February 14 2013 by Jason Fogelson
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.
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 1 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 restauranteurs 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.
Miles ridden: 336
NEXT UP: Chilling In Nevada, Day Two: Las Vegas