Re: New to the hobby! Good at tinkering.
Welcome aboard, Eljeffo.
It does sound, though, as though the bike you have isn't the perfect one for this job. Why not just keep an eye out for some basic mountain bike in the trash? If Las Vegas is like nearly everywhere else in the USA, there'll be one somewhere.
You want to build your bike, of course. But a 24 spoke wheel worries me. The drive sprocket is meant for a 36 spoke wheel. I can tell you from experience that a 32, for instance, definitely does not work.
But 24 is 2/3 of 36, after all. So maybe the spacing will work.