So after our fun filled month long stay at Rancho California RV Resort, our wandering itch kicked in, so as sad as it was to say goodbye to our newfound friends, it was time for us to move on. On our first night out we just wanted someplace convienent to spend the night. Rather than staying at one of the very expensive RV parks in the Indio/Desert Palms area, we opted for a cheaper (as in free) alternative, the General Patton Memorial Museum campground in Chiriaco Summit, CA. Located in the middle of nowhere about 2 hours east of Aguanga, Chiriaco Summit is technically still part of Indio.
That turned out to be quite an interesting alternative (review coming). We had to unhitch to get settled into a site and by the time we finished talking to the camp host Paul, it was too late to visit the museum. Instead we wandered around all of the old tanks behind the museum and some of the displays in front of the museum. Quite interesting!
When we arrived, we were surprised to see the Chiriaco Summit Southwest Travel Center next door. How convenient! A gas station with a mini-mart, a Coffee Shop and a gift shop. An oasis in the middle of the desert for sure! We had breakfast at the Coffee Shop the next morning. Good food at reasonable prices! This family owned business established in 1933 has a pretty interesting history.
So why is there a museum dedicated to General Patton here in the middle of nowhere? Well in 1942 Patton was ordered by the War Department to locate, establish and command a training center to train United States Army and Army Air Corps units and personnel to live and fight in the desert, to test and develop suitable equipment, and to develop tactical doctrines, techniques and training methods. It was here that he made his headquarters at Camp Young, near Shavers Summit, (now known as Chiriaco Summit). Camp Young as well as 10 other training camps were key training facilities for units engaged in combat during the 1942–1943 North African campaign.
Next stop was a bit north and along the Colorado River. From Chiriaco Summit we headed to Parker, AZ where we spent a quick two nights at Buckskin Mountain State Park (review coming) on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Across the river were the shores of California. Towering rocks were the backdrop to the cool blue waters of the Colorado River. Such pretty country.
Back in the late 1960’s/early ’70’s, when Rob was in his teens, his parents had taken him and his two brothers on a cross country trip and he frequently mentioned one particular attraction. So it didn’t surprise me when he suggested taking a trip to Lake Havasu City to see London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge of London) as soon as we were settled into our site at Buckskin Mountain SP.
So how did Arizona become the home for the “London Bridge”? Built in the 1830s, it formerly spanned the River Thames in London. Over time, the bridge began sinking at the rate of an inch every eight years. By 1924, the east side of the bridge was some three to four inches lower than the west side. The bridge had not been designed to withstand 20th century automotive traffic.
By 1962, the bridge could no longer support the increased load of modern traffic so it was sold by the City of London. In the hopes that it would become a tourist attraction, Robert McCulloch, the chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation and the founder of Lake Havasu City, placed the winning bid of $2,460,000 in 1968. Before the bridge was disassembled, each block was meticulously numbered. The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. Following reconstruction, it was rededicated in 1971.
And yes it has become a very popular tourist attraction. According to Rob, the bridge looked the same as it did 30 years ago but the surrounding area has turned into urban sprawl, dotted with retail and real estate developments, souvenir shops and restaurants. We didn’t realize it at the time but the Lake Havasu City Visitor Center conducts a 90-minute walking tour at 11 am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday ($10). That might have been interesting. Check out these fun facts about London Bridge.
By the way, there are steps down to the water where there are great views of the bridge as well as access to a lovely walkway which parallels Bridgewater Channel and eventually leads to Lake Havasu.
Another cement structure that attracted our attention was Parker Dam, an arch-gravity dam located 155 miles downstream from the Hoover Dam and easily accessible via Parker Dam Road. Parker Dam provides reservoir storage for water which is ultimately pumped into the Colorado River and Central Arizona Project Aqueducts.
Built between 1934 and 1938,it has earned the title of being the deepest dam in the world with 73 percent of its structural height of 320 feet being below the original riverbed. In order to build the dam, 250 feet of the Colorado riverbed had to be excavated before concrete was placed for the dam’s foundation. Only 85 feet of the dam is visible with another 62 feet rising above the roadway across the top of the dam .Lake Havasu, the reservoir behind Parker Dam, is about 45 miles long and can store nearly 211 billion gallons of water. On the California side of the Colorado River is the Parker power plant which houses four hydroelectric generating units which provide electricity to towns across Arizona, Nevada and California. It was so neat being able to drive across the dam! Although I have to admit, our phones were a little confused as we drove from Arizona (Mountain Time) over to California (Pacific Time) and back again!
Awesome scenery driving along Parker Dam Road on either the Arizona or California side. Lots of places to pull off the road to take pictures. One of our favorites was at Takeoff Point.
We enjoyed our stay here but that was probably because it was early March so a somewhat quiet time of year. Being a popular boating/fishing area, it probably gets very busy and congested during peak season.
After our short stay here, we were once again on the move, this time heading back south to the FMCA Rally in Chandler, AZ. More to come……