Only my closest friends and family know of my 2 major fears, I am quite terrified of wax people and ventriloquist dummies and I am a tad bit claustrophobic. These are not things that are a problem in everyday life. I don’t go to shows with dummies. I stay clear of wax museums. I do not mind elevators as long as they aren’t packed with people. I get by as long as I can readily access an exit.
While on our trip I decided to test my intellectual control over my emotional response to these fears. Two months ago Bill and I went to a Ripley’s Museum in Oregon and it was coupled with a wax museum. We walked through the Ripley’s Museum and Bill headed into the Wax Museum. After checking my exits I continued with him into the first room. They had several themed rooms (not that I saw them LOL). The first room was made to look like an old movie set. There were wax models of dozens of characters from different movies. I stood with my back to the wall and tried to breath. As we looked at the models I tried with everything in my being to accept that they would not move and could not hurt me. After about 10 mins Bill wanted to move on to the next room. I realized I would have to turn my back on a room full of wax figures. Well THAT was that. I backed my way out of the entrance and waited patiently outside for Bill to walk through the rest of the museum.
My head throbbed my heart leapt and I turned into the basic of all human responses and my response was FLIGHT! I blame this particular fear directly on my brother. My older brother, Mike, loved to watch horror movies and scare the heebie jeebies out of me and my younger brother, John. A few of the movies he watched with us were the Waxwork movies. I fully anticipate the wax models are going to come to life and kill me and no intellectual thought was gonna get me through it. I failed but at least I tried.
My fear of enclosed spaces is a tougher nut to crack I am not entirely sure where it comes from but it is strong. The one time I had a full blow panic attack was in a line for a rollercoaster at Universal Studios Orlando It was too warm, the ceiling in the room was too low, and there were too many people between me and an exit. The only other time I have had a bad reaction was watching Kill Bill when they bury the bride alive. I had to walk to the back of the theater and stand in the doorway.
So after the experience at the Wax museum I was not too thrilled with the idea of exploring a Cavern. Everything about this told me it would be a bad idea. Our friends, Char and Forrest, had suggested we visit the Kartchner Caverns. Bill was excited and so we talked about it. I was very hesitant. Char told me there were no tight spaces and so I started mulling it over. I told Bill I would go and talk to the staff at the caverns about how the trip would go. We got to the State Park and I spoke with the staff member. She assured me there were not tight spaces and that it should be fine. The tour cost $23 and I really didn’t want it to be a bust. I agreed against my internal will and decided I was GOING TO DO THIS. We walked through the visitor center learning about Stalactites and Stalagmites and I was becoming more amenable. We went to watch a movie about the 2 guys that found the cavern. This might not have been the best plan. Several times in the movie it shows them crawling through passages not even as wide as their shoulders. It must be like being born again and again… not something I find intriguing. I will likely never get on my belly and CRAWL into a cave… There are just things I am not willing to do. I went through my breathing exercises and tried to remember why I was there. I wanted to learn about the cavern and it’s world.
We went out to meet the group we would be joining on our trip underground. They go over rules and talk about the living cave we are going to enter. Then you get on a tram that takes you up the hill. It was about 50 degrees and windy and everyone was shivering on the way up. We got off the tram and walked up to the entrance. You have to take off your jackets outside so you don’t create more lint then necessary inside the cavern. I balled up my jacket under my arm like a football as directed and we headed in. There were about 30 people in our group. We entered into a middle chamber and they closed the door behind us. My heart picked up it’s pace. The room was warmer and humid. The average temperature in the cavern is 72 degrees year round and 99% humidity. Coming from 22% humidity and 50 degrees it was a stark transition. The next room you enter is another chamber that has you walk under a mist that helps stick your fibers to yourself and helps any loose fibers fall to the ground so they will not enter the atmosphere.
This added to the humidity in the room. I continued to breath and focus on the reason I was there. I wanted to learn. Finally we were ready to enter the actual cavern. We entered into an area where the ceiling was probably 7 feet at it’s highest point with a sloped ceiling. It was very dark and cavernous. LOL I should mention each new section we entered meant one more door between me and freedom. The ranger began to talk about the room and I began to think I had wasted $23. My stomach churned and my lungs felt tight but I AM GOING TO DO THIS. As I listened to the ranger talk about how the cavern is 300-350 MILLION years old I stopped thinking about my escape plan if the ceiling were to fall in… well for that minute anyway. LOL
We continued through the cavern learning about “Soda Straws” long calcite formations that are about the thickness of a soda straw and are apparently hollow. Fascinating! We learned that Stalactites are the formations that form from the ceiling and Stalagmites are the formations from the ground. We learned about Stalactite columns that are the meeting of a Stalactite and Stalagmite and creates…well… a column. It was neat learning about the way water can build things.
Each time we walked into a new section I would breathe and say to myself, “This thing has been here 300,000,000 years it is not going to fall on my head today. “
At one point some dingbat in the group (no not Bill) asked about EARTHQUAKES! Why would you go into a cavern and start talking about EARTHQUAKES? Oy! Some people. The ranger talked about how the guys that found the cave would climb through the waist wide tunnels to come commune with nature. This made me want to laugh out loud at these lunatics.
We got to the final room and met the column they have named “Kubla Khan” it is 58 feet tall and a beautiful thing. We were finally done and I made it through. It was a good experience but one I do not think I will repeat. Only time will tell. Where I failed at the wax museum I thoroughly succeeded in the cavern. Funny because I would be less likely to have harm come to me in a wax museum… isn’t it odd how the brain works?