I don’t know exactly why we decided Needles would be a neat place to spend 10 days, especially at the beginning of summer. Once a major city and entry port to California, and a stopping point for the railroad, Needles has since fallen on bad times. The Nevada border is about five miles away to the north and the Arizona border is on the other side of the river to the east on I-40 and historic Route 66. The two main draws to the area are the Colorado River which if you are so inclined can be navigated by any number of waterborne vehicles from Lake Havasu all the way to the other draw in the area, Laughlin and the many casinos located there. Lake Havasu City with the relocated London Bridge and Havasu Lake are about a 45 minute drive away in Arizona and also a draw to this area. However, with the high personal and corporate taxes and ridiculous gas prices in California, more than a dollar a gallon pricier than in Arizona, most big box stores and grocery chains have settled in Bullhead City Arizona, 20 minutes away, effectively sealing the demise of Needles. There are still a few businesses left, even a couple of gas stations, but the city for the most part is decaying and boarded up. Located in the Mojave Desert, its claim to fame is that it has often been the hottest place on Earth during the summer. We missed that heat by about a week, but it was still plenty hot.
The RV park where we stayed was located right on the Colorado River, and although that sounds nice enough, the river flowed way too fast to venture in much past ones ankles. Most of the day jet boats and jet skis roared their way past us and how they didn’t hit each other became more of a mystery with each passing day. We had a great spot in the park overlooking the river and had no neighbors on either side of us during the whole stay which in a crowded campground is a huge blessing. Our neighbor Bob drove up from Rancho Santa Margarita for the weekend and camped out in a trailer that the park rented. To say that he will ever pay us another visit is a stretch, as the heat and cramped conditions in the trailer has put him off the RV life. But we enjoyed each other’s company and made a few sorties into the area.
Laughlin is a mini Las Vegas replete with about 9 casinos, the river and a couple of restaurants. Located just past Bullhead City, and about 25 minutes from our RV park, we made a trip to Don Laughlin’s Riverside casino, mainly because it is the oldest one in Laughlin and also boasts a pretty neat antique car museum which we visited.
Don Laughlin is quite a character. He was born in Minnesota and mutually agreed with the principal of his high school that gambling would be more rewarding in his case than studies and thusly left school after the eighth grade. He eventually moved to Las Vegas, saved his money and parlayed his savings into first one bar/dive with a couple of slot machines to another more fancy restaurant/casino in the north part of town, the only place to offer fine food and gambling in that section of town. Again he was bought out and with that money he ventured to the southern part of Nevada and purchased a rundown bait shop on the shore of the northern part of the Colorado River. In time, Laughlin expanded that small bait shop into the Riverside Casino, one of nine mega casinos located on the Colorado River. He also invested heavily on the Arizona side of the river, now controling a large part of Bullhead City as well as shrewdly building the bridge that links Laughlin to Bullhead City. For a long time he was separated from his wife although she maintained a residence on the floor of the hotel just below his…for tax purposes they continued to file jointly. I think they are now divorced…he got the hotel and she got the mansion on the outskirts of town. Pretty colorful people.
Bob, and neighbor Pat, would often come over for dinner when we were still in Rancho Santa Margarita and I would always cook their favorite meals for their birthdays. Bob loves my Jambon à la Crème and always asks for it, Pat is a little more diverse with her selections.
This recipe has been in our family since we moved back to Geneva Switzerland for the second time after living in Ethiopia. We lived in Chêne Bougeries and there was a little hole in the wall restaurant in the town called Chez Loosli – run by a crotchety man and his wife who would have been better served if she was out front and he was in the kitchen – but the meals would not have been as good. He had other items on the menu, but the Jambon à la Crème was everyone’s favorite. Followed by a green salad and some profiterolles, and a lot of good red wine it was always a special treat. Everyone in the family has made it since, and it is always delicious. I always add a little more cognac and madeira wine as it is reducing to add more flavor. Keep tasting the sauce until you think it’s correct. You’ll like this one.