Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Over my year of new experiences, I’ve occasionally found myself mid-step into a situation wondering if it wasn’t such a terrific idea after all. Yet, I’ve never gotten all the way to the moment of execution and still been consumed by such fear that I seriously considered backing out: Until I was strapped upside down into a harness, seventy-five feet above the ground, with only an inch-thick cable keeping me from crashing to my death.

My friend, Murf, and her eighteen-year-old daughter, Leah, joined me on my recent ziplining excursion in Hocking Hills in southern Ohio. We chose the Super Zip option over the full Canopy Tour because it was cheaper and required less time. We discovered later that the Super Zip was also the highest, steepest, and fastest of all the ziplines. Final score? Research: zero. Stupidity: twelve-thousand.

We had little opportunity to contemplate the true terror of our half-assed planning as we ventured out onto the first of three rope and wood bridges, leading us up to the tower platform. As we wobbled forward, the first bridge swayed below us with every step we took. Even the fearless Leah mentioned turning back. If I hadn’t obsessively studied each footstep while clenching the rope railing, I would have slipped down the incline, knocking over both my friends in a domino fashion.

We reached the tower and climbed a couple flights of steps to the top. By then, I’d experienced enough thrills and chills for the day. I managed to safely traverse three treacherous bridges. Surely I could turn around now and simply count that death-defying experience toward The 52/52 Project.

As I watched the people in front of us being snapped onto cables and sent flying through the air, my stomach rolled in waves. I ventured damn close to crying. While I’m not afraid of heights, I have had a lifelong fear of the sensation of falling, which is why I just say no to rollercoasters and I struggle with airplane travel. Downing two Bloody Marys is a necessary precaution before facing potential turbulence.

I admitted later that if my two friends hadn’t been with me on that platform, I would have definitely climbed back down. I wasn’t the only one afraid. Murf held out her hand. It was visibly shaking.

But we soon found ourselves next up for the suicide launch. The zipline crew told us we had two options. One was to sit in an upright position. The other was to sprawl face-down, with our arms and legs extended, in what they called the “Superhero” position.

Seriously? I was so not Superman. Super Chickenshit, that summed me up more accurately.

I clenched the platform railing with both hands and murmured that the sitting position looked less scary.

The zipline cable guy, a twentyish rugged sort who probably bungee-jumped and hopped out of airplanes—fully sober—for a little kick, shrugged. “Do you want less scary or do you want safer?” He held up a simple strap harness. “This is what you wear in the sitting position. With the superhero position, you wear that, plus this, too.” He held up a heavy-duty looking vest with additional straps, buckles, and hooks.

Did I look like an idiot? Yes, give me two harnesses! Give me twenty!

Still, as I gazed at the mega-harness, dying remained a big concern. Vomiting first would probably prove inevitable, but I knew death would immediately follow. So, I would crash to my death while puking. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

As my friends were whisked off through the treetops though, I knew I had to go through with it, too.

I assumed the position. My head hovered over the edge of the platform and my body swung as I was hooked onto the cable. I repeatedly asked the young man who had my life in his hands to triple-check all the buckles and hooks. I closed my eyes and unpried my feet from the edge of the platform.

I told myself I wasn’t really doing this. I tried to step outside myself, to pretend I was observing someone else in a movie. I’ve done this before, say, during a root canal or a Brazilian wax, and surprisingly, it can work.

He counted down quickly: “Three, two, one.” And I was off.

I soared through the air.

I started off slowly before I picked up speed. Immediately, I was surprised to find I wasn’t experiencing that sickening free-falling sensation in which your stomach rushes up into your windpipe and consumes your last breath--just before you die.

Several seconds later, I opened my
eyes to find myself flying through the treetops. It was just like the nightly flying dreams I’ve had all my life—same position, same viewpoint—and shockingly, the same exhilarating and joyous sensation of flying.

I half-smiled. I waved my arms. If not a superhero, maybe I was at least an ostrich.

As I approached the landing platform, I remembered to pull in my arms and tuck my chin to my chest, as we were instructed. I swooped down.

No vomiting. No crash landing. No dying.

Anticipation aside, I actually enjoyed ziplining. Not enough to take a second flight though--not that day, at least--although Leah was eager to go. Murf announced she would never go again. Me? I was still recovering from the pre-flight trauma.

But, maybe I would return to fly through the trees again, another day. Because one thing I’ve learned is that the anticipation of something we fear is almost always worse than the reality.

If we’re brave enough to spread our wings, we may be surprised how high we can soar.

Zipping--Are you down with it? How many Bloody Marys do you think it took me to manage last year's flight to Italy? What's your lifelong fear?


  1. Yeah, I would zip line. I thought at first you were lining up a bungee jump. No way I'd do that. Congrats on going with the Super Hero option. I feel safer already, knowing you are patrolling the skies.

    1. I'm not so sure. I bungee jumped. It's a one second turn-off-the-brain decision, then 30 seconds of thrill. This? Sounds like it takes much more mental tenacity. Then again, perhaps it's just the good writing. I'm going to find out for sure when I zip line Hocking Hills next summer! Can't NOT now, right?

    2. Bluz: I don't think I could bungee-jump either. Too similar to jumping from a plane. Yes, I'm certain southern Ohio was safer that afternoon with this caped and cowardly crusader.

    3. Grand Inquisitor: If you can handle bungee-jumping, you can do this. The preparation was terrifying, but the actual experience was fabulous!

  2. You are my heroine! ..and I am always - mom

  3. Sherry - you had my stomach rolling just reading this. My hugest fear? SHARKS. Please don't tell me you are going down in a shark cage. Don't do it!!!

    1. Cat: Actually, I seriously considered that one, but don't think I can fit it in. So, you can rest easy. Neither of us will be sleeping with the fish.