February 26 2013 by Jason Fogelson
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 omelette 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 and 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.
Miles ridden: 216
NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Five: Las Vegas to Los Angeles