Last night I was rattled from sleep twice – a helicopter was circling over-head. Circling helicopters in our neighborhood are never a good sign. The last time one was around for over an hour was when somebody was shot close to our neighborhood, and one of the Seattle news channels had sent their reporter team. I have no clue what last night’s helicopter flights were about – certainly something serious. But not all helicopters are related to serious incidents. Let me share a story from my life as the editor-in-chief with the only German trade magazine exclusively for the industry of art, craft, and needle craft supplies.
I was invited by Germany’s biggest trade fair association to fly to Las Vegas, NV, to report about one of their pioneering trade fairs in the US. I think it was in 2005, and strictly speaking, office and paper supplies were not even my special field anymore, though I was could well hold my ground in this field as well. Of course, you don’t get such an invitation every day, and I would do my most conscientious best to cover all the stands at the fair, to talk to exhibitors, to get the vibe. On our last morning of that extraordinary business trip, we, the trade association staff and I, were bused to a special part of the Las Vegas airport – the helicopter pads.
Mind you, I’ve never been really into flying. But flying with a helicopter had never been on my agenda, for sure. I mean, just imagine all the things that could be wrong. I must have let on to my anxiety, for the bus driver tried to relax me into enjoying what lay ahead. He called me “Spooky” and made me laugh. But he wasn’t there anymore when we entered the tiny terminal. My tummy did little flips.
We all were weighed and then put together into little groups that would later be seated in the helicopter according to best balance. Our pilot was one of those cool uniformed guys that could easily have been starring in a TV series. Lift-off felt a bit like going up in an elevator that was off-kilter but funny enough not uncomfortable. We headed out to the desert. The reddish rock formations and the sand desert with hardly any trails of life would have reminded me of the movie “Casino” had I known of that movie back then.
We hovered over the Hoover Dam for a while, and I wished we had had more time to explore that fantastic construction. The blue of Lake Mead was stunning in the dreary surroundings of almost only rock face. Later, we discovered that there were boaters on the lake, and some people actually seemed to live out there. Then the helicopter slowly started to climb. The wind was fooling with it, and my stomach lurched. I like to be in control – you are so not when being a passenger on a helicopter. We flew across a high plateau, and then, all of a sudden, there opened a crack in the ground.
Dipping into the Grand Canyon was an amazing experience. To see all the different layers of rock, the stunning colors and patterns. The river threaded itself like a thin ribbon through the narrow gorge, lightly girted with green on both shores.
And then, we suddenly were there at the landing spot, in the middle of nowhere. The picnic area was camouflaged by netting, and the only thing that had indicated a landing spot was the nearby red windsock. The pilots of all three or four helicopters quickly set out the baskets – huge sandwiches, fruit, and champagne. I remember walking over to where I could look at the river, glass in hand, chewing away. It was certainly the most decadent breakfast experience I have ever had with the most expensive sandwich and drink, if I may say so. The flight out was easy and relaxed. Of course – the bubbly was taking its effect. Swerving around the buildings on the strip shortly before the final landing was mere fun.
A few months later I returned to Las Vegas, as a tour guide for 40 of my magazine subscribers, who wanted to check out one of the biggest trade shows of the US creative industry. Quite a few had booked the helicopter breakfast in the Grand Canyon. So, had I about a year earlier, never expecting that I would experience it even before that trip. This time I knew what to expect. I was relaxed. When our bus came to pick us up, the driver rushed out with a joyous holler: “Spooky!” We hugged like old friends.
The last time I was in Las Vegas, they still had the helicopter flights with the champagne breakfasts on offer. My husband and I stayed on the ground. They say that three times is a charm. Maybe twice the same decadence is still wonderful enough. Certainly, I hope that bus driver keeps making other people’s helicopter trips a heart-warming experience.