Day 8. 1/18/2016. Starting Odometer: 143731. Final Odometer: 143806. Mileage: 75. Total Mileage 1634.
I was in Las Vegas for a couple of days, and didn’t want to blow a huge amount of money on the strip. What to do? I decided to see the one man-made object in the entire state that was even more impressive than the strip itself. Hoover Dam.
What surprised me most was when I asked Cortana how far away it was, and she said “A half hour.” Really!?! I’ve been to Vegas dozens of times in my adult life, and have never seen the dam, even though it was just a corner away from the main road, and a skip down a dirt road many people never travel.
First thing I did, though, was get a hair cut. Then I found a glass shop and had them repair Caravan One’s fore shields. Then I headed toward Boulder, and the dam.
When you see Hoover Dam in the movies, the only part they ever really highlight is the dam itself. They don’t tell you about the massive electrical relay stations, or the giant electrical towers haphazardly bolted to the sides of the cliffs. They don’t tell you about the giant bridge crossing the river on the other side of the dam.
How much cancer can I get using that porta-potty? This is a question I asked myself today.
There are no words to describe the enormity of this project. It’s like someone took some skyscrapers and plunged them into a river to staunch its flow. So much concrete. And down at the bottom of the dam, near some warehouse-sized buildings, tiny little cargo vans. I mean… Full-size cargo vans that were so small they looked like toy vans for a GI Joe doll, and the dam towering over them. If you want to know what mind-boggling is, try to comprehend the actual size and scale of this endeavor.
Walking alongside the overflow apparatus, I couldn’t help but notice that the river’s water wasn’t anywhere near it. In fact, it looked like the drought that has been affecting California has been having a devastating effect on Nevada as well. This picture speaks volumes:
Those white rocks underneath the brown rocks? That’s the usual water level for the dam. When I saw it — in the middle of a wet winter — the water level was hundreds of feet below where it should have been. This is a terrifying condition to ponder. What would happen if this water — much of which ends up going to sate the eternal thirst of Los Angeles — ended up drying up altogether?
I loved Hoover Dam, but I was humbled by it, too. We don’t hear of construction projects like this anymore. You never hear of attempts being made to shape the earth in a way that benefits mankind. Our society has become so enamored with surrendering the gains we’ve made in the name of progress in favor of saving the planet. I’m torn as to which is the better option, and wish we as a species could find a balance between the two.
I left the dam and drove for a while around Lake Mead, enjoying the beautiful January winter in the deserts of Nevada. I didn’t know it, but this trip was about to change in profound ways. Life is funny that way. If you don’t take the time to enjoy the journey, the eventual destination is probably going to disappoint.