Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 1 – 7, 2012 “ Hoover Dam & 3 Museums”

Hoover Dam was on our “to do” list this past week, and in hindsight, I’m certainly glad it was. Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam continues to draw crowds more than 70 years after its creation, and attracts more than a million visitors a year.

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and almost one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named in honor of President Herbert Hoover.

Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc, which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and the lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

Six Companies built an aggregate producing and batch plant to supply 4.5 million yards of concrete and gravel. Workers poured concrete into a honeycomb of tiered "blocks" that ice-cold water running through embedded pipes cooled, solving the problem of intense heat generated by the chemical reactions solidifying concrete. The crest height of the dam was reached in March 1935, two years ahead of schedule, with 3,250,335 cubic yards or 6.6 million tons of concrete poured into the dam structure. Contrary to oft-repeated legend, no one is buried in the concrete, though ninety-six men were officially listed as having died on the project.

Pictured below is a scale model of the 230 poured concrete "blocks" that make up the base of the dam. Each block is approximately 50 feet long x 50 feet wide x 5 feet tall, and were interlinked to provide a base able to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8, and to allow for the base to move with the earths crust. This construction method was untested at the time, and demonstrates a tremendous amount of ingenuity and foresight on the part of the designers and engineers. 

Completed in October 2010, the Mike O' Callaghan -- Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge offers spectacular views that were once only available by helicopter. Visitors have access to drive to this bridge and see the dam from a high vantage point. Located about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam, the walkway on the bridge is approximately 900 feet above the Colorado River.

Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, and is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed for workers on the construction project, about 25 mi (40 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. The dam's generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. 

The Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Jr. Aerospace Museum - located next to the Twenty Mule Team Museum in downtown Boron, CA and serves the public as an educational facility dedicated to preserving flight history and flight research performed over Boron and the surrounding Aerospace Valley.

Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Jr. was a former Vice-Commander at the Air Force Test Flight Center at Edwards. During his illustrious career Colonel Saxon spent 17 of his 30 years of military service stationed at Edwards. He also logged more than 4,000 flight hours and many of the missions he flew were over the skies of Boron and the surrounding areas. Some of the aircraft he flew during his 30 year career include the F-4, the A-1, the T-38 and his favorite the F-15.

Since the 1940s the town of Boron has served as the approach corridor for experimental and military aircraft landing on the runways of Edwards Air Force Base. Their unique geographic location has earned Boron the title of the "Northern Gateway to the Aerospace Valley" and over the years they have witnessed thousands of experimental test flights being conducted by NACA, NASA, the United States Air Force and private industry.

Several milestones in flight history have taken place in the skies over Boron over the last six decades. One-of-a-kind experimental aircraft, commonly referred to as X-Planes, have continuously flown their high-speed, high-altitude, record-breaking missions in the skies over Boron and the surrounding Aerospace Valley. Some of the historical events that have taken place or originated in the Aerospace Valley include, the breaking the sound barrier (X-1), the first hypersonic flight (X-15), the setting of a world speed record for a winged aircraft (X-15A), the first landing of a NASA Space Shuttle orbiter (Enterprise), and recently the setting of a new world speed record by an air breathing aircraft (X-43A). 

Pictured below is a test prototype delaminated composite rocket combustion chamber and nozzle designed to run on propane and liquid oxygen. It was test fired, and as you can see, it failed; back to the drawing board.

Every once in awhile in our travels, we come across some real “characters”, as is the case with Florence Lowe Barnes aka “Pancho”. This gal had some chutzpah, in an era that it was not kosher for women to be so verbose. If you want to know the rest of the story, just click on the link. Some of her “fellow” aviators have commented that she was a much better aviator than Emilia Earhart, but that she had the mouth of a sailor.

Twenty Mule Team Museum - An interesting note about the museum is that the land was literally purchased one-square foot at a time, after the mile-long strip of land between Boron Ave and the railroad spur was offered to the Chamber for $8,000. Various fundraisers were held and the land was slowly purchased.

The Chamber/Museum building was originally owned by Pacific Coast Borax (now known as U.S. Borax), after they moved their main mining operations and sold many of the old staff houses and cabins; one old staff house was purchased by Paul Sigman who moved it to Aerial Acres, about 20 miles from Boron, and then later sold it to the Chamber for $1,000. The building was moved to its present location in 1978 by 10 local businessmen who each donated $100 to purchase and move the structure. U.S. Borax donated $10,000 to the Chamber to convert the old building into a museum. Exhibits include a 1930s kitchen, 1930s beauty shop, an exhibit of the old equipment from the Boron Volunteer Fire Department, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial, granite rock and drill, an ore bucket, a borax scrapper, sack printer.

Next, it was on to the borax mine, just NW of Boron. On display was a life size version of the 20 mule team, with the original wagons. Back in the 1870’s, muleskinners drove these wagons about 20 miles a day to cover the 165 mile trip to Mojave, loaded with up to 30 tons of borax.

Today this mine supplies 40% of the world needs for borax, shipping up to 3,000 tons per day. It operates 365/24/7, and employs 800. The processing plant is located adjacent to the mine.

Today, the mine is 2.5 miles long, 1.5 miles wide and over 800 feet deep. Projections indicate the mine has enough borax to supply the world’s need for the next 40-50 years.

Trucks capable of transporting 50 tons carry the ore out of the mine to the processing plant. It’s hard to grasp just how big the mine and trucks used are, when viewed from over a mile away.

To give some perspective, here is one of the tires used on the truck pictured above next to CC.

We have worked up quite an appetite visiting three museums in one day. Locals recommended Domingo’s, as legend reveals, has been the place returning astronauts have eaten their first meal, once back on earth, since the Shuttle Program began. If it’s good enough for Neil Armstrong, it’s good enough for us. The food was very good, and CC thought the chips and salsa deserved a 9.5.

Whoever would have thought a stopover in sleepy Boron, CA would be so interesting? In our book, Boron is one of those “diamonds in the rough” we especially enjoy discovering. Now it’s time for Happy Hour; cheers!

Thanks for taking the time to drop in and check out our latest escapade. From here we are moving to Visalia, CA, to take in Sequoia NP, and Kings Canyon NP. Take care and stay well……………….

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