#17…witness something jaw dropping. This was a very open-ended task on the list. Depending on your outlook on life, anything could be jaw dropping. There are good things that will make your jaw drop in happy surprise, and things that will make it drop in terror and disgust. I was aiming for more of the “wow this is so utterly and completely amazing that I literally can’t keep my mouth closed that’s how astounded I am” version of jaw dropping.
And I was spot on. While we were in Vegas Ollie and I took the opportunity to drive the 30 miles out to the Hoover Dam. Everybody says that the Hoover Dam is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century, and I am inclined to agree. It is a towering structure placed squarely between two mountain ranges with a lake on side and a peaceful river on the other. We took a tour of the Dam and got to learn all about how it was made (which is actually a fascinating story-I was most interested in the fact that they had to divert the Colorado River from its natural path into 4 man-mad tunnels before they could even begin construction on the dam). Fun Dam fact: it was completed 2 years a head of time and under budget. I guess there is a first (and last) time for everything.
The whole time we were touring the Dam I had one song stuck in repeat in my head. It was from my summer camp days at Camp Nellie Huckins. One of the highlights at Huckins is that after meal times all the girls stand up on their seats and sing camp songs (you have to try it to understand it). One of the songs was about Amsterdam (I know that Amsterdam is a place and the Hoover Dam is a dam but bear with me). The song was a repetitive and progressive one, starring 3 fishermen in Amsterdam. Each chorus was ended with Amster, Amster, Shhh, Shhh, Shhh! (x2) and at the very end of the song you finally got to scream, Amster, Amster, DAM, DAM, DAM!!!! It was the best part of the song because you got to scream damn! at the top of your lungs (swearing wasn’t allowed at camp-it was considered very “un-Nellie” which loosely translates to un-ladylike). It was our small way of feeling like bad ass campers.
Anyways. So for the entire tour I had Amster, Amster, DAM DAM DAM, stuck in my head. Not exactly great background music for learning. I will say, the Dam itself is very impressive. The Dam contains enough concrete to circle the earth’s equator 4 times. That’s a lot. The Dam also provides power for towns as far away as Southern California. I also learned that the Dam is half in the state of Nevada, and half in the state of Arizona, so when we drove across the Dam (which for someone who is afraid of bridges, was slightly terrifying) we were in Arizona.
Most people go to the Hoover Dam to see-the Hoover Dam. Duh. And while I was very impressed with the Dam’s stature (its very scary looking down it!), what really took my breath away (it incidentally also made my jaw drop) was the The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. The bridge was designed and built to accommodate the heavy highway traffic that used to pass over the Dam. While it is certainly functional, it is absolutely beautiful.
I can’t comprehend, even with today’s technologies, how this bridge was built. It arches gracefully over the river below it, spanning between to ragged mountain peaks. It looks like some higher being literally just placed it between these two mountain tops. It is so high off the ground (its the second highest bridge in the US, and the 14th highest in the world) I cannot understand how it was completed.
Finished in 2010, The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge costs $114 million dollars to build, is the highest and longest arched concrete structure in the Western Hemisphere, and it contains the largest concrete columns in the world. It is truly and engineering feat to rival the Dam is looks over.
While the bridge’s statistics are certainly impressive, it is its location that shocks and amazes you. It looks as if it were built in one piece off sight, and then some how placed in between two mountain ranges (this isn’t the case, but it looks like that!) It arches so extremely and so gracefully over the river below, reaching across an impossible distance to grab each side of the red mountains’ face.
We were approaching the Dam in our rental car when we saw a sign for the bridge. People were parking their cars and hiking up the mountain to cross over it. Ollie and I were confused (we didn’t know of the bridge’s existence), why were people hiking up to the bridge when they could walk/drive over the Dam itself? Wasn’t that the more exciting attraction? Then we saw the bridge, and my jaw dropped.
Here are some more photos of the bridge/Dam for you to enjoy!
The Hoover Dam from the Arizona Side