1902 Oatman Hotel, the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County, and wild burros roaming the streets, bring in tourists from all over.
The burros are descended from pack animals let loose by early prospectors. Luckily the burros are gentle, albeit insistent, as long as you feed them. They even let Mr. Dickens take a short ride.
From Oatman we made our way to Laughlin, Nevada. There we had a steak dinner, did some gambling, then settled in for the night. We need our rest as there are more adventures on our agenda!