Donut On Ice

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I recently had the opportunity to try snow tubing for the first time. It was to be a fun outing with my work crew after a day of meetings. The last such work outing was rock wall climbing, and I didn’t participate, but took on the job of official event photographer. So this time, I decided I’d give it a try. I even suggested the activity, thinking it might be somewhat like sledding, and I used to love sledding. Surely this couldn’t be much more daring that that, right?

You see, I am a big wuss when it comes to any sport or adventure type activity. I have no balance, no grace, no physical strength, little coordination, am afraid of heights, get dizzy easily, have trouble getting up and down (being an old fart), and am basically a big baby. I don’t do sports. Especially extreme sports. But I happen to work with a group of wonderful, young, adventurous, physically fit folks, and I wanted to be a part of the action this time. I should have thought it through more carefully before committing.

So, towards the end of our meetings that day, I started to get a bit nervous about the whole tubing adventure to come. There was some brief discussion as to whether we should cancel, due to warm weather, and slushy/icy conditions. I was hopeful for a minute that this was my easy way out, but darn the luck…they decided to go for it.

I had packed my snow pants and boots, and just getting them on in the concession area, filled with able, bundled, fearless kids was enough of a workout for this old gal. I headed out to meet the group, who were all very patient with me, and encouraging. I took stock of the situation, watching others racing down the hill, cheering and screaming, having loads of fun. All I could focus on was how high the hill was, how the tow rope was working, and the speed with which they were hurtling down the hill.

After more encouragement from some of my co-workers, I decided it was now or never. I still imagined it couldn’t be much different than sledding down a hill. So, after consulting with the guy working the tow rope, I plopped myself onto my tube in what he described as the proper position. This was an effort in itself! They hooked me onto the tow rope, and I was off. Unfortunately, and unexpected, I ended up riding up the hill backwards. This made me dizzy, and even more fearful of what I had gotten myself into, as I couldn’t see where I was headed. At the top, my friend said, “Oh, there’s a little bump at the top, but it’s no big deal.” It was indeed a big deal to this wuss.

Tossed off the tow rope, and into a divot in the ice, I was trapped like a turtle on its back. I gave it the heave-ho, and rolled off the tube, onto all fours. Stylish move, admired by many, I’m sure. I dragged my tube over near the top of the hills. After some more advice from friends, I sort of knew what to do. Choose a hill, flop back onto my tube, and GO!

Well…first, I had to have a small panic attack, complete with lightheadedness, seeing stars, and feeling like I was going to either hurl or pass out. I leaned on my tube a while until my head cleared. I also used this down time to assess the scene and see if there was ANY possible escape, without going down the hill. I didn’t see any way out, so I decided to just get it over with, still saying to myself, it can’t be that much different than sledding, right?

So, I flopped back onto my tube, and was told to use my arms and legs to scoot myself over to the edge. Poor calculation and inexperience on my part placed me too far from the edge of the hill, so there was much scooting to do. I could have just gotten up and moved my tube closer to the edge, but that was a lot of effort, so I decided to just scoot. Well, a person of my age and build does not scoot. No, it’s more like flail and pant. Back to the turtle on its back analogy.

After what seemed like an eternity, exhausted, dizzy, and fearful, I finally reached the precipice. I grabbed the handles tightly and pushed off weakly. After all, I didn’t want to get going too fast. Someone had said keep your feet down, so I pretty much dug the heels of my boots into the hill as I went, hoping it would both ground me and slow me down.

At this point, several things happened that I hadn’t anticipated, and that were nothing like sledding down a hill. First, I started spinning, and ended up backwards most of the time. Backwards and spinning = dizzy. Not good. Next, I realized that there was a zig-zag effect taking over, bouncing me from one side of the hill to the other, lilting up at each side, and catching a bit of air as they call it. Zig-zagging and bouncing = dizzy. Not good. Then there was the fact that I was backwards, much like the tow rope portion of the adventure, so I couldn’t see where I was going, or how much longer I had to endure this wonderful ride. Not being able to see where you’re going = fear of the unknown. Not good. And last, there was the feeling of being totally out of control, and the occasional fear of taking a tumble and being thrown from the comfort of my little tube onto the unforgiving icy hill at high speed, surely ending in severe injury or death.

In order to keep from puking or the fear taking over completely, I started mumbling, “I’m hurtling…hurtling out of control.” It wasn’t a very positive mantra, but it let me focus on something other than sheer terror. After what seemed like forever, I finally hit the grassy area at the end of the hill, and came to a jolting stop. Once again, I rolled myself out of my tube, and got up and joined some of my co-workers. They were all very supportive and congratulated me for doing it. The first thing they asked was, “How was it?” My first word was terrifying. Next someone asked, “Are you ready to go again?” There was a split second where I thought I might, now knowing much more about the previously unknown world of snow tubing. But then, I came to my senses and said no. Why would I want to repeat this episode of freaking dizzy terror???

After the rush of the experience was over, I started to think about other things I hadn’t even considered. Like anyone who might have been watching me at any point in the process. Why the heck is that gal still at the top of the hill, and so far from the edge? How long has she been up there? Who gets off of a tube like that? Who gets herself to the edge of the hill like that? What was she thinking, trying such a thing at her age? All of the things that factor into the embarrassment score. While I am proud of myself for having given it a whirl (poor choice of words), the embarrassment score was fairly substantial. And by the way, snow tubing is NOTHING like sledding!

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