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Monday, October 02, 2006

Riding into Las Vegas

Alongside Interstate 1-15, the night in Baker, CA. high beamed its way through the motel’s dirty windows. The motel squatted across the road from the more famous “Mad Greek’s Gyros and Date Shakes!” truck stop. You can see the Mad Greek’s eponymous road signs for miles…the shakes are worth pulling over for. The gyros not so much. The Greek’s motel even less so.

Baker is an ancient travelers’ crossroad…the intersection of the old Spanish Trail, (now I-15) led through the desert to California on a dusty wagon trail (Rt. 127). Some starving 49’ers cut through Ibex Pass to save themselves from the death part of Death Valley. There must be a lot of bones out there in the desert.

Mark, my husband, had snuck out of the Mad Greek’s Motel before the sun rose at 6:00 am. His ride along 127 to Shoshone, about 50 miles could take him anywhere from 3 hours to 5, depending on how colorful and inventive his explanation was.

We’d meet up, change up and my ride would begin in Shoshone, and end about 100 miles later in Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel.

There in the digs of the Doge’s I’d be trapped by four days and four nights of cafeteria-style food, a labyrinth lobbies, a dearth of daylight, piped in music, flickering neon. That’s Interbike.

But the road to Interbike made all the difference.

It seemed a like there was a headwind wind no matter which way the road wound. A five thousand foot climb that shimmered on the horizon of the longest and straightest riser I have ever pushed through. The monotony of the miles was broken by a motorcade of Germans rumbling past in strict formation on identical Harley rentals. I could tell they were German tourists an hour later when I stopped in Pahrump…the rental fleet were all parked in a neat row, equally spaced apart, each front tire at the same 33 degree angle, and beside them in their leather lederhosen clicked cameras and clinked bottles of America’ finest…Coor’s Light. Down the road, out of the desert now past ticky-tacky subdivisions of houses that will probably never be homes all the way to Terrible Herbst’s where the commercial sprawl of Las Vegas unofficially begins. Then, for the last 15 miles or so I snaked my way along frontage roads, and through traffic lights, keeping my eyes on the golden shimmer of the Mirage.

Dirty, sweaty, dehydrated, elated, I alighted at the Venetian’s cool cascading fountain lobby: a mountain biker.

Signing autographs, shaking hands and smiling the next day at the Clif Bar booth, my legs still felt more alive than I did.