Boulder City - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

January 14, 2020

Boulder City

Boulder City was born in a desert super bloom, springing to life virtually overnight in 1931 to house the thousands of depression era workers streaming to the area to help build Boulder Dam (since renamed Hoover Dam, in honor of the president who commissioned its construction).

The city developed rapidly over the next three or four years under the control of the  Bureau of Reclamation.  The hotel we’re staying at, the Boulder City Hotel, sprang up in 1933 to host visiting dignitaries and to support a booming tourism industry.  Most of the commercial buildings in the town’s small commercial district sprouted up within a few years of each other.

The dam was completed in 1936, the lights went on in Southern California and southern Nevada soon after, and the government finally relinquished control of the city in 1959.

And then, another desert miracle occurred: the citizens of Boulder City decided to preserve the character of their small town by imposing strict building and land use controls.  Just a few miles from sprawling, crazy Las Vegas and its nearby bedroom suburb of Henderson, Boulder City stands alone, a small desert rose of livability.  We stayed here two nights, and left sorry we weren’t staying longer. 

The Boulder Dam Hotel
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In Boulder City. They even have a film festival!
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The Blues Brothers belt it out on Arizona Street. The seven main streets of the central city were all named for the seven southwestern states that participated in the dam construction.
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Commemorative public art works are scattered about town. This is a sculpture honoring ‘puddlers’, the concrete workers who spread and leveled out fresh concrete pours with their shovels and feet.
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 Boulder City stands adjacent to another small desert miracle: the River Mountains Loop Trail.   Begun in 1996, this is a giant 35 mile unbroken paved cycling and walking loop that starts right at the edge of town, rolling (quite steeply in places) through the desert and along the edge of Lake Mead.  It must be the best road cycling experience available in the region, and it’s the reason we’re here.  We rode it on our first visit here seven years ago, and remember it fondly.  We just drove over from Las Vegas that time though, not knowing what a delight Boulder City is or even that it existed at all.  Staying here and just biking a few blocks to the trail is so much better.

And, if you come here you should stay at this hotel.   A very nice place, not expensive, and it comes with an excellent a la carte breakfast.  It has the unfortunate and unique quirk that both the hot and cold faucets for the shower blow hot only - scalding hot, even - but maybe they’ll have straightened that out before you get here.

One of the best riding experiences you could imagine here. For 35 miles you never need to leave the path or cross a busy street or highway.
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It’s a paved trail most of the way, but for a short distance by Boulder City it shares the space with a drainage canal.
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Dropping toward Lake Mead.
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The loop also links to the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail, an unpaved trail that follows the historical route of the rail line that brought construction materials to the dam site.  It’s a significant attraction in its own right, and gives walkers and bikers access to Hoover Dam.  It’s a beautiful trail, well-surfaced, passing through six rough cut tunnels.  Heavily used by walkers and their dogs primarily, in season.  It’s closed for the four hottest months of the year though to prevent people from dying in the desert in sight of Lake Mead far below.

On the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail
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On the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail
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One of the six tunnels on the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail
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Lake Mead, from the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail
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On the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail
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And, Hoover Dam is of course an astounding site, well worth the bike ride out.  You can bike or walk right across the dam, now that it’s no longer a highway.  Amazingly enough it was still in use as Highway 93 as recently as 2010, when the huge new bridge across the canyon was finally completed.  It must have been a horrendous bottleneck for east-west traffic before then, as well as a nerve-wracking drive across the narrow top of the dam.

Hoover Dam, aka Boulder Dam
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Hoover Dam is graced with some significant monumental commemorative art workand architecture. These bronzes were the largest bronzes ever cast in the United States at the time they were created.
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At Hoover Dam
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The road we’re walking on is the former route for US93, but now it crosses the towering new Hoover Dam Bridge. Opened in 2010, it is huge. At 1,900 feet across, it is the longest single arched bridge in North America.
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The Hoover Dam Bridge, and the Colorado River. For me, it’s hard to believe this is the same River that runs through the Grand Canyon.
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Ron SuchanekThat bridge is terrifying.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekIt looks like it, but I wonder. There must be a pedestrian lane, I could see and hear people walking along up there. Just think what a great bungy-jump spot this could be though. Yee-haw!
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1 year ago
The daredevil GBO has an exciting moment, adding another state to his life list while looking down into the void. Here, he gets a nice assist from our Garmin, his new travel buddy. It lets him stand erect and get the best view.
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Ron SuchanekHe doesn't share my fear of heights apparently.

"Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths."
-Stephen Wright
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekI think it’s because he’s 2-D, and has very poor depth perception.
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1 year ago
Jen GrumbyStill catching up on older entries and so good to see GBO, still out living the Bottle Opener Dream.
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1 year ago
On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail. Some of these rollers are pretty awful, so come prepared.
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Looking toward Las Vegas from the River Mountains Loop Trail. Yes, staying in Boulder City is definitely better.
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Jen GrumbyBleh .. looks like The Brown Cloud of Denver!
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1 year ago
We finish our loop with a dam great bike shot.
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Jen GrumbyYes! You should sell this photo to Bike Friday.
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1 year ago

Video sound track: May I Suggest, by Susan Werner

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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 3,300’; for the tour: 970 miles, 51,400’

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 970 miles (1,561 km)

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