Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

August 16, 2007

Hoover Dam

As part of the Las Vegas Power Pass, we took the mini-Hoover Dam tour. We boarded a mini-shuttle bus outside the Excalabur, which took us to the Planet Hollywood hotel, where we got our tickets, paid our $4 fuel fee, and got on a big bus.

We had a driver from a former communist country (can’t remember which) who’d been in the US since the mid-70’s. He was a wealth of information about Nevada, Las Vegas, and the other cities we passed through on the way to the dam. For example, he warned us to not cross the street unless we had the “hand or the man”; that is, unless we had the walk signal. He said that Las Vegas police had stopped 1000 random cars and ticketed almost 450 of them for drunk driving.

We finally got to the dam about an hour after we left. Right before the dam is a government check point. A law enforcement officer came on board and did a cursory look around to see if anyone had brought a WMD on board. Luckily, everyone left them at home, so we were passed.

The road curves and switches back a few times, and it’s hard to imagine driving a car on the road, much less a bus. And our bus driver was driving with one hand and holding a microphone with the other, so I don’t see how he did it, but we didn’t get killed.

He took us across the dam to the Arizona side to a little store where we stopped for a few minutes (I wonder how much these places have to pay to be a “stop” on the tour?). Then he turned the bus around and went back across the dam and to the visitors’ center.

As we got off the bus, he gave us the tickets for the tour, and we were told that for another $3, we could get the guided tour down to the generators. We opted to do that.

When you do the power plant tour, you get on an elevator that takes you about 600 feet down. The guide walks you through some tunnels until you come out to the generator room. The Nevada side has 8 or 9 generators (the whole dam has 17 total), but only about 4 of them were actually running, due to the low water depth of Lake Mead.

After a few minutes down there, they send you back up for the “self-guided” portion of the tour. They had a few exhibits but if you’ve seen any of the Discovery Channel shows about the building of the dam, then you’ll know more than what the exhibits show you.

We reboarded the bus and left for our final tour stop, Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory. The M is short for “Mars.” We took a short tour through the factory, bought a few things, then it was back on the bus.

We arrived back at Planet Hollywood around 3 pm, after having left Excalibur that morning at 9:15. If you drive to the dam, you’ll want to leave early; as we were retuning and passed by the check point, the traffic was backed up for at least 4 miles. They’re working on a bypass that will route traffic away from the top of the dam and cross over the Colorado River just downstream of the dam, but that won’t be ready for another few years.

Overall it was in interesting tour.  I’m glad we got to see it. I wish they had tours going down into the dam, but I guess that won’t ever happen again. If you go to Las Vegas, set aside a day to see Hoover Dam.

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