Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hoover Dam and Boulder City

This Saturday we woke to a bright sunny day and determined that, with only 4 months to go in Vegas, we ought to head out to the Hoover Dam. A little touring in our hometown.

Nevada side (and likely AZ side as well), traffic backs up due to a Homeland Security check point so travelers get delayed a bit. A new bypass is scheduled to be completed by next year.

Without the dam (and others like it), the agriculture and population explosion in the Southwest would not have been possible. The dam provides the water and electricity that sustains cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Pheonix as well as the farm and ranch land of the entire Southwest.

The dam was a depression era public-private works that helped put men back to work and created enormous prosperity in the region that continues today. A public project built by private industry, it was completed 2 years ahead of schedule, under budget and employing a total of 16,000. This 30's era, pre technology feat is all the more impressive when compared to the modern day fiasco that is known as the World Trade Center, still incomplete, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that has turned out to be not "shovel ready" at all. Union gripes about wages, working and safety conditions (today) seem ridiculous when you read the exhibit records that clearly show the workforce was well paid in a time of mass national unemployment and industrial fatalities were under 100 for the entire project.

The architecture of the dam is as interesting as the power plant itself. I really enjoyed seeing the touches of Art Deco through out the dam. Elements include the dam's turrets, brass fixtures, type used in the plaques, art and exhibits and the jade milk glass lined walls of the bathrooms.

Boulder City is 20 minutes outside Las Vegas within close proximity to the Hoover Dam. Boulder City was built to house the workforce of the dam, which was originally named the Boulder Dam. It has a quaint main street and an abundance of quirky shops and diners that cater to the throngs visiting the dam. It is worth a stop...Money magazine named it the 6th best place to retire in 2009.

The most famous diner in Boulder City is the Coffee Cup. It is famous and no doubt doing a brisk business due to being featured by the Food Network's Guy Fieri on his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show. Other choices include the Southwest Diner and Mel's Diner, neither of which have websites but reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp and Chowhound speak to their popularity.

We selected Mel's because reviewers remarked about the impeccable service, good food and colorful owner. The staff are very friendly and efficient, the hamburgers are grilled and pressed and we found Mel holding court at a table next to ours. We learned Mel is a veteran, former high school teacher and sees politics as we do.

With its bigger than life portions and all you can eat buffets, Vegas suffers from the kind of atmosphere Mel and his cohorts create in the diners of Boulder City. We are already planning our return.

This is Vegas so our stay at home day vacay continued into the night. After a little time by the pool and a nap, we headed down to Mandalay Bay, where Foreigner was playing with Kansas and Styx. These bands made in part the soundtrack of my teenage years. Doug was amused I knew all the songs...all I can say is "feels like the very first time"!

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