Sophisticated Living Indianapolis

NOV-DEC 2018

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As regular readers of this page know by now, my wife, Jen, and I enjoy availing ourselves of new experiences, whether they be culinary, travel-related or, in the case of a recent endeavor, doing things outside our comfort zone. I have long harbored a sometimes irrational fear of heights, especially when I'm close to the edge of a high place with no windows or rails to protect me. It's as if the edge is a magnet, both repelling me and drawing me at the same time to an ignominious doom below. Towards the end of this past summer, Jen and I were fortunate to find ourselves with our kids at e Greenbrier, the jewel of the Alleghenies, in search of rest, relaxation and, yes, new experiences. We had decided that Jen would be in charge of scheduling activities, something that had to be taken care of well in advance because, as we found out to our disappointment, falconry sells out pretty fast down there. On the first full day, after hacking our way 'round e Snead and a spot of light lunch at the nineteenth hole, I was informed that our activity for the afternoon would involve off-road driving on the mountain directly behind the resort, a tree-shrouded peak of some 3,000 feet that soared into the wispy clouds of the Appalachian summer. I had visions of churning along muddy paths around the hill's perimeter in some sort of ATV, merrily bouncing over logs and dodging squirrels. When I laid eyes on our vehicle—a fully tricked-out red Jeep Rubicon with tires as tall as my son—I knew this was going to be outside my normal comfort zone. Before we set out, our guide, a relaxed dude by the name of Pepper, showed me the controls of the aptly named monster and explained a phenomenon known as "loss of horizon." is occurs when you are going up a grade that's so steep you cannot see the road in front of you. "All you have to do is keep your wheels straight and you'll be just fine," Pepper said in his deep, even tone. I took the wheel, with Pepper in the sidekick seat and Jen and the kids buckled in behind us. Once on the mountain, I realized we were ascending at a fair clip. And not just going up some bucolic palisade road through stands of ancient ash trees. No, we were climbing a narrow track carved into the very edge of the mountain, looping around the perimeter like a whirly bird. As the drop immediately to my left began to stretch out from dozens to hundreds of feet, I began to wonder if maybe we should have attempted the free rock-climbing experience instead. At least I would have had something more substantial to cling onto than the steering wheel of a four-ton Jeep that, in spite of my best efforts to control it, seemed hell-bent on hurling itself off the edge at any given moment. Or so I believed, as my fear of heights began to manifest itself. After a few hundred yards, the road began to steepen at an impossible angle, and our pace slowed. Rounding a curve and ascending a sharp rise, I realized that I couldn't see the path ahead. I didn't panic, but I began to feel a familiar clenching in my spine and sweat on my brow. is was the loss of horizon that Pepper had mentioned. "Just straighten your wheels," he said, in a matter-of-fact tone. I realized the only way to see the wheels would be to lean out the window and take a look. If you recall the bit in "Vertigo" where James Stewart is on the ladder and the camera does that reverse zoom thing, that's exactly what I experienced when I saw the almost vertical drop of 600 feet just inches from my left front wheel. I gulped and straightened the wheels. "So," I ventured, "has anyone ever gone off the edge?" Pepper glanced in my direction and snorted a stifled chuckle. "ose trees are much stronger than they look. Now, are your wheels straight? We've still got a ways to go." e following day, Jen, the kids and I made a similar ascent of the mountain, this time on horseback. It was only marginally less terrifying, but at least my horse didn't have suicidal tendencies. I'd say I'm relieved all of it is behind me, but in a few weeks, Jen and I are visiting Paris for our 15th anniversary. And guess what's there? A huge, rusting iron tower with a restaurant on top. e prospect of ascending the Eiffel Tower frankly terrifies me. I know I faced some of my deepest fears at e Greenbrier, but have I overcome them? I think I'm going to find out the hard way. Jeffrey Cohen jeff@slmag.net From the Editor-in-Chief 30 slmag.net

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