What do you get when you combine a 104-mile bike race that starts with dodging cheering drunks stepping onto the race course, that requires a police escort for the first 17 miles, and that ends with a stripper dressed as a nurse helping you up off the asphalt? Well, it could only be “VIVA BIKE VEGAS”!
This is one of Philip’s favorite bike races each year because the terrain is beautiful, through all of the desert mountains that surround Vegas, and it is one of the FEW bike races that is harder in the first half than the second half. Most races, for whatever evil reason, are flat and easy right about until the point when you get really tired … THEN the uphill climbs appear. You can almost picture the people who plan the routes …. “muhhh haaaah haaaah <that was an evil laugh>, here comes a bunch of weak, exhausted, sweaty, sunburned riders who have already ridden 70 miles …. NOW let’s see them REALLY work” …. but this ride is the opposite and so Philip loves it!
But before he could ride the race, we had to get there. We extracted Max from school early on Friday and headed to Vegas. It took approximately 2.5 minutes for him, his Ipad, and his tunes to get happily tucked away in his “NEST”, the area above the driver’s seat in the R.V., where he would remain for the five-hour drive.
We checked in to the Oasis Las Vegas RV Park, which is on the strip about 3 miles south of Mandalay Bay, a very convenient location to the start of the race. First order of business … Max must be initiated into RV setup! He was a sewer-line virgin, but now he’s a pro!
We then went to registration headquarters, where (among other things) Philip was required to sign a form that indicated if he saw a desert tortoise on the race course, he would not harm it. What about desert hares? Condors? Mexican gray wolves? All the other species who would also prefer not to be harmed? The tortoises must have a really good lobbyist and legal team to get this special treatment.
Philip had convinced his friend Ryan (in a moment of weakness) to do the Viva Bike Vegas ride with him, so we met Ryan and his wife Erin for dinner. We are in Vegas on business at least every other week so have eaten at many restaurants, and Lemongrass at The Aria is one of our favorites for Thai food … delicious and (by Vegas standards, anyway) reasonably priced. The boys “carbed up” (more rice! more noodles!) and then it was an early bedtime.
At 5:15 AM the prep began. Getting ready for a long race is no quick task. Attach numbers in three places … helmet, jersey and bike. Attach timing chip. Appy butt butter. (Don’t ask.) Apply mist sunscreen. Disable screeching carbon monoxide alarm in RV, which goes off when mist sunscreen is applied. Four large bottles of ice water with electrolyte powder. Energy bars. Goo (energy stuff disguised as flavored snot). Sweat towel. Ipod, preloaded by wife with 8-9 hours of rocking music. Gloves. Headband. Helmet. Review mirror on helmet. New cleats on shoes. Charged GPS gadget. Route map. Bracelet with emergency contact info. Aero bars. Air in tires. Spare tube. CO2 to inflate spare tube. Camera that blog-writing wife begs you to use along the route. Whew!
This race starts on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip and the first five miles or so go right up the center of the Strip. It is always fun because at 6:00 AM there are still the random groups of drunk guys bellowing to each other, and girls in teeny tiny clothes clutching yardstick cocktails, wandering down the sidewalk and not wanting the night to end (or maybe just getting started early). They tend to step out into the street and try to hand the riders beers as they zip by, which makes it interesting but also dangerous. Motorcycle cops escort riders for the first 17 or so miles, then it is out into the mountains where they do a huge route around the circumference of the Vegas Valley for the next 7-8 hours.
Philip may have had his mission, but Max and I had one of our own. While dining at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse in Scottsdale, we had fallen in love with Guarana soda, a Brazilian import that is similar to ginger ale, but a little sweeter with a hint of cherry flavor. We couldn’t find anywhere in AZ to purchase it, and the online sellers wanted to demand ransom prices PLUS ridiculous shipping costs. In a rare moment of inspiration, however, I thought there might be a place in Vegas that we could buy it. Indeed, there was … “Brazil Store Las Vegas”! While Philip was racing, we went and cleaned out their stock. Max was a very happy boy!
Philip was expecting they would end the race around 2:00 PM. However, the news reports for the night before were full of “HAZARDOUS WIND WARNINGS” and they were not joking! During the day of the race, Vegas had sustained winds of 40 MPH with gusts up to 55 MPH. The riders had to literally lean INTO the wind if it was at their side, just to stay upright … and if it was at their front (which, of course, it almost always is … there is NEVER a tailwind in biking! hah!) it slowed their pace considerably. At 2:45 they still hadn’t arrived. 3:15 … still hadn’t arrived. 3:45 …. still hadn’t arrived. Max and Erin were stumped … “Where could they be? …….
Finally, at 4:15 … the triumphant warriors returned. There had been an injury stop for Crash Miller, whose bike had gone down on a crossways railroad track. He was pitched into the street and heard the squeal of car brakes but luckily did not feel a subsequent thump of car metal. The driver jumped out and came running over. Wouldn’t you know it … she was a nurse! Oh, lucky day! Wait a minute. Hmmmm. Smoking an electronic cigarette. Wearing a lot of makeup and high heels. OHHHHH, not a real nurse, a stripper whose act includes dressing like a nurse. Philip was not technically sure which type of nurse he would have preferred! Only in Vegas. At any rate, he got back on the bike and finished the race despite flesh wounds to the leg and worse wounds to the ego.
The boys were exhausted but jubilant! 104 miles in 40 MPH winds = warriors!
Great job, Philip and Ryan!
We returned to the Lucky Charm for a quick cheeseburger dinner ………..
Then off to see a show — “Jabbawockeez Prism.” The Jabbawockeez is an eight-member, all-male, hip-hop dance crew who won the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew. They are amazingly talented and the music was loud, rockin’ and totally fun! The show also had a lot of comedic elements to it, which was entertaining as well. We loved it!
Alas, the 48 hour Viva Bike Vegas adventure came to an end on Sunday. Max and I would drive the Lucky Charm back to Phoenix, while Philip remained in Vegas through Tuesday night for work. It was strange driving off and leaving him behind (don’t worry, he had a rental car) but we were glad to have witnessed his epic Viva Bike Vegas success! Most importantly, we added another state to our RV Adventure Map!
There are no more big trips planned in the Lucky Charm until after the holidays, though we are taking her out to tailgate at all of the Arizona Cardinals home games this season! Please come join us if you are heading to a game at Cardinals Stadium! We are eagerly planning trips to Bisbee, Tombstone and southern Arizona; as well as a long summer trip to Yosemite or Yellowstone in 2014. Future adventures await!