Monday, March 7, 2011

Dad50 #49 Zip-Line de resistance

Resident cowboy/pirate (boots+sword = ?),  making his escape.

From the ever useful Wikipedia:
"Pièce de résistance is a French term (circa 1839), translated into English literally as "piece of resistance", referring to the best part or feature of something (as in a meal), a showpiece, or highlight. It can be thought of as the portion of a creation which defies (i.e. "resists") orthodox or common conventions and practices, thereby making the whole of the creation unique and special. The phrase gives the sense that the referred-to element is the most outstanding, notable, or defining of the collection."

The inquisitive among you might have been left wondering what the "gate" on our tree house was for. When my boys originally presented their plan for backyard domination, they proposed arming the embattlements with replica medieval catapults. It didn't take me long to calculate the certain eventualities of arming them thus, such as the lawsuits that volleys of Greek fire might precipitate from the neighbors. I directed my energies therefore to finding an acceptable alternate "killer app" for the fort.

Enter our friends, The Browns, who had been kind enough to trial such a device on their own kids, who had in turn demo-ed it to mine.

Without doubt, the Pièce de résistance of our tree house is the zip-line. Perfect for rapid escape when attacked, a zip-line exit presents a short sharp jolt of adrenaline, and/or fear, to the escapee (though, usually, they return immediately for another run). We bought the eloquently named "Spring Swings Super Z Fun Ride" (available from the Dad U Amazon store). This kit is relatively easily installed between a couple of sturdy trees, and comes with 90 ft of line, plenty for a great ride. I built the gate so that it was inward-opening, and swings shut, so as to prevent unintended departures. Because no childhood memory of mine involving a zip-line comes without me being wrapped around the terminating tree, I put some effort into optimizing the geometry of our ride. I opted for a steep beginning, bottoming out, then rising into the tree at the end. This has worked pretty well: the riders get a fast start, they slow at the end, then gently ride back into the midpoint for the dismount. Also, this kit comes with a truck (if that's what it's called) that has sturdy handles, so the rider is always facing forward (or back, if they are game), and cannot really twist around. This is a highly useful feature for avoiding said tree at end of the run. Watching my crew and their friends ride it over, and over, and over, has convinced me of another feature of the design: the fear instinct provides a death grip on those handles. No kid launching off there on purpose is going to let go.

Dad U
-Time for a field trip to South Africa

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