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Posts Tagged ‘Hoover Dam’

So, where are we?  Yes. Wednesday night, the 20th.

After Hoover Dam, we made our way through the gorgeous Virgin River Gorge on I-15, which gave us the first taste of the amazing, dramatic landscapes coming over the next few days.  I had booked us at the Best Western Coral Hills in St. George.  It had decent reviews and the price was good.

(I don’t believe I’ve ever stayed in Best Westerns before – but I stayed in three on this trip, and was generally impressed. I felt that most of the time, the value for the money was unbeatable.)

Why not go all the way to Bryce that day?  We could have – it would only have been about two more hours, but the truth is that accommodations around Bryce Canyon National Park are a lot more expensive than they are outside the park.  I didn’t know how long we’d spend at Hoover Dam, or what we would discover after we left, so I thought it best – financially, and flexibility-wise – to not think any further than St. George for that night.

It was a good choice!  The hotel was very clean, run by friendly, helpful folks.  And a nice little pool.

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We had some free time in the evening before sunset, so I asked the desk clerk what he would suggest, and he pointed up the cliff above the hotel and mentioned the Pioneer Park – another good choice!

It’s just a park full of red rocks, but you know, the rocks are huge and in intriguing formations, and a great landscape for racing about and pretending you are on another planet or whatever you do.

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The white in the distance is the LDS Temple – the first built in Utah and the oldest in continual use in the state.

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After a couple of hours there, it was dinner time.  I was determined to do LOCAL NO CHAINS. Across the street from the hotel was a diner-looking place called the Iceberg Drive Inn. It seemed to be a regional chain, so I amended the rule to LOCAL NO NATIONAL CHAINS, and in we went.

Mistake.  Should have gone to Wendy’s. Because evidently, Mormons do Wednesday night church, too?  So they were all there. The burgers took forever to get to us and the shake? For which they are famous? Only the 14-year old got one, and since it was chocolate, he was in favor, but really just looking at it, and taking one taste, I wasn’t impressed.  They sell it on the “IT’S HUGE!” factor, but really, it’s more like a Wendy’s Frosty than an actual milkshake.  Plus, they really are stupidly large.

Eh. At least it was just across the street, we could walk back and forth, and therefore absorb the Homey Utah Vibe along with dozens of our local LDS friends…

Bonus:  Why is this town, established by the LDS, called “St. George?” And why are there allusions to “Dixie” all over the place?

1. It was named after a fellow who urged his companions and fellow townspeople to eat raw potatoes as an antidote to scurvy. He was named George, he did life-saving work, so he was referred to as a saint.

2. Brigham Young  assigned his fellow settlers to plant cotton at the outbreak of the Civil War, and many of these people were from the South. So…Utah’s Dixie was born. 

Source!

Tomorrow:  Bryce, finally!

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First, a digression about research and preparation for this trip.

On my part, it was the usual mix of following discussion boards on Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Death Valley on Tripadvisor, Frommer’s and Fodors, as well as a few other sites, especially those related to family travel in those areas.  I read the history and scientific/geological background sections in a few guidebooks, brushed up on my Mormon history and read Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy through the Grand Canyon. I had the boys read a few shorter books on the national parks, and one on Powell’s journey.

I had great hopes of watching this American Experience episode on the Hoover Dam, but never got to the right library to check it out.  In retrospect, though, it all might more sense to us now having actually been there.

So…

After I had risen before 7 and gone through the contortions to get the car (hotel shuttle to airport, airport shuttle to car rental center), the boys had breakfast, and we set out on a short drive, first just up and down the Strip – a first for all of us, I’ll add.  We were all sort of stunned in an ambiguous way, and found the stretch of road, even this initial brief introduction, to be very strange and not compelling.  On this first exposure, what surprised my 14-year old sports fan was the proximity of UNLV to the Strip.   I mean…it’s hard for me to imagine sending a kid off to college just a few blocks from that environment.  An education, to be sure.

"amy welborn"Hoover Dam is only about 45 minutes from Las Vegas, and therefore a popular day trip.  We were there on May 20, and the crowds weren’t bad at all, but I would imagine they’d get worse as the summer wears on and tourism to Lake Mead increases – this really only being an issue for two reasons:  the line of traffic through security, and the ability to get on the dam tours you want without eating up your whole day. There’s one tour you can book ahead of time, but the other, you can’t.

The drive to the dam takes you through Boulder City, which came into existence for the thousands of workers on the dam. It’s a nice little town, scattered with statues, both of contemporary art and historical nature, the latter depicting various types of dam workers.

Once you arrive at the dam, there are a couple of options for parking.  First, there’s a pay garag"amy welborn"e on the Nevada side. But if you drive over the dam, there’s a free open lot on the Arizona side (seen at right)  – and since you’re probably going to want to have the experience of walking over the dam anyway, you might as well.  That’s what we did.

Walk over the dam, find the border between the two states, admire the Art Deco design.

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There are two different tours of the interior of the dam:

The Power Plant Tour is the shorter of the two. It lasts about 45 minutes, takes you in a group of about 40 into a short introductory film, then down into the dam to view some of the huge intake pipes and then the power plant.  You can purchase tickets for this tour ahead of time. 

The Dam Tour is longer, and takes you to just one or two more stops. This is the one I had wanted to do …because..longer? So it must be better?  I guess.  But you can’t buy these tickets ahead of time, only on site, and when we arrived (around 11), the next available Dam Tour was at 2:30, and the ticket seller basically told us on the down low…hey, it’s not worth the wait.  You really don’t see that much more.

So Power Plant Tour it was.

Hoover Dam Power Plant TourIt was interesting, and the guide was fine, but honestly, I am so tired of jokey tour guides. They are everywhere.  Caves, historical sites, what have you. The jokes are invariably lame and awkward, and everyone sort of chuckles nervously and wonders why we’re being talked down to like this and can we please move on.  The fellow at Hoover Dam wasn’t the worst, by any means  – those, I repeat, then to be at show caves…they don’t tell you a blasted thing about the geology, but shine their flashlights up to a formation and say things like, “I call that up there my cupid. If you look at it from here, can you see it? Watch out, or my cupid might shoot you! Oooh…did you feel it?”  And other stupid nonsense.  And it’s always my Whatever Formation with those cave guides, like they own the rocks.  I don’t get it.

Back to the dam. This guide had his share of awkward jokes, but he was also informative and, most importantly was able to answer the intelligent questions tossed at him by engineering/historian types in the group.

After the tour, you’re spilled out into the Visitor’s Center (for which you must pay to visit, even without the tour, by the way), for some views of the Dam.  It’s from inside, glassed in at that first level, but nonetheless, there was one middle-aged man, who couldn’t handle it. Clearly terrified, he was being pulled toward the window by his companion, but couldn’t look out. I felt badly for him.

There’s a small history museum, which does a good job of laying out the process of building the dam  Why was it constructed?  The power generation is a side benefit.  The foundational reason behind Hoover Dam was flood control – the "amy welborn"Colorado was so unpredictable and destructive in its flooding, especially as agriculture was developing, something had to be done.  The power generation has, of course, been a boon, and has been what has enabled the Dam to pay for and support itself.

I was particularly interested in the preparation work that had to take place before the first cement could be poured: blasting tunnels so the river could be diverted and the area for the dam itself could be dried and dug out to the bedrock level.  I was also interested in the human stories of families resettling, of the camps that grew, and then Boulder City, and even of the support you don’t even think about, but is absolutely necessary.  There’s a statue in Boulder City of a man with a ring of rolls around his neck.  We passed by and had no idea what it was until we got to the Dam, where we learned that it represented one of the men who took care of the latrine areas for the workers – truly an essential role, with appropriate historical credit given!

After you finish at the dam itself (or before…we just did it after), you can drive back just a couple of miles to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge that now takes the bulk of traffic crossing the area. It’s a great view and the walk up to the bridge from the parking lot is marked by signage with tons of information on this, the longest single-arch bridge in the United States, and the second-highest bridge in the United States.

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Finished at the dam, we had to backtrack – even though Hoover Dam is east of Las Vegas, and so was Saint George, Utah – our next stop – there was no direct northeast route from Boulder City up to Saint George.  We’d have to backtrack to the east side of Las Vegas to catch I-15, which would take us back up.

After a lunch at Scratch House in Boulder City, and some ice cream….we were on our way….

Previously: 

Part 1: Itinerary

Part 2: The flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas

Next:

Part 4: Saint George, Utah

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— 1 —

8th grade graduation: Check

Confirmation: Check.

Time to hit the road!

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Well, that was the only road sign I have so far. But you get the gist.

— 2 —

It’s late, and I’m tired, so all I can do is photos.  Sorry!

Hoover Dam, obvs.

— 3 —

Inside the dam.

Speaking of tours (were we?)…if there is anything I would like to change about the current Guided Tour and Presentation Culture of these United States, it’s..”.humor.”   As in, You’re Not Funny.  Stop trying.

(Personally…I blame it on Disney. You know…the Jungle Cruise thing with lame jokes?  I blame that. But then I blame Disney for almost everything bad, so take it however you like.)

— 4 —

A fantastic surprise in Saint George, Utah.  When checking in to the hotel, I asked the clerk what to do with those last couple hours of daylight.  He suggested this – Pioneer Park.  Great time, running and climbing and looking down on the town. (The white church is, of course, the LDS temple, but it’s also important because it was the first LDS temple built in Utah and the oldest still in use.

— 5 —

The next morning, we hit the ground running and headed a bit north to the AMAZING Snow Canyon State Park.  It hadn’t been on my radar until the day before, and I am so glad we spent the morning there.  Petrified sand dunes, lava fields, lava tunnels, then an array of white hills (hence the name). Gorgeous.

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— 6 —

And then, of course….

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Bryce Canyon…

— 7 —

Today’s wildlife count:

Many, many deer (in Bryce)

2 rabbits.

1 weirdly friendly huge raven at an overlook at Bryce.  People must be (unfortunately and stupidly) feeding it because it positions itself on whatever post is nearest to an onlooker and just waits.  We didn’t get close, but even when we walked away and to our car, it flew after us, landing right in front of the car, clearly expecting something. Very Birds-like, and considering that over the past two weeks, a bird has flung itself into our front living room window with such force it left feathers, and another small bird came in through an open door of our house…yeah,we’re ready.

Some good-looking lizards at Snow Canyon.

A wild turkey at Bryce.

And most amusingly, at Snow Canyon, a prairie dog sprawled in a juniper bush just stuffing his little fat face with every berry he could reach.

My name is not Tippi.

Oh, and Saturday’s forecast for where we are going to be….ice. 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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