I pulled the car into a parking space at the zoo, and Alli, our bride-to-be-again, clapped her hands in anticipation.
“We’re doing the TreeTop Trek, aren’t we?” I nodded my head in affirmation, and we were out of the car and making a beeline to meet the rest of the 20th Renewal Ceremony posse. “This is great!” Alli exclaimed as we joined Cammie, Constance, and Susan. We were five women in the prime of our lives . . . just as soon as they increase life expectancy to 110.
“I think we can pay and go put our stuff in the car,” Cammie said.
“And then I’m going to find a bathroom,” Constance stated. “No way I’m using that,” she said, pointing to the Porta Potty.
We handed the staff our Visa cards and signed forms that promised we wouldn’t sue if we plunged to our deaths or if we chickened out and opted for a modest vegetative state instead. Bargains struck and dotted lines filled, we doubled back to the cars for sunscreen and organic insect repellent – two items that are still a necessity during a Florida December.
The next phase was to outfit ourselves in safety harnesses and to listen to a long recitation of instructions on how to use the double carabiners without stepping off the platforms into midair and how to operate the pulley without ripping a rotator cuff. After such a rousing speech of encouragement, we were ready to scale new heights.
We let a family of three go before us, and out of our group of five, I brought up the rear. Which was actually double duty considering how many times I had to haul my own rear up and down ladders over the next couple of hours. There are firemen out there logging less ladder time.
Once we got going, I realized that more of the course consisted of obstacles instead of zip lining, but these tightrope dilemmas had to be conquered 20-30 feet off the ground. As we tiptoed along steel cables and lunged across narrow wooden beams suspended in the air, I noticed that we walked over the cages of the animals. The staff had thoughtfully posted information about the lemurs, parrots, and Chinese red bears at eye level, so during the moments I was able to achieve a Zen state of balance, I could read about the little critters and coo at their tiny bodies only a few feet away. The animals were less than thrilled by my admiration, but Cammie said they were too busy trying to assimilate the new words she was teaching them to pay me much attention. When they weren’t working on foreign curse words, the animals were downright overjoyed with me compared to the level of enthusiasm I received from Susan when I tried to point out various facets of wildlife I thought comment-worthy.
“Hey, Susan, look at those black and yellow striped butterflies hovering below us. Pretty cool, huh?”
“They’re just dandy, Traci,” Susan replied, as she white-knuckled her way up a vertical ladder into another layer of atmosphere. We had to scale one more level after that before we could take a zip line the length of a football field across the zoo, and while Susan was keeping her tongue in check toward my annoyingly glib attitude toward altitude, her tone seemed to coat her words with the following translation: “I don’t give a rat’s fanny about the butterflies, the lemurs, or the primates sleeping cozily under the swinging boards of death; so if you don’t mind, I’m working on a full-blown panic attack here, and I need to concentrate.”
Of course, my Animal Planet discovery commentary was cut short when I discovered a mosquito making a withdrawal from my thigh, and I brought my hand down against my leg with so much force that I half expected to see him pop out the backside of my kneecap. After peeling his carcass away from my palm, I noticed that the mosquito bite was imperceptible amidst the glowing, red hand print on my quad. I guess I showed him.
When it was my turn to zip, I let her rip at full speed only to discover that the velocity was pulling my hat away from my head. With one hand needed to steady the pulley and another used as a brake, I didn’t have any other options, so I tried braking and tilting my head to keep my ball cap in place, but to no avail. Not only did I lose my cap to some Florida gator who is probably digesting it right now, I had compromised my speed enough that I fell short of the platform by 15 feet and had to haul myself in hand over hand. I was exactly like Sylvester Stallone in the movie Cliffhanger except that he was male, in fantastic shape, the hero, battling bad guys, and braving subzero temperatures. Given the size of the mosquito I had just taken down, the similarities were uncanny.
Two hours later we found ourselves at a café with plates so empty that they looked as if they had rolled straight off the factory assembly line. Our bride was a bit weak in the knees but happy with her outing. All in all, it was a zippity-do-dah day.
© 2013 – Traci Carver