One evening after a run we were discussing doing something crazy and out of the box. Someone suggested parachuting. Then bungee jumping. Those are insane ideas....we just wanna do something crazy, not insane. We finally settled on zip lining. Someone said a zip line had just opened on Catalina Island, cool, local, yet not next door. And this was going to be a "two fer", we would do something crazy and cure John of his fear of heights at the same time.
A day or two after this discussion a "deal of the day" for round trip to Catalina Island was advertised....obviously a sign, we are meant to do this. Several people purchased the deal (myself included) so now we just needed to decide what day we were going to get crazy and zip. The Catalina Flyer tickets were good until November 30th, we bought them in April, plenty of time.
In mid October we started to organize the trip. Just like everyone else who purchased the Catalina Flyer Deal of the Day and procrastinated till the last minute to take their trip. We would have to go stand by, plenty of seats going to the island, zero returning. We decided on Sunday November 13th. We actually managed to get reservations for the return trip due to cancellations, obviously another sign that we really are meant to do this.
We arrived early at the dock and checked in. After about a half hour or so someone came out of the ticket office and started calling the names of those who were on standby and lucky enough to get on, he called a lot of names. Once everyone who was waiting was told they made it on the boat, he announced we could begin boarding. Crap, we should have been paying attention instead of watching the guy call the stand by names. Now we have to walk to the back of the line. Note to self, next time get in the line right away so we get to sit wherever we want.
Since we were some of the last to board the boat we were stuck at a table at the rear (what is this starboard? aft? port?). Not only are we on the second level, in the rear, Julie, Monica and I get to sit backwards. I have been know to experience a little nausea riding the train backwards.....the water must have been choppy cause a lot of people were throwing up. Luckily, since I was sitting backwards, I didn't witness any of it. Until we were leaving the boat. On the way down the stairs a woman and her small son stopped mid way down while she held a barf bag under his chin and he retched into it. We just moved to the right and walked on by....holding our collective breath.
Thing number 23, stepped foot on Catalina Island.
Our zipline reservations were for 1:30pm, so we had plenty of time to kill. We decided to have breakfast.
Thing number 24, drank a Bloody Mary, you can drink before noon when you are going zip lining and not be considered an alcoholic....it's like vacation.
After breakfast we still had time to kill so we decided to putt around the island in a rented 6 seater golf cart. We were given a map (similar to the kind you get at Disneyland, kind of cartoony). The lady drew arrows on the map highlighting places of interest. She also told us not to take a particular road because it was closed due to falling rocks.
We elected Mason to drive the cart since he drives one at work. Cara was the navigator. Monica sat in the middle and Julie and I rode on the rear seat....facing backwards. My first thought was it's like when you were a kid and you rode in the last seat of the station wagon...you know, the one with the wood panels on the sides. I intimately remember several summer excursions to the beach riding like that. Was fun on the way to the beach, not so much fun on the way home, hot, sweaty, sandy, salty, sunburned.
Julie and I buckled up for the ride of our lives....even buckled our purses in too. Crap, I held onto the side of that golf cart the whole time my fingers practically had to be pried off that thing. I'm sure it was much more exciting seeing where we had been than seeing where we were going, cause we were able to let our imaginations run wild. Like when a Ford Explorer came up behind us (most of the vehicles on the island are of the golf cart variety due to space limitations), but of course one of the few full size vehicles on the island gets behind us, so we can imagine that his brakes will fail and he will plow into Julie and I, crushing our legs.
Or when we began to see rocks on the road.....had Mason taken the closed road?
Or how it seemed like he was driving soooo fast, and we might tip over. Julie said we would still have to run on Tuesday even if we were bandaged like mummies....with slits for eyes. Gawd we were laughing so hard (it helps to squelch the fear). Something I imagined but couldn't put into words (instead I just visualize it in my mind and hang on a little tighter), as we round a curve, Mason loses control of the cart, we begin to tumble down the hillside, everyone else jumps from the cart, but I'm strapped in with the lap belt, unable to locate the release button, legs flailing about, items spilling from my purse, tumbling farther down the hill, end over end, with me hanging from the rear seat attached by my belly the whole time.
Thing #25, rode backwards on Catalina Island on a 6 passenger golf cart.
We returned the cart having had an amazing ab workout from laughing so hard and headed up on foot to the zipline check in. On the way we stopped to pee at the Casino Building, which interestingly is not and never was a place to gamble, rather a place of entertainment, built in 1929 it played host to big bands like Glenn Miller and Harry James in the 30's and 40's. Next time I go I think I'll have to tour this building.
From the Casino Building we walked to Descanso Beach Club, where the zipline check in is. We had to sign waivers, I didn't read it, but I'm sure it said something like I or my heirs would not hold the zip lining company liable in the event I plummet to my death. Next we each had to step on a scale and be weighed.....I don't really understand why they had to do this, other than to humiliate those of us who could stand to lose a pound or two. The website specifically said you must weigh between 80-245 pounds.
Someone said we would not be able to go to the bathroom for the next 2 hours once the tour started. I decided I better go for a quick pee. Ignoring Mason's look that said "What? You just went 5 minutes ago." As soon as I hear that a bathroom is not available I have to go, not to mention I'm experiencing some serious anxiety and that gives me the urge to go too. I ran to the bathroom and trickled a little more.
When I got back to the check in area I couldn't see any of my zip line buddies....where did they go? Oh, there they are, all suited up with hard hats and harnesses. Wow, I didn't think I was gone that long. Cesar introduced himself, slapped a hard hat on my head, had me step into the harness, buckled me up and then hands me a large metal thingy. What? I have to carry this? the whole time? Are you kidding me? It's attached to my harness and has handles. It probably weighs 10-15 pounds. It's the trolley that I will be hooked up to the zipline with. I feel like it is some kind of mechanical umbilical cord. Unbelievable, what, have I gotten myself into? I laugh, it's something I do when I'm scared. The scareder I get, the more I laugh.
We then have to sit through an orientation/safety presentation by our tour guides, Cesar and Charles. Cesar starts first. He speaks very quickly and is using terms that I am unfamiliar with. I laugh throughout his entire presentation. He is using acronyms that I do not understand. W.O.D. what is that? He's said it twice now, it must be important. Julie looks at me with a confused look on her face, I think she is having as hard a time understanding what he is saying as I am. He is saying when we climb the platform he will clip us in for safety. Then he will attach the trolley to the zipline. He will then open the gate, we are to climb down from the platform, but whatever you do, do not go until he tells you it is safe. He must unclip you from the safety line, or you will experience W.O.D (wedgie of death), whew, well at least that mystery is solved.
I am dying, I cannot stop laughing, I can't believe I am really going to do this.
Cesar goes on to explain that when he tells us it is time to go, we must jump from the platform being sure to clear it, or we will hit our asses on the wood and will probably suffer some serious splinters. OMG, I am so glad I went pee that second time.
Next up is Charles. Charles is all business and very serious. He begins his talk with safety being first and foremost. We can die out there if we don't take this serious. If we get out there and he determines we are too drunk to understand or follow his instructions he will end our tour. Uh Oh, I think maybe he thinks I'm drunk. I'm not drunk, yeah sure I had that Bloody Mary, but that was over an hour and a half ago, and we've walked like 20 minutes of it. Dude, I am stone cold sober and scared outta my mind. I occasionally express my emotions improperly, I am not drunk, trust me.
Charles is easier to understand, and not nearly as funny as Cesar. He is also using terms I'm unfamiliar with, but explains them right away. When you begin your zip you are to "cannon ball", lean back, and pull your knees up to your chest. You can enjoy the first two thirds of your zip, but the final third you must pay attention to Charles who will be at the other side. He will be watching, and listening to the sound of the zip. He will then determine if you are traveling too slow or too fast. If you are zipping too fast we will give you the star fish, lifting and spreading his arms above his head and spreading his legs. If you see him do this you are to come out of the cannon ball position, pointing your legs down and spreading them (I don't remember if you are supposed to do something with you arms or not......how could you? cause you are supposed hold onto your trolley at all times).
As you get closer to the end you MUST get back into the cannon ball position to avoid breaking your legs on the platform. Charles will lift his knee to his chest very quickly to signal that you do not have your legs up enough, get them up when you see him do this!
Do not worry, you will hear a loud noise as you connect with the brake (a piece of wood with a rope attached to it that Charles will pull to stop you). What the hell am I doing here? Who's idea was this anyway, and how the hell did John weasel out of it?
They also go over what will happen if you do not go out fast enough and you stop in the middle of the line. They will throw a rope at you, you are to catch the rope, then pull it to your harness connection and hold it with the harness. You must hold it like this, otherwise it will not work, Charles will then pull you in. If you miss it the first time, he will throw it a second time. If you miss it the second time, you are on your own and will have to shimmy in. Cesar demonstrates "The Catalina Shimmy".
Please God, don't make me do the Catalina Shimmy.
My mind is on overload, it is too much to remember.
We board the shuttle. We travel up that same hill we rode up in that "Mr. Toad's Wild Golf Cart Ride" On the way up Cesar asks if anyone is scared. I laugh. Julie and Monica point me out, and tell him Cindy is.
As we exit the shuttle the driver asks if it's anyone's first time. She tells us we will have a good time. She sounds like she has zipped before. She appears to be much older than me. Because of this I am hopeful that I may survive.
We descend the stairs to the platform. Charles and Cesar give us some last minute instructions and reiterate all the important stuff, cannon ball, starfish, how to hold the rope assuming you are able to catch it, beware of W.O.D, don't hit your ass on the way out, don't break your legs at the other end.
It is time to zip. Cesar tells us the person that is the most scared needs to be the first one to go, cause the longer you wait the scarier it will be. I do not make eye contact. Charles prepares to zip across. Cesar looks at me, I look away. He asks my name, I tell him, he says alright Cindy you go first. Charles is all hooked up and ready to go, he looks at me and says something like "you are the most afraid, you have to go first". I say, "well I don't want to be the first one, I want to go after someone". He pushes himself off, and says, "you can go after me". I try to think of an argument as I watch him zip to the other side....like I wanted to go after someone else in the group, just a regular person, not an expert.
It is futile, I succumb to the fact that I have to be first. I go up the 3 steps to the staging area. Cesar hooks me to the safety line. I step down as he opens the gate. He does the 4 point check (I don't really remember what these were, I just remember that his job was to check these 4 things so I don't die). I stand on the edge, holding the handlebars of my trolley. Trying to get the nerve up to jump off. My mind goes over all the things I've learned, cannon ball, starfish, splinters in my ass. How the hell do I jump off this thing to avoid the splinters!
I take some deep breaths. Have you unhooked me? I don't want a W.O.D. I try to get the nerve up. I notice some people above us on the road looking down finding the whole scene below them very comical. I try to get the nerve up. Splinters in my ass. Cannon Ball. Starfish. W.O.D. More deep breathing. Just do it. You can do it. Just let go. Cannon Ball. Splinters. Starfish. How do I hold the rope. Catalina Shimmy. Breath Deep.
And I am sailing through the air.
Am I screaming?
I feel the wind. I hear the cable. I'm holding on for dear life. I keep my eyes on Charles at the other side. I'm trying to pull my knees as close to my chest as I can.
Feeling the air.
Charles appears to frantically make the knee to chest sign, my knees are as close to my chest as I can get them dammit! Don't want to break legs. Hear the wood hit the trolley. See the brake rope. Beginning to slow. Keep Legs Up.
I made it.
Charles unhooks me, tells me I did great. I'm smiling like a fool. I weakly walk down to the waiting area and watch the others zip across. Besides the 5 of us, there were 2 couples although I can only remember one of their names. Rhoda, she sounded like Cyndi Lauper, with a Boston accent. And she was just as scared as I was....dammit, why did I get stuck going first, oh well at least the worst is over.
Thing #26, Zip Lined.
We have 4 more zips. Each one is a little easier and more enjoyable. Charles lightens up, and I think he realizes I am not a drunken adrenaline junkie. At zip number 2 they tell us to scream as we zip across, because there is a whole new crew of people preparing to zip on line one and we want to scare them. At line number 4 we are told we can get a little creative. We can zip sideways, let go with one hand, and wave to the others as they wait to zip. Line 5 is even more relaxed. It's a little bouncy, watch out for the splinters, we can go side ways, move our feet like we are peddling a bike, act like a princess ballerina, do a little dance thing, and just have fun with it. By line 5 we were relaxed enough to have a little fun.
Dang, would be so cool if we could go back to the start and do it all over again. Would totally be able to enjoy the whole thing now! Oh well, will have to come back and do it another day.
Charles and Cesar tell us soon these lines will be operating at night. They say we have to come back and check it out in the dark. I'm not so sure it would be so much fun, but I definitely want to do it again. I'm hooked.
The zip line ends right where it starts, back at Descanso Beach Club. We have a little more than an hour till the boat departs. All that is left to do is eat a Buffalo Burger. Catalina is famous for it's Buffalo (or Bison as kill joy Charles refers to them). They were brought over in 1924 for the filming of a silent western movie "The Vanishing American". Fourteen were brought over originally and over the years the herd grew to as many as 600. Such a large herd was detrimental to the island so the Catalina Island Conservatory now keeps the herd down to approximately 150.
Thing number 27, ate a Buffalo Burger, tastes just like chicken....not really, tastes like beef.