In 2005, my wife and I went to Santa Fe, Arizona for a conference (my wife does finite element analysis using computational fluid dynamics). We wanted to see a bit of the country so we flew into L.A. from Australia and then onto Las Vegas to a Howard Johnston hotel for the evening. What an utter dump the hotel was. I remember Howard Johnston from the time I used to live in the States in the early eighties and back then it was a reasonably priced family hotel chain that reliably offered clean rooms and a half way decent restaurant. The Ho Jo we stayed at in Las Vegas was very dirty, the staff were slovenly and surly, and to top it off, the food was terrible.
In the morning we picked up our rented a car and drove straight out of town; proud of the fact we didn’t visit a single casino or any other tourist trap there. I just don’t get places like Las Vegas.
Since my wife is an engineer (henceforth known as Engogirl) we always visit any dams we come near (within about 100kms, approximately 60 miles). Hoover Dam is somewhere Engogirl has wanted to visit for years and as I like the desert landscape of the Southwestern states of the US, I was happy for a drive.
I was thinking that the Hoover dam was going to be just another dam, dam. I was wrong. Wow! What a dam! Surrounded by a ruggedly beautiful desert landscape, Hoover dam is spectacular and the Americans have every right to be proud of it.
The dam receives a lot of tourists every year and it’s well set up to cater for them. Not only can you look at the dam from the outside but there are also tours down deep inside the dam to the turbine room. Although Hoover dam is no longer the world’s highest (it’s the the 18th), every thing about it is colossal. The rotors in the turbines weigh 65 tonnes (it’s the same in tons) each!
Near the dam wall there are 2, 10m (30ft) high, “Winged Figures of the Republic” Art Deco statues by Oskar J.W. Hansen. Hansen said the statues represented the building genius of America, “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in coimunity efforts around a common need or ideal.”
I highly recommend a visit to Hoover dam as an antidote to Las Vegas. I loved every aspect of the place. The entertaining operator even made the elevator ride to the turbines enjoyable.