On September 14th, 8:30 AM, a group of adventurous SMU students set out for New York Texas Zipline Adventure—a two hour drive from Dallas—with only some water bottles, food for lunch, and a box of donuts for breakfast. After the trip leaders, Kelly Gilliland and Manuel Familiar, and I packed up the van and picked up the participants, we were off. Within minutes, most of our participants had fallen asleep (hey, at least that means smooth driving on Manuel’s part!) and a selfie was taken of the van, unbeknownst to the passengers, and sent to our beloved program director, Albert Mitugo (don’t worry guys, this one’s not going on Facebook).
Upon arrival, the group sat down at some tables and soaked in the refreshing 79-degree weather, the smell of the woods, and the peaceful view from the top of the ziplines. One by one, the participants all went, without a single complaint, to use the outhouses before getting set up to go ziplining. We then were given our harnesses, helmets, and gloves. After a quick group photo, we then watched a demonstration given by one of the New York Texas Zipline Adventure employees. We each practiced stopping on a mini zipline to get ready for the real thing. The staff then gave us clip-on water bottles and directed us to the first zip.
Though the participants may have been quiet on the ride there, everyone started talking and making connections while excitedly waiting on the stairs for each zipline. Soon enough, we had all passed our first line—some more nervous than others, but all made it—and began to snap photos and videos of people as they zipped onto the platforms. At the beginning we all laughed as the employees casually zipped along with no hands; they made it look so easy to just nonchalantly jump off the box and do some spins with no worries at all. But by the third or fourth zipline, everyone was feeling brave enough to give it a running start and jump off the box as they began the zip. By the last zipline—a line about 800 feet long—we were even hanging upside down (after being given careful instructions by the employees on how to do it properly) and spinning as we zipped through the trees. The last line was definitely everyone’s favorite.
After removing our gear and rehydrating, we proceeded to bring the lunch supplies from the van to the picnic tables outside the shop. With some sandwiches, chips, fruit, granola bars, and, most importantly, hummus and pita bread, we sat and ate while getting to know each other a little more and exchanging phone numbers to send pictures we had taken of each other on the ziplines. When we were all full, we packed up and headed back to the van. After another bathroom break, we all headed back to Dallas. Once again, within minutes, all the passengers were asleep, not even woken up by the occasional bump in the road. We arrived back in Dallas around 3:30 PM and all the participants were given t-shirts (or bro tanks, if desired) after our debrief meeting in which we discussed the pros, cons, and potential improvements of the trip. None had any bad things to say; the trip was a complete success and everyone is excited to see what trip is next on the schedule!
-Christina McConville, OA Leader in Training