What happened in Vegas... When no one stayed in Vegas?
As the famous, or rather infamous City of Las Vegas welcomes visitors, and begins to re-open I reflect on a time in the Spring of 2020 when the strip was like a ghost town. Overnight, everyone left. The Strip properties closed, and Las Vegas came to terms with the fact that Covid-19 was going to be a long-haul. As a 25-year Las Vegas resident and cyclist there was only one thing to do. Go for a bike ride on The Strip... The entire Strip.
You may have seen images of big cities with empty streets, empty shops, and empty parks as a result of Coronavirus, or perhaps you have experienced this in the city where you live. The National Parks are closed, and the Las Vegas Strip is open and deserted. The deserted Strip presented an irresistible opportunity for cycling on the Strip. The Resorts are all closed and one of the most congested 3-miles of road in the world is absent of gamblers, party-goers, cars and limousines. Las Vegas was a wild West ghost town.
Under normal circumstances, the risk of cycling the Strip is high. The combination of drivers from another city or country unfamiliar with the road, the distraction of the lights, and sounds of the Strip, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and sheer congestion makes the Las Vegas Strip a portion of road to avoid. Coronavirus changed everything, if only for a moment in time.
The last time I was on the Las Vegas Strip on a bicycle was in 1996 with Alex Stieda when we both found ourselves in Las Vegas for Interbike (trade show) in and we decided to ride from our hotel on the strip out to Red Rock Canyon, ride the Red Rock Canyon Loop Road, and back to our hotel (50-miles ride). Alex had retired from professional cycling and he was Sales Director for Softride bicycles.
We left the hotel at around 5:30 AM so that we could get back for the 9 AM start of the trade show, and fortunately we only had to endure a few-hundred yards on the Strip until we were able to depart the Strip to head West to our destination, Red Rock Canyon Loop Road. Red Rock Canyon Loop Road is spectacular in every aspect, and the main photo on my blog was taken there. It’s open generally from sunrise to sunset 365-days of-the-year. I highly recommend this ride for anyone visiting Las Vegas. It’s been a wonderful memory to have experienced Red Rock Canyon Loop Road for my first time with Alex. Alex Stieda is a former professional Canada cyclist. In the 1986 Tour de France, he led five classifications on the second day: the general classification, the mountains classification, the combination classification, the intermediate sprints classification and the young rider classification. He also became the first North American to lead the Tour De France. Riding the Strip is not on most cyclists’ bucket list. There’s nothing identifiable or associated with a great cycling experience. It’s the one place most cyclists would avoid, but on this day the Las Vegas Strip experience could not have been better. The 3-lane road was smooth and flat, and I was all alone to experience the Strip in a way that few have ever had the opportunity.
I made one full loop from my starting point at the far South end of the Strip, Town Square to my turn-around point at the far North end of the Strip, Fremont Street Experience and back South to where I started, Town Square. I can’t say that I had the Las Vegas experience, not the kind of experience most people associate with Las Vegas, but for any cyclist, this Las Vegas experience was one I’ll remember as one of the most unique experiences I’ve had on a bicycle.
Las Vegas took a big hit from Covid-19, and as it has done many times in its past will regenerate and reinvent itself. I have no doubt that Las Vegas will rebound from the devastating effects of Coronavirus, and that it is only a matter of time until the Strip will be bustling and hotels will be back to full occupancy. As I have seen so many times, having lived in Las Vegas since 1996… “The show must go on.”