Storrs Adventure Park

Zip lines are fun.

We spent the day with our very good friends Sam and Joanne, and their child who will be identified in this blog as Mu.  The kids all grew up together so they enjoy meeting up too.

Alpha on balance beam
Alpha didn’t even pause before striding out onto the beam. It swayed but she stuck to it like a gecko.

In our absence, something new sprouted up in Storrs that Sam and Joanne wanted to show us: The Adventure Park.  It’s an aerial park – meaning that you spend your time up in the trees.  There are several courses of varying difficulty to choose from.

In order to climb, you’re strapped into a harness similar to a rock climber’s, with a couple of integrated carabiners and a zipline pulley.  The carabiners can be locked-closed, and are linked via cable.  In order to unlock one, you must lock the other, and the mechanism to unlock is built into the safety lines that guide you through the course – so you must always be clipped in.  Once you start the course, you cannot get into a situation where you’re not clipped to a guideline or tether until you reach the end — very safe and difficult to screw up accidentally or intentionally.

Alpha on high wire
Alpha looking down for her photograph. I estimates that she was about 40 feet up.

The courses include a mixture of obstacles, ziplines, and lengths of high-wire dare-devilry.  The staff is watchful and makes sure everyone is conducting themselves appropriately, as some bits can be a bit challenging.  There is one course that, we are told, active-duty Marines have trouble with.

Sadly, I did not bring appropriate footwear.  Flip-flops are verboten so I could not climb.  The girls scrambled up without a second thought, however, and left me to take photos.  I’m very proud of them!  They handled themselves with grace, and without fear — even when they were forty or fifty feet off the ground and traversing a span like a tight-rope walker.

Both kids going over a pair of obstacles
Both girls working their way over back-to-back obstacles

The park itself is remarkable.  The trees are carefully trussed to hold up platforms and guide-wires with minimal damage — nothing is nailed in, instead the cables are wrapped and tied, and the platforms are help up with wedges to provide friction fits.  Their business model works best when people feel comfortable that the space will not be damaged, so nature preserves and landowners will allow them to set up installations confident that the impact will be minimal.

Both girls ran into a bit of trouble right at the very end on some obstacles that were wreaking havoc with everyone else, too — a staff member was already up in the trees, having just helped extract the previous victim, and was on-hand to help.  The obstacles were upright-‘L’ shaped logs that didn’t behave well when stepped on.  The girls made me proud by keeping their heads, trying to extricate themselves before asking for help, and actively assisted in their rescue (rather than some other people, who just glumly hung there while getting pulled to the next platform).

We stayed and let the kids weave through the courses for a couple of hours, until the shadows started getting long and we had to start planning for dinner on the road.  All in all, it was expensive ($70 for the two kids) but well worth it.

Lovesac Sactional: The Review

The Hunt for New Furniture

We wanted — nay, we needed — a new couch.  The old one is sporting a dip so deep that only the dog can curl up comfortably.  (Oddly enough, come to think of it, it is slightly dog shaped. Why that little…)

We cruised the local furniture stores for months but we had a hard time agreeing on a particular style.  Megh kept stopping in the local Lovesac store, though, “just to sit down for a few minutes”.  I eventually got the hint that she was interested in their ‘Sactionals‘.

After much hemming and hawing, I was forced to admit that a) the furniture in the showroom is comfortable, and b) the concept — free-floating furniture that you can rearrange into chairs, couches, lounges, beds, etc. — is intriguing.

Making the Decision

We don’t currently know anyone that has anything from Lovesac.  We even asked all our Facebook friends, but nothing more solid came through than some “I really want one of their fuzzy beanbags!”  At $600 for a beanbag, no wonder that it remains in the want-to-have category.

That brings us to the price.  Sactionals are an expensive way to get furniture.  I figure that compared to a similar-quality couch that doesn’t fly apart, we’re looking at a 30% premium.  Not as bad as the beanbags, but that’s still a steep price to pay for the possibility of sitting on a fabric Optimus Prime.

Lovesac’s business model seems to involve putting their showrooms into malls and other places where you might want to take a load off and sit for spell.  Paying high mall rents may explain the price — that, and the novelty.

Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if this remained an expensive pipe-dream.  We did indeed take the plunge and buy something.

What You’re Getting

As mentioned before, Sactional furniture comes as pieces, one of two types: bases and sides.  One base and three sides makes a complete chair (or one base and one side for an armless chair); two bases and two to four sides makes a couch; and so on.  Every piece also gets a removable, washable cover so you can purchase the color and fabric style you want.  You can spend a little more (or a little less) on the covers to upgrade your furniture.

We purchased two bases and three sides, to make a couch with an open end (it seems more inviting that way).

We also purchased the standard cover, which is also one of the cheapest options.  We liked the material more than some of the fancier velour- or velvety-type covers.

The Delivery

Your furniture is delivered via FedEx.  Everything comes in flat boxes, Ikea-style, with no piece being too large for an able-bodied adult to man-handle into the house.

Sactional couch, still in boxes
Our new Sactional couch post-delivery and still in boxes, with a cat for scale. The couch it’s replacing stares forlornly in the background.

We didn’t get a tracking number until the same day everything arrived, which was a little annoying.  I rushed home when Meghan gave me a heads up, so it wouldn’t sit on the front step all day.  At least it wasn’t raining that day.

I got everything moved inside, and drove back to work.

I’m out of work and home before Meghan, so I teased her by sending photos of the of the boxes, one at a time.  She can’t stand the fact that I can wait for things.

Total time from ordering to delivery: about a week.  If we had ordered fancier (custom) covers we would have had to wait longer.

The Unpacking

After dinner we got down to business.  After moving the old couch to an empty corner of the house, we unpacked the first box: a base.

The cushion for the base is stuffed inside the base itself, and held in with a pair of wooden planks (well, sticks really).  You have to slowly rotate each stake until it comes out.  Doing so releases the cushion, which then uncovers the hardware and some instructions telling you how to remove the stakes and cushion without damaging them.

Fortunately for us the process was somewhat intuitive and we didn’t damage anything in our ignorance.  We unpacked the other boxes in similar fashion.  The covers come in their own box.

The Assembly

The first step was to attach feet and stick on no-scratch pads (which are included).  There’s enough pads to adequately cover the “shoes,” which help connect the pieces, as well.

The instructions emphasize that getting the slipcovers on straight is very important, and it is.  Getting them on at all was the hardest part of the entire process.  The covers fit tightly, and there’s no “give” if you get them on crooked.  We had to start over on a couple of pieces because they were obviously wrong, but when you get it right it’s just as obvious.

The pieces don’t clamp together nearly as easily as they seem to in the store.  It’s probably because the floor models are taken apart and reassembled frequently, so everything stretches a little.  I wouldn’t say they were difficult, but they do require a strong hand.

I was pretty satisfied with the whole assemble-your-furniture experience, but then again I like Ikea, too.  I read some other reviews about assembling Sactionals, and we seem to have had one of the better experiences.

Total time, from unpacking to sitting my ass down: about 75 minutes.

The Result

Sactional couch, assembled
Our newly-assembled Sactional couch

I’m only writing this the next day, not enough time to provide an informed opinion about longevity, but the couch feels about as comfortable as the store’s floor model — maybe a little firmer and tighter, but all new furniture does that.

It looks as good in real life as I hoped.  The kids have given it their seal of approval as well.

In the picture is our Sactional couch with one of our old pillows and a Wii-mote.  On the left side of the picture the wooden beam is part of our old futon, with a similarly-colored cover, facing the other way.

I’ll probably revisit this in a few months with our thoughts on it long term – worth the purchase, worth additional purchases, etc.