“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Is Zip-lining safe? Do alligators eat poodles?
Monday, June 3, 2013

Here's my AdVentures column from this month's Nashville Lifestyles magazine:

There was an eccentric old man in my Colorado hometown who built what he called a trolley in his yard for his grandkids. It was a crude contraption, and downright dangerous by today's standards. You would climb to a tree house (no railings) and take hold of a homemade wooden pulley, which you held onto for dear life as you jumped from the tree (no nets, no harness) and zipped your way down a wire. If you accidentally let go, as Dennie Wheeler did one time, you fell upon the concrete driveway. The ambulance would be called.

So when my visiting niece, who recently came to Nashville for her spring break, asked me if I'd zip-lined before, I told her that, yes, I had.  But I was wrong. I had done something much more dangerous than zipping, as I would soon discover.  Middle Tennessee's zipping adventure in the hills west of Nashville, called Adventureworks, belies its name; it is safe and staid enough for the most cautious of grandmothers.

First, we had to don our safety harness, which is similar to the ones used for rock-climbing, a series of tight straps mimicking the outline of a Speedo. Our guide gave the male members of our group an additional word of warning: "Gentlemen, make sure all of your furniture is in the same room, if you know what I mean.

"Now, who would like to read the safety instructions out loud," he asked, and over the next five minutes we listened to a precocious eight-year-old struggle with the polysyllabic words.

The 90-minute zip tour, which takes place on a 40-acre patch of old-growth forest on a bend of the scenic Harpeth River, is designed to start easy and grow more difficult with each of the nine zip lines. The incline of the first run was so slight that the larger of us didn't even make it all the way to the tree at the other end.

Yet each zip-station platform grew higher and required more climbing, and there some were so high that even the most macho among us was relieved when the guide clipped onto us a secondary line to keep us from plummeting all the way to the ground should we lose our balance before zipping away. The highest line is 85 feet from the ground, and the longest is close to 500 feet long. One of them had two parallel lines so people could race, side by side.

Even on these longer, steeper zips, stopping is a breeze. Each line ends at a soft landing mound of soil and mulch. The worst possible result: a pair of dirty jeans and some wood chips down your underwear.

All in all, a good experience. The woods and vistas were lovely and worthy of my time. Yet something important was missing: exhilaration. At no time did I feel frightened or on edge, and isn't that why we choose to do these things? Alas, my adrenal glands slumbered through the afternoon.


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