Tuesday, June 24, 2008

3 Week Tour of the West: Las Vegas

Las Vegas

We had 2 1/2 days in Vegas. The afternoon we got there Kylie, John, Neil, Tina and Juliane wanted to go skydiving " silly idiots! ". We rushed straight to the airport and arrived just before 13.00 in a panic only to find that our clocks were wrong and that it was only 12.00! No problem, they were just started on the training earlier!

Whilst that got underway the rest of us went to the Hoover Dam and had lunch at a nice spot overlooking Lake Mead. We decided not to do the VC at the Hoover Dam as Neil and the others wanted to join us and also we wanted to see them all jump. So it was back to the airfield.

Unfortunately we missed Neil's jump, he was already back down when we got back. But we saw everyone else land safely. They all were still smiling and on a high and wished they had enough money to jump again. Well, the " Stimmung " (mood) was obviously that good that Rochelle and Nadia decided to go for it. So we hung around a bit longer at the airfield to watch them. Just thinking about it made me feel ill. Well considering that at our picnic the general opinion was that " no way " would we ever do that, Nadia and Rochelle loved it, and would also have jumped again had the money been there.

Back on the bus, my Grand Canyon hiking partner and friend Nicole was also caught up in the rush and even managed to convince ME!? That it would be a good idea if the two of us went back tomorrow to jump out of a plane from 10.000 ft (3.300m). I suppose I thought if she could, so could I. I said I would think about it.

In Las Vegas we checked into the Super 8 Motel, showered got ourselves pretty and went out for a buffet meal (all you can eat $8.01) at the Luxor Hotel (the one that looks like the Sphinx). We stuffed ourselves silly there. I was so bloated that I actually looked about 4 months pregnant.

At 21.30 it was all of us in two limousines for a novel sightseeing trip around Vegas. A ride in a limousine, I felt almost famous! Linda had even organised Champagne for us. What a place.

The drive took us down The Strip to downtown Las Vegas, which is the original part with the Cowboy that everyone knows. This road has now been turned into a " Fußgängerzone " (pedestrian area) and covered, but not with conventional glass. It is done with 500.000 light bulbs and every hour there is a light show. Amazing. It is a computerised show and rather like watching a cartoon on the sky! They also have a brilliant sound system to go with the lighting.

After the light show it was back in the limousines for the champagne. The driver stopped at our hotel for us, so that we could drop off our cameras. Nadia got off there too. From there we got the driver to drop us off at MGM Grand. Once there we arranged a meeting point and all split up again. I went with Neil, John and Katharina we played a few slot machines and watched the tables. After all meeting, we went over to Bally's on the monorail. There we split up again, accidentally this time. We met up with Kylie and Cheryl and went with them to Caesars Palace for a drink. By the time we got there I had decided not to be stupid and not to go skydiving. On the way back with Katharina, I discussed it with her. And was sure I wasn't going, this meant that I slept like a log! Hardly surprising considering it was 2.30 and I was actually in a bed!

Skydiving in Las Vegas

We all met for breakfast at 9.00. Gee, was Linda surprised to see us all there. The intention was for all of us to go together but we didn't. Before leaving for breakfast I phoned home. Mum and Dad weren't there so I spoke to Lee. I told him that I had considered going skydiving for all of three hours, he was all for it, and said I should go for it. I still thought I shouldn't until Nicki came down. And then she caught me up in her enthusiasm and will to conquer her own fear! So for breakfast the skydivers went with Linda. We went to a pancake place for breakfast and Nicki and I began talking a load of rubbish due to nerves!

Still smiling! The before pictureWell the closer we got to the airfield, the worse the " verbal diarrhoea " got. Linda wished she could record us, to play back after the jump! Nadia and Juliane, who came to cheer us along, thought we were quite comical. Once at the airfield Nicole and I threw back two Baldrian each. And then it was into a small room to sign away any rights to sue if we get hurt or killed. And to see the training video. Most of the video was to make sure we knew the risks of skydiving! Scary stuff, but the Baldrian had started to kick in so we were feeling less nervous! Well I was until they showed a shot of the actual jump out of the plane. The view one gets as one jumps. Oh dear. " What am I thinking of doing " were my thoughts. Still once we had signed away any rights we had, and had paid $249 for the jump, video and photos we had another Baldrian. Must have spent at least 1/2 dozen pennies before Will and Bruce, the instructors, came over to get us into the jump-suits and harness. I was jumping with Will (good-looking and a good sense of humour) Nicole was jumping with Bruce also very good-looking!

Once we were all strapped up (walking like cowboys again, cause of the harness between our legs), the guys with the video cameras grabbed us and started filming. Kirk filmed me and Alfons filmed Nicole. After the interview, we cuddled everyone in the room, the strange woman seemed quite shocked, but I think she understood that we had to. Then it was out to the aircraft for a couple of pictures and the all important lesson, of how to get out of the aircraft at 10.000ft. All the while I'm wondering whether I will chicken out in the end. But I was also feeling like Scrooge and wasn't going to waste $250. Now it was time to get in the plane. Oh dear, it was a wonder my heart didn't stop then and there, but a part of me was quite excited about what I was about to do, the other part was scared " shitless " !

Once the plane left the ground there was no going back, I just watched the view out of the window, held Nicki's hand and spoke to God, asking Him politely to get me down safely! I patted Will's parachute a couple of times, too, seeing as that was what was going to get me down in one piece. 5 minutes before we reached the right height it was time to put the hat, goggles and gloves on and get hitched up to Will and Bruce. Not a bad feeling having a gorgeous guy strapped as close as possible to your back! If it hadn't been for the thought of the fact that any minute now someone was going to open the door, I could have quite enjoyed it!

Skydivers know why birds sing...Well Nicki was going first, so I told Bruce to get her down safely, and told her " You go girl! " Her camera man climbed out first and then off she went with one hell of a scream, and I thought " oh shit, what am I doing! " By the time I had finished that thought. My camera man was already hanging onto the wheel and I'd shuffled far enough forward to start the scary manoeuvre of getting one foot out of the plane. Now this was it. Will was shouting his favourite German sentence in my ear: " Essen, Bumsen, Fallschirmspringen! " (Food, Sex, Skydiving!) and on the last syllable we had left the aircraft behind and dropped into nothing. Wow, what a feeling!. Once my stomach caught up with me, I tried to concentrate on breathing. During free fall that proved extremely difficult, and at one point I felt extremely sick, but that was right when I felt Will grab my forehead and pull me back as the chute went up. And then I really began to enjoy myself. As Nadia puts it " It was just awesome! " Now I didn't have to worry about breathing I could look around me and take in the sights, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead. And of course the cameramen landing, and Nicki floating.

...because we can fly! Will gave me the Parachute to hold for a while, and we did a bit of spinning by pulling hard to one side. And I did plenty of " Yahooing " It felt so great to just be floating to the ground.

Just writing about it makes me want to " yahoo " again, but I won't cause it would wake the whole bus up, and I'd be embarrassed!

Back to the parachute ride! When it was time to land, Will took the chute back out of my hands and I got ready to get my feet out of the way. I didn't realise until now how heavy they were. Anyway even though I could hardly lift them we landed on our feet without falling over! After Will had uncoupled us, my first reaction was to hug him. I'm not sure whether it was elation, relief, gratefulness or pride, that gave me that urge. I just had to. And from then on I had a permanent grin stuck to my face. Kirk, the cameraman, came over and interviewed me again. God knows what I said then, after that adrenaline rush. We'll soon know when they've sent the video.

We did it!!!!After that probable embarrassment I rushed over to Nicole and hugged her too. God did we feel proud of ourselves. We're invincible now. In fact I do recall Nicki calling out " I'm a woman now " I just feel that now I've done that I can do anything I've set my mind to, and it's a great feeling!

Still feeling a little shaky the pair of us went over to Linda, Nadia and Juliane for more congratulations and cuddles. And then still wearing stupid grins on our faces, we went to strip off. Just the jump-suits and harnesses! Once we were out of that we didn't have the silly cowboy walk anymore, we went and bought the T-shirts. I'm going to have one of the photos enlarged and printed on the back of it. Should look good! Kirk came over to give me a reel of film and very politely thanked me for letting him skydive. And I think he really meant it. Looks to me as if he really loves his job. And who can blame him!

Once back in the van, we found out that Linda, Nadia and Juliane had been shopping whilst we were gone, and they'd gotten a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Bless them. Although Nicki and I certainly felt like celebrating. Linda kept saying how proud she was of both of us. And I can't say it often enough, so am I!

Well, Nicole and I were so elated and high that we now wanted to go and gamble so Linda dropped the lot of us off at MGM Grand, where our first stop was a film developing place for the photos of the skydive. We then had 2 hours to kill. So we spent a couple of dollars in the Nickel machines, none of us except Juliane having any luck. Still it kept us all amused for a while. Actually what amused me most, was the picture on a security woman's face, when she asked me for my ID. She looked at my birth date and just went " Sixty-nine - no way! ", I hope the same thing happens when I am over 30! She wasn't the only one to ask us - I felt extremely flattered!

During those two hours we did/saw two Casinos and one in the making. We crossed the highway to see the model of the New York Hotel and then to see the Excalibur. By then it was time to head back for the photos. Well if Juliane and Nadia had thought we'd calmed down, they were wrong. As soon as we saw the photos, the initial adrenaline rush came back and a couple of times Nadia told us to " shut up! " We also insisted on telling anyone, who would listen, what we'd been doing. These people, I think, were also highly amused by us! We looked at our pictures then and there. One film at a time, and relived the experience again. Then it was a rush back to the hotel to wash and change for dinner.

Back at the hotel I gave Katharina all the details, showed her the photos and just generally gushed with enthusiasm. Poor Katharina! I then had a shower, got change and was leaving to go down to the lobby for a sheet of paper for a fax, when Neil and John came down the hall! So they too got to hear of how high I am now flying. I also had to show them the photos and then there was more cuddles, as I thought I deserved it. Then we all went downstairs to gather before we went out. Once down I got a sheet to write the fax, to stop Mum & Dad from worrying. Everyone wanted to add a comment, so Mum & Dad got a joint fax, Linda signed too.

Dinner today was again a buffet, this time at a casino called " Rio ". It's been voted the best buffet in town, quite a few times in a row. It was one hell of a queue, but it gave Nicole and I the chance to share our experience with anyone, who would listen, again! The food was well worth the wait. After dinner we all stayed together except Nicole, Nadia and Linda, who went back to our hotel. We got Linda to drop us off at the Hard Rock Cafe Casino, where we again gambled away a couple of dollars. When it was about Midnight, I had to phone Mum and give her a run down on my adrenaline high. I'm still not really sure she believes me. Actually by the time I phoned Mum, it didn't seem quite real to me either. But I was still on a high, although that could have also had a little to do with two Coronas too! I bought Lee a T-shirt in the shop after calling Mum.

Then we were all stood around chatting, when Juliane came over with a similar grin to mine on her face, and said she'd won $57. I said that she should buy herself a T-shirt as a souvenir, and went to help her choose. After that she reckoned she would gamble a little bit more of her winnings! We all saw her a bit later after she'd won another $25! Unbelievable! I was just telling Neil about it, when he asked which machine she was on, I pointed to a flashing one and then we went over, only to find that she'd cracked the jackpot and won $600!! She deserved it, she'd been winning all day. And the money has given her the chance to skydive again, and this time around get the pictures and the video, which she had regretted not getting!

Out of her winnings she bought us all a glass of champagne and then we took her home. I carried her winnings as everyone seemed to know that she'd cracked the jackpot and we didn't want her to be mugged. Although she paid for the taxi ride home for us, which made it safer anyway. It was about 2.30 when we finally got in. (Juliane, Katharina and I), the others went on from the Hard Rock Cafe to a night club, Neil and John got home at about 4.30 and the others had breakfast and then went home at about 7.30!

Not quite as many of us met for breakfast this morning. There was only Juliane, John, Nicki, Nadia, Katharina and I and of course Linda. I had crêpes for breakfast today. Then Katharina and I got Linda to drop us off at Circus, Circus. We went in there to see the free circus act, which was, when we were there, just clowns fooling around on a horse (Turnpferd). We had a go on one of the fairground games and then walked on down the Strip on our way to the Mirage, where we had arranged to meet the others at 13.00 after Juliane had done her second jump and Neil had crawled out of bed. On the way there we had a look in a couple of Casinos, but after a while they all look the same. We did take in Macy's before we got there and then we checked out the times of the pirate show at Treasure Island and proceeded to the Mirage. We were of course waiting at the wrong entrance, but Kylie, Annie and Cheryl spotted us there and told us that Neil was waiting for us at the other entrance by Siegfried & Roy's white tigers. We found Neil and boy did he look hungover, or as he likes to put it " jet-lagged ". Needless to say he didn't hang around with us for long, after Nicki, Nadia and Juliane caught up with us and we'd found the dolphins, Neil decided to go back and rest!

Nicki, Juliane and I paid to go and see the dolphins. They don't have shows, the dolphins are just encouraged to play without being forced or enticed by food. Nadia and Nicki went for a haircut at the Mirage whilst Juliane, Katharina and I went to see the pirate show. From there we all raced home to get ready to go and see Starlight Express. As it was it was only Katharina and I going to the show. The others went to a different show " Beehive ". We arranged with the guys to meet at the Freemont Experience at 23.00 (light show downtown) and then got a taxi to the Las Vegas Hilton. The show was brilliant and only cost $21.45 for almost front row seats.

After the show we followed an extremely deceiving map (distance) to walk to downtown. I took us a good 1/2 hour to get there, and my legs were killing me. The skin was so dry that the jeans were rubbing them raw. Painful! The second light show was a cowboy and western one, which was good, but not as impressive as the first one we saw. So we decided to stay for another hour and watched the first one we'd seen again.

We then headed back for the Mirage, to have a game of Black Jack on a $1 table, but their minimum bet was $5, so we tried at Treasure Island and had no luck there either. So we walked back home, Neil and I both did the cowboy walk, because our legs were raw. We got back at around 2am nearly asleep on our feet and fell into bed.

No comments: