Red Card Roberts
July 17, 2012
Whenever I travel to a new country, I subscribe to a single to-do list that always consists of the same three rules: 1. Eat something you’ve never heard of. 2. See something uniquely local. 3. Do something you’re afraid of.
Last year I bopped around Ecuador for a few weeks and apparently added a fourth rule to my list: Do something stupid.
You see, I was driving through a dangerously curvy section of high-mountain road wide enough for just one car (despite traffic actually going two ways on it), with a 1,000-foot drop-off to my right and a raging 200-foot-wide river at the bottom. In the pouring rain. Knowing I couldn’t hold my breath much longer, I pulled over to take a break and give my knuckles a chance to regain their natural color.
The parking area where I found myself was for a zip-line tour. Before I had even put the car in park, a dozen Ecuadorians were pulling at my limbs, escorting me into their little hut and fitting me with a harness, presumably made of rubber bands.
Apparently, I was going to zip-line.
For $5, I was promised "the thrile of yous leaf."
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As I was ferried away to a platform, I couldn’t help but notice a 1,500-foot-long cable wire strung about 300 feet over the river to the other side. One Ecuadorian handed me what appeared to be handlebars from a five-year-old’s bike. (They seriously had pink streamers coming out of the grips.) The other one was shouting instructions to me in Spanish. Somebody clipped my harness to the handlebars and gave me a push.
Fifteen hundred feet later, the zip line ended at a chain-link fence with a bunch of bubble wrap taped to it and a small child grabbing your legs in hopes of slowing you down.
And until this weekend, that’s how I figured zip-lining was done everywhere. But it turns out that’s not the case. It’s only done that way in countries that don’t have lawyers.
At Canyons Resort, zip-lining is just as thrilling, but without the added risk of it potentially being the last thing you ever do.
My friends Cathy Clark, Chad Rexroad and I decided this would be a fun way to celebrate Cathy’s birthday. (She’s 39. Again.)
As we were preparing for the fun, Cathy admitted she was a bit nervous.
"You will be safe, I promise," our guide Chris assured us. "And I promise you’ll live to see another 39th birthday."
After a brief equipment fitting, we were taken to the demo line. If zip-lining had a bullpen, this would be it. This is where you warm up for the real deal.
"That wasn’t so bad," the birthday girl said after completing the 20-foot run.
"Now, just imagine that about 100 times longer and about 30 times higher," one of the operators told us. "The Lookout Peak line is over 2,100 feet long and about 300 feet high!"
Upon hearing this, Cathy gave me a look suggesting this was the worst birthday celebration ever, and I was going to get a trip to a snake farm when mine rolled around.
Not missing a beat, our guide told us not to worry. We hadn’t graduated to that level yet. "Before the Lookout line, we’ll do the Red Pine line. It’s only 800 feet long. If you’re comfortable on that, you can do Lookout no problem."
After a short walk to the Red Pine line, we went through another short safety briefing and Chris triple-checked all of our equipment. Then Cathy said something I never thought I’d hear her say. She looked at me and said, "Let’s race."
For someone who made it known she was less than thrilled to be sitting in a harness, attached to a wire, she sure worked her nerves out quickly. Even more impressive, she actually beat me!
With that, we had graduated from the Red Pine line and were ready for the big one.
We went up the Short Cut chairlift to the top of Lookout, where we could see the cable wire strung. "Oh my gosh that’s high," Cathy and I said in unison.
At the platform, somebody in our group wondered out loud what happens if you chicken out. "Well, for starters, you have to hike down," Chris said. "It’s the walk of shame."
Noticing some in our group were on the verge of taking a hike, he continued to assure us with his professional ‘don’t worry, I’ve got this’ manner and calm, controlled attitude. "You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. But it really is fun and I promise it’s safe. There’s nothing to worry about."
Which seemed to be just enough to keep everyone committed to making it to the other platform some 2,000 feet away.
After being attached to the line and once again having all of our equipment triple-checked for safety, it took less than a minute for each of us to make it back to our starting place.
And even the most uncertain among us admitted at the end that she was happy to have done it.
"I’m glad I did it. But I don’t think I’ll be signing up to be a zip-line tour guide anytime soon," Cathy noted.
As for me, I was just happy the only bubble wrap I saw that day was in her gift.
Zip Tour Adventures operates daily at Canyons Resort. Participants must be at least 10 years old. For more information, visit http://www.CanyonsResort.com .
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.