Allison Plean: Nine lives

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My life didn't flash before my eyes, I didn't see any tunnel, and I definitely didn't see Patrick Swayze glowing in a beam of light from heaven ("Ghost" reference).

But when a 747 flight I was on dropped 4,000 feet out of the sky -- I didn't think I was ever going to inhale again.

Ever.

And that was only one of my (semi) near-death experiences. I've also run out of air 40 feet underwater when I was scuba diving, and I ran into the back of a parked oil rig at 40 mph on Rabbit Ears Pass and wedged my car underneath it.

There are many reasons why I shouldn't be alive right now. And most of the people who live in Steamboat have similar stories.

We have people here who take monumental risks. Adrenaline junkies are as common in Steamboat Springs as cat-eating hairless foxes.

My friend Gabe jumped off of the 100-foot cliff of Hell's Wall and lived to tell about it. But when he jumped off of another 40-foot cliff in Fish Creek Canyon, he shattered his hip in three places. He had to be taken out of the backcountry by Steamboat Ski Patrol and Routt County Search and Rescue and was sent to Denver on Flight for Life.

Gabe had studied that line for two to three years before he jumped it. That he survived wasn't a miracle. He said it was a calculated risk, not a death wish.

Although others shy away from their fears, he challenges himself by visualizing what he knows he can accomplish. When you come out on the other side alive, it is an extremely gratifying experience, he said.

His motto is "If you have to stand on top of a cliff thinking about jumping for more than three minutes, then you probably shouldn't jump." Of course, after his hip healed, he jumped off a 50-foot cliff this winter.

I was one of those kids who always was going to the emergency room and always was learning by making mistakes. Such lessons include: Don't hold onto the roof of the car when the person whose lap you're sitting on slams the door, because car doors still can latch with your hand stuck in it; and never fall asleep in a clouded leopard's cage.

Life's lessons are all around us: Don't drink more than three of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant's margaritas, don't drink more than two of Sunpie's Bistro's hurricanes, and try not to end up with every bike in your garage having a flat tire when there are no cars in your driveway and your pager goes off.

If so and so jumped off a bridge, would you? My parents asked me that all the time. But I also thought they were made of money and owned the electric company.

I come from a family in which my father broke his leg and dislocated his ankle just from stepping off a bus. No wonder I broke a finger catching a football the one time I tried to play the game.

My (semi) near-death experiences may not have been adrenaline-induced, but I'd like to think Steamboat has a place for people like me. Hey -- it may have taken me five years to find a man in Steamboat to take me out to dinner at The Cottonwood Grill, but apparently, miracles can happen.

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