The Brighter Side of Lake Havasu

I had multiple reasons for hanging out in Lake Havasu for a couple of weeks before storing my Winnie in Phoenix to fly back to Texas.  First and foremost was to accept Joel and Kathy’s gracious invitation for Thanksgiving.  And it was an opportunity for one last meet-up with Debbie and “The Heathens” Rupert and Elliot, before they headed south for the remainder of the year.   But also, there was to be a parade! And not just any parade, but one with boats!

London Bridge

London Bridge

The English Village beneath London Bridge.

The English Village beneath London Bridge.

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The Annual Lake Havasu Boat Parade of Lights gets voted among the top attractions in our country every year as businesses, individual boat owners, and even a few kayakers cover their boats from bow to stern with Christmas lights, and sail single-file beneath the London Bridge. The event lasts two nights, typically the Friday and Saturday of the week that follows Thanksgiving. The theme for 2015’s parade was “Sparkle Under the Stars.”

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The English Village taken from London Bridge.

The English Village taken from London Bridge.

Once Debbie left on her southerly migration, I also departed our boondocking spot and moved into the Lake Havasu State Park. At $30 a night, it was a bit of a splurge for me, but it was my first paid site with hookups since Moab in mid September, so I was due for a splurge. But my primary reason for moving into town was to better position myself to watch the upcoming parade which terminates at the State Park’s Windsor Beach.

But Joel and Kathy had an even better idea…

Getting the Sea Scouts boats ready for the parade.

Getting the Sea Scouts boats ready for the parade.

Sea Scouts have three sailboats from donors.  Two will be in the parade this year.

Sea Scouts have three sailboats from donors. Two will be in the parade this year.

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Kathy, a certified boat captain, heads up the Lake Havasu Sea Scouts program, a division of Scouts that teaches young adults boating skills. The Sea Scouts would be participating in the first night of the parade, so Captain Kathy invited me to ride on one of their boats!

This barge has a live (and very loud!) band playing.

This barge has a live (and very loud!) band playing.

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Lining up with the other sailboats to bring up the rear.

Lining up with the other sailboats to bring up the rear.

I was to report for my position at 5pm, just prior to sundown to help the scouts prepare for launch. My job was to check the strands of lights draped from the mast, boom, and life lines to make sure there were no outages, while Kathy’s son Jona got the motor and generator powered up. We would be motoring out the Bridgewater Channel to Thompson Bay, where all the floats line up in numeric order. The sailboats are always the tail end of the parade, as most masts are too tall to clear the bridge.
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Santa's sleigh is made up of four barges.

Santa’s sleigh is made up of four barges.

The banks of Bridgewater Channel are lined with bonfires.

The banks of Bridgewater Channel are lined with bonfires.

Final checks complete, we motored out to the bay and circled up to wait our turn to follow the parade through the channel. The beach side of the island was lined with bonfires as groups of families and friends huddled around the fires, waving and shouting “Merry Christmas” as we motored by. The sailboats were tied together in a towing formation with the exception of Captain Kathy’s boat. It has a fixed keel, so we remained “unhitched” to avoid running aground while being towed. However, this also allowed us the freedom to “go rogue” and motor under the London Bridge while the remaining sailboats circled, waiting for the floats to complete their route beyond the bridge to Windsor Beach and back.

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Looking up the mast as we cross under London Bridge.  Captain Kathy says "Don't worry, we've got two feet."  I am skeptical, but no problem!

Looking up the mast as we cross under London Bridge. Captain Kathy says “Don’t worry, we’ve got two feet.” I am skeptical, but no problem!

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Having the opportunity to ride in the parade was a thrill beyond expression. I get excited just being around sailboats, but to get to ride on one in the light parade raised my excitement level exponentially. However, participating in the parade is not the best scenario for actually viewing it. So the second night, we watched from the dock, enjoying the best of both worlds. And since the second night of the parade was not an official Sea Scout event, mass quantities of adult beverages were imbibed. Sitting front and center on the dock with Kathy, Joel, and their friend Carol, watching the parade boats pass by while popping the corks of a few champagne bottles will be one of my most treasured memories of 2015!

Of course, my favorite float is the lighthouse!

Of course, my favorite float is the lighthouse!

Lighthouse float is worthy of a second photo.

Lighthouse float is worthy of a second photo.

This one won "Best Sparkle" award.

This one won “Best Sparkle” award.

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! My favorite equinox when we pass through the longest night of the year. I always appreciate this annual milestone, as the days will never be any shorter than they are today. Tomorrow, the tilt of the planet’s axis begins pointing us toward the sun, giving us a little over two additional minutes of sunlight each day from now until June. As someone who is “solar powered” both in body, mind, and home, this shift is always a welcome relief. Bring on the light!

I would also like to take this time for a heartfelt thanks to all the friends and followers of the Take to the Highway blog in 2015. Your comments and emails of support through the ups and downs of this turbulent year have meant the world to me and my family. My very best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, Harmonious Holiday Season to each and every one of you, regardless of which holiday you celebrate. It’s a great time for reflection and gratitude, to love and be loved, and to set our intentions to make 2016 a joyous year!

All the best,
Suzanne

Desert Culture

Going from the pristine, Technicolor fairyland of “holy Mount Zion” to the stark, monochromatic hills of Lake Havasu City was a bit of a shock.  Just rolling into town, seeing the “Elevation, 450 ft” made me swallow hard.  So arriving at the boondock location along a rough, dusty white-rock road left me in a bit of scenic withdrawal. Continue reading

Back to the Crack

SARA’s Crack, that is.  The “Special Activities and Recreational Area” in Lake Havasu.   I left Zion a little early this year to attend a Thanksgiving Feast in Lake Havasu City with Joel and his family, my long time friends from the northeast, twenty years back.   Since I have decided to leave the Winnie in Phoenix again this holiday season and fly back to Texas, Lake Havasu was on the migratory path. Continue reading

On Mesas and Mountain Bikes

It was tough few weeks here in Zion for the mountain bike contingent.  Both Bobbie and Chris had flat tires.  Mark had his chain break while grinding up Flying Monkey Mesa.  The only bike that hasn’t broken is my “vintage” Trek with the rusty bike chain and raggedy old seat.  ;-)  It has made three very respectable rides fifteen miles up the Scenic Drive in the Zion canyon and back.

But it’s not a mountain bike.  And it has no suspension.  Or disc brakes.  Which means it’s Continue reading

Taking Time on Thanksgiving

I recently read an article in my NPR newsfeed suggesting that instead of “What,” we should be grateful for “When” this Thanksgiving. The premise is based around “time,” that rather than give thanks for things or even people, instead we be more appreciative of time.

It’s been an odd year for me where time is concerned. It seems as if the days are either flying by as fast as the cartoon version of pages flipping off the calendar, or as slowly as my blood red pen waiting for midnight so I can cross off yet another day. There has been no in-between for me this year. Continue reading

Not-So-Hidden Canyon

Hidden Canyon is a popular hike along Zion National Park’s main Scenic Drive.   The 1,000 ft elevation gain and exposed areas are cause for its “Strenuous” rating.  It’s also one of only two hikes I turned back on last year, so it was on the radar to explore this year.   The hike starts out with an aggressive maze of relatively steep switchbacks, up some sheer canyon walls with the aid of chains, and finally reaches a small canyon where the “official” trail ends and the scrambling begins. Continue reading

Pentimento

noun, [pen-tuh-men-toh] Painting. The presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over.

(From Wikipedia) “A pentimento is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word is Italian for repentance, from the verb pentirsi, meaning to repent.”IMG_6425 Continue reading

Impermanence

There’s nothing like losing two immediate family members and attending three family funerals within the past six months to make one ponder “impermanence.”    When I used to see places like “Tripod Rocks,” I would ponder the probability that they would still be standing this time next year.  After the loss of my brother seven years my junior followed by my Dad, now I wonder if I will be… Continue reading

Many Pools, Many Favorites, and Many Memories

I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite hike in southern Utah.  I have loved them all.  So many different personalities from the cold dark canyons of Buckskin to the sunny warm glow of little Snow Canyon.   Each one has something spectacular to offer, though it’s not always about “The Destination.”  Some offer an ever changing variety.  For this reason, if forced to pick a favorite, the “Many Pools” hike in eastern Zion has to rank way up there.   It’s like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates; Continue reading