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Choose your own adventure

The heat has broken, and across the Valley, the great outdoors is calling. Leave the comforts of the familiar, step away from the Strip and test your limits.

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Hammer heads: These bikers are hard without hogs.
Photo: Josh Kerrigan

Hammer & Cycle Fall Nationals

No spandex, please. Beach cruisers welcome. Yes, there’s alcohol involved.

These are some of the unofficial rules of Hammer & Cycle bicycle gang, a group of about 200 local bicycle riders who coast leisurely through town in packs of 20 (or 80) every month, stopping at pubs, drinking, then moving on.

They have no cause. And despite their alias, The Red Army, they’re not communists. They’re just a bunch of mostly non-violent, non-affiliated, somewhat thuggish-looking guys and hot chicks who like to ride together, obey traffic laws (for the most part) and show off some of their low riders and custom-made bikes while sporting the group’s jacket patches and logo tattoos. On October 16, however, the group gets competitive at its Fall Nationals at Sunset Park. The competition includes trophies, drinking and a variety of races—drag, circle track and “ride-with-cigarette-and-beer-in-hand.” Sunset Park, 2601 E. Sunset Road (south side, entrance on Eastern Avenue), $5 entry fee for racers. –Kristen Peterson

Band-Aid rating: 2 out of 5

Kite Buggying

“The biggest surprise for people is the power the kites generate,” says Kent Kingston, owner of A Wind of Change, a local vendor for kite buggying enthusiasts. Kites of various sizes (1-2 meters for beginners, 20-30 meters for experts) are attached to a three-wheeled “buggy”—think of it as a large Big Wheel. Four lines are attached to the kite, two for power, two for braking. You manipulate the lines while steering the buggy with your feet. Top speed possible on these babies? Would you believe 68 miles per hour? If you want to know more, go to the Silver Bowl soccer complex near Sam Boyd Stadium at 7 p.m. any Friday; Rob Diehl of Desert Wind Adventures gives free demonstrations and gathers enthusiasts for excursions to a variety of dry lake beds—one between Laughlin and Las Vegas, one near Buffalo Bill’s in Primm and one near Pahrump. For gear and more information, visit A Wind of Change, 3870 W. Russell Road. 736-1476. –Ken Miller

Band-Aid rating: 3 out of 5

Land sailing

It’s a great way to spend an afternoon; just don’t be surprised if it becomes an obsession. Land sailing provides an adrenaline rush for all ages and skill levels, according to Pete Lyons, owner of GoLandSailing.com, which has provided excursions to the Ivanpah dry lake bed near Primm since 2004. An 8-foot-long land yacht is attached to a 12- to 16-foot-tall sail, and you only need about 10 mph winds to get going. “The rule of thumb is you can double or triple the wind speed,” Lyons says. After a five-minute training session, you open the sail perpendicular to the wind and pull a rope. The more you pull, the faster you go. Although high-performance yachts have been clocked at 60-plus mph, Lyons says it doesn’t take close to that speed to make a trip memorable. “The average user comment is ‘Wow!’ or ‘Holy crap!’” Lyons says. For more information or to schedule a tour, go to golandsailing.com or call (877) 770-7245. –Ken Miller

Band-Aid rating: 3 out of 5

Flying Lessons

A plane at Cactus Aviation

When you’ve conquered all the adventures of land and sea, the only place left to go is up—preferably in your own private plane. It might sound like an unrealistic goal, but rocking your aviators as an aviator is more obtainable than you might believe. There are more than a dozen local flight schools, many of which offer an introductory flight session for anyone curious about the wild blue yonder. Setting one up is as easy as surfing over to LetsGoFlying.com and finding participating programs. It’ll cost you less than $100. Getting the nerve to climb into the tiny cockpit of a plane and trust yourself—okay, and your trained copilot—not to crash into some quiet Henderson neighborhood? That’s not quite as easy, but once you do, you’re guaranteed an hour of soaring over suburbs and mountains, all the while thanking the Wright brothers for the most amazing views you’ll ever see. –April Corbin

Band-Aid rating: 0 out of 5

Spelunking

Within the acres of rugged and scenic terrain surrounding Las Vegas are dark caverns that beckon avid spelunkers, who swear that nothing is so riveting as rappelling into chilly caves and meandering among the unusual beauty of stalactites and stalagmites. More than 20 caves are on nearby public lands, and many involve an arduous trek (car and foot). Getting there is often more challenging than climbing out of the dank spaces, but a local nonprofit group, the Southern Nevada Grotto Organization, is there to help with both challenges. The group also advocates for preservation of the chambers that took so long to form. Best to slip into gear and head out with these guys, who know all the hot spots and promote safe caving while officially monitoring Southern Nevada caves. Southern Nevada Grotto, 870-1618. –Kristen Peterson

Band-Aid rating: 4 out of 5

ATV rides

To many of us city slickers, ATVs are symbols of a separate, though distinctly American, culture. They’re the toys of red-state thrill-seekers, and certainly not the status objects of Vegas club-hoppers or so-called cultural elites. But maybe that needs to change. Because fun—especially dangerous-seeming fun—is universal. First-timers shouldn’t fork over a few thousand bucks for a new quad, however. Take advantage of the guided rides offered daily by American Adventure Tours. The company’s standard ATV romp leaves from Jean (transportation from the Strip is included) and takes riders through a variety of terrain, including bone-dry lake beds, picturesque canyons and ancient lava fields. Before the hours-long journey, a trained expert (usually the lead rider) briefs the group on safety. The company caters to riders of all backgrounds, tailoring the exact route to the group’s comfort and experience level. It’s a Vegas-friendly entrée to the dirty, thrilling world of ATV adventure. Perfect for outdoorsmen and indoorsmen alike. Price: $189 ($50 off through October 31); 876-4600; americanadventuretours.com. –John P. McDonnall

Band-Aid rating: 5 out of 5

Cops And Robbers Flashlight Tag

You're it.

You're it.

Some of us need a stronger impetus to run than a desire to be in peak physical condition. Some of us need to be chased … by people in cars … with flashlights. Enter the world of Cops and Robbers, a favorite nighttime activity for local high schoolers across the valley. The game is simple: Choose starting and ending locations, then set a deadline (15 minutes seems standard). “Cops” get flashlights and a vehicle. “Robbers” get their sneaks and a tiny head start. Over fences, through backyards—whatever you have to do to get to the end point without being caught. Old fogies might yell “get off my lawn!” and threaten to call real cops when they see strangers traipsing through their daffodil gardens, but for broke and bored teens, the thrill is worth it. As one teen explains, “It’s hella scary.” –April Corbin

Band-Aid rating: 2 out of 5

Kayaking

If whitewater rafting is too epic an adventure for you, consider taking the risk factor down a few notches and exploring the water by kayak. With Lake Mead and the mighty Colorado only 30 miles away, day trips are doable. The river’s year-round temperature of 54 degrees is conducive to kayaking in any weather, and Lake Mead has steady temperatures suitable for the sport as well. Kayak rentals are available through various outfitting companies, with most running $35-$85, depending on the kayak. Should you choose to start from the base of Hoover Dam and decide against a guided tour or shuttle service (many outfitters offer transportation to the launch site), be aware that you’ll need a launch permit. These are available through the National Park Service for $13. So why do it? While kayaking the current you can take part in your surroundings, enjoy the serene beauty of Black Canyon or bring your waterproof camera. You never know when you’ll see the native Big Horn sheep! –Mark Adams

Band-Aid rating: 1 out of 5

Letter Boxing

Imagine a treasure hunt where the pot of gold is a small notebook and an odd rubber stamp ... and you have to leave the treasure where you find it. This is letter boxing, an adventure that combines hiking, beautiful scenery and mysterious clues (find a rock that looks like King Tut glancing skyward?) in a giant, outdoor scavenger hunt. Originally started on the English moors, letterboxing has moved stateside and includes dozens of Southern Nevada boxes listed at Letterboxing.org. Similar to its adventure cousin geocaching, minus the need for a GPS device, letterboxers print out clues to help locate waterproof boxes containing tiny notebooks where finders leave their mark in the form of stamp that they carry with them. The finder also uses the stamp within the box to mark a personal notebook that serves as a sort of letterbox passport. Half the fun is following the clues; the other half is seeing who’s done so before you. Just don’t forget: It’s BYO-ink. –Sarah Feldberg

Band-Aid rating: 0 out of 5

Don't look down...

Climbing

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a climber magnet, and if there’s one route that defines the colorful canyon, it’s Epinephrine. This 5.9-rated ascent isn’t for the faint of heart or forearms. First officially climbed in 1978, the route is located in Black Velvet Canyon outside the gated area and kicks off with an achingly difficult shimmy up a 600-foot chimney known as the Black Tower. Not intimidated yet? In total, the climb ascends about 2,000 feet and takes six to nine hours to complete the 15 pitches. It’s not for beginners, so if you want to cut your teeth at Red Rock, try easier routes, like Tonto or Heavy Spider Karma. Then, when you’re ready, book a guide and give Epinephrine a try. You wouldn’t want to miss the route that SuperTopo.com calls “one of the best 5.9 routes in the world,” adding that it’s “huge and forbidding,” which, in climbing-speak, might be the same thing. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides at Desert Rock Sports, 254-0885; Red Rock Climbing Center, 254-5604; Mike Ward, 499-0879. –Sarah Feldberg

Band-Aid rating: 5 out of 5

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