July 24th – You Don’t Know Hot.

As we were loading up the bike for the ride to Vegas, I discovered something had worn a groove all the way around my rear tire. It wasn’t all the way through the tread, but still, something had cut a pretty deep gash in a complete circle around my rear tire. I tried to think back to what could have caused that. I was pretty sure it hadn’t been there the day before, but I really couldn’t be 100% sure. There was no cell phone reception, but I used the motel wifi to make a Skype call from my iPhone to my insurance company. They tried to take it down as an at-fault accident for some reason(probably as an excuse to jack my rates up), so I told them to forget it, and hung up.

After some deliberating, we decided to risk it. I was quite confused about the damage, but it was still a fairly shallow tear overall. We’d be mostly on major highways for the ride today, including a decent stretch on the interstate, so hopefully the roads would be gentle on the tires. The ride took us back through Zion, and I cheerfully waved my pass instead of paying the $25 toll to take that scenic cut-through. As before, the ride was spectacular. While I have mixed feelings about actually spending time in the park proper, surrounded by people, it is definitely an amazing piece of pavement to navigate. Much more interesting than the other ways to cross that bit of longitude.

From Zion, the ride got much less pleasant. For the first and only time during the trip, leaving a crack in the visor on the helmet actually left you hotter than having your face in a sealed sweat box. The scorching desert air blasted in through the helmet like jet exhaust. It was like staring into a hair-dryer on high heat. Normally, leaving a crack in the visor lets in a breeze that, regardless of how hot it is outside, still overall cools you down, especially in comparison to just letting the sun’s heat get magnified through the visor and being sealed in around your face. Not so through the brief corner of Arizona we clipped while heading from Utah to Nevada. Since using the camelback required opening the visor a bit, this eventually became quite a paradox. If I want to hydrate, I will be blasted in the face with hot air, making me sweat all the more.

If you’ve never been to Nevada before, you might not know that it’s probably the single most obvious state border in the nation. Literally as soon as you cross the border, it’s gambling gambling gambling everywhere. Every gas station has slots, every billboard is for a casino, every hotel is a casino, even the motel 6. The whole state is one huge filthy gambling hall, from border to border. I’m really not a fan. It is an unfortunate obstacle between me and California. Also, it’s incredibly hot here, especially in the desert surrounding Vegas. Northern Nevada has some beautiful purple mountains, but southern Nevada is just wasteland. It’s not even interesting desert like Moab, or Joshua Tree.. Just endless flat, hot nothing.

We arrived on the dirty outskirts of North Las Vegas well before sunset. The heat of the desert had been oppressive, but the heat of the city was even worse. Sweat poured down my face, stinging my eyes. The stench of car exhaust and desperation permeates the air. Our destination was the Riviera Hotel and Casino, just off the strip. I had only been to Las Vegas once before, and had not really ventured off the strip while we had been there. Oh, what a difference a block or two makes. Less like an adult theme park, and more like a dark carnival, Vegas off the strip on a Sunday evening is a depressing look at humanity that almost makes you want to give up on the whole endeavor.

By the time we’d arrived at the hotel we were starving, and half dead from thirst. Plus, we hadn’t taken even one smoke break between Zion and the Riviera. The line for check in was immensely long, and seemingly moved forward by only one employee. For over 30 minutes we stood in silent suffering, longing for food and a place to put down our hundreds of pounds of gear. Like virtually every place in Vegas, the Riviera has mandatory bellman service if you want to use a luggage cart. Though the service is technically complimentary, there is a clear expectation of tip. Vegas is a marvel of social engineering, with every last detail meticulously calculated to separate you from your money and get you out as quickly as possible. We finally got all of our stuff to our room near the top of the hotel some hour or more after arriving at the hotel.

Already stressed out by the dark, sinister feel of the city, we rolled up a fat ass blunt and smoked it on the balcony before heading down to investigate the buffet. During the eternity we spent in the checkout line, we had been forcibly made aware that by joining their rewards club, you would get 2 free buffet passes. Goddamn advertising. We headed to the line to join the rewards club, and unsurprisingly found it to be even longer than the check-in line, and also manned by a single person. We stayed in that line for about ten minutes, and when it had not moved even a single inch in that time period, we decided no amount of savings could possibly be worth this wait, and headed off to find the buffet anyways. Walking away from the line, I knew they had won. Fuck I hate this place. Of course the path from the rewards club kiosk to the buffet winds you through the entire casino first, maximizing the chance you’ll get distracted gambling. Finally we arrived at the…you guessed it, huge ass line to get food. From the sound of conversation in the line, many others had thought to get the free buffet, but gave up when the line never moved. It’s a fucking trap. For $14 a plate, I hoped the buffet would at least be tasty.

That hope turned out to be more wishful than realistic, but it was definitely edible, and there was definitely a lot of it, and to top it all off, I wasn’t even sick later. Worth $14? Hell no. The Riviera continues to disappoint. It’s all the cheap trickery of Vegas with none of the gilded sparkle. After the buffet we headed upstairs to get more stoned. Silly us, we don’t really drink, and we only gamble with our lives, but here we found ourselves in Las Vegas. At some point in the night, I decided we should try and get some booze to maybe get in a better mindset to appreciate the city. The casino had a couple places selling liquor inside, but they were all so absurdly marked up I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for them. We went to bed, no alcohol having passed our lips. I did a little research on my phone, and found that we could move to a nicer hotel on the strip for less money the next day, and we’d get to do the buffet of buffets, a 24-hour pass to 7 different buffets. We’d been a little starved, unable to ever get quite full on our camp food, so we had to make up for lost time.

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