Richard Reiss is the author of “Desperate Love: A Father’s Memoir.” He lives in Canaan, N.Y., with his wife Paula.


In search of the adventure of a lifetime, Eagle columnist Richard Reiss zip-lines over a Costa Rican forest.

Do you like the ballet? I don’t.

For me, it’s a little bit like figure skating. Everyone on the stage is graceful and athletic, which I admire. I’m all for being fit, and I even like the music. Athleticism and music are not the problem. The problem — for me — is that everything else is just so boring. What little pleasure I derive only occurs when one of the dancers (or skaters) slips and falls, feeding my admittedly juvenile sense of humor. True, there is a lot more slipping and falling in figure skating than ballet, but a boy can dream.

Over the past 40 years, I have reluctantly, and upon the insistence of my wife Paula, been to the ballet twice. At one of those performances, I witnessed a fall. When the dancer fell, I gently forced my elbow into my wife’s side. Words were not necessary. My smirk said it all. From that moment on, I understood the entertainment value of gravity.

Two weeks ago, Paula and I were vacationing in Costa Rica. It was, finally, after nearly 38 years of marriage, the adventure vacation I yearned for. Over the course of nine days, we would traverse this small and narrow Central American country where, if you look to your right, you can see the Pacific Ocean. Look to the left, and there lies the Atlantic. It is also home to six active volcanoes.

Our initial foray into Costa Rica was lovely. We began with a hike through the rain forest looking for sloths, monkeys and toucan birds. Eventually, we made our way to a postcard beautiful beach and swam in the crystal-clear water. Back at our hotel, we sat on our balcony and watched a giant golden orb we call the Sun gently set over the Pacific. Hardly an adventure, but wonderful nonetheless.

The following day, we mounted all-terrain vehicles, riding through an expansive African palm plantation to a small waterfall in the forest. On an adventure scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a generous 4. It was a lot of dirt, little scenery and a waterfall no more impressive than the many waterfalls throughout the Berkshires. On the disappointment scale, it was easily a 9.

Then, we hit the road. Our journey was a four-hour drive over dirt roads and mountainous terrain to our hotel at the base of the Arenal Volcano. To break up the long and bumpy ride, we stopped for a two-hour white water river adventure. I knew Paula was hesitant to go rafting, but I had watched a few videos of the river run and it seemed relatively mild in the world of white water.

Maybe there was a lot a rain before we arrived. Maybe I watched the wrong videos. Maybe the gravitational force is stronger near the equator. Regardless, this white water was extra white, thrilling us with nonstop rapids for the first 30 to 40 minutes. It was so much fun. I loved it. It was crazy fun for me. For Paula, less so. Each time I looked at her soaked face, I saw a hint of fear, a hint of anger and, without doubt, a very strong hint of you owe me big time. On the adventure scale, this was a solid 10.

Gravity, which not only causes a person to fall, had become an unquestionable force in our adventure. Yet we would not come to fully appreciate its power until our final excursion: zip lining high above the cloud forest.

One of us was reluctant to go. The other offered an empathic heart, with caring words of comfort and affirmation. “You don’t have to go,” I said. “I won’t think less of you,” I added. “You’ve already been very brave,” I offered.

Once again, I got the look. “I’ll go with you,” she said. “I’ll even take the tram up the mountain. But I might also take the tram down.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “No pressure.” And for the third time, I got the look.

We arrived at the zip line lodge and were suited-up in a tight-fitting harness, helmet, lots of straps and several carabiners that would attach us to the line. Passing inspection, we boarded the tram to the starting point, high up on the mountain, into the clouds and hundreds of feet above the trees. In total, we would ride six zip lines over two miles, the longest being a half-mile and reaching a speed of more than 50 mph.


Eagle columnist Richard Reiss poses with his wife Paula just before taking off on a two-mile zip-lining journey over a Costa Rican forest.

What can I say. It was amazing to soar above jungle, through trees and mist, burying fear deep in the recesses of my over-stimulated brain. On the adventure scale, it was an extraordinary 15. Was I alone? No way! The thrill of gravity, a quick practice run on a short line, a smidge of peer pressure and that natural-born can-do American spirit was all that was necessary to hook Paula to a line and send her on her zippy way. My very brave wife flew as if she were a native quetzal gliding toward her nest.

Back at the lodge, I showed Paula the video I took of her first drop into and over the forest. Together we watched her soar into the mist. This time, I didn’t get the look. She even said she liked it. However, she added, “You owe me a lot of ballets.”

“Not a problem,” I said, knowing full well that gravity might continue to entertain me.

Richard Reiss is the author of “Desperate Love: A Father’s Memoir.” He lives in Canaan, N.Y., with his wife Paula. Richard Reiss can be reached at