“What’s a bucket list?” he asked me.
“It’s a list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket.”
“Oh,” he said. “Well, just make sure the noose around your neck has a long enough rope on it when they kick the bucket out from under you!”
Somehow, I got the distinct feeling he didn’t get the point.
Anyway, after wanting to try zip-lining for ages and constantly being told by my family and friends that I was crazy, too old, or suffering from (way beyond) a mid-life crisis, and also hearing things like, “Knowing you, you’ll fall off the line and kill yourself,” I finally talked my friends Paul and Nancy into taking the plunge (and I mean that literally) with me on July 16.
I decided to proceed cautiously, however. I didn’t want to try a line that would cost $120 for a ride or was 20 stories high and two miles long, and would have me dangling over a ravine. I wanted to try something tamer first, just to see if I’d enjoy it…or end up emotionally scarred for life. After a thorough online search, I found what I was certain would be a perfect fit for me - the Escape Velocity Zip Line at Liquid Planet Water Park in Candia. It was described as 35 feet high, 1,000 feet long, and right above water. Landing in water if I fell off sounded a little safer than landing on jagged rocks and impaling my liver or spleen. Best of all, the ride was only $10. And if I survived the first ride and wanted to go for a second one, the price then would drop to $5.
When Paul, Nancy and I got out of the car at Liquid Planet, the first thing we saw was the zip line, way up on a hill. Nancy smiled when she looked at it, but it was the kind of smile that looked as if it were frozen in place.
“Did I mention I was afraid of heights?” Nancy said.
“After today, you won’t be!” I said cheerfully.
We entered the gift shop, where we were told we would receive our equipment and instructions. Nancy immediately disappeared into the restroom.
Two young male employees converged on me. “Please sign this waiver form,” one said, handing a pen to me. The other put a wristband on me that looked eerily similar to the ones hospital patients wear.
“Are you preparing me in advance for a trip to the hospital?” I joked. Then I happened to glance at the waiver form I was signing. It basically said I wouldn’t hold them liable or sue them if I injured myself…or died.
I then was instructed to step on the scale. I noticed a sign that said all participants had to weigh between 50 and 250 pounds. I knew I didn’t look as if I weighed less than 50, so I wondered if that meant he was checking to see if I might weigh more than 250.
“Should I be insulted?” I asked him.
He laughed. “No, we have to see which size harness to use.”
Next, I was strapped into my harness. It crossed my chest and went under my butt. I’m always complaining about how saggy my butt is getting, but not at that moment…because it was lifted up to somewhere between my shoulder blades. I then was handed a pair of thick gloves.
“You’ll need these,” the employee said.
When all three of us were in our harnesses, we were instructed to follow the path up the hill.
To be honest, while hiking up that hill, it dawned on me I was about to plunge 35 feet while hanging from only a steel cable – and I nearly chickened out. I never would have admitted as much to Paul and Nancy, however. After all, the whole thing had been my bright idea.
At the top of the hill were two platforms that actually resembled gallows. Coming from each platform was a zip line. This park had not one, but two zip lines, side by side. I climbed the steps to the top of one platform and Paul climbed the other. Nancy stayed below and looked as if she might seriously be considering making a mad dash back down the hill…to the restroom.
The employee hooked me up to the line, tightened my harness and started reciting instructions.
“Rest your right hand up here and your left hand here,” he said, pointing to different locations on the line. “Then, when you get between those two blue flags down there,” he indicated two very distant blue things (I wasn’t wearing my glasses), “remove your right hand from here and put it flat on top of the line. That’s what will slow you down and act as your brake.”
I then understood the reason for the gloves. I could just picture my bare hand self-combusting as it slid along the wire.
As I stood there trying to remember which hand went where, all the while trying not to look down at the crowd of the swimmers in the water park – swimmers whose heads I was afraid I might get sick all over – Paul leapt off the platform and went zipping away with a loud “rrrrrrrr-ing” sound coming from the line.
“Ready?” the employee asked me.
I didn’t know which was scarier – taking that leap off the platform or trying to remember how to brake, so I wouldn’t end up with my teeth embedded in a tree on the other side of the park.
I took a deep breath and jumped. I remember thinking the swimming pool below looked like something Barbie would use. I remember how loud the zipping sound was above my head. I remember feeling as if I had the world’s biggest atomic wedgie. And I remember how the ride picked up speed with every second.
Then I saw the two blue flags and reached up to slow myself down. I think I pressed down a little too hard on the wire, because I felt my body jolt sideways. There was an employee waiting on the other platform to stop me, however. I never was so pleased to see anyone.
I don’t even remember what witty remark I said to him when I finally set foot safely on the platform, but he laughed and said, “Oh, I’ve already heard all about you!”
As Paul and I stood there, Nancy came zooming in, and I do mean zooming. The employee rushed to the edge of the platform to grab her.
When she finally was unhooked from the line, she walked over to me and pretended she was going to hit me. “This was all your idea!” she said, laughing.
We decided to forgo the second half-price plunge. I think we all felt lucky to have survived the first one.
“So, how did you like it?” I dared to ask them as we headed back to the car.
“It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected,” Nancy said.
Paul said he’d enjoyed it, then added, “But I’d have to advise men not to wear shorts when they go on it. Mine were so bunched up from the harness, I was embarrassed thinking about what kind of view the people below might be seeing when they looked up!”
I was just happy I had survived to cross another item off my bucket list.
Next on my list is riding “Untamed” at Canobie Lake Park. It’s a new roller coaster that has a 97-degree vertical drop.
I’m pretty sure, though, that Paul and Nancy will decide to change their phone numbers before then.
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