Friday, 30 October 2015

Nemesis Nick's Birthday Outing 2015

Date: Wednesday 30 September 2015
Venue: Thorpe Park
Who Went: Just me

N.B. Any use of "today" in this report means Wednesday 30 September 2015.

Wednesday 30 September 2015 was my 44th birthday and, as usual, my biggest decision was where to go to mark the occasion. The last two years my birthday outing consisted of a day at Thorpe Park followed by a celebratory evening meal at Harvester, Staines. Both were amazing days out, so by the start of September 2015 I strongly favoured doing exactly the same again this year. Early September I saved myself money by booking an advance web ticket to Thorpe Park. Getting Advance train tickets from Bath Spa to Staines and back was a bit tricky this time. The same day as I booked my ticket to Thorpe Park I managed to get an Advance train ticket for my homeward journey from Staines to Bath Spa in the evening, but not my outward journey in the morning. After some experimentation later in September I eventually managed to get an Advance ticket for Bath Spa to Wokingham (changing at Reading), plus an anytime single ticket for Wokingham to Staines. Obviously that ticket arrangement necessitated an extra change of train at Wokingham on my way to Staines in the morning, but that didn't bother me too much. For the fifth year running I had a special birthday T-shirt of my own design printed, this time at John Moore Sports, Bath, about a fortnight before my birthday.

Getting to Thorpe Park
It was necessary for me to wake up at 4:00, which for me is exceptionally early. From Bath Spa I caught the 05:41 GWR train to Reading. Having arrived there I had just a few minutes' wait for the 07:04 GWR train to Wokingham. Finally I caught the 07:26 South West Trains train to Staines. I reached Staines at 7:57, more than two hours before Thorpe Park was due to open! Meanwhile I enjoyed a much-needed cappuccino and butter croissant at Waitrose Café in Two Rivers Retail Park, Staines. Soon after 9:30 I caught the Thorpe Park Express bus from Staines Bus Station to Thorpe Park.

Welcome to Thorpe Park
I reached Thorpe Park at 9:47 and immediately went to the Advance Ticket Collection point to collect my pre-booked ticket. Without further ado I joined the back of the main queue, which was now quite long. Just before 10:00 the front shutters rose and visitors funnelled through the ticket check point.

Morning Riding

Once admitted I began with the giant swing Rush. Both swings were in action, and I managed to get straight on to it. This S&S Power Screamin' Swing has been operating since 27 May 2005. The swing went forwards and backwards a little to start with, rising higher and higher on subsequent forwards and backwards passes. Eventually it swung really high forwards and backwards. Finally the forwards and backwards swings became low ones, until the swing stopped completely. A mega fun ride to start my birthday visit to Thorpe Park, I remained quiet the whole time unlike when I first rode it in June 2005. My one go ended up being my only go on here all day.

My first roller coaster ride of the day was Colossus. This Intamin AG Looping Coaster (Colossus) has been operating at Thorpe Park since 22 March 2002. According to the Roller Coaster Database (RCDB), it is still one of just two coasters of this model worldwide.

Being as it was early in the day I was able to walk straight up to the station. I got there in time for the first train of the day, and sat in the second row. Once despatched, the train climbed the lift hill, went 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. Finally the train headed around the end bend on an angle, along the home straight and back to the station. Altogether a fun ride, I was totally relaxed and didn't scream at all throughout the ride, unlike when I first rode it in June 2005.

Of course, once wasn't enough. Having left via the exit path, I headed straight back to the entrance for a second go on Colossus. This time I wanted to ride it in the front row, and thus had to wait two runs for a front row seat. Riding in the front row meant I had an unobstructed view of the way ahead from start to finish. This ended up being my final go of the day on Colossus as I didn't return to it later in the day.

A kind of big wheel made by Huss. It is similar to Enterprise at Alton Towers which I rode during Loopathon Alton Towers in 2005 and 2006. I sat in car 1 and the door was locked shut. The cars hang from above; you sit inside one but there is no restraint. The ride set off clockwise. As it picked up speed, the cars flung outwards, and eventually the whole disc tilted so everyone travelled around a circle at high speed on an angle. At this speed, centrifugal force kept riders firmly in place, hence no need for a restraint. I noticed it was almost impossible to lift my feet or arms when going full speed. Towards the end the disc returned to the horizontal position, the ride slowed down and the cars returned to their normal dangling position. A mega fun ride, but once at a time is enough for me. Two goes on this straight off would make me really giddy. I never returned to this ride later in the day.

SAW - The Ride
This Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter (Custom) has been operating since 14 March 2009. It is one of ten coasters of this model currently operating worldwide. SAW - The Ride was almost walk-on at the time. When it was my turn I sat in the far right seat of the front row. The car set off through the building, I noticed a dip in there. Once outside the building the car worked its way around corners 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. Altogether a fun ride, I was totally relaxed the whole journey and did not scream at all. However I still call the lighting effects and air currents in the building unnecessary overkill. You wouldn't get those in a real factory sawmill. Why do they bother having them here?

Afterwards I had a second go on SAW - The Ride. Once again the waiting time was minimal. This time I sat in the far right seat of the back row.

Soon after I left the SAW - The Ride at the end of my second go, a member of staff said it had just been closed due to high winds. It was just as well I went on it when I did. I didn't return to it later, so I've no idea whether or not it reopened.

From around midday I felt warm enough going around in just my T-shirt and shorts. It remained warm enough for that the rest of the time I was in Thorpe Park.

I fancied a go on Slammer next. There were just a few others waiting to ride it when I approached it. Just like the others already waiting, I got on to its very next run. Other riders sat in the same row as me. Once everyone was secured in their seats the ride began. The part of the ride with seats at both ends rose upwards before starting to flip over about its centre. During the flip, my end rose really high, over the top and back down again. I'm not sure how many cycles there were, but eventually the seat unit returned to horizontal whilst still near the top of the tower, before finally returning to ground level. My verdict: not as bad as I'd feared, but once for now was enough! I never returned to this later

The wait for Nemesis Inferno was now 25 minutes, so I decided not to go on it. I got to Stealth, but it was closed. There was a problem with Stealth; engineers were hoping to have it working later but no guarantee could be given at present. Tidal Wave was also closed. Suddenly I fancied going to Roast and Relish for lunch, but on the way there Flying Fish had a five minute waiting time, so I decided to go on that first.

Flying Fish
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. According to the RCDB, this is one of seven coasters of this model currently operating worldwide. Unlike Thorpe Park's other six coasters, one ride consists of multiple laps of the track, although from my past experience the actual number you get seems to vary from turn to turn. I was able to get straight on to Flying Fish without having to queue, and this time one go consisted of three laps. This is undeniably a tame coaster, but nonetheless still worth riding to say I had been on it today. For now I limited myself to one go on Flying Fish, and didn't return to it later.

As I left Flying Fish I met Planenut from the RCCGB, we spoke to each other for a few minutes. He noticed I had a birthday T-shirt again and liked it.

Lunch at The Coffee Shack
Afterwards I tried to get some lunch. Roast and Relish, where I most favoured going, was closed. I passed a kebab place, they did kebab, chips and drink meal deals, but I didn't fancy that as I was likely to be having chips as part of my celebratory meal in Staines in the evening. My next stop was a jacket potato place in Angry Birds Land, I considered getting a filled jacket potato, but they weren't going to be ready for about 10 minutes.

I ended up going to The Coffee Shack in the Dome. When I got there at 13:15 I had toasted chicken and pesto panini and a bottle of Sprite. I put my birthday card on my table for the duration of my lunch.

Afternoon Riding
I was eager to return to riding as soon as possible after my light lunch, but didn't want to ride anything too boisterous too soon. Depth Charge seemed the ideal ride to go on shortly after lunch, as it's quite a gentle ride, so I began the afternoon by riding Depth Charge.

Depth Charge
Four open top wavy water coasters which you ride fully clothed in dinghies. These NV Aquatic slides were built in 1991. I enjoyed one go per slide left to right (as viewed from the top). My rigid insistence on sliding them in that order slowed me down slightly; on some goes I waited at the top for the person in front to go down my desired slide when I could have descended an alternative one.

Thorpe Park's newest coaster, which opened 15 March 2012. This Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Coaster (Custom) is a model which has been in production since 2011. According to the RCDB, this is one of eight coasters of this model currently operating worldwide, and the second to enter operation. Its maximum height of 127' (38.7 m) makes it the fifth tallest coaster currently operating in the UK. It appears to me as though this coaster was themed around an air crash, due to the broken aeroplane on the ground and the station which resembles an air crash / fire damaged church with a missing roof. Originally all the seats faced forwards, but at the start of the 2013 season, the back two rows were reversed to face backwards to the direction of travel. I was determined to ride Swarm both backwards and forwards.

First go: backwards. The queue to set off from the left hand platform (as viewed facing direction of travel) was longer than I'd have liked, largely due to there being just two backwards facing rows. Determined to ride it backwards I patiently waited. When it was my turn I sat in the back row, and therefore had an unobstructed view of the track. The train climbed the lift hill, descended the steep first drop, climbed the next hill, flipped over at the top before going down again. This was followed by a loop, another flip-over and the rest of the course back to the station. Travelling backwards on a coaster was an unusual sensation, but I didn't find it as scary as the "Have you got the guts to brave it backwards?" slogan implies. It was definitely worth the longer-than-desired wait.

Second go: forwards. I set off from the left hand platform (as viewed facing direction of travel). Since there are far more forwards facing rows I faced a shorter wait this time. This ended up being my final go of the day on Swarm as I didn't have time to return to it later.

Storm Surge
This WhiteWater West water ride first opened in 2011. When I approached this ride I put on my all-in-one splashsuit to prevent me getting wet. Once ready I was able to take the one remaining seat in a round dinghy already containing other riders. One member of their group also happened to be celebrating his birthday that day and thus the others in the boat sang "Happy birthday" on behalf of me and that other person. The boat climbed the tall lift hill. Having reached the top, the dinghy floated down what is really a wide water slide all the way to the bottom, where there was a splash. Finally the boat sailed along a canal at the bottom, around a bend and back to the disembarkation point. Altogether this is a fun water ride. My only gripe was the water in the bottom of the dinghy; by positioning my feet at the highest point within the boat going uphill and downhill I just about managed to keep my feet above the water. One really needs Wellington boots to ride this. The attendants ought really to pump water out of the boats between rides, provided it doesn't take too long. This was my only go on Storm Surge all day.

Rumba Rapids
Being as I was already wearing my splashsuit, it made sense for me to go on another water ride next, so I headed for Rumba Rapids. This Intamin river rafting ride originally opened in 1987 as Thunder River, and was called Ribena Rumba Rapids from 2002 to 2006. Since 2007 it has operated as Rumba Rapids. I got into an empty boat, which floated around the flowing waterway and up the ramp back to the station. Part way around I noticed waves which gave the feeling of being on choppy water, but apart from that it was more a relaxing ride than a thrilling one. Reluctantly I limited myself to just one go on this as I wanted to go on Logger's Leap next.

Logger's Leap
I had a spot of bother finding my way from Rumba Rapids to Logger's Leap, and ended up walking around much of Thorpe Park to get there. When I eventually found Logger's Leap the ride was walk-on. I already had my splashsuit on when I got there, and obviously kept it on before getting into a vacant log. This Mack Rides log flume opened in 1989. 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 it eventually reached a second lift hill, followed by a drop, which produced another splash. Finally the log sailed on to the station. Back at the station the attendant asked if I wanted another go, I was allowed to remain in the same log for my second go. At the end of my second go I disembarked as I wanted go on other rides. Altogether this is a fun two-drop log flume. Comparing this to other two-drop log flumes I have ridden elsewhere, this gives a longer ride than the much more compact Wild Water at Brean Theme Park. Having left Logger's Leap I removed my splashsuit and didn't go on any more water rides the rest of the day.

An indoor roller coaster. This Vekoma Enigma is one of just two coasters of this model operating worldwide. It originally operated as X:\No Way Out from 23 March 1996 to the end of the 2012 season, during which time the train had five rows of seats which faced backwards to the direction of travel. Since the start of the 2013 season it has been operating as X, with new forward facing trains, and the building now illuminated by lasers and disco lights. There was no queue for X when I approached it late afternoon. I sat in the back row. This coaster was worth riding to say I'd ridden it this visit, but I wouldn't rate it highly. I limited myself to just one go as I wanted to go on other rides before closing time, which was now fast approaching.

This Intamin AG Accelerator Coaster has been operating at Thorpe Park since 15 March 2006. With a maximum height of 205.1' (62.5 metres) it is the second tallest coaster currently operating in the UK and fourth tallest coaster currently operating in Europe. Its top speed of 80 mph makes it the fastest coaster currently operating in the UK and third fastest coaster currently operating in Europe.

After queuing for about five to ten minutes I got into a vacant row, but can't remember which one. The train set off, climbed the vertical lift hill, went over the top and down the vertical drop. Having landed, there was one more gentle up-down undulation, before the train was back at the station. Wow, a mega fun ride; one of the most exciting rides I went on all day. The snag was the fun was all over way too quickly! Reluctantly I limited myself to just one go. I resisted my temptation to have a second go as I still hadn't ridden Nemesis Inferno.

Having left Stealth I passed the tea cup ride. I resisted the temptation to cram in a go on that as it was now nearly closing time. It was now time for me to prioritise what I most wanted to ride in the remaining time, the ride I wanted to go on most of all being Nemesis Inferno.

Nemesis Inferno
This Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted Coaster (Custom) began operating 5 April 2003 and is currently one of 17 coasters of this model currently operating worldwide. I still hadn't been on this, and was hoping to get at least one go before ride closing time which was now just a few minutes away. Fortunately this was still open and walk-on, so I got into row 5. Once despatched the train set off around a clockwise downhill spiral around the volcano, then through a tunnel. After that it went up the lift hill, downhill, 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).

Afterwards I still had time for one more go, despite having to recirculate around the exit and entry paths. Once again the ride was walk-on; I sat in row 6 this time. This ended up being my final ride of the day.

Passing through the shop after my second go, an announcement was made stating that Nemesis Inferno was now closed, therefore riders must not re-join its queue.

Summary of my day at Thorpe Park in order of activity

Rush 1
Colossus 2
Zodiac 1
SAW - The Ride 2
Slammer 1
Flying Fish 1

Lunch at The Coffee Shack

Depth Charge far left slide 1
Depth Charge second slide from left 1
Depth Charge second slide from right 1
Depth Charge far right slide 1
Swarm (backwards) 1
Swarm (forwards) 1
Storm Surge 1
Rumba Rapids 1
Logger's Leap 2
X 1
Stealth 1
Nemesis Inferno 2

Cumulative summary of rides all day

Depth Charge far left slide
Depth Charge far right slide
Depth Charge second slide from left
Depth Charge second slide from right
Flying Fish
Logger's Leap
Nemesis Inferno
Rumba Rapids
SAW - The Ride
Storm Surge
Swarm (backwards)
Swarm (forwards)

After leaving Nemesis Inferno I gradually headed towards the Dome and exit. Along the way I had a few more photos taken of me at various points in the Park. In addition I met Planenut again and briefly spoke to him again on the way out. I finally left Thorpe Park just before 17:30.

Returning to Staines
I walked to the bus stop, and as I expected, there was a long bus queue. Whilst I was waiting many more people joined the queue behind me. A Thorpe Park Express bus turned up at 17:49. Initially I thought I might not get on it, but I managed to get on. Once I was on there was still a long queue, it looked to me as there was no way they'd all get on. Several more people squeezed on to the bus before it finally left at 17:55. Once the bus had left Thorpe Park it went to Staines via Chertsey, and thus the evening journey back to Staines was much longer than the direct route from Staines to Thorpe Park in the morning. The bus finally reached Staines Bus Station at 18:38.

Birthday Dinner
My birthday fun continued back in Staines town centre. Around 18:50 I went to Harvester for my celebratory dinner. Once seated I placed my birthday card on the table and took time deciding what I wanted to eat and drink. Eventually I chose 7oz gammon steak under the meal deal. This included a fried egg, a pineapple slice, fries, peas and half a tomato, plus a fill-it-yourself salad bowl. I went to the salad bar to fill my salad bowl whilst waiting for my main course to arrive. To drink, I had a choice of soft drink, tea or coffee included in the price of the meal deal, or alternatively an alcoholic drink specified on the meal deal menu for an additional upgrade fee. Being as it was my birthday I upgraded to one pint of Carling. My main course was really delicious; the accompanying salad bowl made it more filling.

Having completed my main course I was ready to order a dessert. After all, a meal would not be complete without a dessert. The meal deal included either the default Sundae Best (which didn't include cream) at no extra charge, or any of the other sundaes from the main menu (all of which were topped with fluffy cream) for an additional upgrade fee. I upgraded to one of the sundaes which included cream; I ended up choosing Honeycomb Explosion. At the time of ordering I was asked if I wanted a candle put in it as it was my birthday. The waiter and waitress who brought it, complete with a burning candle in the top, sang "Happy birthday" to me. After that I blew the candle out, removed the candle and enjoyed the sundae. Its combination of creamy vanilla ice cream and Devon cream toffee, topped with fluffy cream, honeycomb pieces and Belgian chocolate sauce was a delicious treat to finish my meal.

Having finished my sundae I enjoyed the rest of my drink at a leisurely pace. By the time I had finished that it was almost time to head back to the station. Just before leaving Harvester I put my fleece and jogging bottoms on as it was now getting chilly outside.

Summary of my meal
Drink: One pint of Carling
Main course: 7oz gammon steak with egg, pineapple slice, fries, peas and half a tomato, and salad bowl
Dessert: Honeycomb Explosion Sundae

Journey Home
At 20:34 I left Harvester and began walking to Staines railway station. Once there I caught the 20:53 South West Trains train to Reading. Having reached Reading at 21:43 there was time for me to buy a takeaway Americano from Land's End Pasty Co. on the inter-platform footbridge before catching the 22:12 GWR train to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath Spa at 23:21 and home about ten minutes later.


Excellent weather, mainly sunny all day and hot for the time of year during the afternoon.
High overall ride count.
Satisfaction of riding all seven coasters in a single trip.
Unexpectedly meeting Planenut from the RCCGB just before lunch and again as I was leaving the Park after the rides closed.
Celebratory birthday dinner at Harvester in Staines town centre in the evening.

Tidal Wave closed so I was unable to ride that.
Bus journey from Thorpe Park to Staines in the evening took longer than desired.

Summing Up
Altogether a mega fun day out to mark my 44th birthday. Where better to spend one's birthday than enjoying the rides at The Nation's Thrill Capital? The weather was excellent, dry and mainly sunny all day, and sufficiently hot for just T-shirt and shorts from around midday. Effectively it was a summer-like day on the last day of September, which is officially an autumn day. Ride queues varied depending on the ride and time of day, but I tended to pick rides that which were walk-on or had very short queues, even though that meant leaving Stealth and Nemesis Inferno to the end of the day. It was really satisfying to ride all seven coasters (Colossus, SAW - The Ride, Flying Fish, Swarm (backwards and forwards), X, Stealth, Nemesis Inferno) again. Just one point about the seven coasters, they're all steel. Come on Thorpe Park, get some wood! It was also great riding other non-coaster rides I first rode on previous trips, including Rush, Zodiac, Storm Surge, Rumba Rapids, and Logger's Leap. It's a pity I didn't have time to ride Detonator: Bombs Away, but never mind. Closing time always seems to come too soon at Thorpe Park. An unexpected added bonus was meeting Planenut from the RCCGB and just before lunch and on my way out of the Park at closing time. Although we didn't have one ride together (which was a pity) it was great to talk to each other both times we met. The celebratory evening dinner at Harvester in Staines town centre was the grand finale to this special day.

Many people liked my self-designed birthday T-shirt. Some were puzzled when they first saw the front, until I showed the back. Wearing that throughout the day added to the fun of celebrating my birthday.

Photos of my birthday outing are available here

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