The wind showed no sign of subsiding in Death Valley so rather than sit it out over the weekend we decided to carry on with our trip and just be grateful things didn’t get any worse for us the previous day (go and read about it). But our time in Nevada wasn’t over, and we’d earmarked a few places in this desert State to go and visit. We originally decided to bypass Las Vegas itself, but as you’ll read in this post, had a day off there in the end anyway.
Riding through Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire State Park ($10 per bike) is within the Mojave Desert and is most known for its red sandstone hills and ancient Indian petroglyphs. On the drive in we saw lots of Red Racer snakes basking in the sun on the road – apparently they like the warmth of the tarmac, although it’s not really a sensible place to sit! After the obligatory wander around the Visitor’s Centre, where we found snakes, tarantula and lizards in tanks, we rode along the scenic drive to take in this strange place in the midday sun. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that. We did the short hike down to the Mouse’s Tank, a natural basin in the hot desert that collects water when it rains and so is a popular place for animals to drink. We also saw some prehistoric petroglyphs on this trail, demonstrating that people once lived here, some of which have been deciphered, but some remain a mystery to historians today. I really liked it in this State Park, it was strangely Martian in its look and feel, and I would love to go back and explore more when I haven’t got all my bike gear on!
The Martian Landscape that is Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
What do you reckon it is?
This man-made lake was formed as a massive reservoir on the Colorado River thanks to the Hoover Dam. It is supposed to be 112 miles long and have 759 miles of shoreline, but right now is at an all-time low, and it showed. It is one of California’s primary drinking water sources, which is very worrying, a real demonstration of the drought being faced by this part of the world at the moment.
The road through the Recreation Area (which is a fee area but you can use the America the Beautiful pass) is beautiful to ride and offers some lovely views of the water. You can use the lake for all kinds of water sports, and I can definitely see why those living in the Las Vegas area would spend their weekends on the rocky beaches or in the blue water. If I lived there I would be joining them!
Boulder Beach at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Lake Mead. All time low water levels.
Straddling Nevada and Arizona, the Hoover Dam was constructed to control floods, provide water for drinking and be a hydroelectric power plant. I had no idea how big it was until we arrived – the thing is simply HUGE, what a feat of engineering. We rode over the dam and squeezed our bikes into one of the free parking lots on the Arizona side of the river (if you park at the Visitor’s Centre on the Nevada side you will have to pay per vehicle) so we could walk across and have a look down at the water. Even without going on one of the guided tours (which are apparently well worth it, but we didn’t have time), we spent a good hour there looking around and taking photos. We also walked up onto the new bridge (general traffic now bypasses the dam) which provided some amazing views of the dam and the lake. Well worth the visit.
Lake Mead from the Hoover Dam.
The Hoover Dam. Feat of Engineering.
The Hoover Dam from the Memorial Bridge.
Not being interested at all in gambling my money away, you might wonder what I would do in Las Vegas, and having spent 36 hours there a couple of years ago I wondered myself – which is why we decided to bypass it this time. But after a few busy days, and that sandstorm, and the heat, we decided we needed a day off the bikes. So we booked a couple of nights at Excalibur, one of the humongous casino hotels, courtesy of a good deal on Lastminute.com, locked up the bikes and relaxed.
Las Vegas is actually a great place for a stopover – there is good food, shopping, shows, and lots of opportunity for people watching. We spent our day off wandering through the ridiculous hotels, eating, making use of the internet to sort out our route for the next few days, wishing we had room on the bikes for nice shoes and bags, and eating some more. If you’re there, make sure you get a sundae from Serendipity, in the grounds of Caesar’s Palace, I had the deep fried Snickers – oh my goodness.
Lights in Las Vegas by LincsGeek.
Paris in Las Vegas. Ridiculous.
Deep Fried Snickers Sundae at Serendipity, Las Vegas.