Las Vegas, its luxurious host and the Grand Canyon

Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
1
7
11
Trip End Sep 18, 1994


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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Thursday, March 6, 2003

DAY 17 SUN We arrived at Oakland International Airport two hours early, however my three companions were anxious to be on their way and dumped me unceremoniously at the terminal. I could hear their joyous cries of relief as they sped off , leaving me to sit around for the next couple of hours quietly developing my first migraine. At a quarter to three I boarded a Grand Airways DC9 for my penultimate aeroplane flight. If ever an airline failed to justify its choice of name, this was it! The flight attendants were quite unaware of the need to maintain a calm and dignified manner and made a complete farce of the safety demonstration. I always pay very close attention to this vital pre-takeoff ceremony as I can never remember whether to blow the whistle or inflate the life vest first. Fortunately we didn't pass over any water on our trip, Nevada being mainly desert.

At a quarter after four we landed in Las Vegas. Alone for the first time in weeks I collected my bags amidst the pinging and popping of the ubiquitous poker machines which filled every vacant space in the airport's lounge. Immediately outside the airport entrance I was accosted by a bus procurer who herded me onto a short queue to await a bus to the hostel. The little vehicle was soon full up and the driver proceeded to read out the list of destinations. Passengers had to put up their hands when their hotel was named. "Mirage, Luxor, MGM International, Sahara, Las Vegas International Youth Hostel". I was the aging youth who reluctantly acknowledged his not-so-grand billet. Although cheap ($4.25), the trip took two hours, twice as long as the flight from Oakland and I really shouldn't have given the sullen driver a dollar tip, even though it did transform his unfriendly sneer into a jolly grin.

The Las Vegas International Youth Hostel was nowhere near as impressive as its name suggested. The manager took my eight dollars and directed me to a four bed dormitory at the far end of the hostel. Imagine my delight, or should I say, my horror, when I found that I was sharing a bedroom with three nubile young English girls. Despite their clinging, diaphanous, form-delineating night attire they held little interest for me. Their softly rounded curves and seductive comments failed to penetrate my wall of purity, bolstered as it was by a vision of my beloved Margaret. Having failed to arouse my interest they re-dressed and left for a night on the town. As I drifted off into oblivion I hoped that my flimsy sheet would not slip off during the night and reveal my naked form.

DAY 18 MON I awoke at 4am, shivering and goose-bumped. If I had known that Las Vegas could be as cold at night as it was hot during the day I might have dressed more sensibly for bed. A plate of unidentified cereal and a mug of brackish coffee soon had the juices circulating and I returned to my room to prepare for the big adventure. Restricting myself to the bare essentials necessary for a three day tour (one pair of socks, a pair of shorts and a couple of sets of unmentionables), I jammed my backpack into the storage cupboard and boarded one of the Dodge Rams to wait for our 8.30am departure. I have always been a rather polite person and have found that this often results in suffering of some sort. Rather than grab the best seat on the bus I sat down the back, sandwiched between two brothers and an English girl. After all fourteen people had crowded on board I realised that the nearest openable window was several metres away. Although most people would see me as a person remarkedly free of phobias, I felt a rising surge of panic as the air began to thicken. Five hours of claustrophobia! As the chunky tour operator (a round woman named Kelly) slid the doors shut I almost screamed "I can't go! Let me off!". My reluctance to be the centre of attention proved stronger than my fear, though the conflict of drives was very traumatizing. As if in answer to an agnostic's prayer my dilemma was solved when I was able to swap seats with the girlfriend of the girl whose meaty thighs were pressed so close to mine.

The drive to the Grand Canyon took six hours and my anxiety state persisted for the entire journey. The van was driven by Neil, a young Englishman on work exchange. All but two of my companions were in their early twenties and I felt as though I were their father. A roll call of passengers would reveal two English girls, two pairs of English brothers, two young Germans, male and female, two young men from Singapore and two older men of my vintage, one from Mt Gambier in South Australia and one a German (sounds like a United Nations version of Noah's Ark). The younger folk rarely spoke to we three oldies, preferring to chatter amongst themselves and listen to discordant heavy metal music.

Neil told us that the Grand Canyon was not much chop and that in England it would be used as a garbage dump so my expectations were not too high. I became rather anxious when he told us that we were going to hike to the bottom (and back, of course). Jonathon had suggested that I go only part of the way down, but my pride wouldn't allow such a course of action and I descended with my young compatriots to the very bottom. Much to my relief I found that I had little trouble in making the round trip, though I was the fourth last back to the top. The greatest hazard on the trail was the puddles of donkey urine which were even more pungent than my Infinity for Men. Whenever a caravan of donkeys approached we had to stand totally still at the edge of the trail. One abrupt move would spook the gentle creatures and send them and their tourist riders on a wild rush to the bottom.

Back at the Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim, we wandered around the shops looking for souvenirs. I bought my one and only t-shirt after asking a middle-aged tourist lady whether she thought it was the right size. As the sky dimmed we walked to a lookout to watch the sunset. The young folks climbed a rocky peak, the sides of which plummeted a thousand feet to the canyon floor. I stood safely on the path, all too aware of my lack of insurance. The sunset was not as spectacular as I expected, though the silence and breathtaking panorama were quite atmospheric.

I returned to the assembly point at the appointed time only to find that the van was no longer parked where I had left it. In a restrained panic I strode around the car park, barely able to make out vehicle shapes in the dusk. After about ten minutes I stumbled upon some of the others, similarly lost. We eventually found the van and collapsed exhausted onto the hard bench seats.
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