In March, 2003, Steve, Tierney and I road-tripped down to Vegas for a couple nights, meeting up with some Salt Lake friends traveling to LA. After they left, we felt like getting away from Vegas for a while, and drove out to nearby Lake Mead to do the touristy Hoover Dam thing with my son.
On our way, only a few miles from the lake, driving through the canyon, we spied something seemingly impossible. Tethered to the guardrail alongside the road, was a helicopter in the air. The blades were going, and it looked otherwise "normal" other than the regular, plain rope holding it in a fixed position, and the fact that there was no one in the helicopter.
We slowed down a bit, after the bizarreness really struck us, just to see if we could put it in some kind of context or plausible story. Yet, there were no film crew or film trucks in sight (very familiar with that scene--the area I live in Salt Lake hosts many filming crews, and I've even had them filming on my street) no people around at all, no signage, absolutely nothing. We continued our trip, making small talk about the weird experience.
I figured an explanation would be found by searching around on the internet, or asking a friend, who is the head photographer/videographer for KSL TV, a local salt lake station. He knows a lot about helicopters; part of his job is spending lots of time in the news helicopter. I figured if this had something to do with filming, he'd know about it. But, he thought it was the most bizarre thing he'd ever heard.
I've also posted a question in the appropriate category at yahoo answers, and I received similar incredulous replies. Apparently helicopters are tethered sometimes, for training purposes, but in very controlled situations. Certainly not over a cliff face with no one in sight.
So, there are several mysteries here, and seeming impossibilities. The rope used for tethering seemed to be just a thick, regular rope. No high tech-ness at all. No one was in the helicopter...so how on earth would it be retrieved from the air? Why would it be so close to the public road? My estimate is that it was probably only 75 or so ft. away from the public, well-traveled road. I can't imagine this is safe.
There are commercial helicopter rides offered over Lake Mead, and over the general area (Vegas, etc.) But this was definitely just on public access land, in the middle of nowhere in the sense that there were no restaurants, stores, or anything anywhere around. It's a curvy canyon, with deep cliffs. It doesn't even seem a likely place to park a regular vehicle to get out and walk around--there's really nothing to walk to and from--unless rapelling or rock climbing.
This has bothered Steve and I over the years; there's seemingly no solution to explain what we saw. The other day, I asked both he and my son to draw what they remember. We purposefully didn't talk about any details, so our respective sketches would not be 'contaminated' by each others' suggestions. The drawings are very similar, and it's clear we all have generally the same memory. The first one Tierney's, the 2nd mine, 3rd Steve's.
Ideas and speculations welcome.