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Alan Snel

Travel writers explore Las Vegas beyond the Strip

8 October 2015

About 25 miles west of Las Vegas, travel writer Larry Bleiberg hopped on a mountain bike and prepared to navigate a single-track dirt trail in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

The scenic desert landscape at 3,900 feet was a side to Las Vegas most of his travel story readers don't know about. So, the outing staged by the Society of American Travel Writers would offer Bleiberg, of Birmingham, Ala., the visual anecdotes necessary to fashion a story about Las Vegas beyond the Strip.

"Las Vegas can be a multi-faceted experience," said Bleiberg, who joined 30 other travel writers and tourism agency representatives at the parking lot off state Route 160, a popular staging area for mountain bicyclists enjoying Cottonwood Valley's trails.

"There's an outdoor adventure component to the city that most visitors don't realize is here," Bleiberg said.

Bleiberg was among 343 travel writers, tourism employees and convention/visitors agency staffers to attend the society's 60th convention in downtown Las Vegas this week. The convention, last held in Las Vegas in 2005, ends Thursday. The convention has been in held in other locations ranging from Iceland to China.

In all, convention organizers arranged 66 different event outings for the travel writers and tourism workers, ranging from tours of the Neon Museum and the Art District in downtown Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon to even Zion National Park, three hours away in Southern Utah, said David Swanson, of San Diego, convention chairman of the tours.

For Wednesday afternoon's mountain bike tour, the convention worked with Las Vegas-based Escape Adventures to arrange the Red Rock Canyon ride. Escape Adventures owner Jared Fisher of Blue Diamond has personally biked every trail in Cottonwood Valley, so the writers were in good hands — and legs.

They welcomed the chance to see another side of Las Vegas.

The writers know the Strip. They also wanted a taste of something beyond Vegas.

"I had heard about the Red Rock Canyon area for a long time. I wanted to see life outside Sin City," said Eric Lindberg, a writer and photographer from Nevada City, Calif.

Another freelance writer, Steve Giordano, of Bellingham, Wash., said he usually takes bicycle rides on his writing assignment destinations.

"I like to compare bike rides," Giordano said.

A travel story on Red Rock Canyon's trails or downtown's Art District can generate non-Strip visits — and tourism revenue — for the metro Las Vegas area and offer economic diversity for a gambling-dominated market.

"This shows there is life beyond the Strip," Swanson said.