UPDATE: ANOTHER tour helicopter crashed in Hawaii just this afternoon, killing 1 and injuring 3. I officially consider myself lucky to be alive.
My fears going into this new experience weren't unfounded; the same company that (safely) took me on my magnificent journey, Heli USA, had a chopper crash in Hawaii the day before my tour. Each of the 3 couples aboard lost a spouse, as if the event needed more tragedy.
Rather than sit at slot machines or try my luck at $5 blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em tables, I gambled all my chips on survival and forced myself to board the 7 passenger helicopter on Friday afternoon. With me were pilot Randy, a young UK University couple, and a UK family of three celebrating daughter Claire's 21st birthday (she held a barf bag to her mouth the whole ride but never spewed and I love her for that).
When we landed, Buckskin Dan loaded us into a horse-drawn wagon to nearby Diamond Bar ranch. Nigel Turner and his wife own both Heli USA and this 106,000 acre ranch (once owned by infamous cowboy Tap Duncan), and a nice welcome letter was waiting in my cabin from them. It was clearly written well before my arrival, as I'm sure the couple was on their way to Hawaii to do some crisis communicating. Although I asked, no one at the ranch was all that interested in talking about the crash.
I settled into my adorable cabin before the cowboys stuck me on a horse named Lilo and we were off on a trot. Although inadequate, the photos above will have to do their best to describe the views because words will definitely not suffice.
Casey Adams and Buckskin Dan serenaded me as I sipped champagne and watched the sunset, all without dismounting Lilo.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (not a cliche!), steak dinner was served, bell and all. The guests and employees sat together trading stories while the singing cattlemen kept us in music. When we finished, Casey already had a campfire going and we sat around it singing for the next 3 hours. I swear by God and Celine Dion, the stars made me feel like a tiny speck (no small feat after that steak dinner).
I was back on the strip by 9 a.m. yesterday morning. Hotel-less and 7 hours away from my flight home, the generous UK family allowed me to pass the time with them for a while before I got all Tap Duncan and snuck into the Imperial Palace pool.
What an incredibly refreshing 24 hours!
View the whole photo set
For info on the New Media Conference that brought me out to Vegas, look here:
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