Ferrisnaut

Think you only have one shot at riding the Ferris wheel for a record breaking 37 days? Think again. Jeff Block has not only done it once, but he has done it again since that historic trip back in 1978.

On June 17, 1993 Jeff hoped back on the big wheel at the Orange County Fair, and stayed on for a record 38 days.

 RFV got a change to talk to Jeff about his love for the wheel, his memory of breaking the world record at FV and his plans to ride one more time.

RFV: Tell us about you fascination with the Ferris wheel.

Jeff:  I was always interested in Ferris wheels as long as I can remember. The bright lights and the crazy Ferris wheel music some of the ride operators would play. The thing that I really like about Ferris wheels is the law of physics. When a ride operator loads the cars before starting the Ferris wheel ride, he has to make sure the wheel is equally balanced. He has to make sure that everybody's weight is equal distributed. If it isn't, the Ferris wheel struggles to make its circle. Another thing that I like about Ferris wheels, is when they load the Ferris wheel up with people, when you are at the top, it seems like you can see for miles. That is neat. I don't recall my first experience on the wheel. But I am assuming it probably took place at the Santa Clara County Fair, since I was born and raised in San Jose. Also, my grandparents were involved with a few different garden society's, setting up the garden displays, for the fair every year.

RFV: When did you think about breaking the record?

Jeff: Frontier Village and Fidelity Savings cosponsored the Ferris wheel world record ride. They placed a want ad in the San Jose Mercury News classified section titled ferrisnaut. So I applied.

RFV: Describe for us what it is like riding for so long. Wasn't the Ferris wheel at FV one of the fastest?

Jeff: I thought it was fun riding the Ferris wheel for so long. My rear-end didn't think it was fun, it got pretty sore and numb sometimes. You just bring along things to amuse yourself. Of course, you do get bored sometimes. When I rode the Ferris wheel with Rena Clark at Frontier Village, we got to know a lot of the employees. So on Friday nights we would crank up my radio that I brought along, the employees that we got to know would get on the Ferris wheel and we would sing-along with whatever song was playing on the radio. Allen and Warren didn't like it, because we did get pretty loud every once and awhile. But I personally liked it, it made the time go by faster. I think we did it, just about every Friday night. The Ferris wheel at FV was fast. They took very good care of it, if anything went wrong with it, they were right there to fix it. It was not like today's Ferris wheels, that mostly belong to carnival companies.. They have to break them down, to go to the next stop, then reset them up again. The wheel at FV was permanent, there to stay. They took very good care of it. Every Friday morning, the Ferris wheel was washed.

RFV: How did you meet Rena? Do you still keep in contact with her? Was it different with the two of you opposed to you by yourself?

Jeff: Rena and I didn't meet until after the interview process that FV put each applicant thru. I think they thought it would be neat to pick a guy and a girl, to see who would last the longest. I still talk to Rena every once and awhile. She was there to see me get off the Ferris wheel, when I rode it the second time. It wasn't any different with Rena or riding by myself. The reason being, is that when Rena and I did it we had to ride on opposite sides of the wheel to keep it balanced. We did ride together sometimes, mainly when FV wanted to take some photos of us. When Rena and I needed to talk to each other, we just yelled back and forth.

RFV: What was it like at night when the park was closed?

Jeff: It was fun, when the wheel was stopped, the FV staff setup our beds. We called them the white coffins. Rena's was in the front and mine was in the back. We called them the white coffins because they were made of plywood with high sides so when we slept we wouldn't roll off, and they were painted white. We would set up a small portable b/w TV and/or radio to listen to. Rena's dad would come by sometimes to visit. He would bring her younger brother and the family dog. Most of the time he would also bring something to snack on. We always had a security guard at night. He was there to mark the book to say we were on the wheel ever hour. Also to keep people away from the park that wanted to see us, to make sure we were still there. When we slept at night, it was very comfortable. It was like you were out camping, under the stars.

RFV: Do you think there will be other attempts to break the record.

Jeff: Absolutely! Several parks have contacted me to ride their wheels for a new record. I am debating on which park I want to give it a shot at. I will let RFV know when I am ready for blast off.

Jeff,  lives in Tustin, California, and is a custodian for Fullerton College.
 Meet him at this year's Picnic.