Monday, June 18, 2012

What stays in Vegas, happens in Vegas

As I arrived in Las Vegas it was clear heat was a major factor. The thermometer hovered stubbornly between 103 and 109 degrees every afternoon and refused to dip below 80 overnight. Accordingly, I rose early and got my sight seeing out of the way between 6 and 9 a.m. most days. After a few day trips, it became clear that my plan to ride to Death Valley to camp was best postponed to a spring or fall trip in the future.

David was visiting friends in San Diego and called to say he'd discovered vests motorcyclists can soak in water and wear under a mesh jacket to stay cooler as the water in the vest evaporates. I picked one up and tried it out. It wasn't perfect, but it was much cooler than riding with no vest. David called back and asked me to buy him one, too. He couldn't find one the right size in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Daniel and his wife were vacationing at South Point Casino. I met them there for dinner and for a look at a few acres of slot machines and gaming tables.

The day after I arrived in Vegas, I noticed what looked like brake fluid leaking from my left front brake. I was hoping the bleeder was loose and I could solve the problem just by tightening the screw, but it turned out that the seals had failed on the left fork tube and it was gushing fork oil. Carter Motorsports had the seals in stock and replaced them in about three hours, while I dozed in the customer lounge.

My first sight-seeing trip was out past Henderson to Boulder City to see Hoover Dam, the colossal engineering project that created Lake Mead, provided water and recreation for local citizens and generated the electricity that powered Las Vegas' neon and slot machines.

From Twentynine Palms (A), I rode to Amboy (B), Kelso
(C) and Cima (D) before getting on I-15 to ride into Las
Vegas, Crossing the state line at Primm, Nev. From Vegas,
next morning I got up early and rode down to Hoover
Dam (F) before it got hot. At 5:30 a.m., it was 81 degrees,
but by 9 a.m. it was already in the 90s.
At Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, a "bathtub ring" of
calcium shows how far the lake is below high water.
A young Japanese tourist offered to take my picture and artfully framed
my head in the arch of the new bridge downstream from Hoover Dam.
His friend said "You lucky. He is professional." I had to show him
how to turn on flash fill though -- the sun was still low on the horizon
and the shadows were deep.
Signs of the times: "Spy v. Spy" graphics on the "Hoover Dam
Security Zone" warning signs. There was a security checkpoint with
armed guards, but they just waved me through. As the early bird,
I had my choice of hundreds of empty parking places, but the dam tours
weren't open yet.
Lake Mead is a popular playground for Las Vegans seeking a little
relief from the heat.
Friday evening, I got together with my wife's cousin Holly, her husband
Bob (front), Holly's son Billy for pizza, wine and conversation.
When I stepped out of the house on Saturday morning, a hot-air balloon
soared overhead.
Red Rock Canyon is a favorite of Las Vegas cyclists. The
geology is unusual: Layers of older granite on top of younger
stripes of red sandstone.
The desert has its own unusual animal hazards.
The Red Rock Canyon walls dwarf two automobiles and a
bicyclist in a white shirt on the road below. (Click photo for a
larger version)
After cruising around the red Rock scenic by-way, I stopped at Bonnie
Springs Ranch for a breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar.
Warning signs announce that there is a fine of $500 for feeding wild
burros and horses. This male, called a jack, who was wandering along
the road into Bonnie Springs Ranch with a harem of three jennies, didn't
seem a bit wild.
Sunday morning, I was up at 5:30 and on the road before 6, heading
north to Valley of Fire, which lies about 60 miles north of Las Vegas,
between I-15 and Lake Mead. In the hazy morning light, the state park's
craggy ridges lined up in rows.

Besides ancient petroglyphs, a stone arch is one of the park's main
attractions. I met another early-morning visitor who said she saw a
mountain goat butt a water faucet open, take a drink and walk away.
She said she went to turn off the faucet, but it was swarming with bees.
Warning signs mention that the local bees are Africanized -- she left the
water running.
As at Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire's geology features layers of
varying colors of rock, folded and smushed together, then eroded into
interesting shapes.
Leaving Valley of Fire, I rode back through the Lake Mead National
Recreation Area, hoping to get breakfast at Overton Bay. The ranger at
the gate said Overton was closed because of low water, but I could
probably get something to eat at Echo Bay. "Wolfgang will whip you
up something." Arriving at Echo Bay, I found a fisherman cleaning his
catch, but the restaurant and hotel had been closed for two years. I got
a Snickers and a Gatorade at the gas station and told the cashier what
the ranger said. "Aw, he was just messing with you," he said.
At Echo Bay, I soaked my hydro-cooling vest in the rest room sink and
wore it the rest of the way back to Las Vegas. The road through the Lake
Mead Rec Area was smooth, fast and curvy -- just the way we like 'em.
Returning to the city, I got a good look at the Strip from the east side.
One more day of preparations on Monday, then David joins us and we
strike off for the north early Tuesday.
My Sunday morning ride up to Valley of Fire (B) and Echo Bay (C) and
back was about 150 miles. The first half was in the cool of the morning;
the second was hot, but tempered by the water-soaked cooling vest.
According to the weather map in the Las Vegas paper, the high in Ely,
our first stop on the trip north, would be a mere 88 degrees -- very good

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