The Costa Rica Adventure – Ed Day

I know I say it often, but I don’t believe things happen by chance. I am a believer in providence. Here’s one of my favorite definitions:
“God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.” (Thanks

There are times in life when you realize things are super-naturally cool. Those moments when God reminds you are loved, he has his hand on you….and there is life beyond our earth.

Many of you knew my friend (and  Costa Rica travel companion) Ruthi’s husband Ed Ristaino….or at least knew of him. Ed was tragically killed in a ballooning accident, dropping skydivers from his balloon at a festival in Georgia. It was exactly three years before the third day of our vacation in Costa Rica.

My luggage being lost meant that we changed the order of some of our activities on our vacation. That meant instead of a day at the hot springs, as originally planned, we spent the anniversary of Ed’s death doing something called “The Adrenaline Adventure”. In the pouring rain.

The description of this day said it was a ride on the sky tram, a canopy tour, and then a river drift. I love zip lines, so really I had no apprehension at all going into this day. It was what I most wanted to do in Costa Rica. In actuality it was a bit different than anticipated. Guess the title should have given me a clue.

The sky tram was about as you would think, though due to the weather there really wasn’t a view! But this took us to the zip lines.

Ruthi had never zip lined, so was a bit apprehensive about that. I am not sure I told her anything about this day, other than zip lining was involved. Like me, Ruthi is not a fan of heights. But she was game to try. After the first one, she was fearless.

It was an odd day to zip line. The rain was coming down, hard and fast at times. Since you want to see the scenery as you zip, you try to keep your eyes open. Your eyeballs get a good washing. Actually it was a good pelting….that rain came down hard on the eyeballs. So….in some directions we could see little….in others you can see the mountains and lake area around the Arenal Volcano. But you could swing on the zip line!

The combination of rain and the fun of the ziplines bonds you with people in line quickly. We were all talking and joking back and forth. As we waiting in line at one station, a guy in his early twenties, who was a few people ahead of us in line, turned around and joked “Yeah, when you zip in the rain if you listen closely you can hear the voice of those who have fallen.” Flippant comment by him, but it gave Ruthi and me chills.

After lunch we did another type of zip lines (carbon, I think they said). After we got to the platform for the last one, the “handler” held onto my harness and clipped it to a wire on other side of the platform. When Ruthi and the others came off, he did the same. I guess it was because it was very, very high…..and rocks and water were below. Remember that I hate heights? Yeah….I do. But it was beautiful. And I was clipped! Until I wasn’t….and the guide was saying “Want to go first?” I wasn’t quite sure what we were doing, but essentially they were attaching our harness to a rope and lowering us below. Did I say it was really, really high?

So the guy tells me to hold onto the rope, and then says “Step off”. Huh. I did. I stepped off. Really didn’t hesitate much. But then he says “Let go of the rope.” What??????  There was a bit of hesitation, but the guy was yelling at me. I let go. And then probably screamed (because I am a screamer and it makes things more fun. And because I often do things that are outside my comfort zone.)

It got fun quick. I think I posed for the photographer who was posted at another point across from the platform we were lowered from. Floating down by rope was awesome and I didn’t think I was going to die. Though I did yell at the “handler” below because he was busily getting ready for our tubing expedition and didn’t seem to be in a position to catch me if I was going to come close to dying at the end. (He managed well…..and made sure I didn’t land in the water. I think because of my coaching.)

Ruthi said she was also terrified…..for about a second and a half. Then she started laughing….and talking to Ed. We both think he had to be enjoying this day watching us from the heavens.

The floating on the river in inner tubes? Right! It was white water tubing. Yes, it was fun. And yes, that does fit a bit better with “Adrenaline Adventure”. Still….it kept us on our toes! The water was fast and cold, the rocks plentiful. I couldn’t figure out how to lay in the tube. You were supposed to keep your head up, but you were going so fast that it hurt your neck. You got so tired. I was also laughing hysterically most of the time. Not sure if that is normal or not. I tried resting my head on the tube….hmmmmm…..there was a reason we needed the helmets we wore. A few hits on rocks and I was sitting up much better. You’d occasionally get your tube caught on rocks….and try to move yourself off. Often it worked, but yeah…sometimes I just waited for the handlers. They were awesome guys and only too happy to “unstick” you. And having a chance to rest was nice on occasion….but soon you would be flying through the water again. It seemed to go on forever!

Such a crazy fun day….and I think a great way to celebrate the life of Ed. I think too often we focus on the death…especially when someone dies as tragically as Ed did it is difficult not to. For those of us in the ballooning community, we remember that time around his death so clearly. When we heard, nnd what we did in that time after we heard until his body was found several days later. The memorial service and the balloon releases. While we lost our friend, Ruthi’s loss was immeasurably larger….she lost the love of her life. I can’t even imagine.

But yet….to us Ed was life. He was vibrant. He was daring. He was fun. He was kind. You think of him and you think of that smile. That confidence. The swagger. My favorite memory is sitting on the ground at Charles & Kristie’s farm, reloading film in my camera after a balloon ascension at our balloon association’s Montgolfier Day party. Ed had caught a ride up with another balloon pilot, and as I sat there he landed right in front of me, having skydived from the balloon. He was graceful and so in control and it was thrilling to watch. He landed on his feet, and then shed the parachute as he was walking over to his balloon that had been inflated by his crew….and he jumped into that and took off. It was awe-inspiring…and very, very cool.

We could spend the anniversary of Ed’s death crying and mourning his loss…..because we still feel it…or we can do things that would have made him smile. Ruthi picked the days of our vacation to take her away from some of the memories, but they do have a way of coming with you anyway. Oh,  I know how much he would have loved how she spent that day and how he would have cheered her on…..especially her challenging fears with passion and confidence. How she honored his memory when she did it all.

When we got to Costa Rica, at one point I reached into a pocket of the backpack I often travel with, and found the bracelet Ed’s son Damien had made for me shortly after Ed’s death. It is made out of parachute cord in the colors of one of Ed’s balloons. That bracelet usually is in my jewelry box….I have no clue how it got in my backpack. But I wore it on “Ed Day” (as I did when I went sky diving). It wasn’t there by accident.

We were where we needed to be that day, doing what we needed to be doing. Living life in a big way. As Ed did. His presence is still with us, because he was created uniquely by God to be in our lives for a reason. He became part of us, and therefore he lives.. That’s supernaturally cool, I think. Something to celebrate. Providence.

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