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Not too long ago I served as a “dance host” on a two-week cruise from Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What is a dance host? Many cruise ships hire gentlemen who are accomplished dancers to be available to dance with women. Our typical daily schedule involved being on the dance floor at six o’clock every evening and dancing four of the six hours until midnight.

Our first day on the cruise was a “sea day,” but our second was our first port of call, at Puerto Montt in the Lake District of Chile. Many people signed up for “shore excursions,” including me. I signed up for “zip-lining.”

We traveled more than an hour to the base of the beautiful Orsono Volcano, standing guard over Lake Llanquihue. The weather was awful, raining so hard that the jeeps used to transport us up the mountain were unable to negotiate the rugged road. Half the group decided to return to the cruise ship; the rest of us kept going and hiked up the mountain.

We climbed ladders to a small platform surrounding the trunk of a large tree. As I looked out and saw the steel cable we were to “zip” across, I was shocked-it stretched across a deep ravine as wide as five football fields, a distance so great that the cable sagged, drooping like a “U.” Would I gain enough momentum? Or would my 220-pound frame get stuck in the middle, unable to make it up the tail end of the “U” to the next tree?

“Will I be able to make it to the next tree?” I asked Enrique, our staff person. “Am I too heavy?”

“No problema,” he responded. “The heavier you are, the greater speed you generate when you slide down the steel cable.”

He then reassured me that I could slow down by using my leather glove to pull down on the cable, creating friction. He added that I’d have to press down extra hard today because of the rain, which reduced friction on the cables. He also assured me that there was an “arrester system”-a man on duty with a device to brake me in plenty of time before I hit the tree.

“No,” Enrique said, “you are committed now. There is no turning back”

Enrique was right. When it was my turn, I gathered speed as I hurtled down the cable toward the middle of the huge ravine, and I had plenty of momentum to continue on up the last half of the U-and more. I started pulling on the cable with my glove…nothing. I pulled harder. No luck.

In front of me was a huge tree, getting closer by the second. As I neared the tree, I saw the staff person holding the safety brake. Yes! I’ll be okay, I thought as I watched him pull it. And then, Oh, no! as I continued to race down and…


Holy cow!

I slammed into the tree trunk and crashed to the narrow wooden platform in a heap. The staff person immediately came to my aid, asking if I was OK. I assured him I was fine,but when I tried to get up, I realized I wasn’t OK after all. My left leg. especially my left knee, felt awful. But I finished out the course-10 more zip-lines-then headed back to the ship with the rest of the group, where I promptly I visited the doctor. He looked me over, gave me two ibuprofen, and told me to let him know if the pain continued.

Over the next few days, I continued to fulfill my dancing responsibilities, followed by a trip to the doctor the next morning. He would give me more ibuprofen each time and then, finally, a knee brace. But nothing seemed to help.

The pain continued for every night of the remainder of the two-week cruise, still bothering me when I arrived in Buenos Aires, where my two kids joined me. The three of us spent the next two weeks hiking through and exploring Patagonia, Buenos Aires, and Iguaçu Falls, capping it off with a few days of Argentine tango lessons in Buenos Aires before heading back to the States.

Left to right:  Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile; Glacier National Park, Patagonia, Argentina; Perito Moreno Glacier

Back in the U.S., I decided I should have another doctor take a look at my leg, which was still was giving me pain. The results of an MRI showed my left leg to be broken, a compression fracture just below my knee.

The doctor said to stay off the leg for four weeks. Well, it was a little late for that-given that I’d been dancing and hiking on it for the last four weeks since I broke it!

Lesson learned? I am unstoppable. I danced, hiked, and continued my life for four weeks on a broken leg.

And, as far as zip-lines are concerned? I should have realized that I was unstoppable!