Book Club Travel

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 Connecting the Dots

My dad always said harvest his favorite time of year on the farm where he was raised. He told me about workers flooding the fields and moving with a swift singularity of purpose until the job was done. And feeding the workers was his mother’s greatest joy – and he bragged that they liked her food best of all the farms for miles around. I thought of my Dad often while reading Colossus. Sure, the Hoover Dam project was a little bigger than a harvest but the book takes you to the great result of a huge project and it shows you the place where the thousands of men who worked on it were housed and fed and cared for and to me – that is interesting stuff. I’ve mapped out this adventure with a little Boulder City, a little Hoover Dam and Lake Mead and a touch of Las Vegas.


Sample Itinerary


Early check in or drop bags at Boulder Dam Hotel

Boat Ride Around Lake Mead

Boulder City Walk the Downtown Area

Cocktails and Dinner at The Dillinger


Early Morning Walk Around the Bureau of Reclamation Neighborhood

Tour of Hoover Dam

 Lunch at The Restaurant at Boulder Dam Hotel

Drive to Las Vegas

Tour Las Vegas High School and Surrounding Neighborhood

Walk Fremont Street – Dinner in Las Vegas


Walk the Dam Worker’s Neighborhood

Breakfast at Mel’s Diner

Check Out

Getting Around

There’s no getting around this.  You have to fly to Las Vegas and rent a car.  You’ll need it to get around Hoover Dam, Boulder City and Las Vegas.

Building the Excitement

Let’s face it – there are times in Colossus when it’s a little dense. It’s possible your book club members will lose interest before the going really gets good. So, a great way to build excitement leading up to the book club weekend is to send out quizzes. I would start with about five questions just to see if your people are reading. You can promise prizes for the one who gets the most right. I would do it like this:

Book Club Travelers,

Our adventure is drawing near! As your guides, we want to make sure you are reading and enjoying Colossus. We have devised a quiz for you to take and the traveler who gets the most right will WIN A PRIZE!  Let the games begin:  HINT:  Every answer is in Chapter 1.

For 20 Points:  1.  What sets the Colorado River apart from all other waterways in the Western Hemisphere?

For 20 Points: 2.  Who was the first American to grapple with the idea of controlling the Colorado to give life to the desert around it?

For 20 Points:  3. Who finally located the Grand Canyon?

For 20 Points: 4. What else did the man discover?

For 20 Points:  5.  Who died fighting the battle to reclaim the desert?

Extra Credit:  Why was he too early and too late at the same time?


1.  Its vicious nature.  2.  William Phipps Blake – a geologist   3.  Joseph Christmas Ives – a Topographical Engineer  4.  Black Canyon  5.  Oliver Meredith Wozencraft

                                                              Talking it Over

What did you think of Colossus?

How do you think Michael Hiltzik’s did in the colossal task of breaking down the whole building of the dam.

How did Colossus illuminate life in the 1930’s for you?

What did you learn about the Colorado River in Colossus?

What does the act of taming that river say about the American mindset. Are we still the same?

Talk about Six Companies.  Which of the companies are still leaders in engineering and building to this day?

What was the most surprising thing you learned about Hoover Dam from Michael Hiltzik?

Who was your favorite character in Colossus?

Talk about Boulder City.  I was struck with how happy people seemed to be in the town. I think that says so much about a great shared purpose.  What do you think?

Talk about how the workers lived in Boulder City.

Examine how the Bureau of Reclamation set up its employees and Six Companies compared to the rest of the workers.

How do you think living in a company town compares to a real town?

What about the way Hiltzik painted the early Las Vegas?

How do you feel about the future of the Colorado River and its ability to supply water to the west?

 Literary Loot

Colossus takes you to the desert, to a desert town, to a river and to Las Vegas.  There are some great ways you can parley that into gifts for bags or for prizes.

Hoover Dam Invitations

What to do:

These are some cool cards.  Use them for invites to the book club weekend.


In  Colossus:

“Where there was any vegetation at all, it was of the lowliest variety, resinous greasewood and creosote whose roots club like talons to the sun-hardened earth.”  Page 147

What to do:

You are headed to the desert.  You could have a cactus waiting in the rooms for your guests!

Ben Glaha’s Photographs

In Colossus:

“Glaha eventually produced some four thousand negatives and thirty thousand feet of movie film at the dam site.”  Page 207

What to do:

The photographs of Ben Glaha are all collected in a fabulous book which you should get as a prize.

Department of Interior Account

What to do:

The Department of the Interior also wrote an account of the building of Hoover Dam.  You can buy that and give it out as a gift.

Hoover Dam Wall Clock

What to do:

This wall clock would be a great gift for someone who got everything right on the quiz!

Hoover Dam Shirts, Hat and Key Chains

What to do:

Any of these items would make for a great gift or prize.


Here is a list of songs you could buy on iTunes to make CD’s and hand out or just make one and play it through the weekend.

Fish on the Pond by George Harrison

Fisherman’s Blues by Water Boys

Literary Links

Hoover Dam

This YouTube video produced by the Bureau of Reclamation tells a great story.  This National Geographic video has great shots of the dam.

Boulder City History

Picture of the building of Boulder City.  This is a fantastic article from 1975 about Boulder City in the 193o’s.

Boulder City

Look at Boulder City getting some ink.

Boulder City on Twitter

Follow Boulder City on Twitter.

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