The Tilt-A-Whirl cars fit two adults comfortably, three skinny adolescents, or four children (somewhat cramped). At all three stages, I have absolutely loved the ride.

I remember being cozied into the car with one cousin and two sisters, our knuckles dirty and our bellies full of cotton candy, shouting to lean left, or lean right. The smell of sawdust and the strange trust in the knowledge of the ride operator, as if he was the one who had engineered the ride himself. The lap bar would lock on our skinny thighs and we would squirm around waiting for the ride to start... and hoping that our car would keep spinning long after the ride had stopped. Sometimes the car would whip around at the very end and keep spinning like that, and we would all lean as hard as we possibly could, thinking this would keep us going - but the operator would just freeze the track anyway.

Sixteen in the Tilt-A-Whirl with a boy and a friend, so close I could smell his Juicy Fruit gum and see the little hairs growing out of his neck. The strange feeling of sliding unreasonably close to a real live boy. It was exciting, an orchestrated car crash scaled down to fit my life. Heart pounding, trying to keep my clothes and hair adjusted while looking as if I'm not trying at all, and forgetting all about it when the car was in motion. Screaming, laughing and sliding across a vinyl bench seat - touching a boy's thigh through his pale blue jeans and smelling his sweat.

Waiting in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl at 22, shifting from one foot to the other, having to pee but hating the smell of the port-a-potties. The lap bar doesn't feel the way it used to because I actually have thighs now. My boyfriend slides in with me, and gives me a quick little hug. Chewing gum, freckles, sunburned, holding a stuffed animal he won for me. Marmaduke. I don't care about him, I just want the ride, the ride, I want to spin and get whipped out of my skull for three minutes. There's too much space and we collide when I shout to lean, he mumbles ouch, he doesn't understand. It doesn't matter, it's the ride. We spin, screaming and laughing, and I am a trinity of Jen past, present, and future. I am young with knotted hair, standing on the edge of adulthood with cotton balls in my bra and heat in my groin, I am now, and I combine.

There is everything right with the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Imagine a circular track, about six feet in diameter (just short of two meters). Take a sort of pie-slice shape of that, place it on top of the track with wheels underneath, and give it a central pivot point, so the pie slice can rotate on top of the circular track. Then attach a riding car onto the wide end of the pie-slice. The car is shaped sort of like a quarter of an egg, the bottom half missing because of the floor and the other quarter missing to allow an entrance point. The pivot point is also at this entrance point, so you have to be careful to not trip over the large bolt while entering the car. The seat of the car faces the pivot point, so once spinning starts you are pressed back against the inside of the car, due to centrifugal forces. The seat is set into the egg-shape to provide just enough of a side wall to hold passengers inside while being pressed against it. About seven of these circular tracks with tilt-a-whirl cars are set on a platform that also moves in a circle. The platform has peaks and valleys, to help (or sometimes hinder) the momentum of the car spinning on its pivot point.

The car itself is like a miniature version of the earth, spinning on its axis. The platform would be like the orbit of the earth around the sun, only with peaks and valleys.

      ______/_                        \
     /       /\                        \
    /       /  \                        \
   /       /   |   <car           track> \
   |       |   |                          \
   |       |   |                           \
   |       |   |                           |
   |       |___|  <bench                   |  
   |       |   |                           |
   |        \   \_                         |
   |_________\____\_                       |
   \                                       /             
    \                                     /

Ok, so it's really tough to draw a pie-slice! I'm sure you get the idea. Seven of these tracks set in a circle on a platform with peaks and valleys. It's really quite an interesting ride, if you haven't been on one I highly recommend it.

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