Posts Tagged ‘dam’

Inspections and Bright Lights

23rd February 2011 by Helen

Bit of a busy day today.  Finally left Needles this morning and headed north on our way to Reno.

view from Hoover Dam bridge

view from Hoover Dam bridge

After passing through Boulder City, famed for being the town that built the original Hoover Dam, we reached the Dam itself.  Security is pretty tight here.  Every vehicle has to pass through the security area before reaching the Dam.  We were pulled over for more detailed inspection.  Guess they thought we looked a bit different.  “Have you got any guns, explosives, extra fuel on board, etc, etc.”  The security guards used their special mirror to peer under the car for further inspection.    Having been cleared by that security stop it wasn’t too far to the main car park at the Dam itself.  We drove in, not too tall, we fitted nicely under the barriers. Pulled up at the pay desk and the lady there said we couldn’t park there.  “We can’t see what you’re carrying.”  Guess she thought we looked a bit different too.  Do we really look like terrorists, with charity and sponsors’ stickers plastered all over the vehicle, and a clearly lived in look?  It’d take a special kind of nut to want to go to all that effort to remain conspicuous.  I suppose we did pick up a Russian sticker in Russia, maybe that was the problem. Anyway, it was, “You can carry on over the bridge and park in the open air car park on the other side of the Dam.”  Which is what we did.  Probably made it more interesting for us, as we might not have walked across the bridge otherwise.

clock towers either side of the State divide

clock towers either side of the State divide

The Dam bridges the Colorado River right at the point where the State Line runs between Nevada and Arizona.  Half way across the bridge you have to change your watches as the time zone changes in the middle of the river.  Not that we bothered of course.  We’ve kinda lost track of keeping track of time.  Paul’s watch broke ages ago while the batteries in mine ran out shortly after, and we’ve not yet got round to sorting out new ones.

We quite fancied taking the Dam Tour, to see all the workings etc but at $30 a head we decided it was out of our price range. On the outside though the Dam is kinda beautiful and ugly at the same time.  It’s a fantastic piece of engineering.  Yet the sheer number of pylons and such like look like so many scars on the rock faces around the river and Dam.

A family day out here, taking in all the place has to offer, would cost in the region of a minimum of $200 for a family for four.  $30 to take the tour.  $9 to walk round the Visitor Centre. $7 to park the car. $10 or more a head to have a meal.  And that’s without even looking at the souvenir counters everywhere or counting the cost of actually getting here.

At one point we stopped entranced by some furry little mammals we saw running around, chasing each other and playing on the rocks just below the parapet on which we were walking.  Looking like a small squirrel they were a little larger than a mouse.  We think they might have been chipmunks.  Of all the hordes of people walking around we seemed to be the only ones to have noticed them.

Having had our fill of the Hoover Dam we headed off to Las Vegas.  We approached the city just as darkness was falling.  The lights were dazzling.  We plan to call in to visit the Land Rover Dealership while we are here, just to say hello, and found their showrooms first.  Then we met up with Carl, our host from way back in Seattle, who gave us a guided tour of the ‘strip’.  I think we would have got lost or given up otherwise.

reaching Paris in Las Vegas

reaching Paris in Las Vegas

What can I say about Las Vegas?  It’s strange.  We entered casino hotel after casino hotel.  It become hard to tell whether you were indoors or outside, in one place or in another.  There are themed areas, so entering through the legs of the Eiffel Tower (miniaturised version) you find yourself on the streets of Paris.  A pale blue painted ceiling with white fluffy clouds really does give the impression of being outdoors.  The shops are Parisian styled, with French boutiques and cafés lining the cobbled streets.  Then out of Paris and around the corner you are in Venice, within singing gondoliers plying their trade along the (indoor) river, or in Rome, or China.  Once outside, really outside, huge water fountains spurt into life in time to the music.  The neon lights advertise the hotels, the casinos, and everything else.  Even McDonalds has bright yellow neon lights flashing on enormous signs.

It’d be beautiful in a neon kind of way if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s paid for with gamblers’ lost money for the purpose of attracting more gamblers to lose their money.  And that leaves a sour taste.  The greedy feeding off the greedy and the desperate.  Except only one side has access to the loaded dice.

By now it was late, so we said goodnight to Carl and bedded down at a Days Inn Hotel.  It seemed rather ironic that we could get a hotel room for $32 per night (after taxes), whereas the RV park (camping) would have cost us $45.  Easy choice to make.

Campsite – Days Inn Hotel Las Vegas

Distance travelled – 156

A rainy lazy start

18th August 2010 by Helen

Thursday 12th August

With the rain lashing down all morning we really did not fancy getting out and getting wet putting the tent away so it was a real lazy start around what should have been lunchtime.  Just as we were packing away there was another one of those bizarre encounters we are getting used to.  A boy / young man (mid to late teens) walked over the col.  He said hello and then just stood watching us until we had finished and got in Landy ready to drive off and then he walked away again in the direction from which he had come.

The kind of stony conditions our General Grabber tyres are having to cope with

The kind of stony conditions our General Grabber tyres are having to cope with

After some ten to twelve hours rain the road conditions had changed a bit today.  Yesterday’s sand is now like silt.  Quite hard driving – slippery and with water filling the potholes so you couldn’t see how deep they were.

Once again we are seeing forests growing on the northern slopes of the mountains and we are heading towards Totsontsengel, which is built around the logging industry.  Today we also saw our first yaks – much shyer than cows, they don’t much like having their photos taken.

We finally arrived at Totsontsengel at about 5.50 pm – having also moved an hour on from GMT as well.  The banks had closed and once again we have not been able to obtain any cash in the local currency.  Totsontsengel is described on the road signs as a city but this is also a city without ATMs.  We spent our last 3000 Tegreg on a jar of pasta sauce, having bartered the price down from 3,200, chatted with a Belgium biker overlanding in the opposite direction to us, and decided to try to find our way out of town.

Easier said than done.  Totsentsengel is apparently at a crossroads.  We

Maybe the best way to drive your car on Mongolian roads?

Maybe the best way to drive your car on Mongolian roads?

wanted to try and find the primary road to Ulaanbaatar, broadly heading south east.  Except anyone we spoke to told us to take the secondary road to the east.  We dithered back and forth across a rather interesting bridge four times – in the middle of the bridge is a dropped section level with the water, a steep slope either side.  The water runs across the bridge and down a small waterfall, thus the bridge acts as a kind of dam.  In the meantime we towed a small minibus off the field and back on to the road.

Finally, we took the road east, negotiated a closed road sign by driving round it, and headed back out into the hills.  It’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s windy.  Rather like England in the late autumn.

Campsite – just outside Totsentsengel

Distance travelled – 136