Vegas and the Ride of a Lifetime

by : Caterina Christakos

Most people envision Las Vegas as one big casino. Admittedly I was one of them, until I undertook the ride of a lifetime. Imagine soaring hundreds of feet above canyons of red and orange, walking over rocks that been sculpted by mother nature herself and floating down a river of dreams. These are the images that I will carry with me forever when I think of Las Vegas, Nevada.

After taking a break from about twelve hours of straight gambling, my father and I looked at each other and thought there must be more to Vegas than jangling slot machines and endless booze. So we asked our friendly concierge, at the Mandalay Bay Resort, for some suggestions and he arranged for the champagne lunch helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon.

Wonderful we thought, it looked good in the movies, might as well give it a shot. Neither of us was prepared for the adventure that we were about to take.

The helicopter company sent a limo to pick us up at the hotel. The ride lasted about five minutes then we were dropped off at the helicopter launch. Fellow passengers from all over the world chatted and waited for our journey to begin.

Moments later we took off for one of the waiting helicopters, with our pilot leading the way. Attractive and intelligent, in a boy next door kind of way, he quickly showed us how father and I ended up in a helicopter of our own because several of the other passengers decided to just fly over the canyon. The tour we chose actually had us landing on the bottom.

We soared for about a half an hour over a canvas which included every color imaginable painted by dessert, mountains and the Colorado river. Within thirty minutes of smooth flying we were over the canyon and able to see the landing pad, set in the middle of tumbleweed, mountains and cacti. As we disembarked the pilot helped us climb down the stone and dirt pathway to a little boat dock, where we met a family from Britain that would be our companions on our champagne lunch down the Colorado river.

The boat captain was a tiny oriental man with sparkling eyes and a rich sense of humor. He handed out our picnic baskets and regaled us with stories of how the Grand Canyon was created. He also had the sense to stop periodically and help us get the most amazing shots of the canyon. He seemed to know every rock and ridge and was able to point out eagles and faces carved into the rock by millions of years of erosion.

At the end of our Las Vegas helicopter tour we flew back to the original launch and took our limo back to the hotel, content, awestruck and absolutely certain that we would return to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and our Las Vegas helicopter tour.