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Old 09-22-2012, 05:20 PM   #751
viola-tor OP
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Itís chilly, but a pleasant enough place to wake up, eh?




Merry Christmas! We chat with some RV folks who have been out for nine months and just returned from Baja in a caravan. That sounds nice...

The plan for today: Ride, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, and a redonkulous dinner in Vegas. My apologies to my family who I wonít be seeing this holiday, but this is gonna be a pretty sweet Christmas Celebration Viola-tor style!

I love red rocks and blue sky. Going a thousand miles-per-hour through the desert before breakfast seems like a perfectly appropriate activity for this day.




A few other crazy ADV riders out today.




Valley of Fire! It just sounds cool. And it is.




There is a highway that passes through this beautiful state park, BUT you canít just ride through without paying the entrance fee. Don't turn around to save a few bucks, trust me, itís worth it. Even the scenic drive more than covers the price of admission, and make a couple of stops and you will be more than satisfied.

We take just about every opportunity to stop for photos as the colors of this place are so vivid. It also feels good to stretch the legs and get some blood moving as it is still pretty chilly out, even as we get towards midday.



I also present Lady Firebird with her Christmas present: A Gear Keeper retractable lanyard for her camera, specifically to use on her own motorcycle trips. Of course she likey!




There is one stretch of road (which naturally has a cruelly slow speed limit) that I really want to get some pictures of. L.F. agrees to hoist the mighty Canon 7D up and over her head for some action shots in the beautiful place.







I guess a little of that goes a long ways, and she says her arms are tired. I suppose it is a heavy piece of gear...

Petroglyphs!






What would a trip to Vegas be without visiting the Hoover Dam? Iíve been wanting to see this for a long time.

The new highway over the damn is impressive in its own right, and the built in protected walkway is packed with tourists. We eventually find the parking area below (and of course score excellent motorcycle parking. W00T!), only find out that the Hoover Dam Museum/Tour is open 363 days a year, Christmas day being one of the two that it is closed. Harrump. Oh well, we can still go LOOK at it, and even RIDE over it! The daylight is waning rapidly at this point anyway.




I specifically tried to NOT photo them, but amount of tourists is steadily increasing as we get nearer to Las Vegas, and 90% of them are Asian. It makes no difference one way or another to me, but I was told to expect that by several friends who have more Vegas experience. Interesting! The walkway above Hoover Dam is crowded, and everyone has a camera...

Afraid of heights?




The water level is really low.



Trippy.





Itís getting late, the sun is down, and we are hungry. Letís roll. Dinner awaits...

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Old 09-22-2012, 07:05 PM   #752
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Great photos of Valley of Fire. I really like the ones LF took. I've had that place on a radar for a weekend destination. I guess I need to make it happen soon. Thanks for the update.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:38 PM   #753
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Las Vegas. The Strip. Sin City. Somehow, even never having been here before, I know that this is NOT my scene. I thrive on experiences, specifically experiences that stem organically from interpersonal chemistry, skill, chance, and being in the right place at the right (or wrong) time. Experiences that largely cannot be bought. Las Vegas represents the opposite, a place of manufactured “entertainment” and the manipulated illusion of chance designed to appeal to shallowest level of our human-animal desires and senses and, more specifically, designed to lighten the wallets of the many to fatten the wallets of the few.

That being said, you never know until you try, and I’m sure there are rich experiences to be had in the Devil’s Den, so here we go... I’m an equal opportunity offender!

It’s Christmas night, and my bike is ironically overheating in traffic on the strip. In winter. Great. I want to get some sort of iconic picture of us on the loaded KTM as we cruise this famous street, but the logistics of that seem overwhelming, and we need to eat.

Lets look around a bit first. Viva la France! Nous aurons un goŻt bientŰt!




Really?




Lady Firebird is a hard-core foodie, and has the educated French palette and training to back it up, so I know I’m in for something special tonight.

We don’t have a specific eatery in mind, but she has a list of about five famous chefs that we will call and see which can seat a couple of bikers on zero notice who haven’t showered in days. I mean, isn’t that how the other half lives?

I’d never heard of a Michelin Star before. I thought Michelins were tires! In fact, the Michelin tire company that we motorcyclists all know and love has for many years cultivated a fine restaurant rating system, based on three stars (three being the highest accolades achievable, in short: perfection on every level). Michelin provided this guide to eating your way around Europe in order to encourage travel by car, which would of course boost tire sales... The legend and mystique that is the Michelin rating system survives still. Michelin “agents” travel alone, anonymously, and carefully tally every detail of their dining experience before awarding (or revoking) a Michelin rating. Attaining even one star is a big, big deal in the culinary culture, and three stars puts a restaurant in an elite status of renown that is known in across the world of fine dining. There is a famous instance of a chef being downgraded by one star, and then committing suicide... The stakes are high, and the steaks are delicious! We are exploring a strange land of the truly rich and/or rich pretenders; never have I had a meal like this...

The chances us of being accepted into a Michelin 3-star establishment are slim as we are ill prepared. A fancy dress and heels, and suit and tie, reservations months in advance, and the willingness to part with a large stack of Benjamins are required for THAT experience, so we “settle” for a 1-star rated place: L’atelier de Joel Robuchon, located in the MGM Grand right next door to ‘ole Joel’s 3-star place. Similarly inspired food in a more relaxed setting, with walk-up seating and a *slightly* more affordable price point.

FYI, you can park a motorcycle for free in the MGM Grand garage. Score! And there’s my Michelin Pilot Road II front tire, at least, for story continuity.




It easily takes twenty minutes to secure the bike and luggage, without hauling everything valuable into the fancy-shmancy dinner, but finally we get inside the hotel-casino.

Weird. Here we are on a motorcycle camping trip, mixing it up with thousands of Asian tourists in a casino. I hope I don’t smell too bad, but not much I can do about it now! I like trips where I don’t have to worry about that... But I digress. I was told that Vegas was popular with Chinese tourists in particular during the American winter holidays, and that I should expect NO special Christmas decorations or festivities in general in Las Vegas proper. Interesting! To be honest, once we got there and I saw it for myself I was not noticing a lack of gawdy lights. There are plenty for everyone...

Of course my Canon came inside, with the 50mm “food lens.” Let’s do this.



A great way to go at places like this is to order the taster menu, which gives you many courses of variety, highlighting the style of that particular chef in lots of little dishes. If you are really going all out get the full wine pairing, which tailors an alcoholic beverage with every course (just don’t plan on driving anywhere. The ideal thing to do would be to have a room in that very hotel for easy stumbling to bed...).

The dinner rolls arrive first. My god. These are not Pilsbury, that’s for damn sure, no two are alike and they must be 50% butter. If this is any indication of what is to come we are in for a ride...



The first course is new and different indeed: Foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam. Foams are apparently all the rage in gourmet gastro-experimentation over the past 5-10 years (so I’m told), but this is my first taste.



It’s incredible! We nick-named it “The meat shake,” and it was a flavor unlike anything I’ve had before. Foie gras has landed on my plate only a few times in my life, but never before in drink form. And liquid foam cheese?!? Brilliance!

I won’t describe EVERY course, and the pictures can only do so much, so you’ll just have to imagine the cascading flavors, all fresh, unique, but somehow expectedly balanced... Like a symphony for the tongue! The fine art of food.

Lobster and turnip:



The portions look comically small, and are expectedly served on huge avant guard plates to round out the stereotype of uppity eating. But remember, there are ten courses over maybe two hours. We will not go away hungry.

Scallop:



Our knowledgeable server (or culinary tour guide) was a kick too: A passionate Harley rider he seemed to want to talk more about motorcycles than our meal, which normally I could understand, but we are here for one of those experiences you buy (are rare thing for me), and I want to savor it!

Lamb (we allow ourselves to share only ONE glass of wine between us with the entree, and it is predictably stellar):



Ever heard of micro-greens? Me either! Like perfectly formed miniature salad vegetables with concentrated flavors just like their big brothers. Green onions smaller than a blade of grass... For these bite-sized courses the mini salads seem just right in proportion. We can see them harvesting them with scissors from planters in the kitchen as portions of the kitchen and prep areas are open and visible, and it’s neat to see the fresh ingredients transforming into cuisine between courses.

Venison (this one was a highlight for yours truly. That dark sauce is AMAZING and a dollop of rich, buttery mashed potatoes. Micro-green salad in the background):



Frozen mojito with hand-dipped sugar straw:



We are seriously having orgasms. And here’s desert!



And a decadent coffee course to finish us off. I probably need a little pick me up after this extravagance.



Then, the bill. L.F. is over the moon with happiness, so I attempt to take one for the team and buy her this opulent evening. She senses my move and says assuredly “you cannot pay for this, for this one we go Dutch.” Whew...

Here’s my half. HALF!?!?



With a full wine pairing it would’ve been easily $100 more per person, and for the two of us at the rockin’ Michelin 3-star affair next door it could cost upwards of $1000 for a full service meal. This game is fun, but it is pricey to play!

“Diek?!?! Are you serious? How can you pay that much for a MEAL?!? I don’t see how it could possibly justify that price? I thought Vegas had cheap all-you-can-eat food?!?”

Many people have reacted this way to my retelling, and believe you me, as a starving artist I can relate! But I can also relate to the artist (the chef in this case): The subtleties in hue, shading, interpretation, balance, form, and presentation; these are all things that I do as a classical musician in chamber music and symphony orchestras. How do you really put a price on these little emotions? You really can’t. What you can do is give the artist an opportunity to DO IT. It takes time, space, money (to live), and more time to experiment, to hone and hone until all that is unnecessary has fallen away leaving only the pure form of the art to enjoy: exactly what is needed, not an ounce to little or too much to evoke the slightest nuance in expression.

As they say for motorsports, ever greater advances in weight loss and power gain come at exponentially greater cost. A Ferrari costs more than a Camero. A LOT more. They both have engines and wheels that go round. A Big Mac will fill up your belly just fine. This meal that we experienced tonight, this was Art. Not everyone will experience a meal like this in their lives, just as many will never set foot in a live symphony concert by one of the world’s finest orchestras, but I will. Once in a while anyway...

Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous! We climb aboard the orange monster and flee into the night from the most sinful city in America and promptly get pelted with freezing rain as we hunt for a campsite. I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all, putting our health at risk by riding in the rain to sleep on the ground in relative discomfort after eating a gourmet meal that represents a week’s earnings, all on Christmas day.

Weirdest Christmas ever. I love it. Motorcycle camping rules.

viola-tor screwed with this post 09-24-2012 at 10:44 PM
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:08 PM   #754
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Nice food experience in the City of Sin! Topped off with moto-camping. Excellent!
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:13 AM   #755
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Motorcycle camping rules.
glad ya finally posted up and shared this sin city diversion, the KLR rider in me nearly had a coronary though looking at the bill
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:26 PM   #756
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Great Christmas fun! Christmas? Okay, I admit to not reading every single page....but I've been looking hard to find again the one where you were ruminating on the long-term viability of combining moto-cycling and music......and I may have missed out on what year your story is currently in. Was that Christmas 2011?
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:55 PM   #757
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Blader54, I think he is even further behind than that.


Holy crap, Diek! That was half! I'd have to shoot anyone that served me so little for so much.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:57 PM   #758
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Thanks Dave, that clears it up a bit for me! Say, Viola-tor I have a couple of questions for you, one in each of the spheres you're covering: first, as much as you obviously love your bike, do you ever wish you had a second bike in the garage? Say, sport bike, for example? And number 2, I just watched the NY philharmonic on TV and I'd be interested to know exactly what the conductor is doing up there. More specifically, it seems as though all of the musicians have to be reading the score and can snatch just a glance at the conductor from time to time....as though they can only digitally sample his analog movements. So, from the perspective of an orchestra member, what's going on with that guy?
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Old 09-28-2012, 11:46 AM   #759
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Awesome pic. A woman in love, no doubt.
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:46 PM   #760
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Talking Bump!

Here ya go!
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Old 10-18-2012, 08:07 AM   #761
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Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
Thanks Dave, that clears it up a bit for me! Say, Viola-tor I have a couple of questions for you, one in each of the spheres you're covering: first, as much as you obviously love your bike, do you ever wish you had a second bike in the garage? Say, sport bike, for example? And number 2, I just watched the NY philharmonic on TV and I'd be interested to know exactly what the conductor is doing up there. More specifically, it seems as though all of the musicians have to be reading the score and can snatch just a glance at the conductor from time to time....as though they can only digitally sample his analog movements. So, from the perspective of an orchestra member, what's going on with that guy?

Hey Blader,

Good questions that I think about a lot.

1. 2nd bike - Yes, I DO dream of that. My idea with the 990 was to make it the One-Bike-Only platform, which has been largely successful with the two wheelsets, but when it breaks down I have nothing to ride... On one hand the big KTM is a very expensive motorcycle, I could own two (or three) bikes for what I have sunk into this beast, but on the other hand I've loosely calculated insurance and maintenance costs and it probably works out about even... If you ask me right now what a 2nd bike would be I would answer a street legal dirt bike with some additional super-moto wheels, like a KTM 525 or even a DR 400 or something. Of course I've always wanted a fast Ducati...

2. Conductors - As much as we instrumentalists don't like to admit it, the conductor IS a very important figure for orchestral performances. Yes, the players are all great musicians in a professional symphony, but there needs to be a director to meld the direction into a uniform interperetation. It may seem like some dude (or dudette!) up there just waving their arms around, but believe me, there is MUCH more too it than that. A good conductor can use even the subtlest of gesture to convey an appropriate idea that skilled players can pick up on. Sometimes less is more, sometimes MORE is more, it all depends and they are all different. I have a little bit of conducting experience (more student and amateur groups), and I find that most of where a conductor makes a difference is in the rehearsal process, which makes sense.
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Old 10-18-2012, 10:22 AM   #762
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...I find that most of where a conductor makes a difference is in the rehearsal process, which makes sense.
+1

First up, my experience is no where near the level of viola-tor.

Conductors will tell the musicians what they want out of a specific piece, how they think the music should be interpreted. Once the performance begins I've found that the conductor cues when to start a section, when to make a section end, how loud/soft to play (depending on the venue), and then beyond that they're basically giving the beat to everyone.



So, back to the RR, what are we up to now, last Christmas? You do realize that this Christmas is rapidly approaching? C'mon man, we need our fix.
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:43 PM   #763
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^^^^ What he said.

About the fix, that is. I don't know a damn thing about musical conductors. Now, if you wanna talk about 850MW electrical conductors, I might be of some use.
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Old 10-18-2012, 07:00 PM   #764
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So, back to the RR, what are we up to now, last Christmas? You do realize that this Christmas is rapidly approaching? C'mon man, we need our fix.
I think there may actually be a second missing Christmas
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Old 10-18-2012, 08:03 PM   #765
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Great RR... making my way through the journeys.
Resonates with me b/c I used to be something of a serious musician when younger - played the violin for about 20 yrs and the viola for 10 of those (mostly chamber music). But pretty much gave up both b/c, though I was a pretty decent musician, I wasn't good enough to make it a career. So, much respect to you for doing both what you love and being great at it, and being able to squeeze in some awesome bike trips in between.
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