Hoover Be Dammed.

One of the adventures that we immensely enjoyed was taking a tour of the Hoover Dam. This past April on our epic adventure road trip, Devon, Stephen & I, put in our suggestions for sites to see. Oddly enough, we all agreed on the Hoover Dam.

Since we hadn’t been there before, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Honestly, we weren’t even sure where it was. We started out in Vegas in the morning and along our drive, we three were debating whether or not the lake we were beside was actually Lake Mead. Driving into the area, there was ample signage along the highway providing us with answers to both questions. Yes, it was Lake Mead and yes, we had found the Hoover Dam. I wasn’t prepared for the size of the dam itself. Awesome to say the least. As we rounded the corner, we started to get excited about finally seeing the dam. Since Hoover Dam is state run, we knew there would be a gate. However, we hadn’t anticipated their line of questioning. Apparently, you cannot bring fruit into Hoover Dam.

Once past the gate, we were off and running… sort of. There was still the matter of finding available parking. First, we had a lovely parking attendant ask us if we had any pets in our car. Taken aback by what we thought was an odd question, we were then informed that it’s not uncommon for people to leave pets in their vehicles in the sweltering heat for hours on end. Our response was no, of course. The attendant then said that we could find a spot higher up in the parkade and gave us our ticket. Since it was five tiered parkade, we figured finding an open stall would be a breeze. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. It just so happens that the Hoover Dam is quite a busy attraction. We ended up finally finding a spot for small cars on the fourth tier. Score one for the little guy!!

We all head down the stairs, and into the facility to wait in line with the rest of the tourists. So, there we are, Devon, Stephen & myself, waiting for our turn to be searched. They take this security thing serious here! It’s just like airport security, complete with metal detectors. We each take our turn throwing our belongings into bins and walking through the detector. I didn’t even make it into the detector an inch before it beeped. The unamused, female guard sent me back through as I still had some change in my pocket. This lead to a healthy razzing from the peanut gallery (Devon & Stephen). Once the change was in the bin, another security guard stopped me before I walked through. Unbeknownst to me, I had a pocket knife in the bin, under my wallet. Now, in my defense, I had completely forgotten about it even being in my pocket. He said that I could not bring a knife inside and that I should take it back to my vehicle and leave it there. Fantastic. At least he was nice about it. I half expected to get tackled and handcuffed. So I left everything, except the knife and my keys, in the bin and took off out of the building toward the car. I was on a tear. I ran up the two flights of stairs, which are literally cut out of the massive red rock wall, and up to the car. Excellent. Now that that’s all taken care of, I hoof it back to the welcoming centre, completely winded. Of course, left to their own devices, Devon & Stephen can find the funny in all that I do. The two smart alecks decided to make a quick video about the whole scene while I was gone. Har dee har. Thank Jebus I wasn’t tackled, or Devon would have surely posted that to YouTube.

Again reunited with my comedy troupe, wearing our yellow wrist bands, we waited for the timed tour to begin. After reading the information under the giant pictures on the wall in the waiting area, we were ushered into a tiny theatre to watch a short documentary on the building of the dam. Devon entered first, followed by Stephen, then myself. I was seated but two seconds when Devon leaned towards me and says that the guy she’s next to announced loudly that ‘people with tattoos are evil’. So she did what only Devon can do. She sat back in her seat, rolled up her sleeves and proceeded to make him as uncomfortable as humanly possible. What you don’t know about Devon is that she’s working on full sleeves. I find it hard not to laugh when recalling this instance.

The house lights were restored and we were then lead into another area for a small orientation. Finally ready for the tour, the three of us became giddy little kids on a field trip. In the five years that I’ve known Devon, she enjoys a good, cheesy comedy, especially National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation. She particularly gets a kick out of the ‘dam tour’ scene. So, you can imagine her joy when we’re about to go on the Dam tour. Stephen is an architecture enthusiast, so the size and scope of the engineering feat was not lost on him. And myself, well, it’s the Hoover Dam people!! How cool is that?!? But, I digress… Back to the story at hand. The guide crams as many people onto one of the elevators as he can, and down into the belly of the beast we descend.

The ride down kind of felt like being in a clown car. At least, what I think one would feel like. Roughly 20 people, jammed in an elevator car. Truly amusing. We took video of it to show people just how close we were together. As we looked around at the other tourists, we noticed that we’re the youngest people there. Somehow we signed up for the ‘blue hair’ tour. I didn’t even know that was in the brochure. All kidding aside, we were easily more than two decades younger than the rest.

The tour was broken up into two sections with different guides. We were rounded up by a gentleman who took us down via an elevator to the starting point of our tour. We were escorted about, inside the dam, surrounded by crazy huge boulders the builders had incorporated into the design of the concrete form. We started off with a nice lady who not only knew her stuff, but thoroughly enjoyed her job. From the elevator turning right into the first section, where we are shown gigantic water pipes. We’re told there are four of these, two in the Nevada side and two in the Arizona side. This is where our guide gets entertaining by explaining that there has only been one flood at the Hoover Dam, some eighty year ago. She did leave us with this gem. “If you see the water come up over the Dam, take lots of pictures… And run for your life!”

After an ‘about face’, we were led down, deeper into the inner workings of the dam, where we popped out into a wide section where they have massive generators. These generators are used to turn the energy created by water into electrical power. The whole thing is an impressive operation. We learned here that the entire floor of this area was covered in imported Italian marble, done by hand by two brothers. Over sixty thousand tiles. Wow.

We were then lead to another area, where our guide told us her part was over and we would be passed on to another guide. For some reason, the change over didn’t go as smoothly as we thought. We were actually two different groups of tours, together for this first half, after which we were to separate for two completely different second half tours. So, there we are with our yellow wrist bands, mixed in amongst the blue wrist band group. We get herded into an elevator and up we go to the visitor’s centre. During this ascension someone broke wind… which happens. When you’re crammed into a small box with others, you figure out fast who brushed their teeth and who forgot deodorant. It’s not unlike public transit. I, however, do know the culprit… in fact, we’re related. Since I’m kin to both Devon & Stephen, you’ll never know. 😉 Now back to the story… Somehow we didn’t follow our group further down the walkway and we ended up on a different tour altogether. Not too worry though as another guide quickly realized the mistake and took us back down to rendezvous with the rest of our bingo-loving people.

Back down inside the dam and on the proper second half of our tour, we switch guides for a fifth time and continued along our collective merry ways. This guide also had quite the personality. Throughout the duration of the tour, our heads were filled with facts about the Dam, as it should. We learned that the builders had essentially a steady stream of concrete being poured, roughly one bucket every 14 seconds for two years straight. Presently, I cannot recall the exact details, but I can assure you that the construction of such an undertaking was awesome.

Our current guide went on a more vertical route up inside the Dam. We used elevators, corridors & tunnels to maneuver about. The kindly gentleman had us walk down into a corridor which led to giant louvred vents, where he encouraged us to stick our arms out and wave at the guests & visitors above. Stephen & I jumped on this and waved… Devon chose to salute them… with one finger. Hey, if you’re told you can stick your arms out of a dam, you do it! Back down the circular corridor, Devon noticed that there was blue duct tape covering something. She made a terse crack about it covering a leak and then everybody in the group took pictures. I think it took all of her inner strength not to peel it back. We left this section and rode yet another elevator up to a maintenance corridor where our guide explained that they once used these now gated off staircases to gain access to all of the light bulbs and the like. Hundreds and hundreds of stairs. I’m sure being a member of the maintenance crew pays a respectable wage, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they thank their lucky stars for those elevators now.

Shuffling back into the elevator and now making our rise to the top of the Dam, our guide suggested that we make our way across to the other side and peer down at Lake Mead. Of course we did just this. There is a very clear, visible water line around the circumference of Lake Mead where the water rose to when the dam overflowed. After checking out the man made Mead, we popped into another visitor’s centre for a short narrative of the development of the area, complete with a scaled down three dimensional landscape of several states. This was one of the most thoroughly informative historical sites that I’ve ever been to. We managed to wander about yet another visitor’s centre for more sights and sounds about the construction of the dam.

With our adventure at the Hoover Dam winding down, we made the walk back up to our car. We three amigos piled into our Fit and zoomed off toward the next leg of our journey, the Grand Canyon. But… that’s another story. The tour guides never did ask us if we had any ‘dam’ questions about the ‘dam’ tour. 🙂

– Jade


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