the Fairgame Archive

2006-09-11: The Magic of Centrifugal Force
by Meguey

We just spent nearly 7 hours at the county fair. We saw all the animals, in cluding the oxen pull. We saw friends we hadn't seen in years, and friends we see often. We looked at beautiful displays of apples and gaped at pumpkins bigger than all our children combined. We ate the requisite fried dough and the mediocre hot dogs and the surprizingly excellent french fries. We played the over-priced toss games and received our cheap plastic crap.

Then 5 o'clock hit, and we got our magic wristbands of delight. Unlimited midway rides for the rest of the day. Holy cow, there is nothing so awesome as watching your kids jump with excitment and glee as they get off one ride and scamper over, saying "We're going on that one next, ok?" and you give them a thumbs up and off they go. Most of my old favorites were there: the Round-up, or what ever you call the one that you stand in a circle against a wire cage and there's nothing but a little rope to nod at a safety bar between you and a slowly increasingly steep drop; the one where you get to pull and pull around a wheel to make your cup or bug or dragon (in this case) spin faster; the Tilt-a-Whirl, with it's little bug-shell cars and the tiny round tracks; the bob sleads, which are still the hip cool sexy teen ride with the latest music; the carousel with beautiful flying horses; the big boat that doesn't swing all the way over, and the Zipper and the SkyDiver and their ilk that do. And of course the Ferris Wheel.

This year, something was just perfect. All the rides were smooth and easy, not a single creak or jolt to make you wonder if *this* time was the time it'd all fall apart. Getting wristbands meant no worries about how many tickets left, and no weighing out which fun to have and which to not have. Sebastian (neary 10) and Elliot (6.5) are old enough to ride all but the biggest rides, and they are confident enough to ride most of them alone, if they want. It was wonderful. Vincent and I traded off holding Tovey (who loved everything, when he wasn't asleep), and as I watched Vincent and the boys swooping over head in a new and most definitly excellent ride based on gliders (Cliff Hanger by name), I saw in the background all the other rides, lit up and spinning, twirling, whirling, dancing in the night.

And every one of them was about centrifugal force, and gettign to experience it in some way. Pressed against a wall, suspended upside down, slid agains the far side, building up speed, it was all the same force. Kind of magical, really.

2006-09-11 15:41:48 Julia

I love the fair, especially the rides! We decided not to go this year due to lack of funds and exhaustion on Sunday. I kinda wish we had gone. You reminded me why I love going in the first place.

2006-09-11 18:58:17 anon.

Carrie and I were at the Three County Fair (which I can't help but call the Three Bean Fair for some reason) last weekend and we noted the same thing: all of the rides are the same as phyics experiments, with you in the place of the weight/ball/wheel.

You're experiencing something you usually only see from the outside.

2006-09-12 08:27:32 GB Steve

My wife, Paula, loves the fair but I'm not so keen. We went on this ride in France once with my brother. It's one of those where you sit together in a circular pod that whirls round a central point. The pods are on a moving track that waves up and down and goes round too.

When we came off, I felt a bit queezy but my brother actually went green. I didn't know that was possible.

2006-09-12 14:02:46 Meguey

Yeah, that's a good description of the Tilt-a-Whirl. :)

Going green comes with age, I think. I used to love loop-de-loop roller coasters, but now I'm not so sure.

2006-09-12 14:06:36 Vincent

The tilt-a-whirl made me actually barf this year. First time ever barfing because of a ride!

I didn't barf during the ride. I didn't even barf just off the ride. I felt barfy through two more rides and then barfed in the parking lot.

P.S. Barf!

2006-09-12 15:08:20 Julia

I haven't felt barfy from a ride since I was 8 years old, and neer have I barfed from a ride. Many other things make me barf, but not carnival rides. But apparently rides make my husband Chris sick. The first time we ever spent a significant amount of time together, we went to the Tri-County Fair in Northampton. I insisted on going on every swinging, twirling, makest thou green and barfy ride they had. And just to impress me, Chris went along. We weren't even dating, or even contemplating dating. At least I wasn't. Chris said he was sick for 3 days after that. Poor guy.

2006-09-12 15:41:09 Meguey

I read a great bit about the ability of ride jocks to affect the barf-factor. I've gotten sick from rides twice: once on a jerky, creaky Octopus ride on the Amherst Common in 1989, and once on a Casino now-we-go-backwards-and-jerky ride in 2004.

2006-09-12 16:34:51 Judd

Man, when I go on those rides, something in my inner ear get's tripped and I don't just barf once, I barf whenever I move my head or eyes for the next 12 hours.

It is hospital time.


Glad you all had fun, though.  Just so not my thang.

2006-09-12 19:04:52 Vincent

Meg, that's a great blog you've linked to.

2006-09-13 16:10:24 Joel P. Shempert

Oh God, the Octopus! That was, like, the ULTIMATE ride when I was a kid. Though the tilt-a-whirl was cool. I think there were a lot of rinky-dink carnivals, though, where all they had was the ferris wheel and octopus, and, like, the Hunated house or some such. I remember with the movie Explorers, I read the novelisation before I saw the flick, and I was confused because I didn't even know what a Tilt-o-whirl car LOOKED like. I thought it was a fictional ride.

Anyway, the Octopus was cool because it was way centrifugal, but also it just LOOKED cool, with its elegant octopus-y curves and the way the cars on the end of each arm spun around indepenently.

Thanks, this is a 15-year vintage childhood-gasm just reading about it. :)

PS Yes, I can and WIll "gasm" ANY word.

2006-09-13 18:29:05 Emily

I had used to be so scared of roller coasters.  I went on Space Mountain at Disney at an impressionable age and got the bejeezus scared out of me.  It's an indoor roller coaster, if you haven't been on it, and something about the flashing lights and rocketing through these narrow corridors just freaked me out.

My poor aunt who rode with me. She spent the whole time trying to calm me down. : ) That was the last roller coaster for me until I happened to get in line for one by accident (long line, you couldn't see what the line was for till you got close) when I was in high school.  It was an old wooden one, kind of beautiful in a rustic kind of way.  Somehow I managed to relax & go with it and had a great time.

But man, those twisty spinny ones still make me kind of sick. And "spider" ones with the cars that spin in three different ways all at the same time make me queasy and scared just looking at them.

The very best, best time I've had at a fair, though, was totally when I got to go with the boys and Meg a couple years back. There is just nothing like seeing the delight in a kids face from going on the motorcycle carousel or the round-a-bout.  Pure unmitigated joy. I can just imagine how it was with those wristbands. Sky's the limit!

2006-09-13 19:24:38 Meguey

Emily, you and Serena have the same Space Mountain story!

Poor Judd. It's sad to be sick from fun. Plus, it totally makes me grin that you said "when I go on those rides", implying more than once. Implying that at least once, you knew what you were getting into. Fun makes us do weird stuff.

2006-09-13 20:05:48 anon.

I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the big roller coasters. I've never been on any of the newer style, primarily just a few woodies (primarily at Canobie Lake in NH, and Whalom Park in MA, also Paragon Park in MA, oh, also I'm pretty sure I rode the woody at Santa Cruz CA). I did like the metal coaster that often were at fairs (Canobie Lake also had one).

My favorite ride at Canobie Lake was a relatively sedate one where you were in this car that you could make go up and down and spin around. It also had a "gun" you could shoot. What I discovered was that you could actually "shoot" other cars down (they would be forced to go down for a moment before the riders could make it go back up).

Hmm, I've never been on an Octopus, so my experience is the reverse, almost every fair would have a Tilt-A-Whirl. The Caterpillar was also a fun ride. I've never done Round Up (that's the one where you stand in this cage with a flimsy safety rope as it spins up and then rises up) or the swinging boat one. I think the only ride I've ever done where you end up upside down was the salt and pepper shaker or something like that.

It's been ages since I've been on anything more exciting than a merry-go-round or a train around the park (both at Pullen Park in Raleigh NC). Actually, I have been on a few rides at the NC State Fair in my Raleigh years also (we always got state fair tickets from work, a few times we also got a small book of ride tickets) - definitely included Tilt-a-Whirl there. Oh, there were also a few exciting rides at Legoland in California (ok, so so much for nothing very exciting recently... that would include as recent as 2003...).

As far as I remember, the Tilt-a-Whirl at the NC State Fair is the closest I ever came to barfing, I had recently consumed a sausage and fried dough (not that they call it fried dough in NC, might have been elephant ears, that's what they call it out here in Portland, in NC, funnel cakes are more popular, but I prefer the single mass of fried dough or elephant ears with cinamon sugar over funnel cakes).


2006-09-13 20:07:13 fsf

That was me...


2006-09-13 20:09:59 fsf

Meguey - but for some, that almost but not quite sick feeling is part of the fun. Or seeing how many crazy rides they can do and how much junk food they can consume before barfing.

For me, I prefer the barfy feelings to stay away, but otherwise, I love the crazy spinny, plumetting, etc. feelings.


2006-09-13 20:47:16 Meguey

Yeah. When I was in high school, I used to go to Magic Mountain in Los Angeles every year, which has the world's first full loop coaster. Also, there was an amazing old wooden roller coaster that we went to sometimes, but I can't remember the name at all.

2006-09-14 05:20:51 Judd

The ride is fun, vomiting for 12 hours afterwards...not so much.

I've made some mistakes and now I know better.

I am the mighty Holder of Purses and Backpacks.

2006-09-14 08:04:30 Joel P. Shempert

I went to LA Magic Mountain once, on my senior high school trip. It was my only taste ever of REAL rollercoasters, and it was AWESOME. Space mountain didn't count as a "real" coaster, though it WAS (and still IS, I'll bet) the baddest-assest thing in Disneyland. I love the dark and flashing lights. My friend lost his Sharks hat that he had just bought on it. Yes, he bought sports gear at Disneyland. No, I don't understand either. He went and bought a replacement. Jeez.

Emily's reaction to "twisty spinny" and "spider" ones makes me smile. . .simply because now she mentions it, I remember riding the Octopus WAS kinda a mark of childhood mettle (and one that I attained, unlike, say, jumping off high cliffs into swimming holes). It was an act of sheer defiance of the twin Leviathans called Vertigo and Nausea. My nine-year-old chest swells with pride.

2006-09-14 10:35:21 GB Steve

We did go on a ride that put Paula off the more vicious ones. It was the Boomerang at Marine World USA in Vallejo (now a Six Flags park).

This takes you up a tower, you roll down through a mid-air loop that inverts you twice, then a loop the loop. The you go up another tower and drop through the whole thing again, but backwards. It only takes about two minutes but you think your teeth are going to fall out.

Although it was pretty terrify, this is less barfworthy than the spinning ones.

2006-09-15 15:24:28 ScottM

Meg, the wooden coaster at Magic Mountain is the Colossus.  I've tended to avoid all of the "big people" roller coasters—height's my hangup.  Which made Space Mountain perfect for me—rushing speed but no (visible) drop.  I think I may be slowly overcoming my caution...

I've always loved the centrifigal force rides, from the tea cups to the tilt o whirl.  For some reason (maybe long enough lines), I've never had a problem with them.

2006-09-15 17:25:22 Meguey

Yeah, Colossus is awesome. There's one down further south, though, on the board walk somewhere. Ocean Beach? I know it was close enough to go to regularly. It was often closed for various reasons.

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