After a lonely, scenic drive through the barren desert lands; suddenly, you can feel a hint of activity emerging from somewhere underground. A rumble, almost. Is it your imagination? It may well be, for you’ve been driving for so long. But there is a hidden world beneath you — in the ruptures of the black mountains.
As you journey next to Lake Mead along Route 66, an abrupt scene starts to unfold. Describing that you feel hot and dry would be an understatement. As you examine your arms there is a slight redness to them, burnt, like the middle of your forehead, like the insides of you. Ahead there is an indication of activity. Perhaps it is a small civilization, you wonder. It would be nice to stock up on some water, if they sell any. This might be a good break — your ears perk up — this is the first time you’ve seen or heard this many human voices in many hours. You start to become restless in your car seat. The road bends, you have been curving upwards and downwards on the rocky backs of mountains for a couple hours, wondering if one was going to fissure open and swallow you up between them. How to describe the feeling running through your head, your spine, and your fingers? The air is dry. The mountains know you’re here.
The mountains feel you driving on them. You and your human fellows are smaller than ants. Someone has made a dent in the massif — the Hoover Dam. Thank goodness this construction is only equivalent to the mountain’s baby toe, if it had one — if it were any more than this dimple, it wouldn’t have worked out. The mountains have reluctantly given the dam permission to stay there, for the time being.
The Hoover Dam has come upon you so suddenly that you’ve already found yourself on the freeway overpass connecting Arizona and Nevada. The roads are wide, but quickly become narrow and steep. Vehicles seemingly appear out of nowhere as you all start winding through the dusty, mountainous expanse. People are just following the person in front of them. Don’t stop now because there’s no turning back. Each little road is like a valley with an 8,000+ drop on one side. One wrong move and…
$10.00 to park and you have the day to glimpse a fraction of this mammoth structure. The Hoover Dam is Herculean to us, but to the black mountains it is a hair’s breadth fracture. The rusty red rocks feel cool to the touch, slightly like plastic. It’s hard to believe it’s real.
There are a plethora of monuments before you approach the dam. One of the monuments is quite memorable as it is striking in its overall strange appearance and detail. It seems more Ancient Greek/Ancient Roman/pagan than American, though there is a bald eagle carved somewhere along the bottom. The monument is made out of dark marble and stone and is fairly large, about 30-50 feet across on either side. In the middle is a stone wall about 12 feet high featuring two winged statues guarding either side. A flagpole in between the statues holds the American flag, stretching about 30 feet above the ground. Beneath your feet visitors are stepping on a carved map of the Universe, so as you walk along it you are walking through a celestial map. The etched stars and constellations beneath your feet are drawn how we would see the sky from this particular point of the Earth.
Nearby you notice carvings of the astrological signs that are featured on a rounded sundial. The flagpole in the middle of the monument points to the location of the sun on the exact day that the Hoover Dam was dedicated, on September 30, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As you’re walking through there is a recorded voice in the background that explains it has been built in case of other life forms in the Universe (i.e. aliens) venture down from the sky and discover the dam. Freemasonry, anyone?
There is a statue on the side of a rock as you pass through, displaying a man from the Great Depression hanging off the side of a mountain with pulleys, constructing the dam. Over 10,000 unemployed men camped in tents with their wives and laboured away for years. As you take a closer look you realize it would be a considerable feat to build even with today’s technology, let alone flimsy ropes and grapples! If you were building the dam, there was always a looming threat of tumbling to your doom. There were a total of 112 deaths associated with the dam’s construction from 1922 — during the surveying of the area — until 1936, the dam’s completion. Many more deaths resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning and pneumonia from carbon emissions inside the underground tunnels.
The Hoover Dam power plant is operated and maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation. It serves the states of Arizona and Nevada; Boulder City, Nevada; the City of Los Angeles; Southern California; and the California cities of Anaheim, Azusa, Banning, Burbank, Colton, Glendale, Pasadena, Riverside, and Vernon.
Looking down miles into the river below gives you a sense of amazement, excitement and respect. You experience slight vertigo as you look down. The whole place has just taken the breath out of you. Better leave it before it swallows you up. You can’t help thinking of how many ways there are to tip over and tumble, slipping down the hot, smooth cement and into God-knows-where.
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