Archive for January, 2019

We did not come to Las Vegas to bicycle around.   I came with Tootie and her sister Kathryn for a three day vacation.   Still, I brought the Bike Friday in a suitcase so I could maybe noodle around Vegas.  (Southwest Airlines does not charge for luggage!)  Later I would I use this opportunity while out West to bicycle five days in southern California.   More about California in the next post.

The Strip is a conglomeration of high rise buildings several miles south of the original Las Vegas downtown.   We stayed in The Bellagio, a high rise with Italian themes, across the street from Paris, a hotel/casino with a French theme. This was the view from our Bellagio hotel room window. It is all so over-the-top; the Eiffel Tower sexually mounting some chateau, with a Haussmann styled high-rise behind it.

 

The same view at night.

 

This was the view out the same window thirty degrees to the left.    At the bottom of the photo are Roman columns in the outbuildings Caesar’s Palace, with an ad for the Donny and Marie show on the side of the The Flamingo, Ferris wheel in the back yard.

One afternoon I decided to bicycle around Las Vegas.    First, I had to somehow get to the street.    Las Vegas hotels are set up so one as to walk through the casino to enter or leave.    I had put the folding bicycle together in the hotel room and then walk the bicycle right through the casino.

 

The craps tables were in full swing.

 

Walking with the the bicycle, the casino transitions into a small shopping mall lined with pretentious stores like Prada and Gucci.    If someone makes substantial money at gambling the casinos entice their customers to blow their winnings on a multi-thousand dollar woman’s handbag.   The mall ends at a pedestrian bridge that crosses the 8-10 lanes of  Flamingo Road.  On the other side, near the back door of Caesar’s Palace, there is an escalator that descends to street level.   From there I could put the bicycle on the highway and ride off without having to make a left turn.

When staying on the Las Vegas Strip and planning to bicycle, (if anyone ever does this again!) the first three blocks are the worst.   I mostly biked on the sidewalk for about a quarter mile down Flamingo Road as it passed over Interstate 15 and mainline railroad tracks.    Once I could take a right turn onto a “normal” street, everything calmed down with a wide two lane street with a shoulder.   It was suddenly quite pleasant.

Las Vegas is mostly flat and built with a street grid.   I rode all over the west side of Las Vegas for about two hours.  Somehow I had expected the residential areas of Las Vegas to look exotic.  Not.    It is still America.

 

 

After biking around west side neighborhoods for quite a while I headed east towards the older downtown.   There was a bike lane!

 

I have heard that Las Vegas has put serious effort into drawing people to its downtown, maybe even regular people, not just tourists.   I stumbled onto this Cleveland Clinic research building built in 2010.  I guessed but could not believe it was Frank Gehry.  Later I checked and found that it really was designed by Gehry, about the most famous architect in America.

Fremont Street has been the main drag of downtown Las Vegas for a hundred years or more.  The street is closed to vehicular traffic and is now covered with a mesh rooftop.  The whole street feels like a room, even though it is still outdoors.  Compared to the huge hotels out on The Strip, downtown is much more democratic feeling.  Aberrant behavior is permitted.  The casinos have much lower betting minimums.  This is my kind of Las Vegas.

 

 

 

 

There are “outdoor” bars along the street.  I walked around with my bicycle.

 

 

I biked the three or four miles back south our hotel,  The Bellagio out on The Strip.    Closer to our hotel, this tower sat by itself, one of many, clearly not one of the big draws.   Only in Las Vegas could such a huge building seem insignificant.

 

I did make it back to the hotel safely, but I did not venture out on the bicycle again.

 

Raleigh is at least thirty-five miles by bicycle from my home on the Chapel Hill / Carrboro line.   Sure, I have completed that 70+ mile roundtrip once or twice during the past thirty years,  but such a ride is a stretch, especially on a route that involves lots of stops and starts and turns.   Why not bicycle to Raleigh, take the Amtrak from Raleigh to Durham, and then bicycle the fifteen miles home from downtown Durham?

It was almost 11:00 AM before I left Chapel Hill on a Monday morning.   The wind was at my back.

It has taken me years to work out a somewhat safe bicycle route from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, a route that lets one bicycle mostly on residential streets or bike paths.   It shows the ineffectiveness of our state government that we have to figure this out on our own, or that this is the “safe” route.    Those uninterested in these weeds can skip to below the map.

From Franklin Street, go through the UNC Campus down the hill on Laurel Hill Road.   Cross over Bypass at the light and continue by Finley Golf Course.   Take a right on the bike path along highway 54, then take a right on Barbee Chapel Road, then Stagecoach Road, then left on highway 751 for about 200 yards before right on Massey Chapel Road to get on the American Tobacco Trail.   Take that paved trail about five miles to O’Kelly Chapel Road, where you go left.  In about a quarter mile, take a right on Del Webb Avenue through the Amberly real estate development.  Continue straight and the road changes name to McCrimmon Parkway .  This ends at the four lane highway 55.     Go right and bike about 100 yards, then jump the median to Good Hope Church Road.   Take that to the end (about a quarter mile) then left on Morrisville Carpenter Road.

Morrisville Carpenter Road is mostly safe and wide for the several miles to downtown Morrisville and Highway 54.   Go right on 54 for about a quarter mile, then left on the residential street Keybridge Drive.   Immediate right on Kalvesta Drive, then left on Glenspring Way, then right on Weston Estates Way.  After this crosses Weston Parkway it changes name to Sheldon Drive and ends at Cary Parkway.   Go left for only about a quarter mile on that busy road, then right on Winfair Drive.   Take this a few blocks to Evans Road, go right for about a quarter mile, then left on Dynasty Drive.   Dynasty Drive changes name to Elektra Drive, but this residential street continues for several miles up and down hills through quiet neighborhoods, all the way to the intersection of Trinity Road.

Left on Trinity Road and you are almost at the Raleigh city limits.  Trinity Road goes by the State Fairgrounds and Carter-Finley Stadium.  Right on Blue Ridge Road, go down the hill and across Highway 54, immediate left on Beryl Road.

By now you are in Raleigh at Hillsborough Street near NC State.   There are several ways to downtown from here, take your choice.

 

 

 

 

The train was scheduled to leave at 3:00 PM; I had arrived downtown Raleigh with time for lunch.    Sosta is a really nice sandwich shop and coffee house I discovered by pedaling around downtown.    A tuna sandwich with sides of couscous and tabouli had real spark.   An interesting looking group of likely Red Hat employees sat at the other occupied table.   A little search on the internet shows that the owner is from Avignon, in southwestern France.

I must have been the city of Raleigh that decided to invest in a new train station.   I am sure Amtrak did not have enough money to pay for all this.   It opened less than a year ago.   It is really a lovely facility, right in the center of the warehouse district, just a few blocks from the main downtown drag Fayetteville Street.

 

To get to the tracks one walks down this modernist ramp.

There are four Amtrak trains a day from Raleigh to Durham.  Sure, the trains are old school, not glitzy like the Raleigh station.   But the train ride is very clean and peaceful in the half hour journey, stopping on the way in downtown Cary.   All these trains continue on to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte.    You can load your bicycle directly onto the baggage car, zero hassle.  Amtrak in other parts of America does NOT always treat bicycles so well.

The train put me in downtown Durham on time at 3:30 PM.    I still had an hour and a half of daylight left to bike the fifteen miles home.   The NCDOT is widening Chapel Hill Road in Durham county, it is getting safer to bicycle.  (Chapel Hill Road, to University Drive, to Old Chapel Hill Road to Pope Road to Ephesus Church Road)

I was home in Chapel Hill before five o’clock.