Saturday, August 4, 2012


July 29th, Sunday

Our destination today was to be the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ which is in the desert and would not have electricity which would mean that, once again, we would be without air conditioning in the 100 degree temperatures. We decided to pass this park up and head towards Las Vegas so that we could find a campground which would afford us the conveniences of electricity and water hookups right at the campsite. On the way, we passed the Hoover Dam so we decided to stop for the night just past the dam at the Lake Mead Recreation Area and tour the dam tomorrow. While still in the desert climes, we were definitely more comfortable there than we would have been at the state park. While the lake looked inviting, we left the canoe on the car and hibernated for the afternoon in the cool RV.

July 30th,  Monday

We rose early to beat the heat and the crowds at the Hoover Dam. We arrived at the security checkpoint a little after 8am after first stopping at the newly constructed walkway over the river and next to the highway. This bridge was completed in 2010 and is called the Mike O'Callaghan-Path Tillman Memorial Bridge. It is 2000 feet long and is 840 feet above the Colorado River. It's the second highest highway structure of its kind in the United States. From this viewpoint, you can look back at the dam and really see its magnitude. What a spectacular sight and engineering marvel.

View of Dam from the Bridge

View of Bridge from atop the Dam

 The construction started in 1931 and finished in 1935 two years ahead of schedule.  Hoover was instrumental in getting this project started and thhus its name was changed in 1947 from the Boulder Dam to the Hoover Dam in his honor. We had thought that the purpose of creating the dam was to provide power to the area, but during our Plant Tour we were told that the reason for the dam was to control the flow of the water in the Colorado River. In doing so, the farmers in the Imperial Valley would be able to plant and harvest their crops with no threat of losing them to any deluge from the river. The power is really an adjunct to the other power plants and only assists when needed.  The Colorado River supplies crop irrigation water to Nevada, Arizona and California.
View of Dam from Visitor Center

View from road above
The dam itself is 660 feet thick at the base and 45 feet thick at the top and is 726 feet tall. The arch like crest length is 1244 feet In order to clear the area for building, they first built two tunnels- one on each side of the river and then a coffer dam above the work site. The water was diverted from the site and with a second coffer dam below the site, the water was prevented from backflowing into the site. They then started building the dam, pouring  a total of 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete to create this structure. For the concrete to cool, they placed refrigerated pipes within the forms so that it would cure. Had they not done this, the concrete would never have dried and the dam would never have been built.
Lake Mead was coincidentally formed as a reservoir created by the building of the dam. It has a shoreline of 550 miles, covers 157,000 acres, its maximum depth is 498 feet and its length, when full, is 110 miles long. It is a major recreation area for boaters whether it be paddle, power or sail and is a National Recreational Area with beaches, a marina, and hiking trails.

After viewing and touring the dam, we went back to the RV park, hooked up the car and headed out for Las Vegas. We landed at Sam's Town RV Park and Casino mid-afternoon. This was so different than what we had been used to. Instead of a large wooded site that we had in the mountains or the vast empty sites we had in the desert, it was a parking lot next to the casino, but, thankfully, we did find a site with a large tree to park under and we did have electricity and water hookups. There was even a swimming pool. Hallelujah!

We stayed there for four nights just relaxing, using the pool and touring Las Vegas. Such a different world than we had been in all summer.We spent the first afternoon at the pool and went to Sam's Casino that night. We did a little gambling.... very little, actually, that evening. So little that I was thrilled to win $8 while Tim lost about $6. Really big gamblers!  We enjoyed the buffet and the light show in the atrium and called it a night.

July 31st, Tuesday

We read about the Fremont Street Experience downtown and everything we read was true. What a sight! Jammed pack with people of all ages, sizes, shapes, some with elaborate costumes looking for tips for taking pictures with them, bands, light shows, zip lines. Everything from cross dressers to strippers. I wouldn't exactly call this the nature of national parks, but perhaps the nature of the beast would be more aprapos. We actually stayed out late (for us) until 10pm and then watched the Olympics until midnight. Latest we've been  up since May!
Tim with showgirls at the Fremont Street Experience
Glitz, Glitter, Lights and Ziplines

August 1st, Wednesday

Las Vegas is known for its luxurious hotels, bright lights, casinos, and shows. We  absolutely loved the Venetian with the gondola rides, the shops, the singers in the foyer, the elegance of the lobby, the chandeliers, the masks and mostly the tree people.

There were two tree people walking through the atrium on stilts with what looked like stilts on their arms as well representing branches. They were graceful and charming with their faces and necks covered with green body paint, their bodies and limbs covered with leaves and their huge eyes shining through it all.

Close up of tree person

Atrium at the Venetian

We walked over to the Treasure Island Casino and took the tram ride to the Mirage. Treasure Island was fine, but the Mirage we found to be dirty, crowded and just not what we expected. We returned to Treasure Island and purchased tickets for Cirque du Soleil for that evening and spent some time in the casino until the show time. The show was fantastic.  Hi wire acts, ballet, acrobatics, with lots of humor thrown in. Thoroughly enjoyable. The surprise came when we left the theather and there was a mass of humanity everywhere. Twenty deep on the sidewalk just to cross the street. I'm not sure where they all came from, but it looked like they were there to party for the night.
View of The Strip from crossover bridge

August 2nd, Thursday

While we were planning our trip home after Yosemite, we got a call from friends of ours, Paula and Dale, who are also on a trip west this summer. They were in Henderson just a few miles away so they came over and we went back into the "The Strip" for the afternoon and early evening. It was really great to see them for the day. They'll be meeting us in Yosemite in August for a few days as well. We're looking forward to it.

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