Monday, October 4, 2010

First Dates Project Idea #55: Ziplining


How to face your fears, while celebrating your partner's birthday

August and September were incredibly busy months of celebrations, food, and music festivals.  My birthday and J's birthday are a week apart in late August, which guarantees that we party all month into early September.

For J's birthday, I wanted to surprise him with a fun and memorable experience instead of buying him a gift.  For the couples in long-term relationships, I'm sure you can empathize that gift-giving for your sweetie gets MORE challenging over time.  Every year raises the bar to get a better and more unique, thoughtful gift.  Somewhere between our 3rd and 4th year together, I realized the win-win outcome of an "experience" gift - a gift we both get to join in on the fun together!  This sort of gift is admittedly slightly selfish under the guise of pure thoughtfulness; all the more reason to love this gift-giving strategy.

Ziplining was number 55 on our First Dates list, and also one of the activities that I've heard J mention quite a few times this year.  When a friend of mine was traveling to Costa Rica, he had exclaimed how great it would be to zipline through the thick rainforest.  A few months ago, San Francisco had free ziplining at the Justin Herman Plaza along the Embarcadero.  On his day off, J grabbed a friend to stand in line only to discover that all of the free passes were already gone by the early morning.  As the observant fiance, I noted these happenings and decided to plan a surprise date for us to drive to Moaning Caverns for his birthday.  We picked up a couple of his friends along the way and drove nearly 2 1/2 hours to the site.

I admit I was scared, especially when I saw the large sign declaring 1500 foot ziplines, as we signed off on the liability waivers (where I noticed the words "possible risk of death" in fine print), and as we donned heavy harnesses, buckles, and a clunky helmet. 

"How often do you guys check the ropes?" I asked the staff member, hearing my voice rise in pitch.  I was in between anxiety, fear, and something that felt like nausea. 

He scratched his chin and nonchalantly answered "About every three months or so."  Upon seeing my look of terror, he laughed heartily and then looked me dead in the eye and said more seriously "Every day, miss.  We check the ropes everyday."

A dirty rickety jeep took us to the Tower, where we crossed an old wooden bridge to our station.  I squeezed J's hand and asked if he was nervous.  He smiled faintly at me and slightly nodded his head. 

At the Tower, which slightly swayed under the wind, I was disappointed to find that they closed off the companion zip line.  From the website, I read that two people could zipline side by side, which was what I wanted to do with J.  That meant only one person could go at a time and with my fear of heights, I wasn't about to be that first person. 

When the staff member, who looked like he was 18, asked who would be the first to go, no one from our group volunteered as we warily eyed the precariously thin rope.  I pushed J forward and blurted out "He is!  It's his birthday!"  He shot me a look as if to say "Thanks for throwing me under the bus."   I guess fear wins over love in this scenario.

I had a knot in my stomach as I watched the worker harness J into the rope and coach him on the proper form prior to departure.  If the rope snaps and something happens, it will all be my fault!  Who thought of ziplining anyway?  Why couldn't I have just taken him out to a nice dinner instead?  I thought to myself as I screamed and hollered watching him quickly zip down past the trees until he became a tiny speck on the horizon.  Those thoughts disappeared when it was my turn to go, which turned from fear for J into fear for myself.  However, the moment I zoomed down from the Tower, whizzing past trees, my anxiety was immediately lifted.  The rope and the harness felt surprisingly secure, so I felt comfortable stretching out my arms.  It's a fast, thrilling, and fun ride all the way down - I felt like I was flying and speeding through a time portal. 

The best part of this mini-adventure?  Seeing J waiting for me at the Arrival station with a huge grin, waving his arms, and cheering loudly for me as I landed.  We both laughed at how scared we were, only to realize that it was really fun and goes by quickly.  That's the funny thing about fear - once you face it, it's usually never as scary in real life as it is in your head.  In a big hug, J thanked me for a memorable and adrenaline-filled birthday.  And then we kissed, funny helmets and all.


  1. What an awesome date idea! Love adrenaline-fueled experiences, although they have declined significantly since I had a child. Does driving on the 405 freeway count? Ha! I have to check out your First Dates post - sounds interesting!


  2. Thanks for coming by Aimee! I'm sure you have different sorts of dates now with a baby. Is it tough to find quality time?

    And yes, driving on the 405 does count as adrenaline-fueled (with lots of cursing involved due to the road rage in LA). I used to live in LA and it was NOT fun driving any of those freeways!


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