I remember Dad being full of stories when I was little. He grew up the ranch life in Texas: a crack-shot with every firearm, and a dog-whisperer before he could drive a stick-shift. And between all of these things, I don't think I heard the same story twice, unless I asked for it.
Upon his high school graduation, my dad's vocational choices ranged from culinary school to Marine sniper. But from the time he first heard the word "airplane," he knew he wanted to fly: so that's what he did.
As I grew up, I heard stories of training runs at 200 feet through mountain canyons, and ones similar, but upside-down. He told me about the time he managed to stall an F-106 at 50,000 feet—an impressive feat for a supersonic jet. He even managed to lodge a dummy bomb in the dashboard of a practice convoy truck while barreling ahead in his A-10 at 375mph.
So what does one do to keep a fighter pilot on his toes?
It's easy: slip him into a five-point harness and throw him off of a platform situated 100 feet off the ground. Gravity will take care of the rest. I promise.
During my stay in Hawaii (courtesy of Big Island Visitors' Bureau), my dad and I were graciously offered the chance to participate in Big Island Eco Adventures' zipline tour of the treetops—and we had an absolute blast.
Part bungee jump, part roller coaster, ziplining has rocketed in popularity over the last decade and blossomed into a two-pronged approach to soft-adventure: it awakens the thrill-seeker in the most reluctant partakers, and it offers a unique glimpse into a destination's ecosystem. Guides (Hi, Winter & Matt!) are knowledgable locals who have plenty of wisdom to dispense in terms of flora, fauna, and our relationship to all of it. Education, then, accompanies the excitement, and rounds out the entire experience.
The beauty of zipline adventures, though, is the breadth of people it brings together: from rough-and-tumble fighter pilots to mother-daughter combinations. But perhaps my favorite aspect of ziplining is that daredevils share the same line as the thrill-averse: the Knievels get the shot of adrenaline they came for, while the careful ones are given a challenge: and their overcoming is the whole group's success.
The next time you've got a hankering for thrills, skip the long lines and overpriced food of amusement parks. It'd be well worth your while to visit Big Island Eco Adventures in Hawi, on Hawaii's Big Island. You'll forget about volcanic cauldrons and black sand beaches in no time.
Even if you're a fighter pilot.