The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam

Trip Start Mar 28, 2012
Trip End May 24, 2012

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Where I stayed
Fitzgerald's Las Vegas

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, May 6, 2012

An early start - we were away by 06:30. The first glitch in the planning! I knew that the Hoover Dam was close to Las Vegas and that Lake Mead was fed by the Colorado River - the river of the Grand Canyon. The assumption I unquestioningly made was that the Grand Canyon must be reasonably close to Las Vegas - particularly as they run day trips to there. Of course, if I thought about it, the Canyon is in fact in Arizona - the next door sate going east and that outs it 4+ hours drive away - over 250 miles! Hence the early start.Starbucks are even more ubiquitous over here than in the UK - but could we find one? Eventually we did and then could proceed on our trek out into the increasingly wild west. 

Our route took us along I40, part of which follows the route of the ‘old’ Route 66. One of the places where it is conserved for nostalgia junkies and Harley riders to encounter is Seligman AZ where we stopped for breakfast at the famous Roadkill Cafe - their motto “you kill it, we’ll grill it”. An excellent place to pass some time.
We then headed east and hit the Grand Canyon National Park at about noon. As this was the third National Park in four days, the kindly Ranger gave us credit for the $20 each we had paid to enter Sequoia and Death Valley and as Grand Canyon was going to cost $25 to enter gave us an Annual Pass for $80 good for all National Parks. I’m sure we will encounter another one or two before we’re done.
There are some roads within the Park, but the strong encouragement is to park and use the frequent Shuttle Buses to move around the Park’s amenities and viewing areas. This proved to be excellent and allowed easy and quick access to different points on the south rim. At the end of the day the Grand canyon is simply a big hole in the ground. But at up to 14 miles across and more than a mile deep it is one impressive hole! the Colorado River (remember that one?) runs for 272 miles through the Canyon in the Park.
I won’t go into mind-numbing detail describing the whole thing but leave it in the words I will use again - awe inspiring. It is hard to grasp the scale, majesty and raw beauty of the place. There are plenty of photos here - be thankful, these are the edited highlights! We made our way back to the car and headed for the road back to I40 - which at one stage went for 40 miles without the slightest bend or turn. We did see Elk in the forests and some Deer. There are always plenty of lizards, chipmunks and squirrels around too.
As we had been in such a rush to cover the ground in the morning we had not had the chance to see the Hoover Dam which is en-route and 30 miles south-east of Las Vegas. The main road (Route 93) used to go over the Dam so it was unmissable.Now they have built a high-level concrete bridge that crossed the gorge and the walls are so high you have no impression of what you are crossing - so no view of the Dam.
We looked out for a road off to the Dam on the Arizona side (the river forms the border between Nevada and Arizona) but didn’t see one, so we had to over the bridge again and then turn back on ourselves. By this time it was midnight (we stopped for supper at the Roadkill Cafe again) and it was weird heading for an iconic tourist attraction in the dark with no-one else around. As we neared the Dam the security warning signs began to appear and speed limit reduced and reduced until we were crawling along at 15 miles and hour. 

 Eventually we rolled up to a security check point where we were interrogated about our intentions. we were made to get out of the vehicle while they conducted a thorough examination - including the engine compartment! We were told “Do not stop on the Dam. Do not walk on the Dam at night. Proceed to the Arizona side where you can park and hang out”. As we crept across the bridge trying to strike a balance between moving slowly as the signs instructed and not stopping as we had been forcefully ordered, we had a fit of the giggles imagining what would happen if we did stop! Would we be attacked by a Special Forces unit? Were the lampposts Navy Seals in disguise? Would we be shot or worse - sent to Guantanamo Bay! Thankfully we made it back to Arizona. There is never a tripod around when you need one, so I had to improvise using rubbish bins and wall parapets. I managed one good shot which is very pleasing.
By the time we got back to our hotel and found a valet to park the car it was gone 1 am - but the place was still humming with thousands of people throwing their money away and go-go dancers furiously strutting their stuff on their podiums. Smoking is permitted indoors in Nevada and it makes you appreciate the privilege of smoke-free indoor spaces back home. Sorry smokers - but if you want to do it indoors, Nevada is your place.
A great - but exhausting day.
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