In the movie Viva Las Vegas, Elvis lamented there were only 24 hours in the day and I was a bit sleep deprived during my four-night stay in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, despite not gambling a single dollar. Most of my waking hours were spent outside.
I expect many visitors to Vegas have no idea that outside even exists beyond the pool. But it exists. It exists in spades. (That’s a card player joke.) My luggage contained MEC, not Moores. I was there to work out, not lay about. I sweated rather than betted.
The closest I came to seeing a show was doing yoga on the High Roller — the Las Vegas version of the London Eye Ferris wheel. Our instructor, who goes by the name Beya, was such an impressive contortionist I think her other job might be with Cirque du Soleil. Alas, my Zen was interrupted by a view of the Trump hotel. I took a photo of me giving it the finger and posted it to Facebook. It got over a thousand likes.
I don’t like heights. I get scared putting up my Christmas lights. But riding one of the fastest, longest, and highest ziplines in North America through Bootleg Canyon — a short drive from Las Vegas — was more exhilarating than terrifying. But it was still kind of terrifying. Did you know you must operate your own brakes on those things? I was pulling mine and the guy at the end was waving the hand signals for “No brakes!” because I might otherwise get stranded and that’s humiliating and I guess I’d rather crash into the end than be embarrassed so I eased off the brakes and came in hot, but didn’t die.
The helicopter pilot, who appeared to have just started shaving a few weeks earlier, didn’t kill me either. Taylor, who flies for the appropriately named Papillon Helicopters (for those who don’t know their Steve McQueen, papillon is French for butterfly), seemed eminently capable. Granted, I had no frame of reference, as it was my first time using such a method of aviation.
And what a first time it was.
I have always wanted to see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Taking it in by helicopter was awe-inspiring. At one point our pilot referred to the canyon being 6 million years old, then quipped, “Although some people believe it to be only 6,000 years old.”
I guffawed, relieved to be in the hands of a science-minded pilot. I wonder how many times a day he hears bad Schwarzenegger impressions. “Get to the choppa!”
The big workout of the day was an ATV ride through Eldorado Canyon. Our guide, Chad from Awesome Adventures, could tell I had some experience off-roading and put me at the front of the group so we could leave the more cautious riders in our literal dust (with regular stops to let them catch up so no one got lost and turned into coyote poop).
The terrain was often rough and it takes muscle to manhandle the machine when traveling at high speed. Flying through the desert I was certain we were way out in front and I looked behind to see travelmate Sasha right on my ass in the two-seater. Mindy, her terrified passenger, began to refer to Sasha as “a baddass bitch.”
I’ve done my share of hiking through Alberta, B.C., Colorado and even Japan. I have limited desert experience, however, and wasn’t prepared for the beauty of Red Rock Canyon. It’s like if Mars was terraformed. I dream of a return trip that is solely dedicated to hiking this region. I don’t mind snakes.
This was only my second time to Vegas, the first being in 1995, and it’s changed a lot. I’m evaluating it from the fitness perspective. Two decades ago the hotel gyms were tiny and many charged a fee. Now health and fitness is all the rage, with hotel weight rooms and cardio studios that rival the size of big city health clubs, often free of charge for guests. There are also a variety of fitness classes to choose from, including an Art Hike via the Aria Hotel that involves bodyweight training in proximity to some impressive sculptures around the strip.
Vegas has long been known for the exquisite food, but now you know there are also ample opportunities to burn off those delicacies during your visit.