So this year, I have made a list of ACE-related New Year’s Resolutions. I readily admit that I have not taken advantage of all that we offer here, but this is my year: Scott’s top 10 for 2010.Now, what you have to understand – and I have referred to it in many blogs – is that I am moderately to severely athletically challenged. More aptly put, I am a clutz. Sometimes, situations like that make me very nervous. And those nerves can breed what I call “the donkey laugh.” A loud, honking hee haw of a laugh.
It surfaced once at a Moroccan restaurant that had a belly dancer. And she was very buxom. Well, she took a shine to me and gyrated and thrusted to the point that it was full tilt donkey city. I still can’t eat couscous.
Where was I? Focus. OK. A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to experience the brand new “Bridge Walk.” What is it? The catwalk under the New River Gorge Bridge will be opened to the public for tours and we got a sneak peak. ACE, in partnership with others, is booking this trip in the coming season. And I must say it is MUST SEE. It was amazing to be out in the middle of the gorge on a 2 foot platform with tons of steel surrounding you while having a panoramic view of the snow-covered mountains.
The real story behind the poetic description is that I was scared to death. My last Bridge Day was decades ago so I took this as a mental challenge.
We meet at the base of the Bridge and Benji, the trip organizer, tells us what to expect. I could not understand a word he said. All I could hear was my heart beating. Now, I normally have high blood pressure, but this was stroke level. Luckily, it was a fun crowd and they didn’t allow me to focus on the fear. I kept taking these deep lamaze-like breaths. I was chanting in my head like Tina Turner when she was leaving Ike. Calm, cool thoughts.
Cameras are snapping. People are excited and I am struck at how wrong this picture is. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that I was going to walk onto that catwalk out into the middle of the air and not run screaming like a raving lunatic. I didn’t want to be a bad ACE representative. But if you want to talk out of your comfort zone, I was so far out of my comfort zone, I was in a different time zone. A friend of mine was there I had not seen for years, so the mini-reunion calmed me for a moment.
Crunch time. We start the walk. Benji gave me a good tip to look forward. Don’t look down. I can do that. I was struck at what a truly amazing engineering feat this bridge actually is. The way the beams appeared like a basket woven over our head was like a garden pergola.
We are all egging each other on. Positive reinforcement. Then we make it to the middle of the bridge and we stop. Not the best idea. Benji was giving us the history of the bridge.
As I stood there silent, hints of the donkey laugh were surfacing. It seemed like we stood there forever. Beads of sweat were forming. My mouth was dry. My lips were chapped. In my mind, I started the Tina Turner chant.
Then the reunion with my friend turned into a recipe for disaster. He had his phone out taking pictures of himself, asking me to to take pictures of him. My hands are not leaving the railing, so take your own darn picture. Then he proceeded to take a picture of me and e-mail it to his wife – from the middle of the bridge. That took technology to a level that I am not comfortable with.
Finally, we start the walk back to the beginning. Slowly but surely, I did it. Once I descended the bridge a wave of adrenaline washed over me. I felt a little drunk, actually. I did it! And I had done it without Xanax and a Depend’s undergarment. At my age, you have to be thankful for the battles you can win.
I encourage all of you to add this to your list. It is a unique way to re-experience the New River Gorge. If I can do it, you can, too. And you can make your trip without the donkey laugh.