Here I go again proving my incredible stupidity over my intelligence or common sense. Only this time, it got so serious that I had to wave the white flag of surrender and bail out of the activity. I had picked up some brochures on zip lines in Colorado since I wanted the experience of going from a tower to another tower over an actual course of several miles. In Branson, Missouri, I had shot down a straight line from a 280 feet tower but I wanted something more.
So I found one that sounded perfect for my quest: Royal Gorge Zip Lines.
They offered two levels of excitement. The Classic run consisted of nine lines over a two hour period, or the Extreme option that lasted for about three hours and ended with jumping off of a seven-story tower. Awesome!
I know what you are thinking. You would assume that I took the Extreme one, and I would have except that Bear was going to be waiting on me so in consideration to him, I choose the shorter time commitment. And boy, in hindsight, I am glad that I did.
That morning, we got away a little later than planned from our friend’s house in Westcliffe, CO. We pulled into the Royal Gorge area around 11:30am in the summer June weather. It was unseasonably hot already and getting more uncomfortably warmer by the minute. I had called ahead to make my reservation for the next group going out at 12:30pm.
When I checked in at their office, the lady behind the counter warned me that there really are no restroom facilities available once you get out on the course, so make sure that you take advantage of them now! Otherwise, if you absolutely have to go once you are “out there”, it could take up to fifteen minutes to strip off the necessary zip line hardware, relieve yourself, and then get restrung back up . . . all the while the entire rest of the group is waiting on you!
There was no way I was going to let that happen, so I didn’t drink any more water and went to the ladies room twice as we waited for our group’s meeting time to arrive. Not smart, I know, but it gets dumber.
The group of eight people, including myself, consisted of two women from England; a family of four from Clearwater, Kansas; a young male teenager that broke away from his family’s vacation to do this solo; plus our two very humorous and witty zip line guides named Jayson and Kennedy.
After I was strapped and fitted with heavy harnesses gear around my torso and thighs complete with a long strap that I carried over my shoulder; a safety helmet that I snugged down on my head; and gloves that I considered to be the same ones like my dad used when he was welding something; I was so screaming hot already but I was still only in the parking lot!
But I figured that I had to take into consideration that I was at least thirty years older that the rest of the group, not to mention more than forty pounds heavier too than anyone else! So I decided to keep quiet and “cowboy up”. I’m guessing by now that the temperature is easily over ninety-five degrees as we inch into the hottest part of the whole day.
We are all packed into a van and transported across the highway and a couple of miles up into the high desert wilderness. I am seated in the second seat by the window and take full advantage of the cold air conditioning that is blowing directly into my face . . . ah, if only I had my water bottle now.
In a few minutes we arrive at the short “practice” zip line that is only a few feet off of the ground. Here each of us take our turn learning how to right ourselves back into a straight line if we begin to turn sideways while zipping; the correct way to brake ourselves without crushing our little finger between mechanical stuff; and finally how to “park and pull” ourselves backwards up the line if you find yourself coming up short of the next tower’s landing deck.
As I watched and waited for my turn, I could feel myself profusely sweating and I really had to focus on slowing down my breathing! While I was huddled under the nearest short pinon tree, I felt so sorry for the guides having to stand out there in the brutal sun while they patiently trained and instructed us. Now we were ready to actually begin the course.
Between the towers, we would have to hike single file around pinon trees and cacti to the next zip line, which wouldn’t have been so bad if there was at least some sort of cloud cover or milder temperatures to keep us from baking. It was now at one hundred degrees, with no wind. As we stopped at a water station to re-hydrate, I quickly gulped down two Dixie cups of cool water and then poured a third full cup on my neck and down my back. I swear the water sizzled when it hit my scorched skin! My breathing became more labor intensive and I began to feel weak in my knees, but my pride told me to shut up and push on. So I did.
Until we reached the fourth tower.
I was standing on the platform hooked up to the cable, again waiting on my turn, this time for an eight hundred feet line that stretched before me, when all of sudden things begin to swim in front of my eyes! My knees felt like they were going to buckle and my hands began to tingling. I then broke out in goosebumps!
“Goosebumps? What is going on here? Oh, my gosh! I think these are symptoms of heat exhaustion, right before you go into heat stroke!”
“Jayson! I’ve got to unhook and sit down!” I whispered loudly as he stood beside me, as I was barely able to stand up one more second.
“Of course, Mom (my nickname they gave me). Are you alright?” He asked as he continued to have the others go on down the line in my place. .
“ No. Something is wrong . . .” and I described my symptoms to him panting loudly as I am trying to catch my breath again. All I wanted to do was get of that desert mountain and into a cold, dark and wet place!
I took my helmet off and began to uselessly try to fan myself with one of my bulky gloves.
“I can’t do it! I think I’m going to pass out!” I lean back against the protective barrier around the platform.
He was now the last person left with me alone as Jayson gets on his two-way radio to correspond with headquarters that he needs an E-VAC now!
“I’m so sorry Jayson! I feel like a real wus!”
“Are you kidding me?! I am so glad that you spoke up and tried not to push through to the end! I’ve had a couple of people try to do that and they wound up passing completely out on me! Walking you to the rescue truck is a whole lot easier when you are going on your own power!”
I thought about that for a moment and wondered if that would have happened, would he have called for a front-end loader instead of a pickup?