wrong turn in nevada

Let's get this show on the road. For the first day of our adventure family trip, we set our sights on Lake Mead in Nevada.

campground night shot in nevada

The plan was to take the normal route out to Las Vegas but veer to the north side to spend the night.

Hoover Dam

With all our planning, the only real stop on this first leg was for me. I'd never been to the Hoover Dam before and really wanted to see it. You see, the Hoover Dam (originally the Boulder Dam) represented a nearly 100 year parallel to my life.

needles turnoff

On October 29th, 1929, the world was changed forever.

Between late 2007 and 2009, the US and most of the world saw another great economic decline.

Vegas pilings

This wasn't supposed to happen. Not when I was on the cusp of starting some unknown career. “I'm sure it will be over quickly,” my graduating class reassured ourselves. I was slated for graduation in early 2009 (which would have been nearly five years at UCLA) and I had optimistic hopes for my future. A political science degree from a prestigious university and I was all set. Yes, sir. The world was my oyster.

March '09 came and went. Back into my parents house for me. And oh, that college education that was supposed to be a bargaining chip for a great job? “Total bollox,” as the English would say. Either you needed to already have life experience or have gained working knowledge in a specific field, or there were a thousand other people with the same or better degree waiting in line with you. On one occasion, I literally stood in line with 530 other applicants. And no, it wasn't for American Idol.

The Hoover Dam is a symbol of triumph through difficult times, both historically and personally, and it seemed fitting. Part of this trip was living without limits and enjoying the time we had together. To take the world in as it came to us.

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
Photo credit: Craig Dietrick

The dam isn't the only attraction, though. One of the strangest things I've seen is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. It's a field of mirrors in the Mojave Desert all shining onto one tower for solar thermal generation.

Abandoned motel near Vegas

Another fun series along the way are the abandoned roads along the Interstate 15 as well as the dozens of abandoned gas stations and motels. Seeing these things instilled a sense of both sadness and optimism as it meant that we were not only letting go of little bits of the past, but advancing to a more efficient future since we now don't have to stop as often.

wrong road

Just before getting to the Hoover Dam, I missed our turn. The sun was going down, my navigator was getting tired (Chelsea) and I was too busy looking at all the rock formations. We drove the short distance into Arizona and pulled off the road at the mouth of Kingman Wash Access Road. With a hasty look at our digital maps, we thought we would drive out and see if we could see the dam from another angle.

about to leave

What we found instead was a beautiful desert landscape…all to ourselves. We continued as far as daylight permitted – and then some! – coming to the edge of Lake Mead itself. There were only two other families in the area and they had consciously scattered themselves. I jackknifed the trailer and we set up camp. It was a happy accident for us all, and I was fine with seeing the dam tomorrow.

campsite setup

The boys, Chelsea, Kraken and Bjorne all dozed off underneath a blanket of stars. I spent another hour taking long exposure photographs and then tucked myself in as well.

sun setting over the lake

For a trip starter, it was a great warm up. Learning to enjoy the little things and not sweat the small stuff.

Kingman Wash - quick day trip from Las Vegas near Hoover Dam

A small poem, if you will:

On the road, in our truck we set out.
The highway, America's vein we'd drive about.
Passed sage, tumble weed, dune and rock.
All the sights and people we would take stock.
Roads straight, narrow, windy and hot.
Give up, quit, and turn back we would not.
Highways, some young. Highways, some old.
Highways, some legends yet to be told.
Some more smooth and clean like slate.
Some like rubble and out of date.
As our tires turned forward and we pressed on,
I dreamed and imagined pioneers long gone.
Across the same valleys, mountains and streams,
they too passed over in search of their dreams.
With our dogs and surplus trailer in tow,
we had no idea 5000 miles we'd go.
Bumping and clacking to the Hoover Dam,
this is the way our road trip revival began.
We did not know our turn we would miss,
or that the wrong road would lead us to this.
Our own plateaus, valleys, mountains and lakes.
Together, as a family, there were no mistakes.
To bed went the boys beneath unveiled twinkling stars.
Freedom, wilderness and peace wash away urban scars.
Away on our voyage like a ship at sea,
wherever the wind pushed us is where we would be.
Our cape would be Yellowstone, so ancient and proud.
“On with adventure!” we shouted aloud.
Now on with our trip, it's started to go,
Away from our home in San Diego.

Next up: the Hoover Dam!