New Spins on Searching for Sin

By Beverly Beyette

Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS ~ Are there any appealing alternatives to driving the notoriously congested Strip?

Let’s be creative: How about a mobility scooter? You know, those three-wheel electric numbers. In Las Vegas, they’re not just for disabled people. At a maximum speed of 5 mph, they can cruise along the sidewalk – passing the sweating, blister-footed masses – into the casinos and right up to the tables or slots.

Let’s be practical: Walking is always an option, but in summer and early fall, when temperatures soar above 100 degrees, that can be daunting, if not downright deadly.

Let’s be British: The double-decker Deuce buses are cheap ($2 per ride, $5 all day, exact change only) and run round the clock. The buses are clean, comfortable and air-conditioned, but in peak traffic they can take an hour or more to make the 4.5-mile Strip trip.

On a recent visit, I tried all of the above, plus another exotic option or two. Some of the rides were glamorous. Others uncool. Among the things I learned:

Mobility scooters aren’t for everyone. The one I tested was a red Merits Pioneer 3, delivered to me at the Platinum Hotel by Marcel Maritz, president of Active Mobility. He showed me the basics before sending me on my way with reassuring words: “In six years, only one lady has tipped over. She drove it out on the road and hit a pothole.”

And, he added, “Don’t be afraid of running over somebody. It’s more likely they’ll run over you.”

Within a few minutes, I was navigating the Strip, feeling terribly conspicuous and, yes, a bit guilty as I made my way among the sunburned, footsore pedestrians. I rolled into the casino at the Bellagio, where I encountered three or four other scooter riders. I don’t know if they were disabled, but they certainly were obese.

Back outside, I soon discovered one downside to scooters. Because some of the Strip hotels are built to the sidewalk, there are intersections where pedestrian bridges provide the only access to the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard. This meant maneuvering my scooter in and out of an elevator each time, no easy task for a beginner.

Another simple set of rental wheels, slightly more fashionable, is a Vespa.

At Par-a-Dice Scooter Rentals on the Strip, owner Mike Pira rents the real thing, “not the Chinese knockoffs.” He compares the retro-styled genuine Italian Vespa with the imitation: “Bentley versus Hyundai.”

His fleet also includes the sporty Super 9 Kymco and the Taiwanese-made TGB. Much of his business is walk-ins. “They’re tired, and their feet are killing them.”

Pira takes novice riders for a practice spin around his back lot as he hangs onto the luggage rack.

“If you’re not afraid of a machine and you can ride a bicycle, I can teach you in 10 to 15 minutes,” he said.

Renters must be at least 16 and have a valid driver’s license. Helmet and insurance are not required: These scooters don’t exceed 30 mph.

They may be ridden only on surface streets, including bicycle lanes (although there are no bicycle lanes on the Strip; bikes aren’t allowed). They aren’t for partyers.

“If they walk up with a drink in their hand,” Pira said, “we don’t rent. Period.”

Rates start at $26 for one hour and go lower the longer you rent: eight hours for $88.

Las Vegas does not have pedicabs (outlawed a few years back) and it does not have horse-drawn carriages, although there is a proposal to start those downtown. It’s also possible to rent a Harley – presumably to take you to the Harley-Davidson Cafe on the Strip.

Party buses are another alternative. Among the party-bus companies on the Strip is Diamond Transportation, which rents custom-built deluxe buses for up to 28 people. Owner Ric Shebs caters to conventioneers – “corporations that want to move their people in luxury” – and to bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Party-bus amenities may include dance poles, fog machines and laser lights, leather seats, flat-panel TVs, surround stereo and bars. Unlike a limo, there’s no need to scrunch down to move around.

“They’re like a rolling nightclub,” says Shebs, whose buses start at $150 an hour on weekdays.

“What’s really big now is divorce parties, a farewell party to the spouse,” he added. But other clients “just want to sit in the parked vehicle, listen to music and drink. If they’re paying $165 an hour, we’ll take them wherever they want to go.”

Meanwhile, there is always the ever-sensible Deuce.

If you ride the double-decker bus south to the end – the transfer terminal near McCarran International Airport – you can be first to board the next northbound bus and snag a front seat on the upper level. Although glare-proofing on side windows results in views through a gray haze, upfront the windows are wide and clear. It’s a great ride, with the driver dutifully announcing every stop, including fast-food outlets.

I rode the northbound to downtown on a Saturday evening. I watched the pirate ship exploding at Treasure Island and, on the outskirts of downtown, saw newlyweds emerging from bridal chapels. The Deuce runs 24 hours a day and stops at many Strip hotels and casinos.

Another evening, I caught the monorail (single ride, $5; all-day summer fare, $8) at the Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas station, which required a long hike through the hotel and casino.

There were only two other passengers in the car. Although the monorail, which opened in 2005, is clean and frequent and takes only 15 minutes to travel between the MGM Grand and Sahara hotels at opposite ends of the Strip, it has not been wildly popular. Last year’s ridership was 7 million – out of the 38.9 million people who visited and moved around Sin City.

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