Day 169 – Hoover Dam and Travel Day, May 15, 2011
Petey and I left the Wal-Mart parking lot early, stopped for a shower at 24 Hour Fitness where I am a gym member, and then headed toward Hoover Dam. I wanted to take a tour of the dam which is on a first come, first served basis starting at 9 am.
We reached an overlook where we took in the views of Lake Mead before continuing a mile further where there was a security check point. I joined the RV line, as I presumed they’d at least check my propane tank like I had experienced in crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I was also a little anxious about carrying my .38 pistol. At the overlook, I at least unloaded it. Security required that I open the side door to VANilla so they could take a look inside. I was relieved when he only peeked inside and didn’t open the cabinet where I had stashed my revolver. Petey was happy to get a quick pat.
As I hopped back in VANilla, the security guard asked if I was going to look at the bridge. I replied, “Well I had hoped to take a tour of the dam.” He said they wouldn’t let me park with a dog in the car, despite the fact it was 60 degrees, the windows open, the shades come down, and I can turn on fan; but suggested I tell the parking attendant that Petey could be left in environmentally safe conditions.
Had the security guard not inquired about the bridge, I may have passed right by it in my rush to get to the dam. I’m glad I didn’t. Stairs led up to the bridge from the parking lot and along the way several information signs regarding the construction of the bridge lined the concrete path. Each time I see a bridge I marvel at the design and wonder why is the bridge made of steel or concrete? Why is it a suspension bridge? How much is aesthetics and which parts could be left out for a functioning bridge at a lower cost?
The information boards not only explained the design chosen – The Deck Arch – but included diagrams of how the bridge was constructed over Lake Mead. While bridge discussions began in the 1960’s the project didn’t come to fruition until the mid 1990’s when the Central Federal Lands Highway Division of Federal Highway Administration (CFLHD) stepped into the leadership role. The CFLHD engaged a design team and consultants in 2001 and project construction began in 2005. With a budget of $240 million ($20 million from both Nevada and Arizona, $100 million from the Federal Government, and $100 million of bond proceeds, the bridge was completed in 2010. Amazingly, the bridge and dam look as if they were built around the same time period, yet the bridge was constructed 74 years after the dam was completed for a cost of $49 million in 1936.
What appears to be a single, concrete arch is actually a pair of ribs held together at the crown by steel that flexes in high winds and earthquakes to protect the whole arch from damage. Many of the bridge components including the concrete columns and steel cages were precast and lowered into place through a cable system where workers hung 800 feet above the river connecting the pieces together. The bridge consists of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 16,000,000 pounds of steel. A few facts about the bridge: Bridge Length – 1,905 feet, Bridge Height Above River – 880 feet, Bridge Height Above Dam – 280 feet, Arch Span Length – 1,060 feet, Hollow Arches – 20 feet wide by 14 feet tall.
So after wandering around the bridge which actually provided a nice view of the dam, I pulled into the covered parking garage and dispensed $7 for the parking fee. The attendant asked if I had any pets in the vehicle, and I honestly replied, yes. She promptly handed back my money and said I couldn’t park in the shaded garage, that I had to cross the dam and park in the overlook located in the full sun and I had to stay with my dog at all times! Given he lives in VANilla and it wasn’t even hot, Petey would have been fine, but I didn’t want to risk someone hearing him whine if he got anxious, so I took a few snapshots and left. Looks like I’ll have to come back to Vegas without my old man.
As I approached the bridge to cross into Arizona, I witnessed a road sign that was new to me: “Due to the Possibility of High Winds, High Profile Vehicles Use Left Lane”. I’m sorry, seeing that sign, I wouldn’t want to be a low profile vehicle in the right lane. If there is a concern that tractor trailers may be blown to the right off the bridge, I wouldn’t want to be between them and the railing. Furthermore, I found it slightly entertaining that the highway sign in indirect words suggested slower traffic to move to the left as opposed to the right…the European way.
I think crossing the bridge may have been the least windy portion of my drive to Williams, Arizona today. The wind shook VANilla so hard, I had to reduce my speed. Since I’ve been in Williams, it seems like the wind has increased in force hourly. VANilla is shaking while parked. In fact, the wind is so strong it sounds like a jumbo jet is flying overhead. Speaking of jumbo jets I may have forgotten to say that is what Yosemite Falls sounded like. I looked up in the sky on more than one occasion for a plane or thunder clouds to find neither.
For a town of 2,500 people I was surprised to see almost every restaurant open on a Sunday night…shops too. Being situated only one hour south of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, it’s clear the town caters to tourism. I decided to try a local joint for dinner, Pancho McGillicuddys. While I would have normally ordered a local beer on tap with my chicken taco salad, I just couldn’t pass up a Dos Equis Amber – my favorite. While enjoying surprisingly good Mexican food, I met the previous owner of the restaurant, Kevin. He has opened five restaurants in Williams over the years and for the last five years has been selling them. He has been retired in Mexico for the last three years in a small fishing village 100 miles south of Rocky Point. He claims the area is very safe, and in fact he hasn’t locked his house for all three years of his retirement!
Tonight I’m sleeping in a Holiday Inn parking lot. I had a choice of almost any hotel chain (Motel 6, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Comfort Inn) and an RV Park. The Holiday Inn just seemed safer and quieter as it is located near the main highway on the outskirts of town, while most the others are situated in town on Historic Route 66 or Grand Canyon Blvd, the two main roads that intersect Williams. Tomorrow, I’m Grand Canyon bound. ETB