Day 12: Boulder Dam

Monday morning, May 18, 2015, day 12 of my cross-country journey. Time to see something I’ve wanted to see for a long time, the Hoover Dam (a.k.a. Boulder Dam). After much less than a one-day stay, it’s time to leave the delightful Boulder City hotel. First though, I’ve got to get some breakfast and check out the Boulder Dam museum right here in the hotel.

The breakfast at Boulder Dam is included in my $80.00 room rate, and it ¬†does not disappoint. I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on sourdough toast. It’s a sandwich Mabes would have appreciated. I’m particularly fastidious about the fried egg preparation for my sandwich, and I give the waitress my usual instructions: over medium well, break the yolk, but no brown egg. She informs me that she sometimes cooks the eggs and knows exactly what I want. When she brings the sandwich out, the egg is perfect! There’s a one dollar up-charge for the bacon, but who cares? The sandwich, the service, and the coffee were all excellent.

After breakfast I tour the museum, which is actually pretty high quality. There’s a short film on the origin of the Boulder Dam project and the construction, and then a tour through the various pictures and artifacts. Really good!

After the tour, I decide that I will have lunch across the street at the Dillinger restaurant before heading out the the dam. I definitely don’t want to be hungry when I get out there. Dillinger’s is apparently known for their hamburgers, so I decide to have one – the “hostage” burger, on sourdough toast with cheddar cheese, raw onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato. Again, this is a meal Mabes would have appreciated. The burger was perfect. I washed it down with a rum and coke (it’s 5:00 somewhere!) and was completely satisfied.

The fellow on the next bar stool was an Ohio native who had been living in Nevada for 35 years. When he learned I was from Michigan, we had a good time with the whole Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. Despite his love of OSU, he said he’s never moving back to Ohio. That’s a familiar theme amongst the midwest transplants I’ve met out here.

Time to leave the delightful Boulder City Hotel.

Time to leave the delightful Boulder City Hotel.

Immediately after lunch, I drive out to the Hoover Dam, less than fifteen minutes from the hotel. It is a breathtaking site. I’d seem pictures of the dam many times, but it’s impossible to feel the scale of the place without being there.

I drive across the two lane roadway on top of the dam and park on the other side where Lake Mead approaches the dam. There are lots of other tourists in the area, and I get a young lady who appears to be visiting from another country to snap the first picture of me at Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam, at last!

Hoover Dam, at last!

Lake Mead, near the top of Hoover Dam.

Lake Mead, near the top of Hoover Dam.

After looking around a bit, I arranged to take a tour of the dam. There are two tours – a power plant tour and a dam tour. The dam tour was sold out, so I took the power plant tour. It was very interesting to see how the power plant, which sits underground below the dam, is constructed. It is also very interesting to see the massive electric generators that produce the 2 gigawatts of power from the dam’s water flow.

One of the key things I learned from the tour was that the electric power generation is a side benefit of the dam. The dam’s main purpose is to control the flow of the Colorado river and provide a reliable, consistent source of water to the downstream communities.

Standing near the downriver side of the Hoover Dam.

Standing near the downriver side of the Hoover Dam.

Massive electric generators provide 2 gigawatts of power!

Massive electric generators provide 2 gigawatts of power!

The Mike O'Callaghan--Pat Tillman bridge was constructed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman bridge was constructed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Looking on this amazing project has been awe-inspiring. The engineering innovation, extremely hard work, and political maneuvering required to build the Boulder Dam were unlike anything that came before it, save perhaps the great pyramids of Egypt. It makes me wonder why our country doesn’t seem to be able to summon the will and the ingenuity to address the problems we face today. After seeing this magnificent creation, I am reinvigorated with the knowledge that we can still solve big problems, and that I must do my part.

Next stop, Sedona, Arizona.

Onward through the Arizona desert toward Sedona.

Onward through the Arizona desert toward Sedona.

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