Life and Riding in Las Vegas

In Blog by Eric Benjamin1 Comment

The move to Vegas

I visited Vegas twice and thought it would be a horrible place to live. That’s true if you live next door to Circus Circus, but the last couple of months have shown me that there is life, “normal” life, off the strip. And not only is there some form of normal, there is some good cycling too. So far I love living in Vegas. I never thought I’d say that, but this place has a lot to do, from partying to any outdoor activity. Plus I was able to drive to my California family Thanksgiving this year for the first time. That was pretty great and Amanda got to meet the extended family. Cost of living (except for the price of fuel) is comparable to the Kansas City area. And I love a more open-minded environment than I had in Kansas.

My fiancé’s Las Vegas assignment got me looking here and when I got accepted into a competitive PA program, it was just meant to be. I was going to live in Las Vegas.

I got rid of the Corolla, bought a truck and bike rack, and loaded up for the drive. This was a huge move. HUGE. I have lived in Emporia my whole life. I was moving to Las Vegas. Holy shit.

There were plenty of things to be worried about but I told myself long ago that fear wouldn’t rule my life. All the “what ifs” were just stories in my head. I was going to live my story. No safety net and path unseen, faith is all I had to go on. Faith in Amanda, myself, and the belief that the Universe really was working in my favor.

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The underpowered, 5-cylinder, Chevy Colorado made it through the mountains and all the way to Las Vegas, but not without a couple of scary moments. The oil light came on while we were still in Kansas. That light usually means you are all but out of oil. I pulled over and checked the oil. It was fine. I kept going. The light never came on again. In the mountains, the transmission started making noises. The front differential was having issues. Four wheel drive engaged. I pulled over, shifted in and out of 4WD, making sure it was in 2WD and kept going. I haven’t had any trouble since. A few tests to make me nervous and test my faith I suppose, but we made it to Las Vegas safe and sound.

Then to the tough part. It doesn’t matter how many big, crazy rides I’ve completed, they were nothing compared to a relationship. Mike, Suzie and I were moving in with Amanda. Of all the worries in my mind, this was the biggest. Relationships are hard. They bring out our crazies and insecurities, and can leave us for dead. But Amanda and I have found the answer. It’s communication. Everything must be talked about. There is no other option if a relationship is going to work. Anyway, things in that corner are going very well. She’s my best friend and then some. Blows me away that we found each other with everything we had going on.

But that is not why you are here. You want to see bike images and hear about a ride. I’m getting to that.

I am finishing up an online Biochemistry class and being the homemaker now. The class takes up all my days. It is very involved and I am trying to get it done as fast as I can. But memorizing all the enzyme names of all the metabolic pathways takes time and I haven’t had time to ride. I’ve researched Vegas mountain bike trails but haven’t seen them yet. I wanted to get out there and explore my new surroundings.

After feeling like I had a handle on carbohydrate metabolism and finishing a test early, I decided it was time. Time to ride.

My First Ride in Vegas

I dropped off Mike and came home to get ready. I’d have about a 30 minute drive to trails and a couple of hours to ride. The fatbike was ready to load into the truck. It has been so long since I’ve ridden, my preparation system was off. It is a whole thing to get ready for a ride. You cyclists know what I’m talking about. What used to be a natural thing, felt awkward.

I put my cycling gear on my wasted away body and added a light zip jacket and leg warmers. It would be in the 50s or so with sunshine. I love this weather. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to move to the West. Riding all year is no problem.

I’ve been sitting and studying for over a year now. My exercise consisted of walking from patient to patient to draw blood. My once muscled legs were no more. It doesn’t matter. I was going to go ride and find some time on my schedule to get rides in regularly.

I was Bobby Wintle level excited as I drove toward Red Rocks. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed but knew approximately where a trailhead was. I knew nothing of these trails and had limited time to ride. My weak sense of direction makes it tough for timed rides, as getting lost is part of the routine and fun. But the mountains would help keep my sense of direction. I am definitely not in Kansas anymore.

I found something that looked like a trailhead, but it was off a street, by someone’s house. Oh well, I had driven around long enough. It was time to ride. I unloaded and hit the dusty trail. I was on the fatbike and ready to ride. I was hoping for some easy trails since I’m out of shape and my technical skills aren’t so technical.

Let's go straight up some technical trails!

Let’s go straight up some technical trails!

I was greeted with some fun trails for about 2 minutes. Then it turned into technical, desert singletrack leading straight up a ridge. I wanted to make it to the top. I knew there would be a good view up there. My Garmin soon alarmed, telling me my heart rate was high. My legs soon got tired. I wasn’t surprised at how weak my legs were, but damn, it still was disheartening. I got off the bike and began pushing up the mountain. My breathing was loud enough to alert all the local mountain lions that some food was near. My goal was to be outside and to keep my HR up for an hour or more. I rode, and walked up and up and up.

Fatbike in Vegas-002

The views were spectacular and the fat tires did well in the sandy portions

As I rode two things came to mind. I needed new tires. These had seen hundreds of miles and were worn out. I was spinning out quite a bit as I pedaled up the mountainous path. And two, front suspension sure would be nice. I let some air out of my tires and that helped with my traction issues and took some of the bumps from transmitting into my wrists, but I would need something different to enjoy this new terrain. Maybe some new tires and a shock would be a good start. Easy to think, but hard to make happen while a student. I’ll just make do with what I have.

Yes, I was completely and utterly out of shape. It was interesting to me to see how my body was reacting compared to how it reacted two years ago. Good information to have as a PA. I simply couldn’t get enough oxygen in to sustain this level of activity. I was breathing hard and my muscles tired quickly. But I was not about to give up. I was outside and having fun. This wasn’t about PR’s or speeds, it was about being outside, getting some exercise and enjoying life. There was a reason I was out of shape and it will be worth it. I will train again, but I have to get through PA school first.

Somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes passed and I was just over a mile in. I laughed to myself. It reminded me of my first day on the Kokopelli trail. Then to my complete satisfaction, I made it to the crest of the ridge I was climbing.

Red Rocks in the Distance

Red Rocks in the Distance

Life on desert singletrack

Life on desert singletrack

I had some fun downhill, before I started a new climb. One more big climb and then the rest should be mostly downhill. Well I hoped. I had worked my way to the other side of the mountain and hoped I would end up going in a circle to return to my truck and be able to pick up Mike on time.

A look back. Just to the left of the foreground rock is the skyline of the strip.

A look back. Just to the left of the foreground rock is the skyline of the strip.

clouds over the mountain in the distance and all those trails in the valley.

clouds over the mountain in the distance and all those trails in the valley.

Then the downhill began. It was fun. It was technical in spots. It was a bit much for my bike, but I was riding it. I kept hearing my tires take hard hits on the desert rocks. Damn. Suddenly I was losing air. It wasn’t spraying out, my tire was just getting low. Probably squished out on some of those hard knocks. My bike is tubeless and no sealant was seeping out. I aired up the rear tire and kept moving.

I found myself on the other side of the mountain, thinking, “If I have to climb back up to get out of here…” I was tired but smiling from ear to ear. I pulled out my phone to check the map. It looked like there was a trail that followed the direction of the highway that would lead me back to the truck. It did. It was fast, flowy and fun. The tires were still taking big hits and my front tire was now getting really low.

I made it to pavement and knew where I was. I had to pedal up a hill to get to the top of the residential area where my truck was parked. My tires were low. I bounced with every pedal stroke but just wanted to make it up to the truck. That’s when my thigh began to cramp. Not Dirty Kanza levels of cramping but bad enough. Looks like I finished that ride just in time.

It took about an hour to go about six miles. But as I drove home, I felt amazingly good. I haven’t felt that physically good for a long time. I forgot how amazing getting out and cycling made me feel. It was like I was on happy pills of some kind, not even joking. My brain released endorphins and it felt better than the fake high of drugs. As I drove back to the city I had feeling of “pleasure and euphoria,” as the textbook would say. Yeah, I was high. A bike induced high that was good for me and wouldn’t show up on a drug test. I suggest you try it. This feeling transmits into the everyday and regular riding (or other exercise) makes life better. It is the best antidepressant medication put there with side effects of awesome.

I found out the riding out here is of epic levels. I got just small taste of what’s available. My bike situation is lacking to handle this desert singletrack, so I have to figure something out to make riding this more enjoyable. Hmm… As I figure this out the fatty sits with a flat tire.