“The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them.”
Some adventures are meant to test the spirit in the true face of fear. We all have fears whether we have the courage to admit them or not. Some of those fears may seem rational, others could be viewed as hard to imagine.
Fear of death seems to be the greatest motivator for avoiding situations that take risk. Ahhh risk…. Can we live a life of meaning if there is no risk taken? Of course you can, but wouldn’t it be just a little bit spicier if on occasion you stepped off the platform and did something daring… even just once? Perhaps that is the best part of this Quest… Giving myself the permission to walk on the wild side, to explore things that some wish they would, but give every excuse not to… to say I overcame those fears and conquered… to be able to live this year as if it were the last and leave nothing on the table!
And today, my Quest takes me to the zip-line at Heavenly ski resort in South Lake Tahoe. I have never zip-lined before but gosh, it sure sounds like an adrenaline filled experience! The zip-line involves a 525 ft. descent, with a length of 3,300 ft, all the while overlooking Lake Tahoe…. Really, can it get any more awesome than that? Well, I was about to find out.
I arrived at the resort and made my way to pay for my ticket. I had to take the Gondola to the top of Heavenly where the base camp is set for their adventure park. I purchased my ticket for the Gondola and the zip-line and my time slot was 3 pm.
I had 2 hours to grab a bite to eat and relax my nerves. I decided to avoid eating for obvious reasons, but indulged in a beverage of the non-alcoholic kind. As I sat at a wrought iron table overlooking a bed of wildflowers, the gondolas flew overhead, one after another… A band was playing just feet away and I found myself lost in their songs. The band called the “Whiskey Mojo Trio”, I would come to find out, play at Heavenly on a regular basis and the lead singer had a smooth country voice similar to Buddy Jewel… I am a lover of all types of music and it was a pleasure to enjoy the bass played well and that smooth voice singing “Ring of Fire” had me in a tranquil trance… The conversations of people sitting around me faded into the background and I was just lost in what seemed like a private concert… it was indeed, heavenly.
I had to reluctantly leave my little bit of heaven and head to the Gondola for the ride up for the adventure that lay ahead. I stepped into the enclosed Gondola and off I went… up and away. Every second that passed, the view became even more incredible.
I reached the first stop and stepped off to take some pictures. I could begin to feel how thin the air was getting and there was a noticeable slight breeze beginning to emerge. Numerous pictures taken, my spirit seemingly ready for ride to unfold, and I returned to the Gondola to resume the trek to the top.
As I arrived at the top of the mountain, I made my way to the zip-line check-in. I was told that they were running behind schedule and to return in 30 min. I was fine with that plan as it would give me a little more time to prepare. I found an Adirondack chair that was calling my name as it sat lonely in the sun. I sunk into the chair and rested my head back and let my skin warm in the sun’s rays.
At that next moment I could hear the zip line streaming overhead and that is when I swallowed hard at the first sight of exactly what I was about to endure… Endure? Conquer? Possibly enjoy? It was then that I saw that the two that had just finished the adventure and I realized that they had indeed survived! Yes, they survived! My mind tried to convince my spirit that this was all going to turn out just fine. Or was it?
I returned to the check-in and was weighed and added to the waiting group of 5… we were escorted onto a chair lift taking us even higher! As we rode the lift, I quickly realized the shorts and light sweater I was wearing were not enough to keep me warm. I caught a glimpse of snow below and the breeze was now quickly becoming a steady wind. I reminded myself that I am tougher than a little cold and wind and besides, won’t it make the ride more interesting?
I stepped off the chairlift and saw several people milling around the zip-line launch area. Our zip-line guide escorted us past the curious on-lookers to the walkway at the launching platform. It was in that first glimpse of how high we were that the realization of what I was about to embark on hit me like a hurricane force wind! OMG…. “Whose idea was this again?” I asked internally… “When did I sign up for this tour of duty and why?” I found myself engaging in an internal dialogue… “Okay, you can do this… you’re a recreational pilot for goodness sake…. You’ll be strapped in, you won’t go that fast and the last two survived… Just don’t look down and whatever you do, don’t try and think, just breathe, feel, and enjoy!” At the end of the dialogue, I think I wanted to get sick as my stomach had this heavy feeling to it. I then heard a countdown and a loud bang and then a scream! The two before me had been launched and off they went down the zip-line and before I knew it they called for me to go next!
I took a deep breath and walked up onto the deck with trepidation. Out of nowhere, I heard something that seemed to be a message from the spirits. It was one of my favorite songs playing in the background… “Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a wonderful world” by IZ Israel…. I couldn’t help but smile big… it was a sign that it was going to be ok….
I quickly befriended the staff doing the launching, I was harnessed , fit with a helmet, strapped into the zip-line chair and with a smile and a wink communicated I was ready… the countdown began and at the sound of “1”, the chute door opened and I could feel that sinking feeling in my stomach for just a couple seconds. It quickly faded and there in front of me was an incredible heavenly view that was all mine from some 8,000 ft. above the earth… The glorious blue lake, the mountains, the sun, the pine trees touching the sky… indeed as close to heaven as I will be for hopefully some time!
The ride felt like it ended before it had begun. I was quickly removed from the zip-line chair and cables and walked to the exit. The ride was indeed exhilarating, but I had wished it would have lasted longer. Isn’t that the case with most good things? As I made my way to the Gondola to head down the mountain, I had a gentleman come up and ask how it went and if I enjoyed it. I responded that it was fun but I would have preferred to have gone a little faster and that perhaps parachuting should be next on my list. He responded that he has done a lot of parachuting from planes and helicopters. Asking what branch of service he was in, he responded “Navy”… he had served in Desert Storm and Kosovo. He was thanked for his service and I walked away with just that very short conversation feeling as if that was the courage that I needed to be reminded of today… That was real strength, real courage, real determination…. A real qi person that should be admired and shared with the world. In hindsight, I wished I had an hour to sit and chat with him, but we both had to get going… but maybe that was all I needed for today. Just a quick reminder that having the courage to go down a zip line isn’t really courage at all… just a choice I had made on that day. How many people had passed this man on this day and never knew the sacrifices he made so that people like me had the freedom to wake up and decide to take on a fun adventure like zip-lining?
Zip-lining: $50…. Gondola ride: $39……Facing my fear and enjoying a glorious view from above: Heavenly…… Having my freedom to do these Quests ensured by courageous servicemen like the one I met today: Priceless!!!!
“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”
Ever grateful for another courageous person met… wondering what tomorrow will bring…