Study Abroad Fun Part 1: Thorpe Park

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Saturday, October 28, 2006 1:43 PM
Taking a semester away from home base at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, I have had the amazing chance to study abroad in London. Along with this sweet opportunity came the obvious chance to visit Thorpe Park and Alton Towers!

Thorpe Park: Saturday, September 9th

Two of my friends and I hopped on an early morning train over to Surrey and caught the hopper bus over to Thorpe Park. Travel was easy, with the bus waiting right outside the train station. We picked up our lastminute.com half-price tickets and walked through the giant gift shop/arcade/park op extravaganza building (Port Atlantis), over the scenic bridge and into the park. The barrel rolls of Collosus called…

We waited only a few trains and were off on this Intamin ten looper. The ride was fun, with good pacing and a solid layout. The loop was surprisingly aggressive, but the bunny hop was sooo disappointing. I was really expecting some monster air, but there was none…and it wasn’t the OTSR’s fault, the thing just didn’t throw me out of my seat. The cobra roll was a bit unforgiving with the beefy OTSR’s, but the two corkscrews and the inline twists were very nice. I definitely enjoyed this ride, but it did not pack the same punch as some other Intamins I have ridden.

Next we hopped on the no wait Samurai, an absolutely ridiculous flat (I don’t know the model or make, can someone help me out?) A very disorienting flat, I really liked the dynamics of the directional changes. The cars felt weighted to avoid constant flipping, which was perfectly understandable given how the intense the thing was…the first of lots of great flats at Thorpe.

We started working the park in a circle, arriving at, Slammer, the S&S Sky Swatter. I was expecting this thing to just hurt my head with the slow upside down rotations…I was happily mistaken. The restraints were surprisingly comfortable and the ascent to the top appropriately builds the suspense. As we started flipping I didn’t feel as if there were a thousand pounds of pressure on my head, the ride really accentuated the feeling of falling more than anything else. It felt like a pseudo-“I’m falling down, but getting floater air” sort of feeling. While I don’t think S&S Turbo Drops are all that great, their swings, Sky Swatter, and Double Shot (holy crap Indiana Beach) are all amazing. S&S has got a lot of gems up their sleeve now.

Next up was Nemesis Inferno, an ‘oh so’ deep red B&M invert. We waited roughly 10-15 minutes. Argh. I hate stations that enter from the front or back. Even though there was a separate queue for the front on both Collosus and Nemesis, people still just stand there when there are 6 empty rows. If I recall correctly they had a crowd person at Collosus for a couple cycles here and there, but at least the ride op was working the microphone to tell people to move at Nemesis (this would work at Raptor if you could actually hear the speakers). We snabbed the back seat and were off. What more can I say, B&M are simply the masters of the craft. While the first drop was not as good as Alpie or Raptor, this mid-size invert was practically flawless. A very intense loop followed by a zero-G that rotated to the left. All the B&Ms I can think of rotate to the right on their zero-g rolls (I looked this up and it seems like all the B&Ms I have ridden twist to the right, but this isn’t the rule). A very odd sensation and of course, as a zero-g roll it lived up to its name. Great weightlessness and I really love the way it rolls right into a curve. The interlocking corkscrews were great with no headbanging whatsoever, although my one friend disagreed.

On to, Detonator, the Drop Tower. A long wait since a couple seats were out, but holy crap this tower packs a punch. Short, but right to the point!

Next we moved on to Stealth, another spectacular Intamin rocket…that doesn’t work. I think the ride broke down 4 times while we were in line the first time. While the crowds were light at the other rides, Stealth had a pretty good line and the flawed legalized line jumping system reared its ugly head. Once I got close enough to see what was going on I realized a little less than half the train was riding fast pass or whatever. So you have an Intamin rocket that sporadically breaks down, goes in between one and two train operation, has slow dispatches, and runs a number of seats for fastpass customers…do the math, the capacity sucked. As for the ride, it was also a bit disappointing. I suppose if you had never ridden a rocket this thing would have blown your mind but having ridden Xcelerator and Dragster, Stealth just didn’t do much for me. The launch was a quick burst of acceleration rather than the sustained whoosh you get on Dragster and Xcel. The upward ascent into the top hat was brutal, I really felt it in my lower back. On the plus side, the tower gave some decent airtime and the bunny hop was obscenely awesome. Riding all these one trick pony rockets really makes me want to try Stormrunner and some of the European looping rockets.

As a side note, the Amity Cove area of the park felt horribly Americanized…I guess that was kind of the point but it felt kinda awkwardly put together. I also must say that Stealth has a horribly ugly color scheme.

We stopped at the Fish & Chips shop for some fish, chips, drink, and mushed peas (so good) for a decent price of around 7 pounds. Considering normal amusement park prices and how brutally expensive London is I wasn’t complaining.

We continued our circular tour to X:/No Way Out. This ride should be called X:/ The most awkward blocking system of all time. We didn’t wait too long, and soon boarded the minimalist lap bar trains. The thing just meanders around and STOPS at almost every block brake. After the trains stop, they move forward a few inches (which is really backwards since the trains face backwards), or towards oncoming trains, and then release and go on their way. I have to say the sheer terror of realizing your blocking system is pushing you in the wrong direction is enough. I don’t know why the blocking system does this, but what an awkward ride.

Next was Thorpe’s S&S Screamin’ Swing, Rush: a solid swing, better than Kennywood’s swing, but still nowhere near Skyhawk. I don’t know what it is about Skyhawk, maybe it is the ride’s size, but it just seems much more thrilling.

We would also hit up the park’s Mini Frisbee, Vortex. I don’t know if this is the same model as Knott’s La Revolucion, but it’s a great model, accentuating the “pirate ship” feeling in your stomach, giving you some nice pops of air, and still spinning you rather quickly. I like this model much better than Huss’ mini-frisbee (SFGAm) which just spins ludicrously fast, but still not nearly as much as Huss’s giant frisbee which simply rules.

BTW, I loved all the little sayings before the rides started. Collosus: “the power of 10”. My personal favorite was obviously Vortex which had a sexy woman announce: “Prepare for the cyclonic forces of the raging Vortex”. Classic.

The last ride we hit before we re–rode the coasters was Quantum (a magic carpet?). A fun ride, although I still hold that Michigan’s Adventure’s large forward facing carpet is the best of its kind (Indiana Beach has the same model, but is more sickening than MiA;s).

The ride-ops did fairly well, getting trains in and out of the station at pretty respectable intervals. I do not remember having to wait around for people with loose articles, the riders did a nice job of putting their stuff away and being done with it. Unfortunately, the ride-ops were not good at communicating available single rider seats, but the single rider line worked to our HUGE advantage on Nemesis, nabbing 5 additional rides, back to back.

Overall, Thorpe Park fulfilled my expectations, and the S&S Sky Swatter and Nemesis really exceeded my hopes. Thorpe is a gem of a park with an impressive collection of coasters and flats.

-Craig


(BTW, the park map says a “Flying Fish Roller Coaster” is coming in 2007, which I assume is a Setpoint roller soaker?)

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