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Quirky Sites, Boulder City, NV

Louise Speaks:  On a recent trip to Las Vegas, we realized there were several stops along the way that we seem to have overlooked over the years.  So this is the trip we decided to stop and see them all.

Boulder City, Nevada is the last town you go through before Las Vegas when you are traveling from Arizona.  Along the main highway is Hemenway Park, which is home to some Wild Bighorn Sheep.  The park is host to what seems to be a residential home to a wild herd of bighorn sheep.  The sheep come down from the hills to graze on the manicured lawn of this city park.  The herd varies in size from small lambs all the way up to huge horned rams, and there are sometimes as many as 60 animals roaming the park.  The sheep are so common that residents in the area refer to this park as “Sheep Park”.   The park also offers views of Lake Mead, a picnic area and a huge playground.  In fact today, as the sheep were roaming the park there were children playing at the playground and walked around the sheep like they were a common fixture of the park.  The sheep were in bunches at several different areas of the park, so they literally are “everywhere”.

Once you are back on the highway, just about a mile up the road, you turn left into the downtown area of Boulder City.  Our next Quirky Stop was Area 52, an alien book store and coffee shop that also sells tequila shots.  Many of the books in the store are rare and out of print.  There is an alien who meets you at the entrance and talks to you as if you are invading his planet.  The store probably has the largest collection of UFO books, figurines, and Star War collectables I’ve ever seen.  There are games, stickers, and just “stuff”.  Not really worth a stop, but it was on our list.

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Boulder City must be a pretty artistic community.  There are sculptures and pieces of art along the sidewalks and in front of local business throughout the small town.  The one we were looking for was the “Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam”.  Alabam was a Hoover Dam worker who cleaned and restocked the outhouses.  The bronze statue depicts him as he often looked in life; with rolls of toilet paper draped over his shoulders.  He also totes a broom and other cleaning supplies.  The statue is right on the corner of the busiest intersection in town…what an honor.

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We were very disappointed that our last stop is no longer visible.  A restaurant in town was suppose to have a “Giant Whisk” on the roof of the building.  We searched through town and finally stopped and asked at the Chamber of Commerce.  Turns out the restaurant has gone out of business and the whisk is in the cities historical storage unit.

We visited the sites and we can now check them off our list, but unless you have another reason to go through Boulder City, none of these attractions are worth stopping to see.

 

 


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Hoover Dam Quirky Sites, Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada

Louise Speaks:  We have been to Las Vegas many times and have been to both Hoover Dam and the Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge / By Pass many times, but I never knew of the Quirky things until recently.  Since we are heading to Las Vegas once again, we decided to complete the list of Quirky sites and see them all today.

When going to Las Vegas from Arizona you must now go over the By Pass bridge and back track back to the dam.  It’s not like in the old days when you actually drove over the dam to get from Arizona to Las Vegas.  So we drove over the dam, found a place to park and then walked back to find all these quirky stops we just had to see.

Our first stop was the “Memorial to the Hoover Dam Dead”. Lots of men died during the building of Hoover Dam.  They fell from sheer rock faces, drowned in water, succumbed to dynamite explosions and many equipment accidents.  According to official accounts, no worker was ever lost to a concrete pour.  The pouring was only done 2 inches at a time, and there were lots of workers watching over each other for trouble.  While no one is buried at the dam, a memorial was constructed to remember the 96 men tallied as industrial fatalities.  A low-relief panel by sculptor Oskar J. W. Hansen, dedicated in 1935, shows a naked male emerging from waves in front of the dam.  A thunder cloud spits lightning bolts, stalks of grain sprout, and fruits and vegetables flourish.  The monument states: “They died to make the desert bloom.”

Only a few feet away from the Memorial to the Dead are the “Winged Figures of the Republic”.  These are a pair of angular, giant figures of humanoids with wings that stand 30 feet tall.  They guard the 142 foot American flag pole.  Sculptor Oskar Hansen, responsible for most of the dam’s various heroic and mythical artwork, made the figures from more than four tons of bronze. They sit on bases of black diorite. This stylish monument to the dam was dedicated in 1935.  In an odd astrological touch, the monument is surrounded by a terrazzo floor with a celestial chart which shows the exact position of key stars on the day the Hoover Dam was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt. The star map would assist a future civilization of giant flying humans to pinpoint the date as September 30, 1935.  The diagram shows the night sky the night the wings were dedicated.

The figures have been weathered to a green patina, but the toes are burnished to a soft gold by countless tourist hands.  You see rumor has it that on your way to Las Vegas, for luck you are to rub the angels toes…all 10 of them, with all 10 of your fingers.  So of course we did the rubbing….more than once.
Continuing walking along the Nevada side of the dam, and just a few feet from the Wings is the resting place of, “Dog of the Dam”. The story of this dog is quite interesting.  In 1932 a part-Labrador puppy with a jet black coat and a white blaze on his chest was said to have been born in the crawlspace beneath the first police building in Boulder City.  A laborer for Six Companies, the joint venture of construction companies building Hoover dam, began bringing him to the worksite while he was still a puppy, and he became a welcome addition to the workforce.  Political correctness did not occur to the men of the time, and they called the dog ”Nig.”The dog was as sure-footed as any mountain goat and made his way around the canyon and on the construction catwalks that the men used to navigate the dam.  Nig could climb up ladders and he followed the men into tunnels without fear.  Just as the men did, Nig arrived on the transport that brought workers from Boulder City where they stayed.  When the end-of-day whistle blew, Nig, too, lined up at the elevators to leave with the men.  But Nig was happy with just about any type of conveyance and sometimes hopped aboard the train servicing the area and was also once seen in the front seat of a black Cadillac belonging to an executive touring the site. According to Building Hoover Dam, an oral history of the project, the man’s wife was riding in the back seat, and the men were sure Nig was grinning.  The commissary even prepared meals for Nig, and just as they did for the men, they prepared a bag lunch for Nig. Each day Nig picked up his lunch with his mouth when the men did, and Nig left his lunch in the line where the men left theirs.  At noontime, he waited for one of the men to unwrap his meal for him, and he and the men all enjoyed their noon break together.

On February 21, 1941, it was unseasonably hot and Nig looked for shade under an idling truck.  Sadly the driver was unaware that Nig had crawled under the rig, and as the driver moved away from the site, Nig was crushed beneath the truck’s wheels. “Rough, tough rock-hard men wept openly and unashamed,” a newspaper wrote.  Nig was buried in a concrete crypt near the Nevada abutment and memorialized with a plague identifying him as a dog that adopted a dam.  But in the late 1970s the plaque became controversial.  A Wisconsin tourist complained to a Reclamation Bureau supervisor.  The on-site supervisor ignored the complaint but the fellow, a professor, went home to Madison, Wisconsin and complained to his Congressional representatives.

On March 21 1979, the plaque was removed; many Boulder City residents were very upset by this treatment of the “construction crew mascot,” and the local people petitioned Bureau of Reclamation to reinstate the plaque.  Eventually the locals prevailed, but a new plaque was put up that told the story of the dog who adopted a dam but it left off the dog’s name.  When the men poured the concrete in which to place the plaque, they took matters into their own hands.  They scratched the word “Nig” in the concrete itself so that everyone would know the name of the loyal dog who was beloved by all black and white workers alike.  As I had mentioned in the write up about the Memorial to the Dead, it says no one is buried at the dam, but Nig is and it is quite an impressive crypt, with plaque, picture and story.

Continuing along the sidewalk and just before you reach the Hoover Dam gift shop and the High Scaler Cafe is the “Hoover Dam High Scaler Monument”.  The monument includes the names of workers who perished during the building of the dam.  This larger-than life sculpture of a man scaling a rock wall represents a “high scaler.”  In the 1930s, fearless, dam workers would dangle hundreds of feet in the air, armed with jackhammers to jar loose rocks and dynamite to blast away at the canyon walls.  Lots of men died in this occupation and others in creating the immense structure that turns Lake Mead into electricity.

The bronze figure was created in the 1990s by sculptor Steven Liguori, in conjunction with a group of concessionaires who operate the businesses on government property around the landmark.  The statue was based on a photo, of Joe Kine, one of the last of the high scalers  who worked on the Hoover Dam project.  Upon completion the statue was presented to Joe on September 30, 1995, Hoover Dam’s sixtieth anniversary.  The statue was installed in 1998, and hangs against a dramatic cliff face.

All 4 stops can be viewed by just walking across the dam from the Arizona side to the Nevada side.  There is also a visitors center, a parking garage and tours below than dam can also be taken from this location.  Between these 4 Quirky stops, the dam itself and the By Pass Bridge, one could easily spend a good portion of a day here, especially if you have never been to the dam before.  Very interesting stop and a bit of history along the way.  Definitely worth a stop.


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Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Bowie, AZ

Louise Speaks:   As well as visiting all the State Parks in Arizona, we are also planning on visiting all the National Parks and Monuments.   A National Monument is a protected area that is similar to a National Park,  but can be created from any land owned or controlled by the federal government. Under a proclamation by the President of the United States, it is labeled a National Monument. National monuments can be managed by one of several federal agencies: including the National Park Services and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  National monuments can be so designated through the power of the Antiquities Act  of 1906.  This trip was to include two National Monuments but one was not accessible by RV so we will have to come back and visit Ironwood by car.  However, Fort Bowie Natinal Historic Site is on our agenda.

Following directions from Catalina State Park in Tucson, led us in the middle of nowhere.  Then we hit freeway construction and of course our exit was closed.  That made us take the next exit and enter the town of Bowie from the back side.  Luckily for us there was a sign showing us which way to go to reach the fort.  We drove along this very narrow highway until we saw a road that we think we were suppose to turn on.  See just another adventure.  Anyway, we turn on the road, and it’s a dirt road.  Did I mention we are in a motor home?  A fairly large motor home?  Traveling with Thelma and Louise is not always about the destination, it is almost always about the adventure.  So we continue on this dirt road with the dirt in our rear view mirror.  Finally we come to a sign and it says straight for trail or left for handicap and Fort.  Not sure which way to go, we go towards the Fort.  Now let me back up.  We were already informed that this was a “hike in Monument”.  We were told that you had to park and hike in a mile and a half to get to the Visitor Center.  Of course that means you have to hike a mile and a half out and back to your car.  We weren’t sure if we were going to do that, but we knew we had to at least get a picture of the sign.  So now we are headed off to what we think is the fort.  We drive at least 5 miles, still on a dirt road and we see a turn off…up a hill…and it says “Park Residence”.  Well that’s not where we’re headed but we knew we couldn’t go straight as that was through a very small gate and there is no way we would fit.  So up the hill we go.  At list this part was paved, but it was nothing more than a driveway.  We get to the top and there is a very small parking lot…room for maybe 3 cars.  So we just park as best we can and we take up at least two spaces and most of the driveway but it does appear that we are the only ones here so we’re not too concerned.  We look around and see no one.  We do see a building that bears a sign “maintenance”.  We walk around looking for someone or something to let us know where we are.  Finally there is a piece of wood, with painted on writing that says “Visitor Center 500 feet”.  It points up a dirt stairway up a small hill.  Not really sure where it leaves, we head up the hill.  At the top is…well we are shocked.  It is the Visitor Center.  The one that we were told was a 3 mile round trip hike to reach.  Right in front of the Visitor Center is Fort Bowie in all it’s glory.

Fort Bowie was a 19th-century outpost of the United States Army.   This particular location was picked due to the water supply available.  The remaining buildings and site are now protected as Fort Bowie National Historic Site.  Fort Bowie was established by the California Volunteers in 1862 after a series of engagements between the California Column and the Chiricahua Apaches.  The most violent of which was the Battle of Apache Pass in July 1862.  The fort was named in honor of Colonel Bowie  commander of the 5th Regiment Infantry  who first established the fort.  The first Fort Bowie resembled a temporary camp rather than a permanent army post.  In 1868, a second, more substantial Fort Bowie was built which included adobe barracks, houses, corrals, a trading post, and a hospital.  The second Fort Bowie was built on a plateau about 500 yards  to the east of the first site. For more than 30 years Fort Bowie and Apache Pass  were the focal point of military operations eventually culminating in the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 and the banishment of the Chiricahua Apaches.  The fort was abandoned in 1894.

The Fort Bowie and Apache Pass site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.  The remains of Fort Bowie are carefully preserved, as are the adobe walls of various post buildings and the ruins of a Butterfield Stage Station.    The mile and a half hiking trail to the old fort passes other historic sites such as Apache Spring, Siphon Canyon, the ruins of the Butterfield Stage Stop and Bascom’s Camp.  We missed these sites because we found this short cut and we are happy we did.  We still didn’t find a sign and were told the only sign is by the parking lot where you park and take the trail to the fort.  So we managed to get out of that small parking lot and head back to where we made the original turn and headed for the hiking trails.  We found the parking lot and the Fort Bowie sign and then continued down the 8 mile dirt road to the Freeway.

Some interesting facts.  In 1958 a Western entitled Fort Bowie was made, starring Ben Johnson.  This was before it was declared a National Monument.  The film charted one of the disputes between the US Cavalry based at the fort and the Apaches.  The Chiricahua Apaches were first sent to Fort Marion in Florida, then Mt. Vernon Barracks in Alabama, and finally Fort Sill in Oklahoma.  If you go to our Ft. Sill Blog you will see Geronimo’s Grave site.

As I have mentioned many times before, I’m not that much into history, but setting out a goal to see all the National Monuments is giving me a history lessen whether I want it or not.  There is a small museum in the Visitor Center and you are able to spend as much time as you want walking around the fort and seeing what remains of the various buildings.  The fort is pet friendly so Gracie was able to join us on our adventure.  There really isn’t much here but remains of the fort.  They have done nothing to perserve the fort, but I guess that was history.  If you are out this way, when the weather is good, NOT in the summer, it would be an interesting stop.  But the trouble to get here, I’m not sure it’s worth the time.  Fort Bowie gets  a C rating.  It’s okay, because we stumbled on it by accident, but I wouldn’t have made the 3 mile round trip hike to see it.