As the glass elevator took me up to the VooDoo Lounge on the 51st floor of the Rio, the cars and buildings below got smaller and smaller. That’s when the reality of the situation hit: Am I really going to climb over the edge of the roof and rappel down the side of this building?
It seemed like a good idea from the ground. After all, the Over the Edge event was to raise money for the Special Olympics, so why not? (Members of the public were invited to do the drop Oct. 8, provided they could raise $1,000 in donations. In all, 55 people went over the edge, raising $51,000.) I had rappelled from a helicopter at about 150 feet while in the Army, and that was enjoyable. But it was also than 20 years ago, so maybe my memory was playing tricks on me.
At the VooDoo Lounge, I ran into UFC star Frank Mir, who also was about to take the plunge. Mir told me he was more nervous about going off the edge of the Rio than into the Octagon. That only added to my profuse sweating.
After signing a waiver stating that I was aware a fall to my death was possible, I was strapped into a harness and given a quick tutorial on how to control my descent. As I thrust my legs over the north side of the roof, my calves cramped as I made contact with the slight ledge, seemingly screaming at me to reconsider, but I ignored their pleas. Once I began my 410-foot journey down the glassy exterior, I paused often to admire my unique view of the Valley. It took me about 10 minutes to reach the bottom, where I was greeted like a conquering hero.
It felt good to be back on a horizontal plane, yet I had one recurring thought afterward: I can’t wait to do it again next year.