LAS VEGAS to the Grand Canyon

May 28, 14 LAS VEGAS to the Grand Canyon

Warren Resen – North American Travel Journalists Association
Jeanne O’Connor – photographer

Driving cross country from Florida to California, we   stopped in Las Vegas and then back-tracked to the Grand Canyon. This might seem to be backwards, but our reason will become clear as the story unfolds. First there was the Las Vegas experience.
The Vegas hotels are going the way of the airlines. Bargains still abound for room rates but be careful of how you book. On-line packagers will give you low come-on rates but expect a shock when you check in.
My sticker price shock happened while checking into     the megalith 3,000 room FLAMINGO HOTEL on the Strip. The room rate was as promised by the on-line packager     but everything else was extra including a hefty resort fee. Wi-fi? That was an extra $14.00 per day per device.
The pioneers of old on their cross country trek only had to contend with hostile natives, weather extremes, floods, hunger, and other such minor inconveniences. The hardship for modern travelers is in finding a reliable, secure, affordable Wi-fi connection.
In my room a microwave and refrigerator were available, at additional charge. In-room coffee machines are disappearing or have never been installed, even in the pricier hotels, forcing you to go to the lobby coffee shops to pay up to $4.00 for your morning wake up cup. In- room movies were available at an additional $14 – $18 per viewing. I glanced around the lobby during registration to be sure I hadn’t mistakenly wound up at an airport ticket counter.
The clerk seeing my shocked expression told me that if I had booked directly with the hotel and not a so called on-line bargain booking company, I would have been informed of the extra charges. Seemingly, on-line companies give you the base price without the extras making the booking appear to be a bargain.

Hoover Dam last stop before Las Vegas.

Amenities and additional charges vary by hotel, including daily parking charges. So check ahead and ask the right questions to learn the true costs of your stay.
Many of these money sucking practices began during the   recession when bookings were down and people were not gambling to the extent they were in the heady days of the boom times. Like a temporary tax, these charges will probably never disappear.

Photographer and writer on the Colorado River

If you visit, just go to enjoy yourself and forget the imagined winnings pouring forth from the machines.   The sounds of coins dropping into the trays are prerecorded. Your winnings show up on a printed paper slip. The odds at the slots are always with the house but are still much better than winning a state lottery.
Those cheap all-you-can-eat-buffets are ancient history.  The fabulous shows are still there but pricey.
Besides gambling, Vegas is really about people watching: tourists, shills, beggars, and street performers. Vegas is a kaleidoscope of movement and the garishness   intensifies after sunset when the neon lights are at their zenith.
An amazing sight in the casinos are people seemingly glued to their seats, attached to a slot machine by an umbilical cord clipped to their clothing which in turn is attached to a plastic card inserted deep into a    “one-armed-bandit” while on the other end the players punch buttons as fast as the machines will let them. With cigarettes dangling from their lips, these candidates for Gamblers Anonymous seem to be almost unaware of their surroundings as hostesses ply them with drinks.
But then we weren’t there for the gambling. We were there to catch a bus to the western rim of the Grand Canyon and connect to a helicopter for a flight to the floor of the Canyon, a subsequent boat trip on the Colorado River and eventually a “daring” walk out over the Grand Canyon on Sky Walk…4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor.
Why would someone driving from Florida go past the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and then take a bus back east? The famous old Greyhound slogan was, “Take the bus and leave the driving to us.” And that’s exactly what we did.

Pit stop on road to Sky Walk

While adding to the expense of our trip, it was for us a delightful vacation-within-a-vacation and a much      more comfortable experience than driving in with our own car. An early morning pick-up and we were on our way for the 2 1⁄2 hour trip in a bus piloted by an absolutely wonderful and informative driver. It was all paved road until the turn off for Sky Walk.
For the next 17 miles we drove on a rough unpaved road behind cars, busses, RV’s whatever. Being blinded by clouds of dust and gravel thrown up by the preceding vehicle is something you really don’t want to do with your own vehicle. It is a grueling drive. I later learned that the majority of the cars and RV’s had California tags on them and were mostly rentals.

17 miles of unpaved road to Sky Walk.

Our ultimate destination was the famous Sky Walk on the reservation of the of HUALAPAI Nation. But first we were taken to the heliport where a constant stream of helicopters, operating like worker bees, were ferrying passengers down to the banks of the Colorado River for a quick boat ride then up again to ground level for the highlight of the visit, a stroll on Sky Walk.
Unfortunately, day trippers to the Grand Canyon miss the spectacular colors for which the Grand Canyon is justly famous. The vibrant colors are to be seen at sunrise and sunset, not at mid day. However the Grand Canyon is still a spectacular sight any time of the day.
Back up on the canyon’s rim is Sky Walk. Nothing is allowed on the horseshoe shaped walkway that could damage the glass surface once you step on the glass. Cameras, phones, backpacks, water bottles, whatever must be stored in lockers and shoe coverings are required.
The trepidation evidenced by some and comments by others as they step out on a solid glass platform, with hand rails, 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor is both interesting and amusing to someone who has stepped out of a plane at 13,500 with a 5,000 foot free fall looming before a parachute opens, hopefully.
Unfortunately there are no photos that go with this article because my camera was safely locked away. But not to worry, there are lots of employees on the deck eager to take photos of you which can be purchased at the other end of the walk. Leaving Sky Walk, visitors are free to roam the gift shop and go off to one of the restaurants for refreshments.
Sky Walk was a brilliant concept for the Hualapai. The reservation, located in a remote desert area, had nothing that would attract visitors. Now with the opening of this attraction, tourists and dollars pour in every day.

Welcome to the HUALAPAI NATION & Sky Walk.

This trip offers all sorts of options and pricing. Venturing out on the glass platform over the canyon can be done     without a helicopter and boat ride on the Colorado River. It all depends on your interests and budget.
After lunch it was back on the bus retracing our route on 17 miles of unpaved road watching cars entering with   drivers who were probably unaware of what lay ahead.   Paving this road has stated and in a few years this should be a relatively painless trip.
Part way back, our driver woke the snoozing passengers, which included just about everyone, for a scenic tour of the Hoover Dam complex. Then it was back to Las Vegas to prepare for dinner and nighttime frivolity.

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