Travels in the American Southwest

Hoover Dam and Star Trek "The Experience"

Arose early on Saturday and hopped into my third rental car of the trip. I'd gotten this car from Practical Rent-a-Car on Friday and was very surprised/pleased to see the car was a four door Suzuki; Compact/economy, but that's what I ordered. The car was well equipped with AC and a tape deck, but also had power windows and a peppy little engine. By far the most pleasing car rental experience of the trip.

My destination was Hoover Dam to take the early "Hardhat Tour". The first HHT began at 9:30 and as I arrived at 8:00, I had lots of time to wander across the dam, read the bronze plaques and hunt for that perfect photo op. Once the Visitor Center opened, I purchased my $25 ticket and watched a movie showing the building of the dam (using actual footage of the building process), then I toured the various exhibits lining he center's walls.

At 9:15, I headed to the back of the center and was issued a hardhat and ear plugs. We were given a short safety speech, (Don't do this, don't do that! Don't cross lines or jump barriers! If you hear bells, whistles or horns, look at the guide. If the guide is unconcerned, don't you be concerned. If the guide looks very concerned, follow directions completely and immediately!) Shortly thereafter, we were in an elevator and descended to the base of the dam. Though the tour is limited to 15 people, the elevators are small so we all got to know one another during the ride down!

At the base of the dam, we saw the generators, three of which were operating and producing 16,500 volts each. Due to the noise of the generators, our guide (Bruce) used a megaphone during this part of the tour. Another quick elevator ride and we were one floor below the generators; The shaft room where the connection between the generators and water turbines runs. These shafts of steel spin at 180 rpm, consistently. (The ear plugs are for this part of the tour.)

We then were led past the tool shop and outside to the base of the dam and were awed as this concrete monstrosity soared high above us. While here, the guide pointed out the ventilation shafts on the face of the dam, maybe 3/4s of the way from base to the top. He said, "Remember these" and would say nothing more.

After snapping pictures of the Colorado River, huge electrical pylons, and massive transformers, we were herded back into an elevator for an inspection of the interior of the dam. After getting off the elevator and walking down a _small_ tunnel, we gazed out a small barred square hole in the face of the dam...directly down on the spot where the guide had cryptically said, "Remember these!" some 500 feet below.

While inside the dam, we saw the "Stairs to Nowhere", so named because they follow the arch (curve) of the dam and you can't see the top or bottom until you're practically there. Running next to the stairwell is a small trench with water running down it. The guide explained that the dam is not connected to the surrounding mountain walls so water that seeps into the dam is is safely carried off through a maze of pipes to the Colorado River at the base of the dam.

On the way back to the elevator, the guide requested we halt and not move. He grinned and said, "That's the end of the tour, folks. Thanks for coming!". Then he shut off the lights. Blackness! Not just the absence of light but total suffocating darkness. We all breathed a little easier when the lights came back on (but _I_ wasn't afraid!).

A quick elevator ride later and the tour was really over. I now have a blue hard hat to add to my collection of hats, caps and helmets! For tour info (either Hardhat or regular), call (702) 294-3523.

After heading back to Las Vegas, I wasted some time (and money) at the craps tables until my gambling buddy suggested going to the the Las Vegas Hilton's Star Trek: The Experience. As he's a BIG Star Trek fan, I figured he'd have a good time. Well, so did I! After paying for a $14.95 general admission ticket, I followed the crowd into the "museum" which is really a serpentine line with the chronology of the original Star Trek series (and all the spin-offs and films) on one side and some of the costumes and props used in the various series and films lining the other wall. This helps divert attention from what I'm sure could be a l-o-n-g wait during the show's peak hours.

Star Trek:The Experience Ticket


A taped message from Jean-Luc Picard at the end of the "Experience" asks participants not to divulge the nature of the "experience", scenario or exciting ending and I, for one, am not going to mess with a Star Fleet Officer. I will say that the whole premise and "Experience" was hoaky fun involving a great virtual reality ride. The cast of the "Experience" really tried and that, in itself, made for an enjoyable time!

The "Experience" was followed with more eating, video poker and craps.

So ended Day 6.

More Information
Practical Rent A Car
Hoover Dam Visitor's Center
Star Trek:The Experience

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