Coffee creamer really is one of humanity's low points. I am lactose intolerant but really don't miss milk and therefore cannot understand this awful product. Mix hydrogenated vegetable fats, milk proteins and solidified corn syrup, form a powder... and then ruin good coffee with it. Whilst we were in America we found it everywhere.
The reason for this out of the blue rant is that one morning I found a jar that I thought contained sugar and thought it would be a nice change from syrup on my waffles. It turned out to be coffee creamer, tasted awful and gave me an upset stomach for most of the day.
We had had another early morning, waking to see the sunrise near the Glen Canyon Dam. We clambered down to find a good view point but it was a bit disappointing after the amazing experience at Horseshoe Bend.
After breakfast we checked out and headed on to Nevada. We drove back over the Glen Canyon Dam and then through a rocky desert landscape. Initially there were distant red sandstone mesas on the horizon. Behind these, snow capped limestone peaks came into view giving a gorgeous scene. I made a
sudden sharp turn off the road to try to photograph the view, much to Lindsey's surprise. I believe we were driving between the Vermillion Cliffs and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. I really want to go back to see more of this area!
We continued down the road and found that it wound its way between the two mountain ranges giving amazing views on every side. After a couple of hours driving through this stunning region, about 100 miles from Vegas, we turned off the road and found a pretty little recreation area with excellent facilities in the Virgin River Canyon. Here we stopped for lunch before taking a short stroll along the river disturbing a few lizards as we went.
We rejoined the highway and after another hour or so found ourselves on the edge of Las Vegas. We turned past Nellis Airforce Base, where fighter planes soared above, escorting us as we drove along three sides of its giant square. The roads were wide, confusing and busy. We followed the road into a yellow sandy area of desert. After a while we crested a hill and there before us were the sparkling blue waters of Lake
Meade studded with small rocky mounds. We drove along the side of this pretty lake for some time before joining the Hoover Dam Approach road. We drove through a checkpoint, reminding us we were entering a piece of critical national infrastructure, and then the road climbed a bit before steeply winding down again. From the road you could see nothing at all of the dam, the canyon or the immense lake behind the wall. You could have been driving over any bridge.
The Hoover Dam is an incredible feat of engineering. It is vast in scale and holds back an almost incomprehensible amount of water as it gracefully sweeps across a huge chasm - even changing time-zone as it does so. From the canyon walls huge pylons jut out, carrying high-tension cables which enable the "miracle" of Las Vegas... a city which wouldn't exist without the electricity and water control provided by the dam. Beyond the pylons, high above the dam, is an elegant single-span bridge, towering so high that the pedestrians on it can only just be seen. When we arrived the sun was falling behind this bridge. Far below us, the river emerged into the canyon, appearing
much smaller and calmer than expected. On both sides of the canyon are huge buildings, sometimes literally carved out of the walls.
The dam was an impressive sight but if I'm honest I was a disappointed. Since learning about it in school I had an image of something far more immense and grand than could ever be built. There was no way that this construction could live up to the ridiculous proportions it had assumed in my mind. Nor was it as pretty as I'd expected - though why I expected prettiness from industrial architecture I don't know. These feelings take nothing from the achievement that the dam represents but are a warning to go to places with few expectations.
We didn't have a huge amount of time to spend at the dam and we left after walking across it. We drove back to Vegas as it was getting dark - the garish lights of the city blaring on the horizon. The rush-hour traffic was horrendous. We battled against the dazzling lights of the oncoming traffic before they petered out and we were left on a dark highway heading to our destination, Pahrump, Nevada.
Eventually we turned
into our hotel's car park, wondering what lay ahead of us. We had to walk through the casino to get to the check in desk. Here we saw endless rows of slot machines with their lights flashing. In front of many of them were gormless people in an almost catatonic state, mechanically putting money into the machines and pressing buttons. The whole scene was reminiscent of a Jules Verne or HG Wells dystopian future. It was horrible to behold and we retreated as quickly as possible into our room.
Next morning I was told off by a security guard as I tried to take some pictures of this vision of hell. I find it ironic that in the "Land of the Free" it is forbidden to take photographs of slot machines. We didn't feel like lingering and left as soon as possible.
Our first priority of the day was to head to a supermarket and a Walmart obliged. This was our first Walmart in the US and a cultural experience of sorts. It was an immense place and it took us almost an hour to find our way around and get a few groceries. We struggled to find
much fruit and veg but we did find the following: fruit juice with added high fructose corn syrup; a selection of a dozen varieties of peanut butter flavoured crackers and possibly twice as many cheese flavoured; endless packets of streaky bacon but no lean bacon; and huge tubs of products it would be impossible to use before they spoil (like a gallon of mayonnaise or ten pounds of pancake mix). I left the store wondering if this is a part of the dystopian future, or indeed if it is a conspiracy to bring about that future. Perhaps, on reflection, coffee creamer is also part of this conspiracy?
After this experience, fuelled by huge amounts of sugar, we hit the road for the start of a long day of driving which would take us through Death Valley and on towards Yosemite.
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