Monday, February 14, 2005

We are camped on the shore of Lake Mead, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (map). More accurately, I should say we are camped on the former shore of the lake -- the lake is so low right now that the water is nearly half a mile from here.

Yesterday we drove across Hoover Dam. En-route to the dam we had to cross the security checkpoint, which I expected to be manned by the Bureau of Reclamation Police, or maybe NPS park rangers, or even the Coast Guard. It was something of a let-down to find it staffed by armed security guards from the Wackenhut agency. There was not even any indication of which federal agency's jurisdiction the checkpoint fell under. Unsurprisingly, all four guards and a supervisor felt the need to look Odyssey over.

Approaching the dam from the steep Arizona side, we were immediately struck by how low the lake was. It gave the dam and its intake tower assemblies an eerie appearance. We had planned to stop at the dam, walk around, and maybe take a tour, but the place was an absolute zoo -- people everywhere, and little opportunity to pull Odyssey off the road and park. In the end, we decided to just keep driving. Stopping at the NRA visitor center several miles west, we learned that the "Hard Hat Tour" that we had wanted to take was eliminated after 9/11, and even the regular dam tour had been pared back to just visiting the powerhouse. We were glad to have seen the innards of the dam when we took the tour in 2000.

After leaving the visitor center we headed north through the NRA to the North Shore Road, then a few miles east to a dirt turn-off known as 8 Mile Road. Not because the road is that long, mind you, but because the turn is at milepost 8 on the North Shore Road. This road leads down to the (high-water) lake shore, just before which it fans out into several little roads, each leading to its own peninsula. Right now, the peninsulas are more like promontories, as there is no water between them.

We have a beautiful view of the lake from here, and it was very quiet last night on our private promontory, even though there are RVs on most of the surronding ones as well. A ridge of mountains precludes seeing Las Vegas from here, but the glow of the city was unmistakable in the distance last night, and the vertical beam of light from the Luxor pyramid was clearly visible.

Today we will head in to Las Vegas, where we have reservations for two nights at the Silverton Casino/Hotel and Campground. This campground is fairly close to the strip, and they have a shuttle. Tonight we have tickets to Cirque du Soleil at the New York New York, our Valentine's gift to ourselves.

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