After five days of driving every day, we were more than ready to roll into Las Vegas, and get out of the damn truck. No driveway has ever looked more welcoming than that of my sister’s home there. We piled out, ready to hang out with friends and family for a few days, and that’s exactly what we did.
But, you know the old saying…..”Family, like fish, begins to stink after five days.” Ever mindful of wearing out our welcome, we decided to head to Lake Mead for three days of camping, and return on New Year’s Eve, in time to watch the Spartans beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. (HA! We all know how that turned out, right?) I had even gone to the casino and placed a $10 bet just to get a bit of skin in the game.On the advice of brother in law Dan, we decided to camp at Boulder Beach CG, which is the closest of the established campgrounds to Hoover Dam. Both John and I have visited the Dam previously, but not together, and not for many years. Boulder Beach turned out to be a marvelous choice – sparsely populated and sparkling clean. Low water levels in Lake Mead make a waterfront site just a wee bit of a walk these days, but the camping fee of $5/day (with our Senior Pass) was just right. Lots of beautiful sights here, and a few not-so-beautiful. I was intrigued by this dead mallard in the water, which had been picked nearly clean.Low water levels are always a topic of conversation here. Lake Mead was last at capacity in 1983 – currently it’s at 38% of capacity – a 143 foot drop.
Once again, we are happy to be people who enjoy cycling. As we hit the bike trail heading toward the Dam, we could see traffic backing up on the highway. It’s a great feeling to know that we probably beat most of those folks to their destination. The best part of the ride was the last 4 miles, where we connected to the National Historic Railroad Trail. This unpaved 4-mile segment, constructed on an old railroad grade, passes through five tunnels used during construction of the Dam. Throw in a dozen panoramic views – it adds up to a really fun ride. Hoover Dam is one of those public works projects that defies imagination. How could it have been so well engineered that, nearly 80 years later, it still provides water to 25 million area residents, as well as providing power, silt control, and erosion control? How could it have been completed nearly 2-1/2 years ahead of its seven-year schedule? There are dozens of amazing statistics in this massive project.
Adjacent to the Dam is the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which opened in 2007. John and I actually cycled across the bridge the day before it was open to traffic as part of Viva Bike Vegas. It was dazzling to be on that high span with thousands of cyclists and NO car or trucks. Now, the pedestrian walkway on the Bridge provides great high views of the Dam. No matter what your interest, wandering around the Dam complex and the Visitor Center is a great way to spend an afternoon.Great weather influenced our decision to ride the 35-mile River Mountains Loop Trail on our last day in camp. While this should have been a breeze, the rolling terrain took a toll on us. We were delighted to find that the last 8 miles were a slick downhill from Boulder City back to Boulder Beach CG. We were knackered – why do we let ourselves get so out of shape?
New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas should be a huge party, and it probably is for the thousands of other visitors to this playground. Back in the safe haven at my sister Gail’s house, we all managed not to see any fireworks, or toast the entry of the 2016. Old farts? Well, maybe….
Death Valley National Park will be our home for the next several days. Family, like fish…..
Happy New Year.