Sunday, March 26, 2017

Part the Second: Hoover Dam

We landed in Las Vegas in brilliant sunshine, and set out for Hoover Dam in our rented convertible.   Ordinarily we rent compacts, but in Las Vegas, it turns out that the cheapest car to rent is an SUV - which we dislike, and the next cheapest was the convertible.  The economy car was more expensive.  So what could we do?
Clearly, travelling in style is the answer.

The dam is a monumental piece of civil engineering. It was planned because the periodic floods of the Colorado river wreaked havoc on the countryside downstream, and because the water that was wasted during floods was desperately needed for irrigation in the dry seasons. It was constructed in the middle of the Great Depression and built in only 5 years.  Thousands of the unemployeed flocked to take jobs created by the dam.

The first thing they had to do, was divert the river- which they did by drilling long tunnels through the rock canyon walls.  They the built cofferdams around the section of the canyon where the dam was to be built, and pumped all the water out.   Then they had to excavate all the sand and silt from the river bottom until they hit bedrock.   The canyon walls had to bear the force of the water pressing against the dam, so they had to remove all the weathered rock on the surface until they reached denser unweathered rock behind it.

It was poured in sections- each one had pipes embedded to cool the concrete.  Had they done it in a single pour they estimated it would have taken the concrete 125 years to cool, and internal stresses would have caused it to crumble in the process.  You can see the marks of the sections on the surface of the dam today.

It took longer to fill the lake behind the dam than it did to build.  It was too big a project for any single company- a consortia of six companies was formed to bid on the job.  They built a town, Boulder City, to house the workers for the job.  It took enough concrete to pave a sidewalk on the equator around the entire world- or pave a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York.

Ironically, though the primary reason for building the dam was water management- what pays for all the upkeep of the dam isn't the water, but rather the electricity that the water generates on its way through the dam. We took the powerplant tour of course.   Here are the pipes (penstocks) that carry the water to the turbines.

And here are the turbines themselves.  The entire flow of the Colorado river passes through the turbines.  The dam supplies electricity to Nevada, Arizona and parts of California.

Here are the intake towers.  

We thought the little hatlike protrusions on the tops of the towers looked like grumpy little faces. 

What we could see of the lake from the top of the dam was spectacular. 

One of the charming parts of the project is that it was built at a time when grand projects were supposed to look grand instead of solely functional.  So there are marvelous little art deco flourishes all through the area.    These winged figures sit on a plaza inlaid with astronomical charts intended to convey the date of construction to future archeologists. 

And this is one of a series of bronze reliefs, representing the various groups who benefitted from the construction- in this case the cities downstream.

After seeing the dam, we climbed up to the old rail line (now a rail trail) and saw the power station, feeding the power from the dam to the grid- 
-and took a last look at the Colorado downstream- a river tamed and harnessed by the will of man. 

And then it was off to Utah, and a long drive through the mountains as the sun set, on our way to Zion.  

The slideshow:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Western Tour: Part the First

So, as we are sometimes wont to do this time of year, my husband and I took off to visit spring in the southwest.  This year, we decided to take some extra time and see some of the western national parks, something we've been wanting to do for a while, and just hadn't gotten a round tuit.

But as we so often do, we started in Dallas, at the North Texas Irish Festival.  I can't recommend this festival highly enough- flights to Dallas are inexpensive, the hotel rates are reasonable, and the festival tickets are a bargain- for the price of a single concert you get an entire weekend of music on multiple stages.    For example:

While this piece isn't especially Irish, this is an example of the caliber of musician we saw- we've seen this couple a number of times over the years, and they are never less than brilliant.  They play in both the Celtic and swing styles- this is an original piece Chris composed in swing style.

(Okay, if you're thinking this looks hard?  You're wrong.  Professional musicians think this is really really hard.  For the rest of us it's inhumanly insanely impossible.)

Aside from that, we strolled around Fort Worth, ate Mexican food, caught up with musical friends we only see at the festival and generally had a great time.  Fort Worth was sunny and warm, and we took in the water park there:

As well as strolling along the river.  We also discovered this:
Yes, it's the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center
According to the internet it was named after a longtime district attorney, and not the actor.

The Monday after the festival, we embarked for Las Vegas, eager to see its greatest attractions!   Remembering that we're geeks, can you guess?  If you thought Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, you'd be absolutely correct!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Not Much and Altogether Random

Thoughts for the day:

  • I have to wonder about Jake.  He licked my bowl completely clean after dinner.  He's the only cat I know who loves spaghetti sauce.
  • I just finished "Night Drive" by folksinger Garnet Rogers, reminiscences about touring with his brother Stan in the 70s.  I enjoyed it a lot- it's well written, and parts were funny, and sad and nostalgic.  Also there is more alcohol consumed in this book than in the entire city of Las Vegas in year.  It's amazing they didn't kill themselves.
  • My husband is currently attempting to conquer the galaxy*.  This happens a lot around here.  
  • I have discovered why the person knitting the baby afghan gave it away.  After the first couple of strips, the charm starts to wear off.  But I am determined to finish. 
  • This may be why I volunteered to knit some adult mittens in bulky yarn.  I'm really feeling the yearning for FOs right now.    
  • I've hardly touched the sweater lately, despite wanting to finish it and wear it.  I may have to take drastic action**. 
  • About the only thing that did get completed this week is taxes.  It helps to hire someone else to do them.
  • Obligatory cat pictures.  Because this post needs something to redeem it.
Cookie and Jake snuggling.

Biscuit is helping organize the tax paperwork.

* Playing Eclipse online. 
**Project monogamy.  Though I'm not certain I'm able....