Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Geezer X - Day 6: Zipline Day

September 22

Zip line day – Everyone was up by 8:00 as we needed to call and see if the winds had calmed and the zip lines were running.  We got good news, but couldn’t get reservations earlier than 11:00, so we killed some time until our 9:45 departure time.

Only Val, Jack and I were going to do the zip line, but John and Greg came along to lend us moral support.  Steph decided to stay at the house and enjoy some quiet time.  We arrived a little before 10:30, paid our money and began the check-in process.  You first watch an orientation video and sign a waiver saying that we understand all the bad things that can happen.  After that the real process began as you go into the equipment room where they harness you up and get you a helmet.  They also provide you with a backpack that holds the latch equipment that is only used when they hook you to each zip line, and it allows you to "zip" down the mountain.  I was pleased to find out they had helmets equipped with GoPro mounts so I would be able to film our adventure.

Jack and I get harnessed up.

Val and I
There zip line is 8900 feet (1.7 miles) in length and divided into three sections.  There are two cables so two go at once, but they are far enough apart that you can't bump into each other.  You start out at a platform at the top of the mountain at 11,500 feet where they harness you up in pairs to the twin zip lines.  After "flying" down the line, you end up at a landing platform and then walk to the next connected platform to start the next segment.  The third segment ends back at the bottom near where we checked in.  In busy times, they have guides stationed at all the platforms, but this is not a busy time so we had two guides accompany us the whole way. One guide going down first to the landing platform and the second guide coming down last.  They give detailed instructions at the start of each segment about when and where to initiate the brake and other pertinent information, as each segment is different and requires different techniques.

After we got our equipment and were all harnessed up, our guides walked our group over to the gondola that took us to the top of the mountain.  There were only seven in our group so we started to get to know each other and it was obvious everyone was pretty nervous.  We got out of the gondola at the top of the mountain, which was around 11,500 feet and the views were spectacular.  One of our guides (Wyn) talked for a long time on the geography, history and culture of the area we could see all around us.  You could see all the way to Texas in one direction, White Sands National Monument in another, and all the way to Albuquerque in another.  His talk was very good and you could see he was very passionate about the area and the nature around us.  We had another guide who was also great, but I’m sorry I can’t remember his name.

The gondola ride to the top.
Our guide, Wyn, telling us about the surrounding area's geography and culture.
After our talk, the moment was upon us and we were put into an ATV and taxied to the starting platform of the first segment.  The first segment is the longest at just over a mile long. When you look down from the platform it looks very long and very steep.  Val and I volunteered to go first and soon we were standing on the edge of the platform getting hooked to the line.  The way you are harnessed up leaves you in a semi-sitting position and you’re kind of tilted back and hanging in the air.  There is a handle attached to a rope which operates the brake; you have to pull down to go and release the tension on the handle to brake.  It is a deadman’s brake so when you release it, you will start to brake.  It’s a friction brake so you would never come to an abrupt stop.

The starting platform for the first segment.  One of the guides is on his way down to the landing platform.

Val doesn't look very nervous.
I'm all harnessed up and ready to go.
The view off the platform, it sure looks like a long way down.
Since Jack didn't have a partner, our guide Wyn went down beside him.  Here is a selfie of Jack and Wyn.
Jack strapped in and ready to go.
Val and I got our last-minute instructions, pulled down the handle, and we were off.  It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  You reach a top speed of 60 to 70 miles an hour.  With wind buffeting you, you twist and turn at times as you sail down. The loud cable whines as you slide down and adds to the sensory overload you feel as you careen down to the next platform.  Very quickly we were over the tree where we were told to brake, and our ride slowed down as we came to a gentle stop on the platform.  We were unhitched and were sent on to the next platform for the second "zip".  There were sighs of relief, high-fives and fist bumps as we were all relieved to finish the first segment.  For me, the ride at 60 miles per hour, hundreds of feet above the mountain slope was both exciting and exhilarating, and it was not very scary after the initial start. I had my GoPro fastened to my helmet and recorded video of all segments, but my results were a little disappointing.  Once you get underway, the last thing you are thinking about is that you are taking a video and should be paying attention to where the camera is pointed.  Below is a quick look at some of our ride down the first segment, I shortened it to keep the files size down.  When I looked at the video for the first time I thought it sure doesn't look like we were going very fast, but believe me, we were flying.  As I said not a great video, but you get the idea. 

The next segment wasn’t as long as the first one, but I think it was steeper.  This time Val and I went second and weren’t nearly as nervous as starting the first segment.  It went very quickly as it seemed like we were at the spot where we needed to brake all too quickly, but again, what a thrill.  We followed the same routine of waiting until all of our group was all down the mountain, and then heading to the third and final starting platform.

This is the landing platform for the first segment.  You can see how far up the mountain the starting platform was.  The guide is directing two others from our group as they near the platform.  The guides use arm signals to let you know whether you should speed up or slow down.
Looking down the second segment.
Here is my GoPro video of the second segment.

The third segment was quite steep and ended on the other side of the parking lot of the ski resort below.  Val and I were the first off the platform.  They told us over and over again to brake hard at the first line of trees or you are in trouble.  I reached that point first and I braked hard and came to almost a complete stop, but as I slowed way down Val suddenly went zooming by me. It scared me because I thought she didn’t brake.  However, it turned out she was just fine.  For some reason I hadn’t reached peak speed, which meant I ended up going way too slow at the bottom.  I finally made it all the way down and felt a little sheepish, but better too slow than too fast :-)  You can see Val goes whizzing by me in the video below.

This is a video Jack put together taken with his cell phone.  The first part is of Val and I on the final segment and the second part is of Jack going down the first segment while Wyn (zipping beside him) shoots the video.  He could control his speed with one hand and hold the cell phone with other, that takes experience.  The video is in the Adobe Flash format so if you can't watch it you may have to download the Adobe Flash Player.

We had done it, what an adventure!!!  None of us had ever experienced anything like that before and were glad we got past our nervousness and fears to have a great time.  I can’t say enough about our guides, especially Wyn Running Horse, who spent a lot of time supporting Val through her uncomfortable feelings.  He was so passionate about both the zip line itself, and the beauty and culture of the surrounding area, you just couldn’t help getting excited about it yourself.  Both of our guides were very friendly, supportive and most of all, took our safety very seriously.  It is very difficult to sit here and put into words the excitement and feelings we had doing this, but I hope I conveyed some of what we felt.

Greg was on the final landing platform waiting for us when we arrived and we soon met up with John.  The whole process, from start to finish, took almost three hours and John and Greg were real troopers to wait so long for us.  Thanks so much John and Greg, your support meant a lot to us.

On the way back to the house we stopped for a group photo (the "zippers" still had their zip passes tied to their shoes).  From left to right that's Jack, me, Val, Greg and John.
Since it was much later than we thought it would be, and we were going out to dinner tonight, we decided to forgo lunch and go back to the house and sample some of the numerous snacks we had available.  Jack, Val and I could talk of nothing but the zip line all the way home and I’m sure John and Greg got pretty tired of hearing about it, but they didn’t say anything.  When we arrived home, we had to rehash everything for Steph, but finally the three of us started coming down from our adrenaline rush and we began to feel very tired.

It was a quiet afternoon and there was not much going on, but we did have to take the time to do our annual set of group pictures.   

We donned our cowboy masks in honor of Billy the Kid one last time.

Work on the puzzle continued, but, it was looking more and more like it was not going to get done this year as it was a very difficult 1000-piece puzzle.  John and Greg were treating everyone to dinner tonight and we decided to have Mexican food.  We went to the Casa Blanca Restaurant in Ruidoso and had a great dinner.  We sat around the table, talked and drank, and had a very nice time.

When we got home we were all pretty tired as it had been a big day.  John and Greg called it an early bedtime. Val and I started watching a movie with Jack and Steph, but we quickly gave up and went to bed too.  Jack and Steph soon followed and didn’t make it to the end of the movie either.  It had been a very exciting day for Val, Jack and I and we were exhausted.  Tomorrow is our last full day and sadly, John and Greg are leaving a day early.  

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