Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ziplining in a Cavern

I'm not usually the adventurous type when it comes to heights.  I found out I didn't really appreciate heights when I was at officer training school in the Air Force and had to do the ROPES course through the treetops.  It was not my finer moment, as I held up the entire line of cadets because I didn't want to zip down from the top of a telephone pole.  My son Omar, however, enjoys anything that would make him more like Spider-man, so I signed us up for a zip lining tour in a Louisville Kentucky Cavern.  We were meeting my good friend Libbie in Louisville, and she was up for the adventure as well.

Suited up with safety gear I'm ready to ZIP!

The place is called Louisville Mega Cavern and it's only been open for about 2 years.  In that time, it has become a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.  The cavern used to be a limestone quarry/mine, so it's manmade, but it has 17 miles of corridors beneath the city of Louisville.  You would never know it's there!  The entrance is kind of set back in a neighborhood and industrial park behind the zoo. The mining stopped years ago, but a private owner bought it and it is has a number of uses now.  A large portion of it has been turned into a fun land of sorts.  When you walk into the cavern, which is considered a building, you find a concession where you can buy tickets, souvenirs, and get on the aerial challenge and ropes course.  For the zip tours, they lead you to a different room where you get suited up with the help of zip leaders.  There are no more than 12 in a group, and there were 2 adult guides with our group.  You really don't have to do anything but listen to commands for when to take off and stop.  They hook up all your caribiners and make sure the equipment you use is correctly worn.  I didn't have much fear because it was pretty dark in there and you really don't feel you're so high without sky light.  I think if you have a fear of heights, it won't be a problem in here.  You will still feel the adrenaline rush when you zip along at 20 mph and feel a breeze while you skim over water and rocks below.

The course consists of 6 zip stations and 2 aerial bridges.  Most of the cave is dimly lit, but you are wearing a helmet with a light.  When you zip, the helmet light is turned to red.  When you're walking inside the cave, you turn it to white light so you can see the ground and any puddles that might be in the way.  It doesn't rain inside, but there is condensation depending on humidity.  We wore jackets because the temperature tends to be a steady 58 degrees.  I think a fleece was too much, but a light shirt would have been enough.  Pants or longer shorts that are comfortable with the safety harness should be worn.  There's a video on the zip part of the website that shows you what you're going to do.

In some cases, you have a zip line above or below your head as you zip.  It took us about 2 1/2 hours and cost $69 each.  If you know you're going to try this, you can look for a discount coupon or groupon.  They are sometimes available.  Prices vary depending on day of week.  You should book ahead if you are able to get the best time slots and prices that work for you, especially if you are a larger group.  We thought it was a blast.  Omar asked the next day if we could do it again!
This is the ropes course

There's a small box that is your landing target.  Omar landed perfectly and steps down.

The leaders grab a rope to brake as they go ahead.  They help you stop.

Some of the zips are quite long and high.

One of the aerial bridges that connects the zips.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our Little Free Library

Yesterday was the grand opening of our little free library.  As you can see from the photo, it has a spiderman theme- something my son, Omar, picked out.  These little libraries are popping up all over the US, but this is the first one on our block.  The community where I live initially banned them, as they were worried people would start putting nuisance structures all over front yards, I suppose.  But the concept of sharing books must have won them over.  Since July 2013, they are now allowed, albeit with many rules about the size and placement.

The first little free library was built in Hudson, WI in 2009, and gained the attention of a friend of mine, Rick Brooks.  He's been a community advocate of so many wonderful projects that make a community better, including community gardens.  Working with UW Madison, he's a great promoter of health projects, and this seemed to fit the bill of combining health with sharing the love of reading. Now there are more than 15,000 libraries across the US.  Funny how a shared idea can grow so exponentially!  You can see more of them at little free libraries website.  Be sure to click on the map tab to find the nearest library near your home.  There's also information about buying one or making your own.  Now that we have ours established, we'll go on-line to register it and it will show up on their map.

I was lucky to have a talented friend who knew how to build these.  He has built a dozen of them, and says each one is different.  It cost about $75 in materials to have it built, then we spent another $70 on paints.  The wood has to be sealed and painted with outdoor paint, but you can be as creative as you like.  For us, it was a group project.  Omar and I painted the initial layers of blue and red.  Then we called in the talent- my son and his friend.  They did the fancy webs and spiderman.  Inside there are stickers from a spiderman book that Omar used for decoration.
The initial coats of paint go on
Now the real artists get busy with a little "help" from Omar

Like everything we do in life, it's always fun to celebrate the little things.  We held a grand opening with a cake and live violin music.  I have the best friends and neighbors!  They brought books and shared cake with us.  It was a grand event for sure.  Omar was thrilled by the whole day.  It's already fun to see what books are there.  He's been selecting ones to take out and putting some from his own library in there.  I hope it will become a neighborhood destination where people can meet and share books, smiles, and ideas.
A lovely violin concert!
One of our favorite families biked over to donate books

A wedding cake decorated with spiderwebs?  PERFECT!!!