The Grand Staircase, Part Six
- Numbers 27, 47, 93, 111, 130, and 131 on my life list.

Click Here for Part One

The next morning we went to tour the Hoover Dam. A car accident had a quarter-mile line of vehicles sitting in park, and the line was quickly growing. For no apparent reason, I had the Who song “Behind Blue Eyes” stuck in my head and kept singing it. “No one knows what it’s like… to be the bad man… to be the sad man… behind blue eyes.” Sitting in traffic with me singing the same song repeatedly could turn annoying fast. Randy turned on his XM.

The thought of turning around to head to the next destination on our list was starting to enter our minds, but we decided to wait it out. Neither of us minded sitting there listening to music and talking. The song on the radio ended. The next one started, Behind Blue Eyes, by The Who. I couldn’t believe it. Fortunately, the traffic soon picked up.

When we arrived, we got in line for tickets. “You going on the Dam Tour?” the girl asked with slight emphasis on the word dam. “Yeah, one please,” I said. “Ok, one for theDam Tour.” She really enjoyed saying that. “She must be new,” I thought.

A group of us herded into a theatre for a 20-minute video about the dam’s construction. With plenty of time to kill afterwards, we went outside to peer over the dam’s edge and look around at the interesting art deco architecture and various exhibits, until it was time for our tour.

Some elevator doors closed and a group of people descended deep underground. “Shoot, I forgot to tell those people that there isn’t a restroom down there. Oh well they’ll figure it out. If you have to use the restroom you better go now.”

They flooded us with the typical “damn” jokes, I assumed because it was better than having to hear every damtourists make the same dam jokes as though they were the first to come up with them. “I’ve been a Dam tour guide for 30 years now…” “Ok, now let’s all squeeze into the Dam Elevator…” Thousands overhear it all day, every day.

We got in line. The group ahead of us was now dropping a couple hundred feet below. “Shoot, I forgot to tell those people that there isn’t a restroom down there. Oh well they’ll figure it out. If you have to use the restroom you better go now.” The people not here long enough, to have already heard the jokes, chuckled.

The Hoover Dam is truly one of the greatest engineering marvels of the 20th century. It was absolutely worth going to, even with the delay. We went into its depths, walked through tunnels hundreds of feet deep, and peered out a window half way up the smooth dam wall.

After getting back on the road, we stopped to eat at the overhyped In-and-Out burger, and then back through Vegas towards Zion National Park. We waited in more traffic from another accident, but by then I was unconscious in the passenger seat. By the time we got to the beautiful city of St. George, Utah, we were again ready to stop to eat.

We arrived at Zion after nightfall. It’s grandeur was hidden, but you could almost sense something massive just behind the darkness. An engraved wooden sign at the gate said, “No Vacancy.” We drove back out of the park until our cell phone had some bars and called a hotel. Only one had a room available, and it was their only one. It cost more than the stay in Vegas but it beat sleeping in the car. The room was a typical cheap hotel room, but huge. A small wooden table with four chairs sat in the middle surrounded by three beds, with their headboards up against the walls. We pulled everything out of the car, scattered it over scratchy cheap hotel comforters, and repacked it to get organized.

On the TV, Obama and McCain campaign press conferences warned us of a looming economy-sized recession. We couldn’t really care any less. Only the next few days mattered. I turned it to South Park, and we made our plans for tomorrow’s hike.

< Part Five | Part Seven >