Friday, August 6, 2010

The Way We Ride

Audrey had a girl's weekend away two weeks ago, so I took Fenya and Glory to the Capital Ex (the fair formerly known as Klondike Days). It was opening day and we got there just prior to the gates opening at noon, and even that short wait in the sun was enough to fill me with trepidation.

I'm pretty sure the last time I was at the Midway in Edmonton, my parents took me, placing it about a quarter century back in my personal chronography. Then, as now, the danger of the sun to my pasty complexion was everpresent, and we had neglected to bring sunscreen because the forecast had been for partly cloudy skies.

I had intended to spectate for the most part, but ended up getting ride-all-day wristbands for the three of us, which meant we could go on every ride we wanted (and multiple times) instead of having to choose between them.

There were a few rides I couldn't go on because I simply don't fit, but I was still more than able to get my money's worth out of my wristband, and sharing my love of rides with the girls was a real treat.

From the languid sight seeing of the giant Ferris wheel to the oppressive centrifugal force of the Polar Express ("Raise your hands if you wanna go FASTA!!") we tried over a dozen rides more than twenty times in total.

Neither Fenya nor Glory are big on rides that go upside down, which surprised me a bit, since Fenya was willing to ride the Twin Flip at a carnival in Calgary a couple of years ago, and that ride felt like a total astronaut trainer.

Glory impressed me by wanting to go on the Mega Drop, and Fenya impressed me by refusing to go, and agreeing to wait while the two of us went. The Mega Drop uses essentially the same mechanic as the old Drop of Doom, but is even taller. Frankly, another twenty feet and there is a distinct possibility I would have wet myself.

We all went down the giant Kinsmen slide a couple of times, which only added to the nostalgia of the day. There were a couple of times where I was sure I was going to become airborne, but I ended up none the worse for wear, and the huge stairs perhaps offset the fair food we enjoyed over the course of the day. The whole affair reminded me of John Ringo's great Honorverse short story "A Ship Named Francis", which features an eccentric starship captain exhorting his crew to ride potato sacks down the inside of the spinal structural support, leading to many humorous injuries. Highly recommended for fans of schadenfreude.

The Swing Tower was also good fun, and about double the height of the original swing ride that I was used to. Again, the girls riding without me right next to them was unexpected and enjoyable, if maybe a little bittersweet. ("What do you mean you don't need Daddy? Of course you need Daddy! Shove over...")

We also took in the Superdogs show and the 'It's a Candy Nation' exhibit where we saw not only a number of intriguing bits of trivia about confections and an assortment of vintage candy to buy, but also a mosaic of Elvis made out of nothing but jelly beans. I called him Jelvis. It's clearly not The King's best depiction, but it beats the hell out of black velvet, don't you agree?

The most interesting thing to me was that the girl's favourite ride of the entire day was not the newest shiniest examples like Crazy Mouse or the Fireball, but that old stand-by, the Tilt-A-Whirl. I have very fond memories of the tilt-a-whirl from my own childhood, and I remember it being a favourite of my dad, but I had no idea how vintage a ride it was.

(Sorry for the stock photo, but the cell-phone self-portrait did not work out at all.)

The first tilt-a-whirl was built in 1926, six years before my dad was even born, and they are still making them today. There's just some undeniable appeal to the spinning and undulating of this simple ride, but one of my favourite features is that all three of us (plus room for Audrey if she had come) share the same bench seat, being tossed this way and that; a real shared experience.

Maybe that was the reason I was so happy to accompany the girls on the tilt-a-whirl three times over the course of the day.

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