Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Show Review: Cirque Du Soleil presents Quidam

Trip Report: Cirque Du Soleil presents "Quidam"

Trip Report: Cirque Du Soleil - Quidam
Cincinnati, OH
August 27, 2006

Cirque Du Soleil is one of the hottest shows that has been sweeping the world for about 20 years now. Cirque do Soleil, or Cirque for short has often been referred to as an avant-garde circus. It's really a hard thing to describe becuase it is so unique, but here is a try. Imagine a circus, lose the animal acts, lose the loud boistrous ringmaster, and instead take the circus arts like aerial acts, acrobatics, gymnastics and the like and perfect them to a new level. Once you have that add a unqieu soundtrack of a brand new music type, and add in the best in broadway theatrics. At that point you would come close to what Cirque is.

Even the name, "Cirque Du Soleil" means "Circus of the Sun" in French. I think it would be fair to say that the performers consider themselves circus performers, just that its an all new kind of circus. One of their first productions was titled "We Reinvent the Circus" Staying true to their cirus roots, they prefer to perform in their custom designed "Grand Chapiteau", French for "Big Top". One can always tell when Cirque is in town becuase no one uses a Big Top quite like theirs.

Glancing at their history in the program, the Cirque story really is a rags-to-riches story. They got their beginnings as street performers in Quebec, Canada. This may explain their fondness for French. Anyway, somebody noticed them and asked them to perform at a historically significant Canadian festival. At said festival they were discovered, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today Cirque has grown to include 7 traveling troupes, with each troupe presenting an entirely different show. In addition it is the hottest act in Las Vegas, with five casinos each offering a unique Cirque performance, and even Walt Disney World got in on the act and has their own exclusive Cirque show.

The Cirque is Coming to Town!

It was a big day here in Cincinnati, when it was revealed that Cirque was merely considering Cincinnati as a host city. The news anchors felt the need to caution people that it was still a 'maybe' and not a done deal. The next question was where to have them set up their Grand Chapiteau, and a riverfront site was selected, conveniently nestled between Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, Freedom Center, and the Ohio River. This site is supposedly going to be a thriving entertainment district someday. Don't hold your breath, but the first official tenent of "The Banks" is Cirque. Their tickets and brochures advertise Ciruqe as being at "The Banks" I've always wanted to see what Cirque is first hand, so now its coming to town, so that takes away any excuses I might have, its like they said "We can't make this any easier for you" I was a bit concerned because price wise, Cirque compares to a fine Broadway play as opposed to a circus. I knew this would not be an inexpensive day out. So, what did I do? I procrastinated, I waited to read the reviews in the paper, then I decided to get some tickets. I was a bit concerned when I went ticket shopping on August 25 as the times I wanted to see Cirque, it was either sold out, or the only seats left were on the far sides, in the back or both, and that was if they weren't behind a support mast.

I suppose a word about pricing is in order. Cirque offered three price categories. To explain the categies, you have to understand that they play on a round stage in the center of the tent, however it is not true theater in the round becuase along one wall sits the band as well as access to the backstage areas. I would say that leaves about a 270* ring of seats around the stage. The seats are divided into several sections, and there is a walkay about halfway up that seperated the seats into upper and lower sections. The "cheap seats" are the Cateogry 3, and they are the end sections in the upper half ($35). I had been warned to avoid Cateogory 3 at all costs. The next two sections in on the upper half are Category 2 ($60), and the remaining upper half seats, and all lower half seats are Cateogry 1 ($70). Since I had been told to avoid Category 3, I decided for a $10 difference to go ahead an go with Category 1. I also noted the cneter two sections on the lower half were marked on thier borchure as being reserved for what they call their "Tapis Rouge" (I'm guessing "Red Carpet") experience. "Tapis Rouge" contains all kinds of perks, like free reserved parking, exclusive entrance, coat check, access to the Tapis Rouge tent where they serve snacks and beverages before the show, desert during the intermission and offer some music and a chance to see the performers in an up close intimite setting, not to mention some gifts like a free program, and a CD of Cirque music that can only be obtained in the Tapis Rouge tent. The Tapis Rouge VIP Experience was retailing for $180 per person. I decided not to go for the VIP upgrade.

Anyway, back to purchasing tickets, After getting the show I wanted was out of the question, and things started looking bleak, I started with the next available show looking at tickets. One show offered Cat 1 upper center, but it was behing a big black box in the seating chart, so I was concerned their might be an obstruction, so I tossed those back, Next show I looked at had some Cat. 1 in a lower side section, and they probably would have been fine seats. I was att the point where you are dealt a good poker hand, do you stay pat, or do you discard and try for better. I discarded, crossed my fingers, and clickied on Sunday 8/27/06 at 1pm, two seats, best available. I almost needed to be pinched when it offered my seats in section 102, Row D. That's lower center, and according to my seating chart were in the VIP section. I checked the offer price, still $70 per seat. Okay, so I don't get the VIP perks, but I get the preffered seating. I had my credit card out, and those seats purchased before Ticketmaster knew what hit it. Okay, its not really Ticketmaster, its, but look up who owns - Ticketmaster. Soon I was printing out some TicketFast E-Tickets.

Ok, now is the time to get excited, we even took a drive downtown the night before to make sure we knew exactly how to get to the tent, and its parking lot. So, fast foward to the morning of Sunday August 27. With the showing starting at 1pm, I had heard the gates open at noon, so we planned to be pulling into the parking lot at around 11:45. Which, more or less, is what we did, we followed the directions given to us and parked at Paul Brown Stadium in Lot D. Lot D is the surface lot that is between the Staium and the base of the Suspension Bridge, the Cirque was right on the other side of the Suspenion Bridge. It really was easy-in,easy-out parking for which the City of Cincinnati collected a $10 parking fee. We saw some new asphault, so it looks like a side benefit is they made Lot D just a tad bit bigger. Owing to our ealry arrival we were almost able to park right up alongisde the base of the Suspension Bridge, not far at all from the Tapis Rouge people who got to go through a second gate inside the parking lot to go to a new small lot between the bridge and the Grand Chapietau. We exited our car, stepped out on the sidewalk, and walked the short walk to the event gate.

They have errected a chain link fence all around the event area, with one public entrance point. I noted the gate is setup so that it holds brochures, as well has a large seating chart and performance shecule posted on it, there are placed in such a way that they are still available even if the gate is closed. We entered the gate, and followed the short path around a right hand corner and headed to the entrnace plaza. Not to far in front of us was a podium where they were selling programs ($13), CD's ($21), and DVDs ($31). I just went with a program for now and it semmed just as I purchased my prgram the ticket gates were opened. To help move people smoothly into the event, they have divided the Grand Chapietau into sections, and then assigned each seat a 'Door number", there are 8 "doors" total and your door number tells you where to best enter the Grand Chapiteau. But wait, you aren't entering the Grand Chapiteau yet, you are entering the entrance tent first. To ease the crowd, they have to idential entrance tents, one for the odd numbered entrance doors, and the other for the even numbered entrance doors. Both entrance tents flank a trailer holding a box office. At the other end of the entrance plaza set off on its own is the special Tapis Rouge VIP entrance. We had been instructed to enter through Door 4, which meant we had to go to the other entrance tent. So we walked past the box office, passed another podium selling programs and into the entrance tent. At the opening of the tent they have a row of ushers using wireless palm devices to scan and verify tickets. Our tickets verified we were weclomed into the entrance tent.

We are now at the Cirque

The entrance tent is a round affair, in the center surrounding the center mast is the cashiers station, as well as some video monitors. The video monitors play segments of their various shows. One one side of the entrance tent is their gift shop, selling a full range of shirts, hats, masks, books, CD's, DVD's, posters, umbrellas, and much more. On the other side of the entrance tent is the concession stand. I took a look at the concession stand and lost my appetite. The only thing under $4 was movite-theater size candy for $3.50. Pepsi - thats $5 for the small, same for the popcorn. Hot pretzels for $4.50, hot dogs for $4.75. I think I may have found the only people that can make ballgame concessions look like a good deal. It was going to be a hot day anyway, nearing 90 degrees outside, and with all the body heat building up in the entrance tent, we moved ahead into the unshaded courtyard. I like the attractive naturl wood colored fencing they use for the interior fences. Behind me are the entrance tents, ahead of me is the Grand Chapiteau. I am standing in a courtyard with entirely too few park benches. Around the sides of the courtyard are several white trailers which hold the restrooms. I only mention it becuase for a portable attraction these are fully plumbed restrooms, fully stocked and clean. To my right I can see the Tapis Rouge tent with its own private terrace area with comfortable furniture and its own private restroom trailer. To my left I can see all the serivce tents and trailers. These are probably the living and practice areas for the troupe, then there are some more tents behind the main tent, which is probably the backstage area. About halfway around on either side are small concession tents.

Now to look at the The Grand Chapiteau. It like all the other tents are done up in a blue and yellow color scheme. From the outside it looks more rectangular than round, and the color scheme certainly helps call attention to it. Rising out of the top are the for main mastpoles, and atop each one a flag. The four falgs are: Cirque Du Soleil flag (a stylized sun), United States flag, Canada flag, and Quebec flag. Lining the top of the sidewalls of the tent is a row of world flags which if I had to guess, represent the home nations of the performers as they come from 15 or more different nations. Coming down from the tent like feet are covered legs that conceal the entry stairs. At the bottom of each stairway is clearly printed the door number as well as the house rules (No phones, No cameras, No Camcorders, No Smoking).

We wait around in the courtyard until just after 12:30 when the Grand Chapiteau opens. We head to our assigned doorway and then proceed uinto the tent and up a set of open frame metal stairs. I think they could do with more lighting on both the stairs and the seating bowl during seating, intermission and after the show. We enter the Grand Chapiteau and it manages to look a lot smaller and more intimate on the inside. A frienly usher leads us down a more sustanional stairway inside the tent down to our seats. I am pleased to say they are all chairback seats, with some padding on the bottoms. There are no armrests and the seats are a bit on the narrow side, but I found the seating to be surprisingly comfortable for a circus tent. I had time to explore the tent with my eyes, and the inside is in sharp contrast to the outside, I had already said that it seems a lot smaller on the inside, in addittion to that the garrish yellow/blue color scheme does not continue on the inside. The inner sidewalls are a subdued shade of blue, and the ceiling has been painted as if you are looking up at a starry night sky. On the inside it is very attractive. I noticed a large metal framework that runs along the ceiling, and would have to investigate that later. I looked up and say that large black box in the center of the upper center section is the engineers booth, and would not have obstructed my view. In front of me was a round stage with slopes sides leading down to the seating bowl. I noted a couple stairways to allow audience access to the stage. Behind the stage was a back area that holds the band as well as acccess to the backstage areas.

To help break the ice while you wait, some of the performers mill about the audinece. The ones I found creeepy are the ones who are dressed up head to tow in a solid white garment, When I say head to toe, I mean the only part of their skin visible is a small opening for their eyes. They look sort of like ghosts or mummies. Shortly before the show begins a man comes on stage (I know that true Cirque fans, and the Ciruq website gives character names, but since they aren't used in the show, nor are they printed in the program, I am going without them) anyway, this man is the closest thing they have to a ringleader. He starts by mingling with the audience, then as show time nears he actually steps into the role of usher and starts showing people to his seat, all the time making a show of tapping his watch. Warning, he who arrives late can be embarassed. But even though he looks at the persons tickets is no assurance he will lead them to the correct seats, clowns can be playful like that. In our show, he took one couple who entered far off on the even side, walked them all the way over to the odd side, then took them back to the even side to seat them. Another couple he started to do the same thing, but when he got over to the odd side, he started walking towards the front, and proceeded to walk up on stage. It took some encouragement from the audience before the innocent couple would "Come on up on stage" He then got then center stage, got the audience to give them a round of applause, then started to lead them OUT of the tent! Well he let the man out of the tent, then he even closed the tent flaps behind the hapless man, then proceeded to seat the woman, taking the mans seat, until the man meekly walked back in with a "What do I do now" look and went to claim his seat. The man then got up on stage. On stage was a door in a doorframe, a lamp with a whimsical looking base, and two large easy chairs on either side of a round rug. Next to one easy chair was a endtable with the oddest looking radio. The man proceeded to sit down in the chair and turn on the radio. Some comedy enssued as apparently changing the channel required both fiddling with the knobs and bending the fleixible antenna. The radio played several pieces of music, with the man making faces, until he landed n one channel. The radio then got very loud and the annocements were made. The announcemts started in French "Madames and Messuers..." but quickly changed to Enlish for practicality. They welcomed us to the grand Chapiteaus, repeated the house rules of no smoking, recording, or cameras, then stressed for the safety of the performers, especially no flash pictures. They added a blurb that the City asks there be no standing or sitting in the aisles, he then announced there would be one 30 minute intermsision. The man then turned off the radio, and exited through the door to backstage. The lights went out for a few brief seconds then the show began.

Ok already, here is the actual show review!:

According to the prgram, Quidam is a faceless person, a psser-by, anybody. The story is that the young girl is angry and disillusioned at her regular mundance life, that is until the day Quidam drops by and provides the means to take her to his fantasy world. If the storyline sounds familar, its the same plot device that has figured into timeless classics, like Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland. Don't get too wrapped up in the plot, as it really isn't what the show is about.

The show starts in the dark, mere seconds after the man has left the stage from making his safety announcements. Mere seconds the stage lights come back on and we ae looking at the typical family. The husband is in his easy chair reading the newspaper, the wife is in her chair working doing gsome craftwork. The girl sits on the carpet between them, decidedly bored and overlooked. That is until a stranger arrives at the door. The stranger must be the lead Quidam figure. Quideam is a mysterious figure, a tall giant with no head. Oh he carries a hat and an umbrella, but he is decked out in his suit and hat but is just missing a face. He gives his hat to the little girl, and that sets the gears in motion. The chairs holding the parents rise up into the air as the parents are swept away with the rest of the house furnishings Oddly, enough the husbands shoes remain on the floor, and are taken by the ringmaster type man who was interacting with the audience before the show. He will be the guide through this fantasy land.

Then all of a sudden, the fantasy begins. The first circus act is something the program calls "The German Wheel". Its a large wheel, not unlike a hamster wheel, except that it isn't on any supports and is free to roll about the stage. This performer opens his act by rollling the wheel (with him inside of course) at high speed right for the audience, and it appears that he is going to roll clean off the end of the stage. Of course, he manages to stop just in the nick of time. "That's an attention getter!" Here is pure gymnastics skill as he is able to roll and even turn somewhat to bring the wheel to any point of the stage he wants, and as if rolling backwards and forwards ins't enough for you, he the starts spinning the wheel edge on, similar to if you stand a coin up on a table top and spin it, the whole wheel them starts to wobble and tilt just like the coin would, but it is clear he is on control of the wheel at all times, no matter how awkward the position is. The artistry comes from the fact that he can do this while having it appear to be totally effortless. This is a great start to set yo up for all the circus style acts to come. During this time there is also a man walking on stage at first he appears to be walking, then you realize he is more gliding as he doesn't pick up his feet. Closer inspection reveals a stage trick, as the entire stage is a giant turntable. Unlike other magicians who would try to disguise the turntable, here the pattern of the table makes it obvious, and the performers use the turntable to great effect. Also during this time a person dressed up like the Statue of Liberty comes out and stands near the edge of the stage, except this person is wearing a veil so it only look skind-of like the Statue of Liberty. Don't know what that's all about.

After the German wheel act, we have the girl sitting at the foot of the stage while a series of perofrmers walks past her on either side of her playing progressivley larger and louder drums. These between act seques are strange and I'm sure someone who is more into Cirque than I could interpret them. Oh, and remember the faceless people I mentioned were roaming the audience before the show, they apparently are also stage hand type people, or are support people who stay off in the background. You never hear from them, you can only see their eyes, and they move in a unifrom step. No personality, no voice, no unique appearance, truly a faceless dehumaanized group. I should also mention there is no spoken dialogue throughit the entire show. After the opening announcements no one speaks another line, nor are there any more announcements, sure there are vocal parts in with the soundtrack, but thats about it. Very little of the soundtrack is in English which helps add to the surreal feeling.

The next act really impressed me. A group of young girls came out on stage and started playing with what loks like an overzised spool balanced on a string. They start by bobbing the spool up and down gently, but you are still unsure if the spool is connected somehow. As the act goes on however, they start bouncing the spools up higher and higher, appearing to sometimes go all the way up to the roof before they come back down. Then they start passing spools to each other like jugglers, sometimes behind their backs or while doing flips. What made the act even better is they were absolutely flawless, I didnt notice one spool not get caught. Not even a near miss. It is truly a messmerizing talent.

After the spool act whihc the program refers to as "Diabolo" there is another strange seque as a man with a pair of wings strapped to his back walks accross the stage. Not flys accross, walks accross, like he has the ability to fly, but is not realizing his potential. Is this part of some hidden message? After this a a boxer comes out and when he hits his gloves together it causes thunder and lightning in the tent. He screams to add to the confusion, or is he afraid of his own powers?
They then decide to slow things down a bit, with some vaudevillian style comedy. We learn of another stage trick. The stage has sme manhole shaped trapdoors that allow people or things to pop up out of nowhere. We see a clown struggle to climb out of the manhole, then he reaches back into the manhole and pulls out a chair, and then another chair, and finaly a rose. We wait to see what he is going to do with them. He sets the chairs up center stage side by side, and then pantomimes getting into and driving a car, complete with radio on and bouncing up and down in the chair to indicate motion. He then stops the car, gets out, and selects an attractive female volunteer from the audience. It took the audiience volunteer some time to really get into the act. He pantomines walking her to the car, where she gets in without opening the car door. Time for a do-over. Gets her in the car, then se won't unlock his door, so he has to walk around to her door, reach over and act like he is unlokcing his door. Gets in the car, takes a few attempts to get her to do the bouncing up and down in the seat thing. Eventually she sort of catches on. They get stuck in a traffic jam. The clown honks the horn several times. (a car horn sounds each time), he motions for her to hit the horn, she doesn't at first but when she does, the car horn sticks on for several seconds. The act goes on he takes her out to a park under the stars (and little star ligts light up all along the ceiling grid) The act is that they are on a date, but she is playing hard to get. I think he eventually gave up and drove her home. (Of course not before she can manage to shatter the car window, break the door, and other comic effects. Hey she did get to keep the rose as a free souvenir.

Back to the fantasy world, and we see the father apparently just walking in midair, still reading the newspaper. We also learn what the overhead metal grid is for, it sfor an elaborate rig to move set pieces and/or aerial aritsts and equipment on and off the stage. The stage wall above the band area is soft and pliabel to allow people and things t float gracefully on and off stage. Anyway the father walks in midair still reading the paper, and Zoe comes out on the other side on a trapeze swing. The ringleader is on stage below acting as if he is talking into a megahpone. Eventualy the father gets a clue and rips the newspaper to shreds and as this is show business one of the faceless stage hands happens to roll a fan accross the stage just in time to ensure the paper shreds don't land on the stage. This is a leadup to one of the shows signature acrs the "Aerial Contortion in Silk"

This act involves to lengths of sheer red fabric suspended from the overhead trolleys, hanging on to the fabric in a truly effortless pose is a contortionist. The contortionist is able to wrap themsleves up around the fabrc stands several different ways and assume several interesting positions. Maybe more noteworthy they wear a body suit costume that is desinged to make them look like they are performing in the nude, even though they really aren't. As with the other acts, the positions the person assumes get more and more elaborate as the act goes on. Pure strength and agility required here, again with the grace to make it look like it is effortless. The Cirque performers are truly at the tops in their crafts. At the end of the act the contortionist is on stage and is carried away by the mother.

There is a little seque piece where the ringmaster guy plays with a hoop, acting like it is a hula hoop, and also spinning them on some sort of wierd hangar attached to his hat. Then another performer we haven't seen yet strolls accross the wstage wildy wavng sparklers around in a fire act. Ather that squeue the maina ction becomes a jump rope team. There is all manner of speed jumping and trick jumping, even some double dutch. Its enough to take you back to the school playground, and yet the jump rope artists themselves are, of course, outstanding in their craft. The act ends on a funny note when one of the jumpers doesn't leave the stage, wanting his own limilight until the ringmaster ushers him off.

The last major act of the first half involved another gymnstics staple, the large hoops. Suspended from the overhead trolley system ore several hoops, and at one time three performers are swinging from the same hoop. They then take seperate hoops, and proceed to amaze with theiy agility and strnegth. At the eond of this act, you notice the performers who have been holding baloons for some time now decide to release them into the air, some of which get caught by a large floating birdcage. Bring in a hgh energy clown act, then its time for Intermission.


As advertised, Intermission is 30 minutes long, and you need all 30. Today, perhaps owing to the 90 degree heat, perhas owing to a malfucntioning air conditioner, people couldn't wait to get outside to the courtyard. It was an interestng debate on if it was hotter inside or out, but as I said people were coming out dripping wet, and as most people like me dressed under the belief that it was a climate controlled tent kept at 70 degrees, and that we were dressed for the theater, it was not exactly pleasant. Inside the entrance tent they could not sell $4 bottles of water fast enough. They literally opened up water only/cash only lines to try to get the people through in time. Okay, here is how desperte they were to get people through the lines, they set a till down on a part of the concession counter, and the person working it, left the till unguarded, as she went back and forth between the till and the refrigierator. Clearly the message here is that the custmer comes first, they know they could have a serious overheating/fainting/dehydration issue if they don't do something, so they would rather risk getting a little bit of cash stolen than deal with sick or upset patrons. It may have looked stupid at the time, especially in this day and age, but I think it sends the right message.

So I went to the Entrance Tent and bought water for both Mom and I, as well as a copy of the Quidam DVD. I just barely made it back to the tent boefre the second half started. I noticed they must have gotten the air conditioner to cooperate as they were keeping the tent flaps closed trying to anything to get the air to start to circulate and cool things down. I mut admit the second half was a little bit cooler than the first half, but by then the damage had been done.

Act Two:

The second act begins, and you see arrayed on the stange a set of very small looking stands on poles sticking out of the stage. Upon those stands you will soon see a performer balancing from them, then contorting to assume all kinds of eleborate poisitons, all the while the stage turntable is spinning, Which means that she and the stands were spinning. I did note they stopped the turntable for any mounts or dismounts. As if that weren't enough you see some other chacaters rolling around on the stage face down on skooterboards.

We then move to a dart juggling act, by the ringleader, who is wearng some sort of dartboard hat. I don't know if its a show mistake or not, but most of the darts landed on the dartboard, but one landed and stuck into his shoulder blade. Don't know if that was planned or not. In a classic case of misdirection a psychadellic looking spiral wheel starts spinning behind him on the stage, and you hink he is going to throw the darts at the hyptnotizing wheel instead of his hat.
This leads up to another feature act, the Spanish Web. Okay, lets take 5 performers, and give them nothing but a rope n midair to hang from. They are able to manuever up and down the ropes with ease, one even climbed from the stage to the roof with just his arms. They starrt conorting into strange positions, cleverly tying the rope aorund them as they appear to just hang in midair. Towards the end they even start creating a web by tangling up the ropes. The "Attention Getter" moment in this act is two girls, they climb to the tops of the rops, then the trolleys take them out over the audience, they then start rolling down the rope so fast you think they are going to fall right into the audience. They fall over the lowewr center sections, and when the one stopped above me, I thought she was close enough I could reach up and touch her. Yep, that is a definite attention getter when an aerilist stops mere feet from your head.
We get a cameo appearance by Quidam, sort of a "Hey, remember me from Act 1" appearence. Then we are treated to another signature moemnt the human statues. Basically it ends up beng two contortionist who possess enough strenght that one is able to support the other. They mnage to remain very still just like statues, and hold what appears to be a painful pose that takes a loft of strength, and yet has a very classic artisit beuaty about it, just like you were looking at some statues in a fine art museum.

After that exhuastng act, the clown act for the second act takes place. In this one he gets 4 audience volunteers, and proceeded to attem[pt to film a silent movie with an old time movie camera. Recall they he communicates ony in pantomime, and he gives each person rediculously complex parts to play, let alone remember. As you can imagine things don't work out well. and it takes several 'takes' to get the shot. In our show, the one guy had the farily easy job of just counting the takes and hitting a clappboard. He soon got promoted when the guy who was to be the uninvited boyfirend type can't remember what he is supposed to do. It even takes him a while to figure out how to count takes, and this is with the audience helping him. When the clown gets fed up and fires his move cast, you might say it was a permanent firing. As you may have guessed unless you like getting humiliated in front of 2,600 of your closest friends, you don't want to be an audience volunteer here.

The last aerial act involved something the program calls a Cloud Swing, I don't relaly get the point of the woman swinging back and forth, while girls on the stage are holding a rope up to their thorats while acting like they are stangling themselves. at this point the band starts making their presnece known.

The last major act is the classic acrobatic act, where people form human pyramids and human towers and that kind of thing, starting out by just doing all kinds of somersults and backflips, and eventualyy creting a real tall human tower as each ones jumps up atop the one before.
After this act, I knew the show was about to end when we see Quidam on the stage again, and he wants his hat back. No, not the magic hat, you know what that means - everybody out of the pool! Fantasy time is over. The ringleader guy returns the fathers shoes to him and thats it, the end of the circus. At this time the overhead trolleys bring out a large red stage curtain. Its time for the curtain calls. One of the most emotional moments of the curtain calls is when its time for the stagehand crew or the faceless dehumanized group to take their bows. Theey come out still dressed in full body suits, with just the eye slits, then right before their bow they remove their headcoverings revealing their true selves. Can you say there is some kind of redemption there, and they went from beng a faceless nobody to being somebody? Then there are the normal curtain calls, and of course the standing ovation, then all of a sudden, its' over.

Here is where people file out of the tent amazed at what they have just seen, this is the kind of shock and awe I like! You then try to explain it to your firends. I mean its such a fantasic experience, but it is so surreal that is seems to defy description. HAving already bought the DVD we were able to sail through the Entrance Tent non stop, and on our way through the entrance plaza, they had the program/cd/dvd podiums setup. We walked back to our car with no problem, and had no trouble getting out on the road to head back home.

All in all, I would rate the show an Excellent, I was totally blown away by it. Now I know why Cirque is so popular.

Additional photos of the Cirque camp

Monday, September 11, 2006

David Goes to a Bunch of Parks

Well, I have a nasty backlog of trip reports that I am working through.

However, I have recently completed the follwing trip reports:
* Universal Studios Hollywood
* Belmont Park
* Ohio State Fair
* Kennywood
* Strickers Grove

You can read these and a lot more of my infamous trip reports at:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

TR: Red's Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum - 9/6/06

Trip Report: Reds Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Cincinnati, OH

September 6, 2006

On September 6, 2006, Mom and I had tickets to go to the Reds baseball game. We decided to make a doubleheader out of it and combine the game with the Hall of Fame and Museum. There is an incentive to combo the museum with a game because the regular admission is $8, and admission with a same day game ticket is only $5. Therefore, after watching the Reds lose to the Giants, instead of returning to the parking lot, we made our way to the concourse behind the 1st base line concession stands, walked across the plaza and into the museum.

In the lobby of the museum are a couple of the public works art sculptures from the Bats Incredible exhibit a few years ago. These artworks required the artist to use baseball bats as the primary ingrediant. One was like a crown made out of baseball bats for the "Queen City", and the other was a fan shaped cluster of bats painted in a patriotic motif. This one was "All American Fan". Also inthe lobby area are a few benches that were labeled as having come from the dugouts in Cinergy Field, as well as a row of Crosely Field lockers stuffed with memorabillia from that era. Another case has President Bush's jersey from when he threw out the first pitch. Above that case are some reds photos, and accross from the lockers and display case is the combination ticket sales counter with a small souvinir selection. Observant eyes may notice the restroom signs came from Cinergy Field.

We showed our game day tickets and were thus allowed to purchase the museum upgrade for $5 each. A railing seperates the lobby from the first gallery in the museum. We showed our tickets and were admitted to enter the museum area. The first room is dominated bu a gigantic bat that was marked as a trophy. It also said that it was a reproduction as the orignal has gone missing. Also in the area is a scale model of the Reds first ballparl, the Palace of the Fans. On the other side of the roomis a row of lockers from Cinergy Field and a display dedicated to the Red's World Series Sweep of 1990. In this area it also contains Marge Schott's seat from Cinergy Field, and Shotzies World Series Collar which was made to resemble the player's rings.

In another corner sits the organ from Cinery Field, it would be a bit more impressive if they had it turned around where you could see the organ console, but they do play a recoding of the Crosley Field organist. This room is meant to be a waiting room for the introductory movie that is shown in the theater. The theater entrance is designed to look like the entrance to the "Palace of the Fans" a movie starts about every 15 minutes, just wait for the automagic doors to open. You do, also, have the ability to bypass the movie, just go along the bypass hallway, its a long narrow hallway lined with historic Reds photos on one wall, and sports cartoons on the other. We had seen the exhibits in the waiting area, and shad about 10 minutes until the next showing, so we looked at the photos and cartoons in the bypass hallway while waiting. We then returned to see the movie.

They have done their best to make the theatre seem like you are inside a ballpark. You sit on bleachers looking at the outfield wall. Before the movie starts you see a vintage style scoreboard the kind where they change the numbers by hand. The scoreboard is a video projection, which is where the movie is shown. It sn orientation movie gives you a bit of Red's history, the mission of the Red's to inspire todays youth and all that, but let's face it the real purpose is a highlight reel of the Rd's greatest memories. Its a very good film, and at the end the automatic doors open up on the other side of the theater. The next major thing you come to is a window looking out at the plaza next to the ballpark, to the Rose Garden specifically. This is the spot where Pete Roses 4,192 landed, the spot identified by the white rose. I placard by the window tells the Pete Rose story. This is also the stairwell, and lining the stairwell is a case with thoussands of baseballs, one for each one of Pete Rose's hits. The museum continues on the third floor and you have the choice of taking either the stairs or an elevator (Provided by Fujitec, hey there is a big sign in the elevator telling you this!) We opted for the elevator which meant we also got to see the " Best Record in Baseball 1981" pennant. The story goes baseball had a nasty mid season strike that year, so they decided to make it two short seasons, the games pre strike and after strike. The Chamonchip games would be between those that were best pre-strike and those that were the best post strike. Although the Reds had the best record overall, they weren't best in either half so they were snubbed from the playoffs. The Red's organzation realizng it had a PR disaster on its hands quickly went to work and created their own penant supposedly overnight and unveiled it at the fnal game of the season in an attempt to appease the fans.

We rdode up th the third floor, and there is a section that shows you some of the historical items from the team's past, then aroom where they show you the business side with old payroll ledgers, transfer papers that sort of thing. In this area you can listen via phone to several recordings detailing important decisions in the Red's history. STuff like first team to pay its players, the decision to add lights, and more.

The next area seems to be the heart of the musuem, this is where the kids can act like their baseball heroes and the young at heart can pretend they are baseball heroes. In the center of the room are several dsplays of players jerseys and stuff, but each one has a video monitor, press a button, get a recording of a baseball tip from that person. Then there are the interative exhibits, the first one is a photo opportunity. The corner of the room is done up like the outfield wall compete with a mural showing baseball fans behind it. They will even loan you a glove and ball so you too can act like you are going to the wall to catch that long drive at the last moment before it turns into a home run. Further in there is a pitching cage where you can pitch balls at a target on the other end and try to get strikes instead of balls, and around the back of that wall, you can crouch down and put your head in an umpires mask that looks through a special window into the pitching cage. Here you get to call the balls and strikes. I didn't notice if it told you how good you did, but the people watching the pitcher know becuase the strike zone is clearly marked on the wall. On the other long wall is a batting cage, hey you know they had to have one. Here though, you don't get into the batting cage, instead you manipulate a bat through the fence. Further along there is a place to get a photo op of yourself in the dugout, and you can get SParky Andersons advice by calling him on the dugout phone. There is a scale mode Crosley Field in the area, and a kids room off to the side with a small baseball themed climbing structure and baseball glove chairs. The kids room even has la section that looks like a baseball locker room complete with unifroms, cathers mask and all the various baseball equipment for the young ones to handle and look at. Elsewhere they are gloves to try on, bases, and even a section of astroturf you can feel. At the end of the interactive area is a media booth. You want to be Marty and Joe, here is your chance, step inside the broadcast booth, and watch a play on the video monitor (cleverly done to look like you were looking out the press box window), as the play transpires on the screen, you make the radio call. At the end it will let you hear how Marty and Joe made the call. Oh, and the other museum guests out in the main gallery have a speaker and a monitor so they can judge your performance. There is another monitor that when you sit inside the press box in the museum it makes it look like you are in the real press box. Nifty.

But what about the game from the fans's perspective, the last "interactive" room is done up like the ultimate Red's fans family room. All kinds of red's memorabillia line the walls, the bars, the bookcases, the floor (watch out for those slippers). A TV shows various films about the Red's and in addition to the couch potato overstuffed lounge chairs, you can sit in your choice of Cinvery Field seats, they have all four color categories present, and yes you can see that the yellow seats were padded.

From the interactive aream you heas into a more formal room, the main thing here is a big sculpture of the players of the Big Red Machine. The scultupre is so big you can walk around and in between the players, really get up close to their statues, pose for photos or whatever. On the other side of the room are the World Series trophies and rings.

Finally the last room is the actual Hall of Fame with the stately looking plaques on columns, aranged historically so once you find your era of Red's fandom you can see all your heroes, well except for Peter Rose, he isn't in the Cincinnati Hall either. At this point you either take an elevator or stairs down to the first floor directly into the Red's main gift shop. Well, thats what you normally do, the gift shop decided to close early, yes it shocked the museum guides as well. There solution was to have everybody backtrack through the museum and exit out the entrance. So in this case the movie bypass hallway in effect becomes the exit hallway. We exit the museum and note that from there it is easy to access either the ballpark admission gate or the parking garage. Oh, and for a limited time which has now expired you can get a good look at the Cirque Du Soleil complex.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Purple People Bridge Cl!mb (Climb) - 9/4/06

On Labor Day, I decided to do something completely different: I climbed the Purple People Bridge.

I have a full Photo-TR of the experience posted on my Trip Report site:


(Text of report is below - but I'd highly recommend the illustrated version, just click the link above)

Purple People Bridge Cl!mb

Trip Report: Purple People Bridge Cl!mb

Purple People Bridge over the Ohio River

Base Camp: Newport on the Levee,Newport, KY

September 4, 2006

The Purple People Bridge

One of the newest attractions in the Greater Cincinnati area is the Purple People Bridge Climb, or as they like to call it the Purple People Bridge Cl!mb. This particular Bridge Climb is the only one in the entire Northern Hemisphere, let alone the United States of America. This means that you may be asking yourself:

What is a Bridge Climb?

A Bridge Climb (Cl!mb) is a trendy tourist attraction that endeavors to offer guests a unique and novel experience. In this case that experience is scaling the superstructure on a large bridge. It is the kind of small group personal experience where you get the services of a guide who gets to know each participant on a first name basis, has an enthusiastic personality, presents interesting information, and goes out of their way to make your experience the most it can be. Also, as an experience, all equipment and training you need is included in the base price. Once they have you up there, you can also enjoy seeing the riverfront area from an entirely new and interesting viewpoint. As if that isn't enough for you, there is also the much puffed sense of achievement they hope to instill in you. The adventure-sport of bridge climbing comes to us from the land downunder, with the first two climbs in Australia and New Zealand. To be clear, no technical climbing skill is required, if you can handle steep stairs and ladders, you too can Bridge Climb. Ok, so now you are probably asking:

What interested you in paying to Bridge Climb?

I admit, that I don't consider myself your typical candidate for the Bridge Climb experience, and probably would have sumarrily ignored it if not for one thing. Several years back I was watching "The Amazing Race". "The Amazing Race" is a television reality show where teams race each other around the world on an international racecourse in the hopes of winning money. Along the way, they must perform tasks in order to advance in the race. In season 2 of The Amazing Race, the race went through Sydney, Australia. During that leg of the race, teams were required to retrieve a clue from atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Their means for reaching that clue was to participate in the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb. As such, the attraction was given a generous amount of television time and I instantly took a liking to it. The experience looked to be novel, safe and fun, and at the same time managed to not look challenging or difficult. But,that was half a world away, so I figured that was that.

Step into the time machine and warp forward to November, 2005. I was surfing the internet and reading roller coaster message boards. On on such board a thread popped up "Purple People Bridge Climb - Would you do this?" I glanced over the thread, and it wasn't too long until I was pointing my web browser at the official Purple People Bridge Climb website. I scoured the official site for information, and I really liked what I saw. I was even fortunate to find a shockwave file that contained a Powerpoint style show that laid out the attraction as well as the business case for the attraction, financial projections, and detailed operational materials. As an amusement park enthusiast, I do have an interest in the operational side of the business, and the presentation helped satisfy a curiosity for how the attraction works on an operational level. It has stuff like "A typical climb" where it laid out the timetable and what happens when, went over all the safety precautions, and then got into some ROI type discussion. I am glad I had the thought to save the show to my local hard drive, as that was soon removed from their website. I knew I wanted to go for a climb, the question was when. There were some constructions delays, so by the time the attraction opened, I was going on my major summer vacation, then I was just too busy, and it was too hot to climb in July. I started thinking about the Bridge Climb again in August. One of the things that brought it to the front of my mind is a major change in the pricing structure was announced. Originally, climbs were to go for about $60 with peak times at $80. In August they instituted a new scheme where not only was the peak time premium eliminated, they announced weekday climbs for only $40. It's starting to get reasonable. They also announced a teen/student price of $30 which allows them to post huge advertisements with "Climbs start at just $29.95" I note on their website that all Cl!mbs are only $39.95 starting September 17, I wonder if this means they are not exactly meeting their goals, or if its just an off season special.

It is also true that I am, shall we say a bit oversized. I know this has caused me grief on some rides and in looking at the promotional pictures, the Climb looked like an activity aimed at the trim and fit athletic type. I had concerns about my weight and girth as they relate to the size of the climbing gear. I could not get an answer to my questions on their web page, and I was a bit embarrassed to ask over the phone. Then one night in early August, I was meeting some friends for dinner over at Newport on the Levee, so I thought I could arrive a bit early and do some research. I took a bus to the Ohio side of the river. This allowed me to use the Purple People Bridge for its main purpose, which was to cross the river, and at the same time I could perform my own visual inspection of the bridge. I could see some of the catwalks that have been added and verified the stairs didn't look too steep. Way above I saw the achievement bell at the top of the highest span of the bridge, and I could see how low down to the bridge deck the climbway comes at points. To make it clear, whenever the climbway gets low to the ground, they have posted signs warning against unauthorized climbing. As I was walking along the bridge, I heard the bridge climbers before I saw them, It seems the securement to the static line makes quite a racket. When I reached Newport, I visited Base Camp where a ticket salesperson was friendly, answered my questions, and gave me a brochure. I leaned the weight limit is 310 pounds. I may be heavy, but I'm not that heavy. When I commented about if they have a climb suit my size, she laid aside my fears by saying that they have taken people larger than me on the climb. I thanked her and went off to my dinner.

I had made plans to go in the middle of August, but as fate would have it, it rained that day. I was then sitting surfing the net on August 30 when I wondered, "Does the Labor Day holiday count as a weekday or weekend in terms of bridge climb prices?" I checked the on line ticketing computer and learned that it would count as a weekday, and that there were times available. Having unsuccessfully tried recruiting partners to go with me, I checked to make sure my schedule was clear, then went ahead and made a reservation for September 4, 2006 at 11:30AM. Moments later I was the proud owner of a Cl!mb Ticket. The week between me buying the ticket and climbing, I took researching the attraction to new height .by carefully reading the press releases and studying the PR photos I was able to identify the type of safety devices used. You could say I had post ticket purchase jitters,I don't consider myself to be athletic or physically fit by any stretch of the imagination. I mean I have climbed to the top of the cupola of St. Peters Cathedral in Vatican City which is 540' up so I know I have the endurance when I want to. Would I be able to complete the cl!mb, or would I humiliate myself in public. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The morning of the cl!mb.

The day started much like any other day. I got up, got ready, and we left to head to Newport on the Levee. My ticket had said to arrive 15 minutes before my reservation, so of course being the good punctual person that I am, I padded an additional 15 minutes onto that, and pulled into the Levee parking garage right around 11AM, the garage was running a special so the parking fee was only $2. I then headed towards their Base Camp. The Base Camp is located on the street level of the Newport on the Levee complex, but it is not accessible from within the levee complex. So I left the garage at street level, walked out the front door, around the Tropicana and started to walk down the side alley alongside the levee complex. The Base Camp is marked by a sign that looks like a section of the Purple People Bridge is coming out of the side of the building. I found it odd that while there was a United States flag and an Ohio flag on the marquee , the flag of Kentucky was noticeably absent, which is curious as Base Camp is in Kentucky, and most of the Ohio River in that area is Kentucky. It was at this point that that I arrived at base camp.(My Mom headed to find a good bench where she could watch the river go by, and have a prime view of the proceedings on the bridge)

Purple People Bridge Climb Base Camp - Exterior

I walked into Base Camp at about 11:10 and proceeded to the ticket counter/registration desk. I was greeted warmly and, as I suspected, was told the 15 minute early request is to pad the arrival time so that the entire group is there ready to start at the scheduled time. I was free to mill about Base Camp and was told that the experience would start exactly on time. So I milled around the front room of Base Camp which is essentially a gift shop. Colorful miniature world flags streamers ran the length of the room to provide an international cosmopolitan feel. Alongside one wall was a giant mural of he bridge and on the walls were video monitors. In the center of the room was a 4 panel video wall, with other smaller monitors spread about the room. The monitors attempt to describe the bridge climb experience. The one I thought was really clever is the one that looks like CNN, but when you look closer, all the stories are about the Bridge Climb. Between the two sets of front doors sits a concession stand, in the back right corner of the room is the merchandise sales counter, in the back left is the ticket counter and the attraction entrance. In the back center is the video wall, and an opening covered by a black curtain. There are also certain convenience facilities located along the back wall. This would also be a good time to make use of those convenience facilities because they will the last ones you will be able to use for some time. In their store windows, they have some promotional pictures of the climb as well as a framed carton that appeared in the local paper. Its a cartoon that came our right around the time the attraction opened and features a drawing of the Bridge Cl!mb and shows a climb group making their way to the summit, to find a Starbucks and a climber from another group sitting outside at a table working on a laptop. The climb guide is saying "Ok, get hipper than us!". Oh wait, they have this cartoon in the photo gallery on the official site.

Gift shop inside Purple People Bridge Climb Base Camp

While I was waiting, Dave who appears to be the main person in charge of the attraction that day, does that make him the Cl!mbMaster? Anyway , I was wearing a Xavier shirt, and some one else coming for the tour was in UC apparel. That's good to kill a few seconds, and Dave is apparently also a Musketeer fan. Before I knew it I was looking at 11:30 and it was time to enter the attraction.

"The Adventure Begins"

The 11:30 group was already standing around the attraction entrance so Dave didn't need to call too loudly for us to assemble and meet in the first room. As we entered the first room, tickets were collected and scanned to ensure authenticity. I handed in my eTicket and was admitted to a small room. On one side were a short set of bleachers (2 rows), on the other side was a plasma screen monitor and an audio visual cabinet. A rolled up climb suit and hat sat atop the audio visual cabinet for decoration. Once our group was assembled and seated, Dave indicated that he was going to show us an introductory video. I note that our group contains the maximum complement of 12 eager Cl!mbers.

Pre-Cl!mb Briefing

The video starts with a montage of what most would consider to be true extreme sports, or extreme attractions, which as you may guess culminate in presenting the Bridge Cl!mb as the newest extreme attraction. The video then tells the story about the Sydney Bridge Climb and gives a little introduction about the 'sport' of Bridge Climbing. The video then gives a bit of history about the particular bridge you are climbing, how it was built in 1872 as a railroad bridge. It goes on to give a little history about how in later years it was converted to allow vehicular traffic. Later on in life, first the railroads stopped using the bridge, then the road was closed. The bridge was even scheduled to be demolished as it was obsolete. In an unusual move the bridge was purchased by a private concern who turned it into a pedestrian only bridge linking the Newport on the Levee complex to Cincinnati's riverfront parks. The latest chapter in the bridge's life happens to be the Bridge Cl!mb. The video them attempts to put a Haunted Bridge spin on the show, by telling the story of poor Engine 49. It left Ohio and turned onto the bridge headed to Kentucky, but as the tale goes the train never made it to Kentucky. The bridge and the river were searched and no sign of the train was ever found, but sometimes late at night, you can still hear the train whistle blowing as the train is still trying to make it to Kentucky. After the entertainment portion of the video is over , the real briefing starts. A host comes on and describes the entire procedure you are about to go through, as well as details some of the health and physical restrictions. Instead of describing this portion of the video, just keep reading and I will take you through what all happens. At the end of the video is a montage of the areas other fine attractions that you may enjoy after your Bridge Cl!mb, as well as details on other climb experiences you may have such as a night climb, or a themed party climb. Cue the obligatory enthusiastic ending, "It's Over The Top!" "It's Over the Top" is their slogan, and they use it as much as possible. Some of our group commented that the video itself was Over The Top.

Right as the video ends, a sliding purple door opens into the next room. It's sort of like a theme park walk through attraction where you are led from room to room. In the second room, there are two benches, one on each side. Already sitting on the benches are clipboards with legal paperwork. We were asked to take a seat and a clipboard. We were then asked to read the legal paperwork, while we were reading it, Dave was going over the main points.

Purple People Bridge Climb Safety Sign

That warning sign is posted behind the ticket counter as well as on the wall of the second briefing room. Dave pretty much read that sign to us verbatim. The legal paperwork has three main sections. The first section details the physical restrictions, health restrictions and physical requirements. You are to read that and certify that you are physically fit to participate in the Bridge Cl!mb and don't have one of the preexisitng conditions indicated. They also ask you to not participate if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I thought I heard that a Breathalyzer would come into play here, but I suppose they are going more on a visual check. The second part of the legal paperwork is the Waiver of Liability, this is the meat of the document, this is the part where you sign away all rights to sue and release the operators from any liability. Basically participate at your own risk.. What kind of risk, you may ask? Well that's the third part of the document, the "Assumption of Risk" its a downright scary part to read and you are to read it and certify that you are fully aware of all the nasty things that might happen to you. Oh, and somewhere in there I think they threw in a "I agree to abide by all Bride Climb rules and directions", and that you won't try to defeat the safety systems. As you are finishing up reading and signing the "Very Scary Looking Legal Paperwork", your guide is inspecting your footwear to make sure it conforms to the requirements. For us, it was "I see your all wearing gym shoes, very good."

Satisfied that everybody has completed the legal requirements, is properly attired, and hasn't gotten scared away by the "self select out" safety presentations, the next purple door slides open and you are admitted to the clothes store.

Suiting up.

The clothes store is where you are issued your non safety gear related Bridge Cl!mb attire. Each person is issued a one piece jumpsuit which is a garment that includes shirt and pants in the same garment. Given today's weather they opted to issue us the short sleeve jumpsuits, they also had hats available should you want one. I also noted they have a digital scale in the clothes store area, and I was just as happy that I didn't have to step on it. I mean I know I am well under the limit, but face it, no one likes to see their weight revealed in a public setting. Posted on the walls in the clothes store area are signs letting you know that all clothing is laundered after each use. Dave told us that the best way to judge a jumpsuit size is to start with your t-shirt size as a baseline, he also commented that they tend to run small. Given that advice I requested a XXL jumpsuit, and was then shown to a changing booth. The changing booth is a bench between two partitions with a curtain in front for privacy. Oh cute, the curtains are purple and yellow. I guess you could not tell those were Bridge Cl!mb colors. I did not get a photo of the changing area, but I see one on the official site photo gallery. You can look at that photo here, it should open in a new window, I'll wait for you to look at it and come back.

Okay, I am now in my changing booth. I have no trouble getting the issued jumpsuit to fit, in fact it doesn't even feel tight. We were advised to remove our shoes to make it easier to get our feet through the pants legs, as the bottoms of the pants legs are elastic. The pants portion and most of the top portion of the suit is purple, with the top half of the top yellow with purple trim on the shoulders, ends of the sleeves and collar. Of course it has a Purple People Bridge Cl!mb logo on it. Now I know part of the purpose of the grey jumpsuits on the Sydney Harbor Bridge is so that you blend in with the bridge and don't distract passing motorists, here they have gone the complete opposite route and chosen a suit that will stand out from a mile away. The purpose of the suit, well you can think of it as being part of a Bridge Cl!mb Team and that's your team uniform, they can draw the attention of potential future customers, they make you look like Purple People as you climb the Purple People Bridge, or there are the more practical reasons, for one they can't be assured you will be properly attired to be wearing the safety gear provided, by putting you in a jumpsuit of their choosing, they can be assured you will be properly attired, and the other reason they probably don't mention. The jumpsuits do not have pockets, and once you have that zipped up, then the safety gear on over it, it will make it that much more difficult to get to any loose items you may have smuggled about your person in violation of the briefing you just attended. Also in your changing booth is a sign promoting a Climber's Special in the gift shop, basically you get 25% off in the gift shop IF you buy your souvenirs the same day. They also issue you a plastic container for your loose articles. You are urged to put any and all loose articles into the plastic container, and are especially forbidden to bring cameras and the like. I know, I can hear the groans, I am groaning with you. The prohibition of personal photography equipment takes away half the reason to climb to a high point, such as the top of a bridge in the first place.

When you leave your changing booth, you can proceed to the locker room to wait. The locker room is in the center of the changing area. Each person is issued a locker, and told to store all their loose articles, stuff like keys, cell phones, cameras, camcorders, loose jewelry, and an other items you would be heartsick if you lost. If it falls into the river, you may never see it again, and if it lands on the bridge deck, it could seriously injure an innocent bystander, and the fall could damage the item. Did I mention you are prohibited from taking loose items with you, it said so on the sign. I went ahead and emptied out my pockets into the locker, and removed jewelry. I see the photo reveals I forgot the watch but I don't consider that to be a loose article. I do wear eyeglasses, so I requested and received the use of a eyeglass strap to secure the glasses. I usually don't take my glasses on amusement rides, but considering the climbing, steep stairs, sharp dropoffs, and more importantly this grand view I am paying to see, I want the glasses with me on this go around. So I lock up everything in my locker, and take the key. Their solution for the key is the the key is on a lanyard that goes around your neck, then you tuck the key inside your jumpsuit and zip up. The collar of the jumpsuit is velcro, so the key is not going anywhere. At this point Dave introduces us to Mark, who will be our C!mb Guide and instructor, he will take us through the rest of our experience. Mark takes over with our group and Dave departs.

The doorway between the locker room and the harness store has been fitted with a metal detector. I'm not saying they don't trust you but, short of a strip search they are trying to ensure you aren't smuggling anything on the Cl!mb with you. It seems good cameras and camcorders will trigger a metal detector, and I suppose its also good for that occasional nutjob with a weapon. Before you are allowed to enter the harness storage area you have to successfully clear the metal detector. One at a time we were screened, and told to wait in the next room. Once everybody was inside the harness store, it was time to start issuing safety gear.

Along the walls of the harness store area are racks of full body safety harnesses. Mark passed one out to each person, and when he came to me he managed to very politely skip over me in order that he could get me one of the larger harnesses. Once all the harnesses were passed out, Mark led us through putting them on. The harness can look intimidating at first, as it has several orange and black straps, as well as one giant metal loop. His advice was to put it on like a jacket, making sure the metal loop winds up on your back, and being careful not to twist any of the straps. Once that's done, you fasten the chest strap. The two ends of the chest strap look to have metal ends that appear to be the same size and shape. There is a trick to positioning one sideways in relation to the other and pushing it through. It takes a little bit of force and effort to get it fastened, but once it is through the buckle untwists so that the two metal ends are sitting right next to each other and therefore isn't going to come loose on its own. One you have it fastened you pull on the metal end you just pushed through to tighten he strap, then work the tail of the strap through the buckle and keeper. Next comes the leg straps, there are two straps, one for each leg. They run from the back of the harness, through your crotch, and then fasten to buckles located near the front of your hips. He cautioned to make sure we don't get the two straps crossed over or tangled with each other. Now, most of the harnesses used the same style buckle as with the chest strap, however I suppose on "big boy" harnesses they use regular pin buckles, like on most belts. I suppose these hold up better against the heavier weight involved. I did notice the belt holes were reinforced with metal grommets.

It was at this time that he advised us that you probably don't want all the straps to be skin tight, yes you don't want any loose play in the straps, but you don't want to overtighten them either. Overtightening, he warned can lead to the belts chaffing.against your skin. After everybody had the leg belts fastened, the final adjustments were to the two front side belts. The adjustable end is on top, so presumably as you tighten the front, it removes the slack in the back as well. When you are done, the front looks like a giant "H" and the back looks like a giant "X", with the big metal hoop about where the two back straps cross. So we made the adjustments to tighten the front belts. After people had finished adjusting their harnesses, he advised us to take a couple minutes to just walk around the room. We are going to be in these harnesses for close to 2 hours , so you want a comfortable fit, and this will let you know if perhaps you did overtighten those leg loops. After we thought they were comfortable, he had us line up at attention so that he could perform a final inspection to make sure they were all applied and adjusted properly. A glance at the tag revealed the Titan brand name.

After the harnesses were adjusted, he took a box and walked behind the row of future Climbers, as he passes each of us he clipped a length of heavy duty strap known as a lanyard to that big hoop in the middle of our backs, then he handed us the other end of the lanyard. You know from earlier in this report, that I had did my Bridge Cl!mb homework and thought I knew what sort of high tech securement device they were going to use, I was satisfied when I looked down at the heavy round object in my hand, and the label says "Latchways". I was right that the key component is the Latchways transfastener. This device is much talked about in the press releases for the Bridge Cl!mb, and you get a pretty good introduction to them during the experience. After he had handed everybody their lanyard and transfastener, he introduced them to us. He said that the transfastener will be our friend up on the bridge. He told the story about how they were invented. In his story, it was invented for a nautical application, it seemed there was a company that was having men go overboard way to often for their liking, so they wanted a way to tie them down to the deck during choppy seas, but still have the freedom to go about their work without being bothered by the safety system, from there came the transfastener. Put another way, he told us how in typical fall prevention systems, your lanyard ends in two caribeaners. The beaners will keep you attached to the static line okay, but there is a problem. Whenever it is necessary to change the direction of the static line, you need to have a junction to make sure the line stays its course, and if you have a particularly long straight section, its a good idea to put in a junction so the static line doesn't develop a sag. With the traditional two caribeaner system, when you come to a junction, you have to manually move the two caribeaners over the junction one at a time. If you follow the proper procedure you will remain attached to the static line by at least one caribeaner at all times. The problem with that is there is room for error, either through laziness, forgetfulness, or machoness (and though not mentioned it would make it too easy to detach yourself from the static line if you wanted to). The transfatener solves those issues, for its main claim to fame is that when it comes to a junction, or as Mark called it a gate, the transfastener is able to move right over the gate while staying fastened at all times. In fact it can't be removed just anywhere along the static line, which makes it ideal for moving groups of strangers where the only thing you really know about them is they were willing to buy a ticket. I looked at the transfastener, and as I mentioned it is basically round in shape, and look something like a fishing reel. There is an orange cap on each face, but the interesting part is the guts. Inside it is a a star shaped wheel that looks sort of like a cog wheel. My totally uneducated guess is that when you come to a gate, which is two metal hoops that loop around the static line, that the cogwheel turns,fastening the transfastener to the new stretch of static line, before it releases itself from the old stretch. How it mechanically does that I have no clue. The other interesting piece is a pie wedge shaped metal piece that can be moved around the side of the unit. You may wonder why I am spending so much time on the safety gear, well, for one it interests me, and for another I have a keen interest in safety, particularly my own. Might as well include a photo of a transfastener in its natural environment from The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Hey, the press releases all made a big deal about those transfasteners, I am just following suit, particularly because the articles state they list for something like $1,200 each. Now that we have been properly suited up and issued our safety gear, its time to move on to something really exciting. No, not the bridge yet, before you can climb the bridge, you have to climb the mini bridge.

Hands On Training

We are taken into the Cl!mb Simulator. The key piece of furniture in the Cl!mb Simulator is a miniature bridge, the bridge deck on the mini bridge is about 5; off the ground, and the bridge is about 20' long and maybe 2' wide. The mini bridge is made of the same basic construction style as the climbway you will face on the real bridge, and is equipped with a static line.

Purple People Bridge Climb - Mock Climb

The above photo is not of my Cl!mb Group, but of another Cl!mb Group I saw later in the day. Mark walked up over to the foot of the 'bridge' and proceeded to demonstrate the safety system. The first step is getting connected to the static line, you can only do that at certain places. The access points look like a split in the static line where it branches to form a rectangular box shaped section. He recommended holding the transfastener like you were hanging a christmas ornament, set it down onto the access point with the shuttle slid over to the right, then once it is seated slide the shuttle around to the left, and move the transfastener along the static line. As soon as it leaves the access point it is locked to the static line until you reach another access point, and that won't be until the other end of the bridge. I suspect that shuttle is the actual latching mechanism, and then when you slide away from the access point, the static line itself blocks the shuttle from moving back to the unlock position.

Purple People Bridge Climb - transfastener entry terminalTo the left you can see the particular part I am referring to, these are the only places where one can attach to or detach. Mark proceeded to climb the stairs on the mini bridge far enough to reach the first gate and explained that a common beginner mistake is to be macho and try to use strength to get the transfastener across the gate. He explained that all that will manage to do is make a louder clanging noise. Instead of strength, its accuracy and finness that are going to help you clear the gates. As long as it is aligned it will glide right through, sometimes without you even noticing it. If you are misaligned, then it will stop, all you need to do is reach down and hold the transfastener at the same angle as the gate, and slide it through. Mark then came back down the bridge and disconnected from the static line. He then instructed us to attach to the static line and climb up to the bridge deck and wait for him. He stood at the base of the stairs assisting people get attached properly. It's one of those things that's probably so easy once you have done it a dozen or so times. The first gate is located at the top of the stairs so he was also able to assist people there. There were a few more gates along the flat surface on top of the deck to get you good practice. Once everybody is at the top of the mini bridge he asks everybody to turn to the side and face him. He will give the next part of the training standing on the floor below looking up. He then introduced us to the simulator by saying that this will be very similar to what we will experience out on the real bridge except that it isn't quite as high. It doesn't show in the photograph but the floor of the area is painted with a river water effect, and the wall you are facing has a riverside scene on it. That way, what you see while on the simulator is sort of like what you will see on the real bridge. He then said he had to add one more effect. He flipped a switch and some high power fans came on to simulate a windy day. Nothing that would come close to knocking a person over, but enough that you get a feeling for what it might be like. Purple People Bridge Climb - Transfastener gate We then learned that we weren't quite fully outfitted yet. (Note the photo appearing on the right shows what the 'gates' look like the transfastener is able to easily travel across. )

Sitting on the mini bridge handrail in front of us were our radios. We were first handed what look like normal portable two way radios that come secured in a belt holster. We were told to fasten the radio to the hip strap of the harness, the holster having a stiff strap that secures with two snaps. After the radio itself was attached to the hip strap, the next part was the headpiece. We were told the headpiece goes on like a crown with the microphone in front. There is one adjustment strap on top that secures with velcro to ensure a good fit. It was noted that what look like earpieces do not go over the ears, instead they go right behind the ears. The headpiece is another part of the high tech gear. I can hear John Hammond of Jurassic Park fame proudly saying ,"We spared no expense!" The big deal here is that the headsets use bone conduction technology, which is a technology I totally don't understand, but the benefit of it is that you can easily hear both the radio and the real world at the same time. Sitting about 2 inches or so from our mouths were microphones. The last part of the radio gear involved a small round disc that we were told to clip to one of the front side straps of the harness. The round disc had a button mounted on the front, in order to talk on the radio, you need to press in on the button while speaking. We were told to make sure the channel selector was set to Channel 5, and then Mark started talking into his microphone so that we could adjust the volume to a suitable level. Next it was time to make sure that everybody's radio was working, and that everybody knew how to use their radio. The easiest way to so that is to go down the line and introduce yourself to the group over the radio. After the introductions, we did some small talk, again entirely using the radios so you get used to their function, and the quirk that seems to throw some people off, the fact that when you transmit, you don't hear your own voice through the headset. Mark asked about what the groupings were, and other small talk. When he asked me what my group was and I said "Solo", he responded
"I always like the brave souls who go it alone"

From there we turned from small talk to some more serious matters. He advised us to pick out who we want to be next to, because as we can see, you can't pass anybody or change the order once the climb begins. He also mentioned some stuff about the static line, how it has huge springs that act like shock absorbers on each end. He stressed that as we can see there is no way we can come detached from the bridge, and that the safety system is able to handle the load even if multiple people should fall at the same time, for some unknown reason, say a sudden tornado. We were told the simulator is like the real climbway so there are railings on both sides as well. He told us that the reasons for the radios are plenty, for one its so that everybody can hear his narration, but this is to be an interactive tour. There will be audience participation, and if we want to join in the discussion, to do so over the radio so that everybody in the group can hear you. When you are all in a line a person who is away from you wouldn't be able to hear you. Along with that interactivity, your Climb Guide is there to serve you, if you should have any questions, or if you need assistance don't hesitate to call him over the radio. Also the buddy system is in effect here, if you should see someone else who is struggling, needs assistance, or has lost the nerve and needs encouragement, to let Mark know. He also said right out that if you see anybody misbehaving, like say climbing up on the hand rails, or trying to get out of their safety gear, or tampering with someone else's gear, that Mark is just the push of a button away. Oh, and of course should anything unusual happen to listen to Mark who will issue further directions.

After this discussion, it was time to talk about descending. The rules of the bridge are to always face the bridge steps, thus means facing forwards when going up, and backwards when going down, its just much safer and easier that way. On both the practice bridge and the real bridge, the static line will be to our right when facing forwards. We were to then climb down off the practice bridge, so when you get to the other end, rotate to our left until you are facing backwards then climb down the stairs. When we got to the bottom of the practice bridge, Mark detached the transfastener for us, out of our sight, and handed it to us. We were then given a break to use the water fountain. In the gift shop, a man that at least has a striking resemblance to Dennis Spiegel (the man that owns this attraction) who wished us a good day and said it should be a great day for Cl!mbing. So at this time we parade out of the briefing area and back into the gift shop. After everybody had their water break, we parade through the gift shop and out the front door. We then proceeded as a group up the alleyway to the bridge.

Now it's time for our Feature Presentation: The actual Bridge Cl!mb

It's now time to scale this:

Purple People Bridge prior to Bridge Climb being installed

Okay, maybe not quite that extreme. The image to the left shows the Purple People Bridge back before the Bridge Cl!mb climbway was installed. (Image to left courtesy Don Flint of .) The image below, which is one of my own ,shows the Purple People Bridge after the Bridge Cl!mb climbway was installed.

Purple People Bridge Climb - the first ascent

We approach the Purple People Bridge. For those who are unfamiliar with the superstructure of this particular bridge, there are 5 spans with the structure coming all the way down to the bridge deck between each one. The first four starting from the Kentucky side are roughly the same height, and the fifth and final span is much higher. I do wonder if the guardrails in front of that display case are detachable, otherwise I don't see any way to change that poster. I also note that poster looks badly faded. We would start our Cl!mb from the Kentucky side and work our way towards Ohio. The photo above is what you see as you are approaching the bridge, it happens to be just past the entrance gate. The gate you see at the other end does not lead into the Cl!mb Area, instead it is part of the gates that close off access to the main pedestrian bridge during those times the bridge is off limits. For example, the night before the bridge closed at 5pm so that it could be rigged with explosives for the city's major fireworks show. They launch fireworks off of a couple of the city bridges, including the much raved about "waterfall" effect. As I was watching shells go off all around and over the Purple Bridge the night before, I actually started worrying about what if the fireworks damage the climbway. Okay, I don't think they call it a climbway, but if you walk across the pedestrian walkway, you must climb across the climbway, right?

Before we enter the Climb Zone we pose for a group picture at the base of the bridge. Mark claims this was a test photo to make sure he had enough memory and battery left to last the duration of the tour. Cynical me thinks that this photo is to document who all began the bridge climb. He commented that the firm that built the fence around the Climb Zone has been around for many years, and their primary product line is jail cells. So therefore this will help to secure the climbway against unauthorized climbers. The gates in the fence are key open on both sides, and I notice they have added a padlock that wraps around the gate with a steel cable when the attraction is not in use. Mark opened the gate and commented that this is the last point of escape. If you proceed beyond this point, you have reached what coaster fans call "The Point of No Return" and are committed to completing the climb.

We enter the caged area, and Mark closes and locks the gate behind us. It is interesting to note the stairs don't go all the way down to ground level, instead their is an approach ramp, then a flat area before you begin the climb. Mark assists everybody in attaching their transfasteners to the static line. That's it the group order is set. "There's no turning back now" We proceed up the ramp and wait on the flat part at the bottom of the stairs. We are officially welcomed to the bridge and we take another group photo, this one with our arms spread wide. This photo is taken with Mark up several stairs. Humorous group shot of everybody preparing to climb, or documenting the climb order, you decide. You may remember that participants are prohibited from taking cameras, however they send one with your Climb Guide. Mark lets us know that if we see anything we want a photo of, or see any pose we would like to make (say a particular building in back of you) to let Mark know, and he will be glad to take any and all photos you want.

The First Span

Mark tells us to wait at the bottom, and he is going to climb to the top of the first span, Once he is up, he radios for the first person in line to start climbing. To make sure everybody was comfortable with the stairs we were told to make this climb one at a time. To put us in the mood, Mark turned on a loudspeaker mounted just before the stairs, the speaker played the Mission Impossible theme. So we took our turns climbing up the stairs, mark had mentioned that there were 25 stairs in this flight. They were a little bit steeper than your average stairway but not too bad. I found the best posture was to hold the handrail with one hand, and the lanyard with the other. The reason for that is as was mentioned sometimes the transfastener doesn't smoothly cross the gate, and reaching down behind you to address the problem is awkward. When we reached the top we waited on a slanted area just beyond the stairs. I noticed we passed Mark who was supervising the first climb. It seems that Mark's safety gear is slightly different in that he IS able to detach from the static line when need be. After everybody was up we were congratulated on making the first climb, and he asked if anybody was out of breath yet. We then started walking across he bridge, now for all the detail I remember about the experience itself, don't ask me to repeat the narration. I can remember what was said about certain topics, just not the order. As we started off we could see the cleaning crews and the last remnants of Riverfest. We chatted briefly about who went downtown to watch the fireworks in person. I recall the BB Riverboat "Belle of Cincinnati" was docked and Mark pointed out that is flying a black pirate flag (Jolly Roger). This led Mark to tell us about a recent riverboat race between our boat and one from Louisville. It seemed that the Belle Of Cincinnati won that race, but was disqualified because it had used too much electric power and not enough of the traditional steam power. It seems the Belle of Cincinnati crew didn't take too kindly to being disqualified, so on the way back, they pulled up aside Louisville boat, boarded it and stole the trophy. Some police boats met the Belle of Cincinnati further along the river. Legally, if you come aboard someone elses ship and steal stuff, its Piracy, so now the Belle of Cincinnati flies its pirate flag with pride.

And look at that now its time to climb down several stairs. Mark reminds us to turn around backwards. At first I start to rotate right instead of left. Luckily common sense will soon alert you that this is wrong, so you can make corrective action, See if you rotate left you are always keeping your back to the static line, and therefore the lanyard doesn't loose any of its effective length. If you rotate right it causes the lanyard to wrap around your body, needless to say to don't want anything wrapped around your legs going down stairs. Its nice that it should alert you that you goofed up, but the good news is its easily correctable. When we reach the bottom of the stairs, we notice our view to the left to be obstructed by a big grey metal sheet. Mark comments that the bridge also carries a major electric line between Cincinnati and Newport. When the climbway was installed, Duke Energy came along and installed these guards which will shield participants from getting anywhere near the dangerous power line. Mark commented to not lick the metal panel.

Purple People Bridge Climb - between spans 1 and 2 - note guard over electric lines

The second span

We then climb right back up onto the second span. Mark points out the Newport Aquarium, and how from the air it resembles a viking ship. Mark also asks if anybody knows what is right next door to the Aquarium. The answer is of course a seafood restaurant. Mark pointed out the delicious irony, and combined a plug for the new Shark Touch pool with the quip, when a shark has been worn out from too much petting, it gets sent next door to be the shark special. He talked about the bridge we were on and how the color purple was chosen in a poll. We laughed about the Over The Top story about Engine 49, and Mark noted "We may have made that up, but who knows" Mark also asks who here actually read the entire legal document? Okay did you note the part where it says we aren't letting you out of those suits for three days. You have to wear them to work or school as advertisement for us. Along the way there are loudspeakers and occasionally a sound effect to go along with the narration. For example, Mark pointed out Great American Ball Park, talks about how the riverfront side is pretty open by design so that those passing the city on boat can follow the game, and sometimes boats stay around near the stadium to enjoy the game. Mark asked what happened here on September 11, 1985. That of course was the date of Pete Rose's 4192 hit. At that Mar cues up the radio call of that famous hit on the loudspeaker while we are looking at the ballpark. He also points out the bat and ball painted on the back of the scoreboard which are supposed to be the bat and ball used for that hit. I may have noted that sometimes the transfasteners don't smoothly cross the gates and need a little coaxing. I got an idea of the effectiveness of the harness as a fall arrest harness can become a forwards walk arrest harness. This happened to someone else later in the group who was walking a bit faster, and Mark quipped, "Now you know how the kiddies in the child harnesses feel". We came to the end of the second span, again down a short flight of stairs.

The Third Span

We climb up to the top of the third span. Here is where things start to get interesting. Up to this point, the climbway has been a straight path, on this span you make a right turn and walk over to the other side of the bridge, then turn left and go forwards a bit on the other side, then turn left to return back to the other side, and finally a right to continue forth. At this point of the tour, Mark stops to get everybody's small group picture in one of the turns. This is where you can have just your couple or just your family in a shot. Or just yourself in a shot as the case was with me. Mark also points out the big yellow bridge to our left, its the bridge you crosses over if you use I-471. HE asked us what the name of that bridge was, and like most people answered its the "Yellow Bridge", or the "Golden Arches" or the "Big Mac Bridge" or the "McDonald's Bridge" So the bridge is somewhat kind of shaped like the logo for a popular fast food chain. He then asks does anybody know the real name of the bridge. Its the "Daniel Carter Beard Bridge", now for bonus point, who was he? Well, he is best known for starting the Boy Scouts, right here in the Greater Cincinnati area. Here is a shot of the two bridge discussed so far, you can tell the span on the left is the third span because you can see where you cross over to the other side. High up on the hillside to the left is Mt. Adams and Immaculata Church.

Purple People Bridge Climb - second and third spans - Daniel Carter Beard bridge in background

Also while we were on top of the third arch, the loudspeaker played a spiritual, and this was the cue to plug the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the museum nestled between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.We also looked at Serpentine Wall, which is a Cincinnati riverfront park, the shape of Serpentine Wall meant to resemble the shape of native american burial mounds. We also talked about the original name of Cincinnati, which was Losantivlle. I believe Mark has the story I have always been told that it is a contraction of French words that roughly translate to "City across from the mouth of the river", which refers to the Licking River. Which led to a bad pun about what to do you get if you follow the Licking River, you eventually come to a University, which one, well its Morehead. I believe this was one of those jokes that was custom tailored to the group. Mark did say repeatedly that we were the most rambunctious group he had ever had, and some members of that group really need to get their heads out of the gutter. We also had a group member that proffered an alternate explanation for Losantiville. As for myself, I'm the quiet type that just likes to take it all in, and then be able to recall it later. Oh, and look at that we have reached the end of Span 3. Time to go down some more stairs, for the express purpose of going up some more stairs. I am officially putting this down as my aerobic exercise for the day.

The fourth span

Purple People Bridge Climb - between spans 3 and 4

In the photo above you can see the fourth span of the bridge, with the higher fifth span sitting behind it. We climbed up to the fourth span. Here is where we were introduced to the story of the Suspension Bridge. The Robling Suspension Bridge. We were told how it was the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, but we learned a lot more. The story goes that the Suspension bridge we know today was not the first in the area. There was one over the Licking River. Unfortunately that bridge failed and had a nasty collapse. So when the Suspension Bridge was built, they had trouble getting people to trust it. So they held a publicity stunt, they managed to get 120,000 people to walk across it the same day, how did they manage to do that, well the area has a strong German heritage, so what better than to set up a stand passing out free beer at the center of the bridge. Mark noted there would be no beer at the center of our bridge climb. He also noted that during some of our city's great floods, the Suspension bridge was the only passable bridge, all the others were washed out, and that was only because they piled sandbags on the Suspension Bridge, and at that you were just inches above the water level. We also talked about the year of the Great Blizzard, the year the Ohio River completely froze and people walked across it. Our sound clip for this span as we were nearing Cincinnati was the theme song from WKRP In Cincinnati. Oh, and we also noted familiar names for the Suspension Bridge, such as the Singing Bridge because of the sound it makes when you drive over it, or the "Blue Bridge" Are you noting a trend with our city and identifying bridges by color? Mark also noted their was a poll in Cincinnati Magazine to name your top tourist attraction in the area. It wasn't anything downtown that won the poll, Cincinnati voted Newport on the Levee (where the Bridge Climb Base Camp is), as the areas top tourist attraction. The irony being that the attraction isn't even in Cincinnati. Speaking if irony, I love irony, like how this is a photo intensive trip report for an attraction where picture taking is prohibited. It may be well known that I am a roller coaster enthusiast, and coaster enthusiasts love to get Point-Of-View or POV shots of rides. No, I don't have one of these I took myself, but again thanks to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, here is a POV shot of this part of the Cl!mb.

And look at that we are already going down the stairs after Span 4. Before we climb Span 5 its time for a regroup. Up to this point we had been climbing stairways that were raked at about a 50 degree angle, this next stairway is much tighter and raked at a 65 degree angle. Therefore he asked that we climb it one at a time for added safety. He also mentioned we may want to be very mindful of our shins.

The Fifth Span

Purple People Bridge Climb - starting the big climb up to the top

Okay, looking at that next stairway, I am more inclined to use the word 'ladder' As directed, we made the cl!mb up the fifth span slowly and carefully. Remember, this isn't a race, there are no prizes for speed. Someone asked if anybody has ever freaked out when they got to this point and wanted to turn around. Mark reminded us that the transfastener system makes it impossible to pass, which means even if they wanted to they couldn't without inconveniencing every person behind them. We reach the top of the fifth span.

Welcome to the Summit of Mt. Purple People Bridge

A lot takes place on top of the fifth span, for one it is the highest point of the cl!mb, so more time is given for general sightseeing. We talked about Mt. Adams and the system that is in place to artificially cut back the hills to create those impressive hillsides. He mention the Church of the Immaculata and their famous Good Friday tradition of praying the steps, some on their knees. We turned around and looked at another famous church, the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. He mentioned the fact it has one of the largest stained glass windows in the world. We talked about the Chiquita Building and how, at least Mark interprets the building to be in the shape of a banana, oh and the weather beacon on top. We talked about the Procter and Gamble Building, and Mark said to use our imagination for a popular local alternative name for it. We also talked about the Carew Tower, how its the highest building in the city, and is a great place to get panoramic views and photos. I want to say he compared it to the Empire State Building. We also talked about the Convergys Building and how it was being finished just in time for the Red's to sweep the World Series in 1990. Mark quipped about how possibly using it as additional unofficial seating as you could look into Riverfront Stadium helped quicken the pace of construction. Mark also pointed the three big rock formations next to the Purple Bridge which are icebreaks to break up any ice before it can get to the Public Landing in Cincinnati.

Also atop the summit we staged several goofy group photos. There was the Chorus Line Shot, there was the "Act as a referee as the Bengals have just scored a touchdown" shot, complete the Bengals fight song on the loudspeaker. Then there was the "Look at One Lytle Place and act like you are shocked and point at something" Mark also quipped that we were the largest group he has ever taken up. Let me refresh your memory that we had 12, and their maximum group size is 12. He acted like he had trouble getting us all in the group photos, and acted like he was leaning back over the railing to get the photo. He even commented as how he was risking a fall for us, the cold hearted yet humorous response from the group: "As long as you get the picture" Which led to a "Where is the love?" In this area there is an area where the people who built the Bridge Cl!mb decided to sign their names to the original bridge ironwork. It is interesting because its way up in the air, no visible supports, and far enough where you can't hope to reach it from the climbway, just how did they sign that? Mark had also pointed out to us that if we ever wanted to see what spent fireworks casings look like, there are a few littered about the bridge structure. He told the story about how he was taking one of the last groups across before they closed the bridge and the Cl!mb to prepare for the fireworks. The Rossi crew was down below starting to set up, and they hollered up to him, "Make sure nobody is smoking up there, would you?"

Purple People Bridge Climb - Achievement Bell

Now we come to the part of the tour where they hope to instill a sense of achievement. Here is the part where you can proudly proclaim to the World (okay, at least to the people walking below and the immediate area), proclaim that You Cl!mbed The Bridge. How do you do that, by the time honored tradition of a Victory Bell, well they call it the Achievement Bell. Inscribed on the bell is the Purple People Bridge Cl!mb Logo and an inscription about it being the achievement bell. The bell was cast by a local Cincinnati firm, the Verdin Bell Company. I have visions of the first season of Survivor where they had to bong the gong whenever they entered Tribal Council.

So, one at a time, you get the chance to step forward, ring the bell, then go around the next corner and wait for the rest of the group to have their turns. You can tell a lot about a persons personality by the way they ring the bell. The first person tried to extend their 3 seconds of fame by ringing the bell repeatedly. There were a lot of double rings, some lets see how loud I can ring the bell (that was my choice, BTW)., some couples who rang the bell together, some who actually needed to be encouraged to ring the bell. As you ring the bell, your guide takes your photo. I admit it, I was a soft touch for the Achievement Bell photo.

Purple People Bridge Climb - Dave rings achivement bell

Yep, there is your chance to see the webmaster of Coasterville. I'm the one ringing the bell in that shot. Going back to the earlier safety gear discussion, you can pretty much see everything in that photo, the jumpsuit, the orange and black harness, the radio headset, look carefully under my right arm to see the yellow lanyard, and then the transfastener appears to right next to my right hand. You can also see the Newport skyline behind me.

From the achievement bell we come to another signature part of the attraction, the glass bridge. For a short span on top of the fifth span, which is 140' up in the air, the regular metalwork climbway goes away and is replaced by plexiglass. This is meant to be a real shocker for those who might be afraid of heights, and at the very least cause some to take pause. Mark noted that the BridgeCl!mb did in fact suffer from damage due to the fireworks, it seems part of the plexiglass bridge is discolored from getting hit with a hot shell. Here is where some people like to lie down on the glass and act like they are flying. Mark was happy to get photos of those so inclined. The idea is supposed to be that you can't see anything below you, and the glass bridge is built out over the river not over the bridge support structure. That effect would work if not for one safety precaution, the surface has several small ridges in an apparent anti-slip surface. This is clearly visible in this photo from the official website. I gently rubbed my foot against the glass surface to confirm those were in fact ridges. We proceeded across the glass bridge, and Mark told us the story of a special effect they have already decided to discontinue. Part of the glass bridge is designed with an optical illusion that makes the glass appear to be cracked. The idea was to have a loudspeaker next to it play cracking glass noises as somebody walked over it. They decided to tone down that gimmick. The broken glass effect would work better if it wasn't your guide who crossed over it first. I'm sure it was a great idea but it just doesn't work well in reality.

After the glass bridge we return to metal climbway. We note some speed boats racing below, and Mark tells the tale of how once there was a boat race going on below that just happened to be using the same radio frequency as his tour group. This led to some confusion on the parts of both the boat and the climb group, particularly when one was giving directions that would not have been good for the other to follow. We also note some slower moving pleasure boats, and we lean slightly over the rail to wave down, and the wave back up.

We then walk along a section of the top span that is sloped downwards at a non-trivial angle. this leads to the end of the climbway, all that's left is the ladder back down to the bridge deck level.

The final decent

Folks, when I get scared, I'll say I got scared. Right before the final descent was when I cringed for a few seconds. Here you are walking down a steep ramp, then you have a bout a foot of flat space, then its the sheer dropoff as you look at the top of the tallest single climb of the day, the ladder back down to the bridge deck. As I suspect this is the most dangerous part, they stress you go down the final ladder one at a time. So when I was in the on-deck circle to be the next to go down, I peered down the ladder. Bad move. What's that famous line?, "Don't Look Down!" The good news is I recovered by the time the person in front of me got to the bottom of the ladder, so I was able to smoothly descend the ladder. Mark had quipped, please NO sliding down the bannister, its just a wee bit too steep for that. I reached the bottom, where there is another flat surface and then the ramp down to street level. As I passed Mark he unclipped the lanyard from my back and took the lanyard and transfastener. I mention this to point out, that they a) don't let you see the lanyard being attached or removed from your back (and hey its in the small of your back, its difficult to manipulate familiar objects there, let alone strange ones), and b) don't let you see how to remove the transfastener from the static line. I'll file that under ignorance is bliss, and they figure that if you don't know how, it may just add another layer of discouragement from acting up. We were then kept in the cage at the other end of the bridge until everybody was safely off the bridge. Here is a photo looking back right after one finishes up. (Taken well after my Cl!mb, the camera can fit through the bars of the cage to get the photo, even if I can't)

Purple People Bridge Climb - that long final ladder back down

We did manage to have one last good laugh at the expense of the two women at the front of the pack. They indicated they REALLY needed to use the restroom, and Mark played it up for the group by saying they had to go ever since the mini bridge. Anyway they were hot to trot, and went running for the cage door, which of course was locked. Mark too a page out of classic comedy when he pretended to futz around being unable to locate the key, maybe we'll have to wait here for the group behind us to come down, and use their key. Of course he didn't make them wait long, and produced the key. Besides, Mark quipped, you all still have laundry to do. He was even kind enough to relieve them of their radio equipment to lighten their load. These would be the two who were running an Olympic Sprint across the bridge, in climb harnesses trying to desperately get back to Base Camp.

The rest of waited for Mark to lock up, then we parade back across the Purple People Bridge along the regular pedestrian walkway. We did note a crew from Rossi's Famous Fireworks was on the main bridge deck cleaning up the remnants of their show. There was time for small talk, thank-yous and the like as we made our way back to Base Camp.

Debriefing or "Put your toys away"

Back at Base Camp, we were led back into the area that had the mini bridge to an area where the radio equipment is stored. At this point we handed in the radio equipment. We were then taking back to the harness storage area. Along the way Mark pointed out the hampers where we can return all the clothing we were issued. Back in the harness area, Mark started to give harness removal instructions, but I think most folks could figure that out. Really, once you release the chest strap and the two leg straps it can easily be slipped off. We then took our harnessed over and hung them on the racks provided.

We were then readmitted to the locker room and changing area. Most folks decided to just slip off the jumpsuit in the harness storage area. A big warning, there are some chairs there, but there is a big foot locker that looks like it would make a great bench. Don't get tempted, I saw someone almost take a spill who did. I slipped off the jumpsuit and returned to the locker room. I unlocked my locker and refilled my pockets with everything I had left behind. I then made to exit back through the climb simulation area, which means I got to verify that yes a cell phone will set off the metal detector. I chucked the jumpsuit into the laundry hamper and followed the rest of the group who were making a fast paced walk to the restrooms.

After that was taken care of, the group reconvened in front of the merchandise counter. You are presented with your award, an official personalized Climber Certificate:

Purple People Bridge Climb - my Climber Certificate

You also receive a complimentary group photo and frame:

Purple People Bridge Climb - my group photo

Then you gather around the small video monitors of the merchandise booth, and a slideshow is shown of the photographs your guide took, there is a nominal fee (just above $5) for each photo you want a 4x6 print of. May I hearby suggest having an option where say for $20-$25 they will burn you a CD of all of your groups photos? I hear Disney World is trying that method.

I then milled around the gift shop some more, as I may have mentioned they have a more extensive gift shop than some theme parks, I mean they have the usual shirts, hats, jackets, sweatshirts, shot glasses, coffee mugs, magnets, keychains, plush toys, and the more much much much more. I opted to go with a mousepad, and a refrigerator magnet.

Back for More?

I then made my way out of Base Camp, where I proceeded to meet up with Mom and we then enjoyed a nice Newport Aquarium visit and dinner at Johnny Rockets together. After dinner I took another round trip on the regular bridge deck to get the photos you see above, as well as others of the local area. I then showed Mom what Base Camp is like, and she was able to watch a group on the climb simulator mini bridge. Of course, in walking through the gift shop, Mom and I looked around and I wound up with a Purple People Bridge Climb purple golf shirt with an embroidered full color Purple People Bridge Climb logo. The shirt really does look sharp. I also snagged a couple postcards to send to friends. I made my way to the checkout, and recognized and thanked Dave for the experience. Dave said he thought he recognized me, but more importantly the cashier overheard the conversation and pushed the button on the register that rolls the prices down 25% to the Climber's Special rate. How nice of them.

And so ends the tale of my first ever Bridge Climb (Cl!mb). I know I enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

For additional photos of the Bridge and the surrounding area as taken from the main pedestrian deck, visit my Yahoo Photo Gallery.

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