Day 16: Hoover Dam! The Demon Awning Strikes Again!

A view from one end of the Hoover Dam

A view from one end of the Hoover Dam

On Tuesday, June 25th, we left Las Vegas and traveled back to Williams, Arizona, with a stop by the Hoover Dam along the way. Hoover Dam is only about  a half hour away from Vegas. Most people that do Vegas do the Hoover Dam, too. (Chevy Chase did it; you may not have seen Vegas Vacation, since it’s the worst of the Vacation series by far, but Chevy and the fam did the Hoover Dam in the Vegas movie.)

The single greatest thing about visiting the Hoover Dam is that you get to declare a moratorium on punishment or disapproval for any and all usage of the word “dam”.

So the kids get to say things like:

  • Are we going to take the dam tour?
  • What’s the dam temperature?
  • Can I get a dam T-shirt?
  • Can we eat in the dam snack bar?
  • Will the RV fit in the dam parking lot?
  • I didn’t expect to see so many dam visitors here!
  • I need to take another dam picture.
  • What’s the dam time?
  • I have to go to the dam bathroom.
  • Ronan just hit me in the dam arm! (Hey, wait a minute …)
  • How dam deep is the water in Lake Mead? (No, that’s definitely not okay ….)
  • How long did it take to build the dam dam? (Oh, come on, now you’re just abusing the privilege!)
  • Dam, that thing’s big! (Hey, stop it!)
  • Or simply, “Dam!” Though this can only be shouted while pointing at the dam.

It all makes for great, goofy fun, even if the dam temperature is 102 degrees, like it was the day we visited. The parking up close to the dam is $7 or more, and the free parking is pretty dam far away. But we drove to the free lot anyway, and just made the dam walk to the dam.

Just seeing the dam was enough for us. We didn’t take the dam tour. There are $10 dam tours and $30 dam tours, but we opted for the free experience of just walking over the dam and taking some dam pictures.

Before we did that, though, we visited the new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which provides an amazing view of the dam. The bridge is part of a relatively new, brief stretch of highway that bypasses the dam, so if you’re just passing through and not visiting the dam, then you can get by the dam quickly and not get bogged down in all the dam traffic.

The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, viewed from the dam

The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, viewed from the dam

Hoover Dam, as seen from the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Hoover Dam, as seen from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The kids pose on the bridge with the dam in the background

The kids pose on the bridge with the dam in the background

After taking some dam pictures from the bridge, we drove the RV across the dam, parked on the far side, and walked the dam.  I wasn’t kidding when I said the dam temperature was 102 degrees, so we didn’t spend a lot of dam time walking around. We walked across the dam, visited the dam gift shop, crossed back over the dam, got in the dam RV, and left.

From the dam, to get to Williams, AZ — remember, that was our old Grand Canyon home base a few days back — you drive down Highway 93 until it intersects Interstate 40 at Kingman, AZ, then you take I-40 East to Williams.

The route from Hoover Dam to Williams, AZ

The route from Hoover Dam to Williams, AZ

Highway 93 was an easy drive. Shortly after getting back on I-40, a tremendous gust of wind pushed the RV from the right lane almost all the way into the left lane. Fortunately, there was no traffic around, and I battled the gust, the strongest one I had felt during the whole trip, and got the RV back under control.

About a minute later, I learned that it wasn’t a gust of wind that had pushed the RV into the other lane. Anneliese informed us that the Demon Awning had once again deployed, unrolling at 60+ miles an hour, the second time it had unfurled on an interstate. That feeling wasn’t a gust of wind; it was the awning acting as a sail.

Perhaps I should mention at this point that the awning is on the passenger side of the RV, and you completely can’t see it from the driver’s seat, either via line of sight or in your mirrors. So when it unrolls, you have no clue, unless someone on the passenger side sees it and informs you.

Fortunately, I-40 in that part of the country is almost deserted, so I immediately pulled the RV over to the right shoulder, and we debarked the vehicle to roll the awning back up. It was a struggle, because the persistent desert wind, the endless, constant desert wind, the never-ending, single-minded desert wind, was whipping across the road and catching the awning, making it almost impossible to roll up.

Eventually, the wind died down enough for us to roll the awning back up, and this time, I duct-taped the dam thing … wait a minute, that’s not right.  What I meant to say is that I duct-taped the son of a bitch so it wouldn’t come open again without an act of Congress.

I don’t know, folks … the first time it opened up on the Interstate, I turned it into comedy, but this time, it wasn’t funny in the least. The first time, it was our own fault, for not properly locking it shut, but this time, it was locked down tight. And it opened anyway.

That doesn’t fill you with confidence, when you’re facing another 2,000 miles on the trip home.

I eventually figured out what made it unroll. Shortly after getting on I-40, we hit a brutal stretch of pavement that shook the RV, rattled our teeth, and made me yell “Dam!” (without pointing to a dam), as well as a few other things.

When we hit that rough patch, I believe it bounced the rolled-up awning off of a little brace in the middle of the RV that holds the awning (loosely) against the RV. Once the awning bounced off that brace, it was free to catch a wave, dude, and unroll.

The views along I-40 were spectacular on this day, despite the Demon Awning's best effort to ruin things

The views along I-40 were spectacular on this day, despite the Demon Awning’s best effort to ruin things

That sucked a lot out of me, and for the first time in over two weeks, I was exhausted when we reached our destination, even though the trip that day was only about 200 miles. While some of the family walked into downtown Williams to hit our favorite shops, I stayed back in the RV, too tired to make the trek.

The good thing is that I hooked the TV up and watched a really interesting two-hour PBS documentary on Henry Ford. I’ve watched the series The Men Who Built America (on Discovery Channel, I think), and Ford got the brief treatment on that series. But the PBS documentary was two hours long and really went into depth and was fascinating.

Anyway … Vegas had already done in some of the family, and the Demon Awning got the best of me on this day. Our minds collectively started to turn towards thoughts of going home.

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4 responses to “Day 16: Hoover Dam! The Demon Awning Strikes Again!

  1. Hah! I could not get the awning open at the first park, and you couldn’t keep it closed….

    • Yeah, I know … I hate it when bloggers use the “I’ve been really busy” excuse, so I need to man up and get it done.

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