The Push To Vegas

I set out in the morning with a much lighter bike, thanks to Matt. Lots of miles to cover!

Getting snacks for the road! Got a much lighter set of luggage today.

The weather was hot, but the air was fresh.

Feathery sky in 104 degree heat.

As I rode, I thought about the argument I’d seen on Nextdoor the previous day, and the thoughts I’d had about social conflict, and urban versus rural populations, while passing through all those small Nevada towns.

BLM has several popular meanings right now.

My thougts ran like this:

America has had a very public battle with its demons of slavery and racism since forever. “Public” in two senses:

First, there is a constant supply of Americans who believe that the status quo isn’t adequate, including plenty of Americans who believe in changing the status quo even if they struggle with subconscious racism in their hearts. They are politically active, socially active, and vocal.

And second, “public” in the sense of a free press, and because journalism that calls attention to conflict has always been especially popular. Compare this to places like China, where the government has a long and ongoing history, up to the present minute, of abducting entire ethnicities it doesn’t like to go live in forced labor camps, and the “press” is simply forbidden to talk about it, and in fact government censors work to prevent the public from discussing it privately as well.

I wonder how often rainbows actually show up here.

These chilling roadside markers are scattered around town too.

A loud and public battle is a lot more progressive than a timid, secret one. There are other affluent places in the world whose citizens are collectively shockingly racist, but simply aren’t being challenged by the presence of enough different people to confront it.

America has come a good distance since it was nearly torn apart by an internal war that confused economic interests and human rights. There was a time when bands of white people used to roam the countryside plundering and murdering their white neighbors for not being racist enough. Now that segment is reduced mostly to ghostly online rants in ugly corners of the internet – possibly abetted by foreign agitators – and anarchist morons insinuating themselves into protests to turn them violent.

Pokey plants.

As we all know, it isn’t adequate to end a policy or a tradition of racism and declare the battle won. We have to replace it with something stronger. Real social bonds, real examples of solidarity, everyday exposure. Fewer people willing to listen to monsters on AM radio spreading weird theories about a “grievance industry”. Each of us, personally, really can contribute to that.

What, no fireworks in the dry desert by the roadside? Awww.

Each of us can go out into the fringes and weeds of our social circle, and find someone who is markedly different; someone whose story we can barely guess at. With just a little bit of bravery and effort, we can connect to them. A short conversation leading to an invitation. A chance to tell a story.

Whenever we do this, we add a thread to the fabric that binds everyone against bigoted ideas and behavior, because those ideas can only take root when there is a separation for them to occupy.

What could be on it???

It’s a quiet process. It’s not “virtue signaling”; it’s not going to score us points online, but it will make a real difference. If that’s what we really want.

If what we really want is to stop feeling shame for a little while, whether or not progress happens, then we can go ahead and keep screaming into the online void.

Clouds in the evening.

Mulling this over, and listening to some podcasts and music, carried me several thousand feet up the mountainside and into the evening. Then I saw this ahead:

Uh oh. Gonna get cramped ahead.

Pretty sketchy, but I can deal with it. Then I noticed this:

What?! Couldn't you have told me that at the bottom of the hill?

Aww come on, where am I gonna go now that I’m up here?

Rather than ride onto the tightly confined lanes of the freeway and risk my life, I decided to roll into the gravel, and chew my way slowly along in relative safety. I have no idea what the construction crew would have said, but they weren’t around to see. The entire work zone was depopulated.

Lots of earth being moved around here.
It's a stuff-squisher!
I doubt I'll be exceeding this.
Pedaling up the unpaved opposite lane, clear of the traffic.
The cars are tucked on the other side of a wall for a change.
Looking back down the steep hill.
Hey look, pavement!
Really? You couldn't even bother to finish the water?

At the top of the hill I found a restaurant and RV park. I might have been able to stay here for the night, if I’d known ahead of time. Oh well!

World famous. Suuuure.

I paused for a while to catch my breath and get some neat photos of a Smokey Bear carving, then it was time for the big downhill rush.

Fire station at the top of the hill.

Smokey's message.

While taking photos I also stopped to marvel at my iPhone. It’s operated in temperatures well over 100 degrees for multiple days. I got a “heat warning” once a few days ago after leaving it in the sun, but it was fine 10 minutes later. It’s endured multiple nasty drops onto the road surface, with no damage. It’s had legitimately impressive battery life even on long days of fighting for a marginal signal. Dang, these gadgets are amazing.

First glimpse of the ocean of lights that is Las Vegas.

Shadowy valleys to the north.

Zooooom, I went. For a while I used the construction zone, since it gave me a lane to myself, but I kept worrying that the pavement would suddenly turn into gravel or just end, so I had to grip the brakes. When the construction zone ended I swung out to the shoulder and stayed there, drifting up to speeds above 40mph as trucks slowly moved by.

Whooshing along at 35 miles per hour.

“My iPhone’s been performing well,” I thought, “but that’s distracting me from the real miracle: My body. It’s been wonderful this entire time. I just put in water and food, and sleep, and it just keeps pedaling, day after day.”

Having a body and not having to worry about it, that’s a true blessing. I’ve been through times when I had to worry very much indeed about my body, and I remember how it constantly threatened to sweep everything else off the table, even small daily tasks.

We get a small rash, some bacterial thing; we dismiss it because we’ve seen it a dozen times before and we’re already thinking ahead to a few days from now when it will be gone. But it’s a reminder. The world is coated with tiny things that are furiously trying to eat us, and if our bodies stopped working for only a few hours those little monsters would make significant progress. We are made of material – through and through – that is food for others, and every day that goes by in our self-assured counting is only possible because our bodies fought mightily to avoid being digested into nothingness. This stays true every second as we are wholly occupied by vague future plans.

Down in the city, rehydrating.

Funky bike path.

In less than an hour, I was in the middle of Las Vegas, and heading towards the south-east corner on a series of little roads and bike paths.

I arrived at Matt’s house very tired and rather hungry, but in good spirits. We immediately started chomping a pile of thai food. Awww yeah!

Getting out dishware for Thai food.

Sure beats the tent!

The weather in Vegas and beyond was going to be quite bad for the next few days. High heat and sandstorms. With my options for continuing south severely limited, I realized that today was probably my last full day of biking for this trip. That’s OK; it had been a good one.

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