Grand Canyon trip


The story starts with a notice from our vacation Exchange Company that our oldest exchange week would expire in Jan 2003.  Hearing the words of the time-share salesman saying, “these weeks force you to take vacations” we flew into action surfing their website.  Our main focus was to find someplace warm to go in November or December.  Las Vegas seem to present an array of options that suited this purpose.  One time-share offered Friday check in which would put us in range of San Diego for Thanksgiving with Cathy’s family.  We planned the trip such that Butch would drive to Idaho to see his brother and Cathy would fly to meet him in Las Vegas.  When Butch arrived at the time-share he was pleasantly surprised that they had been upgraded to a one-bedroom unit.  He wanted to take it as a sign that this would be his lucky week.


On Sunday morning as we were leaving for breakfast we noticed that time share staff was having their orientation meeting (which Butch was informed of and totally spaced).  This got them thinking that there was more to do than ooh and ah at the spectacular casinos.  One of the adventures offered was an airplane sightseeing flight over the Grand Canyon.  We decided, what the hell, even though it would be expensive it would be a day we would always remember.


We went to the hotel's activity director to make the arrangements.  She was a large jolly lady who enjoys her work.  We gave her the request for a helicopter sightseeing trip to which she replied “no-no you want to take the plane since we had six helicopters crash in the past year”.  She then told us about a wonderful airplane sightseeing package that she could get us a good discount on.  With such a strong recommendation and a good discount we agreed to the trip.  With a quick phone call she made our reservations and let the first shoe drop - we had to be ready at 5:55AM in the lobby.  How exciting, we were all set for our once in a lifetime sightseeing trip over the Grand Canyon.


In preparation Butch loaded the video camera with a blank tape and made sure both batteries were charged.  We tested the alarm clock to be sure we would not over sleep.  At 4:45 AM Butch woke up for his early morning leak, beating the alarm clock’s annoying noise by fifteen minutes.  We were surprised by phone call at 5:00 AM.  This wake up call turns out to be an added bonus from the sightseeing company.


On our bus ride to an out of the way airport Cathy discovered a second Costco.  We had no idea that Las Vegas was a two Costco town.  As Cathy disappeared into the bathroom Butch took care of the paperwork - paying for the flight and signing a disclaimer for bad weather.  When presented with a disclaimer he was told that it might be too windy to land in which case we would receive a partial refund.  This weather issue worried Cathy.  The gathering area quickly filled up with people most of whom left on buses for the Grand Canyon.  The remainder of the people were loaded on three funny looking planes.  Ours was the last one to be loaded and we found ourselves with two other couples.  The plane had an aisle from the rear to the cockpit with single seats on both sides (about 20 seats).  At the rear door there were two seats side by side which seemed ideal for Butch to videotape from.


After a group prayer led by the pilots, we headed for the runway.  As the plane climbed into the air Butch thought - if I wanted a ride like this I would have gone on a friggen roller coaster.  As we flew over Hoover Dam he discovered the door didn't have a window in it and of course that's where the view of the dam was.  He also quickly discovered the correlation between looking through the camera viewfinder and getting airsick.  The plane had an audio system with a narrative about what we were seeing and history of the area.  The narrative pointed out that we were entering the Grand Canyon  and the view was spectacular for about two minutes until we flew into the clouds.  The narrative continued describing the Grand Canyon highlights, as we looked out into the grayness.  Yes, this would be a day we would remember.


The plane seemed to have no trouble landing at the Grand Canyon Airport - even though there was a blizzard going on.  One of the couple's remained on the plane as they had a flight only.  The other couple and us joined the passengers from the other planes on the tour bus.  The tour consisted of two places that overlooked the canyon and a buffet lunch.  The first place we stopped was a lodge that consisted of shops and a restaurant.  The staff there was all abuzz about how nice the fall had been and that this was the first blizzard of this season.  After coming all this why we weren’t going to be stopped by a little thing like a blizzard from looking into that canyon.  The view was every bit as spectacular as it was out of the plane window - gray with the added bonus of blowing snow. Yes it is a day we will always remember. 


The next stop was on the canyon rim with indoor and outdoor viewing areas.  With the snow blowing and the wind howling the indoor viewing area soon filled up.  Around the viewing area were plaques with pictures on them with views of the canyon.  They showed us what we would have seen on pretty much any other day of the year.


Our last stop on the tour was lunch.  During lunch we found out that the airport was closed on account of the blizzard and that we should eat slowly.  The tour guide told us that this rarely happened and if it didn't reopen we would need to return to Las Vegas by bus.  This is a day we would always remember. 


We chatted with the other couple from the plane.  The lady had been terrified by the plane ride and they were returning by bus (which Cathy thought sounded like a good idea).   It was about then that the tour bus from Las Vegas came for lunch on their way to the Grand Canyon.  I only mention this because when you're feeling sorry for yourself there's always somebody around having a worse day than you.  Those poor folks ended up spending nine to ten hours on a bus ride that day to watch a blizzard.  We bet it's a day they will always remember too.


The bus driver came and told us to load up - the planes were on their way to collect us.  Because so many people opted to ride the bus back they consolidated to two planes.  The first plane landed and the tour bus driver identified the people who were leaving on it.  After the plane was loaded Butch and Cathy found themselves alone on the bus.  We speculated that there may have been room for us on the plane but wondered if we may have put them over the weight limit.  While we waited we were entertained by a couple of ravens that were fed crackers by the bus driver.  The ravens went through various antics cleverly stacking up to three crackers so that they could efficiently carry them off.


At last our plane landed and collected us, Cathy was concerned as she noticed one of the propellers wasn't turning as they taxied for take off.  Much to her relief they started it up before we took off. (Not that she was comfortable anyway with flying back).  She thought those folks that opted for the bus showed good sense.  The clouds had raised giving pretty good visibility around the airport but by the time we had climbed five hundred feet we were back in the clouds.  The pilots must have figured with the poor visibility the narrative tapes would be a waste of time and just played music.


The closer we got to Las Vegas the rougher the flight got.  Butch was frantically trying to get Cathy’s attention to hand her the video camera as he needed both hands to operate the barf bag.  They aren’t very complicated but there isn't much room for error.  As green as he looked you would have thought it was St Patricks  day.  Within a few minutes the plane landed and Butch and Cathy were never so glad to be on solid ground.


The passengers for the next tour had been given the option for a refund because of weather.  They asked us what we thought and Cathy’s simple answer was “get your money back”.  Butch was going to show someone the video of the Grand Canyon when he realized his camera was missing its $50 battery.  Yes this is a day we will always remember.