Go Ape Rope Course at Eagle Creek [slideshow]
As crazy as the description of the Go Ape rope course that recently opened at Eagle Creek Park may sound, the reality is even wilder -- a combination of exercise, heart-stopping thrills and general awesomeness that just may make you feel like a superhero.
The first thing you probably need to know about Eagle Creek Park's Go Ape rope course is that it is just as awesome as it seems, if not more so.
The second thing is that no matter how hard you try, the safety equipment won't let you land in that neat three-point, down-on-one-knee pose that is all the rage among action choreographers these days.
Go Ape, which has rope courses elsewhere in the country, seems to have been designed by someone who looked at something like the Super Bowl zipline and thought, "I can TOTALLY top that." This is one of the more frankly insane yet fantastic attractions yet in the city, and highly recommended for the $55 fee.
The course is comprised of ropes hanging 40 feet in the air, a series of obstacles, and - as the course's climax - five separate ziplines overhanging ravines. It's a maniacal workout and an adrenaline rush that makes you feel like a superhero, or at least a B-movie action hero.
Managing director Dan D'Agostino calls it a "treetop adventure course." Bridges, swinging logs, trapeze-style planks, a tunnel, some rope webbing that's absolutely punishing on your arms to haul your way across - if it can be done with ropes in the air, it's probably here. It starts with 30 minutes of training with the safety gear, and after that you're pretty much on your own.
The first course, a few feet off the ground, seems so easy; even the Tarzan rope doesn't feel completely insane. It gets a little different when you're trying to swing across a chasm that seems roughly the width of the gap of Khazad-Dum in The Lord of the Rings.
That said, the whole business really is quite safe. The triply redundant safety gear takes some getting used to, but after the first few obstacles, the feeling is that of a gentle embrace tugging you up slightly and reminding you you're not entirely alone in this. About the only times I ever really felt the rush of fear was when leaping off those 300-foot ziplines across a ravine - or jumping into an abyss in a momentary freefall before the Tarzan rope caught me to propel me across the chasm.
D'Agostino says they pretty much leave the pacing and approach up to you, and they're not kidding. After the initial training session, I barely saw any Go Ape staff for two hours - just a few people patrolling on the ground. (Though I hasten to add you're given a safety whistle to call for help if needed.)
"We call it challenge-by-choice," D'Agostino says. "At the difficult aspects, there will also be an easier option, a less adventurous route. If you want to stay up there for three hours and take pictures of birds, we're happy with that as well. It's not really an adventure if someone's telling you how to do it. You can go through the course whatever way you like as long as you're following the safety rules."
And indeed, the branching options are something to take seriously, even such counterintuitive signs as "Difficult to the left, extreme to the right." The difference between the two is likely the difference between coming out exhausted yet exhilarated - or already planning to soak in Epsom salts afterwards.
If nothing else, it's all worth it for the spectacular view of Eagle Creek you get from the top of the final zipline. The view gives a real sense of accomplishment after hours of clambering around trees and learning the exact extent to which you do or do not have vertigo. "Eagle Creek is a beautiful park, and we're excited about getting people up into the trees to see it in a different way," D'Agostino says of the vantage points.
He adds they built the course in an environmentally sustainable manner, with independent arborists inspecting the trees every year. "We want to leave the park in a better environmental stance than when we got there, even if we don't leave for 50 years," he says. "We're looking forward to getting embedded in the Indianapolis community."
Go Ape costs $55 for adults and $35 for children 10 and up, who must be accompanied by adults. Participants must be at least 4 feet, 7 inches tall with a maximum weight of 285 pounds. For more information: www.goape.com
Regarding Topic A: According to Randy Bernard, the answer appears to be yes. "We haven't had a race since 1947 that didn't have that many cars (33)," Bernard told the AP. "We have to do everything we can to make sure we get 33."
The problem? This pertains to Topic B. Jay Penske, son of Roger and owner of Dragon Racing, recently sued Lotus, one of the three engine manufacturers associated with the IZOD IndyCar series (the other two being Honda and Chevy). According to Penske, Lotus has committed worse crimes than merely manufacturing a slow engine (which itself led to the dissolution of Lotus's partnership with two other IndyCar teams, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which switched to Chevy after forming a partnership with Panther Racing, and Bryan Herta Autosports, which signed with Honda); Penske alleges that Lotus has committed fraud, breach of contract, and "other unlawful acts," and seeks $4.6 million in damages.
So far, Lotus has been mum on the matter. But one thing is for sure: Lotus won't be supplying engines for Dragon Racing drivers Katherine Legge and Sébastien Bourdais - and so far, neither Chevy nor Honda has agreed to step in. That means there are currently only 31 car/driver combinations in play instead of the traditional 33. Add to that the fact that 47-year-old rookie and former F1 driver Jean Alesi, piloting one of the two Lotus machines remaining in the field (the other being driven by Simona de Silvestro), has not yet passed his rookie test, and the situation appears yet bleaker.
All that being said, it is this fanatic's opinion that there will indeed be 33 cars on the grid this May. And it so happens that a particularly credible source agrees with me: AJ Foyt. "Have you ever seen, in your life, the Indianapolis 500 start 31 cars and not 33?" Foyt said recently. "What makes you think that's going to happen now? I'm quite sure the field will be full."
And if it isn't? If, by some series of unfortunate events, a mere 31 - or, worse, 30 - cars line up three abreast on race day, it will of course be regrettable. But in the end, I don't think it will detract from what I predict will be an amazing race. The field this year is simply too strong. It's no exaggeration to say that there are at least 15 drivers who could reasonably win this thing, plus a few additional dark-horse drivers. Whether the race starts with 33, 31, or 30 cars, there will be just one in Victory Circle - and getting there is going to be one hell of a battle.
Naptown Roller Girls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Slideshow)
Who says you've got to be mellow on 4/20? The Naptown Roller Girls took to the track with an epic Vampire vs Zombie throwdown.
(Note the use of quotes here. Although there is the occasional A-lister - Mark Wahlberg put in an appearance a few years ago, and Oscar-winner Adrien Brody is a regular - most of the stars are of the Brody Jenner/Eddie Cipriani/Adam Carolla variety.)
As the spouse-type person (STP) of an engineer for KV Racing, I'm in the fortunate position of being able to attend any race I want - and Long Beach is one I never like to miss.
Upon my arrival in Long Beach on Thursday morning, I ate brunch with driver Marco Andretti, grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti and son of other racing legend and team owner Michael Andretti. Okay - "with Marco Andretti" might be kind of strong. I guess if you want to be a stickler about things, "in the same restaurant as Marco Andretti" is technically more accurate.
But my table was right by his, and I was close enough to eavesdrop on his various phone conversations, most of which, I later figured out, pertained to Chevy's decision to swap out the engines on each of their 11 cars in the field.
"What's the big deal?" you're probably thinking. After all, getting a fresh, shiny new engine in your IndyCar seems like it would be a good thing. The problem is, if your engine manufacturer replaces your engine before the engine has run the prescribed number of miles (in this case, 1,850), you get docked 10 positions on the starting grid. It's an attempt by the series to keep engine costs down.
So every Chevy car in the field, regardless of where they actually qualified, started outside of the top 10 - including Marco Andretti's and, worse, EJ Viso's, which is engineered by my aforementioned STP, Olivier.
This was a particular bummer for EJ and Olivier because EJ actually advanced to the Firestone Fast Six during qualifying, ultimately claiming the fifth spot on the grid - the second-best starting position in his IndyCar career. The penalty, however, exiled him to 15th. It's not impossible to win a race from back there - indeed, Will Power would charge to the front from P12 to claim the victory.
But as EJ discovered on race day, it sure is a lot harder. Any chance EJ might have had to advance was foiled first by Graham Rahal, who blocked EJ as he attempted to enter his pit after the first stint, and second by contact with Alex Tagliani, for which EJ was assessed a questionable drive-through penalty, meaning he had to make one pass down Pit Lane during a green. In the end, EJ managed a mere 12th-place finish.
For all that, even EJ's day was better than my brunch partner, Marco Andretti's. (God! Fine. Let's say we were "brunch-adjacent.") He qualified miserably, ultimately starting at P21 after the Chevy penalty was assessed. Although he eventually picked his way to 14th place, contact with Graham Rahal on lap 23 sent him airborne over Rahal's rear wing and into a tire barrier.
Marco claimed Rahal had "chopped" him; Rahal replied by insulting the entire Andretti family. ("What's Marco's last name? I've said enough.") This pissed off Grandpa Mario, who called out Rahal on Twitter. Rahal responded by essentially calling Mario "immature."
Although I don't expect this battle to devolve into the physical realm, like the time an irate AJ Foyt tackled Arie Luyendyk in victory lane in 1997, expect things to be interesting at the next race, in Brazil, where the series reconvenes on Sunday, April 29.
One more thing: Although I suppose I didn't technically brunch with Marco Andretti, I was driven to the airport by EJ Viso on Sunday night. Like, we were in the same car and everything. As you can imagine, we made it there in record time. Let's just say that after that experience, I'm pleased to still be among the living.
Having never been to the deep south, but having seen Deliverance and listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and also given my leftist politics, I was naturally wary of visiting Alabama to attend the IZOD IndyCar Series race last weekend. I'm pleased to report, however, that my experience there was delightful.
Exhibit A: That whole "Southern Hospitality" thing is no joke. Absolutely every local person I encountered was polite, friendly, chatty and kind.
Exhibit B: It's beautiful there. Like, for reals. Mature trees, rolling hills - this is my kind of topology.
And nowhere is it more visible than at Barber Motorsports Park, which played host to the race. I got my first look at the place, situated on the eastern fringes of Birmingham, late Thursday afternoon.
The lowering sun bathed the entire 740-acre facility - which consists of a 17-turn, 2.38-mile track and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum (a must-see for any gearhead) - in what photographers call "golden light."
When I arrived, my spouse-type person (STP), Olivier, who is an engineer for KV Racing, was about to set off on a "track walk" with his driver, EJ Viso, the young Venezuelan who pilots the #5 machine, so I tagged along.
During the track walk, drivers and engineers hoof a lap around the course and confer about the line (that is, the fastest, best way around), track conditions (i.e., how bumpy the track is), and whatnot.
As EJ and Olivier ambled around the circuit along with various members of EJ's entourage - including two young drivers in the Firestone Indy Lights series, which is one step down the ladder from IndyCar and runs a similar schedule - I hung back with EJ's assistant, a gajillia-lingual woman who looks remarkably like Giuliana Rancic on Fashion Police (read: gorgeous, tall, and skinny) and gossiped.
It was a spectacular evening - the kind where you can't quite believe your luck that your dad's swimmers (ew) found your mom's ovum (gross) and produced you, rather than someone else.
A new look for IndyCar
The track walk revealed a circuit marked by hairpin turns and dramatic changes in elevation - which, I suspect, are rather exciting to experience when strapped into an open-wheel car and traveling at a rate upwards of 160 mph.
It sure looks that way when the cars are moving, anyway - which they were, the next morning, during the first practice session on Friday morning. (Friday's second session was cut short by an end-of-days‒style deluge and a third session, the next morning, was fogged out.)
Speaking of cars, this year, the IZOD IndyCar Series has introduced a new model, the Dallara DW12, named for driver Dan Wheldon, who helped test the new car before he was tragically killed during last year's IZOD IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas.
It's taking some time for my eye to adjust to the new chassis, which looks significantly different from its forebears. Among other things, the side, called the sidepod, looks kind of bulbous, and there are new bumper-type pieces behind each rear tire.
Lots of people hate the new car, but I admit it's growing on me. It looks especially nice in the various team liveries; those bulbous sidepods make the sponsor decals really pop.
In addition, for the first time in several years, there are multiple engine manufacturers involved with the series: Chevrolet, Honda, and Lotus. Their turbo engines are newly designed to IndyCar's specs, meaning the manufacturers haven't gotten everything hammered out yet - which is to say that they (the engines, not the manufacturers) may occasionally blow up. Which should be interesting.
Leveling the playing field
All these changes mean there's more parity in the series than there has been in years. Because the cars and the engines are new, no one team has managed to gain a significant edge in terms of research and development (although the larger teams, such as Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, and KV, have been able to apply more resources to testing).
Indeed, this year's field is incredibly tight. Witness the results of Saturday's qualifying event, in which each of the top six cars was from a different team.
But surrounding them were Andretti driver James Hinchcliffe (a.k.a. "Manica," having landed the seat vacated by Danica Patrick, who left the IZOD IndyCar series for NASCAR), whose Chevy-powered car sped to P2 during qualifying; AJ Foyt's driver, Mike Conway, who piloted his Honda-powered machine to the fourth spot on the grid; Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand (famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the last turn of the last lap of last year's Indianapolis 500) slotted his Chevy-powered car into the fifth spot; and veteran driver Tony Kanaan, whose Chevy-powered KV Racing machine landed the number-six spot.
While it's true that there is significant parity among drivers, this is less true of the engines. So far, Chevy appears to have a slight edge over Honda, with both Chevy and Honda dominating Lotus.
Indeed, with the exception of the #7 car, owned by Dragon Racing and piloted by Champ Car legend Sebastien Bourdais, which has shown decent if not dominating results, the Lotus contingent (composed of HVM's Simona Di Silvestro (a.k.a. The Swiss Miss); BHA driver Alex Tagliani, who snagged the pole last year at Indy; Spaniard Oriol Servia, now driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, who finished third in the points last year; the aforementioned Bourdais; and Katherine Legge, also with Dragon, a former Champ Car driver making her IndyCar debut after several seasons out of the car) finds itself in the unfortunate position of being the bug rather than the windshield.
That being said, the Lotus cars are among the most gorgeous on the grid - particularly Bourdais's black-and-gold machine. I said as much to my friend Didier, who is Bourdais's crew chief, as I surveyed the grid before the race.
The lighter side of racing
Speaking of "before the race," pre-race is one of my favorite periods of any race weekend - when all the teams ferry their cars onto the track, lined up in their start order. A happy chaos ensues, as spectators mill around the machines while fire-suited mechanics stand guard.
I always walk from the first car to the last and back again, letting the crowd wash over me, watching everything unfold. With each passing year, more faces on the grid have become familiar. Yes, I'm part of this world only tangentially - I'm just Olivier's +1 - but I like to think I've made a few friends of my own by now.
Pre-race is when I give each one a hug, wish them luck, and most importantly - especially after the horrific accident that claimed Wheldon's life last year, from which the entire community is still reeling - tell them to stay safe.
Enough chit-chat. Here's how race day went down for us: EJ had a good, well-balanced car, but his tires seemed to degrade more quickly than normal, meaning he had no grip.
But he drove a smart race and kept the car in one piece, which was a positive. He finished 18th. (Penske driver Will Power was the victor, with Dixon and Castroneves joining him on the podium.)
Next stop: Long Beach, April 15. I'll be there!
If you liked the '50s through '70s - which saw an increase in air pollution, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, plus traffic fatalities for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists - you'll love Congress’ new transportation bills.
On the other hand, if you like the trends of increased bicycling, walking and more mass transit, I suggest you get involved.
Two versions of what may potentially become new transportation law are making their way through Congress. The House bill is currently known as “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act,” or HR 7. The Senate’s version is “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, or MAP-21.
I know what you’re thinking at this point: “Where are they coming up with these crazy names?” “What cool acronyms they make!” But it’s here where things begin heading south for anyone interested in bicycling, walking and even mass transit.
Let’s focus on bicycle growth in the U.S. and Indiana, so we know why we want the Senate or House bills to fail. First, you’ve probably noticed an increase in bicycling locally and nationally. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, commuting to work via bicycle increased 64% from 1990 to 2009 and in Indiana for the same time period the growth was 96% (6,150 to 12,059).
If we look at all trips, which the Census doesn’t measure, we would see an even larger increase. All one has to do is examine the number of bicycles parked at the Pedal & Park corrals in Central Indiana. Tom McCain, Pedal & Park program director, reported 5,029 bikes parked in 2011, up from 3,924 in 2010. If local trends match national trends, this increase can be attributed to safer and connected bicycle specific infrastructure that’s been funded through various transportation programs.
Now let’s get back to why MAP-21 & HR 7 may well spell disaster for non-motorized transportation and mass transit.
HR 7 would eliminate programs such as Safe Routes to School, which funds infrastructure (e.g. crosswalks, bike lanes, etc.) and non-infrastructure programs (safety programs, etc.) near and at schools; and Transportation Enhancement (TE) programs which help fund similar infrastructure and much more (the Monon was paid for in large part by TE funds).
In addition, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program would be altered considerably. This program can be used to fund non-motorized transportation in cities with unhealthy air quality — if the project can be shown to decrease air pollution.
Under the new program, reducing congestion would be prioritized over the reduction of air pollution.
While this may not appear horrible on the surface (i.e. automobiles moving at a consistent speed produce less pollutants than automobiles in stop and go traffic), it inevitably signals to traffic engineers to speed up traffic at the expense of other road users.
Indianapolis already doesn’t currently meet EPA standards for healthy air. Think more asthma and other associated lung disease and increased traffic fatalities for bicyclists, pedestrians and even drivers themselves.
The Senate’s bill, MAP-21, which will be brought to the floor next week, is not much better.
Walking and bicycling programs, while not completely eliminated, suffer disproportionate cuts in funding and increased competition from other transportation programs (e.g. road construction).
Take a minute to let your Senator and Congressman know how you feel by calling and then writing them a letter or email.
Kevin Whited is Executive Director of INDYCOG.
2:34: Sustain self-inflicted injury during coiffure-related activities (thumbnail to earlobe; light bleeding).
2:49: Zip into red Calvin Klein dress, purchased for $17 at local second-hand shop.
2:52: Waltz into living room, where boyfriend and two friends are watching rugby. "Hubba-hubba"-type noises ensue.
3:01: Depart for Murat Theatre. Nearly in collision en route.
3:27: Arrive at theatre. Discover that position on red carpet is essentially Siberia.
3:29: Pass by stations for Access Hollywood and E! Wonder if Joan Rivers is here. Sincerely hope so.
3:32: Compare outfit with that of other members of press. Realize that although outfit was dirt cheap, I am terribly overdressed. Decide to pretend I'm going somewhere EVEN BETTER after this event is over.
3:41: Notice there is no water available for media. Become instantly thirsty.
3:57: Watch hordes of helpers fuss over NFL Network host lady. Wonder if I had such support if I, too, could look very sparkly. Also wonder about her daily caloric intake.
4:00: Red carpet officially open for business.
4:07: Wonder if Ryan Gosling will be on red carpet. Just in case, make sign that says "Hey girl, I'd rather be honoring YOU" in the hopes that he will be photographed with it.
4:10: First passers-by on red carpet. Have no idea who they are. Take their picture anyway.
4:12: Observe several women wearing very impressive shoes. Assume they are dominatrices.
4:24: Spot player with best name ever: D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
4:44: Jerry Rice talks to media guy next to me. Decide to latch on to said media guy like grim death.
4:50: Notice that Jeff Saturday looks sort of odd when not in crouch stance.
4:56: Joe Montana! Joe Montana! Hey! It's Joe Montana! Hey! Joe! Over here! Joe! Joe? Here? No? Okay.
5:01: Realize the real Joe Namath looks very much like the animated Joe Namath in that Simpsons episode.
5:07: Troy Aikman talks to media guy right next to me. Reaffirm my commitment to said media guy.
5:11: Emanuelle Chriqui from Entourage gives us some love. And now, for the very first time, I know who Emanuelle Chriqui is.
5:16: Jerry Rice is back! He came back for us! I decide that I love him.
5:18: Alec Baldwin passes by, but from the opposite direction, so all I see is his back. Disappointed. Wanted to challenge him to a game of Words with Friends.
5:19: Become irritated with TV lady across from me, who asks everyone who comes through for a picture with her, whether she knows who they are or not. Vow to NEVER ask anyone for a photo with me. So unprofessional!
5:20: Jon Hamm! Jon Hamm! Oh my God, it's Jon Hamm! Jon! Can I have a photo?
5:21: Set aside principles for photo with Jon Hamm. He asks my name. I tell him it's Kate. He shakes my hand and looks searchingly into my eyes before being pulled away.
5:22: Girl next to me observes Jon Hamm smelled like vodka. I say this is a good thing, as my chances with him will certainly increase if his judgment is impaired.
5:28: Photograph Billy Baldwin, even though he is clearly the lesser Baldwin.
5:34: Expect Dwight Freeney to do a spin move. He does not.
5:36: No love from Tim Tebow. Assume he senses my religious confusion.
5:40: Greg Ballard, followed by Mitch Daniels. Mitch asks guy next to me if there's anything Hoosiers can do to make his stay better. I say, "Veto Right to Work." But only in my mind.
5:41: Develop slight crush on New Orleans coach Sean Payton. Realize this is indication of my own advanced age.
5:45: Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young with his two boys causes all women working red carpet to assess their own relationships.
5:46: Lenny Kravitz! Lenny Kravitz! Hey! It's Lenny Kravitz! Hey! Lenny! Over Here! Lenny! Lenny? Here? No? Okay.
5:49: Legend Jim Brown, with his spectacular wife, Monique. "You look beautiful," I say, and she thanks me warmly, like she really means it. Pretty sure have found new best friend.
5:51: Colts owner Jim Irsay takes break from tweeting to walk red carpet.
5:53: Informed that red carpet is officially over. Tally up who I did not see: Katy Perry, Jimmy Fallon, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, and Gisele. And, sadly, Ryan Gosling.
The night kicked off with the Warning Belles, Naptown Roller Girls' B squad, defeating Windy City Roller Girls team The Fury, 150-115.
In the "varsity" match, the Tornado Sirens overcame a slow first half to roundly defeat the Midwest Mega-Team, an irregular outfit comprised of members of several Midwest teams, by the score of 131-41.
Slideshow: Naptown Roller Girls vs. Midwest MegaTeam
Scenes from a January 2012 Naptown Roller Girls doubleheader at the Pepsi Coliseum.
Naptown Roller Girls debut (slideshow)
Body-checks and fishnets fly as the Roller Girls tear into their season 6 home opener with relentless fury.
The Naptown Roller Girls' varsity team, the Tornado Sirens, beat the Ohio Roller Girls by 100 points the last time they met before Saturday's bout at the Pepsi Coliseum. As it turns out, the Sirens were probably being generous during that previous matchup. By the time I had figured where to sit Saturday, the score was 59-9. When it was over, the Sirens had racked up a 191-41 victory.
I took most of my photos from the area known as the Suicide Seats, and no wonder — you’re just a few feet away from the action, where you run the teeny chance of having a scrum of roller girls go careening into you. Incidentally, I can attest from experience that this is officially scarier than photographing the Indy 500.
I spent a good chunk of the second half shooting from the nosebleed seats, and if you're ever at a bout, it's worth trying both the high seats and Suicide Row. Up close, you can virtually feel the collisions as they happen; up above, it's a bit more detached, but you can really sort out the kind of high-speed chess game being played with the strategy.
As for the game — well, the score says it all. Seriously, it was the kind of massively unbalanced rout that one normally associates with the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals, or possibly anyone in the world versus the 2011 Colts. I think Curtis Painter sent a condolence card. Whatever the case, it certainly sets a pace for a exciting season, though we can only hope future opponents will prove slightly more competitive. In the meantime, make with the clicky above and check out all our photos of last weekend’s game action!
You can see the Naptown Roller Girls during a charity appearance at the Indy Choruses “Tailgate Skate” fundraiser on Glen Arm Road at noon Nov. 27. Their next home bout is December 17.
[A+E] Sports + Recreation
[A+E] Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Classical Music
[A+E] Festivals + Parties, DJs + Dancing, Rock, Hip-hop
[A+E] Sports + Recreation