Leaving Las Vegas (Hoover Dam and Lake Mead!)

After a long sleepless night driving around sort of dazzled by the Vegas bling, we urgently needed some relatively healthy comfort food… but everything in the city seemed somehow very unappetizing, so we decided to do as our trusty lonely planet guide suggested and take a detour to try out a restaurant some 30 km out of our way (but hey, when you’re doing about 600 km a day, you eat 30 km for breakfast. Quite literally, in our case :-) ) (sorry about all the geeky jokes btw).  We headed out of town towards a place called Hash House a Go Go, and let me tell you it was worth the detour!

hash_house

It was my first actual confrontation with american portion sizes. Chris, who had been travelling around the States for some time, was sort of used to the sight, but i was fascinated by the the size of stuff. I had a MOUNTAIN of finger lickin’ rosemary honey chicken waffles – seriously.  Check this out for yourselves:

chicken_waffles_hash_house

This probably looks like a weird combo (especially to all greek people reading this) but it was delicious!! It did take me about three days to finish, though. Literally. We doggy-bagged it and carried it around for three days. We had a long trip ahead of us however and, generous though they were, my leftovers wouldn’t be enough to keep us going. Before heading out we needed to stock up on some supplies for the road, so we made an obligatory stop at a pretty cool place: Trader Joe’s (coolest. supermarket. ever.) Oh, Trader Joe. This funny song sums up quite well how we (and pretty much everyone else, it seems) feel about the place :-).

All stocked up on roadtrip and camping goodies, we finally left Vegas behind. Chris absolutely wanted to visit the Hoover Dam because of this movie, where Superman turns back time to undo the destruction of the dam (as for the music in that clip: thank you german youtube for blocking absolutely everything. it’s greatly appreciated.)… so we made that our first stop, and after being quite aggressively questioned and almost frisked by some overzealous guards (since, you know, you aren’t allowed to do any spying or anything in the premises) :-P

no_phantom_spies_please

we were allowed to visit this very fascinating piece of engineering:

hoover_dam_bridge

hoover_dam_lakeside

The dam was built in order to tame the Colorado river – about 3.000.000 m³ of concrete were used, and the massive structure took only five years to build (1931-1936)! Interesting fact: it’s actually named after the 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover (at least interesting for me – i sort of thought there was some vague connection with J. Edgar). The dam created the greatest (when in full capacity) water reservoir in the States, Lake Mead (you can see in the picture above though that water level has been particularly low lately…).

We walked on the dam, all the way to Arizona (the Colorado river is the border between Nevada and Arizona, and the Hoover dam is actually on two different timezones. Quite cool, but also a big source of confusion in the following days – but more on that later :-) )… hoover_dam_arizona_side

…and then back to the Nevada side again, since it was slowly getting dark and we’d soon have to put a tent over our heads ….

hoover_dam_nevada_side

So, we left the Hoover dam behind in search of a hospitable spot for our first night camping in the american wilderness…

leaving_hoover_dam

Remember Lake Mead, created by damming the Colorado river? Well, it’s a National Recreation Area now (first one ever created, in 1964!), with nice marinas, parks, and campsites. We drove in on the Nevada side, and decided to settle at the Callville bay campsite (sidenote: deciding where to camp on that trip was an endless source of excitement, since we arrived practically everywhere after dark, pitched our little tent and woke up in the morning to usually stunningly beautiful surroundings we couldn’t even imagine the night before). It was our first night camping out in the wilderness – i was a bit nervous (i kept thinking i heard coyotes howling in the night, and to be fair i probably did) but i’m always a happy camper and that night was no exception – jet lagged and tired from all the excitement, i slept like a baby :-).

In the morning we woke up to this:

lake_mead_campsite

lake_mead_campsite_2

Lake Mead seemed like a fascinating place – sadly, we had very little time because we were determined to be at the Grand Canyon by that very evening, and let’s say it was going to be a longish ride… but we had a drive around and looked at the desert sun reflect on the silvery lake.

lake_mead_from_the_road

The area is wildly beautiful, and so strange – it’s like nothing i’d ever seen before. It felt like we were driving around in an vast quarry , or in some surreal moonscape.

nevada

Soon we left the Nevada desert behind and entered Arizona, while the wilderness around us became more and more fascinating. I couldn’t wait to get to the Grand Canyon, but we still had a few hundred km to cover, and the drive had some brilliant surprises for us… Like beautiful views to the Colorado river,

colorado_river

and hidden, quiet little beaches on the riverbank:

willow_beach

I was speechless in the face of all that strange, other-worldly beauty – and i was beginning to understand for the first time what an amazing place north America is. I couldn’t wait to find out more!

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