Well, I FINALLY made it out to the Hoover Dam (after innumerable trips to Las Vegas), and it was well worth the trip... Below, a quick photo tour (yup, I had my real camera,* not just my mobile phone) .... and some fun facts ... and some observations on my first stay at the Las Vegas (SPG) Westin.
As I checked my luggage for my 48-hour trip, I could hear iahflyr explaining to me how I could have carried it all on, but ... nah ... I just carried my camera gear and checked the rest...
OK, so that's the view looking to the Northeast, down on (and over) the magnificent, historic Hoover Dam (straddling the Nevada and Arizona borders) from the apex of the (scenic and oh-so-tourist-friendly) Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (two States, two names), itself somewhat of an engineering marvel, standing approximately 900 feet above the Colorado River.
Then, below, this is looking to the Southwest, from atop the dam, towards the O'Callaghan-Tillman bridge (from which the prior photo was taken). If you're not familiar with Pat Tillman, his is a remarkable story. Arizona Cardinal football player turned Army Ranger, only to die in combat in Afghanistan as a result of friendly fire. Among others, his life is chronicled in Jon Krakauer's WHERE MEN WIN GLORY, which is well worth reading.
And, here's a view looking Northwest, from the Hoover Dam Lookout - the four columns to the right (the near two in Arizona, the far two in Nevada) are the intake towers (think of them as bathtub drains).
Now, a little closer to the dam, and looking North-Northeast, where the Colorado River flows into the dam. It's not hard to see how far the water level has risen, from time to time - just look at where the side of the hills turn from brown to white.
Then, again, even closer to the dam, here's the top of the Arizona intake tower (closer to the dam) - there's another Arizona-side intake tower to the Northeast of this one.
OK ... and I found this particularly fascinating (but, hey, that's just me).... This is the "spillway" on the Southern (Arizona) side of the dam. Apparently, the dam was NOT constructed to permit water to flow over the top. Hence there are two massive spillways, one on either side. I found standing on the bridge (pictured) and looking directly down into the massive maw of the spillway to be physically disorienting. The spillways are rarely used - overflow water has flown into them only TWICE, the last time way back in 1983.
Not far from there, looking Northwest across the dam, you can get a scale of the dam - the two winged statues (to the center right) are 30 feet tall (keep scrolling for a closer inspection of the figures); the flagpole (with flag at half mast) is 142 feet tall - and the (modern, stylish) visitors center and observation platform, jutting out from the rock.
From the center of the dam, looking due West, you can see the visitors center, observation tower, and the Nevada side of the O'Callaghan-Tillman bridge.
The (matching pair of 30-foot tall, bronze) Winged Figures of the Republic on the Nevada side of the dam are impressive..., but a mite strange. Check out the shiny feet - visitors rub the toes for good luck.
And some fun facts ... The primary construction contract was awarded (to "Six Contractors" - real name of the consortium) in 1931; the dam began "impounding" water in Lake Mead in 1935. (That was fast!!!) Work was completed EARLY and UNDER BUDGET (scoring the program manager, the legendary Frank Crowe an (at the time, massive) $350,000 bonus. (Ah, yes, meaningful incentives work, eh!) The $140-million mortgage (a US Treasury loan) was paid (cumulatively, by residential and industrial electricity users) in full in 1987.
Ah, yes, and a few brief notes on the Las Vegas Westin....
- No casino (my preference), no shows ... but a serious restaurant and whiskey bar ... and gym and spa and pool...
- Gym was fully functional, with plenty of equipment in good condition (but no one who worked out while I was there was able to figure out how to turn down the volume on the obnoxious TV that no one was watching)..
- Close enough to the strip (just opposite Bally's), but still quiet and sane...
- Super low rates... For that reason, I could see staying here again (assuming I'm travelling alone)....
- minor peeve: I find the resort fee and destination fee chicanery irritating, since there is no opt out, but, at least, at Marriott properties, it's clearly part of your room rate while you're doing your comparison shopping ... when I booked this hotel, the daily fee (the flat rate was ... literally ... 25-30+ percent ... on top of my room rate) didn't appear until after I'd booked the room. My gut says that, if SPG properties are now part of the Marriott family, they need to disclose these fees consistently on the Marriott reservation site. (What say you, communitymanagers?)
- Cheerfully greeted and upgraded to top floor by front desk staff ... but, alas, view was nothing special ... kind of in the wrong direction ... and I've been spoiled by too many stays at the Cosmopolitan (with the killer balconies, and, thus, the best views in Vegas, overlooking the Belagio fountain and out over the strip to the mountains).
- Excellent (free) breakfast for platinums. Full disclosure: when I checked in, they said that, normally, we're only entitled to a continental breakfast, but this was a special holiday bonus, which I appreciated it! The eggs-to-order/omelette czar was a real pro! Terrific fresh fruit collection (including ... bananas, blackberries, blueberries, honeydew, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon ... and I may be forgetting some).
- I also was given coupons for a free Whiskey tasting (maybe the TIPPLE crew will want to convene here) and free dessert after dinner ... but I didn't take advantage of either.
- Robes (a comfy, light robe) and slippers in the room...
- Strange closet door - which struggled to close and got hung up on the hangers... whatever...
- The fully stocked Starbucks on the ground floor appeared to be open 24/7!!! In room coffee dispenser also included Starbucks single-brew packages.
- Warning to light sleepers: the room had the loudest air handling unit I've ever experienced in a non-budget hotel - significantly louder even than the classic Courtyard units. Didn't bother me a bit - I was exhausted and slept like the dead - but I could see that being a deal breaker for others....
- Nice rain forest shower head and plush towels!
- Nice work desk, plenty of seating, including a full-sized L-shaped couch, good lighting, and plenty of outlets.