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.