When I got off the plane at McArthur International Airport, I had not even the slightest inclination that my second trip to the Las Vegas Valley would bring me the adventures it did. Sure, I figured the entirety of my trip would be spent in some stuffy-aired casino watching my money escape me faster than I normally earn it. Luckily, on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, my eyes caught sight of an advertisement that turned me onto what lies beyond “The Strip”.
The promise of seeing the true beauty of the desert surrounding Las Vegas on the back of an ATV was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been to this dry city before, and while I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the nightclubs and visiting the casino attractions, I knew I would need a little something more to get the most out of this trip. I never thought a guided ATV tour would be my answer. After doing some research to find the best deal, I stumbled across two websites that could help with making reservations and finding the best price possible – ExploringLasVegas.com and BachelorVegas.com. I decided on settling with Bachelor Vegas and found their staff to be an outstanding mix of informative and efficient. Within an hour I found myself booked on a tour three days later that would be taking me to the outskirts of the Hoover Dam, a site I’ve yet to lay my eager eyes on.
Once everything was settled, I spent a few days exploring the city, anxiously waiting the day of my tour. When the day finally arrived, I felt a sense of giddiness and nervousness as I suddenly realized I was in no way prepared to tour the scorching desert. Prior to my departure time, I was able to stop in at a local Wal Mart and equip myself with some sunglasses and a pretty hefty water bottle – anything else I would need, such as head gear, I figured would be provided by the tour.
When I arrived at the gathering location, I found myself amongst a group of twenty-somethings that were just getting away during their college break. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my travels, it’s that the people you travel with have a hefty impact on your enjoyment factor. Needless to say, I was pleased to be in the company of some high energy tourists. Our guide for the day was quick to get on with the show, starting off by explaining in a certain rapid thoroughness the safety guidelines for riding an ATV. He than explained that he would be taking us through some “exciting terrain”, though he was less-than inclined to elaborate.
Just as the guide finished off his safety speech, we were given the chance to climb onto our vehicle and get familiar with the little nuances. Having never ridden on anything more complex than an 8-speed mountain bike, I found myself confused by the plethora of buttons and switches. Luckily, questions were answered accordingly through a brief run-down of the vehicles mechanics and, soon after getting on my ride, I felt comfortable enough to let my child-like excitement surface.
As the tour kicked into motion, I found myself taking up the rear, having no desire to split up the group I was with. Being no local to the Las Vegas Valley, I found myself simply enjoying the passing desert as the tour kept a slower pace initially. The beautiful mix of red and tan that makes up the Nevada desert is a site that must be seen up close. The aerial views that I’m used just don’t do the natural beauty any sort of justice. I found myself panicking only the slightest bit as our tour started to pick up speed and the comfort of civilization rapidly dissipated behind me.
One thing I never expected to see, mostly due to my own blind ignorance, was any sort of wildlife. Though most skirted away as our vehicles neared them, I was able to catch glimpses of several small coyotes, one of which was seemingly gnawing on its prey before the roar of our vehicles disturbed it. Each time we passed an awe-inspiring display of the perfection of Mother Nature, I lamented on my inability to stop and take pictures on my own free will – a rule in place for safety reasons, of course.
Maybe 30 to 45 minutes into the tour the terrain started to get a little jostling. Each shifting jolt had me feeling like I was going to topple off of my vehicle, but as our time on the sandy dunes of the desert grew, as did my comfort level. There is a certain amount of adrenaline that courses through your body as you find yourself bounced from one dune to the next, and I can assure you it is a feeling that all must experience.
The tour was listed as being several hours long, but I can attest to the fact that it felt no more than an hour. Between drinking in what I can only describe as the “ugly” beauty of the desert and the rush of adrenaline that being on the back of an ATV provides, time flew by quicker than I could ever imagine. Before I knew it, I was parked and overlooking the rim of the Hoover Damn with a group of people that, despite not knowing previously, seemed like a close group of friends. One of the best things about the tour itself was the knowledge that the guide had about the dam itself. While I initially thought we would simply be treated to the sites of the structure, I found myself surprised by the brief history lesson that had us learning the back story behind what was once known as the Boulder Dam.
Overlooking the manmade magnificence that is the near 85 year old damn was an exquisite display, well worth the sore rear end from the lengthy ride through the desert. The water of Lake Mead that pooled at its base was empty, which ensured that no other tourists would taint our view. The guide continued on with the dam’s back story, and while I was certainly interested in the history, I could put myself away from the distraction that was our view of this magnificent structure surrounded by a gorgeous display of mountainous terrain.
Time passed by a bit too quickly, though, and just as soon as we got there and the guide started the story of the dam, he was describing the most recent addition of the dam bypass in 2010. While I found myself disappointed by the need to part ways with this spectacle, I knew that we still had a fairly lengthy ride back to civilization that would surely offer much more opportunities to fully enjoy myself. I saddled back onto my ATV thinking about all those poor saps mindlessly hitting the “repeat bet” button, experiencing nothing more than a mix of frustration and anticipation within the solid walls of a Strip casino; and as we passed by a pair of roadrunners gazing at us with curious eyes, I couldn’t help but think of what else I may have been missing out on by falling into the typical Las Vegas routine of simply enjoying the nightlife.