After our encounters with snow and freezing temperatures in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, it was with great rejoicing that we arrived in Las Vegas to sunny days with temperatures climbing into the 70s. My own enjoyment of Las Vegas was short-lived, however, since we were in town primarily for my airport access.
East Coast Swing
I spent a week on the east coast taking care of important things. First up was a visit to my mom in Florida, since I had not seen her in person in over a year (since hitting the road). Although FaceTime is a fantastic way of letting her see the places we are camping and confirming that we have not been eaten by bears, nothing can really substitute for in-person visits. It was just lovely to catch up with her and with other friends while enjoying the sun, warmth, and humidity of a Florida spring. Also, I confirmed that nothing has changed in the tiny closet of a storage unit that holds our few precious saved belongings that we don’t carry with us on the road. With the palm trees, the balmy weather, and a lovely peek at the local beach, I ended up being quite envious of those prescient RVers who chose to spend this wet, cold winter in Florida.
Next, I headed to Washington, DC to attend a meeting of a volunteer board for my university. While my visit to the city was only about 48 hours long and filled with meetings, it was enough time to enjoy a whirlwind of sights and sounds, especially the profusion of blooming dogwoods and cherry trees on every street I wandered down. An evening spent at the US Capitol with a private tour and marvelous dinner was definitely the highlight. I am pretty sure I squealed with delight when I noticed that Florida’s contribution to Statuary Hall is an image of Dr. John Gorrie, the person who invented air conditioning. Our visit to the tiny Gorrie State Park museum in Apalachicola continues to pay dividends in the area of trivia mastery! And just studying the subway map gave me plenty of ideas for places to see on a future visit to the city. Of course, as people who read all the signs in museums, Ken and I might need a month to get through a small fraction of what DC has to offer.
As soon as I returned from the east coast, we headed over to check out the one place I really wanted to see in Las Vegas: the Hoover Dam. We knew this would be high on our list of destinations since we love large industrial sites and we enjoyed previous visits to the massive Fort Peck (Montana) and Bonneville (Columbia River) Projects, as well as the smaller Hungry Horse Dam near Kalispell. Well, apparently we are just too dam knowledgeable at this point, because we were underwhelmed by the Hoover Dam.
It might have been the very large volume of tourists seeing the place on a pleasant Saturday afternoon that turned us off. It might have been the use of cut-outs in the exhibits — an interpretive move that I have railed against since we started our journey in Florida. It may have been the fact that we didn’t have the chance to touch a spinning generator shaft like we did at Fort Peck (on a tour with only two other guests besides us). Or it may have been that there was no nearby fish hatchery with charismatic ancient species like Herman the Sturgeon, who resides at Bonneville. For whatever the reason, this was not the best dam tour we’ve taken. It seemed that the tour gave only a superficial view of the construction and operation of the facility, and then we were promptly given the bum’s rush out of there. Of course, the fact that we already knew quite a bit about the hydroelectric power generation process — to the point that we could have practically given the tour ourselves — was probably the biggest issue. For a newbie, the dam is a worthwhile destination and certainly deserving of its description as one of the engineering marvels of the modern world.
We did enjoy the stylish art deco architecture, sculptures, and mosaics throughout the facility, which are always highlights of these big Depression-era projects. And there is no question that the tour operators do a great job of moving large numbers of people through the tight confines of the tunnels within the dam. One of our favorite parts of the visit ended up being the views of the elegant Memorial Bridge that carries traffic on US 93 across the Colorado River just south of the dam. This bridge replaced traffic across the top of the dam, which must have been a huge improvement over the original two-lane road and hefty security measures that protect the dam.
Las Vegas/Boulder City
During my travels, Ken and the Airstream were ensconced in a private RV park in Boulder City, near the Hoover Dam but also convenient to shopping and services in Henderson, NV. The RV park was so forgettable that I forgot to take any photos, but it worked for our needs. I was happy to come home to a fully stocked freezer and fridge in anticipation of a month in rural Utah. Ken tells me that he spent much of the time watching NCAA basketball, but who knows? What happens in Vegas … will remain a mystery.
Next: we head to Valley of Fire State Park and then to Utah.