Thursday, 6 October 2011

Nemesis Nick's Fortieth Birthday Spectacular

Date: Friday 30 September 2011
Venue: Thorpe Park
Who Went: Just me

N.B. Any use of "today" in this report means Friday 30 September 2011.

Rationale For Trip
Friday 30 September 2011 was an important milestone birthday for me, my 40th birthday. Or to put it another way, the day I went from being a 3 year old with a 9 on my back to being a 4 year old with a 0 on my back! Naturally enough I was determined to celebrate the occasion to the max. After looking at various places I could go, early September I made a decision to visit Thorpe Park on my special birthday, and therefore booked a park entry ticket in advance, as well as Advance train tickets Bath Spa to Staines and back. My ambition was to ride the coasters Stealth, X:\No Way Out and Flying Fish for the first time ever (having not ridden them on my previous visits to Thorpe Park) and re-ride the coasters Colossus, Nemesis Inferno and SAW - The Ride (which I'd ridden previously), plus ride other rides. I even went so far as to have a special birthday T-shirt, of my own design, printed at T-Shirt Print in Bath about a week before my birthday.

Getting To Thorpe Park
Just like certain RCCGB trips I have attended the last couple of years, it was necessary for me to wake up at 4:30am, which for me is exceptionally early. From Bath Spa I caught the 06:13 train to Reading, for the connecting 07:24 train to Staines. I reached Staines at 8:04, almost two hours before Thorpe Park was due to open! To kill some time I had a tall cappuccino and pain au raisin at Starbucks Coffee in the town centre. Just after 9:00, I caught the Thorpe Shuttle bus from Staines Bus Station to Thorpe Park.

Welcome To Thorpe Park
I finally reached Thorpe Park at 9:13 and already there was a queue of thrill seekers at the main entrance. Since I'd pre-booked my ticket about three weeks earlier, I waited by the Advance Ticket Collection point. Once issued with my ticket I queued at the main entrance. Whilst waiting an attendant scanned people's tickets and stamped their hands, presumably to save time later. The sun was shining brightly, and it was already quite hot.

In The Park
The main gate opened just before 10am and people gradually filed in. I spotted the security checkpoint on the way in, but thankfully I was one of the majority told to go straight in (thereby bypassing the checkpoint).

Once inside I headed straight for Stealth, which claims to be the UK's second tallest coaster. Just my luck, it was out of action. I met a group of attendants, who told me it had been down the preceding five days. Whilst they were hoping to get it fixed today, there was no guarantee that it would run. I was heartbroken, I particularly wanted to ride that as to-date I've never ridden that (it was out of action on my previous visit to Thorpe Park: RCCGB Saw-Ted 21 March 2009). Anyway I told the attendants today was my birthday, and they liked my birthday T-shirt (they thought it was clever). I had my photo taken with them.

I asked the attendants if X:\No Way Out was running, as I'd not previously ridden that either. Thankfully it was, so I headed for that next, but whilst trying to find my way there, I passed the entrance to Nemesis Inferno. Since its queue was currently almost zero, I decided to ride that first.

Nemesis Inferno (roller coaster)
My first ride of the day, I sat in row 3. This Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted Coaster (Custom) began operating 4 April 2003. The train set off around a clockwise downhill spiral around the volcano, then through a tunnel. After that it went up the lift hill and downhill several times, and around various bends. There was one loop-the-loop along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, and didn't scream or shout "Mercy" (unlike my very first visit to Thorpe Park in June 2005). Wow, what better way to start my 40th birthday visit to Thorpe Park? I only had one go for now, sadly this ended up being my only go.

X:\No Way Out (roller coaster)
After some difficulty, I finally found my way to X:\No Way Out. I'd not ridden this on previous visits, because until I registered with Coaster-Count in September 2009, I didn't realise it was a coaster! I thought it was just a dark ride. So I was determined to ride this today, and thankfully there was no queue for it at the time. This Vekoma Enigma has been operating since 23 March 1996, and is one of 3 coasters of this model operating worldwide. The train is unusual in that the seats all face backwards to the direction of travel. What looks like the first row (row 5) is in fact the back row, and what appears to be the back row (row 1) is the front row. Confusing to say the least! My first go was in row 5. At the end I had to exit the ride but since there was still no queue, I decided to have a second go, this time in row 1. My verdict: going backwards was weird, but great fun; however I think certain lighting features are tad superfluous.

Next I headed across the Park in the direction of Colossus. I passed Rush, but it wasn't running at the time. Zodiac wasn't running either. Thankfully Vortex was running, and its queue was short, so I approached that next.

Vortex (Afterburner)
My first non-coaster ride of the day, a Freak-Out / Afterburner type ride which swings and spins. Whereas some riders were screaming, I was singing "Hard Rock Hallelujah" (Eurovision winner 2006). One go was fun but I didn't want to risk a second go.

I wanted to ride Colossus next, but it was out of action, so I headed across the Park in search of something else.

Logger's Leap (log flume)
A log flume, which I tried to ride during RCCGB Saw-Ted March 2009, but was unable to on that occasion due to problems with it. Thankfully this time it was working, and furthermore the queue was very short at the time. To avoid getting wet, I put on a cagoule, but not leggings. My log sailed around the canal for some way before going up the first lift hill, and down a drop. The splash was nothing like as big as I thought it might be. My log continued for what seemed like eternity, until eventually it reached a second lift hill, followed by a drop, which produced another splash. Finally the log sailed on to the station. This was my only go on Logger's Leap all day. Not really enough to express an opinion on it, but it's certainly a longer ride than the log flumes at the two Crealy Parks (Devon and Cornwall), or Wild Water at Brean Leisure Park.

After that, queues for some rides were building up. The quoted queue times were Colossus 30 minutes, Samurai 20 minutes and SAW - The Ride 45 minutes.

I decided to do Samurai next, as I'd not previously ridden this. Although the quoted waiting time was said to be 20 minutes, I think it took me more like 30 minutes to get on this ride. Anyway it was worth the wait. This consists of several seat rows which flip over as the main "spider" rotates. Not for the faint hearted! Despite that, I didn't scream at all on this ride, in fact I was quite relaxed. My only worry was ensuring my keys and wallet didn't fall out of the pockets of my jeans, but thankfully they didn't. Another fun ride spin 'n' spew ride, but once was enough.

By now Colossus was working again, but due to its long queue, I decided to save that for immediately after lunch, as the waiting time would give me the necessary after-lunch break between eating and riding.

Tidal Wave
"You will get very wet on this ride". The queue was quite long for this, about 50 minutes, hardly surprising as it was a hot sunny day. When I reached the station, I put my cagoule and leggings on. Someone behind me laughed and asked if I was going to put Wellington boots on as well. My feedback was "Why don't they modify the ride so you don't get wet on it?" Two boats were in service; when it was my turn boat 1 was in the station, thus I rode in boat 1. There was a large climb to the top. At the top the boat did a U-turn and down the ramp (long way down), until it hit the water with a mighty splash. At this point my T-shirt and jeans stayed dry underneath my rain gear, whereas everyone else became drenched! Serve the others right for not wearing waterproofs on the ride! Finally there was another U-bend and back to station. Having disembarked I removed my wet rain gear, and the other riders noticed how dry I was.

Lunch At Crust
Feeling peckish, I went to get some lunch somewhere. I went to Crust, where I had a BLT baguette and black coffee. I sat at one of their outdoor tables to enjoy them.

After lunch I considered joining the 45 minute queue for Rush, as the waiting time would allow my food to settle down before riding. However I compared the waiting times for nearby rides. Colossus was down again and SAW - The Ride had a wait of over an hour. I returned to Rush and that was down. Determined to ride something I headed for Flying Fish, and thankfully that was running, so rode that next.

Flying Fish (roller coaster)
This Mack Rides Blauer Enzian originally operated as Space Station Zero from 1983 to 1989, and Flying Fish from 1990 to 31 October 2004. After being in storage during 2005 and 2006, it was brought back into service, still as Flying Fish, at the start of the 2007 season. Annoyingly I somehow missed this at RCCGB Saw-Ted on 21 March 2009, so this time I was determined to count this family coaster. Whereas several other rides had long queues, this was walk-on. I sat in the 3rd row, and the train did 6 laps. Having left the ride, it was still walk-on, so I went back on for a second go, this time in the back row. This time the train did just 4 laps, it appears that it's pot luck how many laps you get on one ride. My verdict: tame compared to even Hornet at Flambards or Maximus at Devon's Crealy, but still worth riding to get the tick on Coaster-Count.

Detonator (drop tower)
A drop tower ride which I missed during RCCGB Saw-Ted in March 2009, so I was determined to ride it this time. The waiting time was quoted as 20 minutes, probably just as well as it gave me a welcome break from riding. Again it was worth the wait. The seats are arranged on a circular unit surrounding the tower. Once everyone was secured, the seat unit was pulled to the top of the tower, whereupon it was released. It's difficult to describe how it feels during the freefall drop, but once again I was relaxed throughout the whole ride duration, and didn't scream at all. Sadly the ride was all over too quickly, it's just once up and once down. Another mega fun ride, the only way to find out what it's like is to ride it yourself.

After that, I headed in the direction of Colossus and SAW - The Ride, but in so doing passed Mr Monkey's Banana Ride, which happened to be walk-on, so I decided to do that first.

Mr Monkey's Banana Ride
A family ride in the "Thrilling and Fun!" category, this is basically a swinging pirate ship but the boat resembles a yellow banana. I sat in an end row to get the maximum thrill out of it. A fun "fill in" ride to add to the total number of rides this visit. I only had one go though.

Colossus (roller coaster)
This Intamin AG Looping Coaster (Colossus) has been operating at Thorpe Park since 22 March 2002. According to the RCDB, it is still one of just two coasters of this model worldwide. Shortly after 3pm I joined the queue for this roller coaster, which the indicator panel stated as having a 45 minute wait. However I ended up queuing for over an hour (whilst I was part way along the attendant announced it had a 75 minute wait). Eventually I reached the station and got on. The train set off up the lift hill, around a bend and down a steep hill, around the vertical loop and under a bridge. Next it went up half a loop, before doing a U-turn whilst inverted and down another half loop. After that it went back under same bridge as earlier, up and down a bit, along a flat section, and into the horizontal corkscrew. Sadly the fun was all over too quickly, as the train headed around the end bend on an angle, along the home straight and back to the station. It was well worth the long wait though, at least I managed to ride Colossus having thought a few times I wouldn't be able to ride it today. Most importantly I was totally relaxed and didn't scream at all throughout the ride, unlike when I first rode it in June 2005.

SAW - The Ride (roller coaster)
This Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter (Custom) has been operating since 14 March 2009. It is one of 8 coasters of this model currently operating worldwide. When I joined the queue at 4:30pm, the waiting time was quoted as 65 minutes, but thankfully I didn't have to wait that long. I got onto the ride around 5pm. The car set off through the building, I noticed a dip in there. Once out of the building the car worked its way around to the vertical lift. The car climbed the vertical lift, went down the beyond vertical first drop, around the vertical loop and back to the station. I was totally relaxed throughout the whole journey and did not scream at all. A mega fun ride to end my birthday visit to Thorpe Park. I must admit though, I personally feel the ultra violet and other lighting effects plus air currents in the building unnecessary overkill. You wouldn't get those in a real factory sawmill.

Sadly that was my final ride of the day. Having left SAW - The Ride, I walked around Thorpe Park. All queue lines closed now, but riders already in queues were still getting their rides.

Summary of my day at Thorpe Park in order of activity
Nemesis Inferno
X:\No Way Out x 2
Logger's Leap
Tidal Wave
Flying Fish x 2
Mr Monkey's Banana Ride
SAW - The Ride

Cumulative summary of rides all day

Flying Fish
Logger's Leap
Mr Monkey's Banana Ride
Nemesis Inferno
SAW - The Ride
Tidal Wave
X:\No Way Out

I finally left Thorpe Park at 17:27. As I approached the exit gate, I saw a group of attendants and showed the front and back of my T-shirt. They thought it was funny, and wished me a happy birthday. By the way, here is me wearing that T-shirt: front view and back view.

Returning To Staines
I walked across to the bus stop, and as I expected, there was a long bus queue. A Staines bus turned up at 17:33, but I was unable to get on to that one. Another bus turned up at 17:54, and thankfully I was able to get on to that one. When the bus left Thorpe Park the journey to Staines was much longer than Staines to Thorpe Park in the morning. In fact, the bus seemed to take a round-a-bout route to Staines (different to the route taken in the morning). I had no idea where we were going. At 18:18 the bus arrived Staines railway station, which seemed odd as it hadn't yet called at the bus station (where I expected it to call first). I asked the driver if he was going to the town; he was but he said it would be quicker for me to get off and walk, so I left the bus. Suddenly I recognised my bearings from earlier and spotted the Railway Walk I took this morning to the town centre.

Birthday Dinner
Back in the High Street, I looked for somewhere to go for my celebratory dinner. Initially I saw Harvester and looked at their menu from outside, but decided to compare other places first.

At 18:36 I reached The George (Wetherspoon). As soon as I saw their menu, I decided to eat there, and sat at one of their first floor tables. As soon as I sat down I put my birthday cards on my table. I chose the following meal:

Main course: Large Mixed Grill. That comprised gammon steak, rump steak, lamb chop, pork steak, two Lincolnshire pork sausages, chips, peas, half a tomato, mushroom, fried egg, and six onion rings in batter.

Dessert: Belgian waffle with ice cream and Belgian chocolate sauce.

Drink: one pint of Brighton Best.

The main course was delicious and filling and my dessert was a great way to finish my meal. When I finished my dessert just after 7:30pm there was still plenty of time to spare before I really needed to leave The George, so I enjoyed the rest of my beer at a leisurely pace. I also returned to the bar to order a large cappuccino. By 8pm I'd finished my beer and coffee, but spoke to another customer for a few minutes about my birthday to pass some more time.

Journey Home
I left The George at 8:22pm, and walked straight back to the railway station. Once there I caught the 20:53 train to Reading. Having reached Reading at 21:41 there was time for me to get a regular latte coffee from Subway in the station concourse before catching the 22:11 train to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath Spa at 23:17 and home about ten minutes later.


Adding X:\No Way Out and Flying Fish to my coaster count.
Re-riding Nemesis Inferno, Colossus and SAW - The Ride which I'd ridden on previous visits.
Celebratory birthday dinner at The George Wetherspoons in Staines town centre in the evening.

Stealth out of action, so I never had chance to ride it.
One hour or so wait for Colossus when I rode it in the afternoon.

Summing Up
Altogether a mega fun day out to mark my 40th birthday, despite being on my own all day. Where better to spend this red letter day of my life enjoying the rides at The Nation's Thrill Capital? It was great to add X:\No Way Out and Flying Fish to my coaster count, and re-ride Nemesis Inferno, Colossus (eventually) and SAW - The Ride. It's just unfortunate that I was unable to ride Stealth, and thus have still not ridden it, but there's always next year when the new coaster opens. The celebratory evening dinner at The George Wetherspoons in Staines town centre provided a grand finale to the special day.

Many people I met throughout the day, including on the trains there and back, the staff and visitors at Thorpe Park, and people I saw at The George (Wetherspoons) liked my birthday T-shirt. They thought it was clever, and/or funny. Some were puzzled when they first saw the front though. When I said "Today's my birthday" as I pointed at the front of my T-shirt, some said "You can't be 4 though", but when I turned round to show "with a 0 on my back!" they understood that I was actually 40. I'm so glad I had that T-shirt printed now, wearing that throughout the day added to the fun of celebrating my birthday.

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