The jagged and stark vistas, all painted in tones of tan and brown look alien to someone raised in the green and wet lushness of the Adirondacks, as I had been. The wind and the 110-degree temperatures we encountered everyday felt as if Hephaestus himself pointed a bellows at us. The land was baking around us, it was so hot even the lizards stayed in the shade.
Though each horizon was rimmed in an unending world of rocky desolation and hazy blue sky the beauty we encountered was unmistakable and as fine as anything we’d seen anywhere.
We embarked on a five-day trip to one the resort hotels in Laughlin, NV, on the banks of the once mighty Colorado River. We flew from Jacksonville, FL to Bullhead City, AZ. Just 90 miles south of Las Vegas, Laughlin looks like nothing other than what it is, a place of tall casino hotels dotting the western bank of the river, just across from the seemingly unending dollar stores, tire shops and medical offices of Bullhead City.
On day two of our trip, we took our rental car and drove south to Nevada’s second largest tourist area, Lake Havasu City, the home of the London Bridge. In the 1960’s (just when Don Laughlin was developing his resort town), a man named Robert McCulloch bought and moved the bridge from London to Arizona. Today you can drive across the bridge and drive down underneath it to a small touristy ‘English’ village that has a small museum and several shops and restaurants. You can even walk right up to the bridge and touch this piece of world history.
The next day we decided to drive the famed route 66 up into Arizona’s Black mountains and visit the old mining town of Oatman, where in 1915, two miners struck it rich in gold. In its heyday Oatman was home to 3,500 persons, now the town boasts a population of 102. Today Oatman is known for its burros, descendants of the original animals used for mining. Burros dot the town like furry statues, placidly waiting for someone to feed them. My advice? Watch where you step.
Finally, (in between our visits to casinos, of course) we visited the Davis Dam, just a few miles north of Bullhead City. This Colorado River dam was built in 1944 to fulfill a treaty with Mexico, to provide that country with water. The road across the dam itself is closed to traffic, but we were able to park on the western side and walk down to the dam, without much effort.
Though the trip seems to be common, the vistas that surrounded us on every step were breathtaking and wonderful to see. We found ourselves continuously stopping the car to snap a photo of something. Five days was a long time to spend in Laughlin, but the trip was nonetheless one of the most enjoyable we have taken, surrounded as we were with strange beauty.
Robert Frost, in his poem ‘Desert Places’, would have us believe the desert signifies the emptiness that lies under every part of our life, but I was reminded of Robert Southey’s desert poem:
"How beautiful is night!
No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain,
Breaks the serene of heaven:
In full orbed glory yonder moon divine
Rolls through the dark blue depths
Beneath her steady ray
The desert circle spreads
Like the round ocean girdled with the sky".