You Will Be More Disappointed By The Things You Did Not Do Than By The Ones You Did
Three Intrepid Travelers Head To Sin City—An Adventurer's Playground Located Between Deadly Deserts And Ancient Mountains—To Conquer Their Deepest Held Fears.
Hed: Life Moves Pretty Fast
Dek: Sophie-Claire Hoeller is from Germany, the promised land of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes... and yet she is the worst driver this side of the Rhine. For the adventure travel issue, she earned her license to drive.
Photographs By Leila Navidi
I have a real, irrational fear of driving. Pretty embarrassing for a German who grew up on autobahns. What can I say, I got my license, never used it, never had a car. Plus, ever since I got my parent's Ford Expedition stuck in a Sonic Drive-Thru (not my proudest moment), I've been off driving.
It all started with a traumatic experience on a mountain bike when I was left to rot in a forest. I won't go into the gruesome details but I will say this: I don't like being in control of any wheeled vehicle. Period.
Vegas may not be the first place you think of for adventure, but besides show girls, roulette tables and sickeningly extensive buffets it is an adventure capital. Just beyond the Strip there's hiking, rappelling and mountain biking in the Red Rocks, camping in the desert and skiing in the mountains.
It's the city of excess, which means even in its natural extracurriculars you'll find pretty much any wildly outrageous and unusual experience money can buy—on all sides of the adventure spectrum.
And with that in mind, I sign up with Escape Adventures for an intermediate mountain biking tour through Cottonwood Valley, a trail that is about five miles long. A 30 minute drive to the picturesque desert town of Blue Diamond passes through looming red cliffs and endless expanses under the bluest, clearest sky I have ever seen. The occasional thirsty-looking shrub dots an otherwise empty landscape. We hop on our bikes and with little to no instruction by Mark ("you won't be hearing my voice when you see a giant rock in your way"), we're off on the trail.
This isn't for me. Mark and two overeager Europeans clad in full, tight, colorful biking regalia are dusty specks on the horizon, the rest of us huffing our way up a hill in the blazing desert sun, clumsily stumbling across enormous rocks, ungracefully skidding down sandy bits. Soon, I am way behind and I feel very alone. I can definitely hear coyotes and rattlesnakes. Are those bones Are they human I get back on and pedal.
And soon, my hard seat becomes comfortable, my jerky steering becomes smooth, the uphill battles less... noticeably uphill. I begin to appreciate the independence Mark gives us—though he valiantly vacillates between the over-eager Euros and the rest of us, circling us like a collie protecting a precious herd of sheep.
While we're usually only about a hundred feet apart from one another—allowing each other the space to brake unexpectedly, fall in private, maybe have a quick cry—it often feels like you're alone in the desert, the world at your feet as you dominate Mother Nature. The views are stunning—cacti and brush, the occasional odd noises from a wild burro, cliffs and plateaus, an endless dusty landscape. It's hot and I hallucinate a cowboy wrestling with a rattlesnake.
I begin to forget the stinging sun and fearlessly whiz down hills freely, enjoying the breeze my newfound speed provides, hopping over rocks like they're nothing, keeping my eyes on the distant horizon as instructed. Like Mark said, it's all about mentally trusting the bike and learning its abilities. It's obvious that everyone is terrified, but having fun regardless.
I'm elated, heroic even: dodging rocks, braving little jumps and having a genuinely great time. Physically exerting myself on the difficult uphill terrain, rising up to a challenge by braving steep falls and rocks in the middle of the path and being practically alone in this rugged and endless-seeming nature gave me a strange and unrivaled sense of freedom.