September 11, 2009

...yes, I think we WERE crazy... Part 2

On Sunday, after we had a leisurely (and very delicious!) buffet breakfast at the Monte Carlo hotel (we took a cab this time, to save our feet- and our moods!), we headed back to Arizona. We had hoped to beat the "holiday traffic" since we were traveling on Sunday and not on Labor Day... but, no such luck: at this point, we were still at least 5 or 6 miles away from the Hoover Dam (and a security checkpoint, which is where most of the traffic backup came from). Tom actually put the car in Neutral some of the time, and just coasted/idled. It was pretty annoying, but the scenery was beautiful though- miles of hairpin turns thru the mountainous terrain- and, if we had been going faster, we would have missed seeing this guy:
This bighorn sheep was strolling along right next to the highway... quite a surprise! We always see those "watch out for wildlife" signs when we're driving but never end up seeing anything, so I was quite happy to see him- he's a pretty nice specimen, too- he has a pretty nice curl to his horns.
Once we got to the Dam and parked, we headed for the Visitor's Center where we decided to take the guided tour-- we actually got to go down into the Dam and see some of the workings. The tour covered the history and building of the dam (it was built between 1931 and 1936, and was finished ahead of schedule and under budget!), and was really quite interesting. This huge generator room (650 feet long), which is somewhere around 500 feet underground, houses the turbines on the Nevada side of the river-- the scale of this equipment is almost incomprehensible. The American flag is hanging from one of two huge cranes that they use to move the equipment if they need to service it. What you see in this room is the very top of the generators; the electricity is generated below what you can see, and the water actually flows thru below that still (I still don't quite understand how it all works, but it's amazing, when you stop to think about it- the fact that moving water can generate that much electricity).
This photo was taken from the outdoor area at the top of the Visitor's Center- again, the sense of scale is almost incomprehensible-- there are teeny, tiny cars passing over the top, but it's still hard to understand how big it is-- 45 feet thick at the top, 660 feet thick at the base, and 726 feet high. (I think they should put a mannequin down at the bottom, to give visitors a sense of the size-- we were also wondering how many pairs of sunglasses and cameras are down there...LOL!)
This photo isn't the best, but it's another one taken to show a sense of scale (once this bridge is done, it will span 1,080 feet.) Obviously, since the current highway is 2-lane, has a lot of switchbacks, and goes right over the top of the dam, there are a lot of traffic problems. This photo shows the arch that will support a new 4-lane roadbed, so eventually traffic can bypass Hoover Dam altogether. Unless you want to tour the Dam, of course- I would definitely love to go back again sometime, but we'd need more time next time, since we still didn't get to see everything we wanted. We made it back home about 10 pm, which makes for a "total vacation time" of 40 hours... Not even two entire days (!), but we've certainly figured out how to pack a lot of activity into those short amounts of time. It was a fun weekend, and I look forward to doing it again sometime soon. (just not on a major holiday weekend!)

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