Hoover Dam tunnel.

“We don’t mention the ‘L’ word down here.” our guide exclaimed, “We just refer to seepage.”

Hoover Dam was one of those projects undertaken during the Great Depression that you just can’t see happening today – too big, too risky, too many toes to tread on. Today it towers over an impoverished Colorado River and holds Lake Mead in check – a monument to civil engineering on a grand scale, with lovely art-deco touches.

We went on a tour down into the bowels of the Dam, down long corridors and past enormous pipes vibrating with the power of the water rushing through them. The intake pipe we stood beside could fill an Olympic swimming pool in seven seconds.

The Las Vegas strip.

The walls of the Dam do have a mildly alarming number of cracks in them, but they each have a date written in beside them and most date from the 1940s, just after the Dam was completed. There are also a fair few spots where water seeps through the walls: Apparently, this is to be expected and it is definitely normal seepage, not the dreaded leak that shall never be named.

We were amused to discover that when the Dam was completed a series of contracts were signed which determine who will get electricity from it. Las Vegas did not sign a contract and so, in spite of its proximity and glaring need, gets no electricity from the Hoover Dam.

All style.

It can certainly use all the electricity it does get. We visited the Las Vegas strip this evening to look at the lights. The boys, demonstrating their refined upbringing summed it up well: fake and tacky. There’s admittedly something compelling about all the lights and the reproduction monuments, but I think you need to suspend all your critical faculties to enjoy it. Which is what the significant number of people walking about with huge tumblers of alcohol were clearly working on.

The strip is really not designed for a visit with kids: “Why will the ‘babes’ be with you in 20 minutes if you take one of that man’s cards?” was just one of the interesting questions fielded this evening.