LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA (NV)




Today we've moved from the western suburbs of Las Vegas over to the southeastern side at the bottom of Lake Mead. Well not literally the bottom, just the bottom if you're looking at it on a map.

We are in a National Park Service campground that is administered by the nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area office. Lake Mead is essentially a wide spot in the Colorado River that was created when the river was dammed in 1935. The path of the Colorado River determines most of the state border lines between Arizona and Nevada, then further south, Arizona and California.

There is a monumental sized dam just 6-miles from our campsite you may have heard of, it's called the Hoover Dam, and tomorrow we are going on a tour of the inside.

Not the best campsite because our solar panels are shaded by the trees, but...

...it does have a wonderful view of Lake Mead and the surrounding mountains.



THURSDAY - Today we are off to explore the Hoover Dam from top to bottom, inside and out.

Before you get anywhere near the dam you'll have to pass through a rather rigorous security inspection point (thank you 9/11). They are basically looking for two things, weapons and explosives. They also inquire about drones?

Since our truck has a topper, we were automatically sent to a secondary inspection station to check inside our pickup bed. I had to open several containers for inspection and was waiting for the explosive sniffing dogs to materialize, but they never showed up.

No box trucks or semi trailers are allowed near the dam. In 2001 they closed the road that crosses the dam, it used to be the only road within 100-miles that crossed over the Colorado River, but in 2010 a new bridge was constructed and now the truckers don't have to make a 200-mile detour to just cross the river.

Once through both security checkpoints I thought we were in the clear, until we got to the parking garage. Once again we were asked if we had any weapons, additionally we were asked about flammable liquids. When I replied we had a propane bottle in the back, we were redirected to a different open air parking lot on the other (AZ) side of the dam.

It was the same $10 for parking, but this one is much farther away from the Visitor Center where the tours start. Once across the dam we found there were also several FREE parking lots, but they were even farther away from the Visitor Center.

We were too late arriving at the Visitor Center to make the first tour of the morning, which worked out better because there were only 16 people on the 10:00AM tour with us and maybe 25 people were on the 9:00AM tour we tried to get on.


There are two different tours to select from, a Power Plant tour and a Dam Tour (which includes the power plant). We originally had Power Plant tickets, but upgraded to the Full Dam Tour, which was another factor in missing the 9:00AM tour.

Everyone starts their tour with a 15-minute film before starting the walking portion of the tour. First you'll see the Power Plant area and then pass through some long hallways and short elevator rides that take you through sections of the interior of the dam.

At the end of the tour you'll find yourself exiting an elevator that delivers you to the top center of the roadway that crosses over the dam.

After the tour we walked back to the truck and drove up the Arizona side of the road to where it has been blocked off to through traffic since 2001. There are some very unique views of the dam from up there, that you don't get from the Nevada roadways approaching the dam.



THE HOOVER DAM

1244'L x 45'W @ top & 660'W @ bottom x 726.4'H
3.25 million cubic yards of concrete
17 generators capable of producing 1,334,800 kilowatts


After being banished from the parking garage we found a "safe open air" place to park ROVER for the remainder of our visit.
This is the view from the Arizona side of Hover Dam.
This is the Arizona Spillway for when the water levels get too high, which has only occured twice since 1935 when the dam was completed, once in 1941 & 1983.
The white bathtub ring on the mountain side is the normal high water mark.
Just up around that bend to the left is Lake Mead and our campground.
The Arizona intake towers that feed water to the turbines which then generate electricity.
The massive amount of power lines leaving the dam, also the new Interstate-11 bridge high above the Colorado River.
The power plant and tailwaters of the Hoover Dam.
The new Visitor Center and the "very nearby" parking garage we weren't allowed in!
This is the Hoover Dam Memorial Plaza which is under renovation this entire year. The statues are called, "Winged Figures of the Republic".
I think they kind of look like a young Kirk Douglas, don't you agree?
I've circled the four vent windows in the dam's face. Remember the location of the black circle for later. Now let's finally go inside!
At the bottom of a long elevator ride we were let out into a long hallway...
...that led to a room with huge water pipes leading to the turbines.
After that another long hallway...
...leads to the room which contains the eight turbines on the Nevada side of the dam.
Two large overhead cranes are what's used to lift and move the 600-ton turbines to an offline staging area when it's time for maintenance.
Here are two workers doing maintenance on one of the turbine's magnetic plates.
Now that the Power Plant tour is complete it's time to head deep into the dam.
All around the terrazzo is decorated with these beautiful Native American inspired inlays.
Remember that vent I pointed out? This is us looking out from the inside of the dam.
Another long hallway (did you notice they are all curved like the dam) led us to our final elevator ride back to the top.
Back out it the fresh air again! The vents are what supply the interior areas of the dam with fresh air for the workers inside.
The Nevada intake towers.
Only one Nevada turbine (see the discharge water churning) was needed to generate power during our visit today.
Looking towards the Arizona side of the dam where ROVER is parked.
This is where the spillway water goes down and around the dam.
All four intake towers.
Looking towards Nevada from Arizona.
The state line is right in the center of the dam.
This small plaque can be found in the center of the dam where Nevada and Arizona meet.
This photo is from one of the free parking area located just above the level of the dam.
A little farther up and farther away is another place to park for free.
A closeup from the same location, which is actually the Arizona Gift Shop parking lot.
When leaving the dam area Tricia decided she wanted to walk out onto the Interstate bridge to take some more photos.
A power substation on the Nevada side.
The walkway that leads out onto the Interstate bridge...
...where the rest of these amazing photos were taken from.



FRIDAY - This morning we awoke to a loud commotion going on just a few dozen yards behind THE POD.

Just on the other side of the road that passes behind our campsite there was a pack of four coyotes yipping and fighting over something they had apparently captured to eat (probably a California Quail).

Once I spotted their location out amoung the low lying shrubs Tricia threw on a sweater over her pajamas and headed out the door. One of our neightbors was already out there looking for the pack and Tricia was able to point her in the right direction.

She was able to capture a few photos before the foursome wandered off and here they are.



SATURDAY - The coyotes were up and at it again this morning at 5:19AM. This time it sounded like it was right outside our bedroom windows. It quieted down a lot quicker than yesterday, but the damage was already done, we were both awake now.

That's OK because I have all the dam photos to upload to the blog and that's going to take some time. It's better to do it when no one else in the campground is awake and using up all the bandwidth, at least that's what I'm telling myself.


Later this morning, after it warms up, I have an outdoor project to get started on. Thanks to all the Amazon packages we picked up yesterday in Las Vegas, I now have everything I need to finish the task. At least I hope so anyway!


Tonight at 6:30PM we've been told that there will be some kind of local Holiday Boat Parade out on Lake Mead behind our site. We'll have to wait and see what that's all about!


Four short clips (stitched together) that were filmed from nearly a half mile away.

I must admit I didn't expect too much of a parade from a town of just 15,000 residents, but it totally took me by surprise to see upwards of 50 boats by the time it was all over.

It's very modest when you compare it to the Fort Lauderdale Boat Parade's I'm used to seeing, but Fort Lauderdale has a population of 182,000 and many surrounding communities with connecting waterways that give it the nicknames of "Venice of America" and "Boating Capital of the World".

Boulder City is in the middle of the dessert and has Lake Mead for it's only boatable waterway. Sure there are residents and corporations of nearby Las Vegas who dock their boats here, but I suspect most of the "big boats" are not to be found here.

All in all it was a pleasurable experience and we got to enjoy it from the comfort of sitting around our campfire and listening to the holiday music of our choice.



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RED ROCK CANYON NCA (NV)




We were a little reluctant to give up our beautiful campsite in the Atlatl Campground at Valley of Fire State Park this morning, but after 12-days it was time to move on.

We only moved 70-miles southwest to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area campground that is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It may have a Las Vegas address, but were are a solid 15-miles west of The Strip here.

And I think you'll agree after looking at our campsite photos, we're nowhere near the bright neon lights of Las Vegas.


I'm going to share one more photo with you, and if you've ever backed up a sizeable trailer into a campsite you'll immediately see the problem. I know I did when I first drove up.

That's not THE POD in the photo, but you can see ROVER's nose in our driveway.

Someone has set up a small travel trailer in the roadway in front of their "TENT ONLY" site. Sure there is enough room if you just need to squeeze by them with a trailer, but they are right were I need to be in order to back a trailer into our Site #47. If they would have just setup their trailer with the back bumper next to their campsite post there would have been no problem, except for the fact they're still on a "TENT ONLY" site with a trailer.

ROVER and THE POD's total length is 50-feet, so I need to be 50-feet beyond my driveway before I can start to turn the wheel to back into our space. That's right where he is! To make matters worse there is no one around their site, so they must be out sightseeing or something.

What should have been an everyday back-in maneuver (like I've done hundreds of times before) turned into a 30-minute/15-point turn. I'd had to back up 2-feet, turn the wheel all the way to the other side, then pull forward 2-feet and repeat that over and over. Each time I had to be careful because I was within inches of hitting their trailer with ROVER's right front fender.

To make matters worse there is only one level spot in our driveway, so once I did have it clear of their trailer I still had to make several adjustments, back and forth again, to postion ourselves in "the sweet spot" of our site.

After we were all set up and I had calmed back down you bet I went back up to the check-in office to register my complaints, because if that trailer is still there on Wednesday morning when we leave, I'm going to have an unnecessarily difficult time getting out of this spot.

I guess I'm still "the grumpy old man".



TUESDAY - Today we have a 10:00AM "timed entry" reservation to go and check out the 13-mile long one-way scenic drive that winds it's way through the conservation area.

Normally it's $10 per car plus a $2 reservation fee, but with my Lifetime Senior Pass we only had to pay the $2 fee.

We arrived an hour early which gave us time to check out their very informative Visitor Center. We started with a 20-minute film explaining why this area is so important to protect and conserve.

Outside the Visitor Center there were many story boards explaining the different geology that created this place and what kind of plant and animal life we could expect to find.

Now that we are well informed about today's activities it's time to "hit the road" and go see some of the things they've been talking about!



RED ROCK CANYON
NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA



The 13-mile long scenic drive will only expose us to a very small percentage of the nearly 200,000 acres here.
We were told the differences between the red, white and grey rock here, but damn if I can remember.
At the end of our first hiking trail we saw a small collection of petroglyphs.
This one looks like a fish skeleton to me! How about you?
A zoomed in shot of the wall of petroglyphs that were scratched into the wall thousands of years ago.
There were even a few samples of pictrographs which are painted onto the walls.
Even from the end of the trail at the petroglyph wall we can still see ROVER waiting in the parking lot.
The next hike we did was a little longer and more challenging.
Some sections of the trail were easier than others.
Some resembled rock climbing instead of hiking.
My only complaint was they need more comfortable seating at the end of the trail.
Here's Tricia emerging from the rock tunnel.
Here we see three different kinds of rock, white with red stripes, red with white stripes and white with red polkadots.
This is the top of a johsua tree, complete with seed pods. With proper care you can grow your very own joshua tree from one of these seedlings.



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VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK (NV) - PART 2





TUESDAY - The blogpost for our Valley of Fire visit was getting way too long so I decided to break it into two separate posts.

After sharing our campsite with a half dozen uninvited guests during breakfast we got several much anticipated notifications on my phone.

Our Amazon orders (yes, there were 4) have arrived! They are ready for pickup at the Amazon Hub Locker+ in the northeast Las Vegas suburb of Sunrise Manor. It's about an hour drive to get there, so we'll also take care of shopping for Thanksgiving groceries and hopefully finding some less expensive gasoline to fill the tank.

I found out that Amazon Hub Locker+ is just a fancy way of saying they have a special entrance at their local distribution warehouse where people can have packages shipped for pickup or a place to take items you need to return. It was a very fast and convenient way to receive our items that were too large to be sent to a standard Amazon Locker location.


I received a bunch of items to properly mount our new Starlink satellite dish on our flag pole and get it up off the ground where in my opinion, it's just asking to be stolen or accidently broken. I also ordered several specialized tools to "cut the cord" and connectors to "patch it back together again" so I can easily get the wire from the outside to the inside of THE POD. Wish me luck!

I'll share photos when the project is all done if anyone is interested.


Tricia also ordered a bunch of stuff for a project she'll be working on all spring. All I know is it involves a lot of expensive specialized knitting needles.

I'm sure we'll share photos of her project too when it's all done.

Returning from our long day out doing errands we were given a real treat once we were back inside of the park.

This photo was taken at 5:05PM
of the sunset behind the mountain ridges that surround the campground.



WEDNESDAY - This morning we awoke to another beautiful sunrise here in the Atlatl Campground of Valley of Fire State Park.

It makes even a simple early morning walk to the bathhouse a pleasure to experience.

This photo was taken at 6:08AM
of the sunrise beyond the mountains that surround the campground.


Today after lunch we put our hiking boots back on!



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Do you see an elephant in the rocks? I sure don't.
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I guess it's starting to look like an elephant.
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Nah! I still don't see it.
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This trail is in the far eastern side of the park where it opens up into a wide valley that is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
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There's the East Entrance Station for the State Park and the trailhead parking lot we're heading back towards.
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On the way back Tricia spotted this clever little rock cairn shaped like a tortoise.
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Located right across the street is a very short trail that leads to the Arrowhead Arch.
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It's another one of those where you can see the end of the trail from the parking lot.
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Now this one I can see the arrowhead shape they're talking about.
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Arrowhead Arch is actually a "double arch" with an arrowhead below.
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These three cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in 1935 when this area first became a state park.
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The cabins were used for many years to shelter visitors to the newly formed state park.
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Looks like the first visitors really had to ROUGH IT if they wished to stay overnight.
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Once again there were many petroglyphs located on the mountainside behind the cabins.
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I guess they call these Beehives Rock because people are busying themselves climbing all over them.
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It's not just the kids climbing on the rocks...
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...it appears to be a family activity also.
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Wait a minute! Now that there's no humans to distact me I think I see a beehive shape!
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2022

This is what Thanksgiving Dinner looked like in the Kelley household this year!



SATURDAY - We're going to find out if we can experience
LAS VEGAS ON A $200 BUDGET
and not feel the need to revisit it again!


Right out of the box we are down $20 for a 24 hour parking permit. Sure there are cheaper places to park in Las Vegas, but ROVER has a lot of visible "stuff" in the windows and I wanted a moderately secure place to park for the night. We chose the Fremont Street Experience Parking Garage, which is near the northern end of downtown Las Vegas and is conveniently at the north end of the local bus transportation route.

We arrived in town an hour earlier than the start of the dinner buffet, so I decided to go ahead and get my gambling itch scratched and be done with it. The last time I walked into a casino was in September of 2019 outside of St. Louis, MO. I walked out of that casino less than an hour later and $100 less in my wallet.

I'm sad to report my Blackjack skill (or luck) hasn't changed in the last three years. Once again, less than an hour later, I was also short $100 in my wallet. The only reason I lasted that long was because I found a small casino that still plays Blackjack the "old fashion" way, one deck of cards. So with five players at the table, the dealer spent almost as much time shuffling the cards as dealing them.

With the gambling aspect of our visit out of the way, we can now get to something more important, the "All-You-Can-Eat" buffet line at the Main Street Station Garden Court Buffet. This is one of the more budget friendly places to eat and for $67 (tax and tip included) we both got several plates filled with a wide variety of good tasting food.

The casino where I played Blackjack and the Main Street Station Garden Court Buffet are at opposites ends of the Fremont Street Experience. What I'm talking about is ½-mile long section of Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas that has been permanently closed to traffic and turned into an open air mall filled with casinos, nightclubs, restaurants, music venues, light shows, ziplines and huksters of varying talent.

Huckster is a term used here in Las Vegas for someone who entertains for tips, usually displaying their musical talents. Although you'll also find women dressed in "showgirl attire" and men dressed in "Chippendale attire" who will offer you the chance to have your photo taken with them, for a small donation of course.

There were also "close up magic" performers, a variation of 3-Card Monte, but no betting is allowed. Only "tips" for being entertained are accepted. There were several talented "karaoke style" performers, drummers beating on upside down 5-gallon pails and "palm frond" artists who will weave your ladyfriend a rose.

Once dinner was complete we walked back down Fremont Street to the parking garage where you can purchase tickets for the Las Vegas Deuce on the Strip double decker bus. We spent $16 for a pair of 24-hour bus passes, the busses continuosly travel from one end of The Strip to the other. Normally buses arrive at the numerous stations every 15-20 minutes and they pretty much stop every ¼-mile along the route so you're never far from what it is you got off to see.

The Las Vegas Strip is 4½-miles long (too far to walk IMHO) and we plan to see the whole thing, so buying the bus passes was a no brainer for us. About halfway through the Southbound Route we manage to score the front row seats of the upper deck that give you a great view of Las Vegas.

We enjoyed the view from the front row seats so much we decided not to get off the bus and ride it all the way to the Southern Depot, where we had to change busses and once again got onboard first and grabbed the exact same seats we had before for our Northbound travels.

The traffic was so heavy and slow moving on Las Vegas Boulevard we got to see the entire Bellagio Fountains Show from the front window of the stationary bus.

We then rode the bus all the way to the Northern end of the route at Fremont Street and called it a night. The entire 9-mile round trip took nearly 4-hours to complete and we still have an hour drive to get back to the campground.

Our total expenses for our night in Las Vegas, $203 (just a tad over budget).



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The dining room at the Main Street Station Garden Court Buffet.
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A close up of the ornate ceiling in the dining room.
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