PLEASANTON -- Vertigo. Webster's defines it as a sensation of motion in which the individual or his surroundings seem to whirl dizzily, or a dizzy, confused state of mind.
That's an accurate description of the effect of one too many trips on the Alameda County Fair's newest and tallest ride. It is a 100-foot-tall spinning swing that towers over the midway, kiddie rides, and Ferris wheels like a bright yellow-and-green cocktail umbrella.
Lance Moyer, chief operations officer of Butler Amusements, wanted to bring in something unique this year, the company's 14th as managers of the fair's thrill rides. Moyer saw Vertigo at a trade show last year and ordered one for $750,000.
"It's different," Moyer said. "There's not a lot of new stuff coming out, so when you see something new and exciting, you want to buy it."
So far, Moyer said, Vertigo has been a hit with the thousands of people, young and old, who have taken the ride in the six states where the company has debuted it.
"You can see the reactions and smiles on the people's faces," Moyer said. "It's all been positive."
Vertigo spins at 11 rpm, Moyer said. It generates enough speed to simulate flying high above the fairgrounds.
He offers me and photographer Kristopher Skinner -- equipped with a head-mounted video camera -- a free spin. I'm buckled into my seat, which isn't that different from your typical amusement park swing. It's suspended by chains running to the tower's top, its fluorescent green flags inscribed with hypnotic spirals.
The ride powers up, the base rises about 20 feet in the air, and then, the spin begins. I recall why I've never been a fan of spinning rides; they're too reminiscent of those nights you know you're headed for a nasty hangover.
The tower rotates, the seats rise and spread further outward until they're almost parallel to the ground. The speed picks up, and we're zooming steadily higher over the carnival games below. The wind causes my hat to fly off, fluttering harmlessly to the ground, and I find if I hold my head steady and don't look down, I'm OK. The ride ends with my stomach contents still intact.
Excited friends Jimmy Hoffman and Quinn Brinnon -- both eighth-graders from Pleasanton -- took advantage of the light midweek, early afternoon crowds to ride Vertigo for the first time.
"It felt like I was flying in the air," Jimmy said. "It was higher than I expected it to be. I thought it was going to keep on going."
"It was really fun," Quinn chimed in. "It was actually scary at first."
On my second ride -- taken strictly for journalistic purposes -- I turn around to look at the people behind me. Do not do this. When I face forward again, I'm rewarded with complete discombobulation. I stumble on the dismount and groggily wander off to talk to more riders.
Alexander So, a 9-year-old roller coaster fanatic from Pleasanton, rated Vertigo an "8 or 9" out of 10. Jennifer Andiron, 23, of San Jose, came on her day off to ride with 8-year-old Taylor Rolen.
"You could see everything," Andiron said, "But it smells like cows up there."
Bovine aromas or not, I couldn't keep myself from a third ride -- again, strictly for journalistic purposes. Midway through, I feel nausea creep in. While not as extreme as Jimmy Stewart running up the bell tower in the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, I leave Vertigo a little queasy. Apparently, I'm not the only one.
"I definitely felt the vertigo," said Madison Caswell, 16, of Walnut Creek. "I didn't have lunch yet, so thank God for that."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
When: Through July 7. The fair is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July Fourth, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton, Ave., Pleasanton.
Cost: Tickets are $6, children ages 6 through 12; $8, seniors 62 and older; $10, general admission. Parking is $8 to $20.
Carnival: Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July Fourth. Rides require three to five tickets, which cost $1 each. Unlimited-ride wristbands are $27-$30.