Mountain biker in casino - Photo JohnWhat makes a destination appealing? That’s a loaded question, as the answer varies with everyone you ask.

Certainly there are universals – scenic beauty, attractions, arts & culture, recreation, shopping, special events. In my case, I found myself traveling to Ely last month for a unique mountain biking event, the 9th annual Fears, Tears and Beers Enduro Race, organized by the Great Basin Trails Alliance, a non-profit trail advocacy organization for Eastern Nevada.

It’s probably safe to say that riding a mountain bike through a casino doesn’t appeal to everyone. But that’s what encouraged me, a recreational mountain biker who had never entered a race, to make the 6+ hour drive to eastern Nevada.   Riding through a casino at the start of the race indicated that the race organizers didn’t take things too seriously, which made it less intimidating to this race newbie. Plus, how often do you have a chance to ride through a casino (legally)? Exactly.

I’ve passed through Ely a few times, but never stopped, thinking it a place that had nothing to offer. After my weekend there I learned how wrong I was. There’s an impressive trail network that I didn’t know existed until this trip. That coupled with proximity to Great Basin National Park makes it much more intriguing to someone like me who travels for outdoor recreation. It’s likely I’ll go back there again, all because of an event that drew me for its irreverence.

It doesn’t necessarily have be an event that attracts new visitors, but what does your destination offer that could drive an unexpected segment?

Photo: Photo John