Holiday Blog: 14/09/2007, Day 8 – Las Vegas, USA

Mood: Flying High!

The clock read "06:00". I was well and truly awake. Even though there was still another 90 minutes before the limo was due to arrive, I decided to take myself down to Starbucks to wait for the driver.

The thought of a huge cup of coffee perked me up. Mmm … glorious coffee … even if it was from Starbucks.

The limo driver arrived spot on 7.25am and drove myself and 4 other passengers to the helipad for registration. We exchanged pleasantries and I found out that one couple was from London, while the other was from Sydney – Baulkham Hills, in fact!

It was an absolutely perfect day for flying – clear skies, not too much wind, low humidity … even though I do not handle heat well, the dry heat was infinitely better than the humid muggy heat I’d experienced the day before.

At registration, we were asked to carefully examine the safety video and to pay particular attention to the details about what to do in case the helicopter crashed. The gloom and doom was a bit too much to stomach first thing in the morning, so I looked at the other joyriders instead.

All of the other joyriders had the "tourist look" plastered all over their faces. There was a group of fairly large people and I hoped I wouldn’t be in their helicopter. There were only a very small handful of "single bookings", so I wondered who I would be paired up with.

Soon, I heard my name being called and I wandered over to the registration person, who weighed me and gave me a name badge with a number on it. The number, 250, turned out to belong to the helicopter I would be flying in. As I sat down again after registration, I noticed that the Sydney couple (Adam and Nicole) had 250 on their name badge.

After about 40 minutes, three pilots walked into the waiting area and called out their numbers. 250 belonged to Chuck, a jovial man in his mid-forties, who led us to his aircraft.

Chuck the Chopper Pilot helped me and my fellow joyriders hook on our safety vests around our waists. I stood back a little, thinking if I was last on the plane, I would end up in the front seat next to Chuck. Sadly, my tactic didn’t work as he loaded Adam and Nicole into the front and asked the remaining four of us to sit in the back.

I ended up in the seat behind Chuck, right next to the window. In the back also were a couple of lads from Scotland, and Edmund from somewhere in South America. I tried to have a chat with Edmund, but he had very limited English which made proceedings very difficult.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we were up in the air. Chuck played the Top Gun theme – how very appropriate.

Up, up and away we went. We left behind Las Vegas and headed out towards the Hoover Dam. We flew past Boulder City and over Lake Las Vegas, and soon, we were at the Hoover Dam. We continued flying over Lake Mead towards the highlight of the flight – the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon was, in a word, GRAND. The landscape: the sight of the imposing rock walls, the hills, the valleys, the many different layers of rock … for a change, I am lost for words. The pictures will hopefully explain the majestic formations in a better way.

We slowly descended onto the Canyon floor, 3,200ft below the West Rim. Chuck helped us out of the helicopter and gave us a few minutes to stretch our legs and enjoy the hot sunny day. It also gave us a chance to play tourist and take photos to our hearts’ content.

After 15 minutes of photos, Chuck called us over to the picnic area to enjoy our champagne breakfast. The shelter was an authentic Native American shelter, and we happily tucked into our picnic breakfast with a little bit of bubbly. Chuck answered our questions – mainly, we wanted to know more about Chuck and his years of flying.

Chuck also talked about the habitat of the Grand Canyon. At one point, Chuck tried to convince us that there was a large family of chipmunks that lived near the shelter where we were picnicking. The chipmunks were friendly little creatures who loved sharing breakfasts with the Grand Canyon tourists. None of us believed him – Chuck had been joking around all day and we never knew when he was being serious and when he was kidding, so we all thought he was pulling our legs. Chuck was bemused we didn’t believe him, so he started making these noises – like a sucking sound – and would you believe it, a little chipmunk bounded up to Chuck and took a chunk of croissant from his outstretched hand!

All too soon, Chuck asked us to climb back into the chopper for our return trip. I asked Adam and Nicole if one of them would swap with me for the return leg, to which they happily agreed. They wanted to sit next to each other, so Edmund was the beneficiary of my instigation and Adam and Nicole’s generosity.

We flew back – over some Joshua Trees, snaked along the Colorado River, past Temple Bar Marina (where some very expensive looking vessels were moored), over Lake Mead again, and through the Valley of Fire. The Valley of Fire produced some amazing opportunities for photos, and I hope I did the landscape justice with my camera.

Chuck had to wait for another aircraft to pass him before we could take the final part of our flight – down The Strip from the Stratosphere to New York New York. He knew the aircraft was somewhere near us and kept asking us to try and spot it on our left and right. The aircraft was finally spotted – flying OVER us – very naughty of the other pilot – dangerous and potential disastrous, to say the least.

We flew down The Strip and took a few more photos, and all too soon, my helicopter ride was over. We thanked Chuck for his amazing commentary and climbed into our limo. Our limo driver took us to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and took a few photos for us before dropping us back at the hotel. I would have loved to have used him for a bit longer to see more of the sights of Las Vegas – I don’t know why I didn’t ask him to stay on, especially when he said he had nothing to do for another hour. The others didn’t want to stay in the limo, so I got out of the limo when we arrived back at the hotel.

Dad and Mum were nowhere to be found when I returned to our room, so I sat down for a few minutes and took more photos of The Strip out of our hotel room window. When they did eventually return, we decided to take a ride in the Monorail to see some of the other hotels along The Strip, and to grab a bite to eat as well. It was quite hot by the time we set off for our wander, and after a while, the heat got to us and we limped back to the MGM for a nap before our show that evening.

To our dismay, housekeeping had only just started cleaning our room upon our return at 3pm. All we wanted to do was lie down in our beds, and housekeeping took their fine time cleaning the room. After some choice words with the supervisor, who apologised in the most insincere tone of voice, we were finally given a clean room to rest our weary bodies.

A few hours later, feeling a little more refreshed, we set off to sample the Grand Buffet at the MGM. There was so much food and so many choices! I was finally able to eat food that wasn’t Chinese and my body rejoiced! I ate and ate and ate until I could eat no more.

We arrived at the Wynn Hotel for Le Rêve in good time. The theatre was quite warm when we entered (the heat of the water made the room quite steamy), and soon found our seats in the 3rd row back from the pool. After a short wait, the shenanigans began.

First, there was a troupe of four comedians who walked amongst the audience and randomly picked out a few men with receding hairlines as part of their act. The comedians gave the men swimming caps to wear, and one man in particular kept taking the swimming cap off, so the comedians kept going back to give him more grief. After three visits, the man was still taking his cap off, so the comedians taped the cap to the man’s head, much to the mirth of the rest of the audience.

The show was spectacular. For the second time that day, I was left speechless. Click here to watch the promotional video and you’ll see what I mean.

By the time the show was over, my folks and I were all exhausted. We dragged our tired bodies back to the hotel and fell into bed. My stay in Las Vegas was over as we were heading to San Francisco in the morning. And what a ride it was!


One response to “Holiday Blog: 14/09/2007, Day 8 – Las Vegas, USA

  1. Oh it is all so exciting (and i am enjoying the pics :D) – love pic of you and the helecopter! And dry heat is my favourite type of temprature ;), i always have good hair in dry heat. One of the few bonus\’ of canberra.
    And i would have been kicking and screaming for a window seat!

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