Las Vegas Here We Come!
Many thanks again to Mike and Melissa Kitchen, and their three friendly Welsh Corgis, our generous hosts in Kingman, Arizona! After a great night's sleep, lots of good cycling talk, and breakfast charging us up with calories and coffee, we headed back to Rt 93 for a wonderful ride into our 12th state, Nevada. Katie, the senior leader of the Ward-Waller sisters, joined the riders for the 40 mile morning ride and kept up without missing a beat, despite taking her first ride using clip-in shoes on Jane's bike. Our dream for a wide, clean road shoulder was met and the winds were minimal, the sun not too hot and the day saw us rolling along past former and present towns such as Chloride, Mineral Springs, and Silverado. All towns were in their heyday in the last half of the 1800's as mining towns and now are either ghost towns, or much smaller than their former glory days. We marvel at the wide open spaces and striking mountains in this areas as we head through the wide valley to Hoover Dam.
Dave Palmer, Katie's husband, supported the team as the Manatee driver and/or navigator and snack, water, and sunscreen replenisher, cheering us on with terrific "Toot, Toots" as the van passed the riders. The road after lunch rose into some gradual, long climbs and exhilarating descents into the foothills and canyons at the approach to Lake Mead and the remnants of the Grand Canyon. Our geologist, Chelsea, led us in marveling at the impressive mountains and "rocks".
Soon we descended to the Hoover Dam Bridge, about 70 miles into our ride for the day, and stopped to marvel at the view of Lake Mead, now at least 200 ft lower than its highest water level, and the incredible structure of the Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 to provide hydroelectric power to the growing power needs of the Southwest, including the young city of Las Vegas. The power towers and lines climbed out of the deep gorge from the Hoover dam up the rocky slopes at all angles, like giant insects escaping fumigation. Katie and Dave met us with welcome resupply of snacks and water and we soon pushed on to the 2.5 mile climb up through Boulder City to our daily treat at Dairy Queen at the top of the hill.
The rest of the day was smooth sailing, mostly downhill through Henderson and into Las Vegas. We were routed along Boulder City Highway, a cyclists dream with both excellent road surface and bike lanes as well as a separate bike trail, if riders wished to ride further removed from traffic. Many thanks to Ron Floth who had located rooms for us at the Main Street Station Casino and Brewery. Thanks Main Street for your support! We sampled the microbrew best with dinner and then took a short stroll on Main Street before calling it a day. Steph won big at the slots, winning $0.25 on her $1.00 bet!
Tuesday saw us riding bikes from our hotel to a nearby neighborhood school where we met many Las Vegas partner organizations at the Griffith Elementary school. This school visit was arranged by the energetic and accomplished Cheryl Wagner, the Clark County Safe Routes to School coordinator. Cheryl was joined by OC and Diane from the City of Las Vegas Traffic Engineering Team, Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, and several other coalition partners working on safer routes and getting kids moving in Las Vegas as Jeanie led our presentation to the assembled students, who were very attentive and enthusiastic in response to our story of our trip and bike safety education program. The students continue to come up with wonderful questions from details such as what hand positions do we use riding our bikes, how much do we eat, do we ride on the interstate, etc. From a show of hands, the majority ride bikes, at least for fun, if not to school. The City of Las Vegas and the Safe Routes to School program should be proud of the outstanding, bike friendly accommodations along Alta Road and around this school, including bike lanes, good signage, landscaping and a serpentine road design, intended as a traffic calming measure that is much more attractive and less annoying than speed bumps.
We returned from the school by bike to the Regional Transit Center, a beautiful "green" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certified) building. This amazing center is a "best in our trip" example of a centerpiece to encourage downtown cycling- for a very modest $60 annual membership fee, one can come to the transit center, leave your bike at the bike valet service, shower, get any needed bike repairs and be on your way. Daily users may rent bikes or electric bikes, and you can even purchase a bike. The center is a very welcoming building and centrally located near City Hall and the bustling downtown area.
The city of Las Vegas and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in partnership with
the Clark County School District (CCSD) School-Community Partnership Program/Safe Routes to School and the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) welcomed us again at the RTC. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman presented our team with the her famous $1000 Mayor's poker chips, and local leaders including Ward 5 Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow and Ward 1 Councilwoman and RTC Commissioner Lois Tarkanian, recognized us for raising awareness about bicycling and
walking, as well as the Safe Routes to School Program and its benefits to the Las Vegas community.
RTC Deputy General Manager Tina Quigley also spoke passionately about the Complete Street vision and echoed the mayor's commitment to improving policy and infrastructure for active transportation. The city health department was represented by the assistant to Dr. Lawrence Sands who discussed the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant from the Centers for Disease Control. These funds are awarded to communities based on demonstrated partnering between city agencies (transportation, health, parks and recreation, etc) to make their community healthier with respect to minimizing tobacco use and decreasing the risk of obesity through policy and infrastucture changes. We had already, earlier in our trip, been very impressed with the bike friendly projects and policies that San Antonio was able to jump start with similar funding and think that Las Vegas will be at least as we were very impressed with the current status and future plans for Las Vegas as a bike friendly city!
League of American Cyclists rating? Should be high! RASR rating for Las Vegas= Five Star!
We pedaled west and slightly uphill out of Vegas with a great lunch at Baja Fresh and a bike helmet repair for Kaitlynn at Las Vegas Cyclery and arrived in the Red Rocks Nature preserve area in early afternoon, soon starting a nearly endless 10 mile climb over the Spring Mountain pass and starting the best descent ever- 12 miles or more long into Pahrump, NV. This may have been the most exhilarating ride I've ever taken and the most beautiful sunset at the end. On the way uphill, we met a wonderful fellow distance rider, David Miller (ride50at50.com) who is riding all 50 states by his 50th birthday later this year. Not only is he riding, self-supported, but his Weimaraner, Max, rides in a trailer, or runs alongside. A second trailer carries Dave's supplies and essentials. We chatted with Dave during a snack/water stop and ended up inviting ourselves to stay with his hosts, Joan Leitner and Steve Elston, and their Weimaraner AJ, as extra campers in their aircraft hanger home in Pahrump. Joan and Steve are fellow cycliing advocates, more fond of the mountain biking than road travel. Joan came out and met us on the highway to confirm the invitation and soon we were meeting new friends in the hanger while we feasted on our gourmet Chinese dinner from Panda Express. We had a wonderful evening and great night's sleep and picked up some good travel tips for our next days ride into Death Valley and beyond. We hope to see David, Joan, and Steve in the future and ride together in interesting parts of the world! Thanks to all of you and may the wind be at your back and your knees be strong!
California, here we come!
Happy riding, Jane