Wednesday, 22 February 2017

RCCGB Loopathon 2016

Date: Saturday 1 October to Sunday 2 October 2016
Venue: Alton Towers and 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. Not everyone, whether or not listed above, attended both Parks.

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. Members had the choice of attending either or both days; for various reasons I attended Drayton Manor Park only. This was my fourth time of attending Loopathon day 2 (Drayton Manor Park), and my sixth Loopathon overall since joining the RCCGB in March 2005.

To make the rest of this report easier to read, I've split it into sections. Click the applicable link below to jump to the section you want to read:

Day 1 - Saturday 1 October
Day 2 - Sunday 2 October

Enjoy my report at your leisure.

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Day 1 - Saturday 1 October
The first day of Loopathon 2016 the RCCGB visited Alton Towers; the day included ERSs before opening and after closing, plus a lunch. For various reasons I gave day one a miss. That's probably just as well, because some members who attended both days told me there was heavy rain at Alton Towers on Saturday, and consequently the evening ERS happened earlier than originally billed. The following outlines how I spent Saturday.

Getting to Tamworth
Since I wasn't attending Loopathon day 1 (Alton Towers), I set off for the Midlands Saturday late morning. I caught the 11:00 train from Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads, followed by the 11:30 train to Birmingham New Street, and finally the 13:21 train to Tamworth. When I reached Tamworth at 13:36, heavy rain was falling. Nonetheless I walked to, and checked into The Peel Aldergate where I stayed overnight.

Late afternoon I went to Snowdome. As well as an ice rink and several snow activities, this has a swimming pool with one water slide. I got to Snowdome in time for the 16:00 flume and inflatable session, which lasted 90 minutes. Having changed I headed straight for the flume. This water slide is a closed tube for about half way down, and open-top the rest of the way. Undeniably it's quite a tame water slide compared to ones I've been down elsewhere, but it's still fun to slide. Early on I faced a queue part way down the top flight of stairs, but during my final half hour I had the slide to myself for several consecutive goes. Altogether I enjoyed 37 goes on the flume. During my final go on the flume, I saw the steps to it being blocked off, indicating it was closed. Finally I just had time to swim the 25 metre main pool from the deep end to the shallow end once before the session ended, and also the whole pool closed to the public, at 17:30. Altogether a wet and wild way to fill up 90 minutes of Saturday afternoon in Tamworth.

Rest of Saturday
Having left Snowdome, I went to get myself a meal somewhere in Tamworth town centre. I ended up going to The Penny Black pub. Once seated I took my time looking at the menu to decide what I wanted to eat. Eventually I chose Chicken Tikka Masala, served with basmati rice, one naan bread, one onion bhaji, one poppadom and mango chutney. Of course a meal is not complete without a dessert, so I had lemon meringue pie with ice cream for dessert. In addition I had half a pint of Carling lager to drink with my meal. Altogether a delicious meal. When I left The Penny Black, more heavy rain was falling outside, so I walked back to The Peel Aldergate and relaxed in my room the rest of the evening.

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Day 2 - Sunday 2 October
Loopathon 2016 continued Sunday 2 October 2016 at Drayton Manor Park, and I was glad to be there.

Sunday First Thing
I awoke at 6:30 and had 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. 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. Unfortunately stand up no floor was unavailable, but the other two options were available. I began with the easy option: sit down. Next I was keen to try the stand up with floor option, and unsurprisingly, this ride was somewhat scarier standing up. Finally I still had time for three more goes in the sit down position during the rest of the ERS. After that, the entrance doors were closed, thereby signalling that the Apocalypse ERS was over.

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. As the rides were about to open, several RCCGB members including me queued for Maelstrom, hoping to take it over. Unfortunately there appeared to be a problem with Maelstrom, and no estimate of when it would open. After about 10 to 15 minutes, I left the queue, feeling it was in my best interest to go on something else rather than wait hoping Maelstrom would open. My first coaster ride of the day was the stand-up coaster Shockwave; I had two goes on it. On both goes I joined the main queue, but I was lucky enough to get the one spare seat on the front row. Next I donned my all-in-one splashsuit for one go on Stormforce 10. Mighty splashes occurred during the two drops. Having removed my splashsuit I met Debra Boggis near Air Race and spoke to her for a few minutes. After that, given that about three and a half hours had now passed since my cooked breakfast, I felt like riding Air Race. Going sideways and upside-down felt unusual, presumably that motion is to simulate a somersaulting aeroplane. Although another fun ride, one go on Air Race was enough for me. Finally I just had time for one go on Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster in Thomas Land before going to lunch.

Lunch at Tower Suite
At 12:30 members went to the Tower Suite for lunch, however I got there a little later. A wide assortment of food was available; some was served by the staff behind the table and some was self-service. Having filled my plate with an assortment of items I enjoyed my main course. Of course a meal is not complete without a dessert, however all the profiteroles and chocolate sauce had gone when I went to get my dessert. A few minutes later a member of staff brought me four spare profiteroles, however he said there was no chocolate sauce left. Park CEO & Owner Colin Bryan spoke about various park matters, and members had the chance to ask him questions. In addition everyone received (i) a souvenir mug (bearing the Drayton Manor Park logo, AIRtime ONline logo RCCGB logo and date of the visit) and (ii) a glass of champagne (or orange juice). I wasn't expecting either of those, especially as (unlike 2014 and 2015) the mugs weren't on the tables at the start of lunch, but were brought out after the speech.

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. My first ride, after lunch, was the Drayton Queen boat on the main lake. I had never ridden this before, and it was a pleasure to enjoy the views of the park one can only see from the main lake. Next I had my first ever go on Wild West Shoot Out, and it took me a while to get the hang of what you're supposed to do. Eventually I managed to successfully shoot targets and score points. My final score was 3150 points, which I guess wasn't bad for a first attempt. After that I had my first ever go on Drunken Barrels. These work in a similar manner to a tea cup ride, albeit on an angle, which was a weird ride sensation to say the least!

Next I enjoyed one go on the Vekoma Family Boomerang 185m Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission. Although the queue stretched back into the arcade, when it was my turn to get on I had a front row seat. Afterwards I had one go on Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy in Thomas Land. My next ride was a one-way train journey from Knapford Station in Thomas Land to Tidmouth Hault in the zoo. On this occasion, the train was pulled by Thomas the Tank Engine. 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. I decided to explore some of this area which I hadn't previously seen, and ended up walking all the way back to Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission and the main lake. Next I queued for Buffalo Coaster, but had to wait a few runs to get on it. This is the Park's oldest coaster; it's quite long but doesn't rise and fall much. Due to its long queuing time, I limited myself to one go. Afterwards I had one go on The Bounty Pirate Ship, followed by one go on Maelstrom (which thankfully was now operating). Both The Bounty Pirate Ship and Maelstrom were great fun once each, but I don't think I could ride either of them twice straight off. Finally I went into Thomas Land where I just had time to ride to ride Harold's Helicopter Tours, Cranky's Tower Drop and Rocking Bulstrode once each before the rides closed at 17:00.

Evening ERS
Now that the Park had officially closed, the RCCGB had exclusive use of G-Force, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission for an hour. 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 and was surprised how quiet it was. On some of my goes there were so few RCCGB members on the train that some staff also had to ride to have enough people on board. Altogether I clocked up six goes in various rows; I sat next to Doug Turner on my first go, Alan Hunt on one go and Planenut on my final go. I spent the rest of the ERS on Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster in Thomas Land, and had time for three goes, the last of which was 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 of Hokey Cokey. 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, whereupon I caught the 19:00 train to Birmingham New Street. When I arrived there at 19:17 I went to a nearby McDonalds, where I had a large Quarter Pounder with cheese meal followed by a strawberry sundae. Back at Birmingham New Street I bought a takeaway cup of coffee to take on to the 20:12 train to Bristol Temple Meads. Upon arrival at Bristol Temple Meads I had a quick change for the 21:35 train to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath Spa at 21:49 and home about 15 minutes later.

More about Sunday at Drayton Manor Park available here

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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. It's a pity about the rain on Saturday. Thankfully Sunday's weather was much better; 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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