Not every woman in her 60s thrills at the thought of whizzing through the air on a zip line. But my mom does.
So when I tell her I’ve booked a trip to Adrenaline Rush Zip Line Tours near Jacksonville in East Texas, she starts planning her own separate trip with Dad. Of course, I invite them both to tag along.
Despite her initial gusto, she calls me ahead of time with lots of questions: How fast do you go? How do you slow down? What if I can’t climb the platforms? What are you going to wear? Are there alligators?
Her nerves calm in the deep quiet of the night before, watching shooting stars from the purple azalea and pine tree-lined shore of Lake Jacksonville at the Horseshoe Inn Bed and Breakfast, where hosts M.C. “Butch” Gragard III and wife Pamela welcome us like old friends.
The next morning at the zip line course, we suit up in harnesses for our first ride, a warm-up run dubbed Last Chance by owners Annette and Billy Kimbrell. Our guide, the chipper Jalyn Stone, secures Mom’s pulleys on two parallel cables strung between a tall tree and a landing platform. Mom’s about to find out whether she’s brave enough, strong enough and dressed appropriately.
With the all-clear signal from head guide Mark Halsey at the end of the line, Mom carefully steps off the platform into the nothingness of thin air and lets it zip. The line’s downward angle propels her with a buzzing sound that gets louder as she speeds up. She leans back, stretches out her legs and fearlessly looks around—and down—taking in the forest, warm sunshine and iron-rich soil below.
The zipping sound fades as she slows at the end where Halsey brings her to a complete stop. As the name of the line suggests, it’s her last chance to bow out, but she doesn’t look back—and she doesn’t stop smiling.
The six lines before the end run have names that can be hollered. Halsey, who always goes first so he can man the end platform and aid our landings, introduces each zip line and then flings himself into the air, bellowing out the corresponding cry.
There’s Woo Whoo, a quick zip over a placid—and alligator-free—pond; Tarzan, accessible by suspension bridge; Yabba Dabba Doo—or Doo Dabba Yabba if you kick off backward, which we did; Geronimo, where you can plunge head first; Yee Haw; and Home Sweet Home, where you say wee, wee, wee all the way.
I don’t hear Mom holler, but after a particularly swift passage, she can’t help herself. “Ho, ho!” she says breathlessly. “Wow, was that wonderful!” Halsey smiles down at her with approval while he unclips her pulleys. “You ride like that on that big one, you gon’ be smokin’ down in there,” he says with a thick East Texas drawl.
That big one is Adrenaline Rush, the grand finale, a nearly quarter-mile zip line on which Halsey says he’s been clocked doing 48 mph. And sure enough, Mom is smokin’.
Tips To Zip in East Texas
Make reservations. Schedule your own zip line adventure at Adrenaline Rush Zip Line Tour in advance by calling (903) 683-6855. Prices range from $50 to $75 per person; group rates may be available. Visit daretozip.com for details.
Call for directions. The roads are windy and not always paved or marked in remote East Texas, so call ahead for turn-by-turn directions and descriptions of landmarks. Cellphone service can be spotty, and local county roads are not always marked on large maps.
Dress appropriately. Wear form-fitting clothes and closed-toed shoes and tie back long hair. Each person is provided with a harness, gloves and a helmet.
Be prepared: Zip liners must be at least 8 years old and weigh between 65 and 275 pounds. Don’t zip line if you are pregnant.
Eat and sleep: Visit nearby Jacksonville for restaurants, such as Fratela’s Italian Restaurant, where the menu ranges from Alfredo to ziti, and lodging, such as conventional hotels or the Horseshoe Inn Bed and Breakfast, (903) 541-2127), where you can float on Lake Jacksonville, fish and stargaze.
Suzanne Haberman, staff writer