The end of April approached and I (an administrative assistant for an accounting firm) exhausted, seeing double from staring at a computer screen and numbers, was overwhelmingly hungry for adventure, counting hours and minutes to my grand escape to the west coast. (Seriously my dad called my cell once and I answered it like it was the office phone. On my day off.)
Except the grand adventure, didn’t quite go as planned. You know what they say, when it rains it pours. Well this great adventure of my, went wrong on so many levels, that I don't even know if I should laugh or cry. So pardon me as I do both.
What was suppose to happen
For the record, the great plan was to fly with my friends, into Las Vegas Monday evening. Grab dinner on the strip and lodge at the Paris Hotel.
Tuesday we were to roam wild in Las Vegas before embarking on the 4 hour drive to Flagstaff where we'd spend the following night.
Wednesday morning we'd leave bright and early to drive to the Grand Canyon. We had about 3 hours for the views before driving 2 hours north to take the hour long tour of the beautiful Lower Antelope Canyon, which has been a dream for me ever since I discovered such a place existed. Then swing by Horseshoe Bend on our way back down to Pheonix where we’d enjoy the rest of our trip.
I know, ambitious for one day, but I heard it's been done before so naturally - challenge accepted.
I was beyond excited to get away, see the desert, the canyons, Native Americans and spent, I don't even know how long, researching everything to put my "little" plan together.
What actually happened and the lessons that followed.
Monday morning finally arrived. I was super excited, dancing and singing and of course packing unaware of was waiting around the corner. I'm going to fast forward this part because I'm still an emotional wreck. 4 hours before my flight I found my cat behind our shed, with a shattered leg and a cracked jaw. I was faced with one of the most difficult and unfair decisions in, probably my entire life.
I ended up saying goodbye to my little fur ball and ending her pain, as operating would have cost me at least $6,000 assuming there was no internal damage and judging by her breathing, the vet there most likely was.
This start to my week sucked out all my joy and adventurous spirits. Just 2 hours before my flight, I was left with mascara smudged all over my cheeks, an empty aching hole in my chest facing the impossible question, „Now what?”
Sometimes it's ok to run.
The empty home was the last place I could stand to be in. My parents were out of town celebrating their 35th anniversary. My sister was flying out the next day to Arizona where we were to meet. So I did the one thing I knew to do. I ran. Well, drove... actually my sister drove me to the airport. I had a flood of emotions from shock to anger, to overwhelming sadness, helplessness and guilt.
I sat by my gate, listening to a fella who absolutely reeked of whiskey, complaining about telemarketers, waiting for my friends to arrive. As boarding began I received a call. My friends were stuck on the bridge, with a broken down car and weren't going to make the flight.
Unexpected solo trip? Could be. Honestly at that point I didn’t care.
Well sort of. Las Vegas didn't seem like the type of place I'd want to go solo in. But hey, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
So I flew to Las Vegas solo, crying my entire flight as the events of the afternoon sunk in. There was the sweetest couple sitting next to me who were trying to cheer me up. They were probably wondering if I was on something, because seriously, I looked a mess. They talked about Vegas and places worth checking out and told me stories from their work as are undercover shoppers except the restaurant version, so they go out to eat and watch the staff etc.
I sat on the plane wondering what the heck I was going to do in Las Vegas by myself. Normally this probably wouldn't be a problem at all, but I was in no mood for an adventure. And boy was I getting one!
Flying over the desert was an interesting experience, granted I had never been to the west coast. The sandy hills, and rocky mountains stretched as far as I could see. There was an interesting combination of browns and gold. No green. No trees. Yet everything looked so alive.
It was 6:30pm as my flight landed in Las Vegas. I grabbed an Uber and made my way to the Paris hotel.
The palm trees here were taller and prettier than any I've ever seen in Florida. The scene looked almost fake as the setting sun bounced off of the Golden windows of the Mandalay Bay, set next to an Egyptian piramid, a rollercoaster and a replica of the statue of liberty.
Show girls strutted their stuff with nothing but sparkles and feathers to hide behind, calling out to the flannel shirt-wearing, camera pointing, lost looking tourists. Fancy cups with never ending straws were in almost everyone's hand and then there was the occasional crack head that looked like he belonged in one of those zombie movies. This was going to be interesting...
Always include more than one person on a hotel reservation.
I arrived at the Paris hotel, which was a little more outdated than I had expected but still quite impressive. I strolled through the casino, before making my way to the check-in counter where I found out I was not getting a room. Since my name was not on the reservation, and we were sharing rooms, I could not check-in.
Now to be fair, this was not anticipated because we were all suppose to fly in together. But for future reference, put everyone on there!
Though I was exhausted and dying to go to my room and plop right on my bed, crawl under a blanket and never return to see the light of day again, I was relieved to find out that my friends managed to catch a flight from a different airline and were arriving 4 hours after I did.
I could manage 4 hours on my own in Las Vegas, right?
If a guy selling hand lotion in a casino invites you to a pool party, it's probably a good idea not to go.
I grabbed a beer (I know, I'm so wild) at an outside bar, under the eiffel tower, right across from the Belagio. I watched the famous fountain show and took the whole scene in. I'm in Vegas. This is it.
Las Vegas is actually a very interesting place to people watch as people literally come here thinking nothing leaves this place. The streets filled with loud college kids, obnoxious couples and even families that always included one member that looked completely lost. Buses advertising call girls and Hummer Limos sped across as the classical music of the Belagio fountains complemented the dancing water.
I strolled back through the casino, amazed at how quickly it filled up in a matter of two hours. Yes I sat outside with one beer and people watched for two hours. I told you I was in no mood for exploring. I also had my luggage with me and didn't feel like strutting around town with extra wheels.
Anyway! Back to the casino.
I was mesmerized by all the sparkly lights and shiny buttons and even eyed the black jack table a few times. Then I got chatted up by this guy handing out lotion samples. How interesting.
Considering that I didn't exactly have anywhere to be for another 2 hours I was more than usual, willing to chat. After getting through the "Where are you from", "How long you staying here for" and "What accent is that" I found myself getting invited to this private, rooftop, pool party with "poisons of all kind".
Yeeah.. I mean I know I'm in Las Vegas and all but I watched too many Taken movies to even consider. Plus let's be real, handing out lotion samples on the side of casino can't be that well paying of a job, so what kind of party we talking about here?
Then the anti-social me came out and I found a corner to hide away in, sat on my suitcase, basically looking homeless as I glued my eyes to my phone, not daring to look up in case anyone else had any poisonous parties going on and successfully reached level 10 on Monkey City. (I managed not to cry during that whole time, does that count for something?)
Finally after catching up with everyone and updating them on my current status, my friends made it to Las Vegas! I welcomed the many hugs that followed and we got our room and I got my comfy bed.
Think twice before ordering room service.
The following morning was slow. Getting up and running seemed to be a never ending process. There's one known cure in such situations - a delicious cup of coffee. A must, for me to human on any level.
Since half of us (me) were still in our jammies, room service seemed like a good idea.
Except it was a terrible idea.
We almost got charged $40 for a plate of 2 crepes and a pot of coffee. I mean I knew room service was pricey, but daaang!
So apparently there's a fee per person in the room, regardless of who is ordering for how many people. So you might want to order yourself a little something to nibble on yourself, but if anyone else is in your room, you are all charged a fee. Pfffft. No thanks.
I don't know if this is something that applies to all hotels but just throwing that out there. You may be getting the most expensive breakfast of your life, if you don't read the fine print!
We went down to the main lobby and grabbed a plate of some delicious crepes and yes, coffee. I then ran into the same couple from the plane! They were getting ready to go into one of the restaurants at the Paris hotel.
There's ways to make money in Las Vegas that don't include gambling.
We roamed Las Vegas as planned. Or not planned. We just followed our eyes and went where our little hearts desired, since the following day had a very tight schedule. That's when we stumbled across this place called the Preview Center. Here you get paid to watch previews of movies that aren't out yet and you get to vote on the previews you liked. You have to be at least 18 years of age and you can only earn $40 per day, but still, I thought that was pretty cool!
We hotel hopped mostly since the weather outside was chilly and rainy. We made it to Fermont street towards the evening where we decided to go on the Slot Machine Zipline.
I was hesitant to go, questioning if it was worth the money. Then I instantly remembered missing out on an amazing ziplining experience in Croatia and said "screw it" and decided to go.
Was it fun? Yes. It was actually the only moment I genuinely laughed that day.
Was it $40 worth of fun? Meh.
After exploring Las Vegas we packed up and set out to Flagstaff where our adventure was to continue.
Sometimes it snows in May...
We stopped for donuts and a potty break before leaving the city and ended up leaving a tad bit later, than originally expected.
Three hours into the uneventful drive, our GPS informed us that we were an hour away from our hotel. Then, out of the darkness ahead, white specks began to sprinkle out of the abyss and gather on our windshield.
It was snowing!
Now I was in absolute awe. I love winter and snow and instantly flashed back to my childhood memories. To the good old days when I lived in Poland and nagged my older brother to take me sledding in the winter months. Or when my sister walked me to school and scolded me for sticking my tongue out, trying to catch the fresh snowflakes.
Then it began to snow more and more making it quite difficult to see ahead. There was some panic in the car. (Go figure a bunch of Floridians just saw snow) None of us prepared for THAT kind of weather. We knew it'd be chilly, but the weather forecast did not mention heavy snow.
I tuned out the remaining of the group and gazed into the window trying to see the pine trees covered in white fluffy-ness. It was pitch black out with no street lamps to light the way and yet the white snow still managed to sparkle through the darkness.
Then we came to a stop behind a long line of truckers, on a one lane road. Snow build all around the edges and there was no way out as trucks quickly lined up behind us.
We stood and waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
We got a hold of a trucker a head of us, thinking they usually have radios and a good idea of what's going on. Nope. Not this one! And not the one behind us either.
After over 2 hours of wondering if we'd even make it to Flagstaff, a sheriff sped by and shortly after the traffic began to move. I still wonder how he got through all that snow. We passed the truck that had broken down ahead, in the middle of the road and blocked the way through and by 3 in the morning we were in our hotel room.
At 4:00am one of my friends had a class to teach. She teaches English and works in the Chinese time zone. Another one in our group ended up losing her voice from a cold. We were all so exhausted, we actually couldn't go to sleep right away. Luckily a bottle of whiskey "magically" appeared in our room and managed to calm some of the nerves and tension.
Needless to say the following morning we did not leave at 8 in the morning to go see the Grand Canyon where more snow waited for us. We slept till almost noon and grabbed breakfast, or should I say lunch, at a local hub in Flagstaff - The Tourist Home. It, then dawned on me how friendly people in Arizona are. The cashier taking my order asked me about my day to which I automatically answered "Good". His response was "Are you sure?" I either looked really miserable or really needed a cup of coffee or possibly both.
It really was no big deal but it felt nice to have someone genuinely notice frustration I tried to cover up. I guess I wasn't doing a very good job. Like I said, this was pre-coffee and post-Antelope Canyon dreams shattered.
After a big breakfast we got back on the road and made our way to Pheonix. We met the rest of our group there. In that my sister and brother-in-law who, might I add, were my saviors during the horror I experienced before my trip.
The rest of our stay in Arizona was much, much better. I had a really good time in Pheonix though I wasn't in the best of spirits. Las Vegas might not exactly be a place I'll visit any time soon but Arizona definitely will. Especially since, by the way, my sister is actually moving there.
After the week long trip I returned to the empty house. It was heart breaking and almost terrifying how one event can suck so much life and joy out of you. I had experienced some of the worst jet lag after that trip even though the time difference between Florida and Arizona is only 3 hours. Worse than any of my trips to Europe!
One thing I took out of all this is to keep pushing through. Things won't always go as planned, in fact, you can count on surprises and bumps in the road. What makes or breaks your trip aren't the circumstances you can't control, but how you choose to react to them. Keep looking for the positive and the good. Even if it rains and pours and thunders, if you look close enough, you can always find a hint of light and a glimpse of a rainbow.