Doris Heyman is not one to sit around and wait to get old. For proof, consider her latest adventure.
Heyman has gone zip lining in the Redwoods and at Crater Lake National Park, and she even went to Cuba two years ago to learn how to do the salsa. But it was her impromptu decision at the Swiss Alps that topped them all.
The 84-year-old grandmother experienced a thrilling paragliding ride in the Alps near the small mountain village of Grindelwald, Switzerland.
“It was wonderful. This might have been the best of all,” Heyman said of her latest experience.
This one was the thrill of a lifetime, 25 minutes of stunning scenery of the Alps and the green Swiss countryside below.
“It was so peaceful and so beautiful, with all the stuff below me — with the villages and the fields and the cows and the waterfalls,” Heyman said.
It was so quiet, she was able to have a pleasant chat with Bruno, her attached paraglider who enjoyed the scenery with her from about 3,000 feet above the ground.
Heyman says she had total confidence in Bruno and the rest of the crew.
“(The group’s) attitude was full of responsibility, and you could tell they take good care of their equipment,” Heyman said. “They want to make sure they come down safely, too.”
Heyman was joined in Switzerland by daughter Karen Bergin and son-in-law Mike Bergin from Petaluma, California, who were already vacationing in Italy and rented a car to drive up to Switzerland to meet up with her.
The three were transported to the top of one of the mountains, where the paragliding was to begin. But the weather was rainy, foggy and cold, and they had to wait about two hours before the clouds started to clear. When they did, it turned into a magnificent day in the Alps.
“When you’re taking off, you get all strapped in and you actually have to run down the hill and, basically, when you get to the edge of the cliff, the wind picks you up and carries you,” she said.
It was a little scary when, Heyman who stands at 5 feet tall, couldn’t keep up with 6-foot-tall Bruno as they ran toward the edge of the cliff, high above the village below.
“He was huge and I’m running down the hill and I’m thinking what if he’s running faster than me, what’s going to happen?” Heyman said. “All of a sudden, two guys running alongside just picked me up by the elbows until we got to the edge, and that was it.”
Off they went, and Heyman didn’t even have time to be frightened.
“You’re so busy running trying to keep up that your mind is not on the cliff that you’re about to jump off,” she said.
The paragliding was not planned before she got to the village, but when she saw the sky filled with paragliders, she knew she had to do it.
“It was like the spur of the moment. At every small village you would look up and the paragliders were everywhere, so I said, ‘We should do that, let’s do it.’ So Karen and Mike said, ‘Yeah we should do that,’” Heyman said.
Heyman has had some experiences that most people just dream about in traveling around the world. Some of the activities can test the mental and physical abilities of a much younger person, but it doesn’t slow her down at all.
“I did some serious introspection flying home, and I thought, ‘Why do I do these things?’” Heyman laughed. “I think I basically missed my childhood when growing up on a farm because there was always so much work to do.”
Out of all of her adventures, the scariest was the zip lining in the Redwoods, and there’s not much that scares her.
“I’m afraid of heights,” she said. “I’m fine as long as I don’t look down, and I was hugging that tree until I got in the harness and took off,” she said. “Once I was in the air and looking around and not looking down, I was fine.”
Heyman and her late husband moved to the Roseburg area in 2000, from Redondo Beach, California, where she was a police dispatcher.
Heyman has been blessed with good health and her family not only encourages her, but also goes with her.
“They invite me to all these neat vacations, but the place I want to go is Paris and they always go to Paris and don’t ever ask me,” Heyman said.
She has been active all of her life but didn’t start traveling until about age 50.
“I guess maybe I’m a tomboy at heart, and I’ve always been an avid bicycle rider. We went to Cuba two years ago and that was also an incredible trip,” she said.
Heyman is ready for her next adventure, which is yet to be determined.
“I’ll just wait for an opportunity,” she said. “But I don’t have any aspirations to bungee jump and no desire to jump out of an airplane. I don’t know why anyone would want to do that.”