Emotions ranged from impatient to anxious, excited to terrified. Everyone had their own reasons for taking the tour: a family outing, a bucket list, a desire to conquer.
The guides of Ocoee Zipz were prepared for all of the participants’ nerves.
“Honestly, I like to tell people that zip lining is safer than driving over here,” stated Ocoee Zipz guide K.T. Tranthem. “Nothing is going to happen. Everything out there is controlled and can be prevented. So long as you are careful and follow instructions, nothing is going to happen.”
The tour began with a bus ride from the Ocoee Zipz shop to the first tower, the Cowardly Lion. On the way over guide Matt Barton attempted to put the nervous thrill seekers at ease.
“Guys, we are about to approach the most dangerous part of this tour,” Barton said as the bus pulled out. “Johnny here has only made it successfully across this street twice. Its like real life Frogger.”
Tension-breaking laughter filled the short bus. After a safety talk from Barton and a fellow guide, John Smith, it was time to zip.
Anthony O’Quinn, the youngest member of the party, went first. With a running leap his feet left the tower and he was caught by the zip line.
At the end of the line waited Smith. In Smith’s hand was a rope attached to a block on the zip line. By pulling against the riders’ momentum, Smith was able to soften impact against the spongy crash pad.
“It was really fun,” Anthony said.
The Ocoee Zipz tour is designed to acclimate riders by beginning with a 30-foot tower and slowly working up to the 65-foot tower called The Wizard.
When Ocoee Zipz opened, only The Wizard was fully operational. Riders did not have the option of travelling through the escalating land of Oz.
“When I was first released, we were on the tallest and longest one and it was the very first trip I had been on,” Tranthem shared. “I had this lady who was terrified. When we got up there I got her hooked up and she freaked out. She wouldn’t go down. And, I was scared, too. Not of the heights, but because she was running back and forth and grabbing ahold of me like she was going to take me with her.”
Tranthem smiled and said, “I guess you could say it was a good initiation for me.”
At the second tower, Dorothy, Barton announced he had a surprise.
The thrill seekers watched in trepidation as Barton pushed on the wire to create a bouncy ride.
“You don’t have to do that for me,” called out one shaken rider.
Another joined, “And I’m not sure you will be able to bounce me. I’m a little bigger than [Anthony] is.”
The good-natured joking continued as the riders zipped their way through the third tower, Toto, and on to the Tin Man.
Instead of jumping off of the fourth tower, the riders were instructed to fall backward off the edge. This allowed for an easier transition to zipping upside down.
Each rider listened closely as Smith explained and demonstrated the move: fall backwards, lift your legs up so they are under the wire, spread your arms, and smile for the camera.
When Anthony’s father, Anthony O’Quinn, zipped down he reached for a bundle of leaves.
“I was aiming for the camera woman,” O’Quinn admitted. “I think I might have missed her though.”
The tour guides enjoy their jobs.
“It’s a good summertime job,” tour guide Mitchell Clark said. “Its outdoors and you learn something every day. You meet new people and everything changes — you never know what to expect, peoplewise.”
At the fifth tower, the Scarecrow, the riders were told they could now attempt flips.
“As far as I know, there has never been a female who has completed a gainer,” Barton said. “That is a backwards flip.”
Despite several attempts by the riders, the first female gainer title is still open.
The second to last tower is called The Wicked Witch. It is by far the fastest tower in the Ocoee Zipz tour.
After one round, a special second opportunity to ride the line was offered.
“I’m going to stay upside down until that tree,” Anthony boasted as he pointed at a tree 15 feet from the braking pulley.
Smith and Barton shared zip lining stories and ideas with the riders throughout the tour.
“One time when I was going down with a girl, I discovered it is a lot of fun to hold hands,” Barton said of the double lined Wizard. “If you can find a way to hold hands while upside down then that would be cool, as well.”
The top of the Wizard provides a panoramic view of the Ocoee area. From the 65-foot tower it is possible to see a smidgen of North Carolina, as well as the beauty of the Tennessee and the North Georgia mountains.
Amanda Muckelroy, a rider on the tour, worked past her fear of heights to make it down one last zip line.
Said Muckelroy after the tour had ended, “It was scary as hell, but good once you jumped off because there was no turning back. The scariest part is making yourself do it.”
Until Aug. 1, Ocoee Zipz is offering a special introductory price. Riders who finish a tour are given a frequent flyer card that makes any additional tours discounted. Group rates are available and can be found at www.ocoeezipz.com or by calling 877-794-7947.