Las Vegas – The Interbike Tradeshow and Awesome Red Canyon!

Las Vegas lights at night.

Las Vegas lights at night.

Harrah's Casino & Hotel.

Harrah's Casino & Hotel.

View of the Venetian Hotel and Casino

View of the Venetian.

Interbike - Pinarello Dogma

For a cool $18 grand, this bike could be yours.

Ernesto Colnago

A true giant of the bike

industry, Ernesto Colnago.

Colnago Ferrari bicycle

A bikcycle with a royal pedigree:

Colnago and Ferrari.

Alberto Contador Tour de France Trek bike

The bike ridden by '09 Tour de France winner

Alberto Contador on the final stage of the race.

Eddie Merckx

Eddie Merckx

5-time Tour de France


Hallway in the Venetian Hotel

Glittering walls inside the Venetian.

Venetian Casino gondolas

The Venetian recreates aspects of Venice.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

ready to rock at 7 a.m.

Bob Roll

Bob Roll, famous (or infamous)

bike race announcer.

George Hincapie

George Hincapie signs


Calfee Tandem

21 lb. Calfee carbon fiber tandem.

Could two men sprint on that bike?

Interbike trade show

Wooden bike seemingly made of pencils.

Chris Carmichael

Chris Carmichael, famous for designing Lance

Armstrong's workouts.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Calico Hills hike

Calico Hills hike.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada Calico Hills hike

Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada Calico Hills hike

Intriguing formations at every turn.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada Calico Hills hike

Desert plants eke out a living in this

harsh environment.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada Calico Hills hike

The cliffs are bigger than they appear at a distance.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada Calico Hills pictographs

Hands across the ages.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Nevada

Stately Joshua trees line the road to

Spring Mountain Ranch.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Nevada - burros

Wild burros.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Nevada - burros

The burros enjoy the only lush

green grass for miles.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Nevada - roadrunner

A roadrunner greets me at the ranch.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Nevada

Spring Mountain Ranch house.

Howard Hughes modified the kitchen

The kitchen's copper stoves were replaced with stainless

steel by Howard Hughes.

Vera Krupp's dressing room

Vera Krupp's dressing room.

Two sides of Las Vegas, Nevada

Late September, 2009 - We continued down I-15 from Utah and traveled to

Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual Interbike bicycle trade show, a week long

testosterone-filled bicycle love-fest for crazed bike junkies.  The largest show of

its kind on this continent, I have attended enough times over the years that I

opted out this year.  I chose instead to spend a quiet week alone just outside

Sin City at peaceful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area while Mark

and his son lived it up at the Imperial Palace on the Strip.  They brought back

endless stories and photos, the highlights of which I'll share here (my  Red

Rock Canyon notes are further down the page).

The amazing thing I noticed about Las

Vegas ages ago, while on a plane flying

away from the city, is that it is entirely lit

up with colorful lights at night.  No

ordinary urban night sky, every

building is outlined in red or

yellow, green or blue.

Huge neon signs blast the

names of the casinos into the

night air, and spot lights

transform each building's

facade into a colorful canvas.

Mark took a few shots from the

window of his room at the

Imperial Palace, showing

Harrah's and the Venetian in

their evening finery.

Entering the Sands Convention Center for Interbike is like opening the door to

the most massive bike shop you can imagine.  Acres and acres of vendors fill

the entire hall, showing off bikes, clothing, gear, and everything else that is

even remotely related to the bicycling industry.  Vendors are situated in

international groupings, with China and Taiwan occupying a large piece of turf

at one end of the hall while the Italians dominate another.  English is in short

supply when you enter these regions.  Mark has a soft spot for classic Italian

bikes, and he made a beeline for the Pinarello booth where their new Dogma

was on display.  This little puppy would set you back a mere $17,900.  And that

doesn't include pedals.  What a ride!

Ernesto Colnago is a

legendary Italian bike builder,

and he posed for a quick

photo.  He has never owned a

car and routinely turns out

some of the most beautifully

crafted bicycles in the world.

His company has teamed up

with race car manufacturer

Ferarri recently, and their

collaborative effort was on


Over at the Trek booth Mark found the bike ridden by 2009 Tour de

France champion, Alberto Contador, on his winning laps around the

Champs-Elysee in Paris this past July.  The ultimate overall yellow jersey

winner usually has a pretty good hunch he'll be the champion when he

arrives for the final stage in Paris, so his team goes all out with the yellow

trim paint job on the bike (and the yellow clothes, helmet and gloves as

well) for that stage.

Eddie Mercx of Belgium was arguably

the finest cyclist that ever lived.

Although he won just five Tours, as

compared with Lance Armstrong's

seven, he also entered every race

offered all year long, winning most of

those as well.

In contrast, Lance raced only a few races each

year, and those not to win but simply in

preparation for his Tour de France campaign.

What a thrill to catch the great Eddie himself

signing autographs.

Interbike causes extreme bike overload, and it is

nice to get out into the regular world of Las Vegas

tourism.  The Venetian casino and hotel is a glitzy

recreation of elements of Venice with a strong

American materialistic accent.

The ceilings are adorned with

elaborate, glittering artwork, and

outside the gondolas drift across

a languid pool.

The gondolas are authentic,

made in Venice.  The gondoliers

are hired actors with good singing


Vegas never sleeps, and when

Mark staggered out for breakfast

at 7 a.m., he found himself face to

face with Alice Cooper.  Mark's

sister had just seen Alice in concert in Michigan a

week earlier.  And here he was again, in Vegas of

all places!

Not quite as dressed up in the early hours of the

morning, but showing every bit as much support

for the classic era of Rock on his T-shirt, Bob Roll

stood chatting with passersby at the show.

Famous as a great cyclist, but even more

infamous for bringing a distinctly low-brow

American slant to the brilliantly high-brow race

commentary of Brits Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin,

Bob is both loved and hated for his televised and

blogged analysis of The Tour.

Nearby, Lance Armstrong's legendary lieutenant,

George Hincapie, was hawking his line of clothes

and signing autographs as well.

Back to the bikes, Calfee had a phenomenal 21-

pound wonderbike for two.  Made of carbon fiber

and intended for all-out tandem racing, you can

only wonder how it would support two full grown

men pounding on the pedals in a sprint finish.

Interbike is as much about innovation and

weirdness as it is about fast, sleek racing

machines.  Bikes made of bamboo, odd cycles

involving more than two wheels and more than

one drive-train were on display all over the place.

The wooden bike made of hexagonally cut birch

caught Mark's eye.  It looks to me like it is made

of pencils.

One more icon of the biking

world wound up in Mark's

camera lens: Chris

Carmichael.  We turned to

his books for training tips

many times in years past.

Deriving his fame from

creating Lance's workout

plans, he is the master of

periodic and interval training

techniques and was here

promoting his latest book.

While the boys were nourishing their bike lust in

Las Vegas, I settled into a quiet routine of reading,

writing and bicycling in nearby Red Rock Canyon.

This spectacular National Conservation Area,

administered by the BLM, boasts a huge range of

red rock mountains.  Revered the world over for its

top notch rock climbing, we hiked the easy Calico

Hills route together before Interbike began.  This is

a simple hike along a gravel trail flanked on one

side by enormous red rock cliffs.

Once a vast land of sand dunes, not unlike the

Sahara today, the sand's massive weight caused it

gradually to solidify into rock while underground

streams oozed mineral deposits through the sand

and stained it many shades of red.

The desert vegetation clings on for dear life,

subsisting on rare sips of water in baking sun.

In places, using a bit of imagination, the mounded

domes of rock almost resemble sand dunes.

Clearly visible stripes show the shifting direction of

the winds over millennia, as the sand piled up one

way and then another.

Humans have been here for a mere blip in

geological time, a few thousand years as compared

to hundreds of millions of years.  Along the Willow

Loop trail there is a rock wall with a few pictographs

of human hands.  The hands were child-size by

today's standards, but they are clear and distinct.

What an unusual mark to leave for the ages.  And

what kind of pigment did they use to stain the rock

for the next few thousand years, lasting through

rains, winds and desert sun?  What did it do to their

hands??  Isn't ironic that for all our technical

sophistication, modern house paint needs to be

replaced every few years while these pictographs

have been here for eons.

A few miles from Red Rock Canyon is Spring Mountain Ranch State

Park.  This ranch has been built and added on to by many owners over

the last 150 years.  Starting with a "mountain man" and most recently

owned by Howard Hughes, the history is downright quirky.

Before getting

started on the ranch

house tour, I got a

glimpse of some wild

burros in the grass.

There were all kinds

of signs on the

scenic roads in the

area warning drivers

about the wild burros.  I thought at first I was

looking at domestic donkeys, but I soon learned

that these guys aren't just wild, they are also

wily and smart.  This was the only green grass

anywhere around for many miles.  After the

burros' persistence succeeded in several

break-ins through the fence, the park rangers had

finally given up and let them come and go on the ranch

property at will.  These wild burros had it all figured out.

Afterall, who wants to eat cactus and brown prickly

shrubs when manicured grass is right there for the


A little roadrunner greeted me too as I pulled up to the

ranch house.  He checked me out for a while before

running away.

The house at Spring Mountain

Ranch is humble.  Various owners

have added wings and features to

it over the years, but it remains

essentially a small home.  The

kitchen featured stainless steel

appliances, but I learned these

were from the most recent

owner, Howard Hughes, who

never lived here (and possibly

never even came out here!).  He

removed the original copper

appliances and had his hotel

guys do a lot of renovating with

plain, hotel quality materials.

The previous owner, Vera Krupp, a pre-World War II German movie

star, added a dressing room to the bedroom suite.  She is known for

having owned the 33 carat diamond that Richard Burton ultimately

purchased (at auction) for Elizabeth Taylor.  That diamond seems to

have been a bit of a curse, as some armed robbers stormed into this

remote ranch and ripped the ring from her finger while she was

wearing it!  She got it back six weeks later, however, and forever after

wore it pinned to her underwear.

Vera also had an ultra-private room built for herself, with a secret

access through the second "closet" door to the right of her vanity.

She was not to be disturbed when she retired to this room.  It was a

tiny room with floor to ceiling windows on either side, a perfect

sanctuary for her quiet pleasure.

I had enjoyed my week of sanctuary too.  When it came to an end, we escaped a 100+ degree heat wave that baked Las Vegas for

a few days by scrambling back to Cedar City, Utah, to cool off.  When a cold front stormed across the west a few days later, we

ventured south again to the other side of Las Vegas.  By then the temperatures at Valley of Fire were perfect.