How long had it been since I’d felt so alive?
The day began with a sunrise plane ride with Papillon, coasting 10,000 feet above the rim of the Grand Canyon. Later, my group of seven boarded helicopter, where we buzzed the jagged edges of the southwestern desert, dipping deep into the canyon then popping up for air. Then it was switchbacks and vistas on Harleys.
Vegas to the Grand Canyon: My own version of planes, choppers and hogs.
You should know that there is never a reason to wake up at 4:30 in Las Vegas. You go to sleep at 4:30 am. You check your watch during a good run at the craps table and see 4:30 am. You might even use 4:30 am as the critical point in the club to use the last of your pick up lines to make sure you are having breakfast with a stranger. However, you never wake up at 4:30 am. It just doesn’t happen.
So I did it.
Drowsy and in need of coffee I pulled into the Papillion Helicopters Boulder City Airport for my adventure. I should have taken the shuttle from the Las Vegas strip as that would have easily given me a few more minutes of sleep. It is included in the experience but apparently I have control issues.
The airport in Boulder City is apparently the only other place where everyone thinks it is ok to wake up before the sun rises. The place is jumping with energy as tourists talk nervously over coffee and await their airplane for the 55 minute flight to the Grand Canyon.
As you fly across the desert a taped narration guides you through interesting facts and tidbits about the region. Flora, fauna and geology mixed in with some history make it an educational trip as well. The scenic flight takes you over the Hoover dam and Lake Mead. The sight of the sun coming up over the desert is alarmingly beautiful as the colors of the rocks change and the water from Lake Mead begins to glisten and soon the Southwest is in full view.
When you look down into the Grand Canyon from a helicopter or an airplane you’ll see rock deposits in the sedimentary layers that can date back as much as 2 billion years. It’s then, when you realized the history of the Grand Canyon that you realize the irony in flying over this ancient spot in an aircraft. We race over almost in a hurry as if the canyon will disappear.
Two German tourists in the helicopter with me pose for pictures with the canyon in the background and the shutter in their camera is on overdrive. I listen to a narration of the journey but the view is so captivating you don’t need much by way of words to describe the sight. As far as your eye allows the Grand Canyon is immense. It drops deep down and far away. Space seems so relative as we sit in the helicopter high above the vast space below us.
No sooner than I step off the helicopter I am trying on a leather jacket. I put leather gloves on and a black helmet and I’m standing beside a Harley Davidson motorcycle. My Grand Canyon adventure is one that allows me to see it from the air and from the side of the road. I’ll step to the edge of a cliff and see it race by on a motorcycle and I’ll stand way up high and pick out the details of the canyon floor from an overlook.
By the time we make it back to the airport for our flight back to Las Vegas I feel different. Maybe it was the leather or maybe it’s just the energy from the rocks but I have a smile on my face. As we fly over the Hoover Dam on the way back to Las Vegas I take a picture of the scenery and send it to my 11 year old son. I tell him how my day went and he responds almost immediately.
“I want to be you!”
My response, “I know, right?”