Monthly Archives: November 2013

Zip line mania

I love zip lining (is that how you say it) or is it, I love to ride the zip lines, or do the canopy tours, or as they called it in South Africa the foofy slide. South Africa is where I had my first opportunity to glide among tree tops.  I saw people do it on TV and heard about fabulous Zip Lines in Costa Rica, but when I got the news that we were going to do it South Africa, I was ecstatic.  Not knowing exactly what we were in for, we drove boldly to the Karkloof Canopy Tour site and presented ourselves for hook up.  The sign we read gave us a laugh, and we were ready to “brace up, take a deep breath and enter the Garden of Eden.”  Me and Indiana Jones.

“Bracing up” was quite the chore, I was thankful we didn’t have to “pack our own chute” so to speak. There was such a combination of straps and hooks, helmets and gloves that I got very confused.  Before we got to the first line, one of the guides went over all the do’s and don’ts. He was speaking English, at a rapid pace and in a very South African dialect, all that to say, the only word I understood was platform and it punctuated nearly every sentence he said.

The first 3 seconds of just walking off a platform and going straight down was a first time adventure, that I was totally unprepared to face, actually, I couldn’t do it. I had to sit on my butt and scoot off the edge. By this time, however, I did trust my harness and was quite comfortable in the apparatus.

This zip was the longest line we did in SA.  Coming out of the forest and landing on this platform was a sight to behold and worth any anxiety I had.  This is the profile of one of our competent guides who helped us to come onto the platform safely.  Happens to be one of my all time favorite pictures and it hangs in a large frame in our bedroom.

On this tour we had to actually hand break at just the right time to come onto the platform at the right speed. Dick was a pro from the beginning.  I got stuck out from the landing one time for breaking too soon, and the guide had to come to rescue me. It was painless, but the whole breaking thing made me nervous. From then on I rode piggy back with a guide who took over the break and I got to look for monkeys and enjoy the scenery.  The ride is over pretty quick and there is not much time to look for any of the above mentioned creatures.

Gina conquered her fear of heights and braced herself for the enjoyable ride, literally swinging through the trees.
Several years later, in Alaska, the opportunity presented it self again.  Between 2005 and 2011 things had changed around the zipline community. The hand break was gone, but something a lot more scary had been added. To increase the adventure, I found myself walking on high swinging bridges from one tree to the next before getting to the excitement of the zip.  I am glad the guide demonstrated how the harness would catch you if you miss stepped, but really, who wants to do that?  You can do it, but it takes a lot of concentrated effort, at least it did for me.

The bridges were high and the platforms were small. We had to do some serious ‘tree hugging’ to make it around to the edge where, with no help or touch, from the guide, you had to step off into mid air to be on your way. The only thing that gave me the courage to do so was that I was there, and everyone was waiting for me, encouraging me to take that first step.

Here I am making my way gracefully across the rope bridge, hanging on for dear life, but no slips and therefore no need for the harness, but grateful it was there.

All kidding aside, Skagway, Alaska was a thrilling but frightening experience.  Glad I did it though.  It made this one in Pennsylvania a piece of cake.

On this one line across a valley you just had to walk until your feet left the ground and go. NO FEAR!! Here I come!
When our Thailand mission team learned that the largest Zipline in Asia was located near Chaing Mai, we wanted it on our agenda.  Thirty-five lines and a full day with lunch included for 100 extra bucks, we were in.  Even those who, at first, had no interest or had never done it before were so excited to come on board and everyone, as you can see here, had a great time.

With some experience under our belt, Dick and I both felt that this was the best and most user friendly line we had encountered.   We had not discussed the bridges, but they were all easier than Alaska’s.  Emily’s expression gives words to our feelings.  “YIKES!”

The Zip Line is called Flight of the Gibbon and it is advertised all over the city. This treat to your sense of adventure should not to be missed if your are ever near beautiful Chaing Mai.

Here is the closest we got to the mighty Gibbon, he was hanging around a set of trees where there were no zip lines. While taking a short break, we got to walk over and have a look. Believe me there are no monkey sightings while zipping.

The quality of the picture tells you that this is no close up.  The Gibbon doesn’t really like to be disturbed, and it look to me like he is wearing sunglasses.  Maybe not.

We hung around in very tall trees ourselves.  The 35 lines were all different, high, lower, longer and you could always sit in your harness before taking off, so much easier than stepping off the platform on your own power.

This time it wasn’t me who got hung up on the line and had to be rescued.  Steph was a great sport about it, while we all stood around taking pictures. The look on her face is one of doubt.  She really doubted that this lone rescuer could do the job.   She was right.

If you want to know the truth, this picture describes the way I really felt about the Flight of the Gibbon zipline. Need I say more?
I love how their evaluation form translates to please complain.  In my language, all I can say is— Not a chance.
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Day in Dubai, a layover with a purpose

On our long journey to Thailand, our first break after 18 hours of flying overnight, brought us to the city of Dubai in the UAE.   It was 8am on a bright, hot, miserably hot, October day. Our next leg of the trip, a 6 hour flight to Bangkok didn’t leave for 15 hours. Dubai was at our doorstep for about 10 hours.  It was quite the sleepless night on the flight over, but with the sights and sounds of this exotic city awaiting us we stepped out of the air conditioned airport into the air conditioned metro and began our layover with a purpose.

 There is plenty to see on a day in Dubai.  Things like huge billboards, minarets reaching to the sky, and palm trees.

Our first stop was what is called old town or BBOB, before big oil boom.  We  loved walking around this little harbor with the low buildings and boats, but let me tell you the heat was nearly unbearable. It was a rude awaking to step out of the metro into the over 100 degree dry, hot air. Later we talked to a gal on the metro and she told us that no one walks around in Dubai.  It is always too hot.

We did see a few people walking in this area, but they disappeared quickly into that nice air conditioned  boat waiting.

The only air condition waiting for us was back on the metro, so we had a rather quick look around, and couldn’t help but notice this old tower over looking the site.  Contrary to popular belief this is actually the first happy face portrait, or— is that a “why do I get to stand out here in this heat for hundreds of years” face. It could be “How come I only have one ear,and all these pimples on my face?”  I’m really not sure, but certainly worth the picture, don’t you think?

Ahhh!  Breathing again in the nice cool, (cool was important to us at that moment in time) clean, modern metro, with large windows that encourage picture taking and would carry us to our next destination.

And this is new town, replete with skyscraper after skyscraper lining the broad streets.

The handy metro carried us to a shopping center, that we thought was so huge and beautiful that we stayed here for several hours, not realizing that our next destination was located very near the newer, bigger shopping center that housed a huge aquarium. This one held a nice surprise though, that we all wanted to see.

Ski Dubai was one of our main drawing cards, but since we were not skiing, we had to view it through glass.

It did portray a lovely wintery wonderland, complete with decorated trees, snowmen and, of course, ski lifts, and snow tubes.

Back on the metro we capture picture after picture of Dubai Icons.

The Sail Building was not within our reach or price range.  The cheapest way you can set foot into the building is to schedule an afternoon tea at 100 dollars per person, besides that, the metro didn’t go there.

What we really wanted to do was to visit the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Tickets in hand that we had purchased a month before our arrival, we finally got a close up look at the outside of this towering building. We were going to the 124th floor and viewing from 1000 feet up.

Excitement was building as we waited our turn to go down long hall ways showing the building process. We were concerned about the elevator ride and found that it was the most gentle ride you could imagine.  And fast? It was unbelievable! We reached our destination in less than 1 and 1/2 minutes.  I hardly even felt my ears popping and no heart stopping rush of sudden movement. Before we had time to think about the distance we had just traveled upward, the door opened, and we were there. This elevator holds the record for the longest travel distance in the world. Contrary to our fears of wall hugging when we stepped off the elevator, we were lured into a wide open room with a terrific view.

It is kind of funny but immediately our fears were gone and we rushed to the window to get that first look and picture. We were now standing on the highest observation deck in the world.

The look down was incredible
You can see the contrast between the other skyscraper type buildings and normal size buildings.  It is also kind of amazing that everything is built on sand.  Sand as far as you can see.
Straight down is the birds eye view of the buildings lush surroundings.
Our turn at the window for a picture,  I really love the twin buildings way down there.
When the cars below look match box size, you should be in an airplane, not a building.

Here is the comparison to other tall buildings in the world.  The New York building at the 9/11 site won’t top it at 1,776 feet as this one, to the highest point, tops out at 2,716 feet with more than 160 stories.

As darkness overtakes the land and our feet are on ground level, we look up again, and can’t help but wonder what is inside this overwhelming structure.  Here are a few of the things that we learned that are housed inside. A “fine dining” (I can only imagine how fine) restaurant on the 122nd story.  900 residences, 37 office floors, the Armani Hotel Dubai with 160 guest rooms, a four story fitness and recreation center, and a park with 6 water features.  Last but not least there are 3,000 underground parking spaces.
A water show right after dark finishes off our day in Dubai.   Then it is back on the plane on the way to Bangkok.
Let’s just say we did not see much on this layover, but were extremely thankful for the lounge in the Bangkok airport.

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Seasons at the Cabin

Just over 15 years ago we had the opportunity to buy into a cabin up near Snow Shoe Pennsylvania.  It has been a wonderful addition to family gatherings and a place for the guys to hang out and hunt.  Over the years Dick and Rick have made innovative improvements and now we have a great shower, electricity with a generator and water close by.  We also enjoy a gas range, a heating stove and a refrigerator that works most of the time.   So, far from being primitive, it does offer a break from the hustle and routine business of our more modern homes.  We have made wonderful friends from near by cabins and look forward to seeing them in all the familiar places in our homes away from home.

 Inside it is cozy and warm, offering a variety of mismatched furniture that holds a favorite spot for everyone. Dick gets the arm chair on the right, unless Rick beats him to it. But if Rick wants a nap he favors the couch on the left.  The kids go for the couch in the middle and mine, as you will see, is the couch on the far right, not in this picture.  Even though hunting cabins have a reputation of poorly kept man caves, this is not the case with our cabin or the neighbors with whom we are such good friends.  We are so grateful that they want to keep a great family atmosphere in our cabin neighborhood.

 Outside we often experience an early winter with a light dusting of snow coming earlier in the higher elevations and brings a touch of winter to the exhilarating fall days.  Here is the water barrel that catches rain water  used to wash dishes, showers and to flush our inside commode.
 The long road back to the cabin is a great place to walk and walk and walk. Picture, if you will, a deer standing in the middle of this road.  We have encountered a scene like that several times, but the deer is always gone before the camera comes out.  Therefore we have the only proof of that by the footprints left in the sand.

The fall leaves want to make you look up, but you also have to look down, never know what you might miss by not looking down there.
Do umbrellas really grow on trees at the cabin, or is Pop just showing off his innovative talents? One thing is for sure, a little bit of rain won’t stop the promise of steaks for
supper.
 Many hours are spent gathered around the fire ring, with lots of good chit, chat,  and some wood splitting to keep the fire going. Could David be wondering when the food will be ready?
 Summer brings hot weather and a trip to a near by creek to do some serious cooling off.
 In the evening the natives come out to play.

 Back inside it’s time to curl up with a book to read or to do some studying, which nearly always leads to
putting out some serious ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s

See you for our traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, cabin style.

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