One thing I remember from my younger years is the carnival that would show up in the shopping center parking lot once a year or so. The parking lot carnival seems to have morphed into a different existence, though I am not sure if it is for reasons of litigation issues, or the fact that the shopping center has been redefined as well.
At the parking lot carnival I was introduced to several different types of rides: the tilt a whirl, the ferris wheel, the rock o plane and the loop o plane. It is the loop o plane that is going to be the focus of my post.
Of all the rides in the parking lot carnival, it is the loop o plane that I remember having the most fascination and also having to build the courage to ride it. The ride consisted (or maybe even still consists) of two sides each consisting of an arm about 15 feet or so in length with a compartment at one end of two riding seats that were back to back. These arms were perpendicular to the ground and when the ride was in motion, these arms would move the compartments in a circle at a speed that was controlled by the operator. The ride always seemed to be the one that would illicit the most yells from the males and screams from the females of all the rides in the parking lot. At some point the operator would suspend the compartment upside down in the air, using the stop to reverse the direction of motion so that no matter which seat you were sitting in, you got to experience the ride in forward motion or in reverse.
From the ground, I could witness the looks on the faces of the riders. As a young man of 10 years, it always looked to me that the riders were experiencing a small form of terror and not really enjoying themselves at all. Yet when the ride was over and they riders got off, they were always smiling and relating a small story of fun of their just ended experience. The dichotomy of their behavior was perplexing at best. And I could only seem to relate to their faces on the ride, and not their laughter at the end, which made it difficult for me to gain the fortitude to actually purchase a ticket to ride it. Many days I would get to the carnival with the intent of getting into the compartment, only to change my mind and postpone the experience for another day.
One particular day though, I finally worked up the courage one day to throw caution to the wind and purchase a ticket. I approached the compartment, and the operator opened the door for me to enter. I got in the seat and he pulled the bar and strap configuration down over my lap to hold me in place, and there was a loud clang as he shut the door and put the hook in the bar to secure both me and my destiny. There was no turning back now.
The compartment moved forward to complete about 1/8 of the full circle then stopped and began to fall back, where it stopped again and now I was looking at the parking lot in front of me as I was suspended over it. Forward again past the ground and stopping with a view of the sky above, then back again. There was a little more pressure felt as the compartment rushed past the ground point of entry, something that a physicist could explain much better than I, but definitely added to the thrill of the experience. Another stop looking at the ground where I realized I could see more of the ground behind me and then I plunged forward again, this time slowing at the apex of the circle where I had a full upside down view of the parking lot behind me as I kept moving in the same direction over the top and the ground rushed up to me as the compartment kept moving along its circular journey past the point of entry and rushed over the top to continue a full circular movement this time. Again the view plunged toward the parking lot and around over the top down to the parking lot this time to stop at the top with me hanging upside down, with the point of view making it appear that the people and the parking lot being were where the sky should be. This time from this point of upside down suspension, the compartment reversed its course so I got to experience the circular journey in reverse. Around the circle again a couple of times as it appeared to me that I was being pulled from the ground rather than plunging toward it and eventually the ride slowed itself by stopping at certain points in the circle, just as it had when it was building its momentum. Finally it stopped back at the point of entry which now became the point of disembarking, and I was released back to freedom. My respiration was up and the adrenaline was flowing, and for some reason my legs weren’t as steady as they were before the experience. After resting for a few minutes and watching the ride from the ground, I decided to go again. I was hooked.
During the years since then, I rode the ride nearly every time I found it as part of the carnival offerings. Unfortunately, at my age I cannot physically experience the thrill anymore, it would take me too long to recover. I am left with the memory, and as of right now all I need to do is close my eyes and conjure up the image of the experience in my mind, where I not only can see it, but can almost feel the rush of the wind. I am still hooked.
Photo Courtesy Zebra Entertainment and Events. Serving the greater Los Angeles Area. http://zebraentertainmentandevents.com Phone (818) 368-2818