London Calling in the American Southwest

In need of a swim (shower) and being in the proximity of Lake Havasu City, we pulled up adjacent to London Bridge (yep the old one from the Thames) and were taken back to fond memories of the last place we called home for the past 8 years, London UK.  Complete with mock English Village, the government in 1967 bought the bridge thinking, as rumors tell, that they had actually purchased Tower Bridge, a far more descript structure and icon of the heart of the City of London (though this has been denied by both parties). From here, we could hear the unmistakable throttle of engines roaring in the distance, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at the lake shore to the ‘Thunder on the River’ yearly race meet, a quarter mile drag race on water. We spent a good half an hour watching the races while soaking in the clear waters of the lake, the locals submerging their chairs a couple of feet deep to keep cool.

London Bridge.  Lake Havasu, Arizona.
A little bit of Ye Olde London town in the middle of the Arizona desert

Needing again to catch up on blog, we found the local brewpub the Barley Brothers (try the Hefeweizen and the Big Horn Pale Ale, both good) that’s set on the shores of the lake right by the bridge, though there’s disappointingly no outside patio to chill on.  Being responsible we decided to leave and grab a few travellers (beers) and head to Hoover Dam, sleeping yet again in Walmart, this time Boulder City’s.

London Bridge.  Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Straight from the Thames, the old London Bridge, shipped piece by piece

By now we’d become accustomed to waking up in a Walmart carpark, and today was no exception. We hit the road early and made it to the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam right on opening time. Going through the security check point, we had a quick security search of Porkchop before taking the steep winding road down to the carpark. To be honest, we thought the dam was a bit of a letdown, but it was free to walk across the newly built bridge to get a good view so it’s worth it if you’re in the area. You can also pay for a power plant tour if that’s your thing.

Hoover Dam, Arizona
Hoover Dam

Opting to avoid driving back into the centre of Vegas, we looked at the map and decided to detour to the east through Lake Mead National Recreation area (it was part of the National Parks pass so it was free). Entering the park, we soon realised our ‘short cut’ wasn’t going to be quite so short, as the map is never able to accurately show you how windy the roads are. To begin with there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to see, and parts of the lake were so low that the access roads were closed. Continuing on though, the drab brown vistas turn to intense shades of red rock and the landscape became a lot more interesting.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area

If you’ve read Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into the Wild’, you’ll recognise Lake Mead as the place that Christopher McCandless drives his old Datsun (illegally) along a river bed where he camps for several weeks off the grid, before a flash flood takes him by surprise, causing him to abandon the car and take off on foot, burning the rest of his money before doing so (National Park employees later discovered it and after a little bit of tweaking managed to get it started and continue to drive it for years). It’s a desolate place that’s not somewhere you’d want to be stuck without water.

Arizona, short but sweet…we’ll be back!

As the Virgin Mountains grew closer, we consulted the map several times to work out exactly which way the road was going to take us into Utah. There seemed to be only two options, around or through. We’d just agreed that we believed the road would go around, when suddenly the seemingly impassable rock faces opened slightly to reveal a canyon road winding its way right through the middle. A roadside sign advised steep, mountainous curves, but we were confident the newly replaced radiator would make it through.

Arizonian desert.
Winding roads through desolate Lake Mead National Recreation area

The drive was amazing, at times you’re so deep in the narrow canyon that you have to lean right forward to look up and see the sky. Porkchop had no problem keeping pace with the rest of the traffic, and before long we’d made it to the other side, with the Utah border visible in the distance. Being our 20th state on this trip, Utah had a lot to live up to. Luckily we knew it wouldn’t disappoint, as Sarah had spent time here previously on a 2010 road trip from Canada, fallen in love with it and had been waiting to bring Matt back ever since.

Approaching the seemingly impassable Virgin Mountains, only to enter a canyon and drive straight through them

Crossing the border just south of St George, it only took Matt 20 mins to join the ‘I love Utah’ club, and we spent the next hour marveling at the earths ever changing shades of red, amber and violet in the striking landscape of violently upthrust hills.

Hello Utah!!!


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