Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 6, 2013

A story of zip lining (and sweating)

By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor

Kokomo — “This right here is what we call: A leap of faith,” John Galloway told me as we stood 33 feet in the air overlooking Tipton County Pork Festival on the new zip line attraction. And, let me tell you, those 33 feet felt far taller; especially if you asked my stomach or the 6 million butterflies just partyin’ it up in my gut.

The zip line – in all its elements that make a height-fearing woman feel like the normal application of deodorant was far too little – also sways; just a tad, but enough that the sweat glands in your palms and bottoms of your feet start opening like Niagara Falls.

So, there I am… all swampy sandal feet, scribbling quotes into a notebook while simultaneously and unsuccessfully trying to grip the railing. Basically, I’m scared as… [Let’s play a little game called, fill in the blank, here].

Galloway, who owns Zip Line Adventures with his wife and grandchildren who are earning their ways through college with the business, sensed my unease and reassured me with words that I only interpreted  in my mind as: “I’m going to fall to my death and look like the tenderloin I just saw walk by… with extra ketchup.”

“This has been completely safe. There have been no accidents— with one exception,” Galloway said with a pause, which nearly shut all my organs down with fear: “WHAT’S THE EXCEPTION?!!” I questioned not-so-calmly with deer-in-headlights panic. “Oh, an employee wasn’t following the rules and went down it without a harness. He broke both his ankles,” Galloway calmly replied.

For some reason, this anecdote eased me up a bit. Immediately, while still grabbing onto a railing with now neon-white knuckles, I thought: “Oh, cool. So, you can even go down this thing like some reckless crazy person and still not die. I’m good.”

Then, I was introduced to that “leap of faith” in the context of MY leap of faith. I’ve never fainted before, but I’m pretty sure I know the process leading up to fainting now. And, it includes an insane amount of sweating. Like, think that one sweaty dude who is always sitting in some dimly lit corner at nearly every dive restaurant you’ve ever been to. That kind of sweaty. Nerves aren’t pretty, folks. And, sometimes, girls don’t glisten; they sweat.

So, here I am, lifestyle-editor-turned-dive-restaurant-sweaty-guy harnessed into a suit and getting looped into the zip line cord. Then, Galloway drops a handful of knowledge on me: “Oh, you can’t hold on to the handle bars, it’d carry all your weight and not be as much fun.”

“UM, WHAT WAS THAT?!,” I ask, while my quivering develops into shaking. I’d been eyeing those handlebars as my refuge from this height-stricken nightmare the whole time. You know those pictures women in labor focus on during the pain? Yea, those handlebars were my “focus picture” and my nerves were far bigger than any eight-pound baby.

Nonetheless, after an internal panic, I obliged. Then, I was asked to stand on a little circle that raised me about three inches higher into the air. At this moment, thoughts swirled from “Why me?” to “I can’t do this.” Then they opened the door that protected me from the people (seemingly ants at this point) watching below. I know these people meant nothing by it, but at that moment all I could think about was: “I’m going to fall to my death while Judy from the bank and Susie from the salon are chatting over a funnel cake.” Not happy thoughts. Also, not fans of “Judy” or “Susie” in this moment.

Then, I stood there. Frozen. “Um, I can’t do this,” I said.

Some background on my fear of heights: I once waited in line at Cedar Point with friends for three hours to start to sit in a rollercoaster seat (well before it ever took off), freak out, then jump out and run. This happened. So, when I say I can’t do this and/or I’m high into the air, running usually ensues.

But, I had a notebook waiting to be filled about my adventure and I really didn’t want to wimp out on the hospitality of Tipton County Pork Festival folks. Plus, what would I tweet? “I came. I saw. I was defeated. #NotWinning”. So, I decided: no running, just jumping for me.

The next moment, I jumped from “the leap of faith” launching point and screamed for about one second. Then, it was awesome. Seriously, seeing all of Tipton’s downtown square and flying down under a September sky, it was actually tremendous.

I decided to do it again. This time, I lived it a bit. I didn’t hold on for dear life to anything and kicked my feet out. “Enjoy your funnel cake, Susie and Judy, because this gal isn’t falling to her death today.”

There you have it; the zip line at Tipton County Pork Festival is one of the coolest things you’ll do this fall in small town, Indiana. Just bring the deodorant with you and don’t look down at Susie or Judy.

Lindsay Eckert

[friday] editor/ Ziplander