Arizona Drifter

Wanting to do something different on this trip, I decided to drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas instead of fly. I headed west out of Phoenix on route 60, then jumped to rout 72 to 95 and ended the day at Lake Havasu City.

The route looks funny on the map because the road maps fail to show the mountain ranges that characterize the lower Colorado River basin on the western boundary of Arizona. The first half of the trip was flat dusty desert, straight roads, and high speed. It was unusually cloudy for Arizona and that played with the color on the desert landscape.

The big surprise was that this part of the country is almost devoid of permanent structures. It is the land of trailer parks, RV's and double-wides up on foundations. Whole villages dot the roadside for a hundred mile stretch, some RV campgrounds, other more or less permanent settlements made up of homes obviously towed to the sight rather than built there. Even what commercial building as existed were of the same prefabrication. I found myself reworking a Jeff Foxworthy line, "You know you're in western Arizona if you are invited to a house warming and you have to help take off the wheels."

I drove through this part of the trip in high-speed contemplation, marveling at what passed for human settlement, slowing down only for the villages which invariably straddled both sides of the road. In one such village a pair of pretty, young, dark skinned girls tried to flag me down for a ride, obviously having just visited the local trading post and needing to make their way on foot to the next trailer city up the road. My instinctive kindness was pushed aside by concerned for local propriety. In other words they looked like trouble. :-)

 Once I reached the Colorado River basin, the landscape changed dramatically. There are minor mountains everywhere thrusting up from the desert floor in defiance of natures best attempts to wear them down with wind and water. The sun was setting and its hard to describe the way in which light plays with the appearance of mountains and desert alike. It is incredibly beautiful. The river here is not wide, maybe a few hundred yards, but deep and still awesome despite the efforts of five western states trying to consume the water before it gets this far.

 The hills along the river are dotted with sage brush that appears a ghostly tan, almost white in some lights. At dusk they appear like cotton balls glued to a quilt for decoration. I was thinking as I pulled into view of Lake Havasu in the early dark that the effects of desert country are to magnify everything. Mountains are bigger and more rugged, distances seem more formidable, visibility is certainly greater, you can see incredible distances. Light is exaggerated, so is color, ....and so is loneliness.

Gene Ziegler