U.S. President Barack Obama took a break from preparing for Wednesday night’s debate with a quick visit to the Hoover Dam.

Wearing a gingham shirt, khaki trousers and sunglasses, according to a White House press pool report, the president asked some questions of a dam manager and a staffer from the U.S. Department of the Interior. He learned that most of the power generated from the dam – in Nevada, not far from Las Vegas – goes to Southern California, and that some of the 28,ooo people who built the dam were killed, but “fewer than you can imagine.”

A reporter asked Obama why he made the trip, and he responded: “It’s spectacular and I’ve never seen it before. I didn’t realize it was so close by.” Obama often takes breaks to visit tourist sites as he travels. Aides have said the tourist stops offer a mental break from the work of his office.

Obama is preparing for Wednesday night’s debate against Republican Mitt Romney at a resort in Henderson, Nevada.

His visit to a dam named after Herbert Hoover at such an intense time during his re-election campaign prompted some political speculation. A few Republicans noted that  Hoover was an incumbent who left the White House after he failed to end the Great Depression. But another view could be that Obama – a Democrat like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, replaced George W. Bush, a Republican like Hoover, who presided over the economic collapse.