Where I Have Been Map

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bike America - Nevada

Ahh the beautiful mountains of California, the cool breeze, the giant pines, the .... 

brush .... dust .... brush .... casino .... brush.  Welcome to Nevada. 

I must say my very first impression of Nevada was not the best. As we rolled into the RV Park and I hopped out of the car, and everything suddenly turned to slow motion. A blast of heat immobilized me in my tracks. I suddenly it felt as if I was trying to walk through an invisible wall of jello. Only the jello was a heatwave of 110 degrees. With sweat starting to drip down, I could not run to the pool fast enough. Jumping into the water, I am pretty sure I heard a "pizzzzzz" of steam coming off the splash. Why would anyone who lives here EVER leave their air conditioned houses. 

I didn't know how we were going to survive the next week, slowly inching down the sizzling roads of Nevada. I didn't know how I was going to survive the day! But then things started to turn around as soon as the sun started to set. 

We followed the echo of an announcer on speaker and found a rodeo being held by the local casino. Cowboy boots, cowboy hats, leather, sounds of snorting bulls - this was going to be awesome! The first event we got to see was not the bull riding however, but goat riding. Yes, children as young as 4 or 5 years old would strap themselves on the back of goats and hold on for dear life. They were bull riders in training!  

And then the real bull riders came out and did their thing... VERY cool! But the most impressive members of the rodeo in my opinion were the bull ranglers that came in at the end and tried to push, pull, yank, and lasso the bull into a tiny little exit in the gate. THEY were some talented cowboys! 

Leaving the rodeo, we grabbed some concession food. But this was not just any ol' hot dog - what they had for sale were things called Indian tacos and Indian fried bread. I had forgotten how many Indian reservations dot the Nevada terrain, and I had always been so curious about the culture on these reservations. But in the short time we had, all I got to ask the woman at the stand was about the types of food they cooked! She explained that Indian tacos consisted of all the same ingredients as a Mexican taco, but the real diference comes from the bread. The bread they use is fluffy and fried, crunchy on the outside - and like air on the inside. Then the Indian fried bread, which is what I got, was very similar to a typical carnival funnel cake - only it felt like I was biting into a cloud! Yum. 

After the rodeo was over, they invited the crowd to the after party at the casino, where they would "buckle" the bull riding winner with the big gold belt buckle. Kiersten and I went for a bit, and even decided to gamble a little to really get into the Nevada atmosphere. We both chose the penny slot machines, because at least that way you get the most turns for your dollar! I put in $2 and started pressing the "bet 1" button over and over and over. At times I would win another nickel or so, and the machine would sing to me and light up! It was fun! But then the rolling thing landed on something that said I got 6 free turns. The machine started going for these turns on auto pilot, so during my little break I ran up to the front and tried to submit my rodeo ticket stub for a drawing. Well, it turned out I was too late for the drawing .... but not to late to still win. I walked back to my machine and Kiersten was like, Annie ... I think you are winning? We looked at my screen at it was flashing and blinking and showing that I had won $200!!!!! Without even being around it!!!!!!!!  

... I was beginning to warm up to Nevada. 

Right off of Hwy 50 
The next few days riding through Nevada all blended together. It was beautiful, the terrain was vast and the roads wide open. But it was also the exact same view for miles and miles and miles. However, when I finally got the chance to hop on my motorized bicycle to ride along with Kiersten, I suddenly got to experience Nevada in a way I never could have imagined. There is something so freeing about riding through the desert on a bicycle, even a little motorized one. All I could here was the little motor putt putting, all I could feel was the wind on my face, and the best part - I could sing songs at the top of my lungs and absolutely NO ONE could hear me for miles.

Kiersten riding down the Loneliest Road in America Hwy 50
As I was cruising down Hwy 50 (also known as the Loneliest Road in America) I watched the buzzards circle around Kiersten and me - maybe we were one of the first live things they'd seen in awhile, and maybe they were hoping we wouldn't survive the 320 mile stretch. I cranked my throttle and putt-putted ahead of Kiersten to get a shot of her rolling past me a few miles ahead. As I started racing down the Highway as fast as my little 66 cc motor would let me, all of a sudden what looked like a tornado rose up right beside me. I turned my head and realized I was starring right at a dust cyclone. It decide to ride alongside of me for a good 2 miles or so! That was the coolest feeling - in my head, I imagined myself in the movie "Twister" trying to outrun the tornado riding along right beside of me.

Two Dust Cyclones!
Then, not 5 miles up the road, we started seeing "WARNING DO NOT CROSS FENCE" and Navy Air Base signs. Kiersten stopped her bike and turned around to tell us she knew exactly what this was - a Navy air base to test bombs.

BOOOOOOOOOOOM. Just as the words left her mouth we felt a vibration in the ground and a low rumble that gradually got louder and deeper. The sound reminded me of one time I went to the zoo with my family, and out of nowhere the lions started roaring so loud and so deep, every bone in our body shook. We looked over and a few miles out, we saw the dark smoke risking into the air - the aftermath of a bomb that had just dropped.
A bomb just dropped in the Navy Air Base

But dust cyclones, bombs, and buzzards were not the only startling things on the road. One of the first days we rode through Nevada, a storm started to roll in. Kiersten thought she could beat the storm for the most part, so she kept on riding as the sky started to darken and the wind started to pick up. I was ridding behind her when I almost fell off my bike from the CRASH sound of one giant lightning bolt that, with no exaggeration, filled the entire sky from left to right. I had never seen anything so big, so terrifying, and so beautiful! But that being said - we hopped right back in the car after that and didn't take any chances riding through a storm.

Our final stop in Nevada (just outside the Utah border) was a city called Baker. This place was absolutely minuscule  They had one restaurant and one grocery store (if you can call a place that stocks up on only beans and chips a grocery store). The people who lived there were so outdoorsie, and had jobs like rangling up rattle snakes during the day, and giving star tours during the night. We went to one of these star sessions, almost every single constellation shone clear as day. That's the one good thing about living in a small town, you get to see all the stars.

Starry Night Sky in Baker, NV

So all in all - I think once you get past the repetitive landscape, the impossible heat, and the mile stretches of not one human being in site .... Nevada actually has some really beautiful parts to it, things you cannot see anywhere else in the world. I'm very excited about hitting Utah next, but I am pleasantly surprised with how incredible of an experience riding through Nevada actually was. 

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