Back in my school days, I had to build a bridge once for science class using only balsa wood and glue. I spent a fair bit of time on it and was proud of what I’d built. That was until I showed up to class and compared it with my classmates’ projects. They had replicas of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and other ornate designs that their parents did for them. Needless to say, they all put mine to shame. I bring it up because it’s kind of how I felt after putting together our maiden video of the latest Dads’ Bucket List outing to take a ropes course, canopy tour and do some ziplining at Treetop Quest north of Atlanta. Now, it wasn’t like I was going for an Academy Award with the footage (see below), but I thought it would paint a decent picture of the experience. That was until one of my buddies checked it out and said something to the effect of “Gee, looks like you guys were a couple feet off the ground. Really impressive (insert sarcasm). I thought you said you were going to be ziplining high up in the trees.”
“Well, hold it right there now, Negative Ned”, I said. “In fact we were way up in the trees, but I wasn’t going to risk dropping my camera from 30+ feet in the air. Furthermore, maybe you should have gotten your overindulged pork rind lovin’ tuukus on an airplane and taken part in it yourself!” So as it is with most of our little get togethers, you’ll have to take my word for it. Because in a word, this outing was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!
(Video footage in question above. Is it artworthy or an abomination?)
Philly Mac was the squad leader for our crew of 17. We met at his place and fortunately Uncle Mike didn’t follow through with his threat of showing up in his Tarzan outfit. We caravaned up to the place, which gave us some time to catch up and have the little ones serenade us in the car with their versions of the Star Spangled Banner (“O did you say you see…” and then it gets messier than a Chinese take-out order). Once we arrived and checked in, it was time to get our gear. They had these sweet harnesses with double carabiners and zipline tracks. We were going to be looking like some stud outdoorsmen. Right then, Special K says something like “Tony, let me strap this on you.” It was as awkward as an unclaimed air biscuit in an elevator. “What’s that mean, Daddy?”. Jersey Tony deftly handled the moment with his line, “nothing to see here kids. Time to get over to the practice course.” And so we moved there where we got these cryptic instructions that left all of us scratching our heads. But as is usually the case, we knew we’d improvise in the moment and figure it out when the time came. Or, fall more than three stories to the ground.
The place had multiple courses for different skill levels including a fun yet challenging circuit for our two youngest outdoorsmen who were only 5. The group took off in multiple directions to try different courses. Once we figured out how the equipment worked, everybody was hooking and unhooking themselves through the circuits like seasoned pros. It was really cool to see the confidence and skill develop with our little charges. After each course we would meet back at our staked out spot in the picnic area to compare notes over snacks and drinks before heading back out again. We all tried multiple courses and before we knew it we’d been taking in the experience for nearly three and a half hours. We’d have stayed longer, but birthday parties and other Saturday obligations meant we had to saddle up and head out.
I drove back with my oldest son, Blake and Tony’s son, William, so that I could drop them off at a birthday party. While they jammed to some tunes in the backseat, it gave me a chance to reflect on the day. There were plenty of laughs (Uncle Mike’s cheerleader scream on a zipline for one), lots of high fives and my little man, Bo, even channeled his inner Marlin Perkins when he spotted and alerted us all to a fully grown black rat snake that he stumbled upon. But the one thing that stuck with me the most happened during the last course of the day on a series of ziplines that were way up in the air. Blake was with me along with Tony and William and also Brian Benson, his son Jake and daughter Ashley. On our second zipline of the course, Jake followed Brian on a long and high wire. A little past the halfway point, Jake’s rollers got out of alignment and he came to a complete stop. I’m standing on this wood platform an estimated 35 feet up and his dad is nearly as high on the other platform at the end of the wire. We’re both looking at 6-year-old Jake who’s now stuck roughly 30 feet away from where his dad’s standing. It’s a heck of a long way down. Nothing we could do now, but to coach him. We told him to reach up, grab the wire and inch by inch pull himself to his dad’s platform. At first, as he hung there it felt like he was going to give up. But that wasn’t Jake’s plan. He was just getting his energy and his resolve together. For the next few minutes we watched and encouraged him as he gradually made it to his dad through strength, courage and loads of determination.
Jake’s moment of perseverance was far and away the moment of the day for me. He took a tough situation and found a way out of it. On his own merits and with only his physical capabilities. Like the kids in my science class who let their parents do their schoolwork by building their bridges, Jake could have given in and forced his dad to figure out a way to get him out of the situation. However, he did it completely on his own. And although he may not have thought it at the time, he was better off for having done it. I’d like to think all of our kids walked away, like Jake, feeling similarly satisified in their accomplishments. And we dads walked away feeling better for having been a part of their experience.
Go. See. Be. Do.