Years ago, it started. I saw this 48 Hours piece on The Grand Canyon, and in it featured a segment on people who whitewater rafted down the Colorado River within the Canyon, who spent between a week and two weeks doing this, and who camped out in the canyon when not careening down the river.
I was enthralled. It was like being told some people were allowed to sleep for a week inside the Smithsonian. There was a distinct Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler smell to it all. I wanted to go.
There were issues involved.
1) Money. (I had none. This changed, fortunately.)
2) I had never whitewater rafted at the time. (Also changed, if you consider floating down a water-clogged Potomac River in the drizzle once.)
3) I'm a lousy camper. (Bugs eat me, poison ivy hunts me down for a good rubbing, I always have to pee at 2am and get lost on the way to the outhouse, if there is one.)
4) My knowledge of the Grand Canyon was mostly restricted to the 48 Hours piece and National Lampoon's Vacation.
Sleeping out under the stars as the river washes by, nobody except the people doing the same thing you're doing -- riding the rapids -- anywhere nearby, bettering the poor saps at the top of the canyon who could only peer in before going to chase Christie Brinkley (oops, that's Chevy) -- well, that was impossible to pass up. This was being not only inside the Canyon, but living it, breathing this magnificent monumental natural wonder for not an hour or a day, but a week. Two, if I really wanted to go all out.
The practicalities of everything didn't really occur. I just wanted to go. And not for a baby trip -- not two or three days. If you're going to do this sort of thing, do it right, don't stick a toe in. Jump.
So when my brother announced he and his new wife would be having a party in Vegas on the 30th, I started phoning up companies. 48 Hours made it sound as though you had to be on waiting lists for years to go; that may be true for those who want to organize the whole trip on their own, but there are several companies who organize putting about 30 strangers on a raft and push them off downriver from late spring into the fall every year. There was room. A call and a brochure (Arizona River Runners won my hand) and a deposit later and I was going.