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  1. #1

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    Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    This trip begins with a quick explanation. Tink and I own an older van, which at times acts up. On Wednesday it died, forcing me to take the day off work to try and get it running. Thanks to my brother-in-law's help we were able to limp it to a friend's shop, get an estimate, and get it running well enough to make it to Friday. Friday morning Tink turned our van into the shop, and rented one from a local office. The rental company screwed up our reservation, and initially "upgraded" Tink to a huge 9 passenger gas guzzling van. She didn't have a choice really, because the kids needed to be shuttled around. A few hours, and a couple angry phonecalls, and they finally dropped off the right van and gave her a discount for her headaches. Our mechanic friend called, repairs weren't as bad as I had expected, but it was going to take the weekend. So now we have a rental van for the whole weekend... I was not about to let that sit in the driveway! Friday evening after I got off work we finalized the reservations and headed out to Boulder City Nevada. We were going to take the kids to see Hoover Dam.

    While all of you have heard excuses as to why someone went to Vegas... I doubt anyone has heard the excuse "my car broke down so I decided to rent one and take the kids to Hoover Dam".
    Last edited by techskip; 10-11-2010 at 09:35 PM.
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  2. #2

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    The downside of a last minute road trip is that you leave late, and have to pickup supplies on the way. I don't think we hit the road much before 730pm. We gave the kids their pillows before we left, and had them in their jammies. We didn't arrive in Boulder City until 130am... the kids were nice enough to wake us back up at 830am! On the bright side our hotel was only 5 minutes away from Hoover Dam.


    Lake Mead


    landscape shots


    Tink liked the mountains...

    Off 93 there used to be a placed called Goldstrike... they've since renamed it Hacienda. It is an older casino/hotel with a decent cheap buffet. So breakfast, then the Dam itself about 2 minutes up the road. For anyone interested in helicopter tours of Lake Mead, they do them for $30 a person.

    After 9/11 a lot of thought went into preventing vehicles from driving over Hoover Dam. I don't know exactly when, but at some point they broke ground and started building the bypass bridge. This bridge will open at the end of the month. I later spoke to some of the employees who explained. The current "plan" is for Hoover Dam to become a one way off ramp from the Nevada side. They need the parking, so there are talks about people still being able to drive over the dam in the busier months.


    This is the bridge


    This is not zoomed... those supports are bigger then our van

    So we drove over Hoover Dam, flipped a U Turn, and came back. There were light crowds, but nothing like the horror stories we'd heard about.


    Enough room for us to park in the new parking structure. This is the same style van we took on our big Memorial Road Trip. It's a Chrysler Town & Country... I'm not a big fan of it, but it works and our own van would never have made it.

    A quick note on the Hoover Dam and Parking Structure. The structure, and shaded car ports on the other side are $7... they also have limited free parking spots if you want to walk. You don't have to pay for a tour, you can simply walk around on top of the Dam if you want to. But I have to be honest... you get a LOT more out of the basic Power Plant tour which is wheelchair accessible. There is more information on the various tours on the website.
    http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/

    I don't know if we were just "lucky" or if it is common policy, but they asked if I was former military and then insisted we had "earned" the military discount. Even without the discount the basic power plant tour is probably one of the better deals in the area.



    waiting in line to see the show


    They show you a quick film about the history of the Dam, how they built it etc.


    The kids first look at the face of the Dam. This shocked them... they were stunned at how large it is.


    one of the workers...


    This is a cross section of the concrete in the Dam.


    one of only 18 original spare replacement bolts. I want to say it was 35lbs... the photo gives you the scale.


    This is a section of guide wire. To give you some scale, cut a baseball in half... that was ONE cable... the photo above it shows how they were used.


    105lb wrench used on those bolts pictured earlier.
    Last edited by techskip; 10-12-2010 at 06:33 AM.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    After the movie they direct you to elevators. Sadly I didn't get a shot because I was herding kids... the elevators take you down about 400ft into a man made shaft where they have a presentation room. Again no shots getting to the room, but plenty inside and getting out.


    This is one of the intake pipes. In the movie they explained that these pipes were so large they could not be shipped. Steel was shipped, and the pipes were custom made ONSITE... the presentation room is built on top of one of these pipes.


    One of several amazing tour guides explaining how the dam works and how they make electricity.


    On the right the silver thing is one of the pins used to hold the pipe in place. The pipes were actually too large and too thick for conventional rivets. On the left is a picture of the overflow in use. The overflow is 27ft below the Dam lip. In the event of a flood, it is used to divert the water, and take pressure off the Dam. It has been used twice. Once in the 40's when engineers tested it to make sure it worked. Once in the 80's when Mother Nature tested it to make sure it still worked. In the 80's the river flooded for over 60 days.


    Someone else can photoshop but we are on the right edge of the Dam (top as you're looking at it) Second gray pipe which is feeding all the generators.


    Heading out of the presentation room


    the kids LOVED the "cave" as they called it


    Water does seep down in spots


    Another reason I liked the power plant tour... wheelchair/stroller accessible.


    Again... stunned at the sheer scale of everything... the generator floor


    From the top of the generator to the floor is 7 stories. The overhead crane you see (there are two of them, one behind this one) is original. It took both cranes to put the generators in place, and it takes both cranes to lift them for service.


    Elevator ride headed out to the Observation deck.


    Another benefit to the tour is an amazing view from the Observation deck in the comfort of the AC. You could also walk outside to look around if you wished. Below the observation deck were a lot of exhibits for the kids.


    So exciting the baby fell asleep


    Inside the generator (that 7 story thing I mentioned earlier)


    Yes it is that big


    This little display showed kids how the basic process works. The generator has magnets on the end of those wheel spokes. As it spins the magnets spin. On the outside of the generator are large coils of copper wire. The magnets spinning in proximity to the copper create electricity... in this case spin the crank and light up the LED!


    Original model showing how the generator works
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  4. #4

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam


    They said at some point how many buckets of concrete it took per block... but this is a display about shoveling concrete.


    Sorry for the blur... official number is 93 people who died in the construction of the Dam. This is one of the buckets that was suspended from the cables I mentioned earlier.


    Hoover Dam is actually a series of interlocking concrete blocks. In order to dissipate the heat from the concrete, they embedded steel pipes in each block. A refrigeration house was constructed, and cold water pumped through the blocks. This allowed 24hr construction... the Dam was completed about 2 years ahead of schedule, during the Depression no less...


    there are the specs


    This was originally a river diversion tunnel that redirected the Colorado River so the Dam could be built... it later became the overflow (more on that later). Diameter is 50ft...


    amazing when you look down...


    Finally venturing outside!


    Background is the bypass, below is the river, on the right is the Observation/museum you only see if you go on the tour...


    absolutely amazing


    looking down while holding hands...


    years from now they're going to look back and talk about this. I was about his age (7) the last time I was here...


    The original visitor's center...
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  5. #5

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam


    I don't remember the official name, but these are the collection towers


    gives you a sense of scale... and they are out in the Lake....


    It was difficult just getting 3 in the same shot... you can also see the water line. Lake Mead is extremely low right now.


    This is the Overflow I mentioned earlier.


    Better shot...


    Exact same overflow in 1983 (picture from Presentation Room)


    This is that tunnel I showed earlier... finished... the scale of everything here was simply shocking. As a kid you think everything is big, so a big dam is a big dam. As an adult you go back and... wow... it really is bigger then I remembered it!


    One of two bronze statues. I do not remember the story behind them, only that they weigh a lot and they used blocks of melting ice to get them on their mounts because a crane couldn't lift them for long periods of time.

    My only complaint was the gift shop itself. The shop was packed full of crap, with only a few areas dedicated to the Dam itself. I realize this is a tourist destination, but the tiny shop didn't have anything I actually wanted. The prices also seemed high. Tink collects shotglasses... and thankfully the Hacienda up the street had a nice one she liked at a much better price!
    Last edited by techskip; 10-12-2010 at 06:35 AM.
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  6. #6

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    I know everyone has an opinion of Vegas. Many see it as an adult playground. Some see it as an international tourist destination. Others are willing to take family on vacation there. It was sort of surreal to see a combination of families, singles, older and younger all walking around on the Strip. There were quite a few street talent, and I was really disgusted with the individuals handing out flyers... I'll leave it at that. The rest of this report will be the brief time we spent visiting the Strip, and then heading home.
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  7. #7

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    I want to say we arrived at Hoover Dam sometime around 10am... and didn't leave until close to 3pm. After a quick stop for lunch we hit the strip to show the kids the free stuff! On the way in we got stuck in traffic during the Bellagio's water show! The kids LOVED watching it from the comfort of an air conditioned car.


    The MGM Lion Encounter was a huge hit. As usual the lions didn't do much, just laying around, but the kids loved to see them.


    The "Lion" faces


    Another big hit was the entrance to Rainforest Cafe...


    The 2.5 year old loved the huge iguana, and the tree frog...


    His tree frog impression


    New York New York (the kids loved looking at the Statue of Liberty. Later the camera died so I couldn't get a picture of them in front of it.


    For the Michael Jackson fans... that or the Oscar got a makeover... not sure which.


    M&M's....


    It looks like he's picking his nose...


    Green proved to be popular


    I was told they had to have a picture with Green because she's a girl!


    The camera operator offered to take our picture with the Coke Bear with our camera. Then they snapped their own picture and gave us a ticket to go upstairs. The "official" photo wasn't horrible, but I wasn't digging the price so we passed.


    The was one of the few "street talent" the kids really wanted a photo with. Later I was told they could see the guy's mustache from under the mask... great... way to ruin the magic...
    Last edited by techskip; 10-12-2010 at 01:22 PM.
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  8. #8

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam


    Fatburger... open 24hrs... why not in CA?


    PBR bar (kids loved the silver bull)


    Pink's... not as good as the original but nice to see an old friend!


    That would be Paris. I had to sit down to get this perspective. The balloon was also a hit but the pic was blurry


    Flamingos at the Flamingo Casino no less. This is one of the "hidden treasures" most people don't know about.


    beautiful birds


    To me, this is the best part of Vegas... all the fountains and architecture. I'm not much of a gambler but I love all the free stuff you get to see.


    Ceasar's Palace and Forum Shops... really really amazing. All the stores are high end but you can just walk around the mall itself and take it all in.


    Another shot of one of the impressive fountains.

    After that the camera died so I can't show you the B's water show at night (kids LOVED it), or New York New York's Statue of Liberty. I was barely able to get the camera working for this final shot.


    Vegas lights at night.
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  9. #9

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    Day 2. Up semi-early to get some breakfast. The kids had the chance to swim with Tink while I packed up the van. Pretty soon we were on the road.


    The drive from Boulder City is absolutely beautiful, lots of desert and mountains.

    My plan was to head to the Mirage and see the White Tigers. It has been about 6 years since I was in Vegas. What I didn't know, is that the old free exhibit was no more. We found out after we got there... the fee to get in wasn't "horrible" just unexpected. It's the only thing I bought on the Strip.


    This kind gentleman is 6'9. He saw Tink and I struggling to herd the kids and the stroller into the lobby. When I asked where the tigers were he figured it would be easier to just walk us to the main lobby/sign. The older kids kept asking if he was a giant... which made him laugh as he held their hands and interacted with them... I asked him if it was ok to take a picture with the kids and he was humbled! They gave him a hug before we parted ways. It is Guest service like this that immediately reminds me of Disney.


    The Secret Gardens were around before the old tiger enclosure closed. I remember a lot of people didn't understand why anyone would pay to see dolphins when they could see the white tigers for free. The Mirage's answer to that was to close the free exhibit. I wasn't thrilled about having to pay, but it was worth it.


    The dolphin exhibit is both above and below ground. Since we were here in the "off" season the place was quiet and we had a lot of private time with the dolphins.


    They seemed to be very curious, taking turns diving and looking in the windows. Some would do underwater flips, or spins, just for the fun of it.


    This playful fellow LOVED to surprise the kids. There were several dolphins in the tank but you could tell each personality as it shined through.


    1 on 1 time


    Initially he would follow her finger. Then he would move his nose and get her to follow... it was HYSTERICAL... very intelligent creatures.


    Even the 2.5 year old was left speechless by this amazing encounter.


    The upper tank isn't much to see, considering the majority of the dolphin is below the water. They would randomly jump and sometimes do their own tricks. The mission of the place is research, they also have a birthing pool. As amazing as this was, it was only half of the Secret Garden.
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  10. #10

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam


    I never saw their show but I remember seeing the tigers. At one point a friend's aunt who knew them was allowed to babysit a tiger cub... so I've had the unique experience of at one time holding one... But there is more then merely tigers.


    The white lions are beautiful, and when this one started to growl it made the whole crowd jump.


    It was amazing being so close to this giant.

    The llamas were there, not worth a photo. The black panther was asleep... so off to the other side of the garden.


    Her name is Snow White... and she had fun chasing the kids


    She thought the stroller was a toy, and our 2.5 year old was a snack... she followed both around her enclosure.


    This really confused the 2.5 year old. You would hear "Tiger" then "Zebra" then "Tiger"... she finally settled on "Kitty" and left it at that.


    The cub sound asleep.


    A final stop at the dolphin pool


    A dolphin doing one of many tricks...


    He was at the glass before but I missed the shot.


    On the way out of the Mirage we saw the Trump Tower.
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  11. #11

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    The final stop on the trip was the Silverton Casino., which has a Bass Pro shop as well as an aquarium.


    a quick shot of the aquarium... nothing special, the Long Beach Aquarium has larger tanks.


    another quick shot...


    decent bike... nothing special...


    does Disney know about this?




    Now this is a bike... OCC's Bass Pro Bike... I'm not a fishing fan but this is a work of art.


    Tink... I'll only be a minute.


    Ok... I don't like the through of an animal being killed, but that looks cool.


    If an animal died of natural causes then I could understand wanting something so beautiful in my living room.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    And THIS is why we went to the Silverton...


    The shadow is the 2.5 year old. She was in awe of a mermaid in front of her...


    She kept hugging the glass


    The older brother and sisters also had a chance to say hello


    older ones playing games


    And then there were 2...


    Saying I Love You to a mermaid

    And so... sometime around 3pm... we finally said goodbye and hit the road home




    Here's a few things we learned from this little trip. October is a GREAT time to go to Nevada in general. It is cooler (each day was under 90) and far less crowded then peak seasons (Summer and Spring Break for example). Hoover Dam during peak season is hot and crowded. Parking is a nightmare, and it really ruins the experience. In October... it was quiet. The Strip was the same way. I have memories of the various "free" activities being 3 or 4 people deep during peak season. Someone at the Silverton even told me that if you wanted to see the mermaids you'd need to be there an hour early... during October we could get right up to the glass no problem.

    Walking the Strip was a challenge and those "flyers" really bothered me. Las Vegas Blvd was also under a heavy amount of construction. Overall we made the most of our little weekend. We saw a LOT of free things, and just spent time as a family.

    We did miss a couple things that I had wanted the kids to see...
    Mirage volcano
    Luxor
    Excalibur
    Venitian

    sorry... only so much time to see things. Also there is a chocolate factory in Henderson, but it is only open during the week.
    Last edited by techskip; 10-12-2010 at 02:21 PM.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    Great TR as always, thanks for posting!

    I think I know the flyers you're talking about that are "annoying." Vegas did try to ban those flyers a number of years ago, but the courts said the city could not ban one type of flyers while allowing others for restaurants, casinos, etc. The rule would have to be "content neutral," and the city was unwilling to ban all flyers.

  14. #14

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    Quote Originally Posted by indianajack View Post
    Great TR as always, thanks for posting!

    I think I know the flyers you're talking about that are "annoying." Vegas did try to ban those flyers a number of years ago, but the courts said the city could not ban one type of flyers while allowing others for restaurants, casinos, etc. The rule would have to be "content neutral," and the city was unwilling to ban all flyers.
    I was telling a friend who lives in Vegas how surreal it was to have Michael Jackson, M&M's, Coca Cola Bear, Jack Sparrow and Hello Kitty one block... and essentially what amounted to adult solicitation flyers the next. Obviously they didn't try to hand them to our family, but the flyers littered the ground and the tourists I watched didn't want any part of it. Casinos weren't handing out any flyers, neither were the clubs... which is why I'm a bit shocked they didn't just say "ban flyers street side". I was told it may actually come to that as the flyers are starting to annoy the tourists.
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  15. #15

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    Re: Random Road Trip to Hoover Dam

    Driving across Hoover Dam will be missed, but it will be nice to have that bypass. Pre 9/11, this was a real dangerous stretch of road. You saw the switchbacks on both sides of the canyon. Imagine driving that with semi trucks and tour buses in the mix. A wider, safer US 93 will be worth it.

    Sept I took a trip to Vegas to visit a friend there. The drive from Gilbert, Az wasn't bad at all. Coming from the Arizona side is worse than the Nevada side. I remember family trips going through US 93 south of Wikeup and how dangerous the highway was, as well as the last 15 miles going into Black Canyon approaching the dam. This time around, I still had to deal with some dam traffic, though it still wasn't bad. I also stopped at Hacienda to use the restroom (driving alone, I stop anywhere I want!). It's sad how quiet their casino appeared to be since that's the hotel's main attraction.

    Vegas was still hot in late Sept. It was bright and sunny. I loved riding the Las Vegas Monorail, which are cousins of the WDW monorails (Mark IV Lime and Coral even ran the original mile stretch with MGM Grand and Bally's paint jobs in the '90s!), though the stations aren't air conditioned. We got free goodie bags from Gameworks because an attendant challenged us to a game and we won. I remember going into the McDonald's in by Harrah's (I think) and enjoying a cold Sprite, but what was more relaxing were water features. We stood by the gondola boarding area at the Venetian for quite a while because the water was calming. I did the same thing inside Paris. I stood by a water fountain and just listened to the water.

    Techskip, may I suggest another destination to visit? Laughlin, NV, which is across the river from Bullhead City (take I 40 to Needles and go up the 95). Our family went there more often than Vegas in the '90s and I plan to go in Dec for a couple nights' getaway of my own. Imagine Vegas scaled down to about 9 hotels on Casino Dr, with all but the Tropicana along the river's edge. You're away from the houses and surrounded by desert, mountains, and the Colorado River running through it. Most resort properties are served by the river walk.

    The hotels themselves will have theming (ie Colorado Belle's riverboat theme, Golden Nugget's jungle theme, etc). Most hotels built in the '80s, so they don't get to be large and intimidating like the modern Vegas hotels. Aside from swimming pools, most hotels have arcades, entertainment options similar to the headliners you see on the Vegas hotel marquees, affordable dining options. Even dinner at a Laughlin buffet will be around $10/person. Summertime usually means people playing in the river. I believe Harrah's and Colorado Belle have private beaches. Riverside also has a bowling alley, first run movie theater, and a children's club play place. Don Laughlin made his Riverside Hotel & Casino for families.

    Room rates are cheap here too. I plan to book a room at Colorado Belle. Midweek, the standard rooms are just $17.99/night!

    Laughlin isn't far from Vegas or Hoover Dam, so you if have a desire to return to either of these places, you're still within about a 90 minute drive from each one.
    Last edited by Koutesu; 10-19-2010 at 11:04 PM.

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