The drive from Williams, Arizona towards Las Vegas took us through more areas of red soil and rock and a forested area, but after Kingman, Arizona, the landscape became progressively more sandy with low dry brush.
We stopped off en route at the Hoover Dam.
After passing through a security checkpoint, we drove over the Dam (car parking is $10, a Dam tour is $30 for 8 yrs and up or a 30 minute power plant visit is $15 for adults, $12 for children) and in so doing crossed over from Arizona to Nevada.
As our children were tired and it was very hot (104 F), we decided not to stop for long. Luckily we managed to find a free parking space where we could stop for a few minutes to view the Dam and take photos.
When we stepped out of our airconditioned vehicle, the dry heat hit us like a wall, but we still managed to take in the impressive view and were so glad we came.
Hoover Dam was built over a period of five years (1931-6) during the Depression, when thousands of families descended on the area in search of work, camping along the river until the Government initiative to build semi permanent housing in Boulder City, Nevada.
This Concrete Arch-Gravity Dam measures 726.5m high and spans the Colorado river between Nevada and Arizona. The work must have been extremely gruelling with the oppressive heat and the sheer size of the project. Even before dam construction could begin, the men needed to divert the mighty Colorado river through four 50-foot-diameter tunnels, two drilled through the canyon walls on either side, with a combined length of around three miles. What an achievement in Civil Engineering terms and a testament to the American spirit of progress and “can do” attitude.
The dam was built to irrigate the low lying desert plains, for flood control and to provide hydroelectric power to municipalities and industry. Lake Mead Reservoir supplies millions of people and farms with water in Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, as well as being a beautiful all year round recreational area.
From here, it was only 24 miles to Las Vegas – in the heart of Nevada’s desert.
We very soon started to notice signs for casinos and also lots of signs for injury lawyers (!) all the way into Henderson and onto Las Vegas, which was rather disconcerting. The roads got busier and more disorientating as we drove into Las Vegas, where there is a five lane highway on either side! Eek!
We were mainly in Las Vegas because it was on our route, but my husband and I visited in 2003 and remember rather enjoying looking around the amazing hotels on the Strip and we thought our daughters might find it fun too, which they did. It was super hot there (106 F), so we were in and out of air conditioned hotels and spent a lot of time in the rooftop swimming pool in our hotel
The mood of Las Vegas is pure hedonism, decadence, extravagance and gluttony. There is the seedy side, which my daughters luckily did not notice (the signs for girls to your door, the gambling, the debauchery), but there is something very appealing about the place (in small doses).
When you enter one of these vast hotels, it as if you have entered a new dimension: the heat and crowds from the street melt away and you are immersed in something quite special. There are shops, boutiques, eateries and much more (casinos, hotel rooms, spectacular shows…). Each hotel has a theme and the hoteliers have spared no expense to recreate Italian cities or Parisian boulevards. It is really very impressive. There are blue skies with light fluffy clouds that seem to stretch to the heavens. It is all quite extraordinary and we were all quite captivated by it. One could spend all day and night in these places, not knowing what time of day it is. Crazy!
We only really had a day and night to explore the area, but we felt we saw enough. Of course there are a lot of amazing hotels on the Strip that we didn’t see, but I think we got the impression….
We strolled down a Parisian boulevard and visited a traditional French patisserie,
ate Italian gelato by a Venetian canal,
saw Roman statues and took in the grandeur of Caesar’s Palace,
and admired the artistic beauty and vibrant colour in the Bellaggio village
and of course there were the crazy all day buffets
Las Vegas really came alive in the evenings. Although it was still hot, it was easier to walk around and we really enjoyed seeing the Strip all lit up and spotting men dressed up as Elvis and dancing girls with all their feathers.
The Bellaggio does a spectacular water show at 15 minute intervals throughout the evenings which we enjoyed watching, accompanied by the sweet tones of Billie Jean.
Last time we visited Las Vegas, we approached it from the other side and after a long time driving through the desert, we suddenly saw this mirage. It is so incongruous to this desert area – maybe that’s what makes it so appealing: An oasis in an otherwise barren landscape?
I have mixed feelings about the City. It provides thousands of people with jobs and there is definitely a spirit of camaraderie between the workers but the excess, gluttony and the heavy load on the environment can be hard to stomach. But all in all it was a good experience. It’s always best to find the good in everything, I find.🙂
Next stop Yosemite National Park….back to Nature 🙂