Trip of a Lifetime (Alton Towers)(7/18/02)

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Monday, September 16, 2002 8:05 PM
Part 7- Alton Towers

“Um, this isn’t going to be 30 minutes”……….

I woke up at around 8:00am and did the usual morning Pontin’s breakfast. I ended up getting about 6 hours of sleep, which was the most I had slept so far on this tour. Breakfast was quick due to the fact that I still had to finish packing. Yes, packing, as in leaving Pontin’s. Jeff Johnson was all ready to go when I got back to the room. He must have packed quickly because he had stuff spread out all over the place when I left to go eat breakfast. Perhaps he was as eager to leave Pontin’s as most?

At around 9:15am, everyone met out front with their luggage. This was only the second time we had to have our luggage out in the coach area. We would soon be getting used to this as we had a lot one night stops ahead of us. At around 9:30am, we were ready to go. No more Twinkie sized beds. No more timed showers. No more rations. It was time to say goodbye to the wonder that is Pontin's. As expected, some folks in our coach decided to start signing the “Goodbye” song that is played at Blackpool at closing.

We only had an hour and a half drive to Alton Towers. This was the park I was most excited about visiting. Being a huge fan of B&M coasters, I was more than excited to get to the park and try Nemesis, Oblivion, and the new Air, then most. I was also anxious to see the park itself as I heard it was one of the prettiest parks in the world. Our drive took us through a few small villages that were very rich in English atmosphere, and down very narrow country lanes that seemed impossible to transverse with our coach. We could see Alton Castle in the distance, which increased the anticipation even more.

I announced on the way to Alton that the park could very well be extremely crowded thanks to hordes of school children. We had been warned about this in advance so we thought we would have some sort of idea of what to expect. When we reached the parking areas, we passed hundreds of coaches in a large coach park…..and that was just one coach park. We passed another coach park that had hundreds more. I think we under estimated the crowds at Alton.

We had to first stop at our place of rest for the evening, the Alton Towers Hotel. I had heard a lot about this hotel from many people but was kind of surprised to see how small it was. Given that it looked very nice, it just didn’t look like I expected it to. The hotel arranged for us to drop off our luggage in the lobby, and they would take it up to our rooms for us once the rooms were ready. This was a nice touch and provided us with some extra time in the park. After making a couple reservations for dinner and breakfast, it was now time to go into the park. Woo hoo!! Joe Campanella, Alan Conceico, Jeff Johnson, Phyllis Withers, and I found out how to get to the monorail station to take us to the park,


After a quick walk up to the station, we boarded the monorail to take us directly to the front gate. The short ride took us pass Nemesis and Air. Everyone that was in the same compartment as I seemed just as excited to ride. Once we arrived, we quickly gave the ticket holders our tickets we received back at the hotel and walked into the large front gate area. From the look of things, everything looked great. There was a large, grassy, open area directly ahead that we walked to before opening our park map and finding where the closest coaster was. Not too far away from where we were standing we found a coaster that I didn’t know existed at this park.

===The Beastie==(#434)

This is a kiddie coaster which features a figure 8 layout similar to that of a Wacky Worm, but seems to have more “oomph”. I believe our ride on this consisted of 2 laps around. Sitting in the front provided a nice pop of airtime with a sharp lateral jolt thanks to the first turn after the first drop.

We then continued our walk deeper into the park. Some of the group I was with decided to use the toilets at this time, while Alan and I took the time to joke around on video about how the whole area we were surrounded by looked like a college campus. We also witnessed a man pushing a baby carriage which hit something in the pathway and completely flipped the carriage on its side. Luckily, there was no baby in it, but Alan and I both had the same expression when we saw it. “What was that?”

From the bathroom, we could make out the top of Oblivion’s lift. That seemed like the logical choice for where we should head next. Once we had the group back, we headed that way. Walking in the whole area where Oblivion sits is very neat looking. Seeing this B&M coaster in person for the first time was amazing. I had seen so much about it and I was about to ride it soon. We had to meet for our lunch at 2:00pm so if the line was too long, we were going to have to wait until after we ate. According to the LED sign that was above the start of the queue, the wait was 30minutes. We all agreed that this was probably going to be one of the shortest waits of the day considering how crowded everything looked so we decided to give it a try.

===Oblivion===(#435)

Ok. Let me just start off by saying that long waits for rides can be much easier with the company of great friends. I had a great group of friends with me, and we did have a wait in store for us. Boy did we have a wait. It seems the sign out in front of the line was wrong. However, we were committed to waiting it out. I am not sure who designed this queue, but from the looks of things, they didn’t know much about how queues are supposed to work. First off, the queue was about 10 people wide. Second of all, the line would constantly split up into halves, and then merge back together into a huge area, only to be divided once again, over and over. At one point there were vending machines only located on our side, so anyone on the other side of the line would have to cross under the metal railings to get something out of the machines.

We must have been line jumped 20 times (on our own side mind you) before we put a stop to it. Jeff Johnson wouldn’t let a group of kids cut in front of us so they instead went onto the other side to do it. The line makes it way up and around a hill before reaching the loading station. We spotted friends Howard Gillooley and Rick Koppleman a bit above us on one of the last turns. They were probably 200 people ahead of us, yet, due to the strange design of the line, we actually got into the loading station before them, and we didn’t line jump. There was also a “gum target” for those wanting to have fun with their gum. While it looked like a lot of people used it, the area surrounding it was covered with gum and trash. Nasty. By the time we reached the loading station, we were standing in line for 2 hours. I hate to say it, but this was the worst queue I have ever stood in. However, there was a payoff to the line and that was the ride.

Oh yea, the ride. Almost forgot about that. Seeing the trains enter the station made my excitement level rise. It’s not every day you see a B&M coach that seats 8 people across, with two rows. The loading was a bit strange because they stagger loading. The row of people standing next to you at the air gates are actually waiting for the same row as you, but in another coach. Once sitting in the comfortable B&M seats, it was time to ride!

The noisy, steep lift provided some anticipation as we knew that just around the top of the lift would be something special. Watching this machine plummet riders into a black hole was freaky enough, but we were about to be the ones to plummet. Once we crested, we slowly made our around the top turn of the ride, where we could clearly see the Alton Castle in the distance. It was now time to see what this ride was capable of!

We slowly made our way to the edge. We head a voice echo, “Don’t look down” before the grab chain that was holding us gave way. Yes folks, this is indeed one steep drop. You can’t see the bottom of it because of the hole we were rapidly heading towards. The float on the way down is spectacular. For some reason, I didn’t think the ride would offer as much airtime on the way down as it did. While the fog entering the hole was on, it wasn’t on heavy so we didn’t get as wet as I had heard we would. Darkness comes quick when free falling into a dark hole and sure enough, we couldn’t see anything for a brief second as we continued to fall below ground. As we started to pull out of the drop, we could see daylight. The climb back up to ground level was much steeper than originally thought.

Once back out in the daylight, we made a nice, smooth, tight, and high banked turn before hitting the final brakes. Yes, the ride is short, but we knew that well in advance. So, what did I think? Well, I honestly loved the ride, but I don’t think I would wait another 2 hours for it again. I loved the float, and I loved the smoothness, but I didn’t like that line. Honestly, I can’t remember being in a line that nasty.


As we left this area, we realized we were just about to miss the final moments of our lunch. We had 5 minutes to see what was left. By the time we got there, all that was left was a couple a danishes, a few slices of bread, and a handful of lettuce. It was our own fault for standing in that 2 hour line but I do believe the park should have displayed the correct wait time for the ride. Once we ate as much as was available to us, we walked back into another area of the park. Everyone shared their opinion of Oblivion at this time. Most like it, but a few didn’t care for it at all. This is understandable though as it is a quick ride.

The park was super crowded at this time. With crowds bring a lot of trash. Everywhere we looked was trash. I mean, it was everywhere. Alan and I made the comment that this placed looked like another familiar park chain that doesn’t seem to clean up very well. With every new area we walked into, was more trash. We went into Forbidden Valley to go look at the wait times for Nemesis and Air, but were welcomed by more trash and longer lines. We decided to pass.

===Corkscrew===(#436)

We then rode a cable car over the famous gardens before reaching Ug Land. At first, we thought the Corkscrew coaster was being refurbished as it looked partially painted, but we forgot that certain attractions are painted to match the tree line because nothing can go over the tree line. The line itself was themed to dinosaurs and featured a very funny soundtrack (Hey!.........Hey!........Hey!) that kept us laughing the entire 20 minute wait. The ride itself was identical to Flamingoland’s Corkscrew so we knew what to expect. I liked Flamingoland version quite a bit. This version was pretty violent for what it did and I didn’t care for a re-ride. .

The exit for this ride dumps people into an arcade and wouldn’t you know it, there were 2 Dancing Stage machines. I could have easily played both if I wanted, but we still had more things to ride so I only played one machine. Same songs as the versions I played at other parks on the tour. There was another coaster near Oblivion that we didn’t ride due to the long line so we made our way back to Sector X and found the indoor coaster.

===Black Hole=== (#437)

Once again, this line was dirty. Gum was all over the line signs, as well as all over the landscaping. Luckily, we didn’t have to look at the trash long because some of the line was indoors. Once inside the loading area, we noticed the familiar looking cars. This seemed to be a Schwarzkopf Jet Star 2. We noticed that ride operators were making people ride together which is something I normally don’t have a problem with, but they would only enforce the rule part of the time. Alan and I got paired up to ride together where other people in a different train were allowed to ride by themselves. Alan and I had a hard time fitting into the same seat because our legs are quite long. Even before the ride began we were uncomfortable.

I don’t remember much of the ride other than it being really dark, and every once in a while a couple of lights would shine to make it look like we were about to collide with something. I do remember though the amount of pain Alan and I shared as our car went around each curve. Due to the cramping in the car, our legs were constantly being banged into the side of the car. We couldn’t move around to adjust so we just had to tough it out. Needless to say I didn’t ride this coaster again. It seems like it would have been great fun if it wasn’t so uncomfortable for me.

A lot of the people I was with weren’t terribly impressed with the park so far. I hate to admit it, but I was also thinking the same thing. Perhaps we caught the park on a really bad day or something? I have heard how beautiful the park was and how clean everything is, but to tell you the truth, I was kind of sad at which the parked looked. I just wish it would have been cleaner.

Before ERT was to begin at 7:00pm, the crowds started to thin out a bit so a few of us took the time to ride other things like a very cool Haunted House, and the amazing Hex haunted swing ride that resides in the Alton Castle. The whole way the line moves through the castle in the beginning is great as is the actual ride. Easily the most impressive and believable of the haunted swing rides I have done. The only thing that took away from the illusion is the curtain “balls” on the top of the curtains. They were moving away from the curtains as the room flipped over and over. Still, just a minor fault for an otherwise amazing attraction.

===Nemesis===(#438)

Here is the one I was looking forward to riding the most. Once again, I have watched the videos, seen the pictures, and heard the stories. This was the last ride we got before ERT started on another nearby coaster, so we had to sit first available in order to make it over to our next ride. As luck would have it, we noticed no one waiting for the back row. Sean, Ivan, Phyllis, and I all went for the back. As amazing and eerie as the queue line was, I was prepared for a rather intense ride.

While I knew the layout, I couldn’t give a play by play because I really couldn’t’ see much. The forces were great but there was something missing from the ride that I knew existed. I just had to figure out what it was. I did like the ride but I wanted to give it another ride in the front to see if I could find my answer up there. However, the park was closing so I decided to make my way over to the coaster for ERT.

===Air===(#439)

Having ridden Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Over Georgia a ton of times this year, I was very interested to see how a smaller version of the B&M flying coaster would feel. First thing I noticed was the very close calls to the ground. I mean, there are parts that look like they are 2 feet above the ground. Once in the station, I was mesmerized at the way they dispatch trains. The station has dark look to it but once the trains are ready to be dispatched, a eerie blue light shines on the train from above, then a whisper is heard saying, “Prepare for Air……..Assume the Position……..Now Fly………Fly” This is an incredible touch that I wish I could see at more parks. It really gets people in the mood and does so in a great way.

The music selection the ride has while in line is great also. It has kind of new age sound to it. I wish I could find it somewhere because I really enjoyed it. Anyone have it?

The seats themselves feel just like those at SFOG (no surprise there). Once in the flying position, it was time to go. While facing down, we exited an underground tunnel before going up the quick lift. Once at the top, we went down a nice small drop before turning right and heading down a larger drop. From that moment I knew this was a much different feeling. A nice rise and flip onto our backs resulted in some nice gs before rotating again and heading face first into a tunnel. Another rise and turn brought us flying over the Air plaza. Once again we were flipped but this time 360-degrees. We dove down again, rose again (airtime!), and headed back towards the ground and some nice sculptured rocks. A rise and turn brings us back to the final brakes.

I had heard some negative reviews of this ride. Having ridden the other, more intense, version. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Air. I was pleasantly surprised. I think the feeling of flying is more pronounced on this ride than any other ride I have ridden like it. I had to ride again, and ride I did. I ended up riding 3 times total before I ran into Nigel. Nigel was sitting down talking to Ron Ross’s. Nigel was watching the coaster and wanted to give it a try but he was worried he would throw is back out. For someone that loves the Grand National at Blackpool, I told him he didn’t have to worry about it considering Air was the smoothest coaster so far on the tour IMO. Ron tried to talk Nigel out or riding, and for a few minutes, convinced him to stay put. However, Nigel couldn’t resist once he saw his boss, Mr. Bullock himself, riding. As it turns out, Nigel rode twice, and had no back trouble. He even commented it was the best coaster he had ridden.

Our ERT ended and we boarded our coaches to go back to the Alton Hotel. We could have easily walked to the hotel but we were offered a ride on our coaches. No problem there. Once back at the hotel, we picked up our hotel keys and made our way into our rooms. Jeff and I took the stairs as the wait for the elevator was long.

“Now THIS is a room!” Jeff proclaimed.


After staying 4 nights at Pontin's, these rooms were a nice sight. The view from the window overlooked a large garden area with many things to do. Each room had a large teddy bear sitting in a chair. We had a REAL working shower. The whole nine yards! Needless to say, Jeff and I were more than impressed with our room. We had dinner reservations soon so we cleaned up a bit and went to the elevators.

The elevator doors open and our jaws hit the ground as we were treated to a themed elevator. It looked like a rusty old lift, but was themed very well inside. That’s not all. Each floor has its own theme music. When someone presses a button, a whole light show and music selection blares before reaching the destination you want to go to. What a nice touch. There were a few of us that purposely wanted to experience every music and light show selection so we rode all the way up, then all the way down just to see what it would do. No wonder there was a long line for the elevator. It was fabulous.

Our dinner was great and included good food and a drag queen (no joke…and I wont’ explain it). There were about 10 of us sitting at our table and we had a great time talking about what was to come on the tour and what we had done already. We still had many more days left on the tour and none of us were worrying about it ending too soon.

After dinner, Jeff and I went back to our room (via the lift of course) and watched some more nudity on standard TV before crashing out for the night. It felt so good to be in a large room, with air conditioning. We had to get up around 7:30am to make our breakfast reservation but luckily I would be getting a whole 7 hours of sleep this night…..the most sleep on the tour so far.

Next up………

A better day at Alton Towers, and a backwards time at Drayton Manor.

Thanks for reading,

-Sean

*** This post was edited by Sean F. on 9/17/2002. ***

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002 3:48 AM
Too bad about AT. My friend just went there and he also had to wait 2 hours for Oblivion.

-----------------
-Sean

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002 6:23 AM
I thought it was cool ,at the hotel, there was a sign welcoming ACE. The food and people at the hotel were great. I also remember Joe and Jeff playing on the playground equipment - just like a couple of little boys!!! I found it sad that the area was so beautiful but that people didn't respect the grounds and littered. I was also surprised not to find ONE postcard. By this time, we were beginning to pick up on their language.....toilets, mind the gap, cheers, etc. I'm like everyone else, Sean, can't wait to read tomorrow's report.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2002 7:06 AM

As always, another great TR!

If you dont mind Sean, I was going to add some more photos to your TR. I you do mind----than fine...No more photos for you! HeeHee.

Drag Queens in Alton.

This picture will give you an idea of what looking down from Oblivion's lift hill feels like! (You had to be very sneeky getting this photo. There were cameras all up the lift hill and a few on the turnaround. I saw some people get stopped halfway up the lift hill and have an employee climb up and take away their cameras!)

One last photo of the Corkscrew in Ug Land.

Thanks again Sean!

-Matt "who doesnt know the name of Royce's new band that we are going to see in October" Bacoulis

*** This post was edited by baclueless on 9/17/2002. ***

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002 10:10 AM

baclueless said:

As always, another great TR!

If you dont mind Sean, I was going to add some more photos to your TR. I you do mind----than fine...No more photos for you! HeeHee.

I don't mind at all. Thanks for sharing!

Drag Queens in Alton.

Why is that "person" sitting on your lap? From the looks of it, you are enjoying it quite a bit.

This picture will give you an idea of what looking down from Oblivion's lift hill feels like! (You had to be very sneeky getting this photo. There were cameras all up the lift hill and a few on the turnaround. I saw some people get stopped halfway up the lift hill and have an employee climb up and take away their cameras!)

Awesome! If it was cool with you, I turned the photo around to look like this

-Sean


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