Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hardyville, AZ

On a recent trip to Bullhead City, Arizona J and L (along with two of their four footed family members) happened onto an old cemetery perched high above the city. It sat just east of the Safeway shopping center and had a spectacular view of the mountains to the west, the Colorado River and the gambling meccas in Laughlin, Nevada.

Overlooking a Safeway and beautiful sunset

A tranquil respite from a tough life in the Mohave Desert
A peaceful and serene patch of land, but aren’t most places where the deceased rest? There was a visitor information sign that read: Hardyville Pioneer Cemetery and the plaque was erected by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on November 6, 1999.

Another bronze plaque bolted into a large stone and cement base had a few of the people buried there in the Pioneer Cemetery: Bill Boone – 1866, William Brown – 1866, Thomas Gillan – 1872, and a few others not to be forgotten. It is always a little discomforting thinking about one’s own mortality, especially when in front of a grave yard. These people were alive with dreams and desires just like anyone currently viewing their names except they lived over one hundred and fifty years in the past.

Some of those buried in Hardyville Pioneer Cemetery 

No one is immortal in the physical realm.

So, what was life like so long ago by the shores of the Colorado River in Arizona before this modern era? What was a Hardyville and why this cemetery overlooking the grandeur of the Mohave Desert?
There was research to be completed.

The history of this area roughly 90 miles south of Las Vegas and directly opposite of Laughlin is in Mohave County nestled on the southern border of Lake Mohave. It is now a boater’s paradise with the lake and river close by but what drew people here before speed boats and jet skies were the norm?
In 1540 Spanish explorer Melchor Diaz traveled through the Mohave Desert and met the locals who inhabited the area. The Pipa Aha Macav which meant ‘people by the river’ were friendly to the traveler and it didn’t take much to understand why these people chose this area. Fresh water from the Colorado alive with fish and perfect for agricultural purposes. Eventually with more adventurers coming through the area after reading of Diaz’s exploits the name ‘Aha Macav’ simply shortened to Mojave (also spelled Mohave). It should be noted that the county uses the modern English spelling of ‘Mohave’ but the tribe still spells their name as ‘Mojave’.

William Harrison Hardy
In 1774 Father Francisco Garces crossed the river from what would be Nevada into what would later become Bullhead City. It may have been the first crossing of the wide river by a foreigner in this part of the country.

Years went by and more and more visitors to the region came and went but one gentleman by the name of William Harrison Hardy decided to plant roots in the desert by the river. He began a steamboat enterprise bringing goods to trade up and down the river to small mining camps and larger towns along the river. Hardy ventured into other businesses as well: toll roads, delivering of mail, and other occupations that made him the second richest man in Arizona by 1864 and also the same year as Hardy’s settlement officially adopted the name Hardyville. 

The richest man at this time in Arizona was Edmund William Wells who was a businessman, politician and eventually would serve on the Arizona territorial Supreme Court.
Boats plowed the Colorado River making Hardyville a busy port

Hardy was also an inventor and is credited with creating the first riveted mail sack to be used by the United States Postal Service. A pretty good conception since he was also the first Postmaster General of the town of Hardyville.

As with all good things, Hardyville saw a sharp drop in business in the following twenty years with the coming of the railroads to Yuma, Arizona, the movement of the county seat to Cerbat (an up and coming mining district), and competition with other barge companies on the Colorado River. Soon the railroad got all the way to Needles, California knocking another huge money making opportunity for Hardy and fellow businessmen. Silver prices plummeted and many of the mining operations ceased to exist since it was no longer profitable to mine the ore.

Of course, like most old west towns, fire struck a few times turning much of the small town into cinders. Rebuilt but without the same enthusiasm as there once was left and the town getting smaller and smaller in population left the future a bit uncertain for Hardyville. There wasn't enough work to support a single man let alone a family so most people moved onto where the grass was supposedly greener.

At the turn of the twentieth century Hardyville was a ghost town sitting idle along the beautiful flowing waters of the Colorado River.

William Harrison Hardy left, moving to Yuma to oversee the construction of the territorial prison there and died of cancer in 1906 at his sister's house in Whittier at the age of either 82 or 83 (a bit of a discrepancy on his birth year). He is buried at the Broadway Cemetery in Whittier, California - seems somewhat unfair that he wasn't returned to the town he had founded but fairness isn't always a part of life or death.
With Davis Dam came the modern day tourists

Decades later, an engineering feat called the Bullhead Dam project, named after the 'Bulls Head Rock' formation along the Colorado River in the 1940's changed the area for good. Later renamed the Davis Dam creating the huge Mohave Lake to the north of what was once Hardyville.

With the huge construction project came numerous businesses to support the crews needed to build the dam which was finally completed in 1951. More businesses came into the area in the following years making the area more profitable and the name of Bullhead City came into being in 1953.

The rest is modern history.

Of course, with the development of the gambling mecca of Laughlin, Nevada along the blue waters of the Colorado River employment was no longer an issue. The population on both sides of the river continued to grow to their present sizes.
Laughlin, Nevada - right across from what once was Hardyville

William Harrison Hardy probably would never have dreamed that one day his little venture along a river in a pretty hostile climate would eventually become so well known. No, like those other folks buried int he Hardyville Pioneer Cemetery he didn't live long enough to see his dreams cone to fruition.

Just a fact - life's funny like that sometimes.

So, again - go out and travel and see what you can learn by accident. The explorer may be surprised what is in their own backyard.

For further information on the cemetery:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Amboy Crater

J and L often think that all we need to do is to look in our own backyards for new adventures and exploration. We truly believe this, and a recent weekend outing proved that assertion to be true.

On the way home from Bullhead City, Arizona, J and L decided to venture off Interstate 40 westbound and strike out along a portion of old Route 66, near Amboy. Amboy was once a famous, or perhaps infamous, little burg that was once the stopping place for weary travelers traveling west toward California from places to the east - way east.

A relaxing respite from day and night travel; what better place to spend a few minutes, a few hours or even a night to catch up on energy spent on the road?

Harrison Ford cruising Amboy
But this blog is not about the town of Amboy, although the town is actually making quite a comeback. Roy's Diner is open seven days a week, as more and more tourists stop to take photos where numerous films and commercials were shot. As a matter of fact, the sign for the restaurant is a 1959 addition to the property, the same year the film, Journey to the Center of Earth was filmed, in part, in Amboy. Rutger Hauer's cult classic, The Hitcher was filmed here in 1986; and Brad Pitt and David Duchovny were hanging around Roy's during the filming of Kalifornia in 1993. Casting no aspersions on the place, most recently Amboy has served as the locations for more than a few B-rated horror flicks.

On a lighter note, the area served as the backdrop for Enrique Iglesias' music video Hero, as well as the cover art in 2008 for Rush's album Snakes & Arrows Live. And, local legend has it (and autographed photos in the diner tend to add credence) that Harrison Ford is a frequent visitor, landing his personal place at a nearby strip -- the oldest in California.
This story is about that - the Amboy Crater, let's go
Pretty impressive for a place in the middle of nowhere, little Amboy has quite a history but again, this is about the Amboy Crater.

Middle of nowhere - not quite - a lot happening in this part of Route 66
The Mojave Desert is an amazing source of research and exploration. The cinder cone of the Amboy Crater is believed to be about 80,000 years old with periodic eruptions ending ten thousand years ago. A very active part of the Mojave Desert has similar but not as definitive cones (areas sunken with remaining side walls of material encircling the actual eruption site) as the Amboy Crater.

That little volcanic area that erupted in the Mojave Desert is what placed Amboy on the historical map. While ten thousand years in geologic time is like yesterday, we are glad it wasn't yesterday since J and L live in the Mojave Desert; and that would be awkward and potentially life threatening. Seriously though, Southern California is known for earthquakes but not so much for the volcanic activity which once proliferated all around the Golden State. With tectonic plate shifting comes the chance of volcanoes erupting here and there and Southern California just happens to be in the 'here' area.
This baby isn't going to blow any time soon - we hope!

Of course, most if not all volcanoes in the Mojave Desert are inactive - which is simply a geologist's way of saying: "I don't think anything will blow up soon around here. Oh wait, I have a plane to catch."

Hundreds if not thousands of visitors come to this remote area to walk, hike, and explore the area which is like stepping back into time.

There is a short area of smooth walking but most is over level rocky trails
The actual material was layer upon layer spewed up out of the earth over eons and consists mainly of pahoehoe which is a Hawaiian term (Hawaiians being the notable volcano experts) for smooth or unbroken lava.

This basaltic lava has a smooth, billowy, undulating or ropy surface. That happens when the lava below the surface is still very fluid, like molasses, but the top is quickly congealing so the lava path has a chance to stretch out and become smoother, often forming tunnels. The temperatures at the time of formation are a cooling two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. No matter what, the surface around the crater is crammed with hardened rock that, to the naked eye, may not appear to be particularly smooth. But J and L aren't geologists and only look at things as they appear. Smooth and billowy - nope. Hardened and at one time dangerous to walk on - yep.

This looks pretty hard for both bipedal and quadrupedal creatures.
At the ridge line of the cone, nearly 250 feet above the rest of the lava-strewn valley, the views of the desert are amazing -- a delight for photographers and artists who want to capture the reality of a violent past to a peaceful present.

The moon, right?
Walking into the crater allows the explorer a chance to look around at a surface that could be compared to that of the moon. Sandy, rocks here and there, but most notable is the silence. Yes, the wind does blow but when it stops so does everything else for a moment. When that quietness engulfs the crater you feel as if you are on another world. This is definitely the place to go if the adventurer is out in the Mojave Desert driving down Route 66 and just happens to pass a sleepy depot known as Amboy. Stop and have a bite at Roy's but don't forget that strange-looking thing just south-west standing against the backdrop of the Mojave Desert. Take a stroll to the Amboy Crater and realize that stroll has now
brought you to where the past meets the future.

Pretty steep walls - makes the place quiet

As we've said many times, we relish the thought of seeing things in your own backyard. It can be fascinating as we found out by simply getting off of the state highway and taking a two lane road home.

Sit a spell and learn about the area of Amboy

A little time consuming? Perhaps, absolutely worth it when we realized we've experienced something thousands of drivers will never see driving westbound on Interstate 40 heading to the Pacific. Taking a philosophical page from Miriam Beard: "Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

That is the human spirit - go to the mountain and learn what is there to be learned. Just the experience is worth the travel.

Midnight, what better place to be than here?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Aye, my Lassie - that is a Viking
When J and L spent a month in Ireland a few seasons back, we were surprised and impressed to learn that near the confluence of the Rivers Poddle and Liffey, in the capital city of Dublin, there once stood Viking settlement dating back to the 9th Century.

Who’d have thunk it?
Artists rendering of a Viking Irish settlement
The Vikings in Ireland – the land of a thousand welcomes.

Some of the known Viking settlements in Ireland
This called for some research and what better place to start than the Annals of Ulster. These recordings of events year by year were started in the 6th Century and continued until approximately 1540. They are the story, mostly verbatim of medieval Ireland. A treasure trove of facts and figures depicting what went on during those centuries in Ireland. One, and only one issue is that stories that are written in the Annals of Ulster date back to about 431 A.D. So, a bit of a consternation for the researcher is that prior to the 6th Century nothing was written down immediately but left to recollections and stories passed down by the generations.

A page from the Annals of Ulster
It is this area which some of the history may be a bit sketchy –  as in not a hundred percent certain of the facts. Needless to say historians as well as just the good old everyday Irish person loves these annals since it spells out the marvelous, if often dark, history of this island nation.
The facts down and dirty
The annals are written in the Irish pr Gaelic, as well as in Latin. That fact has sent shivers of joy up the spine of linguists as they study the evolution of the country’s language.

Well, it is mentioned in the annals that the Vikings arrived around 795 as the warriors set out to rob and pillage Gaelic Irish coastal settlements. As the raids continued, the raiding parties grew to the point that a settlement needed to be built so they could live and pillage further inland on the island.
Those Vikings – they just loved their pillaging.

Who wouldn't want to plunder and get these riches?
In order to establish the safety of their settlement, the Vikings built a ‘longphort’ or simply, a ship enclosure or fortified naval encampment. It was here, in modern day Dublin that the first one was built in 841 near what is now Parliament Street in Temple Bar West – not far from the Dublin Castle.

It is a fascinating area to walk around in the city. Modern structures towering all about and then the remnants of a Viking longphort literally beneath your feet. At the National Museum of Ireland there are exhibits after exhibits exploring the history of the Vikings and their contributions to Ireland. Not only were they ruthless warriors but actually helped settle parts of Ireland and became good stewards on the land.

Where a Viking 'longphort' once stood in Dublin
That is saying a lot from what is generally thought of the Vikings.

There is, according to the annals, a chance that the Viking warlord Amlaib, also known as Olaf the White, made Dublin the capital city of his territory in 853 and pronounced himself King.  He jointly ruled the area for fifteen years with his brothers Imar – Ivar the Boneless (yes, the same character portrayed on the History Channel in the series The Vikings) and Auisle. The brothers used Dublin as the center to conduct military action against the Kings all over Ireland.

Alex Hogh Anderson playing Ivar the Boneless - son of Ragnar 
The Irish had had enough and in 902, the Irish Kings of Brega, Leinster used a military tactic known as a two-pronged attack on Dublin successfully driving the Vikings back into the sea. But a short twelve years later the Vikings returned and started the Second Viking Age on the island.

Can’t keep a good (or bad) Viking down for long.

John with one of his Viking friends.
So, a visit to Ireland not only brings great food, wonderful company, delicious beer in cozy pubs but the chance of walking where famous Vikings once trod. It is a country full of surprises and as J and L found out that there doesn’t seem enough time in a person’s lifetime to learn all that the Emerald Isle holds in the world of history.

And there are always the pubs - that is enough sometimes.