Zion National Park & the Hoover Dam

Our destination on Saturday, September 19th, was Zion National Park, about an hour south of the Iron Gate Bed and Breakfast in Cedar City.  The next day, Sunday the 20th, we were to head for the Hoover Dam and a couple nights in Las Vegas.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Then we took our Trusty Toyota to Zion, the fourth and last park we were to visit on this trip.  It was also a remarkable park to see and experience.

Before we left for Zion National Park Saturday morning (the 19th) Donna made a delicious breakfast for her houseful of guests — spinach quiche, blueberry muffins, sausage links, and a tray of fresh fruit.  The quiche was the best and perfectly seasoned.  Mmmm.

I thought this was the greenest of the four parks.

The mountains and terrain here reminded me of giant strawberry swirl ice cream sundaes with evergreen straws poking out everywhere.

Also, unlike the other parks, there were tunnels blasted through the mountain rocks so vehicles could get from one side to the next.  One of the tunnels was 1.3 miles long, built in 1930.

Most of the roads included steep, steep cliffs along one side — with no guard rails — and hairpin curves as we went around the mountains.

Allan was impressed with the engineering of the roads constructed on mountain rock.

We stopped for gas and a walk around 2 o’clock, before heading back to Cedar City, and I found a nice shirt for me at a tourist shop in a town called Virgin, also a bag of the largest jelly beans I’ve ever seen,

I was walking carefully and slowly since my hips were still recovering from the trail ride yesterday, and so we only got out of the car once.  If you want to know the truth, I couldn’t walk.  We then learned that it’s important for me to not sit for too long at a stretch, that it stiffened things up.

Back at the Iron Gate, I was moving much better so we did a wine tasting at the next door winery and then found a 5:30 p.m. Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in Cedar City.  After Mass we went to a Chili’s restaurant for tostados and a side salad.  The place was packed.  On Sunday morning Donna served another outstanding breakfast.  This one featured French Toast Cherry Souffle, bacon, muffins, and fresh fruit.

Then we finished packing our suitcases, said goodbye to Donna, and left for Las Vegas, about two and a half hours away.  We stopped every half hour to pick up some treats and walk around the store.  At one stop saw we four palm trees across the highway.

As we headed in the southwesterly direction, the landscape changed from red jagged mountains of rock to massive gray and black mountains of rock.

We began to see small ranches and a few cattle here and there, but continued to remark on this vast unpopulated part of the country.

We crossed over a small corner of Arizona before we got into Nevada.

Every now and then we saw a lone Joshua tree standing in a parched expanse of very flat land, bordered by a dark rim of mountains.

When casinos and billboards began to appear, we knew we were almost there, where recognizable stars earn a living outside of Hollywood.  It was interesting to see cooking channel stars Giada, Bobby Flay, and Emeril now part of the Las Vegas scene.

We drove through Las Vegas without stopping, since there was time to see the Hoover Dam before checking in.  I think the New York New York Hotel and Casino would look better in different colors.

We also drove past the Luxor, which is where we’d be spending the next two nights.  Hi, Sphynx.

Then up ahead we saw Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.

And all of a sudden, before we knew it, we were on top of the new highway bridge that we came to see.

Allan has read about it and said it’s an incomparable engineering feat.

The first time we toured the area, years ago, there was a bottleneck at the much visited Hoover Dam and a small two lane highway, which we could now see below from the new highway bridge, on our right.

Here we caught a glimpse up front of the giant concrete pillars holding up the highway bridge.

We followed signs to get to the bottom.  First thing we saw was a maze of electrical equipment.  Maybe you’d like to know that the Hoover Dam can produce 2,000 megawatts of capacity and a yearly average generation of 4.5 billion kilowatt hours to serve the annual needs of nearly 8 million people in Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada.

As I said, three states depend on power generated from the Hoover Dam.

Then we saw the bridge we had just driven on.  It’s called the Hoover Dam Bypass and it opened in 2010.  Funny how we had bypassed the Dam on the Dam Bypass and had to turn around to get back to the Dam.

A view upstream from the Hoover Dam, the Lake is 100 feet lower than normal.  The dam controls floods, stores water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses, as well as provides hydroelectric power.

The columns of support are much MUCH larger and taller when you’re driving next to them.

This Bypass highway bridge rerouted US #93 from its previous route which had been along the top of Hoover Dam.  This new bridge is the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the United States, and it incorporates the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere.

At 840 feet above the Colorado River, the Bypass Bridge is the second highest bridge in the united States.

It is the world’s highest concrete arch bridge.  Really amazing to see firsthand.

How does a dam work?  Alan said there are electric turbines inside a dam.  When water from the dam passes through, the turbines spin.  This creates electricity.  Hydroelectric power is produced as water passes through a dam, and into the river below.

The only parking space left for us that afternoon was on the top level of a four-level ramp.  It was hotter than hot outside.  Actually, it was 96 degrees.  But I walking fine, which is not the same as walking fast.

A monument gives construction dates of the Hoover Dam as 1931-1936.  There is still a road across the top of the dam and it seems to be used for employees only.  There were marked crosswalks so we could walk from one side to the next to see the level of water on each side of the dam.

As engineers would know, the concrete arch is designed to support the bridge as it spans the gap of Black Canyon.  The bridge connects the states of Arizona and Nevada.

We were there less than two hours and didn’t take the inside tour because we had done that before.

Lady Liberty, which is part of the New York New York hotel and Casino, stands near the Sphynx, which is part of the Luxor Hotel and Casino.

Walking around the Venetian Hotel and Casino  made us think about returning to Europe where we’ve experienced a gondola ride in the canals of Venice and where “O Sole” Mio echoes even more largely. 

Last time we were in Las Vegas, I walked this courtyard with my mother and two of her sisters, my Aunt Clarone and my Aunt Sharlene.

We enjoyed a delicious buffet brunch in the Grand Lux at the Venetian the next morning.  Mainly my plate hosted scrambled eggs and bacon.  The orange juice was freshly squeezed.

That evening we had supper in the Excalibur at Dick’s Last Resort, in honor of a choir friend.

Our flight left Las Vegas around 4 p.m. Mountain Time on Tuesday, September 22nd, and when I looked out the window, I could see why it’s not a highly populated part of the country, but it certainly is picturesque.  We arrived back home in Minneapolis around 9 p.m. Minnesota Time.  It was an interesting, exciting, and educational adventure, also fun — except for the trail ride.

The End