Story by Alan Snel ▪ Photos by Anna Barantez ▪
Well, here we go again.
I figured I wouldn’t have to cope with reckless motorists by bicycling the gorgeous River Mountains Loop Trail Saturday when weather warmed up to a terrific 70s day in the Las Vegas area.
I mean, it’s a paved trail and I figured the odds were in my favor to not see see a motorized vehicle motoring along this spectacular 34-mile trail loop in the foothills of Boulder City, Henderson and Lake Mead.
But there it was on the trail.
A bicyclist coming at me in the opposite direction on the paved trail yelled out to me, “Watch out for the car,” and moments later a sedan was coming right at me on the trail.
You have to be kidding.
The motorist drove the car onto the dirt along the paved trail near a series of three very steep hills and continued on his way toward East Lake Mead Parkway, not too far from Lake Las Vegas. I couldn’t get a license plate number, but I remember the middle-aged driver’s face when he drove along the trail at about 7:45 AM Saturday.
It was the first five minutes of my bicycle ride on a very popular trail that was written up by the New York Times travel section.
I shook it off and kept on pedaling. I was on a mission. I needed to see those amazing beavertail cactus blooms in Lake Mead to convince myself that spring was really here in the desert after ridiculous cold and windy nights in Las Vegas.
And I did find those blooms two hours into the trail ride.
My off road weekend continued Sunday with a mountain bike ride with Anna Barantez.
I love biking with Anna. She bikes with such joy on the dirt trails in the desert outside the Southern Highlands area in south metro Vegas.
I was on a road bicycle on Saturday.
This time on Sunday, I was biking on my single-speed, shock-less steel beast — the Surly Pugsley.
Every bike ride has its own organic life and my bike rides with Anna on the single-track trails in an area nicknamed, “DeBris,” always have a unique rhythm. It’s as if the adventure is taking you along for the ride, not the other way around.
Then we stop at the trail’s points of interests like the igloos or upside-down mannequin to chat and then take pictures.
Anna’s good at these photos. I can’t help but chortle just a little when Anna moves into photographer mode, seeking what she describes as the “drama” in every scene. She’s really good at capturing the angles, light and context in these photos and I’m always curious.
How did Anna get this above photo? Well, there she is:
The ride began Sunday at 7:30 AM and we followed dirt trails outside Olympia Sports Park. We biked into the canyon for a while and then checked out a quiet rail line, where freight trains would later rumble through the landscape.
We followed a trail that ran parallel to the track tracks, then pedaled through a concrete tunnel that connected the DeBris trails with the Union trails.
Once we were on the Union Trails side of the train tracks, the land was less steep and its trails followed paths back to a neighborhood at the end of Rainbow Boulevard.
There, Anna soaked up the desert landscape not too far from the subdivisions, residential neighborhoods and schools.
Again, just because we were off paved roads didn’t mean we were free from dealing with motorized vehicles.
There was an off road vehicle being driven by a dad and his son and we simply moved to the side. No big deal.
There was another guy on a smaller off road vehicle who seemed really eager to get through a tunnel and we obliged him, naturally.
It’s a big desert and motorized vehicles are common sights. Though the loud revving of the engine and the vehicle noises shatter the solitude out here.
It’s Monday morning and the weather forecasters on TV expect a day when temperatures will be approaching 90 degrees — whoa nellie!
That means the morning at daybreak is absolutely stunning and you can just imagine the blooms ready to pop on the wild flowers in Red Rock very soon.
So, off I biked from my home in Summerlin to the Red Rock Loop.
Do you remember Sunday’s mountain bike ride where Anna and I biked in the desert? I adored looking to the north and west and seeing not only the amazing snow pack of the Spring Mountains . . .
. . . but the big red stripe along the Red Rock Scenic Drive. Here’s a few seconds of bliss and zen from this morning’s bicycle ride:
The best cities are always the best places to ride a bicycle. Let’s be honest here: Las Vegas is a mixed bag when it comes to public bicycling resources.
The River Mountains Loop Trail is spectacular for bicycles, but the lawlessness of motorists is common and endangers bicyclists and walkers so you need to be vigilant about your safety on a bicycle when pedaling the roads of Las Vegas.
We need the Red Rock Legacy Trail to built as soon as possible from Summerlin to the Red Rock Visitors Center and through the entire Red Rock Canyon corridor.
But as LVSportsBiz.com reported last month, construction won’t begin until 2025 at the earliest. Let’s face it — it should have already started by now.
We also need a network of bicycle trails for transportation and practical mobility inside the city of Las Vegas and Clark County. I have friends who typically don’t pedal bicycles but they have bought electric bicycles and more and more people are bicycling. City of Las Vegas, Clark County and RTC, work together to build a regional paved trail network. You want to play in the big leagues? Give people places to ride a bicycle. It’s a great investment.
For now, I’ll be spending more time in the desert. Seems like it’s joyful and safe out there (I hope) — and I like the way Anna finds the fun drama in her mountain bike photos, too.