2012Hot2Cold travel blog

the turnoff to Hoover Dam

no mountain sheep in view today

the inspection station before entering the site

a rusty substation announces we are getting close to the dam

the first thing you come to is this bridge which was built...

the dam is ahead on the right, just behind the leaning transmission...

guess they had to lean them out like that - but it...

here we're starting the drive across the dam

the bypass bridge has taken a lot of traffic off the dam,...

view of the dam from the farthest parking lot

we begin the long walk down

the maze of transmission towers that take the power to market

that's Lake Mead and it's not hard to see how low it...

the four intake towers, the two on this side are in Arizona...

this is the spillway - which at high water controls the level...

that's our little RV up there

when the lake level reaches maximum height the water spills over this...

into that concrete channel

an inspection access to the inner spillway

spillover goes down this channel and is released to the river below...

they also say it's something that hasn't happened in a long time

but it must be a beautiful sight when it does


the Arizona towers and Lake Mead

a couple of leaning towers on this side too

our first real view of the face of the dam - it...

a look down at the powerhouse - note the size of the...

even zoomed in they are tiny!

Hoover Dam is as tall above the river as Glen Canyon's total...

how poorly this photo conveys the magnitude of the project

Madolyn looks over the edge - and behind her the new bypass...

and Madolyn's not the only one looking over the edge

a couple having their picture taken at the state line


the visitor center is below ground in the foreground and the gift...

this view never fails to awe

the back of the dam - facing the lake and the intake...

there is a plaza here with all sorts of high sounding verbage...

also a very tall flagpole and some art-deco sculpture

actually they died by accident while they were working for a paycheck...

then there is this giant compass and a bunch of celestial symbols

all designed to help aliens from other planets figure out what year...

hope they've got money to get into the visitor center!

on to the gift shop

escalator to the visitor center ticket windows

this is the exit from the visitor center with guards to make...

you'd think with all that money they would straighten up those towers!

they got that one nice and straight


nice bronze sculpture of a 'High Scaler'

one of the most dangerous jobs of all

probably thinking how he's risking his life but it's worth it if...


one of the towers that holds the canyon's cable crossing


this is where you pay the seven bucks to park

the canyon is narrow and the car roadway is built out on...

a peek under the car bridge to the powerhouse below



the dam's eastern edge and the Arizona transmission lines

a last look at the powerhouse from the Nevada side

and at the canyon

Nevada intake towers

Nevada time

the state line

Arizona time

as we drive out a last look at the gawkers from the...

we are heading out through Nevada

Boulder City - still has an 'old town' that resembles the days...

the Boulder City Visitor Center is free - like most visitor centers

on a southwest course now

and a long coast downhill

heading for California at last

a lot of ATV enthusiasts here

crossing the state line into San Bernardino County

the old San Pedro to Salt Lake City RR - bet you...


the long, mostly downhill ride to Baker

feels good to be back in our home state again


Baker turn-off to Death Valley

yup - we're back in California all right

the road out to Death Valley


as you might expect it gets increasingly drier and more desolate



the last hill into Tecopa

sunset in the low desert


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.

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