Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Needles California - Route 66 Modern Day Ghost Town

First off, I'm sorry for the absence of posts here. We've been very busy and in fact are currently sitting on top of our favorite mountain ridge for two weeks. I have some posts backed up from our last couple of trips and I'll try to catch up.
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Needles
I'm sure many people would argue that Needles is not a ghost town, but in my opinion, if it isn't already, it's on it's way.  This was once a thriving place on the California/Arizona border. It was the first (disappointing sight) for most of the folks moving west during the "dust bowl" period. People were expecting to see orange groves and green paradise when they hit California.  What they saw was desert. A huge desert. This exact moment was depicted in John Steinbeck's epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. 

Several things led to the demise of Needles. The main highway (the famous route 66) ran right through town.  When a new highway (route 40) bypassed the main part of town many years ago, things started to go downhill and continued until today. Because Arizona taxes gas at a lower level than California and the owners of the Needles stations are price gougers of the first order, Gas is at least a dollar cheaper a gallon there. Yesterday, we filled up our jeep with gas. In Needles, gas was $4.92 a gallon. A mile away in Mojave City, Arizona, gas was $3.70! I guess that partially explains the 12 closed and/or former gas stations on the main drag in Needles. I should also tell you that Needles is regularly the hottest place in the United States and sometimes the hottest place on Earth.

There are some RV campgrounds and a golf course community on the outskirts of Needles, but the main part of town is sad.  During the winter months "snowbirds" add greatly to the population in this area. Canadian and northern US license plates are more often seen than local ones. 


This spot is about 20 yards away from where we are parked for two weeks. Hard to believe it's in the middle of one of the world's largest deserts. It's the Colorado River. I took the photo from the California side. Arizona is across the river and Nevada is where those mountains are in the left distance. BIG sky country...


About 100 years ago, this used to be the El Garces Hotel. The plan is to refurbish it and open it again. The project has been going on for many years and not much is happening. They want it to be a four star hotel and resort. I don't see many people going there, no matter how many stars it has. It's in the middle of the area I'm calling a ghost town. 


This group of photos are six of the 12 closed up gas stations I counted on the main drag of Needles. We might do some more exploring to find out just how many there are.












This group of photos is only six of the many closed up motels along the main drag (old Route 66).  This place was really hopping at one point in time. Sadly, that point in time is long gone.










The only school we saw in the old part of town was this one and it's shut down and boarded up.  

Needles even had it's own city airport! All that remains is this building.
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At one time Needles was the largest town in the area. Now it is the smallest.  Pretty sad, if you think about the rich history of the area.  We'll be going back to Needles after the summer is over. It's now over 100 degrees everyday.  It was very interesting and surprising to not see any graffiti anywhere.
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August 4, 2013
I've just received several new comments and email from people who are from Needles, or live in Needles. I was pretty sure I'd get a few comments from locals about what was said here, but I didn't think it would take this long.  I'm going to copy one of the emails into a comment, but my response will have to be in the body of the post  because it greatly surpasses bloggers number of characters limitations. 
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Anonymous (7/31/13 comment) - Much of what I wrote below relates to your comment
Anonymous (8/1/13 comment) – I think some of those things you told me to do are illegal in this state! I hope you didn't really think I was going to do anything but delete your comment.
Anonymous (8/2/13 comment) – Based on that comment I was just referring to, you might have been confronted.  Thanks for speaking up! I certainly do agree with you about the “wrong crowd.”  That is what happens when vacant buildings and houses are left sitting around to rot.
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Suzanne and Anonymous - Thanks for taking the time to send your lengthy comment and email to me.  Suzanne, I’ve seen your name in a few of the City Council and Hospital Trustee meetings minutes.  It seemed like you were concerned about how much running the local hospital was costing the city and felt that the residents should know about it. I commend you for that! I can’t say I agree with much more though. 

You said that the boarded up school and most of the closed up gas stations I pictured in this blog post are on the Needles Highway and not the “main drag through town.” Not the main drag you say? That was part of the old Route 66 Suzanne!  It most certainly is the historic “main drag!” There is very little traffic on it now when compared to a couple of the newer streets (no streets in Needles have much traffic anyway).

Graffiti 
I said I wondered about the lack of graffiti, so I asked a few people about it. I was told that the graffiti does exist and shows up all the time. However, iff it is reported to the public works department, it is cleaned up right away. Kudos on that, but don’t pretend it doesn't exist.

Kids Having Fun
You make it sound like kids are everywhere having fun.  I’m sure that some kids are doing those things, but exactly ZERO of them are playing in the park in front of the El Garces Hotel, or riding their skateboards and bikes on the empty sidewalks of the “historic” district. You don’t even live around there anyway! You are nice and cozy living by the river, with the golf course, the BNSF railroad yard and about a dozen railroad tracks between you and “the historic” area.  I guess you could say that the area we are talking about is on “the other side of the tracks.”

Sex Offenders in Needles
Anonymous, you said you went back to Needles to start your family there. You might want to rethink that decision. I’m sure that you've never heard of the Resident to Sex Offender Ratio. It indicates how many sex offenders an area has per capita.  The ratio for Needles is 231. That is one sex offender for every 231 residents.  Following are the ratios for towns in your area (All statistics are gleaned from the FBI National Crime Database). 

Sex Offender Ratio (HIGHER is better)
Golden Valley is 183
NEEDLES is 231 (thank goodness for Golden Valley!)
Barstow is 285
Las Vegas is 341
Ca/Nv/Az combined are 366
San Bernardino County is 561
Laughlin is 667
State of California is 880
Kingman is 1,147
Bullhead City is 1,358
Lake Havasu City is 1,855
Mohave Valley is 2,453

The best town in that part of the country is your closest neighbor, Mohave Valley. The avg. ratio for the 10 worst states is 338. Now let’s talk about crime in general.

Crime
Very few of citizens and none of the visitors are walking the streets of Needles at night. this is especially so in the "historic" district.  I know this because I’m there a lot and most of the people I talk to tell me so. The FBI Crime index indicates that Needles has the highest crime rate of any town in the area.  There are two types of crime in the index, violent crime and property crime.  Violent crime includes such things as robbery, rape, murder and assault. Property crime includes such things as theft, burglary, vandalism and auto theft.  While violent crime is fairly high in Needles, crimes against property are EXTREMELY high. This is usually due to a high level of vacant and abandoned buildings and vehicles.   Following are comparisons with other towns in the area. 
Crime Index (LOWER is better)
Needles                  304
Lake Havasu City     186
Bullhead City          167
Parker                    196
Boulder City             78
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You disagreed with my comments about a downturn in your local economy.  Although the downturn I was speaking of commenced with the opening of Interstate 40. I’m also not as optimistic as you and some others relating to the future of the local economy. The following explains why I feel that way.

School Renovations
Last time I was there I didn't notice any construction going on, but I’ll take your word for it. Did anybody question how those renovations are really going to being paid for?  I’ll bet you that very few Needles residents have any idea. If the majority of the tax payers in Needles knew and understood, the renovations wouldn't be happening, because they wouldn't have voted for them (only 59% did). I’m having a hard time digging up the total bond obligation taken on by the school district for construction and other things, but I’m still digging. However, I am sure of the following.
It appears that 10.9 million dollars was approved earlier and in September of 2008 a total of $6,775,424.10 in bonds were issued. The maturity date is 2031-2034. At that time a balloon payment of $13,188,012.00 will be due.
In July of 2011 the district issued general obligation bonds with an aggregate principal amount of $3,049,027.00. Payment is due in 2045!  I believe there is still more bond debt on the horizon that I don't know about, but I'm sure I just haven’t found it yet. How and who is going to pay for these bonds? There are some investments that will partially do that, but I’m putting my money on property tax payers via special assessments.  Some of the bonds are Capital Appreciation Bonds! Ever hear of Zero Coupon Bonds? Same thing! Great to buy, but STUPID to issue!  One of them involved $635,424.00 that isn't due until the year 2032. The balloon payment will be a lump sum of $3,820,000.00. The other one was for $561,278 and was taken out in 2011. This one is due in 2036 and the payment will be $1,832,299.00. These instruments are nothing more than land mines set to go off on a particular date, many years in the future. Of course, the people who were involved in making these decisions will probably be long gone from the school district and maybe life by then.  This terrible debt will be left for their children to pay. 

These obligations may also inhibit the district’s ability to procure further financing in the interim.  What if the city of Needles goes bankrupt like the county seat did?  Are there enough people paying property taxes in Needles to pay off this kind of debt?  My granny always told us that “if something sounds too good to be true, it isn't!”   Seriously, they can “borrow” millions of dollars without paying a penny up front and don’t have to pay it back for 20-40 years!  Who cares if the pay back amount is two, three, or even four times as much and it’s all due in one payment! THEY WON’T BE AROUND TO PAY IT!

Local Economy and City Financial Health
First off, the city’s financial documents contain data and narrative indicating a current decline in the city’s financial position.  The City’s net assets, exclusive of the Hospital fund, decreased primarily because of declining revenues and increasing costs.  Fiscal year 2012 activities resulted in a decrease in net assets of $356,000.00. Throw in the hospital finances and it would look much worse.  The only reason the city has any chance of staying afloat is the income generated by public utilities.  I just finished talking about school district long term debt in the vicinity of $15,000,000.00. Now I have to tell you that the city also has long term debt on the books to the tune of about $43,000,000.00.

Needles Public Utility Authority
The Needles Public Utility Authority has some long term debt also.  Almost $74,000,000.00 worth of debt! I believe that much of that debt was accrued when the city issued bonds to finance buying back the utilities that they sold off some years ago.

Improvements Around Town
As to the small group of people who are “fixing up and restoring” older buildings around town.  What have they restored?  I call B.S.!   Seriously, some cute Route 66 logos painted on abandoned gas stations and other buildings isn't even close to fixing up or refurbishing them. In my humble opinion, it makes the town look even more pathetic.  The painting isn't being done by a small group of people or volunteers either; it’s being done by a guy who came into town looking for work. Yes, he’s talented and his painting is great, but he is not fixing anything up.  Besides, a couple of abandoned gas stations with a little fresh paint on them is one thing, but a dozen or more? Save a couple and get rid of the rest. 

You said people take pride in their in their homes and local enterprises. First off, you (Suzanne) don’t live in the impoverished part of town.  Almost 40% of the homes in Needles are vacant and/or abandoned. Broken windows, boarded up windows and doors, and sagging roofs. The houses that do have people in them are many times surrounded by junk and broken down cars. Of course the yards aren't full of overgrown grass, because it’s the desert!  Yep, that is some real pride of ownership! Get off the main street and walk through the residential areas in the “historic” area (or most other areas for that matter). It is most definitely a ghost town there. Please though, don’t walk around there after dark…

El Garces Hotel Project
You both stated that the El Garces project has continued and is going stronger than ever.  I been there recently and It has hardly changed at all in the past several years, any progress being made is not “noticeable.”  Didn't the state nix the city’s plan to use state transportation funds for anything other than widening the roads to the El Garces?  The city’s plan was to use part of the money for work on the actual building. On a side note, due to the wonders of modern accounting practices, money spent on the “project” is listed as an asset, rather than an expense on the city’s financial balance sheet.

What about the huge rusted tank containing thousands of gallons of kerosene was recently discovered buried in front of the building?  I know they were going to get somebody out there to do soil and site testing, but I can’t find anything on the internet about any results. A call to city hall was also non-productive. A toxic cleanup could end up costing as much as a good chunk of the total refurbishment budget.

Like I said before, if this project was worth doing, someone would have come forward and bankrolled it by now. They won’t though, because it is in a terrible location. Not only is it in Needles in the first place, it’s in a bad spot IN Needles.  Between the El Garces and the river there are 15-20 railroad tracks and sidings, the BNSF rail road yard, the municipal golf course and a trailer park (or prefab homes).  On the other side is the downtrodden and only partially occupied, “historic district” of town.  Are people going to come to Needles just for the hotel?  Some Route 66 and rail road enthusiasts will stop by and take a look as they pass through town, but who else would? And why would they stay there? 

River’s Edge Golf Course (municipal)
One of you said, “Our returning winter visitors like golfing at our 18-hole course, and our summer visitors stop here for the many accommodations they find for their boating and swimming enjoyment. “

Please!  That golf course (that very few returning winter visitors use) is nothing but a financial albatross around the city’s neck. Again, is this something a town this size should even be involved with?  Especially not when it’s a money loser?  Do either of you remember, or know that about 20 years ago, the city contracted with a golf course management company to run the course and restaurant?  It didn't go well and the city lost a lawsuit relating to their termination of the contract.  

They need to sell it if they can. I remember that the Fort Mojave tribe gave it a couple of thoughts, but never came close to making an offer.   We all know that there aren't very many summer visitors in Needles. Down at Pirate Cove it gets crazy, but most of the people there don’t come into town.  People do go to Needles to explore the desert and I’m one of them. Don’t you think that people from any of these groups would rather have some places to shop?  

Now pay attention to this part, okay?  My family and I LOVE the desert and spend a great deal of time there.  We are also Route 66 and train enthusiasts.  However, we don’t go into Needles for those two things.  NOTHING having anything to do with ROUTE 66 has been restored.  It has all just been sitting there for years in a state of slow decay.  If, and that is a big if, the El Garces ever gets completed, I’ll go there and check it out, but probably only one time.

Indian Casino
Speaking of new businesses! In 2008 the citizens of Needles voted to approve the placement of a casino on Fort Mojave Indian tribal land just outside of town. What happened to that? The citizens voted that they were fine with it and not a single word has been said about since. Amazing...

New Businesses
One of you stated that a handful of businesses have recently opened up in Needles. You specifically cited “2 medical dispensaries and a smoke shop.”  You do know that by medical, they mean Marijuana, right? You also know that a smoke shop (wink wink) primarily sells drug paraphernalia, right?  Can you buy groceries, clothing, pet food, prescription drugs, hardware, or any other retail items at the new businesses you mentioned? Of course the answer is no.  One of you suggested the Discover Needles FB page.  I signed up there quite a while ago.

You said if I ever come back to Needles I should do certain things…
I've been going to Needles for more than 50 years and I've done all those things. I've also watched a nice town go to hell, while nobody lifted a finger to stop it. When they did finally lift a finger (which was only recently) they did nothing but make terrible decisions.

You said I should take a look around town and see how people interact with each other.  There aren't any people walking around on the streets of Needles to interact with! That is especially so in the “historic” area. Most of the buildings and houses there are empty!  

You say Needles is the type of town where the "tribe" raises the children. Based on the EXTREMELY high number of convicted sex offenders that live there, you better give that another thought.

I agree that there a lot of great and successful people who came from Needles. Why do they all come from Needles, but none of them STAY in Needles? Why do most kids get out of town as soon as they can?

To both of you, If not for the railroad, Needles would be a full blown ghost town. I take that back, it would much more resemble the blighted neighborhoods in some of our major urban areas. It’s only claim to fame is Route 66, but NOBODY has ever tried to take advantage of that until now. Most of the Needles residents that I've spoken to don’t feel the way you do. The few who do say they like it, don’t even live in the main part of town. They live by the river and rarely go into town. They do all their business across the river. They have to!  

I’m sorry, but the actual town of Needles, is not now and has never really been a destination. It’s a place to jump off the interstate to get a bite to eat and get gouged for gasoline.

If people in Needles were truly interested in saving their city, they would start developing any Colorado River Frontage they still own.  Or maybe start bulldozing some of the derelict neighborhoods and develop there as well. In my opinion, there needs to be a concentration on creating a vibrant town that has a “historic district,” not a town that is nothing but a historic district.  All this is probably moot, because that boat has probably already sailed.  All the neighboring towns and cities have been concentrating on building their economies by inviting progress, while yours sat idly by and avoided it.  

Were you in Needles when the city council voted to secede from the state of California? They were mad because San Bernardino County wouldn't help bail the city out after they made the horrible decision to buy the local hospital (the one that they just resold BTW).

So just keep your heads in the sand and feel all warm and fuzzy about your little town, while it continues to self destruct.  That doesn't make me happy at all.  However, It does make me mad that the few working people and property owners that are still left in Needles are going to be held responsible for the horrendous decisions that have been made there over the last 20 years and continue to be made. Either way, I’ll still be spending time there.  You check back here in a year or so and I’ll do an update.

In the meantime, you should all be embarrassed about the following facts:

  • The voters allowed the NUSD to foolishly finance school refurbishments by issuing just under $11,000,000.00 worth of Capital Appreciation Bonds. Many years from now there will be balloon payments of more than $25,000,000.00 due and payable in full.
  • The city is spending at least 12 million on the El Garces Hotel project that would have totally paid for the school refurbishments and avoided about $14,000,000.00 in long term debt (see previous bullet).
  • The city paid Bashas' Grocery store 700K to stay in town.  Because there isn’t enough business in town to support even a single grocery store.
  • The voters allowed the Needles Public Utility Authority (NPUA) to take on over $70,000,000.00 worth of long term debt to buy back public utilities that the city previously owned and shortsightedly sold.
  • The city foolishly bought the local hospital (to keep it from closing) and lost a great deal of money while operating it and later reselling it. The final amount of money this poor decision cost the city has never been made public.  City hall told me that that information wasn’t available.  Suzanne, I know you were one of the few people there who actively and loudly lobbied the city to make the info public, because residents had the right to know what it was costing them.
  • The city is losing money every day operating a golf course that they have no sound business reason to own.
  • The registered sex offender to residents ratio is extremely high (1 for every 231) and is the second highest in that part of the country.
  • The crime rate in Needles is terrible and the highest in the area.
  • Needles is safer than ONLY 16.6% of the rest of California!
  • Needles is safer than only 24% of the cities in the United States!
  • Your odds of being a victim of crime in Needles in 1 in 24.
  • Many parts of the city are not safe to walk around in, especially at night (see crime rate).
  • The unemployment rate is chronically high.
  • Based on standardized testing results. Needles public schools have the lowest ratings in the area.
  • Schools in all other towns in the area scored higher across the board.
  • Over 36% (3 times the state avg.) of Needles residents are living under the poverty level.
  • Over 42% of all children in Needles are living under the poverty level.
  • The poverty level in Needles in 93% higher than the state average and 112% higher the national average. 
  • The income per capita in Needles is 33% lower than the rest of California and 21% lower than the national average. 
  • The median household income in Needles is 51% lower than the state average and 40% lower than the national average.
  • The city regularly has the highest gasoline prices in the nation for no reason other than the greed of the owners.
  • The city is regularly the hottest spot in the country (and sometimes the world).
  • The city has virtually no place to shop for clothing and many other basic needs.
  • There are hundreds of snow birds who winter in the area. They shop and buy gas for their cars and RV's across the river.
  • The city has hundreds of vacant and abandoned buildings and dwellings.
  • Despite the above fact, very few are for sale in the large downtown area.
  • The city politicians and residents sat on their hands and fought development (and still are), while EVERY other town and city in the area was successfully developing and building like crazy.
  • Needles has the most expensive gas in the nation on a regular basis.
  • The average price for a gallon of regular there is $4.79. A gallon of premium is $4.99, Compare that to Mohave Valley (again, just across the river).  A gallon of regular there is only $3.59. A gallon of premium there is only $3.79. (Prices as of 8/1/2013).  
  • Gas station owners in Needles are price gouging unsuspecting drivers on the I-40, who are trying to NOT run out of gas while crossing the desert. Don't believe me? Ask your mayor.
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The biggest problem in Needles is "economic blight."
The obvious long term physical decline in many, if not most of the properties in Needles (especially the historic area) caused by a combination of economic decline, residents and homeowners moving away (and many times abandoning their properties) and businesses closing shop and/or leaving the area. When those factors are combined with the high costs involved in maintaining these properties, especially old buildings, it creates a snow ball that gets larger and larger as it feeds upon itself, until it can't be stopped.  Add to these factors the fact that politicians and voting residents there have made terrible financial decisions and you have the all the factors needed for a "town killing" perfect storm.
The only reason that Needles has it's financial head above water at all, is the income generated by city owned public utilities. Or is it above water? I say it isn't and if you consider the incredible long term debt accrued by the city relating to buying back those public utilities; one can only come to the conclusion that the head is most certainly NOT "above water" and the city is actually drowning in long term debt that will eventually kill it.
The fact that the city doesn't have, or at least doesn't publish a combined budget, that includes the City of Needles, Needles Public Utility Authority, Municipal Hospital, and Needles Unified School District, is the opposite of financial transparency.  I know the hospital will be gone from future balance sheets, but it most certainly cost the city a lot of money prior to that.
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While all this is going on and the city is spending millions needlessly, the city residents and visitors  STILL can't buy a pair of pants, a purse, or even a pair of shoes,  anywhere in town.  

The economy isn't killing Needles. Your local politicians and voters have done a fine job of doing that by themselves. 

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103 comments:

  1. wow, the first shot sure contrasts with the others.

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  2. The wannabe tourist in me is torn. I love ghost towns, but I hate heat. You certainly build it up to sound like a cool place to visit.

    Thanks for the pictorial tour Pat!

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  3. I'd love to visit the place. I find abandoned places intriguing.

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  4. TexWisGirl - The river runs right by the edge of town. If not for it, there would be VERY little here.

    Tim - I'm with you on the heat. That's why we do most of our desert exploring during the winter. Where we are sitting right now, it's about 75 degrees. Looking down the mountain, I can see miles and miles of desert. It's over a hundred down there and we aren't going down there...

    ms. hatch - I agree with you! I'm drawn to those places for some reason.

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  5. I was going to say that while it is empty it is also incredibly clean.

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  6. I haven't been to Needles in years, but your photos brought back lots memories. The first shot near the water is beautiful and the skies/clouds are awesome!! Always love your phots, Pat! And thanks as always for your visits/comments on my blog! Much appreciated! Enjoy!

    Sylvia

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  7. I am sure lightening McQueen and his pals can get the place fixed up.

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  8. I am sure lightening McQueen and his pals can get the place fixed up.

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  9. With your descriptions, the amazing water shot looks out of place.

    It's hot enough here, without traveling to another hot spot.

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  10. I have not been through Needles in years. I remember when I was a kid and our family would take off done Route 66 to head back to Oklahoma to visit my mom's sister every summer, we would stop in Needles for gas. Since we left our home in the northern San Fernando Valley around 6:00 pm, we would hit Needles just about midnight and since it was the dead of summer, it was still almost 100 degrees at that time of night. We would all pile out of the car to get a Coke from the pop machine and the liquid in the glass Coke bottle would be frozen. Never could figure out why that was. I also remember that you could smell the Colorado River from the town. That was where you crossed the bridge and went into Arizona.

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  11. Awesome pics Pat and I loved the black and white!

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  12. Wondered where you've been, Pat!
    Sad to see places going to ruin like that... fascinating all the same, and great photos.
    These places have such atmosphere!

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  13. Sí, estas fotos son geniales, me encantan estas exquisitas composiciones.

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  14. how cool the history and the stories those building could tell

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  15. I'm always sorry to see a once thriving city deteriorate. This reminded me a bit of the movie, The Postman.

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  16. That is very sad, Pat, especially since Needles was so hopping at one point. Thanks for the info and photos. It's good to learn more about CA history.

    xoRobyn

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  17. Interesting, Pat, while reading about Needles. Reminded me of some other small towns we visited in Utah last Summer ---the ones which were on Route 66 --and are now just 'tourist' towns...

    Amazing about the cost of things in CA.. Don't know how anyone can live there --although it is beautiful I'm sure... I read this week that the Governor is going to raise taxes there AGAIN.... Gads!!!

    We've been traveling also --so I understand about being behind in blogging...

    Thanks for the pictures..
    Betsy

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  18. your interesting photos have me intrigued. i'd love to visit the place. but i'm always sorry to see abandoned places like that...

    great captures, pat, i always love your photos!

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  19. Your post leaves me both happy and say. Happy that you are enjoying yourself on your favorite mountain. Sad, that a once vibrant town is dying on the vine.

    Happy, that you are taking me on another travel adventure. Sad that it has to be vicariously.

    But, I can end on a happy note thanks to your visits to my site and the knowledge that you found my little wall sign humorous.

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  20. It really is pretty close to being a ghost town, isn't it?

    Hmmm. Now I need to go back and read the Grapes of Wrath.

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  21. those black and whites are so haunting! they give me pins n needles!

    enjoy your 2 weeks

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  22. Great post and pictures Pat. Love the river shot. The west is a myriad of climates and landscapes isn't it? Did you see that really cool van in the gas station shot? Was that abandoned too or someone just parking there? Enjoy your 2 weeks!

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  23. These photos reminds me of the Disney movie "Cars" ... cool shots all around!

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  24. Looks like it would be a great place for a world-class photography school. No summer semester though. An individual bought the town of Amboy with the idea of bringing it back to life, but so far, nothing has come of that. Your photo essay is excellent and the black and white a perfect choice. I'm going to look into this in the fall/winter. You've really captured my attention! And thanks for the tip on the gas station in Mojave City.

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  25. Oh how wonderful- I just wrote a post on ghost towns around the world- and the boys and I have been mapping ghost towns we're planning on visiting in the coming months for their fossil hunting.

    The camping photos were taken at Valley of Fire- we've been hiking there before but this was their first camping experience- I heard it was fun.

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  26. I am sooo enamored of places like this.

    There is some old town in Southern Arizona that you have to helicopter in to see.

    I always think I should save my pennies for that.

    Exploring historic places just makes my imagination soar!

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  27. Been there -- it's very interesting country. We stayed there a couple of nights the first time we were going to Florida ... met a guy who wintered there ..., when I told him we were heading to Florida he said "well, Florida's OK if you like green." (He said that in a derogatory tone)...we immediately knew we'd love Florida !

    We do love visiting the desert -- just don't want to live there!..and definitely not this time of the year.

    The Grapes of Wrath reference was very appropriate. Seeing the country really brings home how they must have felt after that horrendous trip.

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  28. That shot of the old man walking with his oxygen tank about says it all.....what a SAD place Needles is.
    Rosemary

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  29. Makes me want to jump in the RV for a road trip! One of these days I'll get south.

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  30. "Patrick Tillett" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. I hope this helps to attract many new visitors to here.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2012/05/sites-to-see_18.html

    P.S.: It has been 14-15 years since the last time I went through Needles in a big truck, and I think I recognized several businesses that were at least still open back then in your pictures here. I can't remember just exactly what year it was, but I spent several days in Needles while getting something fixed on the truck. I stayed in a fairly nice motel next to I-40 on the western (or southern?) edge of town.

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  31. No kids, no graffiti!
    I love a good ghost town.
    Definitely sad, but inspirational. I reckon I could write a good story there.

    The river looks nice too. Very clean.

    Excellent shots Pat.!

    =]

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  32. Your first photo feeds us with gorgeous view, before you took us in to ghost town. The black and white made the photos look so awesome.

    Have a fantastic weekend, Pat!

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  33. Now that I think about it, I haven't been through Needles in at least twenty years, and if I remember right, it was 115 in the shade and that was early morning.

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  34. We stayed in one of those campgrounds on the outskirts but didn't go into town.

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  35. WOW, What a contrast! That first shot is beautiful and the remaining shots sure do look like a ghost town. I love the B&W - it accentuates the "ghost town" appearance.
    Vey inforative too Pat! Have a great weekend.

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  36. Great shots, Pat. Route 66 is on my bucket list and while I have only seen a very small portion of it, your photos remind me of why I want to go. Still love the desert but not in high summer.

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  37. It's rather sad to see a city in such demise, isn't it?
    On the other hand I LOVE the picture of Colorado River!
    God bless you!
    Cezar

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  38. Wow, what unhappy story shown in great photographic style. BTW, gas here, even with the tourist season "bump" is $3.54 today. Thank God for legislators who won't raise gas taxes!

    Darryl and Ruth :)

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  39. Alex - Yeah, we noticed that also. Kind of hard to explain.

    Sylvia - Thanks so much Sylvia! The comments at your place are my pleasure.

    Budd - I'm sure they can, if they can find it!

    Ms. A - I know, the town is right on that river, but they never really capitalized on it.

    Kay - Oh yeah! I've spent time there during the summer also. It NEVER cools off at all. It sounds like you guys took the reverse of the exact route the migrants used.

    Brian - Thanks so much! Stuff like that has to be in black and white.

    Nat - I've been all over Nat! We're still gone right now! It is sad to see, but always a good find if you have a camera with you. Thanks so much!

    Leovi - Thanks Leovi! I appreciate it.

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  40. becca - You are so right becca! That old hotel was part of the Harvey House chain. It was totally first class (back in the day).

    Belle - I agree with you. There are lot's of those towns along route 66 through the desert.

    Robyn - Sure is! My pleasure and I'm glad you liked them.

    Betsy - Yep! The southwest is full of towns that were ruined when new highways bypassed things on route 66. It's not too expensive here, as long as you avoid buying things, eating and staying the major tourist areas. I have no idea why the state is so darn broke! Thanks Betsy!

    Betty - Thanks Betty! Needles loss, is the gain of other local towns.

    Rita - That's how I feel Rita! We are totally enjoying ourselves here. MAJOR wind the last few days, but today is calm and beautiful. Finally had a chance to get out and about. Visiting your site is my pleasure! I really like it.

    EG - Pretty darn close. I've got a couple more posts to do on some other similar towns in the desert. I agree with about Grapes of Wrath. It's been a while.

    baygirl - Thanks so much! I appreciate that. I agree that B&W sometimes is the only option. These things just wouldn't look right in color. Thanks!

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  41. Barb - Thanks Barb! You are right about the west. Where I live you easily go to the beach, surf and get some sun, for four wheeling in the desert, and snow skying in the same day. Easily... I'm not sure about the van. It was parked there every time we passed by.

    Blue Wave - Oh yeah! I forgot about that! Thanks so much!

    Stickup Artist - You are so right about that. So much to see there. I'll be doing a post on Amboy one of these days. Another area ruined by the new highway. Thanks so much for the nice words. We'll be going back when it cools down also.

    Ren - That sounds like a lot of fun! I've been to the Valley of Fire, but not since I was a youngster with no camera... That sounds like some fun trips for the kids.

    Jenny - Me too! I wonder what town that is? Google, here I come... I agree with you. Those places totally fill me with questions...

    Sallie - That's funny! I'm not sure where I'd rather be in the summer. The desert or Florida! Wet or dry!
    I'm with you about living in the desert! I've lived there and wouldn't do it again if I could help it. Winter time there is fantastic though. Thanks Sallie!

    Rosemary - Hi there! It is pretty sad! It wasn't a oxygen tank though. I thought it was until I enlarged what I had taken.

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  42. #1Nana - I hear that! I see or hear about things and want to go there!

    Jerry - I though this was a spam post. I'll be back over there to check it out in more depth. How's the saying go? I spend a month in Needles one weekend.

    Anthony - You hit it on the head! That would explain the closed school as well. The Colorado river is awesome! Life blood of the American southwest.

    Icy BC - Yep! It was the old "bait and switch" scam. Thanks so much!

    Gene Pool Diva - 115 in the shade sounds about just right. I remember one day several years ago that i was there. On that day Needles was the hottest place on earth.

    Martha Z - I wonder if it was the same one we were at.

    Liz - Thanks Liz! I'm sure the town council would frown on my description of the place, but it's true.

    Sally - Me too Sally! I'd like to do the whole thing again (as an adult).

    Cezar - Nice seeing you here Cezar! It is kind of sad, I guess the new highway was considered progress.

    Darryl and Ruth - Thanks! I appreciate that. There are no such legislators in my fair state. Much too much...

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  43. The town is sad to see but along the Colorado River is beautiful.
    Thanks for the tour of Needles, Pat.

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  44. There's always personal pain and struggle involved in the slow transition from boom to bust, glory to ghost. Desolation written all over these pics of yours; monochrome was a good choice. What I didn't grasp is what you are doing there, Pat. It's not for the heat of the desert and it can't take two weeks to explore what's left of this town. So huh?

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  45. Pam - Yep! And they are both in the same place! My pleasure Pam!

    Francisca - We explore out in every direction from where we were parked. Can't wait to get back there, I still have a number of things I want to see around there.

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  46. That is so sad, but I would never want to live there...as ironic as it sounds because Utah is a desert, I am not a desert type of girl. Utah is as far as I would go.

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  47. It looks like a neat place. I really like to explore areas like that. I can see it being great for a movie, or a photo-shoot for a band.

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  48. Some very interesting shots Pat!!!

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  49. What happens that turns these places into ghost towns? Also, I'm really digging the black and white photos here. They would make great prints.

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  50. I'm a NorCal transplant to the Arizona town you sort of named in your blog..Mohave City..it's Mohave Valley. That's where I live. 6 miles east of Needles.
    It's sad what I see when I drive through that town. I like small quiet towns, but not because of a lack of economy.
    So much history..I wonder if that hotel will ever be finished, not holding my breath.
    I love the shots you took. The black and white give them character.
    I googled "is Needles a ghost town" and your blog came up. Thanks for that.
    One more thing, farther north of where you shot the river is an area called BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
    We camped there for a week or so, for no fee and no hassle from park officials. There are actually some "permanent" residents there.
    We were literally 20 or less feet from the water. It was nice and much cooler than in town..right across the river from Bullhead City, AZ.

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  51. The photos do cover the worst of one street in Needles. I am not a resident, but was one in the past. A lot is going on there- El Garces is back on track and construction started. They just had a great rodeo. A fair number of businesses are thriving. Many residents wouldn't live ANYWHERE else. For a view of the beauty and opportunities in Needles: https://www.facebook.com/CityofNeedles?ref=ts&fref=ts

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  52. Amanda - I wouldn't want to live their either, but it's a great area to visit.

    Carly - It is a pretty neat place overall. Many movies and TV episodes have been filmed there.

    Sarah - It's usually a combination of things that causes this to happen. In the case of Needles, it's kind of a "perfect storm" of circumstances. I'll go further into that when I respond to the comment by Denny Kramer (below).

    Valerie - Sorry about that Valerie. Of course it is! We spend a lot of time in BLM areas and other federal areas. Thanks for the nice words, I appreciate it!

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  53. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  54. Denny - First off, thanks so much for commenting. I was wondering if I'd get any publishable counterpoint comments on what I posted.

    You are right that most of the photos were from one street. However, that street just happens to be the MAIN drag through town. I've been to Needles MANY times and have hundreds of photographs. Route 66 is easily the most viewed path through town and is usually the only thing most people see. The surrounding residential streets are worse than Route 66. There are an amazing number of vacant and derelict homes on those streets.
    According to Coldwell Banker, almost 40% of the homes in Needles are vacant.

    You say that there is a lot going on in Needles (including some progress on the El Garces Hotel). I was just there about a month ago for two weeks and the El Garces (Harvey House) looked EXACTLY the same as it did for at least the last two years. Based on some other local governmental decisions made there in the last few years, I truly question the city’s decision to refurbish the El Garces as a resort in the first place! If it was a good idea to refurbish that huge building there would have been many private firms bidding to do the work, or to buy the property outright. There are about 6 RR tracks on the river side of the building, then a large industrial area and then a retirement community. That's not good! On the other side there is the blighted and mostly vacant downtown area.

    People would come to that resort to see exactly what? Old and mostly vacant buildings with large Route 66 shields painted on them? I’m sorry, but Laughlin Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona aren't that far away and they have PLENTY of resorts.

    I really didn't see anything else new going on in town at all. I only see less and less of a town each time I go there.

    Like other cities and towns on old Route 66 that have lost their shine; Needles was and still is a railroad town. It’s the largest employer there. It’s a freight related business and the passenger business is long gone. The current passenger terminal in Needles doesn't have a ticket office, restroom, quick-ticket machine, or any type of baggage service at all. There is zero parking, no ATM and zero accessibility for those with handicaps!

    I also don't agree with your claim that a "fair" number of businesses are thriving. I'd say it's more like a very small number or none. The threatened closing of Bashas (the ONLY grocery store in the city) was barely avoided. How much of a subsidy they now receive from Needles to stay there is not available to the public, but they do receive one. I've also been told several times that the Rite-Aid Drug Store (next to Bashas) is also receiving subsidies.

    How about this one? To keep the only full-service hospital in town (Needles Municipal Hospital) from closing, they had to BUY IT.

    One of the most common and obvious sights in Needles are all of the closed gas stations. This is yet another nail in the Needles coffin, but has very little to do with the bypassing of Route 66 by the newer I-40. It has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that it only takes a few minutes to cross the river into Arizona and buy gasoline for about $1.20 less PER GALLON than it costs in Needles.

    If a person visiting or living in Needles wants to go shopping at any place other than The Dollar Store, or several thrift shops, they are pretty much out of luck. If they need to do any real shopping they have to cross the river and go to into Mojave Valley and/or Bullhead City area. Everything and just about every chain store and restaurant is represented there, while Needles doesn't have a single one. At least not a single one that isn't subsidized to be there!

    I have fond memories of Needles from my childhood. I still like the area a great deal. However, to call it anything other than a dying town is complete denial. At some point in time, somebody decided to develop the city away from the river instead of towards it. I wonder what genius made that decision?

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  55. My grandparents owned a hotel in Needles in the 30's. Not sure which one but remember my dad telling me about living there

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  56. Good article. I have my own post about the outragous prices of gas in Needles. Might interest you and your readers.

    http://dalmdad.blogspot.com/2012/12/outragous-gas-prices-in-needles-ca.html

    You can also visit us at facebook/dalmdad

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  57. Steve Reiss - Thanks so much for commenting! Another interesting thing about those prices is that the roads are much better there also.

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  58. Interesting photos. I grew up in Needles and still miss it. Very sad when I visit to see the boarded businesses. The Needles airport is actually on Highway 95, south of town. There originally was one little local strip that's in the photo.
    It can be 125 in a hot summer but that big river flows at about 70 degrees and is very refreshing as the throngs of boaters in summer can tell you.

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  59. Needles is my hometown...no matter how dilapidated or run down or sad (or insert any other depressing descriptive here) anyone might think this town is, my heart soars coming over the crest on Highway 95 by PG&E, because I am home.
    Needles might not be much to any of you, but unless you grew up there, you wouldn't understand.

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  60. Needles is my hometown...no matter how dilapidated or run down or sad (or insert any other depressing descriptive here) anyone might think this town is, my heart soars coming over the crest on Highway 95 by PG&E, because I am home.
    Needles might not be much to any of you, but unless you grew up there, you wouldn't understand.

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  61. Reggie Kenner - Thanks for commenting Reggie. I've spent a lot of time Needles and agree that it's sad. My grandmother would be shocked and very disappointed if she saw it today.

    I'm aware of the county airport outside of town, I was referring to the former municipal airport because it was owned by the city. You are right about the boaters who love to get on the river during the summer. The problem is that they aren't spending their money in Needles! Not only are there very places to spend that money in Needles, there are also a million places to spend it across the river Mojave Valley and Bullhead City.

    Kimberly - I can certainly understand your feelings. I've never actually lived in Needles, but I spent a lot of time there when I was young. In my early adult years, I spent a lot of time there because of the river. Now I spend several weeks a year there because I love exploring the desert. Whenever I come into town, my heart doesn't soar, it sinks. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the place, I'm being realistic...
    ......................
    ......................
    And now another wrench has been thrown into the works. A huge underground kerosene tank was discovered in front of the El Garces Hotel project. It had been there for many decades and still had thousands of gallons of kerosene in it! How much has leaked out over those decades? How is Needles going to pay for the toxic clean up if one is needed? If any kerosene leaked out the clean up may cost more than the entire El Garces restoration project.

    I don't hate Needles at all and I'm saddened by what is happened to it so far and what is happening to it now. I also question the wisdom of throwing good money after bad into the El Garces project. Maybe if it was in a better location. It's not close to the river, it's totally pinned in by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe RR yard and several RR tracks on one side and empty streets on the other.
    For some reason, the city has pinned their hopes on this place revitalizing the town. About 40% of the homes and buildings are vacant!

    The town of Needles is not a destination and really never has been. It was a stop over for people passing through the desert. They pretty much just breeze by on the I-40 now.

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  62. I, too, am saddened by the downturn that Needles has taken in recent years...and I would love nothing more than to see the Needles of my youth--Broadway lined with businesses, and families living in the now vacant houses on my street--but as trite as it sounds, there's no place like home. I hope for the Hollywood-esque "miracle" that will breathe life into that sleepy little community, bringing much-needed capital and opportunity so that travelers and tourists can see the diamond in the rough that locals always have.
    What can I say, other than I'm very protective about my hometown. It holds a very special place in my heart...and always will.

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  63. Kimberly - I understand exactly what you mean Kimberly. I really do hope it happens.

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  64. I have grown up in this area since I was a kid in 2001, and Needles has always been deserted as far as I can remember, I cant even imagine it ever being bustling back in the day! Now even the locals regard it as creepy. its like absolutely everyone and every thing is on the other side of the river....

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  65. Anonymous - Thanks for commenting. I'm a lot older and I do remember when it was much better, but it's been a long time. Based on the people I talk to there, I think you are right about how people feel about it. Apparently though, there are people who still believe it can come back. I hope they are right.

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  66. Pat,

    I come from a long time family of Needles. Needles has been my home for most of my life. I have been lucky enough to travel to many different places and even live in many different places over the past five or six years. When it came time for me to start my family it was time for me to go home.

    I won't disagree that there are numerous shut down businesses, and various eye sores, high taxes, and extreme heat. What I do disagree with is the comments on oir town taking a "downturn". Will we ever be as thriving we once were? Maybe not.

    This post was from May 2012. Since then the school (not the one in the picture above, that is an old continuation building) has had several renovations to the elementary, jr high and high school. Such big renovations that they pretty much started over from the ground up. One of the oldest buildings on Broadway (claypools) was fully restored and a branch of Palo Verde Community College has opened there and is fully up and running.

    There was a new group formed by many local people who dedicate most of there free time to fixing up and restoring older buildings around town. Most of those gas stations and olser motels on 66 you have pictured don't even look the same. They fixed them up bringing them back to life giving them their vintage look. The e
    El Garces project is going stronger than ever. There is well over a dozen murals throughout town now telling the story of our town.

    A past local and graduate of Needles High now a Medical Dr has come back and purchased the hospital and has huge plans for it. A new Drs office has opened. A subway, a handfull of resturants, a gym, 2 hair salons, 2 medical dispencaries, a smoke shop, a cable company, a wrecking yard, a plumbing store, electrical store, and 1 shop has opened. Our new business to shut down business ratio is looking very good.

    If you ever decide to come back please do me a favor and check out a couple things. 1) the Wagon Wheel, its one of the oldest business in town. Go in the morning and sit in Sharrons section and chat with her she's been there over 20 years. She can tell you anything about the town, plus it will be a great breakfast. 2) Valensuelas Cafe, one of the oldest families in town and amazing mexican food.

    Lastly please take a look around town. Notice how we interact with one another, notice how strong of a community we are. Come on a Friday night and see how many locals show up and support the football team. We may lack in industy but we do not lack in pride or compassion or overall community.

    We have various sports and activities for kids of all ages. We are the type of town where the tribe raises the children. Speaking of tribes come visit in the spring and check out indian days and learn the history of the mojave indians. Check out the local dentist, Dr, and optromitist they have all raised kids here and have been involved in everyone's lives througout the town.

    When we have a local family in need either a death in the family, illness, or any trauma come see how we pull together. Come see how big of a fundraiser we put on to help pay hospital bills or college tuitions. Check out how many sucessful people come out of this town. We have Yale graduates, USC baseball players, authors, musicians, dentists, drs, lawyers, and overall good souls feom here.

    Yes my town is not all that fancy. Yeah I'm sure to someone just passing through its not that great. I am proud to live here proud this is where my roots are. I am sure it is the right place to raise my child. I have the same best friends that I had in 1st grade. I was raised with, raised by, and am surrounded with amazing people and we are all from this little town that's "taken a turn for the worse".

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  67. Anonymous - This long comment and it's going to take a couple more days to respond, but respond I will! I've also got another anonymous comment, but I'm going to edit it a bit because of the language. I also have a couple of emails from Needles residents. One of them is also anonymous. It seems I've got folks there in a dither (on both sides of the argument).

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  68. I've lived in Needles for many years and what you said has stirred some people up around here. I guess you know that already. I did not use my name because I am sure to be confronted if I do. There are a couple of groups (or clicks actually) of people that are involved with everything going on here and claim to be trying to make downtown into a tourist trap. Some are on the city council and other things and they mostly just like to hear themselves talk. Hardly anybody lives downtown except the meth heads and a few poor people. If it was up to me, I’d bulldoze the whole damn downtown. All it does it attract the wrong crowd anyway.

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  69. I copied a recent email that I received about this blog post below. I'll respond to it and the long anonymous comment from a few days ago at the end of the blog post, because it has way too many characters for blogspot.
    .................

    Hi, Patrick,

    I just came across your May 16th observations about "Needles California - Modern Day Ghost Town." A few of the reader responses caught my eye. Anthony said, "No kids, no graffiti! I love a good ghost town." Alex said, "I was going to say that while it is empty it is also incredibly clean." And in your reply to Alex you said, "Alex - Yeah, we noticed that also. Kind of hard to explain."

    Maybe this will help to explain. For openers, Needles is not a ghost
    town. Historic?...Yes. But a ghost town?...No. Are we exempt from the economic downturn being experienced in California and the nation?...No. But unlike San Francisco or Chicago or Detroit, we and our visitors walk safe, clean, peaceful streets. As for the boarded up "school" that you
    saw, that particular building was not one of Needles' regular grammar or middle schools or its high school. Both that building and most of the closed gas stations that you pictured are on Needles Highway, not the "main drag through town." And the children here are not gone. They are busy swimming at the river or at our water park, or playing at our baseball fields or our golf course, or reading at our library, among the many activities they can do without traveling away from town.

    Ours is a clean town because Needles' residents and business people take pride in our homes and local enterprises. You'll also see that pride reflected in those old gas stations, some of which have been cleaned and refurbished by private, volunteer efforts as a tribute to our place in Route 66 history. That same history is still coming to life at El
    Garces (the historic Harvey House by the railroad), whose restoration
    has continued (noticeably) since you photographed it.

    Our returning winter visitors like golfing at our 18-hole course, and
    our summer visitors stop here for the many accommodations they find for their boating and swimming enjoyment. Visitors and locals love the surrounding desert sites and they frequently explore them to take photographs or simply enjoy the beauty of the surrounding desert. And throughout the year, we have special events that draw people from afar. Should any of them have an unexpected health emergency, an ambulance with skilled paramedics is minutes away, as is our hospital, which is
    privately owned and operated.

    If you want to discover more about what our town and townspeople are
    really all about, then I think you'll enjoy checking out "Discover
    Needles," which is an online, very informative website managed by
    private citizens who love living here and take great pride in our
    community. You'll find Discover Needles at:
    https://www.facebook.com/CityofNeedles

    Next time you're here, I hope you and your readers will take a second
    look at our town after first making an online visit to Discover
    Needles! (And just in case you're wondering, I am not affiliated in any way with the website, Discover Needles. I'm just a regular reader and have made Needles my home for the past 20 years.)

    Suzanne

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  70. Pat is a trouble maker!

    Pat is a trouble maker!

    I love it!

    Passion so often fuels change!

    And maybe this will help move everyone in a positive direction.

    PS.

    Pat is a trouble maker!

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  71. wOw...tremendous work, Pat! I often say that some of the best places to visit are NOT places I would want to live for a variety of reasons. your work on this post is most impressive! kudos to you!

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  72. Jenny - You are funny Jenny! I may be a trouble maker, but only when provoked!

    Carolyn - Thanks Carolyn! I know exactly what you mean. I've been going to this town for more than 50 years. If we didn't like it, we'd go somewhere else.

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  73. I live in Needles and I hate it here... this is the worst place ever... I can't wait to move... my child will be going to Jr. High here and I'm really worried... the people here are nice... there are lots of churches ... but the town is a craphole..

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  74. First of all, an OUTSTANDING writeup! You've answered all concerns with facts and firsthand observations. It really appears that there are many people with their heads in the sand. I feel very much the same way about the city next to where I grew up, Bridgeport, Connecticut. It really is the armpit of Connecticut and would give Detroit a run for its money (which it doesn't have). In fact-surprise!-Bridgeport once declared bankruptcy itself. On my way back from camping this weekend, I took a drive through my hometown (Stratford) and Bridgeport. I was tempted to post the following question on Facebook: How many of you have visited your old home and thought, "Golly, things look a LOT better here than I was growing up." I don't think I want the flack so I won't.
    Finally, thanks for all the info on Needles. All I knew about it was that Snoopy's brother, Spike was from there.

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  75. Anonymous - Thanks for the commenting here. Based on the people that I've spoken to in and around Needles, you are certainly not alone in your feelings.

    Al - Thanks so much! I just read it all again and I really should have reorganized it. Instead of doing that I added a few more paragraphs about blight and financial transparency. I admit it, I'm an information junkie. Needles makes it hard though, because some things appear to be hidden from prying eyes like mine.

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  76. I thought Suzanne's comment at least was reasonable, after-all, she does live there - and ghost town does suggest that it's empty but it certainly looks that way with all of those buildings. i also wasn't privy to the other comments.
    Yet, your update was probably more informative than many residents had realised.
    I wouldn't take any criticism personally Pat - you've made your point and people rarely change their minds. Save your energy. The pictures alone speak volumes.

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  77. Anthony - Thanks for weighing in. Although I don't agree with most Suzanne's comment, she is certainly reasonable. Any people that I run into who lives in, goes to, or passes through Needles on a regular basis, gets questioned about Needles (by me). If I've asked 100 people, 95 of them think it's dead, or almost dead. I don't take any of this personally, but it does bother me that some people can't see the forest, for the trees...

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  78. The pictures are really neat - but sad at the same time. I've been poking around family history and a pair of brothers lived in Needles. One, a Justice of the Peace and later County Supervisor, was there from 1890 until he died in 1912. His brother joined him there in 1905 and stayed until 1919 (worked as a floorwalker at Monaghan & Murphy and later at Claypool & Company). The old newspaper articles made the town seem so lively, but nothing lasts forever.
    Melanie

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  79. Melanie - Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.
    I remember when Needles was was a lot more vibrant, so I agree with you about it being sad. Wow! Your family was very involved in the early days. Needles was founded just a few years before your relative was a Justice of the Peace. I haven't seen any news paper articles from way back then. I'm going to do some digging. Thanks again Melanie!

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  80. Wow!! What a post!

    So much controversy over this one :P

    You seem to know your stuff....super interesting read!

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  81. I was born and raised in Needles. And I for one agree with you on the housing issue.im raising two grandsons aged ten and five and wr are homeless. But yet as you stated there are many vacant amd abandoned houses here, and instead of helping a family in need the owners would prefer to let their houses sit idle and be destroyed.

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  82. Kato - I know! I missed my calling. I should be a researcher for a think tank or something. I'm kind of addicted to research. Especially so when I know people are avoiding the truth.

    Anonymous - I'm sorry that your circumstances aren't the best. I don't get it either, there are so many vacant places there. Some people in Needles are in denial about that fact. I wonder how many of those vacant places are owned by the city or county.

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  83. Pat, could the reason for the difference in gas prices be the California-required oxygenate blend and lack of MTBE as required by the state (in addition to the gas tax)? If so, the gas station owner wouldn't be able to sell AZ gas and would need that special blend trucked in, adding to the cost.

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  84. Anonymous - I wasn't talking about gas prices in California, I was referring only to Needles. Gas is much cheaper in the rest of California than it is in Needles.

    The oxygenated blend increases the price of gas in CA by 5 to 15 cents per gallon (depending on availability). Taxes on gasoline in CA is 22.5 cents per gallon more than in Arizona. If we use the high mark on the blend (15 cents) and add it to the tax, CA gas should only be 37.5 cents more than AZ. Yet, in Needles is usually at least a dollar more! In May of 2007, Needles Mayor Jeff Williams was interviewed by Reuters. The subject was High gas prices in Needles.

    The mayor said, "We've been on the national news too many times as the town with the highest gas prices in the United States, Williams said with a grimace in his city hall office. Its an embarrassment." He goes on to talk about the gas station owners. Here's a link to the entire article.
    http://blogs.reuters.com/events/2007/05/15/americas-most-expensive-gasoline/

    Uninformed defenders of Needles usually say, the gas is so expensive here because it has to be transported so far to get here. Well guess what? Much of the entire state of Arizona's gas comes from the same place Needle's gas comes from, CALIFORNIA!

    Thanks for the comment! Don't get me wrong, I've been going to Needles since I was a kid, I still like the area. I just wish the tax payers there would wake up. Of course a high percentage of residents there are either on disability or government assistance and paying VERY little of any type of taxes anyway.

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  85. Pat - I get that but I still think that Needles is stuck between a rock and a hard place with respect to gasoline. While both Arizona and California get their supply from the same refineries, the mix is not the same, as you agree above. According to Arizona's Department of Weights and Measures, Arizona's gas comes from two pipelines:

    "Where Does Our Fuel Come From?

    Arizona receives all of its gasoline from two main sources:

    The West pipeline suppliers (predominately Southern California refiners), and The East pipeline suppliers (predominately Gulf Coast refiners)."

    Here's the link: http://www.azdwm.gov/BUSINESS/AirandFuelQuality/tabid/118/Default.aspx

    And here's the map of these refined product pipelines:

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ogallala_and_refined_pipelines.jpg

    So, the refinery is the same, the mix is not, and neither is the route... AZ gets theirs via a pipelines and, meanwhile, the poor Needles gas station owner is stuck trucking gas in from civilization 4 hours away so that it's in compliance with CA requirements.

    I'm not trying to excuse any price gouging. I've been to Needles once (a year ago) on the way into Bullhead City and found your blog while preparing for another weekend trip to document the "ghost-town-ness" of it and the various such towns around I-40. I just think that there has to be something behind these prices other than price gouging. Such a business model would clearly be doomed to failure with a shrinking population well aware of gas being a dollar cheaper across the river and the gas station owners would have to realize it. One can't bank gouging stragglers on I-40 as a sustainable business model.

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  86. I’m aware of the pipeline system. However, they have nothing to do with why the gas in Needles is so expensive.
    Here is why…

    Pipelines
    The pipelines only go to storage facilities. In every state, EVERY gallon of gas sold by retailers has to be trucked to them by wholesalers. This includes Arizona. Some stations are closer to the distribution terminals than others. The gasoline sold in Arizona cities along the Colorado River has to be trucked to them. Even if there was a wholesaler 10 miles from Fort Mohave, ultimately the gas still had to be trucked there from Phoenix. The wholesaler passes that cost right down the “pipeline” to the retailers they service. Whether it’s one four hour truck trip from wholesaler to retailer or two, two hour trips (with a smaller wholesaler in the middle), it’s still four hours. The retailer pays that bill. So if there is a rock and a hard place to get stuck in here, then Needles has plenty of company. Yet the gas in all of those places is at least $1.00 a gallon cheaper than in Needles.

    Gasoline Blends
    MTBE additives have been banned by the EPA for several years. This includes Arizona. Using an ethanol blend has no impact at all on refineries, pipelines, or anything else. That’s because the distributor adds the ethanol directly to the truck that is going to deliver the fuel to the gas station. Whether a state is using the full E10 (10% oxygenate), or only a 5.7% blend (as California was) also has no impact on the price differences.

    I spend a lot of time in Needles. The residents of Needles don’t even buy gas in Needles. They go across the river! The owners are gouging, everyone in town knows it and the city has spoken to them about it. As the Mayor said in the Reuters interview, “there is nothing he can do about it.” The only people who don’t know are the poor unsuspecting folks driving down the I-40 who need gas. You are so right about it being a crummy business model, because eventually everybody will know about it.

    If none of this has convinced you that the gas stations in Needles are gouging, then riddle me this.
    Why is the gasoline in Blythe CA (just down the river) 50 cents cheaper per gallon? It is every bit as remote (maybe more so) as Needles.

    Thanks for your great comments and I hope you enjoyed your I-40 trip!

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  87. I love the desert and have been enjoying your photography and your blog in general. However, one small thing I'd point out is that the sex-offender ratio, while it looks scary, can be misleading. If the population of Needles is 4912 and the s.o. ratio is 231, that means there's 21 registered former offenders there. And the panic is largely overblown: there are statistics that tend to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and fears about them, statistics which show a far lower recidivism rate than is commonly believed, even lower than that of other felons. Consider this compilation of detailed statistics:

    oncefallen.com/SOMyths.html

    Most of them pose no danger and are just trying to get on with their lives in peace. Most are also first-time offenders, meaning they weren't on any registry. Indeed I am one myself. It's a modern scarlet letter. So it's not like Needles is crawling with creeps hiding in the bushes waiting to snatch your kids.

    Anyway, my sincere apologies if I've derailed the discussion here.

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  88. Anonymous - First off, thanks so much for commenting.

    No need to apologize! On the contrary, I really do appreciate that you joined in. As of three days ago, the number is actually better, and is 265 to 1. I totally understand what you're saying and in a general sense, I agree with you. Just because a person has the label of "sex offender" it doesn't mean they will commit the same crime again. some do, but according to recidivism statistics, most do not. The reason I brought that subject into the mix in the first place, was to convince a few Pollyanna type folks who live there, that Needles is not the great place they say it is. I spend a lot of time in that area and have been doing so since I was a kid. I'll be there pretty soon. Needles is deteriorating and the rest of the cities in the area are growing.
    Thanks again for your comment.

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  89. Love the writing about Needles. Sad but historic. One thing, does anyone have a link they can post of old street maps of Needles? Can not seem to find anything that is older...Weird.

    Pat any updates to post?

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  90. Anonymous - I agree that it is a bit sad. It is also a town with a lot of history. Unfortunately, the history there is much better than the present. I haven't been able to find any vintage street maps of Needles, I'm sure they exist... the only old maps I found were San Bernardino county maps. Not really any street detail at all of Needles.

    As to the updates. I've been waiting for a couple of people who told me they were going to respond to what I've said. They haven't gotten back to me at all, so I'm just kind of leaving it all alone. I'll be in Needles in a week. I'll check things out when I get there... Thanks for the comment!

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  91. From a 19 year old kid whos lived hear since I was 5, for the majority of my life, I can honestly say you know nothing about this city, your talking B.S. about this city and you offend me. you roll around in your car or truck taking pictures of the worst possible places you can find in this city and say the worst possible things you can think about it. this city is not as bad as you make it sound, yes its old, yes its dying, but you obviously haven't been through the whole town, you haven't walked the streets at night, and I bet you didn't enjoy your stay, this is an incredible city and will be and incredible city WHEN it turns into a ghost town, im not saying its not going to turn in to a ghost town. because, frankly I believe it will. its just not yet. you say you don't see anybody walking up and down the streets. but consider this. would you want to walk down the long streets while its 115 degrees out side? let me see you walk as much as I do in these streets, you wouldn't like the blazing heat either. let me list some places for you to take pictures of next time. go check out the river on the weekend and see the hundred of people having fun with their kids, laughing, smiling, having a great time, go check out the skate park at sundown, or sun up when its not to hot to sit or skate on a concrete heat magnet, take a picture of the high school which is very well takin care of. You talk about all the historic tourist attractions being old and haven't been "restored". My city has restored a few historic places, you just haven't been around to notice. plus if we fixed and restored all the HISTORIC attractions. they wouldn't be as HISTORIC of an attraction now would they? it would defeat the purpose of being HISTORIC. this city is beautiful and has potential, but like you said, its just been under bad management. I never would have thought someone who doesn't live here would have so much garbage to say about the city ive grown up in...


    Go play in traffic.

    and im not afraid to say this citys going to hell. because it is. but it was hell when the immigrants from the Dust Bowl arrived in 1930

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  92. Pat how about a historical type post on some of the buildings or former locations of buildings in town? I am in Needles weekly and I see a couple things changing, more transients, might be same all along I40 with the economy as it is.....The other thing is honestly the people, from transients to police are getting nicer and go about business, not the addicts, they seem the same. I feel for the seniors locked into the city but hat being said many would never leave. One last thought, see many rehabs happening to houses, always good. Great writing Pat, thank you

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  93. Anonymous 9/15/2014 - Thanks for the comment! I really only see one restored building. That is the one that is used as a satellite for a junior college. Of course the old Harvey House is being restored, but I still don't really understand why. Every time I'm in Needles we check out the entire town and did so recently, I don't really see the "good" things you are referring to. I get an email every time the police respond to crime. I get them everyday. Assaults, robberies, burglaries, GTA, vandalism, drugs, sales of drugs, etc. It's hard to find anything positive to say. I don't understand how people can defend a "city" that you can't buy a pair of shoes in. Or that the city has to pay the only grocery store in town to stay there. You seem to have a good attitude despite these things. I commend you for that. I hope things get better there, but I'm just not as positive as you are. Thanks again...

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  94. I found your post by trying to learn about about gas prices in Needles after passing through there yesterday. A few years ago, I started traveling through Needles multiple times a year back and forth from the SF Bay Area to well across the country on Interstate 40.

    The first lesson I learned was never to gas up in Ludlow. The second lesson learned was in Needles. I innocently stopped for gasoline and Dairy Queen in Needles on one trip. I was shocked at the gasoline experience and felt like I'd been robbed. That feeling about Needles has never gone away. Regarding the Dairy Queen, the service was unbearably slow with a long line that did not move. So I left without buying anything.

    The needlessly negative Needles experience left me with a lasting bad impression. Like Ludlow, Needles earned a permanent place on my "do not stop" list. I've settled on a pattern now of fueling at Tehachapi and Kingman in both directions with no intention to ever stop in Needles again for any reason. "Gouge me once..."

    Yesterday I varied slightly from my established pattern and got gas at the Love's at Exit 9 in Arizona just before the river. Given that this was close to Needles, I feared that the prices would be similar. I was delightfully surprised to find that they were not. A short while later, as I whizzed through Needles without stopping, I scouted for gas prices and saw that they were about $1.30 per gallon higher! That's what led me to try to find out the story on gas prices in Needles. Even Ludlow's gas prices were lower than those in Needles.

    Thanks for your informative post and comments! I'm sorry to learn of the town's unfortunate situation. It does not surprise me, though. I wonder how many others have Needles permanently classified as "do not stop here".

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  95. Steve - Hi there and thanks for the comment. We never get gas in either Ludlow or Needles. We do go to the DQ in both places. You are right about them being crowded. We always try to gas up no later than Victorville or Barstow. If we need gas after that, we go through Needles and across the river into Mojave Valley. If you go a few miles past the river the gas is MUCH cheaper than Needles. Even the people who live IN Needles, try to NEVER get gas there. They go into AZ also. Unfortunately, even the city politicians can't persuade the station owners to lower their prices. Just one more reason that place is dying. As you can see, I'm not a very popular person in Needles. We still spend at least a few weeks there every year. Not exactly in town, but on the outskirts and right on the river. Thanks again for the nice and interesting comment. Stop by anytime!

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  96. Hi Pat I just came across this page after doing a little google searching on Needles. I have lived here for the past five years and while I love this town and a lot of the people in it, I agree with everything you have stated 100%.

    My husband is a small business owner here in town and though we do fairly well for ourselves we are looking to get of this town within the next year. Unfortunately there are no opportunities here for our children and we just want them to experience more. The drug problem has gotten out of control here and it breaks my heart when my kids ask me what is wrong with the local crack head that we see often walking down our street. it does not matter what street you live on because they are on every street in Needles.
    We do not have a grocery store here anymore, just a 99 cent store where Bashas used to be. I do see progress on the El Graces hotel, but that is about it. Hopefully this town will make a comeback, but I am not willing to stick around to find out.

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  97. Anonymous (January 25, 2015) - First off, I appreciate the comment. It is unfortunate that many people there refuse to face up to the reality of what is happening there. I'm sad to see Bashas' close down, but the only reason they were still there, was because of the subsidies the city paid them over the last several years. No banks, no grocery stores, no clothing store, etc... I recently read the city's 2014-2019 strategic plan. It was absurd.
    Good luck to you, I hope your family lands in a better place.

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  98. While searching for properties in and around Golden Valley, Needles, BHC and Laughlin, I did a quick search for registered sex offenders and was SHOCKED at the high rate of offenders in that area. Especially Golden Valley. We were looking for nice small quiet place to retire, but now we will be looking elsewhere.
    Further searching I discovered that there is a sex offender prison in Kingman which we all know once they are released they are made to stay near that area while they serve their probation.
    So for those of you that are sitting on your rears typing arguments against what this blogger is saying, you better be typing complaints to your area lawmakers and raise holy hell about this situation!
    Its absolutely disgusting that they are being allowed to destroy what was once a very nice quiet retirement community and turning it into an infestation of rapists!

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  99. Melvis - Thanks for taking the time to read all of this, and then commenting. I really appreciate it.
    If the folks would open their eyes to what is going on around them, maybe they could change some things.

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  100. The town is dying.Businesses are closing left and right.

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  101. desert dweller - It's a crying shame! The businesses making money in that town are the gas stations near the I-40. If only the people driving by knew by driving a few miles into Mohave Valley (in AZ), they could save $1.69 a gallon. Two stations in Needles (on the I-40 are charging $3.79 and $3.69 for regular today. Crooks! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I appreciate your input.

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