|only this time it's Hoover's
After a down day at Lake Mead RV Village to get caught up on the trip journal, we were ready to push on in our travels. The next stop was Hoover Dam - once known as Boulder Dam (and still is by folks who don’t like Hoover). It was a short 7 mile drive from the campground, but one that takes you through a TSA inspection station similar to the one that re-routed us at Los Alamos.
At Los Alamos they asked me if we had any firearms on board and I said, “Yes, a handgun.” The two inspectors seemed quite dismayed and made some hasty phone calls, then they told us we could avoid the inspection by taking a short detour around the Los Alamos Lab. Now it was my turn to be dismayed, but we wisely took the detour which took us up a lovely canyon that we would not have otherwise seen.
At Hoover Dam they never asked us anything. They just wanted one inspector to look in our outside compartments while the other inspector came on board to take a look through the RV. The gun was in plain sight on the inside, and the magazine was in plain sight in one of the outside compartments (which I unlocked and opened).
Neither gun nor magazine seemed to phase the inspectors (if they even noticed them) so we decided they must have been looking for FOOD! Inspector types seem to view FOOD as more threatening than weapons, which they don’t sell in their concession stands. Outside food cuts into their income, whereas bringing in a weapon does not.
Whatever they were looking for we passed their inspection, and they politely waved us through. As you approach the dam you see a forest of transmission towers, and it kind of builds the excitement - but the transmission towers above Hoover Dam are so rusty it kind of dampens the effect. It gets even weirder as you come to the dam and notice that the towers closest to the dam lean out over the canyon at a very precarious angle. Didn't the builders have a plumb bob?
Fortunately they got the dam straight, and it has been ‘reclaiming’ the waters of the Colorado, Muddy and Virgin rivers since 1935. Herbert Hoover was one of the main supporters of the dam, and true to his conservative roots, he insisted that it be self-supporting. By that he meant that the construction and maintenance costs should be borne by the sale of hydroelectric energy.
A noble idea which has worked out fairly well, but it has also commercialized the dam to a disturbing degree. Where Glen Canyon Dam has a free visitor center, free exhibits and a fine tour that costs only $5 dollars, Hoover Dam is like an expensive theme park - charging for everything. You can’t get into the visitor center or any of the exhibits unless you are on a tour, and tours start at $8.00 a person just to get into the visitor center, and go up to $30.00 if you want to do something extra - like go down to the powerhouse and see the generators.
So despite it’s beauty and history - the current reality of Hoover Dam is a disillusioning turn-off. So far you can still walk and drive across the dam for free, but now that there is a bypass bridge over the canyon they will probably start charging for that as well. They don’t charge you to go into the gift store - yet, but there is a $7 dollar fee to park your car unless you want to walk in half a mile. Enough said.
The Colorado River is the state line here, so the state line goes right through the middle of the dam. This means you have Arizona time on the east side of the line, and Nevada time on the west side of the line. There are two intake towers on each side of the state line, and the two front ones have clocks on them so you will know what time it is. Right now both clocks say the same thing because Arizona’s Mountain Standard Time corresponds to Nevada’s Pacific Daylight Time.
Next week there will be an hour difference when Nevada sets it’s clock back an hour to Pacific Standard Time. That is either too complicated for Arizonans, or for some reason they like having less daylight when they get home from work in the summer. The Navajos are the only Arizonans smart enough to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time, which probably explains why they ended up owning all the best land in the state. They stuck the Apaches with Tucson, and the white man with Phoenix, and you can't help but admire that kind of business sense!
We left with a drive through Boulder City, and spent the afternoon going downhill to California. We crossed the state line into San Bernardino County, one of the two biggest counties in the U.S.A. and we got back on I-15 and took it as far as Baker. At Baker we took the Death Valley turnoff, stopping for the night outside of the park in the little town of Tecopa. We fell asleep to the yelping of coyotes, and to the light of a mostly full moon.