A small town, founded in 1964 and incorporated in 1978. It began as a cluster of mobile homes for workers at Robert P. McCulloch Sr.'s motor testing plant, built on the site of an Army Air Corps landing strip and rest camp which were abandoned after World War II. The lake itself was formed in 1938 by the completion of Parker Dam. There is some industry there, but much of the economy is based on tourism -- people go there to boat, fish, jet ski, and to see London Bridge.

Back in 1968, McCulloch bought the bridge for $2,460,000 from the Brits, who were selling it because, well, it was falling down. He had it shipped brick by brick to Lake Havasu and reassembled over a narrow stretch of water.

An assortment of shops with an "English village" theme sits on the shore where the view of the bridge is best. It's a bizarre little faux-Tudor assemblage with silver spray-painted heraldic dragons on pedestals at the entrance. Beyond them is a fountain bedecked with stone lions and ringed with jets shooting mist into the air (the unintended effect being that it looks like the water is boiling away to steam in the desert heat). The shops have little or nothing to do with the English theme, which led to this surreal moment when my wife and I visited a few days ago:

We stood on a walkway, looking over the water at the gray stone immensity of London Bridge. Through its arches we could see the volcanic hills and mountains of the Arizona desert. To our left was a stand selling Hawaiian shaved ice, and next to that was a stand selling ostrich jerky. In front of us was a pier belonging to the Dixie Belle boat tour company, and moored to it was one of their vessels, which was decorated with pseudo-Polynesian script identifying it as the "Kon-Tiki".

"I feel like my head's going to explode," I said to my wife. She looked as shell-shocked as I was. As I took it all in, I had a deep feeling of pride at being an American: the native product of a land where we do things like go to the gigantic expense and Herculean effort of moving someone else's huge stone national treasure halfway across the world in order to plonk it down in the middle of one of the harshest climates on the continent and sell snow cones and dried ostrich next to it.

If there is a word for a sense of patriotism and embarassment inextricably fused together, someone please tell me; I think my country needs that word badly.

Not mentioned is that this place is a major spring break hotspot. For those two weeks, and during the summer as well, the beach is full of women in tiny bikinis, and men offering them beads to flash their breasts. I've been told that the Girls Gone Wild videos we've all seen commercials for were made here.

A friendly note for anyone wishing to drive there from California: Do not take the US Highway 95 exit soon after Needles. You want the AZ 95 approximately 30 miles later. Taking the US 95 will indeed take you to Lake Havasu, but to the wrong side. Why there are two freeways with identical numberings 30 miles apart is a mystery to me.

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