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Los Angeles to Tonopah Motorcycle Ride

Chilling In Nevada, Day One

Los Angeles to Las Vegas | Miles Ridden: 336

I have postponed my ride to Nevada for long enough. I originally scheduled this ride for October, but life has a way of getting in the way of our best plans. Finally, I’ve cleared the decks and I’m ready to hit the road.

I’m riding a 2013 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic on this trip. The Classic is the least-adorned of the Electra Glide lineup – no fairing lowers, heated grips or power ports, but still nicely equipped with locking hard saddle bags, a TourPak and a batwing fairing with a sound system. My Electra Glide wears a coat of Big Blue Pearl paint, and it looks absolutely great.

As usual, I’m trying out a mess of new equipment during this tour. Cardo Systems has sent me a sample of their latest helmet communications unit, the Scala Rider G9.

Even though I’m riding solo this time, I love the suite of capabilities that the G9 offers. You can connect with up to 8 other G9-equipped riders at a range of up to one mile, and pairing is incredibly simple.

I’ve installed the G9 on (and in) my helmet in order to use its Bluetooth connection to pair with my iPhone for music and navigation prompts. I’ll even be able to make phone calls in my helmet – while stopped, of course. The sound quality is great, even better than the Scala Rider G4 that I used last year. I’m eager to try the turn-by-turn navigation. This will be much easier and much less distracting than mounting my GPS on the handlebars as I have done in the past. The Scala Rider G9 sells for $289.95 for a single rider or $499 for the 2-rider Scala Rider G9 Powerset.

I’m also trying out a new video system from Pivothead. This is a really cool thing. It’s a 1080p HD video camera built into a pair of sunglasses. Very James Bond. The camera lens is right between my eyes, delivering genuine POV footage. The glasses have 8 megabytes of storage built in, which should be good for an hour of video, or a ton of still photos. I’ve tested out the camera and an accessory, the Pivothead Air, an add-on that creates a WiFi connection for the glasses and increases storage. I can’t wait to see how the riding footage compares with my usual setup, the helmet-mounted GoPro that I usually use. I’ll be shooting with both cameras on this ride. The Pivothead Durango glasses start at $299; the Pivothead Air is an additional $99.

I’m expecting some cold weather on this ride, even though I’m going through the desert. In addition to my Harley-Davidson FXRG Leather Jacket, FXRG Leather and Textile Overpants and FXRG Boots, I’m adding a pair of FXRG Gauntlet Gloves for additional weather protection. I’ll be wind and waterproof from head to toe without having to carry a rain suit or any other gear. I’m prepared with layers, from silk longjohns to glove liners to multiple thermal shirts – so I hope I’ll be warm enough without overheating. We shall see.

Buff Sports sent me a couple of their Buffs to wear, too, each with a cool motorcycle pattern. I always have a challenge keeping my chin and neck warm, so these will come in handy. If it’s really cold, I may wind up wearing one as a head sock under my helmet and one under my chin at the same time. I have an old scarf that I usually wear in cold weather – but these Buffs promise to be a more stylish and functional solution. Buffs start at $20 each.

Finally – I’m trying out some new earplugs on this ride, too. Hearing protection is very important, especially on a long ride. I struggle to find the right solution, because I’ve got very sensitive ears, and I’m also incredibly cheap. I can’t justify spending $75 or more on custom earplugs, because I’m always afraid that I’m going to lose them. I recently read a review in Motorcycle Consumer News about Mighty Ear Plugs, and I’m trying them out on this ride. Mighty Ear Plugs are soft and moldable, almost like a piece of clay. You roll them in your hand, push them into your ear canal and they mold to fit. They’re reusable and they work very well. Best of all, they’re cheap! I bought a “Travel Pack” of 4 earplugs for $7.95. So far, I’m very encouraged – we’ll see how well they work over the course of the trip.

I roll out of my garage in Los Angeles at 7:00 in the morning for the ride to Las Vegas. It’s Monday morning, and I fight traffic for the first hour or so before the road opens up. There’s no great route to Las Vegas from LA. I’ll be slogging on the freeway through the desert, there’s no avoiding it. That’s okay. It gives me a chance to get acquainted with the new Electra Glide, and to make sure that all my gear is working as it should. The bike performs like a dream, and I’m getting very good sound out of the G9. I’m actually able to listen to a few podcasts along the way, without struggling to understand the conversation. Time passes quickly, and I even get a few laughs in my helmet listening to Carolla and company cracking wise.

The temperature when I left home this morning was about 45 degrees – unseasonably cool for January in Los Angeles. I’m kind of worried about a cold weather front that’s moving in, because it promises to hover over Nevada all week. So far, I’m okay.

Around Rancho Cucamonga (former home of Frank Zappa), I pick up Interstate 15, which will take me all the way to Las Vegas. As the day gets brighter, somehow the temperature drops. I’m gaining altitude. The temperature gauge on my dash shows that it’s now in the 30s. I ride on. The road leads on through Cajon mountains and through Victorville, and I’m starting to feel the chill. I stop for gas in Barstow, and it’s seriously cold now, just above freezing. I have some coffee to warm up, fill the gas tank and gird myself for a cold ride ahead.

The next few hours are a bit of an endurance test, to be honest. The road is straight and long, rising through mountain passes and streaking along long stretches of featureless desert. I have to stop a few times at gas stations just to warm my hands and feet. The thermometer at one stop reads 22 degrees. I’m very thankful for my FXRG gear and my Buffs at this point. Other motorists look at me with wide eyes, convinced that I’m insane to be on a bike in this weather. I just might agree with them today.

Finally, I reach Las Vegas after over 300 miles on the road. I park at the Best Western PLUS Las Vegas West, and receive a warm welcome at the front desk. My room is cozy and warm, and as I peel off my layers of gear, I begin to feel human again.

Las Vegas is beckoning. I’m not a casino guy – as I said before, I’m cheap. I appreciate the gaming and all, but the thrill is over for me when I lose money. And I always lose money, so I just don’t play. But Las Vegas has plenty to offer beyond gambling.

I decide to get an overview of town, literally. I head to the Stratosphere Tower, one of the dominating landmarks in the city’s skyline. Located on the northern end of the Vegas Strip, the Stratosphere Tower is an 1,149-foot structure with an observation deck, restaurant, shop and amusement park at its peak. I park for free in the building’s indoor parking lot, buy an $18 ticket and take the one-minute elevator ride up to the 110th floor. The view is spectacular. I’ve arrived just after sunset, and the city spreads out like a carpet of light below me. The amusement rides are closed because of the cold, and there are very few people on deck with me. I move between the indoor and outdoor observation decks, taking pictures and reveling in the glorious view. For once, I’m glad for the cold, because I’ve practically got the place to myself.

After an hour or so of looking out over Las Vegas, I realize that I am quite hungry. Las Vegas has become a Mecca for fine dining, with many of the world’s great restaurateurs and chefs migrating here over the past decade. That’s all well and good, but remember – I’m cheap. Luckily, being cheap in Las Vegas doesn’t limit your options. The traditional all-you-can-eat buffets are still a staple at the casinos on the Strip, offering surprisingly good food for budget prices. I decide to explore the buffet at the Stratosphere, since I’m already here. I dine on prime rib, roast turkey and freshly carved ham – I’m doing the protein thing – and leave feeling very satisfied.

Back at the Best Western PLUS Las Vegas West now, I’m studying the weather forecasts for tomorrow. I have a reservation at the Best Western Park Vue Hotel in Ely for tomorrow night, about a 200-mile ride north of here. I’m very concerned. There’s a chance of precipitation, and my weather app is predicting a high of 22 degrees. I can endure the cold, but if it snows, I’m in trouble. I may have to consider an alternate plan.

In the meantime, I’m safe, warm and full, and my Electra Glide is comfortably ensconced beneath the canopy here at the hotel. Tomorrow is another day.

NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Two: Las Vegas

Chilling In Nevada, Day Two

Las Vegas | Miles ridden: 138

It’s 28 degrees in Las Vegas when I wake up. My bike is covered with frost, and the parking lot is decorated with patches of ice. I go to the breakfast room of the Best Western PLUS Las Vegas West Hotel and have some food as I consider my options. The current temperature in Ely, Nevada is 17 degrees, and there are snow flurries.

I make a decision. I check with the front desk, and there’s no problem with extending my stay here for another night. I call the Best Western Park Vue Motel in Ely and cancel my reservation for the night. I could have used the Best Western to Go app on my iPhone, but I wanted to double check the weather. The operator in Ely confirms the conditions – and tells me that I’m making the right decision. Ely is no place for motorcycles today.

Luckily, I’m in Las Vegas, and there will be plenty to do.

I’ve got a few hours before it will be safe (and warm enough) to ride around, so I spend my time planning. I use the brochure rack in the lobby to help out. I pick up a stack of interesting options, then head to my room to do some mapping.

I’m bundled up and on my bike by 9:00 am. The frost has melted, and the icy patches in the parking lot have reverted to liquid form, as the temperature has soared to a balmy 35 degrees. I ride through Las Vegas and pick up US-93 toward Boulder City. I’m going to visit one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders and a National Historic Landmark, Hoover Dam.

The construction of Hoover Dam began on April 20, 1931, and was completed by March 1, 1936. Boulder City was built in order to house the workers who worked on the dam, and thrives today in its shadow. The dam controls the flow of the Colorado River at Black Canyon on the border of Nevada and Arizona, and generates 4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

I ride up to the dam, and it’s impossible not to be awestruck by the gigantic scale of it all. The dam is 726.4 feet tall, and made of poured concrete – three and one-quarter million cubic yards of concrete, in fact. That’s enough concrete to pave a standard 16-foot wide highway from San Francisco to New York City, and it was poured truckload by truckload into this canyon.

I pay the $7 parking fee, and go in to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center to buy my $11 ticket for the Powerplant Tour. After watching a short film about the construction of the dam, I join a group of international tourists for a short tour of the facilities. We take an elevator deep down into the dam, and our guide takes us into several passageways that reveal just how massive the scale is here. We wind up in one of the galleries overlooking seven gigantic power-generating turbines below. It takes a minute to realize how large everything is down here – workers and trucks on the turbine floor below look like miniatures beside the machinery. Art deco flourishes are on display throughout the clean, neat facility. Beautiful terrazzo floors are inlaid with commemorative artwork, and there’s a raw, industrial beauty to the entire facility. I find myself marveling at the audacity of the accomplishment. I wonder if we will ever undertake an engineering feat on this scale again.

After the tour is over, I take a stroll along the top of the dam, amusing myself by standing with one foot in Nevada and one in Arizona. At this time of year, it is one hour earlier in Arizona than it is in Nevada. I wonder if I’m causing a ripple in the time/space continuum by doing this?

I climb back on the Electra Glide and ride off to the north again. Even though it’s still cold outside, it doesn’t feel brutal right now. I decide to ride through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the way back to the city. Lake Mead is the largest manmade lake in the United States. It is 110 miles long and up to eight miles wide, and holds enough water to cover the State of Pennsylvania with a foot deep of water. I like facts like that. I ride along the shores of Lake Mead, and even on a frigid day like this, people are riding bicycles, fishing and enjoying nature. In nicer weather, Lake Mead is flooded with campers and hikers, and its waters are crowded with pleasure boats. The roads around the lake, while burdened with low speed limits, are curvy and smooth. It’s a really nice cruise.

I glide back toward Las Vegas, but I decide to detour to the north a bit to visit a special museum. The Shelby Museum houses a small collection of cars and artifacts from the life and career of recently deceased automotive legend Carroll Shelby. Some of Shelby’s most famous cars, including the first Cobra CSX2000, are on display in a space adjacent to the headquarters of Shelby American, Inc., near Las Vegas Motor Speedway in North Las Vegas. I get to see a few cars I’ve only ever seen in photos, and a few I didn’t even know existed, like a Shelby Dodge Omni prototype from the 1980s. Admission to the museum is free, and there’s even a tour of the Shelby American shops at 10:30 a.m. every weekday.

I saddle up and ride back in to Las Vegas again for more adventures. Just east of the Strip on Flamingo Road, I park at the National Atomic Testing Museum. My $20 admission ticket gets me in to the permanent collection as well as the special exhibit about Area 51. The National Atomic Testing Museum may seem like a kitschy attraction, but it is a serious museum, created by an act of Congress and is associated with the Smithsonian Institution. The layout is compact, all on one floor in the corner of a large building. It’s a thoroughly modern, multimedia museum, with lots of video and audio displays. It is fairly objective about our country’s history with nuclear weapons, but it is very chilling to stand in the same room as a nuclear device, even if it’s not armed. Southern Nevada was crucial in the development and testing of nuclear weaponry, and this museum is an important step in reminding people about the risks and discoveries that were made here.

After nuclear testing, I need to lighten it up a bit. I just have time to ride up Las Vegas Boulevard to catch the last tour of the day at the Neon Museum. An $18 ticket buys me access to a guided tour of the Neon Boneyard, which houses a huge collection of rescued neon signs from 1930 to the present day. The beautiful, weathered signs are displayed in an artful jumble that tells the story of Las Vegas in a fascinating way. I join a group of 10 for the 3:30 pm tour, and learn that the collection began when a neon sign company, the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) donated their retired signs to a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring Las Vegas’ history. Turns out that the casinos and restaurants didn’t own the signs; they leased them from sign companies like YESCO, who took them back to refurbish and repurpose when the businesses wanted a new look (or went under). The Neon Museum raises money to restore and display signs for the public to see, and they have seven on permanent display along Las Vegas Boulevard. The beauty of these signs, and the elegance of the boneyard, is a wonderful attraction, and worth a visit to Las Vegas all by itself. This place is a must for photographers, though you have to sign a release upon entry that you will only take photos for personal use – so I can only share my pictures of the outside of the museum and of the public displays. You’ll have to come by my house to see pictures of the boneyard, or make the trip to Vegas yourself.

On the way back to the Best Western PLUS Las Vegas West Hotel, I decide to stop for dinner at the Big Dog Cafe & Casino right on Sahara Avenue a mile away from the hotel. Perhaps I missed my own dogs a little, but the place looks really inviting. Hardly a Strip-style mega-casino, the modest Big Dog is a cozy brewpub – I don’t even try to see the “casino” part of the building. A long, U-shaped bar is surrounded by comfy high booths, and the restaurant is decorated with dog paintings, dog photos and dog sculptures. My kind of place. The food is good. I wish I could sample the beers, but I still have to ride back to the hotel.

I make one more stop on Sahara Avenue before returning to my room. Sheplers, the world’s largest Western wear store, has two stores in Las Vegas, and I can’t resist the opportunity to do some fantasy shopping. It’s so much fun to try on a bunch of cowboy hats and boots. I used to get all my clothes from Sheplers when I was a kid living in Wichita, Kansas, and I still order from their catalog. I don’t buy anything tonight – but I add a few items to my mental shopping list.

Back at the Best Western now, I’m trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. It’s still below freezing in Ely, so I can’t go there. I think I’ll reverse course, and head for Carson City instead. It’s a long ride, but it’s worth a try. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Three: Las Vegas to ?

Chilling In Nevada, Day Three

Las Vegas to ? | Miles ridden: 216

I’m all packed and ready to go. I study my weather apps and my maps. I’m planning to ride to Carson City today. There’s pretty much one route available – US-95 North, through the desert along the Nevada/California border and the east edge of Death Valley. I can’t ride any further east – that’s where all that nuclear testing took place back in the day, along with Nellis Air Force Rage. No public roads available – and I don’t want to get too close to the testing sites, anyway.

I check out of the Best Western PLUS Las Vegas West Hotel. I’ve been particularly impressed with the staff here – they’ve been uniformly friendly, professional and helpful. I far prefer the atmosphere here a few miles off of the Strip to the hyper-charged megahotels. I liked being able to visit the Strip without feeling trapped by it.

I saddle up on the blue Electra Glide (have I mentioned how pretty the color is?) and ride out of town. Las Vegas soon recedes in my mirrors, and I’m in sprawling suburbs. Those too fade away, leaving the vastness of the desert. US-95 starts off as a wide divided highway until it dwindles to a two-lane road itself. I travel over short rises to discover new flat desert valleys with scant vegetation.

Some people find the desert featureless and unattractive. I’m not one of those people. I love the desert landscape, and I’m fascinated by its ever-changing beauty. I love conquering the desert on a motorcycle, all the while imagining the challenges that the pioneers faced just a century or so ago. Crossing the desert wasn’t something that you did lightly back then.

It isn’t now, either, unless you pay careful attention to your fuel consumption. There are few open gas stations along US-95, so make sure that you fill up if you have any range anxiety at all. I stop when my tank is half-empty, just to be safe.

Beatty, Nevada is a wide spot in the road about 120 miles along US-95 from Las Vegas. I bring this up simply because it’s one of the few towns along the route, and an interesting place to pause and get warm.

Because it is still cold today. In fact, it’s getting colder all the time. Riding faster seems like a good idea, if only to get out of the cold. But riding faster increases the wind’s effect, and makes me feel colder. I have to ride at a reasonable pace, which means I’ll be out in the cold longer. Not good.

I fight the cold until I reach Tonopah, 100 miles past Beatty. In my original ride plan, Tonopah was my stop after riding day four. As I pull into town, the temperature is in the upper 20s. There’s snow on the ground and ice everywhere. I see the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn in the heart of town. I make a decision. Tonopah seems like a very nice place to stop for the night. Carson City will have to wait for another day, another trip.

I park on Tonopah’s Main Street and go in to the newly restored Mizpah Hotel & Casino for lunch. The historic building was built in 1907, a five-story monument to the Nevada Silver Rush. As Tonopah has seen its ups and downs, so has the Mizpah. The current owners undertook a renovation to the public areas of the building in 2011, and it’s a great relic of an earlier age. I repair to the lobby cafe for lunch and some hot coffee, and get to work rescheduling my ride. I first call the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn to change my reservation to tonight. They’re very accommodating, and even offer to get my room ready early so that I can check in right after I eat lunch. Nice. I then call the Best Western Carson Station Hotel & Casino to cancel my room. Once again, no problem – and it’s probably not wise to ride into town anyway, as snow is falling even as we speak.

After a nice lunch at the Mizpah, I roll the Electra Glide over to the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn. I notice that there’s clearly designated parking for motorcycles right outside the front entrance, with a cool laser-cut steel sign. Unfortunately, ice has claimed the motorcycle parking area, so I park a little further away with the ordinary cars. Oh, the indignity.

I get an extra warm welcome when I walk in to the lobby. I guess they were expecting me, and have read my blog. I am greeted by Joanne, the General Manager, and Lisa, her associate. They invite me out for dinner tonight, and recommend a visit to the Tonopah Historic Mining Park this afternoon. I load my gear into my ground floor room, and head out to explore Tonopah on foot – carefully.

The Tonopah Historic Mining Park covers over 100 acres, carved into the side of a hill behind Main Street. It features trails that take you past displays of actual mine openings and equipment from the days when Tonopah was at the heart of the Nevada Silver Rush in the early 20th century. The visitors center is at the top of a steep, long path. Hiking up the hill reminds me that Tonopah sits at over 6,000 feet – higher than Denver, Colorado. I am sucking wind climbing that hill, and feel pretty old and cold by the time I get to the top. The visitors center is a pleasant respite, with several cool scale models of the site and a big collection of rocks, minerals and fossils on display. I decide not to tour the grounds because of the freezing cold temperature outside, and I am glad that the walk back to Main Street is downhill all the way.

Back on Main Street, I stumble across a great discovery: A well-stocked used bookstore called “Whitney’s Bookshelf.” Beyond a front area with comfortable seating, the store is packed with well-organized shelves full of used books at very reasonable prices. Hard covers are $2 and paperbacks are just a buck! Rare books and collectables are also available – those cost a bit more. Whitney’s Bookshelf is just the kind of store you hope to find in a small town. I buy a yellowed but clean paperback copy of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” which I have never read (I know, embarrassing, but I somehow skipped it). The thick paperback fits right in my jacket pocket, and at one dollar, I feel like I’ve found the perfect companion for the rest of my trip.

I return to the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn in time for my dinner appointment. Joanne and Lisa pick me up in Joanne’s Prius, a dwarf vehicle in the middle of a town populated with big pickup trucks. We drive to El Marques Mexican Restaurant on Main Street and share a hearty meal while sharing stories of life in Tonopah. Joanne’s been here for over two decades, while Lisa is a relative newcomer, having been here for a decade or so from Arkansas. They are obviously well known and well liked in town, as fellow patrons keep stopping by the table to say hello. It’s a really nice time in a very friendly town.

Before we return to the hotel, Joanne has a surprise for me. We drive past the town limits a few miles to discover a bench beside the road. Joanne tells me that Tonopah is one of the darkest towns in the United States, with very little light pollution to obscure the night sky. She has brought a pair of binoculars, and invites me to scan the stars. Once she turns off the lights on her Prius, we’re enveloped in total darkness. I can barely see my hand in front of my face. I turn my head to the sky, and in a few moments, my eyes adjust. I can see a carpet of stars overhead, more stars than I think I have ever seen before in my entire life. I raise the binoculars to my eyes, and even more stars are revealed between the stars. The depth and breadth of the sky is overwhelming, and I could stare into space forever. If only it wasn’t so cold. I stare at the sky until I hear Lisa’s teeth chattering, then reluctantly suggest that maybe it’s time to go. Joanne and Lisa hide their relief well – they’re very good hosts. We climb back into the Prius and return to the world of artificial light.

I thank Joanne and Lisa for a great evening, and toddle back to my room for a good night’s rest. I know that I’ll dream about the stars tonight – and Mexican food.

NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Four: Tonopah to Las Vegas

Chilling In Nevada, Day Four

Tonopah to Las Vegas | Miles Ridden: 216

Morning comes to Tonopah, and the temperatures are still well below freezing. I bide my time by lingering in the warm, friendly breakfast room off of the lobby at the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn. Eggs and sausages, yum.

By 10:00, the thermometer has crept up into the low 30s, and I determine that it is safe to ride again. I say my goodbyes to the Tonopah crew, bundle up and roar out of town, back south on US-95.

The ride back down to Las Vegas is much like the ride up was – bracingly cold, but visually alive. The desert is graphic, and details stand out against the background. The occasional horse corral or lonely herd of cattle on the hillside sparks an internal dialog about the nature of human companionship versus the independence of remote living. I reflect back on how quiet and calm life seems in a town like Tonopah, even while being connected to the world through the internet maintains all of the same concerns we confront in cities and bigger towns. Could I live in a small town, or would I feel too isolated? Isn't the isolation of the big city somehow more severe – to be alone when surrounded by people is a familiar theme among urban dwellers. Riding a bike through the desert gives me time to turn these ideas over in my mind.

I stop at a disappointing diner in Beatty for some lunch. I'm the only customer in the place, but the waitress refuses to ask the cook if he'll rustle up an omelet for me. "They've already started on the lunch menu." I wind up with a bland chef's salad and a vow never to eat at this diner again. I won't even mention their name here – but it's the only non-chain diner in Beatty, Nevada. You're better off hungry.

Back on the bike, I push back toward Las Vegas again. The good news is that it's getting warmer by the minute. My dash thermometer indicates that we've broken into the 40s, the warmest I've been in days. My spirits are high, and I'm really enjoying the ride.

I roll in to Las Vegas just after 2:00 pm. I decide to go directly to my final museum tour, and to check in to my hotel room later in the afternoon.

The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, better known as "The Mob Museum," opened just one year ago to rave reviews. Housed in a building that was once a federal courthouse and United States Post Office, the Mob Museum's mission is "to advance the public understanding of organized crime’s history and impact on American society." Much like the Atomic Testing Museum, the Mob Museum is a multi-media showcase for the latest in museum design, with plenty of hands-on exhibits, video and photography. There are traditional artifacts and documents on display, but always within the context of an interactive environment. My favorite room is the courtroom, which was the actual site of some of the Kefauver Committee organized crime hearings from the 1950s. I also have a lot of fun with a shockingly realistic simulator that puts me in the role of a policeman in pursuit of a gun-wielding suspect, complete with an eerily real-feeling Smith & Wesson .38 at my side. Far from glorifying crime, the Mob Museum presents a realistic, informative overview of organized crime and the law enforcement efforts devoted to its control. Tickets for the Mob Museum are $19.95 for adults, with discounted rates for seniors, students and children. I'd be careful about bringing impressionable youngsters. If you wouldn't want your child to watch the movie "Goodfellas," you wouldn't want to let them roam the exhibits at the Mob Museum.

It's getting near dark. I take one last cruise up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, admiring the LED and neon signs as they flicker to life in the dusk. I don't know if anyone is ever going to preserve the big LED screens that now decorate Las Vegas, having replaced much of the neon from the past. But they are pretty spectacular in the present, if you can drive the images of "Blade Runner" and other futuristic nightmares from your head.

I cruise a few exits up Interstate 15 to North Las Vegas, and quickly locate the Best Western PLUS North Las Vegas Inn & Suites. Just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, North Las Vegas is a more industrial area, and much more of a "real" place. The Best Western PLUS North Las Vegas Inn & Suites is comfortably tucked away, and caters to mostly business travelers with great professional amenities, available business services and meeting rooms. I find it the perfect antidote to the big hotels on the Strip – the big impersonal hotel is not my style at all.

I ask the front desk clerk for a dinner recommendation. I noticed plenty of chain restaurants near the freeway when I drove in, but I'm looking for something different – maybe a steak. The clerk mentions that there's a steak house, Waverly's, at nearby Cannery Row Casino, but it's kind of pricey. He much prefers the Cannery Row Buffet. All you can eat for just $13.99. Now we're talking.

It's a quick ride, just a mile or so from the Best Western PLUS North Las Vegas Inn & Suites over to the Cannery Row Casino, a surprisingly big place for an off-Strip casino. I park in the free motorcycle parking lot near the front entrance, and stroll through the casino lobby to the sounds of slot machines and roulette wheels until I see the buffet. I ask if I can check out the goods before I commit to dining, and I'm waved through, no problem. It looks delicious, with a wide variety of choices and the usual wacky mix of international cuisine. I pay my money and head right for the carving station, loading up on the meat. They don't make any profit on me at a buffet, I can guarantee that.

After dinner, I reverse course back to the hotel. Tomorrow I will head back toward Los Angeles and home. This time the ride will be a little warmer than before – the cold front has moved through, and we're back to normal, it seems.

My room is warm, comfortable and quiet, and I happily drift off to sleep.

NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Five: Las Vegas to Los Angeles

Chilling In Nevada, Day Five

Las Vegas to Los Angeles | Miles Ridden: 325

Finally a morning without frost on my motorcycle – but today is the day that I head home. Oh, well. I've got the perfect excuse to return to Nevada later in the year: Undiscovered country. I'm still eager to ride up to Ely, and I really want to take that ride across the state on US-50, "The Loneliest Road in America." Carson City beckons, and then there's the whole northern part of the state that I didn't even plan to touch on this ride.

Today, the job is returning home to Los Angeles. I fuel up with a good hot free breakfast in the breakfast room off of the lobby at the Best Western PLUS North Las Vegas Inn & Suites, then load the bike for the ride. Man, I slept well last night! The bed was really comfortable and supportive, and the temperature in my room was just right. Sometimes simple pleasures are the best.

I don't need a map to get home – I'll be riding the exact reverse of my route here along Interstate 15 South. It's sometimes hard to visualize the fact that Las Vegas is actually north of Los Angeles – seems like it should be south somehow.

As I ride home, I think about the new gear that I brought along on this trip.

I love the new Mighty Ear Plugs. Pushing a thousand miles plus, and I have used the same pair for the whole trip. They're comfortable and really block out sound. I have discovered that they're somewhat adjustable, too – by bending them a little, I can control how much sound they let in. Great product; highly recommended and quite a deal at $7.95 for two pairs.

I'm a little bit on the fence about the Buffs from Buff Sports. They definitely perform as advertised, keeping their shape through multiple wearings and providing warmth and protection. The issue I had is that they're a little too snug for my head and neck. I've got a gigantic melon head (I wear a size 7-7/8 hat, sometimes even a size 8) and my neck is 18", so I'm definitely in the 99th percentile. Try before you buy, and I'm sure you'll be more satisfied than I am.

The new Harley-Davidson FXRG Gauntlet Gloves are winners. The gauntlets fit snugly over the cuffs of my jacket, blocking out unwanted cold air from getting up my sleeves. The pre-curved fingers are perfect for riding without bunching around the grips. Thankfully, I didn't have to test the waterproof qualities of the new gloves, but if they're anything like my FXRG Jacket, they'll be great.

The jury is still out on the Pivothead video system. The glasses were as comfortable to wear as regular sunglasses, which is great. My challenge with the Pivothead glasses is that I couldn't tell if they were recording or not when they were in my helmet, and I can tell from the video that I downloaded during the trip that I accidentally turned the camera off when donning the glasses under my faceshield. So, I thought I was recording, but I actually wasn't. Bummer. Not a total loss, though. The Pivothead glasses still work great for a POV walking tour, as long as you're conscious of where you're looking at all times, and avoid too much head bobbing or sudden movements. I'll have to play with these more before I make a final decision – but for now, the old reliable GoPro Helmet Hero is my adventure video camera of choice.

As for the Cardo Systems Scala Rider G9, it's two thumbs up. It delivered great sound out of the box as promised, and surprised me with its ease of use and extraordinarily long battery life. Even on a long day's ride, the G9 outlasted my iPhone in navigation mode. I was very pleased with the G9, and might even invest in one for my own personal use. Remember, I'm cheap – so this is a big deal.

I stop for gas just outside of Baker, California – home to the World's Largest Thermometer, which would show 50 degrees today (if it were working). I avoid the famous Bun Boy Restaurant, having had that experience in the past (once was plenty). Instead, I stop for lunch at Peggy Sue's Diner in Yermo. It's a very charming stop and a step back in time. Be sure to visit the Dinersaur Park behind the restaurant.

Cruising on home to Los Angeles, I'm sad that this trip had to end so soon, but happy that I was able to jam so much activity into my days. I'm kind of proud that I visited Las Vegas without spending a dime on the gaming floors, and still saw some memorable sights and had some delicious meals. I wish I could have gotten to Ely and Carson City, but the fact that I didn't gives me some hope that I'm finally mature enough to be flexible. We always talk about the joy being in the journey, not the destination, and this trip proved it. The weather was a challenge, and rather than let it break me, I bent and redirected my energy in another direction. I know that I've learned from the experience.

Now that I'm home, I'm faced with my constant concern: Where should I ride next?

Total Miles for Trip: 1,231