Monthly Archives: March 2014

Was Walt Johnson haunting the Road’s End Restaurant?

Havasu Palms_064Back when I managed Havasu Palms’ Road’s End Restaurant, we installed a computerized point of sale system. We were one of the first Havasu restaurants to go computerized – even before such notables as Shugrues.

While computerized POS systems are commonplace today – that wasn’t the case back in the early 90s.

The Road’s End Restaurant’s POS system involved two touchscreen computers – one in the waitress station and one at the bar. Neither had a hard-drive, and both were hooked up to the main computer – located in my office at the rear of the restaurant.

Placing an order involved entering it at the bar or waitress station computer. If it was a food order, the order printed out on the small printer in the kitchen. If it was a drink order, that one printed out on the small printer behind the bar.

The system was installed before my father passed away in December of 1992. Back in those days most folks weren’t that computer savvy and as far as most of the crew knew, the only way to send orders were from the waitress station or bar computer. But I had a secret – I could also place an order from my office.

My father, Walt Johnson – founder and developer of Havasu Palms had recently passed away. One evening after the kitchen closed, Don and I went up to the bar to say goodnight to the remaining employees and customers – all who were seated at the bar. They could see the kitchen and hallway leading to my office was dark. After saying our goodbyes, we left out the side door – supposedly to go home.

Before I reached my golf cart to head home Dad’s playful spirit encouraged me to slip back into the restaurant at the back door – and to my office. From my office computer I sent a message to the bar printer.

Imagine our bartender Bonnie’s expression when the printer started spitting out paper. Glancing to the kitchen, she could see there was no one in the waitress station…and since she was the only one behind the bar, who was sending her an order? Was it perhaps some forgotten order stuck in the system and had somehow unstuck and decided to print?

Hesitantly she approached the bar computer, tore the piece of paper from the printer and slipped on her reading glasses.

It wasn’t an order. . . it was a message: Walt says hello.


Looking back at the Roads End Camp

Every once in a while I’ll receive an email from someone who used to visit Havasu Palms back in its Roads End heyday. I love it when people share their stories with me. Here is an email I received a little over a week ago. I wanted to get his permission before I posted the email. When Mr. Danielson granted his permission, he mentioned he recognized one of the men from the book, and I believe the above photo is the one he was referencing.

I was looking for information on “Roads End Camp” and happened across the website.  I read your story.  I used to camp there from 1957 through the summer of 1964 with my parents.  Have always wanted to go back, but too many wars and interventions got in the way.  I’m sure the only things I would recognize now would be the road and Pilot Rock.  I once buried “treasure” there, on the sandy shelf in about 4 feet of water .  I have ordered your books from Amazon (paperbacks) and looking forward to the old pictures.  We used to fish under the bridge and over at Parker Dam.  My dad got to know one of the divers that cleaned the underwater gates.  He could tell some stories about giant catfish down there.  I remember the time we were ‘asked” to leave Squaw Dam because it was on a reservation.  We had been going there for years.  Vidal Junction was a place at the edge of the world then, the last sign of civilization (well almost).  Your sister is right, “…the best of times”.

We never met and I was recovering from my first tour when you first saw Roads End.  I get the feeling that the camp (Havasu Palms) became special to you too.  I’m sure the family connection played a major role in that; but back then, the way it was, the place could put a spell on you.  Reading your story has saddened me, but helped to put a touch of closure too.  Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t want to go back.  I’ve never gone back to Pico Rivera since leaving.  Too much change, too many memories of how it once was.  I once walked across “London Bridge”, before it moved to Arizona!

 Thank You,

 Joe Danielson, CMS USAF (Ret)

Corned Beef and Cabbage, a Saint Patrick’s Day Tradition

lepWhen I was a kid, Saint Patrick’s Day was about pinches. To survive the day without getting bruised we wore green.

As a young adult, Saint Patrick’s Day became synonymous with green beer. Yet, I’ve never been much of a beer drinker.

It wasn’t until we had a restaurant in Lake Havasu City Arizona – around 1998 – that I had my first traditional Saint Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage. Quite honestly, I think that was the first time I ever had it.
But, I can safely say, we’ve enjoyed it every Saint Patrick’s Day since. While it isn’t a favorite with my husband (yet neither is turkey, but he puts up with that on Thanksgiving) he never complains. Considering how much I like it, he is probably grateful we only have it once a year.

I prefer my mother-in-law’s recipe, so I requested she make it this year (she lives in a guest house on our property) while I agreed to make the red potatoes, cabbage and set the table. Seems like a great deal to me.

If you don’t feel like cooking tonight, and haven’t a mother-in-law willing to make you corned beef and cabbage, I imagine you’ll probably find it today as a lunch or dinner special at more than one of the restaurants you frequent.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Makeshift Pastry Bag for Muffins and Cupcakes

MuffinTinNow that my alter ego has her most recent book out – and she is starting on her next one – I need to focus some of my energy on completing my cookbook, Recipe Traditions, A New Generation. One thing that has given me a kick in the motivation is the recent release of Miss Terry’s Kitchen, by my friend and professional RVer, Terry Russell. Terry travels with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Nick Russell, and together they publish the Gypsy Journal RV Travel Newspaper.

Terry’s book has been a great success, but I imagine one reason for that is that she is a great cook. She’s been sharing her recipes with readers of the Gypsy Journal RV Travel Newspaper for years.

This morning I made muffins – yet I will have to confess it was more for my mom than research for my cookbook. While making the muffins I decided to take some photos of how I fill my muffin tins, so I could share it with you here

Instead of spooning the mixture into the tin, I prefer filling with a makeshift pastry bag, made from a large plastic zip-lock-like bag.  The first thing I do is fit an empty bag into a large measuring cup, and then fill with the mixture. You can see how I did that in the first photo.

After closing the bag while removing any excess air, I cut off one bottom corner of the bag. It’s important not to squish all the mixture to the bottom of the bag before you do this, or you’ll have a mess. You can see what I mean in the middle photo.

I then fill the muffin tin using the bag, operating it like a pastry bag and squirting the mixture in each cup. My third photo is a bit awkward, as I needed an extra hand to hold the bag properly while shooting the photo with my iPad. But, I think you get the idea.

My book is my baby…or how to inflame reviewers.

babybookSome authors refer to their books as their babies. Apparently this particular metaphor really pisses off some reviewers, who then take it upon themselves to swoop down on the authors and punish them for making the comparison.

Of course, this is not the first time people have found a metaphor inappropriate. Take the term Nazi, for instance. Maybe Seinfeld got away with the “Soup Nazi” – but others who’ve applied that term have often been bashed, with their critics insisting using the term carelessly minimizes the horror of the Holocaust.

While I’ve never considered the books I write to be my “babies” – I understand why some authors choose that term.

On the flip side, I understand why some reviewers find the term inappropriate – although I don’t get the rage it incites with some reviewers (I mean really folks, get a life).

The thing is – it is never a good idea to criticize a person’s baby. That is a quick way to make an enemy. Imagine telling your friend, “Gosh that is one ugly baby,” or “Your baby isn’t very smart,” or “Your baby is pretty boring.”

If we want to grow as writers, we need to accept honest criticism. I’m not talking about those nasty troll reviews – and believe me, there are plenty of those out there – but even those we need to consider, if even for a moment.

When we seriously see our books as our babies, then we miss an opportunity to learn from honest, yet negative reviews.

As for me, if you trash my babies – meaning my son or daughter – then buddy, you really are in for a fight. It doesn’t matter if what you are saying is true or false – that typically doesn’t matter to a protective mother bear.

My Claims to Fame

Antique manual typewriter isolated on whiteMy claims to fame in high school were that I drove a boat to school and that I typed all my notes.

The first made me cool – the second made me nerdy. So I suppose they sort of balanced me out.

Living on the California side of Lake Havasu at Havasu Palms, I took a 12-mile (round trip) boat ride each school day – beginning in my sophomore year. A friend who lived with my family for a portion of my sophomore year shared the boat ride with me, but for most of the time, it was a solo run.

My boating adventures included numerous engine failures – being caught in storms – once I sunk the boat (okay, I did make it to shore, but it was going down fast) – and once I rescued a drowning man (okay, he wasn’t drowning exactly; he had foolishly put an engine on his canoe, and when I found him his canoe had capsized and he was precariously holding onto the tip of the craft in frigid water).

As for the notes – those were typed on an old red Royal typewriter my grandfather had given me. The keyboard – now attached to a computer instead of typewriter — remains my preference over pen and paper. Had laptops been invented back when I was in high school, then perhaps the typing thing wouldn’t have seemed so nerdy.

Dark Nights and Fast Boats on Lake Havasu


Racing down Lake Havasu south from Lake Havasu City, heading toward Parker Dam isn’t such a terrific idea once the sun has set, especially when you pass Havasu Palms. This was especially true a few years back, when navigation lights were even scarcer than they are now.

I remember one year- when we were still at Havasu Palms – a boat raced past the park and veered right, into Whipple Bay, instead of staying in the center of the main channel. This landed the boat on the shoreline across from Havasu Palms’ mobile home park along Whipple Bay.

As was the routine when an accident occurred near the park, someone came to get one of us from Havasu Palms management. After all, it wasn’t like they could call a local cop.

They found Don at the restaurant, and informed him a boat had just crashed on the other side of Whipple Bay; they heard it. Don immediately drove from the restaurant to the mobile home park.

Sound carries exceptionally well across the water. When Don arrived, he could hear shouts of help coming from the darkness, across the bay.

Standing at the shore Don called out, “Is anyone hurt?

“No, we’re fine!” He heard them call back.

Sadly, we’ve seen our share of boating accidents over the years, and often people die. Don was relieved to hear no one was hurt.

The next moment Don heard them call out, “We need a ride to shore!”

Don paused a moment, then shouted back, “You’re already on the shore!”

(Photo: Whipple Bay at Havasu Palms, California)

Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

Road into Havasu PalmsI write about the place where I grew up – Havasu Palms – in two of my books, Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover, and Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances.

In spite of how it all turned out, we have some incredible memories – not to mention countless humorous anecdotes. One story involves my father’s own brand of humor.

Havasu Palms was a mobile home park, marina and restaurant, located at the end of a 12 mile dirt road and situated along the shores of Lake Havasu. Those last eight miles of road into the park will probably never be paved, not only because of the expense, but because it runs through a wash and is subject to frequent flash flooding.

People were always amazed to find double-wide mobile homes had actually made it over the dirt road. For some people, their first drive into the park was traumatic, focusing not on the spectacular scenery, but the primitive and rough road.

When we moved to the park in 1968 there were about 28 full-time travel trailers and a campground. Most of the tenants didn’t live there full time – but their trailers stayed year round and Havasu Palms was a weekend getaway. When we left around the turn of the century, Havasu Palms had 131 mobile home sites, and no campground.

Onto my story…

One day when my father was working by the Havasu Palms store doing some surveying, one of the more nosey, busybody tenants asked him what he was doing.

“It’s a secret, you have to promise not to tell anyone,” my dad told him. The tenant, now even more curious, vowed to keep the secret.

“Okay, as long as you don’t tell anyone. They’re cutting a new road into the park, which will be paved.”

The tenant couldn’t wait to get back to his trailer. From the store you can look across the bay and see a portion of the trailer park. My father stood by the store and watched as this tenant made his way home, stopping at every occupied trailer along the way.

View To Park

It wasn’t too long before another tenant hurried over to the store, excitedly asking Dad for details about the new road.

Keeping a straight face, Dad asked him what he was talking about, and never fessed up to the falsehood. Of course, that left the second tenant rather pissed off at the first one.

As would be expected, the spreader of the tale returned, upset at Dad and asking him why he had told him the story of a new road.

Once again keeping a straight face, Dad said, “I told you not to tell anyone.”

Living with the Moms


My husband and I are part of the sandwich generation – which Wikipedia describes as “a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” Fortunately for us, ours is an open faced sandwich, with only one slice of bread. Our children, ages 31 and 34 are both self-sufficient, and have been for years.

But, we do have both mothers living with us – my mother-in-law and my mom. The ladies will be 86 this year.

Mother’s quarters are on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom, and includes a bedroom, bath and large sitting area. A couple years ago we built a guest house on our property for my mother-in-law. It’s 600 square feet and includes a living room/kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet and laundry room.

So far both women are in extremely good health. They take care of all their own personal needs, which include doing their own laundry and housework. Yet, they do rely on us for transportation – taking them to the store, doctors’ office and other outings.

Both ladies have given up their driver’s licenses. Mom relinquished hers when she was eighty, due to failing eye sight – while my mother-in-law gave up hers after breaking her femur this past spring.

People often ask us questions about living with our moms – the first being, Isn’t it difficult? Sure, it can be. But it isn’t just hard on us, it isn’t easy for them. For my mother-in-law, I don’t suppose she likes having to rely on us for transportation. When she was still driving, her daily routine included going to the grocery store and running other errands. While I detest running errands, it was something she enjoyed. For my mother, I think the hard part is sharing a home where she is no longer in charge.

Another question asked, Do you eat all your meals together? My mother-in-law prepares all her own breakfasts and lunches, and has dinner with us maybe 60 percent of the time – or more. My mother generally prepares her own breakfast and lunch, yet we sometimes take breakfast together – and sometimes she cooks it. As for dinner, mom usually takes that meal with us, unless Don and I are going out for the evening, or I simply don’t feel like cooking that night. Mom helps with the dishes, and regularly cleans the kitchen.

There are special perks for having the moms here – like when our grandchildren visit. Over New Years our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson visited us from Alaska. Our granddaughter, who will be four May first, loved visiting the GGs (as she calls them) – and would go out to the guest house and knock on the door of my mother-in-law’s, or visit with Mom in her sitting room.

We also had regular tea parties on the patio. That photo is of our granddaughter and my mother. Mom looks pretty good for 85, doesn’t she?

Vampires Continue to Entertain – Meet My Friend, Brandon Hale

0000vampVampires have been entertaining us for centuries. John Polidori’s brought us The Vampyre, Bram Stoker gave us Dracula, daytime TV entertained us with Dark Shadows, Buffy slayed them, Ann Rice exposed them in Vampire Chronicles and Stephenie Meyer’s seduced a new generation with Twilight.

Depending on the author’s depiction, the vampire might be sexy, sparkly, deadly, evil, ugly or funny.

Since Twilight, sexy vamps seem to be the rage, but one new author has decided to explore the darker and less romantic side of the vampire’s nature, in the popular Day Soldiers series.

I first met Brandon Hale, author of the series, about two years ago. Ours is an online friendship, but one I value. At the time I frequented a public online forum for authors, and I kept hearing other writers praise Brandon for Day Soldiers.

At first I thought it was some military book. But I was curious, so I read the preview. That one chapter sucked me in, so I went ahead and bought the book.

You don’t even have to buy the book these days, because the first one in the series is free. You can download it at Amazon. If you like the story, you can continue on with the rest of the series.

One reason I’m promoting Brandon – aside from the fact I genuinely like his series – he was recently diagnosed with cancer. While battling cancer, he has less time to write new books, and market his existing ones – something he needs to do to make a living.

dayI urge you to download that free sample, and give it a shot. I’m not even asking you to buy the book. But if you happen to discover a new favorite author, purchasing his other books will really help him out during this rough time.

If you’re feeling generous, one of Brandon’s friends has set up a gofund account to help Brandon get through these challenging times.

Click here for a FREE download of Day Soldiers

Click here for Brandon’s Website.

Click here to contribute to Brandon’s Gofund account.