One of the ways I gauge the popularity of THEx in Toronto is how many people are out taking the Rides on the Midway. This year there seemed to be an upsurge in age on the rides – more 20 somethings and even an uptick in Freedom 55-ers. The rides appeared more crowded than usual as well; but of course this is statistics by impressions – and with only 3 nights at THEx- not the best of samples; but I will stick by my observations and say that the Midway Rides are seeing better business.
There may be three reasons for this. First, the younger kids have their own Midway over by the Dufferin Gates. These are smaller rides, lower cost, but most important of all there is not the same vigilance required at the regular Midway to screen out non-qualifying kids. Second, the weather was less rainy and also not so muggy as the last two years, particularly at night. Finally, and probably most importantly there are more challenging rides. This review will look at the challenge or Freak-out Factor in the THEx rides.
First lets consider what makes for good rides. Staggering heights and daring speed immediately come to mind adding a small spice of fear. But it really isÂ the experience with great rock sounds and Das Blinken LightsÂ which makes the mood frenetic and fun . However, one has to realize that going on a CNE ride is a contact sport – the whole idea is to be jostled around and therefore in unexpected touch with that nearby belle dame by “the forces of nature” – or at least physics. Of course those same forces can dash-and-mash you up against the side of the car or that big oaf of a stranger too. Maximum surprise contact opportunity is of course provided by the rides with circular seating (“the gals… they were all over me, all over me”) and at least two degrees of swing freedom – more on that later. Now lets examine some of the Midway”s favorites.
The Ferris Wheel
This Midway standby has three major factors going for it – height, especially when you are at the top of the wheel, the winds are up, the car is roiling and its taking forever to get people loaded on. Speed is usually not so great, I have yet to be on a wheel that really motored around. But contact sport – now that is the basis of the wheels continuing popularity. If you get in a three abreast car – be sure to dive for the middle seat except if you are going with your four-eyed cousins Hanz and Franz – my condolences. More true romances have blossomed on a Ferris Wheel than corn seeds in a Warkworth field…if you know what I mean.
The Roller Coaster
THEx’s one ride which used to stay over winter, the Roller Coaster, is long gone. In its place is a what I call the Mining Car Rider, THEx calls it Mark I. Now again, a roller coaster has two-abreast contact – so it is a classic joy ride up their with the Ferris wheel. But gone with Mark I is the old stand-bys of scary heights and blazing speeds. However, the Mark I makes up for that with unexpected dips, tips and whipping turns – in short, with two abreast seating, this means great “accidental” contact opportunities. Now if the contact is with Swarthy Joe, the CNE can”t be responsible for that “accident”….By the way the Mark I is best ridden at night – that is when the lighting is better because its worse – you plunge into darkness and then suddenly emerge in to the brightest of colored lights.
Fun NoNo Rides
If you are looking for rides that are fun, especially with a group either during the day or at night, try the EuroSlide or the Carousel Swing. I saw an awful lot of 20-Somethings having a blast on both rides. But these are NoNo rides because they are solitary – the opportunities for a serendipitous touching are somewhere between slim and NoNo chance. So be forewarned, you are in for a religiously good time on these rides.
Rides with 2 or More Degrees of Freedom
Cyclone, I think…
Here is a sample of a ride with one degree of freedom – its a roller coaster on the inside of a wheel. This goes very fast, not too high, but did I tell you it is very very fast? One problem is one-abreast seating …. yep ohhhhhhhhh tooooo baddddd. The other downside is that this ride is locked into one position – round and round. After you conquer the fear of riding upside down – there are no more challenges . Now compare this with the Zipper.
This ride has a long history at THEx. I remember watching about ten years ago couples lining up to go into what I thought at the time was a dumb cluck ride. You stand up 3-4 in a cage that is able to swing freely. There are are about 6-8 cages on a pair of beams that themselves rotate – aha, the second degree of freedom. So as The main two beams spin, the cages inside , linked by chains, also spin too, counterclockwise, and topsy turvy. Very disorienting especially with the roaring music and plenty of Das Blinken Lights. The spin from the outside does not seem so fast and it stays in one plane, so how bad could it really be – screams be damned. But on the inside – its hold on tight.Now riders are strapped by safety harnesses into place. But let me suggest a)there is room to maneuver and b)there is a need to hold onto someone. So make sure you get in the car with the two gals in short-shorts, just giggling with fun. But be careful, take the Zipper for a couple of spins beforehand lest you be the one helped out of the cage by the two girls in shorts shorts with advice like “there is a Men”s Washroom just around the corner where you can go cleanup. Hope you are feeling better …”
This is an example of a NoNo ride, the Carousel Swing, being transformed into a GoGo ride. First the seating is two abreast for all you true romantics. Second, the Swing rises up while whirling riders around to about 100-150 feet in the air – as tall as the Ferris wheel. Third, just as the Swing reaches it top height it slows down a bit and then speeds up for full-out whip around action – “dear, don’t worry you’re in my arms”. In short, the Swing has it all – height, lights, two degrees of freedom and speed galore. Not only fun but also 5 star True Romance opportunities.
Here is a smallish ride that hardly looks intimidating but don’t be fooled. The Orbiter is a two abreast monster ride of three degrees of freedom which has speed and flashing lights to burn plus the ability of the car arms to flex in and out and up and down on a central pivot that itself can lean sideways. Finally, each car swivels while being whipped around at amazing speeds. This is definitely another 5 Star True Romance Ride.For example, the other night I was prepared to be found in dereliction of photographic duty at the Orbiter when a buxom brunette pouted “Now who is going to ride with me.” Yes those were green eyes of jealousy daggering the guy who had to come to her rescue. No wonder I got more pictures of the Orbiter than any other Midway Ride this year.
I would call the mauling Claw the epitome of 5 Star True Romantic rides if I could only manage to live through a ride without … ahem. Think of this as the the Zipper and Orbiter combined into a devilishly fiendish ride. Like the Zipper you are standing up in carefully harnessed position, but unlike the Zipper, the Claw has three degrees of freedom similar to the Orbiter. There are are claws with clusters of four riders attached. Those clusters pivot. Then the whole claw assembly rotates. Then the whole claw is at the end of a long lever that rotates through 200 plus degrees of oscillation. Fast – very fast. The photo above suggests all the gyrations. If you and your date live through this ride, and she still really likes you, marry her – you aren’t going to find anyone that can enjoy the good and the bad like her.
Every year, the day after Labor Day I feel a little nostalgia as the THEx deconstructs and I feel a little more or less SuperBad – depending of course on how many rides with Two or More Degrees of Freedom I got to take over the previous eighteen days. Every Ex I also get a lesson in the meaning of SuperBad – its to be cursedly fifteen and dorky at twenty five, forty-three or sixty and counting and loving it. And like Snidely Whiplash, more often than not its “Curses Foiled Again”. As a consequence, this is dedicated, this is dedicated to the one I love.