Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Grand Adventure

Friday was Trinity's birthday. I had asked her a few weeks back what she wanted to do for her birthday and she said she wanted to go to Vegas. So, we began the preparations for the trip.
I first moved to get a good room. After a few searches online, I found a very sweet deal at Monte Carlo. Their strip view rooms for a little more than $40 per night. Having secured that, I began looking at various things that we could do while there.
Initially, I thought we would rent a car but the more I looked the harder this one seemed. I found this site that talked of $7 per day car rentals in Vegas but when getting on there, the best I could find was over $30 and if you add in the tax, would take it over $50 or more for the car than the room. I decided that whatever we did we would be walking or cabbing it.
At first, Judy did not want to come with us but at the last minute, she relented and decided that it might just be fun. So, on Sunday evening, we jumped on a plane to Portland and began our trip. We met up with Trin in Portland and spent the night at the friends of ours that she stays with when she is there, Randy and Anisha Slocum. The Slocum's have adopted three boys and the youngest of them, Marcus was having his fourth birthday party.

We arrived after the party and before the boys were to go to bed for the evening. I was greeted with hugs from the three boys who call me Papa Kyle. Marcus asked me to read him a book and before I knew it, all three boys were on my lap listening to a book on Clifford, the big red dog. Their dog, Sadie was sitting close to us and seemed to be listening to the reading also. It was a very good start to our trip.

The next morning, we got up early and headed out to the airport. The closer we got to the airport, the more the anxiety level raised. For those of you who don't know, I deal with a hereditary anxiety issue and a few years back while visiting Vegas with Judy, I had a very huge anxiety attack which was weighing heavy on my mind. We waited at the gate and the sweat started to roll . As I tried to get on the plane, the pressure was so intense, I stopped and told the girls to go on without me. Trin handed me a pass for a later flight and her car keys just in case and I kissed the girls and sent them on.

I struggled with it all as I watched their plane taxi and head away. I talked with a friend on the phone while I walked back down to the second planes gate and feeling better, bought myself some breakfast at Starbucks. I sat in the corner close to the gate and flipped open my computer wondering if I could put in words what was in my head but could not find the words.

RL Garrigus from KSJJ called me to ask me how the food and clothing drive was doing. RL has been a friend for many years and I knew he would understand so I opted out on an interview and he wished me luck on getting on the next plane. As the time grew short, a couple of Trin's friends showed up. I told them what was going on and they encouraged me to get on. Others around me heard my story and many of them got up as the last call was being given saying "Go on, you can do it!" With a deep breath, I stood up and headed to the gates amidst the yells and pats on the back. Horizon air only lets you take one bag on the plane while the other stays on what they call the AlaCart. I looked out as my bag was loaded on the plane and I realized that I had no identification on it, so if I didn't go, I might very well lose it. So, that knowledge spurred me on while the plane finished up it's preflight and I ended up taking off.

I arrived in Vegas around 2 and Trin's friends took me to our hotel in their rented car. Trin and Judy had already checked into our 29th floor room. The view down on the massive MGM Grand was beautiful. We spent the first evening getting ourselves situated and visiting some of the close by resorts to the Monte Carlo. Vegas has grown so massive on it's strip that it is now almost solid resorts from the Mandalay Bay all the way to the Stratosphere. We stopped at the MGM and the Rain forest Cafe for some supper on our first night. After some more walking, Judy retired to the room and Trin and I walked down to see the new 'City Center'. We walked around the new resort and then on to the Belagio to watch a couple of water shows there. We ended up taking the tram back to the Monte and retired for the night.

Tuesday morning, we began looking into what I knew would be the highlight of the trip, a flight into the Grand Canyon. After some calls and some brochure and coupons, I ended up booking us on the afternoon flight with a company called Pappillon who had a flight down into the canyon with a Champagne lunch down in the canyon before flying back out.

Excited about our adventure to come, we waited for the bus to pick us up for our hotel. Our bus arrived and carted us and a couple from England to the airport in Boulder City. As we sat there in the lobby of the airport listening to a safety video and waiting for our pilot to call us, I noticed different accents around me and realized that it was quite an international group that was about to make this trek with us. The Brits were on the first chopper and we waited for the eventual call for us. We were placed with two other couples, a mother daughter from Canada and a couple from Ecuador. The copter had seven seats and we were placed in seats as per groups and then weight distribution. The copter had seven passenger seats. Four in the back and three up front. It became apparent that we would be up front, merely from our numbers. The seats up front were not even across, the middle stuck forward just a bit. I soon found out that was to be my seat. I sat in the seat looking at the bubble all around me and realized that I could almost look straight down.

Our pilot informed us that he was also a trainer and had two other 'first timers' coming with us so we waited while the others got into the air and our 'trainer' followed them to insure they had no problems. We had our headsets on and the pilot turned on the music that started with the theme to Bonanza and it seemed to be a fitting song for the trip.

Our flight started with a flight over the Hoover Dam and the new bridge that it being built there. We then started over the Lake Mead which seemed to go on for miles and miles probably did.

As we flew out of the lake, I wondered how long it would be before we arrived at the canyon. I was soon to find out just how fast, as we crossed over a small ridge and found ourselves in the canyon. Songs from the movie, 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" wafted through our headphones. I found out later that the area we were flying over was where most of the movie was filmed.

We flew further and deeper into the canyon and the pilot had us look up to see the glass bottom walkway that has been built up on the canyon for tourists to walk out on. It was then that the true realization that we were actually flying in the Grand Canyon hit me. The walls take on such a different look from even level than from the top looking down.

We followed the river up the canyon and soon spied our landing zone in front of us. A spattering of choppers were all over the ridge that had picnic tables in the middle. Our pilot guided us down and onto a small ridge off to the side that was only feet away from the edge and the cliff down to the Colorado. Most of the choppers were on very safe spots but ours was the trainer and so he took the harder spot.

We exited the machine and wondered at the beauty of the afternoon sun on the sides of the rock walls and the meandering green river that ran below us. The rocky ground was spattered with a variety of cactus plants and we took pictures while our pilot laid out our lunches. We all toasted a glass of Champagne before devouring our meals in this gorgeous setting. Trin laughed as they all realized that I was the only one who did not take off my life preserver. Not to be bothered, I just left it on while we finished off our meals.

Soon, we were back in our seats and flying back out. This time, we were taken up. As we crowned over the edge of the canyon top, I was reminded of movies where jets flew through canyons and popped out as we were. We flew back to Boulder City as the sun set over the desert area around Vegas.

Landing, we were bussed back to our Hotel, our adventure lasting a very short but very packed four hours. A highlight of our trip and an adventure that we will all remember the rest of our lives. A truly Grand Adventure.

No comments: