Although I took over 1,000 photos on this trip to Las Vegas and the World Cup, it will be awhile before I get them organized or have time to tell the stories. Here's a teaser photo from the first morning, April 15: the training session for jumpers...
But the excitement for me started the night before with my flight from Oregon on Tuesday, April 14. Unbeknownst to me, or I presume Alaska Airlines, a major sandstorm was kicking up in Las Vegas with high winds, so high that all but one runway was closed when we arrived in the sky above. While flying in circles (known as a holding pattern to pilots), our captain noticed that our plane was running low on fuel, so he made the wise decision to fly on to Palm Springs, California, some 200 miles and 25 minutes away, refuel, take back to the air and then land in Las Vegas.
Good plan. Didn't work. Well, we made it to Palm Springs and refueled, but the winds were now 40 mph in Las Vegas and the air traffic controllers would not let our plane leave Palm Springs. For a very long time. When we finally did get in the air, we were again put into a holding pattern 40 miles out of Vegas... along with lots of other planes we could see outside our windows.
Eventually, we were cleared for landing. However, the wind must not have died down very much because it was a wild bucking flight in, with one particularly exciting air pocket dropping us out of the sky for a heart-stopping minute. During the descent to the runway, our plane tipped and lurched every which way. Amazingly, we landed without wings hitting the tarmac and came down to a blissfully safe taxi speed, at which time everyone in the plane clapped. Our steward came over the air and said, "How's that for a cowboy landing?" And so I arrived in Las Vegas at 10 p.m., three hours late... but alive.
My camera was packed away in the overhead bin so I took no photos on the flight... not that I could have anyway considering the lurching. But on the flight out of Las Vegas on Sunday, April 19, I kept my camera with me and took photos of Lake Mead's white mineral "bathtub ring" caused by the falling water level. Lake Mead is now at its lowest levels ever.
This is where we might have ended up if our pilot had been less skilled... or less lucky.
Friend Ruth, who had no such drama flying in from Sacramento earlier, met me at the airport with our gracious airbnb host. And so our grand adventure began...