Day 6: “Vegas, baby, Vegas!”

Las Vegas / Grand Canyon

The last time I was in Vegas, I said once was enough. But time has a way of making you back up on yourself, and when the trip started coming together, I desperately wanted to go back in order to head out to the Grand Canyon. I went there the last time, also a day trip, and went on my first-ever helicopter flight.

So we decided to do it in style, and ordered a combo trip with King Airlines. The plan was to fly from Vegas to Grand Canyon, then go into the canyon itself by helicopter. On the way, there’d be lunch and all would be well in the world.

The pick-up went smoothly, as I called the right people and asked the right questions. I learn. Slowly, I admit, but I do learn.Our plane was an 8-passenger Cessna, the kind that’s often prominently featured whenever a small plane goes down. I did not know this at the time, and Stig kindly waited until the return to tell me.

The pilot, Ray, was an affable soul who would never, go by any other moniker than “dude”. I would have pegged him as a surfer bum rather than pilot, but there’s my narrow mind for you. The flight was bumpy, although pretty smooth for a light plane like that. We made it in one piece. Our fellow travelers were a family from Michigan and two guys I pegged for British. The family seemed like nice people, and the daughter was rather shapely, which meant that she was also placed next to all the pilots all the time.

So we found ourselves on the Rim, and let me tell you: it’s hard to describe the Grand Canyon and make sense of it. I mean, here’s my problem: it’s a really big hole. Like, a really, really huuuuuge hole in the ground. You can’t quite grasp how enormous the Canyon is, and the hell of it is that it’s just so vast that you very quickly lose all sense of scale. It goes on and on. I imagine of you fall over the edge, you’ll fall for a few minutes before hitting the ground.

Anyway, we were right on time, and were taken straight to the helicopter. Michigan’s female representative was placed next to the pilot, and to my delight, I was placed next to her. Given the fact that I was unshowered and unshaved, wearing a t-shirt drenched in sweat, I will assume she didn’t share my sentiment. But to be honest, I couldn’t give a toss: the helicopter took off, and even though I knew what was coming, I was giddy with anticipation. The pilot takes off, then flies low until you get to the Rim, then dives straight into the Canyon itself with great abandon. The flight is only a few minutes, but it is spectacular. Part of me wanted to shoot some footage, but you run the risk of trying to capture everything and then lose the experience. So I just held on and grinned inanely for those few minutes.

When we were in the canyon, we were surrounded by massive walls of rock reaching for the heavens. We headed down to the river, where we boarded a small boat. Patrick, who was both captain and first mate of this noble vessel, was a genial fellow, whose one missing front tooth lent him an air of both Deliverance. and Cletus off The Simpsons. He admitted to not usually giving the lecture on the tour, and apologized for using a crib sheet. Still, being on the river was enough and his lecture on all the lethal inhabitants of the Canyon was illuminating and terrifying.

Then it was back up to the Rim again and the second part of the trip, which was the famous Skywalk at Eagle Point. I’m pretty sure I was at Eagle Point my previous time, but the Skywalk was but a dream at that point.

If you don’t know what the Skywalk is, rest assured it has nothing to do with Midichlorians or Ewoks. It’s a big semi-circular platform with a glass floor that takes you some 4.000 feet over the Canyon. That’s 1.200 meters. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s utterly fucking terrifying. If you’re not particularly bothered by heights in your everyday life, like me, it’s still utterly fucking terrifying. The middle of the floor is clear plexiglass, but the borders are opaque. I found myself a third way out and was about to cross over to the outer side when I foolishly looked down and froze. All I had to do was set one foot in front of the other and cross over, and yet, I couldn’t. Every fiber in my body screamed it was suicide, that I would fall thousands of feet to my death and my crushed body be consumed by vultures and the people from The Hills Have Eyes. I suppose it’s reassuring that my instincts for self-preservation are up and running, but Christ…what a feeling. I managed to force myself across, then mostly kept on the opaque bit (which was fine). The view is of course amazing, provided you can stomach the height.

After that, we headed to the last part of the tour, which was Guano Point, a lovely spot overlooking the canyon, with a café. We had the buffet, which consisted of mostly food we wouldn’t eat, but the chicken was OK. The view was just as spectacular as expected (are you tired of hearing that yet?)

We headed back to Vegas after that, and the flight was very smooth, even moreso than heading out. Ray made a sweep over the Hoover Dam, but it wasn’t terribly impressive. The Hoover Dam is a magnificent construction, but seeing it from afar and above dwarfed its impact. I was fortunate enough to have been there already, however, and I was pretty tired by this point. We slipped Ray a twenty by way of tip and then headed back to Vegas.

We were just on time to chill out a bit and have a much-needed shower. We had made reservations at the Stratosphere restaurant Top of the World. It really is. The tallest structure in Vegas, the Tower sports a revolving restaurant giving you a view of the whole city. We figured it sounded fun. It’s pretty amazing to see how big the city really is – you don’t get an impression of anything other than the Strip when you arrive, so when you see how far it really stretches, it’s quite surprising. We decided to go for the set menu – what we didn’t take into account was that this made us seem like more than friends. It all sort of crystallized when they served dessert on a single plate for us to share. The waitress spotted my camera and asked if we wanted a photo. We politely declined. “Oh, come on, it’ll be cute,” she said and grabbed the camera. We were curious to see which one of us would get the bill and which one would be designated as the other’s bitch. Suffice it to say that for the rest of the evening, I was the butt of all jokes.

This was all rather disconcerting, so we ended the evening at Hooters.