On the Russian River
On our recent car trip up north to the Russian River (that’s “Russian,” not “rushin’,” we discovered when we found the stream checked (not Czech’ed) by summer dams), we decided to rent a couple of kayaks and see what we could see. The water hardly moved through the dams, and we soon discovered that, though we were going downriver, we could hardly make any headway against the wind. Once we got into the lee of the bank, however, we started making progress and soon found ourself at a fork in the river just above the Bohemian Grove.
And there we saw it: a giant, epic rope swing.
While I have never participated in the Iron John movement, like most men I consider myself ready to take on the elements, ford a stream, survive in the wild. More importantly, ever since I was a child and saw my first Steve McQueen movie, I have always held that I was ready to survive the Towering Inferno, and even get Fred Astaire out with his case of champagne, which is more than Paul Newman could ever do.
Don’t be confused: ready for action does not necessarily mean you have the skill set for the Inferno. You might be able to get to the bottom of the hull on the SS Poseidon, you might even be able to land a 747 with Charlton Heston calling you “honey” the whole time over the radio, but if you want to keep alive in the Tower, you’re going to need one more thing:
You’re going to have to swing from a rope.
Come on, you say, anyone can swing from a rope. But you’re forgetting that, the higher you swing, the heavier you get at the bottom of the rope’s arc.
Looking at the spry, 20-somethings climbing that bank say, 25 feet on slippery mud, launching from at 35-foot rope with about 17-foot arc, I guessed that they were pulling about 3 g’s at the bottom (over rocks) before swinging upward, over the river, and letting go at a height of about six meters. Using that rough factor of 3 times the force of gravity, I tripled my weight, and wondered whether I could hold it.
I handed my wife the camera, kissed the kids, and jumped into the water. I figured if I got killed, at least I wouldn’t have to look for a job next year. The whole trick here is not to get maimed. Once I negotiated the muddy bank, I thought I was in the clear. Then, as I tested my grip on a knot, one of the 20-somethings called up, “…and watch out for the log.”
You can see the results here. The impact was uncomfortable, driving water up an otherwise one-way street, if you catch my meaning. But I had been in enough waterskiing accidents as a child to shrug this one off. I was about to go up again, when I heard my daughter say, “We can go now, Dad,” and I swam back to the boats.
Along the way, my arms shaking as I swam, I knew that I still had it. Me and Steve McQueen. The image soon faded as I spent a couple of minutes trying to haul myself onto the kayak.