Born to Zorb: experience a thrill that dizzies and delivers

16Nov09

Zorbing

Yep.  This is it, guys.  I have graduated from tire swings, rolling down hills in cardboard boxes, and wrestling little kids at the park for a spot on the old rusty merry-go-round that was removed anyway by cranky community members who later deemed it a “safety hazard”…  Thanks to the Kiwis (henceforth to be known as “the innovators of fun”) and a number of two-ton plastic hamster balls imported from New Zealand, a new sport has made it to North America; and, I have already partaken of its magnificence (with a snazzy certificate to prove it).

Welcome to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee–home of all sorts of tacky tourist delights, and a more pancake joints per block than there are Walgreens and Starbucks combined in New York City.  On my first trip to Zorb Smoky Mountains, I chose the Zydro.  Part slip-n-slide, part bouncy ball, part craziness.

But, before rolling down the long grooved pathways of the Zorbing hill, us new Zorbers first faced the ride up in a clumsy van.  Dusty, sunburnt Al with his lopsided grin helped everyone to their seat before zealously announcing that this little trip to the top will be half the fun and three-quarters the thrill.  No joke.  Al kung-fu’d that steering wheel like Jackie Chan, no stunt crew just a handful of eager thrill seekers tossed back and forth and into the roof, grimacing and giggling equal parts as we swerved around curves and lurched through pot holes with Al gleefully interjecting “Yeah, baby!” or “Hold on!” and “Heeeere’s a bigg’un!” the whole way.

Then, after tumbling–already disoriented–out of the car toward the giant orbs of goodness (such a serene moment on the hilltop watching the red-shirted staffers roll Zorbs into place…giant, godlike Zorbs…so clear and foreign, like an alien contraption for the keeping of humans in museums…), the time came to enter the Zydro.

Entering a Zydro demands that the clueless rider (myself) must get a running start and dive through an alarmingly small opening about chest high into the inner sanctum (smaller spherical space within the Zorb).  I doubted.  Just for a second.  Then I ran, dove, closed my eyes and prayed not to miss the hole completely, bounce back into the dirt on my ass, sore and sheepish.  Thankfully, I belly slid right into the lukewarm water in the rubber womb of the thing.  With one departing wave, the staff (who were completely unaware of how exciting this moment was) zipped the hole closed, flung open the gate, and yelled “ZORB!”

What came next, I can only describe as total disillusionment–not the depressing “I’m-so-jaded-by-the-system-I-might-as-well-become-completely-apathetic-like-the-rest-of-America-…-or-just-die” kind, but the kind where all of your senses are completely and blissfully jumbled together and you only know you are going somewhere, in some direction and might not want to get there afterall.  It’s just fun.

Onto the flat, across the bridge, and another sluggish staff member stepped in as my five-minute midwife.  With no cesarean sections or cords to cut, the uniformed help unzipped my Zorb at the proper angle for gravity to help me slip out surrounded by the amniotic fluid of this infant adventure.  Oh, the world seemed so new and fresh!–or perhaps just unsteady–as I observed it a new person, a slightly more awesome person… a Zorber!

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