What began as a joke will end with a family seeking to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
Five years ago, as the Kauffman family traversed a zipline in a third state, their son Alexander jokingly suggested they zipline in every state. This summer, the family reached its 46th state, North Dakota, where they tried out the zipline on the new high ropes course at Badlands Ministries.
The Virginia family's unexpected tradition started after they tried their first zipline while on vacation in Tennessee.
"The kids really liked it, and then close to home we did (two) in West Virginia," said mother Joy Kauffman. "It was a fun activity to do again. I have family in Michigan, so we went up to Michigan, and it was in that zipline that my son said, ‘Hey! We just ziplined in three different states. Let’s zipline in every state.’"
Aubrey, Kauffman's 14-year-old daughter, said it started off as a joke until their mom started looking into it. Since then, they've visited several states each summer, usually between four and six, although this year they did eight. In each of those states, they ride at least one zipline.
"Usually most states have a course, so anywhere from 4 to 12 ziplines in a course," Joy said. "Some are on the ropes, like North Dakota was. It just depends on the state. Most of my research was done on ziplinerider.com. They list all the zipper places in each state. It really helped me out. I’d map it out."
The kids love the ziplines for the adrenaline and the thrill it gives them, while Mom appreciates the scenery.
"Each state has something unique to offer, whether it's ziplining over alligators or across mountains or over rivers ... we've done the whole gambit," she said.
Finding a zipline in North Dakota was a bit of a challenge.
"I kept using all the buzzwords to try to find something, and I ended up finding it by a ‘high ropes’ search, and I stumbled across the camp," Joy said. "I emailed the director and told him what we were doing and asked if he would be willing to accommodate us. He was very nice ... We really enjoyed the camp and doing the high ropes course there."
The family typically tries to see major landmarks along the way, including Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. In North Dakota, they visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
"It was great. We loved the wildlife. The scenery was very different than we expected, so that was a nice surprise," Joy said.
"We thought it was going to be a lot more flat," Aubrey clarified.
They'll finish their journey next summer in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. When they've finished, they plan to apply to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“I have never actually told any of my friends because I want to show up one day with a world record plaque for show and tell and just say ‘Hey; I’ve got a world record,’" said 17-year-old Alexander.
Once they've been to every state in the country, Joy said they may travel overseas, or at least outside of the country.
"I’ve been told that there’s a lot of ziplines in Canada, as well, so we might do all the provinces in Canada, as well," she said. "It’s been quite an adventure. We’ve had a really good time. It’s been a great family tradition."