Friday, November 27, 2015

Las Vegas, Nevada to Lake Havasu, Arizona

November 11 - 16, 2015

Garmin Info with Maps

Las Vegas trike

We had such a fun time in Las Vegas but it was time to push on. We met really nice people, saw a terrific show and took care of all kinds of errands. Neither of us are gamblers so we walked away winners. 

Las Vegas is very interesting to visit. There's no other place like it and trying to come up with a comparison city is impossible. The razzle dazzle is exciting and seeing the buildings that are so famous from television makes it seem so familiar.  After a couple of days, I found the overwhelming excess starting to become too obvious and the sparkling veneer of the city became thinner and thinner.  Las Vegas is a newer city built from the desolate desert sands in the middle of nowhere on the backs of casinos. It feels like a completely fake place where real people live, play and work.  Las Vegas has grown into a very big city with everything that big cities have but it is still reliant on a constant stream of tourists from all over the world to leave their money behind.  Las Vegas definitely has a boom or bust economy and the city was ground zero during the economic collapse. So many people came here during the boom years and, like most tourists visiting the casinos, ended up losing everything. The economy is now recovering and the boom has started once again.

Leaving Las Vegas.

We checked out of the Circus Circus and started riding out of the city. We found a good bike boulevard for today's short ride.  There aren't a lot of towns outside of Las Vegas and we saw that going any further today would make for an uncomfortably long day. The ride was also not very interesting. Henderson really is just a suburb of Las Vegas. Another very new city. We have found casinos in Nevada usually offer cheaper rooms but this wasn't the case in Henderson. Since the ride was only 18 miles, we had lots of time to look at other alternatives. We ended up at a tired but clean room for $45. The reception lady's sister had unexpectedly died that morning. She was, not surprisingly, very upset.  She only needed to rent out 2 rooms and she could close for the day. We were happy to be able to help her out.  Maryann's room was large enough to fit both trikes.

Not a safe road out of Henderson
In the morning we went to a casino next door for breakfast before getting packed up and on the road. Getting out of Henderson we had to climb through a long construction zone. The last few hundred feet at the top felt very dangerous and we were lucky the traffic was patient. Even though the road was legal for bikes the road wasn't safe. The construction crews had put large cement barriers next to the fog line of the shoulder and we didn't have any room. I took photos thinking to write a nasty email to the Nevada Department of Transportation but I never did send it. The day was very windy mostly at our side through the hot dry desert. The scenery was barren with no places to stop and, after a descent into the desert, the road was a gradual climb for most of the day.  From the summit the road turned and we had a screaming downhill with a huge tailwind into the small town of Searchlight. After 46 miles with 3,000 ft of climbing it was dark when we arrived in town. There's only one place to stay in Searchlight, the El Rey Motel. I had called earlier to make sure they had rooms and the guy just laughed. Yes, they had lots of rooms available. We got checked in for $40.  This time I took both trikes into my room.

Long road across the desert.
Still climbing at the end of the day

Famous 10 cent coffee 

The El Rey Motel is just a block from a casino that has a cafe which is famous for it's 10 cent cup of coffee. I figured they charged 10 cents for refills too but no, the coffee is only 10 cents. The breakfast was big enough for Maryann and I to share one order. 

Desert cactus

From Searchlight, the screaming tailwind continued and we had lots of downhill. Yahoo! We went through the nothing towns of Cal-Nev-Ari into Palm Gardens which is less than a mile from California. From there we turned onto Hwy 163 and the wind was strong at our side. We had a few miles of climbing and then a huge descent into Laughlin. It was a precarious ride with lots of sweeping turns. The strong wind gusted to 40 mph. On the trike this was actually fun. At the bottom Maryann yelled out 'Holy Schnikey!' which I thought summed up the ride perfectly.  We crossed the Colorado River and took pictures of the Arizona border sign before turning to check out Davis Camp Park. This campground allows tents but didn't have anything out of the wind. The sites were next to the river in the soft sand. There wouldn't be anyway to stake the tents and I wasn't sure we could even get them up in the 30 mph wind. We decided to go into town and get a hotel.  Motels in Bullhead City are more expensive than we have seen recently. The Desert Rancho hotel wasn't good but we got checked in for $50. It was run down and lots of strange people were living there.  I had a downstairs room, and luckily, both trikes fit in it. This place didn't feel safe enough to leave the trikes outside and getting Maryann's trike upstairs would have been difficult. After settling in, we went out to find beer and ended up having a nice sushi dinner.

Screaming downhill to Laughlin

Strong side wind and a big downhill
Welcome to Arizona, again!
Trikes sharing the hotel room.
Maryann struggles with a rear flat in Needles.

Needles on Route 66
Leaving Bullhead City, we had another huge tailwind pushing us down Hwy 95 through Fort Mohave into Needles. Once we crossed the border into California the road surface improved hugely.  The road was super smooth and was a big relief from the roads we had been on in Arizona. Route 66 runs through Needles and every business has a reference in the name or mural painted on the walls. Maryann had a rear flat just out of town and as we were getting started again, I saw that I also had a flat. We both had flats from tire wires in Needles, haha!

From Needles, we had to get on I-40 over a small pass. The road, again, was very smooth and we flew down the other side to the turn off for Pirates Cove campground. We set up our tents in a beautiful grassy area right on the Colorado River. Once the sun went down the temperature dropped. It was only 5pm and much too early to go into the tent. There was a group of girl scouts spending the night working on special badges. One badge was making a campfire. Wow did they get a good fire going! I went over after our dinner and enjoyed meeting them while warming up.

View from our campsite at Pirate Cove.
Camp dinner.
Goodbye Terry skirt.
In the morning we almost had a serious catastrophe. We were cooking oatmeal on the alcohol stove and the fuel had burned up. Maryann didn't realize I had refilled and lit the stove and she poured more alcohol onto the flame. It shot out so fast exploding down the table.  This alcohol burns fast and hot. The small bag I use to keep utensils and my cycling skirt both caught fire and actually melted. We threw them to the ground and stamped them out. There are so many horrific stories of accidents using alcohol stoves on the trail. We were very lucky the wind was blowing down the table and not at either of us. 

Camp wine.
After our scare for the day, we got packed up for the ride into Havasu Lake City. A triker from BROL had invited us to stay with his family.  We had to get back on I-40 riding about 19 miles to Hwy 95. Once we crossed into Arizona the road surface was terrible again. There was a long slow climb for the first 7 miles and then a gradual downhill the other side. Hwy 95 was really terrible. The road surface was rougher than I-40 and there wasn't enough room. I get so irritated when a road is legal for bikes but isn't made safe for bikes. Arizona really needs to step up and improve their roads. After crossing the border, we noticed lots more political billboards and bumper stickers. Mostly pro NRA and anti Obama or Obamacare. We even saw bumper stickers to impeach Hillary Clinton. As we were riding we felt like drivers were responding to us politically as well. Even though there was plenty of room for the cars and trucks, they would ride closer than they needed to and gun their engines as they went passed. It wasn't close enough to feel threatened but they certainly weren't going to move over the center line!  It was like we were commie liberals simply because we were cycling. I had the feeling drivers were listening to political radio while driving. Just inside Lake Havasu we stopped at a Walmart for supplies. Here we saw shoppers with guns holstered to their shorts. I know it's legal but why would you need to bring a gun to shop at Walmart? It felt very political and antagonistic. This Walmart also sold guns. You can buy an AR15 or AK47 assault rifle along with your groceries. I've never been around guns and found it all to be quite shocking.

View from the road and the surface was excellent
Ride into Lake Havasu

Bill from BROL

We continued to our hosts home up the hill from the lake. Bill welcomed us warmly. He rides a trike and a Borealis velomobile.  Bill lives with his parents and a very cute scottie dog, Skye. They have a very nice home with a view of Lake Havasu. The next day Bill drove us around Lake Havasu City to the London Bridge and the surrounding area. He also drove us down the road we would take next to show us what was ahead. His mom and dad, Donna and David, made us some wonderful meals. They were all very sweet. Donna also sent us off with a terrific pumpkin spice holiday bars she had made. 

Bill with his parents and Skye, the sweet 3 month old Scottie puppy.

Bill's Borealis

Saturday, November 21, 2015

St. George, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada

November 3 -10, 2015

Garmin Info with Maps

We said goodbye to Glidemaster and started our ride to Mesquite. There would be lots of climbing today riding mostly on Old Hwy 91. The weather was beautiful and the terrain was stark. We rode passed the Kayenta artist colony and through Shivwits Indian reservation. Climbing and climbing. Almost at the top our German recumbent friends cycled by. We all took a break at the summit and then enjoyed a fantastic long downhill through a corner of Arizona and then on to Nevada. A 3 state day! We all rode together down the hill but once we got to flatter ground we couldn't keep up with the Germans. We were in the desert now.  It was something to see so many Joshua trees after being in the mountains for so long. The frontage road we took along I-15 had very steep hills which really slowed us down. As we approached Mequite the sun was setting very brightly right in front of us. It actually felt quite dangerous. We were happy to finally arrive to town and start looking for a hotel. The first place we looked at was a Best Western and they wanted $70 per room. I asked if there was anywhere less expensive and the woman told me to go to the Virgin River Casino. Just as we pulled in we met our German friends who were also staying there. The place was ablaze with flashing lights and the rooms are only $27, $35 with tax! We booked in for 2 nights. After getting settled we met Daniella and Stefan for a crazy big buffet dinner for $15. 

At the summit
State 2 for the day
Desert scenery
Checking into the Virgin River Casino.

We split this casino
We had a relaxing rest day at the hotel and then pushed on to ride along Lake Mead. Some of this ride was on I-15. The shoulder was wide, the surface was smooth and this was another beautiful day.  We turned off the interstate at Hwy 169 intending to go to the Valley of the Fire State Park. At Overton, we met up with the Germans again when we all stopped at the grocery store. This was fortuitous. Googlemaps showed the ride to the park was another 14 miles. Stefan had more information. He said the road continues to the campground for an additional 16 miles with another 1300 ft of climbing. Wow! They decided to try staying at a trailer park close by in Overton and we followed. The trailer park manager said he isn't licensed to accept tents but let us stay in a RV storage lot next door. He also gave us a key for the bathroom so we could shower and wouldn't take payment. Very nice. We all used flat surfaces provided by the stored RV's as a table surface for cooking up our dinners. This wasn't the most comfortable camping situation but it worked out just fine. 

Map of Lake Mead National park
Fortuitous meeting outside the grocery store in Overton.
RV storage lot camping.

The overnight temperature was quite cold and I was reluctant to get out of the tent in the morning. It was so cold Maryann and I decided to go to a cafe a block away instead of making oatmeal outside. All four of us started riding at the same time. Since we didn't go as far as planned on yesterday's ride, today's ride would be much longer. We were all going to meet up to camp at Callville Bay on Lake Mead. This was a beautiful ride through a national park. Maryann had a park's pass that let us both enter. The road had recently been repaved and was very smooth and had rumble strips that were actually cycling friendly. I know that sounds weird but it is possible. The lines were scored thin and not very deep so the tires could roll right over. When vehicle's tires cross the lines the sound changes and the strips are still very effective. A win-win! I really hope road designers will consider this idea for highways around the country.

With Daniella and Stefan
There was a lot of climbing today and it was also very windy. We stopped at a rest area in Red Rocks to make lunch. Keeping everything on the table wasn't easy. There were huge red boulders here. It was really cool and reminded me of the Flintstone's town of Bedrock.  We continued on and the wind was relentless. We never really had a headwind but it wasn't a tailwind either. The noise alone was exhausting.  The day was coming to a close but we still had miles to cover and kept climbing and climbing. Even though we were camping on Lake Mead we could hardly see the water. There was a steep downhill to the campground for a few miles. It was almost dark when we pulled in and the Germans had been there for a couple of hours. They were set up and showered sitting comfortably drinking beer. Oh to be a stronger cyclist!  We got set up and made a good dinner. Daniella was very interested in my cooking technique. They are going to be on the road for another 18 months riding from Patagonia to Mexico. We have seen them make an enormous amount of food in a big pot with rice and veggies. I think they eat double what we do. This was impressive to see.

Lake Mead scenery
Red Rock lunch stop.
Late camp arrival.

Lunch on the road.
In the morning we all got packed and started riding up the steep hill back to the highway. It wasn't as hard as I had expected while I was riding down the night before. The wind was, again, very strong at our side.  We exited the national park at Hwy 147 and had another big climb before a wonderful downhill into East Las Vegas.  On this climb we found lots of empty shell casings. It looked like people come out here to shoot empty bottles out the air. There was also a ton of shattered glass on the road's edge. Today we were staying with Warm Shower hosts that live just 2 blocks inside civilization. The neighborhood isn't great but Jan and Pete's home was brightly painted and they welcomed us warmly. This very interesting couple has traveled and lived all over the world. They have worked in Antarctica as well as small atolls in the Pacific.  We had a great time. They have a fire pit in the front yard.  While we were sitting out there we saw a very weird thing flying low in the sky. It didn't seem to be moving very fast and we watched it for at least 10 minutes trying to guess what it was. I figured it was some publicity stunt from the Las Vegas strip. We also wondered where it went. Did it land or fall to the ground?  Jan was a fabulous cook and we had a great meal of chili cooked with peppers and veggies from her garden.

Maryann with Jan and Pete
In the morning there was all kinds of commotion going on outside. The street was blocked on both ends and there were many bomb squad vehicles. We heard very loud Bang! Bang! a few times. There were helicopters flying above and also lots of guys walking in front of the house wearing full bomb protection. I, of course, went out to get the scoop. The bomb guys were all in a great mood.  A crazy man down the street had been shooting off a gun in his house.  The loud noises were flash bangs set off by the bomb squad to distract the guy but they didn't work. A dog was sent in and took him down.  Boy, that was a lot of excitement!

Bomb squad outside the house
I took some pics of the bomb squad and went to post them on Facebook when I saw a lot of posts about a UFO people in California, Arizona and Nevada saw last night. The pictures were exactly what we saw in the sky last night. WOW! Later, I read stories that it was a missile shot from a submarine off the coast of southern California. Sure seemed weird that a missile would be shot off and fly over Las Vegas. I guess no weirder than seeing a UFO, huh?!?

Later in the day Maryann and I went to get our hair cut and run a few errands. Then we enjoyed another fantastic meal with Pete and Jan. They were so much fun. I think this ranks up there with one of the most exciting Warm Shower stays I've ever had.

There were a few reasons to go into Las Vegas. First, I wanted to reconnect with my friend Dina from college. She also works for one of the Cirque du Soleil shows and I really wanted to see her in it. Maryann was also able to meet up with a cousin that was staying on the strip for a nursing convention. On the road, we also heard from Lee, a triker we know from the BentRiderOnline site. He lives in Henderson and wanted to get together. We decided to go to the strip and hang out for a couple of days. Maryann had stayed at Circus Circus before and knew it was really cheap. We got checked into rooms at the motor manor building and our trikes fit right into the rooms. The room rate was only $21 but there was another $21 resort tax. Still, $42 for a nice room is pretty cheap!

Myrtle at
Circus Circus
I also had something else to take care of in Las Vegas. The Olympus camera I brought for the trip just wasn't working out. It is too big, heavy and bulky. The lens I have for it is 14-40mm which isn't enough range and I really need to get a bigger zoom lens for it. But I know changing lenses while I'm bike touring is more effort than I will make. I just want to quickly snap pics and decided to buy a small super zoom P&S like I have used on previous tours.  I picked up a Panasonic Lumix ZS50 with 24-720mm super zoom lens that is small enough to fit in a pocket. The camera only weighs 8.5 oz, has an electronic view finder, shoots in RAW and has wifi for quick file transfer. One of the biggest beefs I have with these small cameras is dirt always gets into the sensor and then you have spots on the pictures. I use the camera mostly outside which doesn't help. Cleaning the camera costs as much as buying a new one. Well, for the first time, I was told about a camera warranty extension that covers sensor cleanings and lens replacement. The warranty costs $65 for 3 years. Fantastic, done! I packed up my Olympus with the tripod and table top mailing the 8 lb package home. I'm sure the picture quality will suffer because the Olympus lens and sensor are far superior. But, I really just want to quickly snap pics on the go while I ride. So far, all my pictures have only been used on the internet and I haven't found the quality to suffer noticeably with the smaller cameras.

Red Rocks canyon (taken with Lumix)
The next morning we called triker Lee and he took us on a drive to Red Rocks Canyon just 20 miles outside Las Vegas. What a beautiful place!! He said there is a good group of trikers that live in Henderson and they take the trikes out to the canyon quite often.  I was really glad I got to see this special place. It was also great meeting Lee and hearing about the Henderson triker scene.

Later in the day, I met up with my college friend and we had a nice lunch catching up on old times. Dina is such a sweet person! She arranged for Maryann and I to see her show Mystère.  We met her before the show and she was in full make-up. Dina is one of the singers and it so fun to see her work. I loved the show and want to see it again. Cirque du Soleil shows have the wow factor down to an art form and every one I have seen has been world class entertainment. Mystère was the first of the Cirque shows to get it's own permanent stage in Las Vegas and has been running for over 20 years. The show was just extended for another 5 years too. 

Dina in full make-up before the show.
Dina, with arm raised, singing in full costume. 
Oh my goodness, this last week has been action packed. We have seen so much and met so many wonderful people. From Las Vegas, we are going to be riding south to Arizona to get on the Southern Tier bicycle route.

Monday, November 16, 2015

St. George, Utah

November 1 & 2, 2015

Garmin Info with Maps

Virgin, Utah
I knew we were pushing our luck with the weather and we were grateful to enjoy Zion on a couple of glorious days. Our original plan was to leave Zion and then head to the Grand Canyon.  It would take about a week to ride there and the weather was already cold. Snow was forecast in the Grand Canyon over the next week. We expected it would take another week to get to Phoenix where the weather would finally be warm. I'm not a winter weather person and decided that was too much time in the cold and probable snow. I needed to get where it is warm sooner. The decision was made to go west to St. George from Zion. We could be in the desert in a few days instead of a couple of weeks. This sounded much better to me.

Share the road

There was some weather in the forecast for Zion that Maryann and I were hoping to outrun and we decided to push on after 2 fabulous days camping with April and David. We really enjoyed their company. I'm not sure I would have known to do the Angel's Landing hike without April's guidance. In the morning, we all went back to Flanigan's Hotel for another tasty buffet breakfast, saying goodbye and starting our ride.

David and April on Angel's Landing, Zion

View from the road
There was a nice bike path to start out of Springdale and then we were on Hwy 9 for most of the day. There were lots of small towns to go through: Rockville, Virgin, La Verkin and Hurricane. We stopped at a park in La Verkin using the picnic tables to make some lunch. The park had pecan trees that were loaded with nuts. Squirrels were throwing them hard to the ground below to break the shells. We made sure to stay clear of the pecan bombs. A couple was busy in the field picking up pecans that had fallen from the trees. They carried away a big bag that was clearly very heavy for them.

Out of Springdale
German friends on recumbents
It was a nice day. We were passed by our friends Stefan and Daniella, the recumbent riders from
Germany. It turns out we are all headed for the same warm showers host's home in St. George. In Hurricane, we stopped at Walmart for more cooking fuel. From there, we didn't have far to get to St. George. I've heard a lot about this town and was looking forward to seeing it. There is also another Utah Trikes store here and I wanted to stop in and say 'hi'.

St. George has lots of bike paths. We called Bob, our warm showers host, and he gave us great directions. Google maps also had the paths showing and that made following the directions really easy.

Bob tries out Larry

Carol tries out Myrtle

Bob and Carol live in a beautiful upscale neighborhood above a country club. We arrived and Stefan and Daniella, not surprisingly, were already showered and settled in. There were lots of other people around too. Kids, friends visiting and more little kids too. We got the bags off and let everyone have a go on the trikes. It was really fun and I thing they enjoyed it too. Bob and Carol had just finished a cross country ride on a tandem and we all talked touring. One of the sons had a couple of friends visiting so Bob got the motorhome out of storage so they could all sleep in the driveway. All of us cyclists got our own rooms. Amazing! Carol made us a gourmet dinner of stuffed squash, grilled steak, baked potatoes with all the fixins' and 4 homemade pumpkin pies. She is the executive director of a women's shelter and one of the volunteers had baby sitter issues so Carol was also looking after 3 little kids. The amount of stuff that was going on in this house was astounding. Bob and Carol handled it all calmly and with ease. Truly impressive!

Germans with Bronco and Carol

Bob trike out the Catrike

In the morning Bob cooked us all a terrific breakfast of french toast with lots of coffee. He also gave us a history lesson of the Mormon religion and explained the different sects. It was all very interesting and educational.

Maryann fixing flat 3 of the trip
I had heard from a fellow triker who lives in St. George I know from the BentRiderOnline website. Glynn invited us to stay at his home in Paradise Valley. This was an uphill 10 mile ride, mostly on bike paths, to another beautiful development. He showed us his Azub trike with a Rohloff Hub and Schlumpf mountain drive. I tried to take it for a ride but my legs were too short to reach the pedals. Maryann was able to ride it. Then he led us on a ride into Snow Canyon State Park. The paths went through canyons that were all different colors of red rock. It was cool! The weather forecast called for very strong winds in the afternoon.  Our ride into the Canyon was fine but the ride back was into a fierce headwind.  Glynn is also an avid photographer and has been taking pictures since his days as a serviceman in the Vietnam war. He showed me some lovely prints. For dinner, Glynn suggested we go to his favorite restaurant, The Cliffside, with a beautiful view overlooking the city of St. George. We enjoyed a nice meal with a couple of glasses of wine. We talked trikes, travel and touring. He gave us the news that Utah Trikes had closed in St. George because they couldn't find qualified people to work and put together trikes. It was very nice to meet Glynn and for him to put us up. 

Glynn in front of his house.

Snow Canyon

Glynn dumps his trike

In the morning Glynn took us out for a good breakfast and we got packed up. We had a big day ahead. 

The girls in Snow Canyon