WHEELS TAKING FLIGHT - MOUNTAIN BIKING IN BOULDER CITY, NEVADA
This story produced in partnership with TravelNevada
Right from the start of the ride, I realized Bootleg Canyon was more closely related to a roller coaster than to a bike path. Even the environment hinted that I was in for something new: the colors of the earth and plants were subtler than the ones back home. The browns and greens were soft and worn, like sun-bleached fabric. The sky above was aggressively blue. The contrast hinted at a world not completely tamed, but I told myself I wasn’t there for the scenery. I asked Oscar if he really thought we’d have more fun here than on the Vegas strip, and he just grinned, like he knew something I didn’t. It reminded me of when we were kids and he’d learned to ride his two-wheeler before I did. One look conveyed superiority, mischief and genuine excitement for me to get up to speed.
Since I knew that look meant no more information would be forthcoming, I strapped on my helmet and climbed onto my bike. The start of the ride takes you over wooden slats that bring to mind a gun-slinging outlaw’s Old West or a playground seesaw. The wooden bridge starts out flat, and then hinges down into a ramp that spits you onto the trail, but as the ride picks up speed, you realize this is far from child’s play.
The hard-packed earth weaves through desert brush in a way that makes the most of the terrain. It winds like a snake between short sage-colored bushes, and then narrows to a crevice as it makes its way around a rocky outcropping. I take the first jump before I even realize it’s coming, and there I am: flying through the air on my bike. I brace for the impact with the ground, but I hit the earth the same way I hit the jump—without missing a beat. The shocks on my bike absorb the landing, and I start pedaling, chewing through the welcoming dust. Once I’m soaring down the path again, chasing Oscar and shouting laughter, I realize that I haven’t felt this kind of exhilaration since we were kids.
Riding with abandon
Riding Bootleg Canyon gave me the same feeling of wild freedom that I had the first time I took off on my bike without asking permission or knowing where I was going. At eight years old, it had just been me and Oscar and the open road, and we had ventured through miles of unfettered adventure before our parents even knew we were gone. Now, as I rode through the Nevada desert, I wondered what happened to the vow I made to go farther faster and be more daring once I was no longer subject to my parents’ rules (or consequences). This was the first time in a long time I had done anything that would have made my eight-year-old self-envious.
Then my tires touched down and I was moving again, the forward momentum gripping my attention as I pushed to the end of the trail. I finished the ride, heart pounding, lungs pumping, my body recovering from the effort I barely noticed I was exerting while I flew over the hills and valleys of the trail.
Oscar grinned, and I couldn’t even blame him for his smugness. He had been right about mountain biking Bootleg Canyon. “We should ride it again,” he suggested good-naturedly.
The ride had made me think of more than just what we should do for the rest of the day. It was time I made good on my childhood promise to chase fun and freedom, and I couldn’t afford to lose any momentum. I slapped my childhood cohort on the back and said, “We’ve definitely got more riding in our future.”
Take flight in Boulder City, NV!
An Outdoor Haven - Finding fun and adventure in Boulder City, NV
This story produced in partnership with TravelNevada
Instantly my mind centered on one of my favorite family vacations growing up—when we took a road trip out West. There was something about the grandeur of the wide-open desert, and the sense of being able to see for what seemed like forever, that stuck with me, even so many years later.
My fondest memory of that family vacation was our stop in Boulder City, Nevada. I remember loving every minute we spent outdoors. Seth shares my love for the outdoors, so I settled on Boulder City for his birthday celebration.
We arrived at the Boulder Dam Hotel with just enough light left in the day to appreciate the classic “small town” look of the surrounding shops and restaurants. Half hotel and half museum, walking into the wood-paneled lobby was like stepping into the history of the town. While I checked-in, Seth wandered around reading the exhibits about the construction and history of the Hoover Dam and Boulder City. He obviously found them interesting, because I was peppered with historical facts throughout dinner
The next morning, we both enjoyed a “manly” breakfast that included hash browns, buttered toast, and an omelet overflowing with bacon. I could only imagine what my doctor would say about my choice of meal! But knowing I had at least 18 holes of golf ahead of me, I didn’t feel too guilty about it.
“Nah, let’s play it straight up,” he said confidently.
Surrounded by mountain ranges, the Boulder City Golf Course is one of the most picturesque courses I had ever played, and the fairways and greens were as lush as the desert courses on the PGA schedule.
I teed off first and, even to my surprise, found the edge of the fairway with my drive. Seth took a few practice swings, and then launched a drive that soared toward the distant mountains, and flew past my ball with ease.
“Wow,” I said. “We need to play more often.”
Having the opportunity to play such a beautiful and unique course was certainly a highlight, but even greater was getting the chance to watch my son, who could barely balance the ball on the tee when he first started, play with such confidence and ease.
Following golf, we made the short trip out to Hoover Dam for the power plant tour, and to check out the views from the recently opened bridge. I’d visited the dam with my family when I was a little younger than Seth, and when we reached the bridge, I felt as awe-struck by the view as I had so many years ago. Only this time, I had the priceless opportunity to see the same expression on my son’s face as he gazed down into the mammoth canyon.
“I saw a brochure for this really cool looking zipline in the desert. Want to do it?” Seth asked the next morning over breakfast.
I could hardly believe my ears. It was only a year earlier that I had to practically bribe him to go zip lining with me in the mountains of North Carolina. I reminded him of this, and he just shrugged, “I guess I got over it.”
Our first zip lining trip could not have prepared us for the amazing experience of soaring over the Mojave Desert. The zip lines, which stretch more than a mile, provide unparalleled views of the impossibly expansive vista. About halfway down the line, I instinctively looked over to see if Seth was doing okay. But instead of seeing a timid little boy, I saw a young man with his head held high, taking in every bit of the experience.
In that instant, I could not have been more proud of my son. While I had planned to introduce Boulder City to him, he had actually showed me the ropes and he wasn’t done yet.
“Hey Dad, up for round two of golf?” Seth asked with a smirk.
“Absolutely,” I replied in challenge.
Without missing a beat he said, “Okay, I’ll give you a stroke per hole.”
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