Lake Havasu City - 1/31/2011
Probably one of the nicest changes for me, no more white stuff to shovel, leaves to rake and bag or grass to water, fertilize and mow. The weather here in Lake Havasu City is bright and sunny (300+ days per yr) and about 30 degrees warmer than what I was used to. There is no frost line; water pipes get run in the attic of homes as it never freezes here. Most of the year residents are in sunglasses, shorts, sandals and T-shirts. The humidity is very low, which makes the heat more bearable, and the air is extremely clear, so if you are in direct sunshine, regardless of time of year, you will feel much warmer than in the shade. That sounds simplistic, but what I’m trying to get across is that the sun/shade difference here is more extreme than in the Northeast. The bright sunshine will rapidly age anything left outside. Canvas (Boat Cover) turns brittle and will shred, PVC gets sunburned and brittle, shingle roofs have a short service life. If at all possible all storage needs to be under shade, and roofs should be ceramic or concrete. Another benefit of our clear atmosphere is the night sky. It is an observer’s paradise. On moonless nights the Milky Way and some Messier objects are naked eye. On full moon evenings you can read by moonlight. This is due in large part to the low humidity and to the lack of extraneous light. Havasu has a dark sky ordinance, and for the most part it is observed. There is a limit on the total wattage you can have in your yard, though that is only enforced if neighbors complain. I am fortunate in that I live on the edge of town, and east of my home there’s 75 miles of BLM land that is wilderness (DARK!). There’s a LOT of military aircraft activity here. During the day you can see refueling practice, at night it’s hound and hare.
The low humidity means you never have to use a soggy towel again. You also need to brush or comb your hair right away after a shower. If not, you will need to wet it so that it can be brushed out. Typical RH levels are single digits to twenties, though it does occasionally go to 50%. When it gets that high, locals talk about excessive humidity, I tell them that it isn’t excessive ‘till you can see it. The low humidity does wreck havoc with one’s nasal passages and lips, many people use saline nasal spray and or chap stick. During the summer months, many people turn their water heater off, as it is not required. I used to yell at whoever was in the shower to save me some hot water, here, during summer months, we ask for some cool water to be saved.
Havasu has some of the hardest water in the country. I never knew how badly water can spot till I got here. We drink the same fine water that Coors turns into beer, the difference is that it comes across 2000 miles of rocky river bed before it gets to my faucet, and by then the levels of calcium carbonate are off the chart. Most homes have reverse osmosis filtration for drinking and cooking, but things like outside sprinklers, hose bibs, swimming pool and spa use unprocessed water and it shows.
Water pressure here in town is wonderful, because the town is on a hillside, water is pumped at pressures high enough to get volume to the top house, and all homes have water pressure regulators. We have 135psi on the high side of the regulator, the low side is whatever you dare to make it. The down side of that scenario is that pressure regulators fail, and with some degree of regularity. Min has been replaced once already, it did not fail completely, but it was fouled by lime deposits and would not shut off completely. When you would open the tap first thing in the AM, the pressure would be at the 135psi level! I’ve been told that the high pressure can cause other failures, and that the subsequent leaks then cause water damage. Water costs a bit more here than it did in the Northeast, but not by enough that it matters.
Havasu is in the desert, built in the bowl shaped foothills of the mountains surrounding the town. It has an abundance of natural beauty. The lake and river are on the western edge of town and most of the properties have a view of the mountains or the water, some have both. We get phenomenal sunsets with regularity. I have been told, that on occasion, we get intense lightning storms, but have had none that I've seen in the past year.
I use the term soil advisedly, though that is not what I would call it. The ground here is predominantly Caliche, (pulverized granite). It is nasty stuff, and once it is thoroughly wet and then dries, it is a passable substitute for concrete. As part of our swimming pool install I stupidly volunteered to dig a hole horizontally about 10 feet, the size of a bowling ball. It took me 3 days of exhausting work.
According to internet sources, Lake Havasu cost of living is slightly below average. Insurance on Car, Boat, policies are much less Boat 1/3 less, Car ½, and Home ½. I have been told by agents that this is due to the incidence rate being quite low.
Property tax rates here are very, very low.
Trash pickup is once per week, recycling is same day and they do a curbside sort that seems rather inefficient to me, but it does get the job done. They recycle metal glass and paper curbside, cardboard is recycled if you bring it to the drop off location. Household batteries are not recycled. Car batteries and CFLs can be returned to the point of purchase.
When we left NY, LIPA was charging $.22/Kwh. Here the rate is $.09/Kwh. Even with the pool and spa, and a home twice the size, my utility bills are lower by about 20%. Electricity here is provided by hydro-power, there are generating facilities in both Parker Dam to our south, and Davis dam to our north.
Groceries are about the same, but there are some things I cannot explain. Orange juice is a bit more expensive here, oranges are grown in California and Mexico, juice is made in California, yet it was cheaper in NY. Milk here is very cheap, again no explanation. Overall, no significant change for groceries.
Eating out is a bit less, 10-30% probably due to lower labor costs.
Car registration costs are tied to the age of the car. New cars cost more, older ones less. Quite fair. Trailer registrations make a LOT more sense here. Permanent tags, pay one time and you’re done.
Folks here are helpful and friendly. Walking into a store, you will usually get asked within the first 60 seconds if you want any assistance, it took me a while to get used to that. Inasmuch as Havasu didn’t really exist prior to 1960, there is no “old boy network” to contend with. Everyone here emigrated from someplace else, large numbers from California, Idaho, and some of the Midwest states. New York is well represented; there is a New Yorkers of Havasu social club that has quite a large membership.
We are a remote town. That has plusses and minuses. One of the negative aspects of Havasu is the lack of a local commercial airline. We have a wonderful airport, the problem is that a town this size will never generate the volume of business to keep an air carrier in business for more that the first (federally subsidized) year. We are a 2 hour drive to Las Vegas, and a 3 hour drive to Phoenix. There is no way that Havasu could ever be price competitive with either of those high volume cities. There are shuttle services to Vegas, but the better option IMHO is airport to airport car rental, we have Avis and Hertz and depending on the travel date, you can get very reasonable rates. The other good option is to book one night at any of the many stay/park deals in Vegas. This works great for vacations, and makes it easy yo get an early flight, also gives you an evening in “the big city” as part of the deal.
Locally, there’s a bus system HAT, Havasu Area Transit, but that is predominantly used by tourists and those without other options
Most fraternal and religious groups are well established here, Elks, Eagles, Moose, Masons, most denominations of church groups (I believe there are 30) and one synagogue.
Cost of TV, phone, and internet are the same as in Northeast. Local DSL gets 3Mb/s Cable standard is 6Mb/s you can get more for premium price. NY was better with FIOS, but this is OK as well. Utility service has been solid for the last year. No significant outage. Some of the town has natural gas service, unfortunately not in my area.
What can I say, I was spoiled. I refer to the local paper as the Havasu memo, they have been advertising for weeks for a proofreader and they REALLY need one. It’s not unusual to have police and fire blotter reports on page one. It works OK to swat bugs.
Insects and pests
We have NO mosquitoes! You can sit outside at night and not worry about getting eaten. There are scorpions, but few and far between. Also snakes, but all I have encountered so far are small non poisonous types, and only a few. I did see a tarantula spider and it was GINORMOUS! As luck would have it, I saw it the night before Halloween and I thought my neighbor was pranking me. That thought died when the damn thing moved! I did an internet lookup and although the tarantula looks fearsome, it turns out that they are rather docile. I shooed this one off the property and I’ve not seen it (or another) since. We have an abundance of roadrunners, quail field mice and cottontails, occasionally we see a coyote, at night, we sometimes hear them. I’m told that bobcats have been seen in the hills behind my home but I’ve not seen any thus far. Most folks do spray the outside perimeter of their home on a monthly basis to repel scorpions, ants and small crawling bugs. We did have an issue with tiny black bugs that must be seasonal. They got in via cracks by the front door and also by one of the hose bibs. The insecticide barrier did kill them, but they were inside by then. It took looking at the bodies with a magnifier to tell they were bugs. Whatever they were the problem lasted a few days and then stopped on its own.
Lake Havasu City is one of the MOST dog friendly towns I’ve ever seen. We have an assortment of dog parks, places where they can swim in the lake and many of the stores permit dogs, so long as they are controlled. I was concerned prior to coming here about the effect of the heat on our Golden Retriever. I was told by some well meaning folks that you should shave the dog during the summer months. Veterinarians told me that the dogs paws, as evolved from the wolf, are thick callous pads and that other than severe extremes (no summer walks on asphalt) it would not be an issue. Also that dogs do not sweat through their skin as humans do, so shaving them removes the insulation (hair) and would not help them. It actually is bad for them as they would be subject to sunburn and lack of shade that their fur provides. Indeed, even when the temps here approached 120 Angel (our golden) seems to prefer sitting in the sunshine even when there is shade available. On another pet note. With humidity in the single digits, and the intense sunshine, the dog droppings that I pick up on a weekly basis, have no odor and would pass for rocks other than the color. MUCH easier to pick up after the dog as compared to NY.
Arizona is very liberal in regard to the right to bear arms, CCW is not required, and almost any adult can carry a firearm. That said, other than in a gun shop, It’s rare to see anyone in Havasu carrying a weapon. Discharge within city limits is illegal. ¼ mile outside city limits you can do most anything and no one will bother you about it, so long as you clean up afterward. Two local guys just got ticketed for leaving the quail they shot lying on the ground.
Most of the big box stores are here, lots of restaurant choices, tons of fast food. Not as dense as larger city, but that’s one of the tradeoffs that we have.
No curbs (except some corners, or spots that would have problems with the occasional rain), almost no street lights, once a week trash and recycle pickup, no cardboard recycle pickup (there are dumpsters in a few spots if you want to dump cardboard). Permitting and inspection system for construction is FAR more efficient and responsive (next day!) compared to what I’d been accustomed to. Most of the town has sewers. No can deposits, No car inspections. I was able to register the Sand Rail that I bought without the DMV even looking at it. I was done in 15 min! When I registered the Bradley GT in NY it took MONTHS! More local police than what I’d seen on L.I. They are VERY serious about school zones here, if it says do 15mph, they mean it.
The roads here are excellent. There’s no freeze thaw cycle, so whatever they do tends to stay, and the previously mentioned Caliche makes a wonderful underlayment. A byproduct of the great roads is that it takes a bit to get used to the signage, “Rough Road” and “Bump” signs, seem out of place if you are used to the suspension testing grounds that pass for roads in the Northeast.
Lake Havasu City is sometimes referred to as “Toy Town” or more properly “Big Boy Toy Town”. There are (allegedly) more restored antique cars here per capita than any other town in the USA. From fall to spring on Thursday evenings, the uptown area will be saturated with all manner of vintage auto. Most homes have a boat or RV, many have both. 4 wheelers, Jeeps and Sand Rails abound. Every type of motorcycle can be found here, but there is a definite Harley Davidson preference. There is an assortment of boat manufacturers that make their home here. Speed runs are held on the lake each year, the current lake record is 212mph! We are the Jet Ski capitol of the world. Air chair was invented here and is manufactured here. The list goes on and on.
I hope this provides some useful information, or at least is an interesting read.