The Trip of a Lifetime (The Start) (7/11/02)

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Tuesday, September 10, 2002 10:13 PM

---Please be advised that this series of trip reports will be longer than normal and take a lot of time to read---

“Where to begin?”.........

Yea, I know it’s late, but I have been trying to come up with some words that can semi-describe the experences I had on the ACE European Coaster Odyssey, and it’s tough. Out of all the trips I have done, this is the first one that I have left speechless. To say the trip was the best trip of my life would be a total understatement. Those of you that went on the trip can probably relate to what I am saying. It honestly was a life changing trip for me and I will attempt to try and explain what I am talking about with this series of trip reports. I will add a trip report from the tour each day. By the time you finish reading all segments, it will be 20 days later. This is exactly the same amount of time I spent overseas and will hopefully give those that weren’t on the tour an idea of what we did each day and how long the tour actually lasted.

The planning stages of this trip started about 2 years ago for me. While the trip wasn’t formerly announced until last year, I had heard about idea of a large tour of Europe 2 years ago. While it may have been just an idea at the time, it was solid enough for me to start thinking about going, even though no dates had been set yet. I was determined to get to Europe in 2002 even if there wasn’t a major coaster tour going on.

In 1996, ACE did a week long UK tour. I was extrememly close to going on that tour but had to cancel because I soon found out I was going to be laid off from my job. Funny thing is, I was also told that I would be staying with the company one day before the tour started. While I appriciated the fact that I was not going to lose my job, I didn’t stay much longer and soon found a much better job, one at which I am still at.

At the ACE Coaster Convention at Hershey Park last year, Tim Baldwin (the ECO tour cordinator) set up a workshop so those that were intrested in attending the ECO tour would get some much needed info. I attended the workshop and was excited to hear the info. The first words Tim mentioned regarding the tour was to fly into London’s Gatwick Airport or Heathrow Airport. Those were the first instructions of the tour I heard and knew right then and there that this was slowly becoming a reality.

Six months later I started to look into airfare. I decided that I would fly into London’s Gatwick, and fly home from Paris’s CDG Airport. While this was more expensive, it would benefit my scheadule. My mother Phyllis decided to go on the tour also. She is also an ACE member but was doing the trip more for the Europe stuff than the actual coaster stuff. I was happy she decided to go as I am sure she would have as much fun as the rest of us. In Janurary of this year, we both purchased our airfare. Soon after, we got the info on the price for the tour company, as well as the ACE fee. Considering the nature of the tour, I was expeciting it to be MUCH more expensive so I was pleasantly surprised at the total amount. While it wasn’t cheap, it was doable considering I had been saving for quite some time to do this tour.

Due to me working a LOT of overtime at work, I honeslty didn’t get a chance to get excited about the trip. As lame as that sounds, it is the truth. Some friends that were going would actually call me and tell me things like, “Just think, in one month we will be in England!” While I knew exactly what they were saying, it didn’t register so therefore I didn’t get very excited. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. I even considered the fact that the tour could easily be cancelled so that was just anouther reason I wasn’t getting my hopes up. The tour sounded great. Too great in fact. For some reason I thought there had to be a catch. Not sure why, but it just sounded wrong to have THAT much fun for some reason.

July 11th, 2002…………..

The day was here. The plan was easy. I would be getting off work at 7:00PM the night before, and planned to stay up for at least 24 hours so I could sleep the entire way over the Atlantic Ocean. That way, when I arrived in London at 7:45AM, I would be waking up in the morning. I still had a LOT to do before I left Columbus. I didn’t pack until the night before, and I still had to send out my regional newsletters that included the flyer for Screech Fest at LeSourdsville Lake. I spent around 5 hours folding and stuffing envelopes. I even managed time to write a small article just a few hours before I left, for ACE News regarding Stark Raven Mad. I was so tired that I don’t even remember what I wrote.

I woke up at around 9:00AM, and left for the airport at 10:00AM before dropping off my newsletters at a post office. With Phyllis in the passenger seat, we made it to the airport without any problems at all. The weather was fine and our flight was scheduled to leave on time. We checked in and soon waited for our Continetal flight to Newark, New Jersey.

At this point in the trip, I still wasn’t excited yet. I love to travel, and the thought of me going to England was very cool, but it still wasn’t registering. I had actually been dreaming of going to Europe to ride coasters since 1994. I have had many dreams about it actually. We soon boarded our small plane and made the one and a half hour flight to Newark. Since I stayed up for 27 hours the night before, I was tired as expected so I slept for about 30 minutes on the flight. Once we landed, we had about 4 hours to spend in Newark.

I looked out the windows in the airport and looked at the nearby New York City skyline. This was my first time seeing the NYC skyline in person since I was last there in 2000. Seeing the NYC skyline without the World Trade Center towers was very sad. I wasn’t sure how the skyline would look without them. The change is very drastic and I didn’t think it would look as different as it does. We decided to take a train downtown and walk around a bit. We arrive at the train station at Madison Square Gardens and walk out onto the streets.

I honeslty didn’t know how far up in Manhattan we were so I looked around a bit. I didn’t see any skyscrapers that I am familiar with so I continued to walk around MSG for a few more minutes. As I turned a corner, I looked up and right in front of me was the Empire State Building. We were going to go up to the top but time was running out before we had to be back at the airport so we got back on a train and made it back with time to spare.

Once at the airport, we checked in and ran into ACE members Sue Barry, Rich Yekel, Stephen Fox, Nancy Carrigan, and here friend Shirley. We talked briefly about the tour before boarding our 777 aircraft. I had never flown in a 777 so this was going to be cool. We soon board the massive plane. I could not believe how large this thing was. It was HUGE! Once we found our seats, I look at the back of the seat in front of me and notice there is a LCD screen facing me. Not only that, but there was a plastic bag containing a pillow, blanket, and stereo headphones sitting on my seat. All for free!!

I sat down and started to mess around with the remote control that was sitting next to me. In a few seconds I realized that I had a full entertainment system sitting in front of me, for free. I had about 12 movies to choose from, about 10 other channels including some music channels, 20 or so audio channels, some video games, and a very cool ‘live’ map showing where we are in the world thanks to a GPS system on the plane. This map showed altitude, land speed, arrival times, local time, and flight time, among many other things.

It was then and there that I realized that I was totally screwed. How would I sleep through a flight like this when I have all this cool stuff sitting in front or me? I stayed up for 27 hours so I could sleep through this flight and now I have to see this? Why do I see myself being very tired in London?

The flight was to take slightly longer than 5 hours which is much shoter than I thought. On the flight I watched Big Fat Liar, a episode of Just Shoot Me, a lot of music videos, the GPS map, and a British comedy called Absolutley Fabulous. I didn’t understand a lot of the humor in that show but it was fun none the less, well, at times at least. I ended up sleeping for about 2 hours while listening to all kinds of different music thanks to my MP3 player brought along. Falling asleep to Type O Negative and The Doves was quite easy. I woke up about an hour or so before we were to land.

As we approached London, I could start to make out the surrounding land and could clearly see roadways where cars were on the opposite side of the road than I am used to. The land around the area looked so different, yet familiar. It was pretty gray looking out due to overcast and this is exactly what I pictured England to look like. It was at this moment that I finally started to get excited about the trip. Here we are, looking over England, going on a 20 day trip with some great friends. It was very surreal. We soon landed and I became REALLY excited. We left the plane and walk to customs. The first thing I notice is the airport is quite. There were a lot of people all around, but no one really talks. Customs was a total breeze to get through and I finally got a stamp in my passport!

We then met up with ACE member and good friend, Larry Scott, at the baggage claim. We were supposed to meet up with Joe Campenella at this time but we couldn’t find him. After a quick stop at an ATM to get some pounds, we decided to take the trains to our hotel in Hammersmith. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was about to become a very big hassle.

We boarded our first train and soon took our seats. Once again, it was quiet in the train considering the train was packed. I was really blown away with the London scenery. Lost of old buildings just as I had pictured it would look like. At one point, we passed a large power plant with 4 tall smoke stacks that looked familiar. Larry told me that Pink Floyd used that power plant as a cover for their Animals album. I knew it looked familiar. We made a few stops and switched a couple of trains. Hauling that luggage around from station to station, up stairs, down stairs, and around corners was really wearing us out. By the time we reached our station, we were drained and not very happy; however, the local people that helped us find what we were looking for were fantastic. Is everyone in London this nice? Everyone seemed to want us to have a great day despite our hassle in getting to the hotel.

Once we reached the Noveltel Hotel in Hammersmith, we tried to check in. Somehow I managed to get my room while Phyllis and a few others remained in the lobby waiting for their room to be ready. I also ran into a lot of friends that were sitting around. I ran into Greg Legowski who did an awesome job at putting together a mailing list for those of us that were going on the tour. I also ran into the Reagan Family who I had just seen a few weeks before at Timbersfest. Justin Garvanovic of the ECC was also down in the lobby getting ready to head out with the Reagans. Justin is a great friend that I see maybe once a year if that. This was the first time I was in his neck of the woods and it was good to chat with him a bit.

Once I walked upstairs to my room, I had no idea what to expect as far as the rooms go. The hotel was very nice looking from the outside and inside, but I hadn’t seen a room yet. Once I walked in, I was kind of surprised to see how small the room was. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very nice room, but the beds were no more than 2 feet off the ground which I found to be odd. They were comfortable so I couldn’t complain. The bathroom was about the same size as a standard US bathroom but for some reason the tub was taller than the tubs I am used to.

I stored my luggage away and got a phone call from Joe Campenella. He had checked in and was ready to go out into London. I told him to come on down to my room where we would meet the others and then leave. Brad Haller showed up first. Brad was more than ready thanks to a map of the entire train system he picked up at the station close to us. Joe, Mike Parker, and Larry Scott, all showed up next with Phyllis. There was a small mix up at the front desk regarding my mother’s room so she ended up deciding she was staying with me. There was a small couch she decided to sleep on. Even though the room wasn’t a double room, I didn’t mind if she stayed with me. She was very tired and decided to skip out on going out to London so she stayed at the hotel while the rest of us went down into the lobby.

We ran into Greg again and decided to all go to Chessington World of Adventures via the train. As we were walking outside, we rant into Tim Baldwin, Jeffrey Siefert, and a few others that were going to check out London as well. We quickly purchased our ‘Tube’ tickets and away we went.

Next up…..

Chessington World of Adventures and a great tour of London.

Thanks for reading,

-Sean

*** This post was edited by Sean F. on 9/11/2002. ***

*** This post was edited by Sean F. on 9/11/2002. ***

*** This post was edited by Sean F. on 9/11/2002. ***

*** This post was edited by Sean F. on 9/11/2002. ***

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 3:50 AM
Sounds like it is going to be an awesome trip. Chessington wasn't on the regular itinerary was it?

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-Sean

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 6:36 AM

You've known me for how long and you can't spell my last name correctly? ;)

Good prelude to the TR's Sean, can't wait to read more! It will bring back the memories, seeing as how I'm way too lazy to write my own TR's. Damn my lack of motivation.

Can't wait for the next one!

Joe Campanella

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It tastes like burning.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 7:12 AM

No, Chessington wasn't on the tour.

I ended up not going with them. I was ACTUALLY supposed to have met up with Sue, Rich, and Steve that morning, but we missed each other. The funny bit there is Sean and Phyllis were on the same flight, and I DID hook up with them. Once we got to the Tube station, I decided I wasn't feeling energetic enough for Chessington, and just went straight on to London instead for lunch (having been to London before, I had a vague sense of where I was going, and quickly found my favorite Indian restaraunt in the world... :) )

Looking forward to the rest of your trip reports, Sean. Joe, where are yours? ;)

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 9:23 AM

Legendary said:

You've known me for how long and you can't spell my last name correctly?

Woops. What can I say, you just have one of those names. =:^)

Good prelude to the TR's Sean, can't wait to read more! It will bring back the memories, seeing as how I'm way too lazy to write my own TR's. Damn my lack of motivation.

Yea. Whatever happend to the rest of your trip reports you were "going" to do?

-Sean


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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 9:25 AM

Sean F. said:

Legendary said:

You've known me for how long and you can't spell my last name correctly?

Woops. What can I say, you just have one of those names. =:^)

Good prelude to the TR's Sean, can't wait to read more! It will bring back the memories, seeing as how I'm way too lazy to write my own TR's. Damn my lack of motivation.

Yea. Whatever happend to the rest of your trip reports you were "going" to do?

Thanks for the comments guys. Just be prepared though as the rest of the reports are extremely long.

-Sean Flaharty





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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 10:10 AM

Wow, that trip sounded awesome from the very beginning....we'll make it one of these upcoming vacations.....

P.S. Hard to spell a schwa........can't we just say Joe C.

*** This post was edited by rollergator on 9/11/2002. ***

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 2:47 PM

Sounds like the start to an amazing trip. I definatly agree with you about the airplane. When I flew to France last winter I didn't sleep at all, just watched the movies and shows.

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84 coasters and counting

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 3:00 PM
Sean wrote:

Yea, I know it’s late, but I have been trying to come up with some words that can semi-describe the experences I had on the ACE European Coaster Odyssey, and it’s tough. Out of all the trips I have done, this is the first one that I have left speechless. To say the trip was the best trip of my life would be a total understatement. Those of you that went on the trip can probably relate to what I am saying.

I can relate completely. I've travelled a lot (I'd already been to all of the countries we visited except Wales) but this was the best trip I've ever taken. It was life changing for me as well. I'm so glad I made the last-minute decision to do it. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your reports.

Janna R. (Have to put the "R" there because for some reason CoasterBuzz won't let me just sign "Janna" all by itself---it comes out with asterisks like it's a bad word or something. What's that all about?)

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 4:08 PM

Hey Janna! Good to see you posting on Coasterbuzz...we need some more intelligent people over here. ;)

I will third the comment that it was a life changing experience as well...I am *itching* to go back!

Joe, who hopes to see Janna at OcBoulderFest next weekend

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It tastes like burning.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 4:18 PM
Joe you going to PPP?

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-Sean

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Wednesday, September 11, 2002 5:12 PM

Nope, gotta work that weekend. :(

I'll be at GOCC event at HW Sept 28 though, so all is not lost.

Wish I could be going and camping out again, that was fun as hell! Y'all have fun without me though, hehe.

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It tastes like burning.

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