Wednesday, 22 February 2017

RCCGB Loopathon 2016 (Day 2)

Date: Sunday 2 October 2016
Venue: Drayton Manor Park
Who Went: Me and a large number of other RCCGB members, including Andy Hine, Adey and Katelyn, Alan Hunt, Barry Frost, Ben, Brian, Dan Ould, Debra Boggis, Derek Eddy, Doug and Charlie Turner, Emerald Evans, Kelly Cameron, Matt Walker, Planenut, Ryan Hackett, Stevie B.

DISCLAIMER: The above is NOT intended to be an exhaustive list of everyone who attended. It's a small sample of attendees; mainly those I spoke to and/or rode with at Drayton Manor Park. I sincerely apologise to anyone I've not listed.

Rationale for Trip
The RCCGB's annual two-day autumn event to mark the end of the coaster season: Alton Towers on the Saturday and Drayton Manor Park on the Sunday. This was my fourth time of attending Loopathon day 2 (Drayton Manor Park), and my sixth Loopathon attendance overall since joining the RCCGB in March 2005.

Sunday First Thing
I awoke at 6:30, in order to get ready and have breakfast just after 8:00. For breakfast I had a bowl of cornflakes, a glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee, and a full English breakfast. Just after 8:30 the taxi, which I had booked before breakfast, arrived to take me to Drayton Manor Park. It was sunny at the time.

Welcome to Drayton Manor Park
When I arrived around 8:50 RCCGB members were in the Tower Suite awaiting entry. I spoke to a few other members including Barry Frost, Derek Eddy, Planenut and Matt Walker. Eventually I met Emerald Evans and Ben, who were intending to take me to a station in the evening, so I put my large bag in their car boot. Soon after that it was time for everyone to enter the Park. The Club entered the Park around 9:30.

Apocalypse ERS
The day began with an ERS on the 54 metres tall drop tower Apocalypse. Normally there are three ride options: sit down, stand up with floor, stand up no floor. In all cases, a large clasp comes down, locks on to the top of the rider unit and pulls the rider unit to the top of the tower. After a short delay the rider unit is released for a freefall drop.

Sit Down
I began with the easy option: sit down. Once seated, the harness was pulled down and the rider unit was raised to the top. The ascent was quite scary, but eventually the rider unit reached the top of the tower. One can see for miles whilst momentarily at the top. The freefall drop was quite scary, but I remained quiet during the ride.

Stand Up With Floor
I was now keen to try the stand up with floor option. There was just a narrow saddle (similar to a bicycle saddle) to fit between my legs whilst standing, and a harness to hold me in place. The rider unit tilted forwards a little at the start of its ascent, which made the ride experience somewhat scarier. Having reached the top, the drop was considerably more frightening in the standing position.

Sit Down
After that, I still had time for three more goes in the sit down position during what remained of the ERS. Out of these three goes, I had to leave and re-enter between my first and second goes, but didn't have to do that between my second and third goes. At the end of my third go I had to leave Apocalypse as the ERS was over, and the entrance doors were closed.

Summary of my rides on Apocalypse this ERS: Sit down 4, Stand up with floor 1. Did anyone beat me on that?

Morning Freetime
The ERS ended just after 10:00, but the rides across the whole park opened at 10:30. RCCGB members waited in the immediate vicinity of Apocalypse until the rides were about to open.

Maelstrom Takeover
As the rides were about to open, several RCCGB members including me headed towards Maelstrom and stood in line waiting for it to open. Just like most of the other rides on park, this was due to open at 10:30, but several minutes later Maelstrom was still closed, with no estimate of when it would open. There appeared to be a problem with Maelstrom. After about 10 to 15 minutes, I left the queue, feeling it would be in my best interest to go on something else rather than stand and wait hoping Maelstrom would open.

This Intamin Stand-Up Coaster has been operating since 1994, and is one of only two stand-up coasters in Europe. The train set off up the lift hill, around a vertical loop, another inversion and a double corkscrew before returning to the station. I had two goes on Shockwave. On both goes I joined the main queue, but I was lucky enough to get the one spare seat on the front row, thereby giving me an unobstructed view of the way ahead each time.

Stormforce 10
A variation on a log flume, the boats seat several riders. You have to go upstairs to reach the platform. Riders are warned they will get very wet on this ride, which is why I donned my all-in-one splashsuit before getting into the boat. The boat set off downhill from the station, around a u-bend, around a spiral and up a lift hill to a dead end. The boat was now on a turntable, which rotated the boat to go down another slope backwards! As expected there was a mighty splash at the bottom. The boat was now on another turntable, which rotated the boat again, to continue forwards along the rest of the journey. The boat continued forwards, around a u-bend, up another lift hill (taller than the previous one), around two bends to the left and down a drop, to create an even bigger splash. Finally the boat completed its journey with two more bends to the left and a final climb back to the station. Wow, a mega fun ride, it's much more than your average log flume (the likes of the one at Flambards). One go was enough for me though. Having left Stormforce 10 I removed my splashsuit.

Afterwards I met Debra Boggis near Air Race and spoke to her for a few minutes before going on anything else.

Air Race
This Zamperla ride began operating at Drayton Manor in 2014. It has horizontal spokes radiating from a central cone. At the end of each spoke is an arm with an aeroplane at its end, and a pivot point connecting the arm's midpoint to the spoke end. The lower central cone, with its radiating spokes, spins clockwise. After a while the arms with the planes at their ends start rotating around the arm's midpoint. Hence riders in the planes go sideways and upside-down as well as upright whilst travelling clockwise relative to the ground. Now seemed the ideal time for me to ride this because a) about three and a half hours had now passed since I finished my cooked breakfast, and b) lunch was about half an hour away. The ride sensation when I was going sideways and upside-down was unusual to say the least! Presumably that motion is intended to simulate an aeroplane somersaulting in flight. On the whole, this is a fun ride, but I'm glad the ride duration wasn't any longer. One go on this was enough for me for now; I didn't return to it later in the day.

Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
One of the rides in Thomas Land, this Gerstlauer Junior Coaster (Custom) has been operating since March 2008. Although only a family coaster, and a rather tame ride, I was just as keen to ride it as the other coasters around the Park, as my goal was to ride all five coasters at least once each. One ride consists of two laps. Altogether Troublesome Trucks is a small but fun coaster. For now I only had one go. This was my final ride before lunch.

Lunch at Tower Suite
At 12:30 members exited the Park and went to the Tower Suite for lunch, however it was a little later when I got there. Once there I looked for somewhere to sit. Most of the seats were already taken, but luckily I managed to find a vacant seat. Unlike 2014 and 2015, there were no souvenir mugs on the tables. For now I thought Drayton Manor Park had given up giving away souvenir Loopathon / Drayton Manor Park mugs as had been the case from 2013 to 2015 inclusive. I joined the back of the queue, which by now was fairly short (several members had already got their food). A wide assortment of food was available; some was served by the staff behind the table and some was self-service. Once I had a plate full of food, I returned to my seat and enjoyed my main course.

Of course a meal is not complete without a dessert. The dessert was profiteroles served with chocolate sauce and fruit slices. Unfortunately, when I returned to the serving table, all the profiteroles and chocolate sauce had gone. Feeling disappointed, I took some of the few fruit slices that were still there, and returned to my seat. A few minutes later a member of staff arrived at my seat with a bowl full of spare profiteroles and put four of them in my dish, however he said there definitely was no chocolate sauce left. Never mind, I still enjoyed the profiteroles without chocolate sauce.

Park CEO & Owner Colin Bryan gave a speech about various park matters, including the closure of Flying Dutchman. Once he had finished his speech members had the chance to ask him questions, which he answered to the whole Club. Finally Nev announced that everyone was about to be given a souvenir mug (bearing the Drayton Manor Park logo, AIRtime ONline logo RCCGB logo and date of the visit). Until this moment they had been kept hidden, and it was only now that they were distributed around the tables. In addition members were given a glass of bubbly or fruit juice at this point.

Afternoon Freetime
Having finished my bubbly I returned to the park and resumed riding. As I neared the main lake, I noticed Flying Dutchman had already been dismantled since its closure. Some of its parts were still on its actual plot, and its boats were nearby. I took a few pictures of the Flying Dutchman site and components from the surrounding paths.

Drayton Queen
This is a boat ride on the main lake. Since I hadn't ridden this on previous visits to Drayton Manor Park, I felt I ought to ride it this time. The Drayton Queen boat sailed from its departure point to the other end of the main lake, and back to the start again. Whilst on the boat it was a pleasure to enjoy the views of the park one can only see from the main lake. Drayton Queen was the perfect relaxing ride to start with just after lunch. This was my only go on Drayton Queen all day.

Wild West Shoot Out
Another of Drayton Manor Park's rides which I hadn't ridden on previous visits, so I rode this next. This features a series of ride cars which follow a track around a wild west themed building; I sat in the front row of one. The cars have electronic guns which you fire on the way around. Initially I was confused as to what I was meant to be shooting, so I began by shooting the characters / scenery. However I quickly noticed that you're supposed to shoot towards targets placed around the route, so I began shooting those. My early attempts at shooting targets were misses; the light at the centre of the target failed to illuminate and I scored no points. It took me until quite some way around the route for me to cause the target light to illuminate and score points. At the end of my ride my score was 3150 points, which I guess wasn't bad for a first attempt. A fun ride, but I resisted the temptation to queue for a second go in the hope of getting a better score as there were too many other rides I wanted to go on around the park.

Drunken Barrels
Drunken Barrels is another of Drayton Manor Park's rides I hadn't ridden on previous visits, so I was eager to ride them next. Basically they are a variation on a tea cup ride. Groups of barrels spin on small spinning turntables, on the main turntable which also spins. I sat in barrel number 2. Shortly after starting the whole lot was elevated at the back end so as to function on an angle. Sitting in a spinning barrel, on a spinning small turntable, on the spinning main turntable at an angle made for a weird ride sensation to say the least! A fun ride, but I limited myself to one go. This was my only go on here all day.

Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission
Next I approached Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission. This Vekoma Family Boomerang 185m began operating at Drayton Manor Park in April 2011. This is still the only such model in the UK. I walked through the heavily themed arcade. Shortly after the entrance, you loop around an area with touch screens. Presumably those are to amuse riders when the queue tails back that far. Further on you go through a section with LED lights which change colour, and flashing lights. Are they really necessary? On this occasion, the back of the queue was in that bit with the aforementioned lighting. The coaster itself is entirely outside, and when it was my turn to get on, I sat in the front row. The train was pulled backwards to the top of a hill, released and went around its course until it reached the top of another hill the other end. Being at the front, I was the rider who travelled furthest up that hill. After that it had to travel backwards the way it had come. On the return journey it overshot the station to go up the hill, and had to travel forwards again to terminate at the station. A fun ride, but tame compared to the much larger Boomerang at Pleasure Island Cleethorpes which I rode in summer 2010. For now I limited myself to just one go as I wanted to go on other rides.

Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy
One of the rides in Thomas Land, this features planes on spokes which travel around the central point. I had a plane to myself. By touching a lever it's possible to make the plane go up as it travels around the central point. Another fun ride, albeit a rather tame one. I only had one go on this.

Thomas, Rosie and Percy Engine Tours
A train ride from Knapford Station in Thomas Land to Tidmouth Hault in the zoo, and vice versa. The train is pulled by Thomas the Tank Engine, Rosie or Percy depending on the day. At both ends of the route, signs state that this is a one-way ride. Thomas the Tank Engine was pulling the train on this particular day. Being as I was in Thomas Land, I decided to ride this next. I got on the train at Knapford Station in Thomas Land, and having departed, the train proceeded along the line towards the zoo. When the train arrived at Tidmouth Hault, everyone was told to get off, and anyone wanting to make the return journey would have to join the back of the queue. Since queuing at one end gives you one journey to the station at the other end, this train should be classed as a transport ride.

Having left the train I was in an area of Drayton Manor Park I had not seen on previous visits there, so I decided to explore some of this area, photograph some of the scenery and have some pictures taken of me there. I ended up walking all the way back to Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission and the main lake, and hence didn't take the train back to Thomas Land.

Buffalo Coaster
This Zamperla Buffalo Coaster is a powered coaster. It has been operating since 1987, which makes it the oldest coaster currently operating at Drayton Manor Park. One go consists of two laps. The circuit is quite long, however it doesn't rise and fall much, and there are no inversions. When I approached this late afternoon I had to wait several runs to get on it. Although tame, this was worth riding to add to my total ride count for the day. Due to the long queuing time, I only had one go on this, as there were other rides elsewhere I still wanted to go on.

The Bounty Pirate Ship
A swinging pirate ship, need I say more? There was no queue for this when I approached it. A mega fun ride, but once was enough for me; I'm not sure my body could have stuck two goes straight off.

Next I approached Maelstrom, and since it was now operating, I was keen to ride it. There were only a few others in front of me when I approached it, so I managed to get straight on to the next run. This Intamin large gyro swing has outward facing seats. The ride set off spinning and swinging for a few minutes, until it slowed down and stopped. Altogether a fun and enjoyable ride, but once was enough for me. No way could I take two goes straight off! This ended up being my only go on Maelstrom all day.

Having left Maelstrom, closing time was fast approaching, so I went into Thomas Land to fit in a few rides there.

Harold's Helicopter Tours
One of the rides in Thomas Land, this features mini helicopters around a pole. I had a helicopter to myself. Once the ride started the helicopters rose to the top of the pole and travelled around it, thereby giving riders a view of Thomas Land. Eventually the helicopters returned to ground level and the ride stopped. Another fun ride, but my one go now was my only go on this all day.

Cranky's Tower Drop
Another Thomas Land ride, this is a mini drop tower. The seats are arranged on a circular seating unit surrounding the tower. Once everyone was harnessed in, the seat unit rose and fell several times, but I didn't bother counting how many rises and falls there were. Naturally this felt tame compared to Apocalypse earlier in the morning, but it was nonetheless a fun ride. This was my only go on Cranky's Tower Drop all day. During this ride, I spotted an attendant putting a "Last ride in progress" sign up by the entrance to neighbouring Rocking Bulstrode.

Rocking Bulstrode
Having left Cranky's Tower Drop, I immediately ran across to neighbouring Rocking Bulstrode, which is also in Thomas Land. Although the "Last ride in progress" sign was already up by the entrance, I was still able to get on for the final run of the day which was about to start. A few more riders turned up between when I got on and when the ride actually started. Unlike a normal pirate ship, this swings and spins about a central base pivot, in the same manner as the Zamperla Rock 'n' Tug I've ridden at various other parks. A fun ride to round off normal opening time. Being as this was Rocking Bulstrode's last run of the day, I was only able to have one go on it, but even if there had been time for more goes, I don't think I could ride this twice straight off due to the way it works. This was my final ride during normal opening time.

Evening ERS
Now that the Park had officially closed, it was time for our evening ERS. I proceeded from Thomas Land to the area in front of G-Force, as that was where members were expected to gather prior to the ERS. The RCCGB was intended to have exclusive use of three coasters for an hour: G-Force, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission. At the start of the ERS, Nev said there would be a few more runs of Buffalo Coaster at the start of the ERS for those that wanted to go on it, but I said I'd already been on it once earlier. I began the ERS with G-Force.

This Maurer Söhne X-Car Vertical coaster has been operating since July 2005, and is still one of only two coasters of this model operating worldwide. You have to go up a few flights of stairs to get to the platform. The train sets off downhill whilst going around a bend. Having reached the bottom of the initial descent the train climbs the lift hill, which unusually continues part way up and around the first vertical loop. After that first loop you go uphill again, and down, around another vertical loop, up and over (upside-down), barrel roll to become upright again, downhill, up around a u-bend to the left and down again (staying upright through that bend), up again and back to the station.

I was surprised how quiet G-Force was for an ERS. In fact, on some of the goes I had, there were so few RCCGB members on the train that some staff also had to ride in order to have enough people on board for the train to complete is journey successfully. Altogether I clocked up six goes as follows:

First go: With Doug Turner
Second go: Third row with Alan Hunt
Third go:Back row alone
Fourth go: Fourth row with Brian
Fifth go: Front row
Sixth go: Second-from-back row with Planenut

Whenever I tried talking to the person next to me on this ride, I found it difficult, particularly on the first loop.

Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
I spent the rest of the ERS on Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster in Thomas Land, and had time for three goes as follows:

First go:Second row with Stevie B
Second go:Second-from-back row
Third go:Third row (on the last train of the day)

Summary of my rides this ERS: G-Force 6, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 3. Did anyone beat me on that?

Final Send-Off
When the ERS ended members met again near the Carousel for the final send-off. Once everyone was present members formed a circle for a variation Hokey Cokey. However instead of singing "You do the hokey cokey" we were asked to sing "You shout coaster crazy". This was the first time I've known the words changed in this way at Loopathon. We did three verses: 1) left arm in / out, 2) right arm in / out, and 3) whole self in / out. Is there any reason why the Club doesn't do the whole song (left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, whole self). At the end first timers were called into the centre to form a small circle facing outwards for the group hug. This officially marked the end of the 2016 coaster season; at least as far as RCCGB trips are concerned. Nev also mentioned some members whose birthday was close to Loopathon (before or after) including mine.

Finally everyone headed out of Drayton Manor Park. Back at the car park members said their last goodbyes before heading home.

Summary of my day in order of activity

Morning ERS: Apocalypse 5 (sit down 1, stand up 1, sit down 3)

Normal time
Shockwave 2
Stormforce 10 1
Air Race 1
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 1

Lunch at Tower Suite

Drayton Queen 1
Wild West Shoot Out 1
Drunken Barrels 1
Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission 1
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy 1
Thomas, Rosie and Percy Engine Tours 1
Buffalo Coaster 1
The Bounty Pirate Ship 1
Maelstrom 1
Harold's Helicopter Tours 1
Cranky's Tower Drop 1
Rocking Bulstrode 1

Evening ERS
G-Force 6
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 3

Hokey cokey and group hug

Cumulative Summary of My Rides (ERSs and Freetime Combined)

Air Race
Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission
Buffalo Coaster
Cranky's Tower Drop
Drayton Queen
Drunken Barrels
Harold's Helicopter Tours
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy
Rocking Bulstrode
Stormforce 10
The Bounty Pirate Ship
Thomas, Rosie and Percy Engine Tours
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
Wild West Shoot Out

Journey Home
Around 18:30 Emerald Evans and Ben took me to Tamworth station. Having said goodbye to them I caught the 19:00 CrossCountry train to Birmingham New Street. When I arrived there at 19:17 I went to McDonalds just a few minutes' walk from the station. I chose large Quarter Pounder with cheese meal and a strawberry sundae, and ate them on the premises. Back at Birmingham New Street, there was still time for me to buy a takeaway cup of coffee in the station to take on to the 20:12 CrossCountry train to Bristol Temple Meads. Having arrived Bristol Temple Meads platform 4 at 21:32, the next train going Bath direction was the 21:35 Salisbury train departing from platform 15. I ran through the subway, and when I got to platform 15, I just managed to get on to that train as the doors were about to be closed. I finally reached Bath Spa at 21:49 and home about 15 minutes later.


Adding Drayton Queen, Wild West Shoot Out, Drunken Barrels and Thomas Engine Tours to my ride count.
Re-riding all five coasters (Shockwave, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission, Buffalo Coaster, G-Force) which I first rode during Loopathon 2011.
High overall ride count (ERSs and normal time combined).
Delicious and filling two-course lunch at Towers Suite.
Evening ERS on G-Force and Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster.
Hokey Cokey and group hug at the end.

Apocalypse stand up no floor option unavailable (but at least I did the other two ride options during the morning ERS)

Unexpected Surprises
Free mugs for everyone lunchtime for the fourth year running (especially as they were hidden at the start of lunch).
Glass of champagne (or orange juice) lunchtime.
G-Force being so quiet during the evening ERS.

Summing Up
Another excellent trip, and a great turnout too. The weather was good, dry and mostly sunny, and surprisingly warm for early October during the afternoon. It was great meeting Andy Hine, Debra Boggis, Derek Eddy, Doug and Charlie, Emerald Evans, Kelly Cameron, Matt Walker, Planenut and other members again. Also it was great to re-ride the five roller coasters (Shockwave, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission, Buffalo Coaster, G-Force) which I first rode during Loopathon 2011. Just one point, they're all steel. Come on Drayton Manor, get some wood! Many members liked my 45th birthday T-shirt; I wore that as Loopathon day 2 happened just two days after my birthday (30 September 2016).

Many thanks to Andy Hine for organising this trip, the ride staff for operating Apocalypse before opening and various coasters after closing, the catering staff for the delicious and filling lunch, and Colin Bryan for his after-lunch speech. Thanks also to Emerald Evans and Ben for kindly giving me a lift to Tamworth station in the evening.

Roll on the 2017 Blackpool Bash, I hope to be there.

Having first joined the RCCGB in March 2005, here is my track record for Loopathon attendance in twelve years of membership 2005 to 2016 inclusive:

2005 & 2006: Alton Towers only
2007 to 2010: Did not attend Loopathon at all
2011: Drayton Manor only
2012 & 2013: Did not attend Loopathon at all
2014, 2015, 2016: Drayton Manor only

So this can be summed up as:
2 x Alton Towers only (2005, 2006)
4 x Drayton Manor only (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016)
6 x Missed Loopathon altogether (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)

After all this time, I've still never attended a complete Loopathon in a single year. I really must try and make the effort to do so next year in what will be my 13th year of RCCGB membership.

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