Rrrrriiinngg. Rrrriiinngg. Rrrriiinngg. At first I thought I was dreaming. I looked around the room with my eyes half opened,“Where am I?” I thought. The cotton thread bed linen wrapped around my body and the soft king-sized bed I was lying on reminded me where I was, the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Yawning, I reached for the blaring phone wondering who on earth was calling me at such an ungodly hour. It was 4am.
“Hello, Maricel.” “Hi, who’s this?” I asked groggily. “This is… from Canyon Tours.” The lady on the other end seemed to be holding the phone too close to her mouth. I could hardly understand what she was saying. I remembered the name, it was the company I contacted about the Grand Canyon bus tour hours earlier. I did tell them to contact me anytime as I knew my booking was quite last minute. I just didn’t expect them to comply. Realizing that the tour was scheduled at 6am that day, I quickly forgave her and thought there must be a good reason for the call.
“We tried your card but it was declined,” the lady on the other end informed me a little tersely. “Oh, sorry about that.” I seem to be having problems with my debit card since I landed in Las Vegas. “Can I pay cash instead?” “Yes, you may but we still need your account details.” “Do you have another credit card?” “No, I don’t have a credit card,” I replied. “If you want I can come now and pay in cash.” “No, we still need a credit card.” Sensing how unbending she was I just said, “Well, then. I’m afraid I won’t be able to join your bus tour.” “Okay,” the lady said. With that she quickly hang up as if she couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Maybe she thought I was broke, I chuckled to myself.
“Ah, Las Vegas customer service,” I thought. But since I arrived the day before, my experience in Vegas has only been fascinating if not shocking in some ways thanks to the (almost) naked ladies dotting the Strip. So maybe she was an exception, I convinced myself. But now, what do I do? I pondered over my options as I snuggled back in bed. That was the only day I had left for the bus tour which takes at least 9 hours. I may have been able to go the following day but my flight was in the evening. I didn’t want to take chances. It seemed my only other option was to take a helicopter ride. But my research the night before left me shuddering at the thought of paying for such an expensive ride. And then there was the problem with my card.
Although my friend who was traveling with me in the USA had similar problems with her card, I never had any. Until I reached Las Vegas. Both our banks were based in Dubai. We didn’t know whether that was the cause but we knew it shouldn’t. We’ve both traveled everywhere with our cards and never had any issues before. Since arriving in Las Vegas access to my card has been erratic. When I booked my hotel with my card it worked. But upon check-in, when the receptionist tried to charge me for the resort fee, it wouldn’t work. So I paid in cash instead. When I stepped out of the hotel to pay for the bus ticket, it worked. All I could do was pray that the Lord will make a way for me to see Grand Canyon. With that thought I went back to sleep.
I checked out of Stratosphere Hotel at 11am later that morning and spent almost three hours looking for a new hotel. I did book a cheap hotel but decided it was unsafe so I decided to go back to the Strip. So much for trying to save money. Thankfully I managed to find a good one that didn’t cost a lot. Once settled in my new hotel – California Hotel & Casino, I went back to the Strip for another round of sightseeing while hoping to come across a tour company. I walked from one hotel to another – Bellagio, Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, etc. Even as I marveled at the eclectic buildings, my mind was filled with thoughts of Grand Canyon. I kept praying and asking God. But as night settled in I was ready to give up. I placated myself that I could always come back, that there must be a purpose. I knew God knew the only reason I was in Vegas was because of Grand Canyon. But as I walked down the Vegas Strip to catch the Deuce double decker bus back to my hotel, I saw a building with a rock facade next to M&M’s World. The huge sign said, “Grand Canyon Experience”. “This is it,” I thought.
I entered and realized it was a souvenir shop. Undeterred I asked the cashier who pointed me to another direction inside the shop. To my chagrin, the company only organized helicopter tours. Before checking out of Stratosphere Hotel earlier I checked my budget and was surprised that I actually had more than enough cash for a helicopter ride. But I still wanted something cheaper and doubted I would find any. Acting blasé, I asked the salesman how much it would cost. Unlike the standoffish lady from the bus tour company, this guy was very accommodating. He quickly explained the options and quoted me a price from 5 star helicopter tours. It was below my budget and much less than the competitors’ rates. I was shocked. I almost jumped with joy. I knew right then I was going on a helicopter ride which will be my very first. Not just an ordinary helicopter ride but a tour through and above the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, my once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I gladly paid in cash and left the shop smiling from ear to ear. I looked up and mouthed, “Thank you” to the God I may not see but I know was there in heaven, looking down at me with a friendly lopsided grin. I knew he knew how much I wanted to see Grand Canyon yet I was willing to acquiesce to his will. I was willing to let it pass yet he gave it anyway. There I stood, amidst Las Vegas’s blazing lights, only a few hours from realizing one of my grandest dreams. My trip to America has since taught me to never put God in a box. To only ask not question whenever there’s a bend in the road, there’s a detour I need to take or when my plans come to a grinding halt. Who knows maybe another big surprise awaits me.
To read about my helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon and learn how to get there, what the transportation and accommodation options are, please look out for my next post.