Sunday, April 26, 2015

Flying Over Fremont

It was with great pleasure and excitement that I flew over Fremont Street in Las Vegas.  I flew over it, not in an airplane, but via SlotZilla’s Zip Line. 

We were a group of nine friends visiting sin city last weekend and were walking around Vegas’ old downtown Fremont Street.  It’s really gentrified now.  I’ve been there with this same group of people several times in the last few years.  But each visit, it seems that they’ve improved the whole of Fremont Street and given a new life to an old part of the city.  There is now a huge permanent metal arched canopy that encloses the entirety of the walk from one end to the other.  There are also three large stages along the pedestrian enclosed avenue that have great music.  During our evening visits, we watched a band perform a bunch of great country hits, and we also watched another band do rock and roll hits that were impeccably played.  Imagine how hard it is for a band to cover, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in a way that rivals the original recording.  This band did it. 

One afternoon, we were walking on one of the side streets that feeds into Fremont, peeking into Hogs and Heifers, which a dive bar that has hot girls dancing on the counters and a continual line up of Harley bikes parked outside.  As we were walking away from the bar, one of our clan, Stephen, said, “You all want to zip line now?”  I was the first to respond, “Shit yeah.  Let’s go!”   “What?” “You want to zip line?”  my voice asked in my head.  “You know it’s high off the ground, right Fred?”  But I just ignored the voices and kept leading the group to the ticket office. 

We bought our tickets on the street level, splitting up into multiple groups, and then ascended a couple of stories into the air above street level into what is a huge slot machine.  They first weigh you (I hadn’t been weighed prior to boarding a ride since I took a helicopter into the Grand Canyon many years ago), and then they outfit you into mountain climbing type straps with a pouch that attaches behind you.  The pouch is for all of your odds and ends; cell phone, wallet, keys, those sorts of things that no pedestrian wants hitting their head from fifty feet above. 

Once you are all set with your added gear, you climb another few stories until you get to a platform where you are in line to hook into the main cable.  “Holy shit this is high,” my girlfriend said aloud, somehow reading my mind.  The wind was steadily blowing through the structure and we were now cued in a disappointingly short line that was perpendicular to the length of Fremont Street, which expanded out to our right.  However, when we looked across that gauntlet, all we saw were the topsides of buildings on each side of the fairway below. 

Our broken down group now consisted of Bryan in the front, followed by Kendole, then Brenda, and then me.  In front of Bryan were a black couple, and in back of me were two young black girls.  The way the launch ramp is situated is that there are four lanes with four thick cables above them, under which the riders stand and are attached when readying for their departure.  Just as I was having the same thought, the worker nearest the front of our line pointed out that there were only two people in front of our group, and he motioned to the two girls in back of me to come forward.  They didn’t move.  I said to them with delight, “Oh, it looks like you get to go next,” with relief that our group could go four in tact, and that I could watch these two girls younger than me give it a whirl, you know, to really make sure the whole thing was safe.  No need to be overly hasty of course.  The girls hesitated and then went ahead and walked in front of our group and all four of them lined up in their lanes on the launch ramp. 

These riders hooked into the cable, walked forward, and then the four got sent off.  One of the young girls, who had been behind us was in the lane I was about to go in, started rolling down the cable and out over the abyss of pedestrians.  Fully realizing her height, she suddenly let out a continuous blood curdling scream as if the lower half of her body torn off by Godzilla.  Though, this didn’t instill confidence in me that I would thoroughly enjoy the adventure on which I was about to embark, I was determined to do the zip lining on this afternoon.  Given that it was my first time, had I been a man of more languid mind or more faint of heart, I would have, hearing her screams echoing off of the canyons of the Fremont Street buildings, slumped off and done a U-turn as the Cowardly Lion did upon seeing the “I’d Turn Back If I Were You” sign in the haunted forest.  But my fabric is strong enough to endure the occasional fright, and really, there was no time to do otherwise anyhow.   We were up!

As the young girl’s last cries traveled beyond our hearing range, I walked forward as instructed to the launch spot and was hooked into the huge cable above me. I was then told by the staff to walk down the launch steps in front of me.  These steps were configured so that at some point during my walk down them, I began to definitively dangle like a praying soul entering the banks of the Euphrates as the slack was taken up in the cable strap.  Let me be clear here.  At this point, there no way out.  Then, along with Kendole, Bryan and Brenda in their respective lanes, the cable lock was simultaneously released, and we four started sliding across the long cable, dangling four or five stories above the walkers on the pedestrian-only street below. 

At first, the speed was slow, accentuating the sensation of precarious suspension as the people below looked up at the spectacle.  Then the speed increased.  In fact, I was immediately aware that I was moving more rapidly than the other three in my party as they dropped behind.  I realized that gravity, which is the main propulsion system of most zip line rides, was favoring my higher weight, given that I was a taller and more muscular fellow than any of them.

As I turned back to look in front of me, the wind in my face impressed me.  For now I was really moving.  “Hauling ass,” would actually be a more accurate description.  I was acutely aware of my body moving through a space around and below me that had taken a lot longer to walk through earlier.  I traveled the length of Fremont Street in what was probably between forty five seconds and a minute.  It was thrilling.  And, like each time that I had been the one on the ground on Fremont Street witnessing the zip liners from the ground, I saw all of those same walkers, drinkers, and talkers, hundreds of them, looking up without being able to get their phone cameras snapped fast enough as I whizzed by above them like a flying monkey.

Finally, I saw the landing ramp coming up.  And it was coming really fast.  I was probably going forty miles per hour by this time, and I said to myself, “This thing is going to have to brake my speed in a second or two, and it’s going to hurt!”  I just could figure no other way given that in those moments I had the perspective of being strapped onto the hood of a car about to pancake onto the trailer of an eighteen wheeler.  And just then, the hook on the cable hit some sort of governor, which slowed me to five miles per hour all in one second.  The quick stop did hurt.  But the pain was gone just as fast, and it was, as I said, a thrill.  I can’t wait to do it again!