Viva Las Vegas

Date: April 7th, 2017

From/To: Kingman, AZ/Las Vegas, NV

Daily Mileage: 110 miles

Total Mileage: 2290 miles

Conditions: Sunshine, warm, and southwest winds at 10-15 mph. Strong headwinds upon arriving to Las Vegas.

Mom was up around 6:30AM to catch an 11AM flight out of Las Vegas for home. I took my time getting ready but I was up at the same time to see her off. It was nice to have a break from being alone. Mom was someone that could experience some of the amazing things I was seeing and doing, I’m happy she was able to come out for a week and follow along!

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Todays trek from Kingman, AZ to Las Vegas, NV.

I left the hotel around 8AM for Las Vegas. I had a 10 hour bike ride ahead of me and I knew I needed all the time I could get. Luckily the wind was at my back so I was able to ride smoothly for the most part. I started off heading through a beautiful valley between mountain ranges on both sides of US-93 North.

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Mountains to the left.
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Mountains to the right.
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Mountains straight ahead.

The wind was at my back and aside from leaving Kingman and the final stretch to Las Vegas, it was mostly downhill or flat. Halfway, I came across a billboard that said “SHOOT A MACHINE GUN, SHOOT A 50 CALIBER! 10 miles ahead!” If I’d been driving I would’ve only had 10 minutes to debate if it was a good idea or not, probably driving on, but after 45 minutes I decided it was worth stopping by. The place was called Arizona Last Stop, located about 20 miles from the Hoover Dam AKA the Arizona-Nevada state border. I rolled up to this place with expectations fully met and exceeded, not to mention the limousine monster truck parked in the front lawn. These guys weren’t messing around. Inside the building was souvenir shop and restaurant, and as I rolled around the back lot I saw massive bunkers leading into the gun range.

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The bunkers.

Every few seconds I heard a “POP POP,” I knew I was in the right place. I entered the building with all my biking attire on and they thought I just wanted to eat. “Surprisingly I’m here to shoot” I said, their faces then lighting up. I was introduced to Bri at the registration desk, who asked me what I was biking for. I told her about my cause and she was delighted. “My grandma is 81 and she has Parkinson’s, she’s a fighter and doing her best against that horrible disease. Thank you so much for everyone you’re doing.” Not to mention today was her grandma’s birthday, yet another amazing coincidence. It was great to find another connection to someone passionate about the cause.

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A picture of Bri and I, sent to her grandma with a heartfelt message about Ride4Parkinsons.

After a while we started getting into the shooting packages they offered, I chose the gold package that came with my choice of 5 guns to shoot ranging in size and caliber. I chose to shoot a glock, a fully automatic uzi, a fully automatic AK-47, the M240 machine gun (yes, automatic), and the cherry on top was the Barret 50-Caliber Sniper Rifle.

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The selection wall.

After picking my guns Bri asked me what I wanted on my burger. I then learned that the gold package came with a burger and fries as well, I wasn’t complaining! I had a bacon cheese burger before heading down to the bunkers where the range was. Bri introduced me to Brandon who was running the range today. He told me I was lucky I showed up now because he wouldn’t have had time for me in 30 minutes due to all the reservations they had. We walked over to the ammunition shed and he started explaining where I’d be shooting and how many rounds per gun. He was constantly looking at me, almost in a way that seemed as though he was trying to gauge if I was crazy or not. I can imagine tensions are always tight, especially when you’re handing random people heavy auto machine guns to shoot down range. I guess I seemed alright despite being dressed in all my biking gear, that must’ve been a first.

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It wasn’t supposed to be a smiling picture, I missed my own memo.

We walked over to the close rifle range where I shot the glock and uzi. He showed me how to hold the guns and handed them over to me one by one to shoot, never stepping very far away from me when I had a gun in my hands (again, understandable). POW, POW-BING “Good hit,” POW-BING “Good hit,” POW, POW. I went 2/5 with the glock, not the best start but my adrenaline was spiking. Next was the uzi. I started by firing 2 rounds on semi auto, much easier than fully auto. Brandon then switched it to auto and I fired about 10 rounds at the metal targets, maybe hitting once. It’s amazing the lack of control on an automatic but it was so awesome to shoot.

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Shooting the uzi. This photo was taken after I fired all the rounds and the clip was removed.
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Shells, shells, and more shells.

When I finished up we made our way over to the long range for the AK, M240, and 50-Cal. Brandon grabbed the remaining rifles and asked me to follow him over there.

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I offered to help out but he insisted on doing it on his own. It made for a good photo op.
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The long rifle range. In the distance you can hardy see bowling pins, my targets for the 50-Cal.

I started with the AK, again shooting 2 rounds on semi auto then opening it up. Same result, I don’t think I hit a target once but it was incredible to shoot.

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Action shot with some fire power!

After the AK was the M240, the next generation rifle of the M60, the machine gun made famous by Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo movies.

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Locked and loaded.

That thing was ridiculous. The crazy thing was it reminded me so much of shooting an M240 in video games like Call of Duty. The game designers managed to get the sound, barrel view, vibration, and overall handling of that rifle so precise that it’s eerily exactly the same in real life. I fired about 12 rounds on full auto hitting the target every other shot. It was much more accurate as a tripod gun rather than being hand held. Finally, the Barret 50-Cal. I had three shots, and to give you an idea of the power of this thing, I was told I couldn’t aim for the $450 metal target a ways down the range because it would destroy it and I’d have to pay for a new one. I had to aim at bowling pins twice the distance from the long range metal target. Also, as I fired the the second shot, my camera fell off the table from the shockwaves that the rifle produced.

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American Sniper 2, starring some guy in a biking outfit.

Even with ear protection my ears were ringing. Every shot made not just the target, but the ground around the target area explode. I thought about how scared I’d be down range if someone had a rifle like this. It made me think about the many soldiers that risk their lives fighting enemies with weapons of similar caliber. It’s a frightening feeling when you realize the power behind these weapons. I had the luxury of shooting them at a range somewhere in Arizona with no worries about my safely. I now have an even greater appreciation for those who serve this country by putting themselves in the line of fire to defend our rights as Americans. Among all this fun was a humbling moment. I thanked Brandon and Bri then I packed up my gear and started off again. My next stop was the Hoover Dam.

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A gorgeous view of the Colorado River as I was heading up North on US-93. The Hoover Dam divides the Colorado River, forming Lake Mead to its north.
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Here’s a visual representation of the Hoover Dam, and only a portion of Lake Mead is shown, giving some scale to the massive lake that this dam has formed.
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It was all downhill riding towards the dam crossing, pun intended. As you can see, I was overlooking the dam from a distance as I passed over on US-93. The bridge I was on was named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after two war heroes with special ties to the area. I could’ve biked down to the road that actually goes over the dam but I decided it would be in my best interests not to punish my legs more than I already had by coming down this way. The bridge was so windy that you could barley stand on it without losing balance. At 900 feet, it’s the second tallest bridge in the US, after the Royal Gorge Bridge. I certainly felt high-up, I couldn’t look down for more than a few seconds.

So kids… here’s todays history lesson on The Hoover Dam, controversially named after President Herbert Hoover. 

The Hoover Dam, was built from 1931 to 1936, claiming the lives of 112 workers during construction. As you may recall this era of American History is most famously known for the Great Depression, so the dam makes for an interesting government-financed project during this time. The dam was proposed not only to provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California, it also was built as a defense against flooding, providing water storage to combat droughts, and to regulate water flow south of the dam. At 724 feet tall, it was the largest dam in the world upon its completion, an engineering marvel that proved the potential for hydroelectric power. Currently the dam attracts over one million tourists per year, and provides electricity to over eight million people. Source.

After stopping for my scenic overview of the dam, I crossed the Colorado River and entered Nevada, the second to last state I’d pass through on my cross country voyage.

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Entering Nevada, to the left you can see the next portion of my ride starting. Up, up and more up.

A trivial fact, but something we all take for granted is that rivers find the lowest elevation to flow along as they travel from high ground to low ground. In a car you may not pay much attention to this, on a bike you dread the downhill ride into the valley because you know what goes down must come back up. That’s exactly how I felt climbing out of the Hoover Dam. It was worth the ride down to see it, but biking back up the other dam side (had to) took a toll on my body. To add on, I was now battling the wind, a friend of mine this morning turned traitor by the afternoon. It was only 30 miles to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign where I had my map routed to, however it was the hardest 30 miles I’ve traveled in a while. I made it there with extreme agony, but as I always say those are they days that make me stronger. Looking back now, it’s worth it despite my questionable thoughts at that time.

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It was great to see the sign, leading into “Fabulous” Las Vegas.

That’s about as far as I made it today. I was hoping to head into town to explore around but I wasn’t feeling very well. Not to mention I was meeting Paul, a contact I was linked to through John (a tour-biking friend), to stay overnight at his house in the outskirts of the city. I was looking at the sign as I head Paul say “You must be Matt,” approaching me from the parking lot. I turned around to greet Paul, sarcastically asking him how he guessed, as I stood next to my tour bike with all my bike attire on. Paul’s been living in Las Vegas for over 24 years now, he told me its gone from a city of 380,000 people to 2.5 million in that time, expanding at an exponential rate. He’s originally from Long Island, around the same area my dad is from so that was a cool connection. He helped me load my bike into his pickup and we drove off towards his house. Paul’s a great guy, an outdoorsman like me with a passion for exploring, hiking, camping, and simply enjoying nature. We arrived to his house, I met his wife Dawn and son Eric. Paul and Dawn treated me to dinner at a local spot and we enjoyed a nice meal together with some great conversation. After dinner we made our way back home, I was soon off to bed because I wasn’t feeling too well. I was hoping I wasn’t sick (again…) but I was starting to feel like I had the stomach bug, similar to how I felt in Denver. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it was, how unlucky. I went to bed without even brushing my teeth.

Nonetheless, Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt

One thought on “Viva Las Vegas

  1. We spent our vacation in Arizona several years ago and went to many of the places you went through. It brings back great memories.
    Your trip is looking amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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