The speed limit was 20 mph.
I was going only about 5 mph, at the most, as I struggled to maintain my balance.
It had been years since I had last ridden a bicycle, but here I was learning to ride again.
After a few minutes, I found myself increasing my speed and becoming more confident as a co-worker and I rode on one of 30 trails in St. George, Utah, on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Aside from the numerous bike trails, the thriving art community at the Utah-Arizona border has much to offer for those looking to get out of Las Vegas for a weekend trip.
There are also interesting buildings to see, such as the Mormon temple and the Brigham Young Home. Young was a key figure in the westward migration of Mormons to Utah and served as church president and prophet for nearly 30 years, succeeding Joseph Smith, who established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Young also helped found St. George.
We chose to bike on the paved 8.2-mile Virgin River Trail, which runs along the north bank of the Virgin River and offers scenic views.
Many friendly riders coming back from the other direction greeted us as they passed by.
However, after about an hour, we decided to end the bike ride because the weather was getting a little too warm, we were getting hungry and we were feeling tired after our early morning drive from Las Vegas to St. George.
We decided it would be better to hit the bike trail again Sunday morning
once we were rested and temperatures were cooler.
Our journey had begun at 8 a.m. Saturday when we hopped on Interstate 15 North out of town for about 122 miles, or about two hours. But if you are planning to visit soon, make sure you give yourself more time.
To our surprise, midway there, there was only one lane open in each direction on and off for about 10 to 15 miles, delaying our arrival at the Tuacahn Saturday Market.
The Tuacahn Saturday Market in nearby Ivins, Utah, began again in March and will continue all year. The hours for the outdoor market are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and it offers live music, food, seasonal vegetables and fruit, in addition to displays by local artists and crafters.
It also offers a pancake breakfast, which we missed because of the traffic delay and the time difference. St. George is in the Mountain Time Zone, which is an hour ahead of Las Vegas.
But we weren’t left with empty stomachs. We found a vendor, Miriam’s Tamales, offering pork, chicken and green chile cheese tamales for $2 each.
I’ve had tamales from various places, including my mother’s own kitchen, and these weren’t very memorable. They didn’t have much meat or much flavor. Still, they offered a bite to eat as we enjoyed live music from a local band, Pine Mountain Bluegrass.
All three members of the band, two men and a woman, seemed quite talented, alternating instruments and projecting defined voices that were easy on the ears.
There were probably about 100 people at the market, not including vendors.
A few people sat or stood around the area where the band was playing while others walked through the market seeing what the various vendors had to offer. In some cases, it wasn’t much. I expected more from the vendors and the market overall.
One of the few, if not the only, fruits being sold at the market were strawberries from Oxnard, Calif. However, different vendors take part in the market every weekend and they usually have more than just strawberries, said Scott Raine, executive director for marketing and public relations for the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.
Another hidden treasure that might better satisfy people’s expectations is the Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts, next door to the market.
While there were no shows scheduled for the weekend of our visit in late March, the amphitheater offers various shows such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Wizard of Oz” and performances by the Beach Boys, among others. Prices vary.
With the overflow areas, the amphitheater can hold 2,120 people. The amphitheater, with a backdrop of 1,500-foot-tall red rock cliffs, attracts about 265,000 visitors per year for all of its concerts and shows, according to the St. George Utah Convention &Tourism Office and the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.
Tuacahn contributes about $60 million to the Utah economy as guests stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and shop in local stores, among other tourist activities, according to tourism and arts center officials.
We stayed at the Best Western Coral Hills, which is within walking distance of the city’s historic district.
The town is very much alive. But be warned, they do certain things differently.
For example, after our bike ride on Saturday afternoon, we decided to go to a small Mexican restaurant. We ordered carne asada, which is thin, flat grilled steak. But instead we got what looked more like a steak salad.
We decided to pack the food in boxes and try to find a better Mexican restaurant in town. After several searches on Yelp, we found Peppers Cantina, which did serve real carne asada.
However, after eating, we ordered a refreshing margarita to enjoy outside on the restaurant’s patio, but we weren’t allowed to take our drinks outside by ourselves. They had to be taken outside by our waiter.
Later that night, we had a similar experience involving alcohol. We went to a local bar that featured a few local beers and live music. Having eaten a few hours earlier, we sat at the bar and ordered a cocktail, hoping to sip as we listened to the live music. But we were told we couldn’t order alcoholic beverages without ordering food. My co-worker and I looked at each other in silence and then quickly started looking through the menu to find something to order.
After a quick Google search, we learned that’s practice under state law at licensed restaurants. Next time we’ll know better.
But at least by Sunday morning, I knew how to ride my bike much better than the day before. This time we biked until the very last minute we had before having to return our rental bikes.
I have to admit that for a bike-friendly town with lots of bike trails to choose from, the bike rental prices were a little high and disappointing. We rented our bikes for 24 hours from the Red Rock Bicycle Co. for $45 each.
You can buy a basic bike from Walmart for a little more than the price of the two bike rentals combined. And you don’t have to return it after 24 hours.
Another little disappointment was that most antiques shops in the historic district are closed on Sundays. We were looking for something to do while we waited for the restaurant where we were having dinner to open.
One of the few stores that we found open was Urban Renewal by Jenny Larsen, at 5 E. St. George Blvd., which offered a little better than mediocre items, such as clothing, furniture and music records.
But then we found the Art Around the Corner 2013 Outdoor Gallery, which was interesting and offered sculptures throughout the historic district.
Our trip to St. George concluded with a wonderful and delicious dinner at The Painted Pony, which has been referred to as “Best Dining in Southern Utah,” by Salt Lake Magazine. With no doubt, this is a place that you must try if you’re in the area.
From the great atmosphere, which includes a delightful patio, to the wine selection to the mouth-watering food, including tender and flavorful steak, this venue gave us an unforgettable evening.
It was the best dinner I’ve had in the past couple of months. I have to say that dinner at places such as the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas and Top of the World Restaurant at the Stratosphere fall short compared with The Painted Pony.
And you get much more for your money.
With happy and satisfied palates we headed back to Las Vegas as the sun was going down.
Contact Yesenia Amaro at email@example.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.