We finally picked up a rental car for the rest of our vacation. Initially we wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon but decided against it after I learned that it is 300 miles from Vegas to the South Rim. What a bummer … we’ll definitely do that as a separate trip next time.
Instead, we went to the Hoover Dam. It is just less than an hour east of Vegas.
Let’s talk about car rentals first, OK? I rented a compact online and gotten the cheapest at that time from Travelocity for an Avis car. We wanted to pick up the car from Vegas and drop it off in Reno. That came to an average of $30 per day (well, it’s more expensive because our drop off point is different from the pickup location). Anyway …
First comment … I learned that it’s actually cheaper if you pick up the car from the city/hotel than if you pick it up from the airport. So, we picked the car up from the Avis location at The Venetian on the Strip.
Secondly … car rentals are way cheaper in the US than in Canada. While the rates looked cheap, what is expensive is the insurance (something called the Collision Damage Waiver) that adds up quite significantly to the rates. I declined getting it because firstly I have a travel credit card that specifically gives me such coverage and also I have Roadstar coverage from ICBC. I think I did the right thing. Car Rental companies make their money primarily from selling the insurances, I believe. I always had to deal with sour faces when I decline their coverage. So, tell me, what do you do regarding CDW when you rent a car?
Anyway, the car was great.
Getting to the Hoover Dam was easy enough. With now a car, our first stop was at Safeway to load up on snacks and drinking water. Driving into Hoover Dam area, we had to pass through a security checkpoint. We were surprised at the amount of traffic.
We parked at the multi-storey car park (on the Nevada side of the dam). It was expensive, $7. It was only later that I learn there are free open parking areas at the Arizona side.
From the car park, it was just a short walk to the main reception area of the Hoover Dam.
The Hoover Dam is a very popular tourist destination with thousands of visitors every day.
The Hoover Dam conducts a short Power Plant Tour. These tours costs $11 for adults and $6 for school children.
The tour follows the same program found in many national parks, etc … started off with a film about the dam and the constructions.
We were then taken down deep into the dam …
… saw the turbines that provides power to Nevada, Arizona and particularly California.
We also went to the old visitor centre to listen to a presentation on dams in Nevada and California. The way this was presented was so old fashion, that I felt like I was in the 50s or 60s. The scale model of the dams in the surrounding areas were really interesting.
The Hoover Dam is the second highest dam in the US. Taking this picture below makes my knees weak … I had to lean over the railing so that I could include the base of the dam. Although it is just a plain wall, the immense size of it is a sight to behold.
Las Vegas and Phoenix would not have been what it is today if not for the Hoover Dam.
The dam created a reservoir called Lake Mead which backs out over 100 miles from the dam. Considering that this was once just a river, it is amazing how much water this dam retained behind this dam. I can’t recall exactly but I think it took something like 18 months after the construction of the dam to fill it to the capacity it is designed to hold.
Outside the dam there were some interesting memorials and monuments. We did not spend much time reading them because it was so hot. Well, despite all the water we see, the Hoover Dam is located in a desert.
We were wondering if the water from the drinking fountain were directly from the water behind the dam.
Half of the dam is located in Nevada and the other in Arizona. We just had to take a picture of this. The boys protested that this looks stupid but we forced them to anyway (he he he … because Suanne and I thought it was stupid for us to be in that picture too!).
Wow … guess what, our vacation not only covered Nevada and California but we can even say we were also in Arizona. 🙂
The Dam also serves as a crossing for Route 93. Before this visit, I did not realize that it is a major roadway too. I know that dams are always high security areas and generally does not allow cars to be driven across it. I guess this is because when the dam was built eons ago, there were not much security concerns.
So, the US government expedited the construction of a bypass road after the 9-11 attacks which will divert traffic from the Hoover Dam. So, if you want to experience driving across the dam, then you should do this before this massive bridge is completed.
This bypass road is scheduled to be completed by 2010. It is going to be one of the tallest bridges around and can imagine it to be quite a sight. Looking at this, I was thinking if they one day organize a bungee jump from this bridge, I might just do it.