View from the resort.
Lakeside vacation mobile homes.
Ready to launch.
Resting on the resort's beach.
Green grasses line the shore.
Clear green water at a private campsite.
Water pumping station.
Salt Cedar sapling takes root on a bouy.
Nesting site on stilts.
Lighthouse guides boaters in.
Houseboats at the marina.
Havasu Springs Resort, Arizona
Late October, 2009 - We left Laughlin, Nevada with a hankering to get the kayak out onto Lake Havasu, one of the manmade
lakes that have bubbled the Colorado River into a string of elongated beads as it runs south. Problem was, where to stay? We
pulled into a Love's gas station as we exited I-40 to take AZ-95 south, and a man in an old pickup engaged Mark in conversation.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
"Where are you staying?"
"I'm not sure."
"Can I interest you in a free 5-day, 4-night stay at Havasu Springs Resort?"
Mark's ears perked up. Sure! It turned out that one of the oldest RV
park timeshare membership programs, Colorado River Adventures,
was promoting their parks to the snowbirds as they migrated south.
We could choose from four different RV parks for the promo package,
but he told us Havasu Springs was the nicest. "You'll have to take a 90
minute tour, but it won't be any longer than that, I promise. You'll also
get a $100 Walmart gift card."
Score!! Going to timeshare presentations was something of a sport in
the Phoenix area in the late 1990's. The resorts were lovely, the
giveaways were lavish, and the presentations were usually not that long
or grueling. During coffee breaks on our group bike rides in those days
we'd sit around with our friends and compare notes on the different
timeshares we'd toured. Of course, it's a sport fraught with danger, as
almost everyone we knew had given in and purchased a timeshare
somewhere along the line. Nowadays our savvy friends buy them for pennies on the dollar on the internet.
We looked at the brochure the man in the pickup had handed us, saw the
pictures of the pretty beaches along the lake, and jumped at the chance.
Once there, while we were checking in, Mark noticed a poster on the wall
that offered two free dinners at the resort's restaurant if you took a tour of
the condos that were for sale. Within minutes we'd scheduled our condo
tour for later that day and our timeshare membership tour for the next
day. Ironically, we then accidentally took a self-guided half-hour tour of
the whole resort on our own, with our monster rig, as we got lost several
times looking for our campsite.
We were assigned
an appealing end site. Our rig filled the entire site, and we had to juggle our
position to get the slides out without hitting the electrical box or the tree, but
we gleefully plugged into electrical, water and sewer hookups for the first time
in 8 months. We planned to bask in four days of very very long showers and
we set the air conditioning so it would cycle on and off at will (this is not
possible when we run the a/c from the generator: when the a/c cycles on it
overloads the generator, shutting it off, so we simply run the a/c til we are cool
and then turn it off, effectively cycling it manually).
Our condo salesman was at our door
just as we removed the last bungee
cord from the cabinets. What fun to cruise through a fabulously decorated $800k condo
with views of the lake and mountains, envisioning ourselves hosting elegant parties that
spilled from the beautiful great-room out onto the sprawling deck. We found out we could
pick up this piece of paradise for less than $500k because of the stalled economy. What a
We politely declined, but the free
dinner at Springs that night was
wonderful. We had a pretty table
overlooking the marina, and we
toasted each other and our fine
meal while we were serenaded by a
wonderful female vocalist. The sun
set slowly behind the distant
mountains and we kept laughing
about what crazy good luck it was to
run into the guy in the pickup at the
The biggest perk for us at this
resort was the chance to get out on
the lake with the kayak. Early the
next morning we snuck down to the
boat ramp and launched the boat.
It was promising to be a very
blustery day, and the water soon
kicked up as we pedaled and
The funny thing about this tandem
kayak is that the front person gets
drenched by waves slapping the bow. Mark thought it was all quite hilarious as wave after
wave splashed over the boat and all over me while he remained perfectly dry. I got the
last laugh, however, as the water that dripped off of me followed gravity
and made its way along the bottom edges of the boat to soak Mark's seat.
After a while he was sitting in quite a puddle. We cracked up when we
finally returned to the boat ramp and crawled out of the kayak, two wet
The timeshare presentation was later that afternoon, and we were
radiating grins when we arrived in our salesman's office after our morning
adventure. He took one look at us, heard Mark explain that we live off the
grid, and he said, "I know you're not going to buy, so I'll keep this short."
He gave us a brief synopsis of what the membership program was all
about (summarized under the "High End Membership Programs" on the
Fulltiming page, about 40% down the page). And before 45 minutes was
up, he was shaking our hands and wishing us safe travels. There had
been a mixup about the Walmart gift card, so
he handed Mark a check for $100. "I bet this
was the easiest $100 you ever made."
Soon afterwards we saw him in his golf cart
greeting some friends who had just moved into
a site behind us. Not only did he know we
weren't going to buy, but he had better things
to do with his time late on a Friday afternoon.
We hit the resort's bar for $1.50 steak tacos
and rode our bikes all over the place. It is an
expansive property with several hotels and
marinas, and we enjoyed roaming the grounds
so much we forgot to check out the swimming pool and hot tub. However, we met a couple who
had just completed 20 years of sailing in the Caribbean, and we enjoyed a lengthy conversation with
them about that lifestyle. They were now building a home base in Vancouver and had come south
in their RV to escape the cold for the winter.
They were happier cold weather creatures than
we were, however, as their long term plans
were to buy an old fishing trawler and explore
Alaska by boat.
The winds died down and we were gifted with
one glorious day on the water with the kayak.
This time we both remained dry and we
explored much further north along the lake. It is
a huge lake, some 50 miles long, so there was no chance to get to the other
end where the famed London Bridge stands. However, we probably got about
4 or so miles out, and we passed countless boat-in BLM campsites along the
shore. These are charming little spots with private beaches, picnic tables and plenty
of room to spread out. Only one of these pretty campsites was occupied.
We stopped at one that was set in a private cove and wandered along the clear
green water. What a perfect place to take a young family for a weekend. The kids
could run free, and the adults could
The Parker Dam, which creates Lake
Havasu, is a huge concrete structure.
This business of controlling the
Colorado River took a lot of
engineering to create, and evidence of
the will humankind has exerted upon
this river appears in the vast
unpopulated hillsides in the form of water pumping stations with huge pipes and
Heading in the
towards the Bill
Williams Marsh, we found a wildlife nesting preserve. Large tower
structures make inviting nest sites for birds. We didn't see any of
the occupants, but there was plenty of evidence they had been
there, with nests on every tower.
We followed the lighthouse's beacon to one of the resort's marinas
and meandered between the houseboats. There are all kinds of
ways to enjoy this corner of the world, staying at a resort hotel, in
an RV or a houseboat, or living in a condo or old mobile home
vacation house. It's a small community tucked into a corner of the
lake on a long stretch of deserted shoreline. It's one of those special little secrets that isn't necessarily advertised in bright lights
but we were fortunate enough to be lured in by a man in a pickup clutching a fist full of brochures. We were still shaking our heads
in disbelief at this quirky detour in our travels as we made our way towards friends and family in Phoenix.