Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When I Zip-Lined

I went to Costa Rica this winter for a week with the Davison Troop.  We used to be the Clan, but while we were in Costa Rica, we learned that the monkeys, who came on our boat during a river expedition, run in troops. My brother-in-law Chuck thought it apt. We're a lively, chattering family, so it fits.... maybe more than we think.

When Chuck received use of a friend's beautiful vacation home in Guanacaste on the northern Pacific Coast of the country and invited us, the first thing I thought of was zip-lining.  I don't know why, but this idea just surfaced.  If I told you I've watched every season of The Amazing Race, would it then make sense? Perhaps.    If you know me, you know I avoid certain types of  physical risk-taking...no skiing, no carnival rides, no air balloon rides.  To some, not much risk; to me, lots of risk.  I could get nervous just thinking of my husband's desire to bungy jump or sky dive. For whatever reason, flying over the treetops on a steel cable seemed like a perfectly fine thing to do.

Not everyone in our troop would be going, but most were.  We did some homework, but finally chose the zip-line recommended by the owner of our villa.  It had a double steel cable.  I would have gone on a single cable line.  We drove about an hour and one-half up into the mountains.  Away from the beach and the towns, the roads get very poor and our 113,000 mile rental van labored while our guts were jiggled every which way.  Not a good omen for some.

We arrived at the hotel that offered the zip-line experience and paid our fees.  Two sisters-in-law not zipping with the rest of us, chose an ATV tour to a waterfall. In the end, it was not as benign as they thought...tricky ATVs, slippery waterfall rocks.  The rest of us piled into an open air vehicle and drove past grazing pastures, and  an albino water buffalo before reaching the staging area. We were harnessed into our gear and led to the first platform area where we received a lesson in proper zip-lining.  Then it was time to do the first of 10 zips down the mountain. There were 3 couples from Philadelphia in our group.  One man, a tall beefy guy, nervous, sweating and red in the face, couldn't even muster the strength to approach the platform.  I, on the other hand, had no nerves...not one.  No second thoughts as I looked down onto the treetops.   No jitters looking at the steel cables that would carry me across the valley.  The other group, less the nervous guy,  hooked on and flew across.  Our group was next and no one stepped forward to be first except me.  I went to the platform, stood close to the edge and let the man hook me to the winch.  "Brake about half way across, " he said.  I placed my hands, now covered with impossibly heavy lined gloves, on the cables.  I was released and hung on for dear life as I moved across the treetops.   Behind me they were yelling, "Let go. Don't brake."  No wonder there was heat building up in one glove.  I let this glove rise slightly above the cable, more guiding my way on the cable than hanging on. Now I was zipping!   In an instant the platform on the other side was there, and I was being unhooked.  When my sister-in-law came across behind me, she had trouble standing up...her nerves had made her knees like jelly, but she did it.  She told me later when I originally said I was doing it, she thought if Andrea can do it, so can I.  Even the nervous man came across, initially in tandem with one of the zip-line guides.  We all cheered enthusiastically as he reached the platform. All of us zipped the next 9 runs with ease.  By the last run, even the reluctant man was fine, literally hanging upside-down, doing stunts on the cable.  So much for nerves.

Which brings me to the question... why not one small nerve?  No jelly knees, no second thoughts?  For a person who has never gone on a roller coaster, or even climbed a rock wall,  it seems odd.  What's also interesting to me is at 35, I probably wouldn't have done it.  In the end, I don't know.  Perhaps as we age, we take the inevitability of our demise less seriously.  It now seems somewhat possible, where when I was younger it was harder to accept...and I wasn't going to do anything to encourage the inevitability.  Perhaps as we age, the mellowness that we seem to grow into transfers to this sort of cautious danger-baiting.  Or perhaps it has taken me longer to learn the pleasure that others have felt in the exhilaration of walking to the edge and letting go....

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