12/15/2009

Vegas trip - Red Rock Loop - sort of

I have been doing a righteously crappy job in race and travel reporting this year. Maybe I will catch up a bit over Christmas break, or maybe I will just sleep in, but here is what I did the week after Thanksgiving. Business trip to Vegas. Here is the good part:
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Ok, I hate Vegas. I have fond memories from the years 1998-2000 or so attending interbike and staying at a hotel on the strip, but boy is it kind of nasty when there is no interbike to distract me. I apologize to everyone who I have scoffed at when they complain about Vegas and interbike being in Vegas. It does suck. My bad. You were right. I think interbike anywhere for me would be fine, but I now agree that interbike anywhere but vegas is finer. Although, I might enjoy interbike in Vegas more than interbike in Anaheim (without a car). But I was not there for interbike, I was there for a work meeting, so Vegas, you suck.

My hotel was just one megablock from the strip, across the street from a golf course. I packed my bike friday and my running shoes with the plan to do some after meeting riding at night and also a big ride planned the day after the meeting, and perhaps some running on the golf course at night. Turns out the golf course was surrounded by, no joke, something like 20 foot fences. Probably to keep dinosaurs out. They successfully eliminated any chance of me running though. So the running shoes stayed packed.

It took about 20 minutes to walk the megablock from my hotel to the strip. It was not a pleasant walk. The good news is that there was a cool monorail going to the strip from just outside my hotel. The bad news is that the monorail costs 5 dollars PER RIDE. While probably more pleasant than walking in vegas, this fails the public transportation model. You can get from Fremont to San Francisco for 5 bucks on BART, no way less than a mile of walking is worth a 5 dollar trip. Unless it comes with a 42 ounce steak. I did go to the strip one night and got stuck in the worlds biggest most empty mall. Glargh. But anyway, lets talk about what i did do and what was fun.

As part of the meeting, I did get to ride in a very cool and very expensive restored landcruiser on a tour of yucca mountain. This was fun, but it takes forever to get there. Which is good. because that is probably where you want to store waste. Forever away.

Me and the really fun vehicle:
FJ40 Icon thingy. In the wilds of NV

Me and the yucca mountain:
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The next day I tried to get up really early and ride from my hotel to the Red Rock Canyon loop and back before my 12:45 flight back home. I splurged on a 6 am room service breakfast so I would be well fueled and ready to go by 6:30 at the absolute latest. I got up got ready to go, ate my expensive egg and coffee breakfast, checked the temperature outside and it was 28 degrees at 6:30 with a low sun. Crap. I am used to cold, but I was not packing my subfreezing kit with me, so I waited about twenty minutes. The sun was still barely up, but it was a balmy 30, so I hopped on the fixie friday and went on my merry way. I was staying near the convention center and to get to the main east west bike route (Alta) I pretty much needed to head the wrong way for a bit and then loop north around the strip through downtown and back west on Alta.

Fortunately I had had some email correspondence with Bob from Hawaii from the bike friday list and he gave me some heads up on the route and a link to his map-my-ride map of his route when he rode the loop a few weeks before I did. I also had the chance to stop by a bike shop an pick up a las vegas cycling map and plot out my route. Unfortunately the map considered this a bike route:
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That is South Maryland Parkway, three lanes each way with no apparent shoulder due to the fact that they pretty much oil sealed every road in Vegas recently and there were no visible traffic lines anywhere. But hey, look at the photo bigger, see there on the right? Hawaiian food at the Walgreens! Bob would have been pleased. Probably...

Not a great route, but not a big deal at 7 AM. What was kind of a pain were all the traffic lights that take minutes to get through. It took a long time to get to downtown and across the highway and headed west. Alta pretty much starts on the west side of Highway 15 and has a bike lane all the way out to Red Rock Canyon. Just as Alta starts you pass by YAEGB (yet another excellent Gehry building), the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health:
Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Alta pretty much climbs steadily from downtown out to Red Rock Canyon, it was a slow cold grind on the way out there. It took about an hour for my fingers to warm up as the climbing kicked up a bit. There were at least 4 sections of road construction that required taking a lane amid Los Angeles quality SUV assholes. There were also a fair number of construction signs planted in the middle of the bike lane. Sometimes they were facing the other way. I assume your experiences may vary greatly, but I did not particularly enjoy the ride out on Alta. It is something like 11 miles of stop and go traffic with lots of construction. Feh. Probably would have been fine sans construction, but it was there. After an hour and a half of riding I finally felt like I was on the outskirts of the city:
Outside of vegas

But there are no outskirts in Vegas really, just varying densities of sprawl. If the economy ever kicks up again, I am pretty sure it will be sprawl right up to the Red Rock Canyon loop. There were lots of subdivisions sketched out in the desert awaiting houses. Anyhow, I think it took about 2 hours for me to get to the visitors center from my hotel via this route. Probably 22 miles or so. Once I got across 15 i was riding pretty hard to try to get to the loop and through it so I could get back to the hotel, pack the bike, shower and get to the airport. Alas. Reality kicked in. I had no time to do the route.

So enjoy pictures of me getting to the Red Rock sign:
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Near Red Rocks:
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Look mini-joshua trees, lower reaches of higher altitude mojave desert is soooo cute:
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I stopped at the really nice new visitor center, got a post card, ate a bar, refilled my bottles and headed for home. My camera ran out of batteries so no pics of the visitors center, but it was nice. It took 1 hour and 15 minuted to get back to the hotel. All told it was 3 and a half hours elapsed time. It would have probably have been comfortable if I had 5 or 5.5 hours to spare for the round trip, but it was too darn cold and it took too long to get out there. Red Rock Canyon, you and I have unfinished business. In retrospect, if I had a rental car, it would have been wiser to drive out there, do the loop and bike some of the scenic highways outside of town, like this one heading away from town from the Canyon loop:
IMG_1543
and then just pack up and drive to the airport and go home. Or just take a later flight. Or something. If you are planning to do this loop and you have a choice, I recommend staying at a hotel at the north end of the strip on the west side, or downtown, that will save you some very gratuitous lights and city riding. It was about 44 miles round trip as i did it. That was one of my longest rides of the year, so I am pretty happy I did what I did. I enjoyed it. I hope you learned something. I bet no one is still reading. Here are the rest of the photos from my trip.

6 comments:

mike said...

i read the whole thing. thanks. been to red rocks many moons ago as a teen on a family trip, relatives in vegas got us out of town (actually wouldn't go in town with us to do the vegas thing) to see the desert sights. nice place, aside from the city itself and it being july when we were there.

nordic_68 said...

i read it all. with a 2yr old in the house, i'd be glad to get in 44 miles of riding anywhere. but maybe not vegas...

StatrixBob said...

Aloha!

Thanks for post and the kind words. I'd have to say my experience was a little better than yours - it was at least 20 degrees warmer when I went. I was also a little less hurried and that probably made a difference.

I saw a lot of the "Hawaiian Food at Walgreens" sort of stuff. Las Vegas is a huge destination for local folks. I'm not that big a fan myself and probably wouldn't be going except for family obligations. It is, however, about the only place we, in Hawaii, can get to really, really cheaply.

As for riding in the city, Alta was a bit less scary than some of my rides in Honolulu, though colder. :-)

Mahalo!

Bob

Lou said...

I even looked at your pictures!

Have to fess-up here. I am one of the folks that suggested the Red Rock ride to Bob on Bike Friday's YAK..and, based upon a DRIVE out there in our SUV about 2 years ago. We had noticed that there were lots of riders on the road as well as doing the loop. Because we were in our V8 4Runner, I had no idea that it was UPHILL all the way out there...sorry guys.

That was quite a ride on a "fixie".

Add: Couldn't agree more about the overly large blocks in Vegas. Was there on a business trip in 1996 and took 30 minutes to walk to a building you could see right up ahead. Also when we were there in 2000 the monorail was free - that was great - 2007 was different as you described.

We don't plan on going back to Vegas.

Enjoyed your write-up.

Chad said...

Dood, I hope that Yucca isn't a big part of your future. At Sandia, a fellow post-doc's main job was helping to write the 'final' reports. Hello, worthless grunt work!

Didn't the Prez say no thanks to Yucca?

Haven't most of the people that worked on Yucca retired?

Smiles! -Chad

Tarik Saleh said...

Mike,
I think this ride would be ideal on an early summer morning, get out early for real and cost on home as it gets hot.

Nordic,
It is impressively sad how the big rides get smaller in distance as due to infants.

SBob,
I did not mind Alta, but for the construction, I had two really impatient people cut into opposing traffic in the construction zone to get around me. Morons. I learned my lesson on this trip and will either attempt it again with some more time or will do the rental car trick next time I have the misfortune of being in vegas...

Lou,
Honestly Bob sent me warnings about the distance and climb and how cold it was and how high the altitude was. Since I live where it is considerably higher and considerably colder, I figured I could whip out the ride. I somehow got the impression it was 36 miles round trip from his email, but I may not have been reading carefully. The climbing was not bad, the cold was, they were calling for lows of 40 at night, 28 was a bit of surprise... So it is doable, just not in 4 hours.

Chad,
No Yucca work for me (or most anyone), mostly an educational trip attached to a meeting. I am pretty sure that it will be back though, maybe not in this administration, but everyone else in the world who generates nuclear waste has a project like this, even those that reprocess to minimize the waste, I am pretty sure they will figure out that temp storage areas are not a viable long term solution. Or maybe not...

Thanks for reading everyone!