Electric Monk


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Dam Tourists

Bright and early on Monday morning a hardy group of TAM 2 stragglers journeyed to Hoover Dam. Our party consisted of Segnosaur, MarkB, Patricio, Byzantine Magpie, and myself, representing four countries on three continents.


Warning
A Warning In Little Need Of Enforcement

The trip from Las Vegas is comfortably short, unless perhaps you have the middle seat in the back. I was driving, so at least I didn't have to worry about that. We arrived at about 11 am, and decided to take the tour first.


Tunnel
Tunnel To The Power Source

The tour began with a short video presentation on the history of the dam, in which we learned such things as the fact that the $165M cost of building the dam was financed with bonds issued at 4% interest. There was much rejoicing. Then we moved on to the elevators. These took us down to the generating stations at the base of the dam. The longer, "hard hat" tours had, unfortunately, been suspended following the attacks of 9/11.


Generators
Generators - Nevada Side

Between the Nevada-side generators and those on the Arizona side, Hoover Dam can generate up to 2 Gigawatts of power. For reference, this is enough to power two million homes, or 1.65 DeLorean-based time machines. (Your mileage may vary.)


Controls
Which Button Do You Suppose Turns Off Las Vegas

The next stop on the tour was a video archive room filled with kiosks explaining the history of the Hoover Dam project, the wildlife of the area, and the technology of power generation.


Quiz
A Skeptical Quiz Need Better Controls

A nice touch was the set of "quiz" walls which sought to debunk some of the folklore surrounding the dam. For instance, one question asked "How many workers were buried in the concrete while building Hoover Dam?" The unfortunate part about these panels was their placement under the room lighting, which caused the answers to be visible before making a choice.


The Dam
That's One Big Chunk Of Concrete

When we were done looking at things in the room, we wandered up some very nice sandstone steps to the observation platform. From there we got our first really good view of the dam. Looking at more than 6 million tons of concrete all on one lump does leave a lasting impression.


Power Plants
The Power Plants Are Far Below

Hoover Dam and the water flowing past it, forming the lower Colorado river, supply a significant amount of the power and water to my house. So if you visit Hoover Dam, please do not spit over the railings. Thank you.


Colorado
The Colorado River Resumes Its Journey

Looking at the Colorado river flowing along at the base of the dam gives the impression of something fully domesticated and tame. It is only a short distance upstream from this spot where this same river, formed from the drainage of 1/12th of the continental US has been carving the Grand Canyon for tens of millions of years.


Monument
Hoover Dam Construction Monument

Across the street from the Visitor's Center is a monument to the workers who constructed Hoover Dam. Apparently the artist commissioned to create the monument was a little nutty. In addition to the statues and the monument text, he included a star chart embedded in the ground surrounding it. The chart gives the positions of the stars and planets in the night sky at the time of the dedication. It was intended, according to the artist, to be a means by which extraterrestrial visitors in 5000 years could identify the timing of the event.


Inscription
Inscription On The Monument

This one reads, "It is fitting that the flag of our country should fly here in honor of those men who, inspired by a vision of lonely lands made fruitful, conceived this great work, and of those others whose genius and labor made that vision a reality."


Memorial
Memorial To Those Who Died During Construction

Off to one side is a memorial to the workers who died during construction. The inscription here reads, "They died to make the desert bloom." The more skeptical in the immediate vicinity had the opinion that they died in the pursuit of $0.75 per hour jobs in the depths of the Great Depression, but that the "blooming deserts" thing sounded much better.


Mascot Memorial
Memorial To The Construction Mascot

Finally, there was also a memorial to the construction mascot, beloved by all the workers, who was run over by one of the trucks.


The Group
TAM Dam Tourists (l to r): Segnosaur, Patricio, MarkB, and Byzantine Magpie

And now, it was time to eat. We chose the buffet at a hotel in nearby Boulder City, based on the fact that we got half-off coupons for it by looking at our group photo at the dam. The trip back was as uneventful as on the way out, so we soon arrived at the Tuscany to prepare for one last trip to Las Vegas Blvd.



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