Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Grand Coulee Dam

Yesterday's sightseeing trip was to the Grand Coulee Dam. We waited until late afternoon as we wanted to view their laser show which didn't start until 10 p.m. It was about 55 miles from our campground and a pleasant drive with the late afternoon sun casting shadows on the basalt cliffs lining the roadway.

Upon arrival at the dam we noticed the roadway across the dam was closed off. Another loss to the terrorists. The small visitor center is stark inside; it seems they gutted the interior and have not yet finished putting up all the interactive displays. There was a wheelchair used by FDR on display, an air pump used for the divers, a few plugs of stone removed from the floor of the river but very little else. We watched three film clips, the most interesting of which was the 51 minute video of the building of the dam. The Grand Coulee was created using 12 million yards of concrete and is just under a mile in length. The Grand Coulee does not have the aesthetic appeal of the Hoover Dam with its copper details and Art Deco styling, but it is impressive in its size.

We discovered there were no tours of the dam itself available due to the fact that someone put the wrong type of Freon in the tour bus and it had to be purged. Okay, we've got a lot of time to kill, so we drove further into Coulee Dam and ate dinner at the Melody Restaurant on the main street. A good meal, freshly prepared and hot at a very reasonable price for Washington. We then decided to try the casino a block down. That was a mistake. It's a tiny casino with about 100 slots, consisting of penny, nickel, quarter and dollar slots. All the machines were very tight and were not really interesting in the style or type of games, so after about an hour we left to return to the visitor center to await the laser light show. We just sat in the truck and talked for an hour until the flow of water started over the dam, presaging the start of the show.

Let me just say this; if you have seen the laser light show at Stone Mountain in Georgia you will be extremely disappointed by this show. I understand, of course, that the Grand Coulee Dam show is a free service provided by the Department of Reclamation and that Stone Mountain charges an entry fee to their park which allows a more professional version of a light show, but I have to say it looked very amateurish and that most of the show was a jumble of geometric shapes panned from wall to wall. But hey, towards the end they play Neil Diamond's "America" with pictures of an eagle flying around so they started to redeem themselves!

Driving back to Soap Lake we were pretty much the only folks on the road and there were a zillion stars out. I put on a Neil Diamond CD to sing along with and the trip home went quickly. I briefly considered a cup of coffee with a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream when we got home, as it was chilly sitting outside watching the show, but reconsidered since it was after midnight. We'll be moving to Blaine on Thursday and it appears the temperatures will be quite a bit colder there so I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to have the coffee and Irish Cream there.

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