Sunday, April 2, 2017

50 for 50 #8 -- Zorbing with Steve

When I first suggested to Steve that he should join me for bouncing down a hill in a big plastic ball, he was skeptical.  Even more so when I suggested early April.  But the weather cooperated with us in a big way; it was over 70 degrees, and the Zorb location on a nice sunny hill made it seem warmer.

So, after a morning breakfast, the morning purchase of a hairbrush (the FOURTH I've bought on a trip -- seems I keep forgetting to pack them), Steve picked me up at the hotel, and we went directly to ...

... the other alpine coaster.  It IS warm here in Pigeon Forge, but the weather doesn't hit the high until about 4:00, and doesn't even get close until after noon.  Although we'd been promised something like 76 degrees for the high, it was barely 50 at 10:00, so we decided to burn up our Groupons for the second alpine coaster while we were waiting for it to warm up.

Which, long-story-short, resulted in us riding it twice, because, again, the ambiguity in the Groupon description ("one ride for up to two people") was interpreted in our favor (instead of, "the sled goes down once with one or two people in it," it was "have two tickets; use 'em how you want").

By the time we finished that, it was time for a quick lunch (Steve and I had BOTH thought of going to Chick-fil-A, but he remembered at the last minute that it was Sunday), and then off to the Zorb establishment.

From the outside, the Zorb looks like it is taking a leisurely trip down the hill, gently bouncing as it goes.  But you're on the inside -- actually, you're in a small sphere inside the larger one -- and from that angle, you're tearing down the hill pretty damn quick.  They put you (and up to two of your friends) in the ball, put in just enough warm(ish) water so you're sitting in a puddle, and send you down the track.  I sort of think of it as a self-contained water slide; and you're the mat.

We had a Groupon (of course we did) for one ride each (really) but we encouraged them to upsell us on a pack of three each.  After all, they had three separate tracks.

The first track is a slight zig-zag track.  You'll see no video of that, because, apparently, when I'm trying to operate my GoPro without my glasses, I don't quite see the difference between "video" mode and "burst" mode.  So there are 30 really quick shots of us sitting in the zorb, just before they let us go.

I was laughing all the way down, until I started coughing on some water.  Then I thought, "the reason they put water in here is so that nobody notices if you pee yourself," and just started laughing again.  

The next ride down was the "speed" track -- straight line.  There's video of that.

The third track is a big zig-zag.  They claim it's the more advanced one, and it's too ... I'm gonna say "dangerous" ... to ride it with someone.  It didn't seem much more involved than the first zig-zag, so we decided to do that one.  Since I'm the more adventurous of the two of us, I went down first.

Holy.  Freakin.  Cow.

The first two times down, Steve and I sloshed around that thing at great speed.  Alone on the zig-zag track, the Zorb hits the railing and the impact makes me fly up (inside the Zorb, of course).  I came back down, limbs flailing.  This run was wild, barely-controlled, just levelled-up Zorbing.  (I'm sorry I didn't capture it on video -- I was on "burst mode" again.  Doesn't matter, though, after about 15 seconds, I lacked the ability to keep the camera aimed in my general direction.)  I came out of the Zorb at the end-- There is no way to do that and keep your cool exterior -- I was a laughing, out-of-breath, drowned rat, sliding into a pile on the ground.  And I thanked the dude who helped me up, and then asked him to get on his walky and "tell my friend not to go."  He asked if I was serious.  Oh man, yes.  I'm serious.  Steve does not seek out adrenaline; if he goes down that track, there's a good chance he won't speak to me again.  Dude radios up there.  A few minutes later, I see a Zorb coming down that track, and I'm just thinking, "please be a little kid in there."  But it was Steve, and he didn't hate me!  (He didn't get the warning, either, but that's not important.)  So fun!  And we cross another 50 for 50 off the list.

But we're not done with Pigeon Forge yet.  THEN we went over to Dollywood for a few hours.  

For my California friends:  Dollywood is a sizeable amusement park that has a Country Charm theme; a bunch of rides that are good for kids, older kids, and wussy adults; a zip line course (for an extra fee); a bunch of shows (it's "Festival of Nations" time -- with several shows of international performers); a church; and a bald eagle reserve.  And the rides are going to have themes like "volunteer firefighter" or "Wild Eagle."  It's all good wholesome American values, and I say that without a hint of snark.  Look, I know (BELIEVE ME, I know) that, right now, "American values" has somehow become a shorthand for the not-so-great values held by some of the more extreme supporters of our current President.  Dollywood is almost a reality check -- let's take the politicians out of it and remember that things like volunteerism, helping others, preserving nature, and learning about other cultures are ALSO American values.  Props to Dollywood, really.

Steve and I rode the volunteer firefighter coaster, which is fun but not hard core.  One of Steve's friends, Jimmy, happened to be in the park, and he was happy to introduce me to a few of the coasters that weren't Steve's cup of tea.  (Jimmy is fun.  Hi Jimmy!)  Two fun facts.  Fun Fact One:  The Wild Eagle Coaster is a freakin' marvel of modern roller coaster engineering.  Smoothest fucking coaster I've ever ridden.  The cars are shaped like eagles' wings.  The track runs up the center of the eagle and wings (with seats for two people on each side) dangle on either side.  So as the ride twists and turns, your side goes up or down, like the wings of a soaring eagle.  I used words like "beautiful" to describe it.  Total unexpected treat.  Fun Fact Two:  The volunteer firefighter coaster had a 45 minute wait; we WALKED RIGHT ON the Wild Eagle.  Conclusion:  Dollywood is including rides aimed for a hard-core theme park audience (they're testing a 20-story drop tower), but the audience it's GETTING are the families who want the more moderate coasters.  

But we still weren't done.  (But I can't imagine anyone is still reading.)  After all that, we went to the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud which was way more fun that I'd expected, with toe-tapping music (heavy on the banjo and fiddle) and a high-energy boot-stomping (and tap-dancing) cast.  Minimal plot.  Fart jokes.  And pudding for dessert. 

And sleep.

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