Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Red Rock Canyon

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA


It was 108 degrees in Las Vegas on Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday it was 105. Still, I wanted to ride.


One year ago, almost to the day, I was in Las Vegas and drove out to Blue Diamond. From there I rode to Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive. The run in to the scenic drive has a safe shoulder and is a nice ride. On the scenic drive I rode with a young man from Seattle, named Tom. He told me that he had come in from Vegas. So this year I decided to ride the route Tom had ridden.


I rented a bike from the Las Vegas Cyclery on West Charleston Blvd. I picked it up the afternoon before and went back to my hotel, which was out by the airport. I then rode from the hotel to the strip in Vegas. It was hot, 105, and I seemingly produced no sweat. I know the sweat was evaporating as soon as it came to the surface of my skin. It didn't last long enough to cool me but I could see white salt deposits on my jersey.


When I got back to the hotel I wasn't done riding for the day so I decided to do 10 laps of the parking lot. This was quite interesting. I would fly around two of the turns but on the third one hit a wall of wind. It was fun and dangerous. After a shower I went to the lobby for the manager's reception, also known as dinner. Here I looked up and saw Dan Foster and Mark Moreland, two colleagues from our Denver office. It's always nice to run into people you know.


Early in the morning the talk of the weather was of the cold front coming through. With it came high winds. I heard on one report that Red Rock Canyon was closed due to high winds, sustained at 50 mph or more. But I never heard that again.


I drove back out to the cyclery and knew I could follow the boulevard directly to the scenic drive. I didn't know it would be all uphill. West Charleston Boulevard is a busy street, no shoulders, six lanes, with many traffic lights. But that lasts 3-4 miles before it turns into a desert highway. The climb up was windy. Very windy.


This cyclist would rather battle a head wind than a cross wind. And I had cross winds on the way out to the canyon. I kept a steady pace and kept the bike steady, which at times was hard to do.


I arrived at the Canyon and turned on the scenic drive. It is still free to cyclists; other users must pay. Here I started the climb and discovered I was climbing into a head wind. Maybe it was wind, maybe equipment, or maybe fitness, but it seemed a little harder than last year. But I reached the summit and took a couple of bad photos. It was very windy here.


I began the descent and wanted to let it out. I was fun descending quickly but also scary because of the winds. I reached the main road and headed back to Vegas. This portion was more open and more prone to high gusts of cross winds. I struggled at times to stay on the bike, all while maintaining a pretty high speed.


But it was all downhill and went pretty quickly. It was a nice ride -- highly recommended for first-times to Vegas, but next time I have to find Mount Charleston Mountain and head out there.