Viva Las Vegas

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I just got back from a week in Las Vegas.  I gorged myself on all-you-can-eat buffets, played a lot of poker as well as some craps (which proved a mistake), and even caught Cirque de Soleil’s “O” – one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  The stage production uses water and height to great advantage.  Acrobats would dive from insane heights into water where just moments before there had been a solid stage.

I took a break from the poker tables long enough to get out into the desert for some dirt bike training.  My first attempt to go riding (Teusday Dec 19) was thwarted by snow (I can’t believe it actually snowed in Las Vegas).  It was warmer in Toronto than Las Vegas.  Luckily the weather improved and I was able to go the next day (Wednesday Dec 20).  It was hard to get up as I had been playing cards until the early hours of the morning, but my anticipation and excitement prevailed and I was able to get moving.  The instructor, Don, picked me up outside the Aladdin at 9:30 am in his shiny new Toyota Tacoma (with two Hondas in the back), and we headed out into the desert.  Don proved to be a friendly knowledgeable instructor, and I would highly recommend his course http://www.dayinthedesert.com/.

Don taught me basic maneouvers like counterweighting, steering by pressing on the foot pegs (as opposed to pressing on the handlebars as you would with a street bike), leaning the bike, standing up on the bike, shifting while standing up (actually a bit challenging), doing weaves around pylons, turning in tight circles while standing, going over obstacles (the picture above shows me going over a wooden beam), doing U-turns on a hill, and traversing a slope (the bike goes between you and the hill).  In general, it was all about learning how to make the bike do your bidding, and learning how to use it as a tool beneath you.  

It was a lot of fun, but what surprised me the most was how physically demanding riding a dirt bike was.  By the end of the regular part of the course, my legs were almost useless and my heart was pounding.  I simply could not physically do any more tight circles while standing up.  I was beat.  

Despite my pain, when Don offered to take me on a trail ride through the desert, how could I refuse?  We went on a great ride where we had to stand up almost the entire way because of the undulations and deep sand.  The bike was sliding around beneath me, and it took a lot of effort to show it who was boss.  I was grinning behind my Helmet the whole ride.  At times there would be craters in the track as deep as the bike, but the bike would just plunge in and I’d gun it up the other sided.  It was amazing what the bike could do.  On the way back to Dan’s Tacoma, we rode across the dry lake bed pictured above, and I got the bike going nice and fast (faster than Dan was willing to go).  It reminded me of the time I went horseback riding and galloped the last few kilometers, well ahead of the guide.

When I got back to the truck, I didn’t want to stop, but my legs were rubber.  To ride for any length of time would require way more fitness than I currently have.  It’s been three days since I rode the bike and my quads still hurt.  Walking up and down stairs is particularly bad.  After I do some strength training, with a focus on my legs in particular, hopefully I’ll be ready to ride for more than a few hours.

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