Are you a keen traveller? Or do you enjoy short weekend breaks up the coast? The Chronicle’s weekly travel feature is open for local writers to share their experiences of the places they visit.
Chuck, a 53 Harley rider spotted me in the lift of my Las Vegas hotel, New York New York in my leathers.
He asked where I was heading for the day, excited I told him a trip around the city, out to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead to photograph some of their signs and street names.
Laughing, he looked at me and said, “You never see a Harley outside a shrink’s office, but you are a whole new level of crazy.” Thanking him for the compliment, I headed to the Fat Boy waiting for me, Fat Boy being the Harley model I have hired.
I picked up the Harley from Eagle Rider Motorcycles and headed to the Las Vegas strip to have an uncongested cruise down the boulevard, before I take this beast out onto the highway towards the Hoover Dam.
A few kilometres outside Vegas I came upon my first sign, it said, “Prepare to stop when flashing”. It looked like nothing was capable of flashing nearby.
Further down the road I spotted a road sign saying “Veterans cemetery” one way and “Veterans homes” the other way, a reminder that the US try to look after and honour their war heroes.
The ride out to the Hoover Dam is spectacular; you are in big sky country, with thin clouds dispersing the bluest sky as if simply painted on with feathers. The arid land on both sides of the road as you cruise down the highway, gives you a feeling of infinity and as if, you could ride forever.
It does not take long to the Hoover Dam entrance, where I bypass the car traffic queue; pass through a security checkpoint where Officer Glen had more questions about the bike than my identity. Maybe a 5ft 3, leather clad biker chick with a camera slung around her neck is not identified as a high security risk?
Riding over the Dam, across the time zone and into the state of Arizona I park up and spot a security restrictions sign. Which advised that items brought into the visitors centre must fit in the space below, a black box is depicted granted, but there is no indication as to the depth of permitted items, therefore potentially a long telegraph pole could be allowed.
It does also specifically say “Food, weapons and knifes are prohibited”, I am not the world’s greatest chef, but not even my cooking could be deemed a security threat.
On the actual Dam, is a sign that says “No pedestrians after dark”, a stranger from Texas wearing an obligatory Stetson, saw me take the shot and explained the sad story behind the sign. He said, “It’s a shame in a place so full of beauty people have chosen to end their lives, by jumping off the Dam. The sign is there, but I don’t think it will deter someone who is clearly not thinking straight.”
His comment left an imprint on my mind as I explored this Modern Civil Engineering Wonder of the United States, he was right it was a shame in a place of such beauty and wonder, people chose to end their life.
Leaving the Hoover Dam I rode to Lake Mead, passing a hotel and casino called Hacienda, which had an illuminated sign saying “God bless, our armed forces”.
It was here that three other bikers on Harleys joined me, riding alongside we casually salute each other and ride off down the highway.
Each biker taking it in turns to pass the others out and lead the “pack”, we never spoke a word, when you ride with fellow Harley riders you speak with your throttle not your voice.
Turning off the highway towards Lake Mead I immediately saw a sign that said, “Watch for sheep”. I had lived in New Zealand a place where there are 10 sheep for every person, I had not seen a sign like this before.
The Lake Mead National Park and the road around the lake are so tranquil you almost feel guilty that your V-Twin engine is disturbing the peace.
Although the Lake is beautiful there were not many signs around it, so I rode back towards the city, refuelling at a petrol station called “Terribles” which had a sign saying “No Loitering”; I never refuelled so quickly in my life.
I was getting close to the city when I saw the most amusing street name, “Basic Road”, only in a city like Las Vegas, home of The Strip and Fremont Street could a road of fabulous houses be deemed basic.
Shortly and this time at dusk, I was back riding down The Strip, when I spotted a foxy lady in a silver Mustang, her number plate said it all, “Nevada Vixen”. Noticing me take a picture of the plate at the next set of traffic lights, she smiles and hoots her horn in acknowledgment; I in return nod slightly and give her the thumbs up sign.
I have ridden Harleys in New Zealand and the UK, but the land of lights, parties, gambling and fun make Las Vegas, is one of the coolest places I have experienced even with the wind in my hair and flies in my teeth.
Pics by Eyleen Gomez