The best thing about the Pima County Fair is the drive to get there. It's half way to Lordsburg, N.M. - and twice the fun - starting with an amazing thrill ride called "find a place to park within a mile of the entrance." Take the whole family! They'll never forgive you.

I will admit the freak show was awesome. And that was just the line of people waiting to purchase tickets to get inside the fair. We stood in line with what appeared to be an audition queue for a revival of "My name is Earl" crossed with the "Star Wars" cantina scene with Southwestern terrestrials that made Walmart people look like red-carpet material.

The tickets were cheap, but that was misleading. It was just the beginning of the amazing adventure my wallet was about to go on. We looked at our map of Pima County's post-apocalyptic Knott's Berry Farm: Disneyland with heavy metal, flip-flops and beer and ventured inside.

While the kids enjoyed "Wild about Gerbils," "Porcupine Petting Zoo" and "Meet Eeyore," we took in "The Imperial Hillbillies," "The Accordion-istas" and the "Gym Dandies." These acts the Pima County Fair is just a steppingstone to more prestigious gigs like playing an Air Force base above the Arctic Circle when Spinal Tap cancels.

The food is something to write home about. After I write home about the food, I'll write the Food and Drug Administration about the "Pickled Weasel Teats," "Deep-fried Lard Clusters" and "Aunt Fanny's Funnel Cakes" stuffed with "Unauthorized Disclosures" that the brood devoured like savages at the dawn of man.

We answered the siren call of the hawkers who were all variations of Larry the Cable Guy. The kids lost more pocket change playing games of chance such as "Lasso the Eel" and "Nail Mr. Jello to the Wall" than the Lehman Brothers lost on Wall Street.

Wandering away from the family, on my inquisitive own, I learned a great deal about Middle Eastern cultures from Madame Roundhouse's company of belly dancers. Linking up later with the crew we missed the bleacher pulls but were able to catch Daffy over Diesel while the kids headed off to the 4-H livestock area to see the animals judged. I told them 4-H provides the little critters with free legal advice and that some may actually get off. They're not all condemned to end up as next year's "Unauthorized Disclosures."

I wisely avoided "The "Binge-n-Purge," "Black Zipper Down," "Bowel Flume," and in particular, "The Human Rights Violator," a ride that was banned everywhere, thanks to the efforts of Amnesty International, except for, you guessed it, Pima County.

Not only did we learn how to pickle pies, churn chickens and shear sheep, I learned that one should never get on a Ferris wheel with a ride operator who locks you into a small rolling cage like some kind of NASA test chimp, only to maroon you 20-stories up, where you will spin faster than a roulette wheel set in motion by King Kong, while Toby, the toothless carny, is distracted by a Tanya Tucker doppelganger who needs help finding the bumper cars.

When I say I feel bad about the sugar-powdered-lard eaters who were directly below me, I mean it. The kids said from their vantage point the cage was spinning "like a Tibetan prayer wheel" and the resulting loss of dignity looked like the climactic precipitation of "Cloudy with Meatballs."

With my brain as fried as my lunch, I'd had it with "Chainsaw Juggling,","Quilting with Liquid Nails" and festive diversions like "Uncle Freddy's Funhouse of Faulty Escalators." I announced, "Time to go!" Hoping to stay forever, the whole tribe hopped on "The Herd Thinner." High on fructose, they ignored my pleas, refusing to get off a ride clearly designed with natural selection in mind.

It was a replay of the time they refused to come down out of a McDonald's play land. After pleading with my rebel toddlers like an FBI negotiator trying to draw die-hard insurgents out of the caves of Bora Bora, I ended up bribing some older kids with Quarter Pounders to go in to the maze like bounty hunters to snare the drooling resisters.

This time we sat on a bench and waited them out. I had flashbacks of the Stockholm syndrome mini-van road trips, the foot-broiling pavement of SeaWorld, the mind-numbing lines at Disneyland and wondered if it was all worth it.

When we got back to the car, they didn't have a sticky ticket stub left between them. Envisioning the United States Mint already casting my "Father of the Year" medallion in bronze, I let the pirates board the ship. "Buckle up," I said as I turned the key and started up what we all agreed was the best ride of the whole day.

Email Star cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons at