Yesterday I made my annual trip to the happiest place in the midwest – the Iowa State Fair. Other state fairs may come close, but I agree with the marketing geniuses who declared “Nothing Compares to the Iowa State Fair.” Nothing compares to the food (deep fried, bacon-wrapped, chocolate dipped, and on a stick), the fun (outhouse races), the culture (balloon sculptures), the spectacle (the gargantuan bull, boar and ram), the long lines (for the butter cow), the butter cow (at the end of the line), or the traditions (all of the above).
And for me, nothing compares to the terror of The Sky Glider.
I've had my moments of unbridled emotion before, but nothing compares to the near-hysteria of The Sky Glider this year – not even the time my Billy Joel concert ticket was so close I could see the stage with my bare eyes!
After a full day of fair fun my fair-going friends and I decided to wrap things up with a round-trip Sky Glider ride. Twice the ride, twice the terror.
The ride got off to an rocky start when it stopped – briefly – just after we reached cruising altitude (far enough off the ground to make my palms sweat). The ride restarted and I resumed my white-knuckle grip on the safety bar just before The Princess – my daughter, rock of bravery and gondola partner – said “Oh.”
“Oh?” I asked, WITHOUT turning my head OR MOVING in any manner.
“I can't do this.”
I realized I would have to dig down deep into my Super Mom Power reserves to keep it together and set a good example. I had no choice but to suck it up and my assume my resp-Mom-sibilities. I relaxed my grip a little, forced a smile, and began chatting about all the ways this ride WAS NOT ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIYING. I even managed to LET GO OF THE SAFETY BAR WITH ONE HAND long enough to point out the lovely architectural details adorning the roof line of the historic agriculture building. I pointed out the happy people in the gondolas on the return side, the lovely breeze, the dense foliage BENEATH US AND OHMYGODLOOKUP! Look UP, UP! at those fluffy, white clouds.
All the while I was mentally cataloging the things that TERRIFIED ME:
|What happened to those riders?|
- Looking DOWN at the roof line of the ag building.
- The riders on the return side who were smiling and laughing as if UNAWARE OF THE DANGER WE WERE IN.
- The riders who looked AS TERRIFIED AS ME BECAUSE THEY REALIZED WE COULD PLUMMET TO OUR DEATH AT ANY MOMENT.
- The gondolas which were empty BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE PASSENGERS ALREADY FELL TO THEIR DEATHS.
- The dense foliage BENEATH US that would IMPALE US BEFORE WE CRASHED TO THE GROUND.
- The asphalt roads BENEATH US which we would SOON BE SPLATTERED UPON.
- And the fluffy clouds WHICH SHOULD BE MUCH FARTHER ABOVE US.
By that time we were NEARLY three-quarters of the way up the hill – or nearly three-quarters of the way to the HALFWAY point if you have forgotten AND HOW COULD YOU FORGET? that we were making a round trip – and I had begun to giggle nervously, and maybe cry a little . . . because that's just what happens when I start to giggle uncontrollably/hysterically.
It was at precisely this moment The Third Musketeer – who was riding solo in the gondola behind us – announced that she WOULD NOT BE MAKING THE ROUND TRIP ON THE SKY GLIDER OF TERROR. And I started to giggle/cry a little harder because I HAD JUST BEEN THINKING THE SAME THING! I gave her a thumbs up over my shoulder BECAUSE I COULD NOT TURN MY HEAD AND LET GO OF THE SAFETY BAR AT THE SAME TIME.
That was when we FINALLY began our descent, and I was able to take an actual breath and look around me and that stubborn, pig-headed, go-big-or-go-home, warrior-princess within me said AWWW HELL NO! I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY AN IRRATIONAL FEAR! I WILL NOT BACK DOWN!
And in a quieter but no less convincing voice, the cheapskate in me said I will not waste a return ticket. I MAY BE A CHICKEN BUT I AM A CHEAP CHICKEN AND BY GOD I PRE-PAID FOR A ROUND TRIP RIDE SO I'M DAMN WELL GOING TO MAKE A ROUND TRIP RIDE.
So I TURNED to face The Princess and I asked her if she wanted to get off or if she wanted to ride back down the hill WITH me. She looked at me with admiration – or as if I had sprouted a horn on my forehead – and considered her answer carefully before answering.
“I will ride back with you. Because I don't think we can pry your hands off the safety bar.”
I would love to say that we bravely continued our ride and we lived happily ever after.
But the truth is I had just dried my cheeks and started to realize I HAD MADE A HORRENDOUS MISTAKE when our gondola came around the end point to begin the return ride and the nice young man checked the safety bar and smiled at us.
“Enjoy the ride,” he said.
And I started laughing so hard I SNORTED and the look of surprise on his face was so funny that I laughed HARDER and when we reached cruising altitude and the RIDE STOPPED AGAIN DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN my eyes filled with tears. And for the entire two-and-a-half hour (or five minute) return trip The Princess and I laughed and “ooohed” and “awwwed” as we watched the lights of the midway, and talked about the breeze and the architecture and the foliage and the smell of deep fried, bacon-wrapped, chocolate-dipped fun on a stick.
And made plans for doing it ALL again next year.
If you're not afraid of heights, or if you want to experience them vicariously, check out this video (not shot by me, obviously because there is no screaming): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcSwm-5V5Zs