Tuesday, 12 December 2017

RCCGB Loopathon 2017

Date: Saturday 7 October to Sunday 8 October 2017
Venue: Alton Towers and Drayton Manor Park
Who Went: Me and a large number of other RCCGB members, including Andy and Christine Hine, Adey and Katelyn Hikin, Angie, Death, Doug and Charlie Turner, Heather Hall, Lucy Cosnett, Mark Lewis, Oliver, Smiler, Stevie B, Wendy Adams Evans.

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 else who was at either or both Parks and 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 fifth time of attending Loopathon day 2 (Drayton Manor Park), and my seventh 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 7 October 2017
Day 2 - Sunday 8 October 2017

Enjoy my report at your leisure.

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Day 1 - Saturday 7 October 2017
The first day of Loopathon 2017 the RCCGB visited Alton Towers; the day included an ERS on Nemesis from 09:15 to 10:00, and a lunch (which included a secret presentation about the forthcoming new roller coaster SW8) in the Hospitality Suite at 12:30. For various reasons I gave day one a miss. 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 mid-morning. I caught the 10:01 train from Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads followed by the 10:30 train from Bristol Temple Meads to Tamworth.

Saturday Early Afternoon
When I reached Tamworth at 12:19, I walked to the town centre to get some lunch somewhere. I ended up going to The Kitchen, Marmion Street, Tamworth, where I had beans on toast (2 slices) and an Americano. Having finished my lunch I caught the 13:31 Arriva Midlands Sapphire bus from Corporation Street to Fazeley Lichfield Street. From there I walked to, and checked into The Plough Fazeley where I stayed overnight. A little later I wanted to go back into Tamworth for the rest of the afternoon, so I caught the 14:48 Arriva Midlands Sapphire bus from Tamworth Road, Fazeley Square to Corporation Street, Tamworth.

Around 15:20 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 15:30 flume and inflatable session, which lasted 90 minutes. Having changed I spent the entire session on the flume; I didn't go in the pool at all. 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. The queue length for the water slide varied considerably, but anyway in 90 minutes I enjoyed 26 goes on the flume. I stayed in until the wristband colour for my session (pink) was called at 17:00. 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 Southern-fried BBQ Chicken Melt (a southern-fried chicken fillet, topped with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce - served with chips, half a grilled tomato and peas). Of course a meal is not complete without a dessert, so I had sticky toffee pudding with custard for dessert. In addition I had a pint of Carlsberg to drink with my meal. Altogether a delicious meal. When I left The Penny Black, I walked straight to Corporation Street where I caught the 19:13 Arriva Midlands Sapphire bus to Fazeley Lichfield Street. Having left the bus, I immediately walked to The Plough Fazeley and relaxed in my room the rest of the evening.

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Day 2 - Sunday 8 October 2017
Loopathon 2017 continued Sunday 8 October 2017 at Drayton Manor Park, and I was glad to be there.

Sunday First Thing
I awoke at 6:40, got ready and had breakfast at 8:00. For breakfast I had a bowl of cornflakes, a glass of apple juice, a pot of coffee, and a full English breakfast. Having finished my breakfast I walked to Drayton Manor Park; it took me about 15 minutes to walk from the front door of The Plough Fazeley to Drayton Manor Park Tower Suite. Fortunately it was sunny at the time.

Welcome to Drayton Manor Park
When I arrived around 8:55 RCCGB members were in the Tower Suite awaiting entry. My biggest concern was arranging a lift to a suitable railway station in the evening, and where to put my large bag during the day. Fortunately I quickly met Oliver, who kindly offered to give me a lift to a station in the evening, so soon afterwards I put my large bag in his car boot. Coffee and cookies were available free of charge. In addition, free souvenir mugs (bearing the RCCGB 30th anniversary logo and date of this visit) were on the table at one end of the room for members to take, one per person. Just before the Club was due to enter the Park, Nev gave a short speech. 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 on this occasion, stand up no floor was out of action, but the other two options were available. I began with the stand up with floor option; the freefall drop from the top was somewhat frightening. Next I had two goes in the sit down position. The freefall drop was still quite scary, though not as bad as in the stand up with floor position. After that, I still had time for four more goes in the stand up with floor position.

Summary of my rides on Apocalypse this ERS: Sit down 2, Stand up with floor 5. Did anyone beat me on that?

Morning Freetime
The rides across the whole park opened at 10:30. As the rides were about to open, several RCCGB members including me queued for the gyro swing Maelstrom. I sat next to Wendy Adams Evans. Although a fun and enjoyable ride, once was enough for me; no way could I take two goes straight off! My first coaster ride of the day was the stand-up coaster Shockwave. For my first go, I joined the main queue, but I was lucky enough to get the one spare seat on the front row. My remaining two goes on Shockwave were fourth row followed by back row. I wanted to go on Stormforce 10 next, but it was closed for maintenance. Instead, given that over three hours had now passed since I finished my cooked breakfast, I felt like riding Air Race. I sat in the back row of plane 2. 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. Next I went into Thomas Land to have one go on Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy, which is another aeroplane themed ride. My final ride before lunch was one go on James and the Red Balloon; I sat in balloon number 7. This balloon ride is a new addition to Thomas Land which opened in April 2017.

Lunch at Tower Suite
At 12:30 members went to the Tower Suite for lunch, however I got there later. Unlike 2014 and 2015, there were no souvenir mugs on the tables, as they had been made available prior to the morning ERS. A wide assortment of food was available; most of which was served by the staff behind the table. I had egg fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, mushroom chow mein, beef bourguignon, ratatouille, small potatoes in skins and one spring roll. Once I had a plate full of food, I enjoyed my main course. The dessert was profiteroles with chocolate sauce. Unlike last year, someone was dishing out three profiteroles per person, and the right amount of chocolate sauce to go with them, which thankfully ensured everyone had their fair share. Steve Lomax from Drayton Manor Park gave a speech about various park matters. Once he had finished his speech members had the chance to ask him questions. Finally Nev warned everyone that the Club would not now be having Accelerator (formerly Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission) during the evening ERS, therefore he advised members to ride it during the afternoon.

Afternoon Freetime
Around 13:50 I returned to the park and resumed riding. I began with Accelerator, largely because the Club was not now going to ride it during the evening ERS. This Vekoma Family Boomerang 185m began operating at Drayton Manor Park under the name Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission in April 2011. At the start of the 2017 season it was re-themed and renamed Accelerator. Although the arcade has changed considerably since its Ben 10 days (it now has a motor racing theme), the boomerang style coaster itself gives just the same ride experience as before. I enjoyed two goes, back row followed by sixth row. Next I approached Flying Dutchman, which was in pieces at the time of Loopathon 2016, but was reassembled and back in action for the 2017 season. I had one go on Flying Dutchman, in boat 12. Afterwards I had one go on Wild West Shoot Out. Sometimes I successfully got the target light to illuminate and thus scored points, but there were several occasions when the target light failed to illuminate and I scored no points. My final score was 5200 points, which was a considerable improvement on the 3150 points I scored last year. After that I rode the Drunken Barrels; I sat in barrel number 9. 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! Once was enough for me.

Next I approached Buffalo Coaster, the oldest coaster currently operating at Drayton Manor Park. I had to wait a few runs to get on it, but it was worth the wait. Due to the waiting time, I limited myself to one go on Buffalo Coaster. Afterwards I had one go on Jolly Buccaneer (boat 6) followed by one go on The Bounty Pirate Ship. Whilst walking around the Park after that, I got to Polperro Express station just as the train was about to depart, so I decided to get on the Polperro Express. Adey and Katelyn were in the row behind me. From this train one can see parts of the Park from a route you can't take on foot. This was my only go on Polperro Express Train all day. Having completed my journey on Polperro Express, I went into Thomas Land. There I enjoyed riding Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, Harold's Helicopter Tours, Cranky's Tower Drop and Rocking Bulstrode once each. My final two rides during normal opening time were one go on Shockwave (fifth row) followed by one go on Maelstrom.

Evening ERS
Now that the Park had officially closed, the RCCGB had exclusive use of G-Force and Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster for an hour. The Club was also going to have Accelerator, but Nev had already told everyone lunchtime that would no longer be the case. I began the ERS on G-Force. Although there were a fair few other RCCGB members waiting to ride G-Force on my first go, this quickly became surprisingly quiet for an ERS thereafter. On some of my later goes, there were very few members on the train. Luckily this time the train was able to run without having to put members of staff on to make up the minimum rider quota of previous years. Altogether I clocked up five goes on G-Force, one of which I sat next to Doug and two of which I sat next to Angie. During the rest of the ERS I had time for three goes on Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, one of which I sat next to Stevie B. Interestingly Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster turned out considerably more popular than G-Force for some mysterious reason.

Summary of my rides this ERS: G-Force 5, 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 2017 coaster season; at least as far as RCCGB trips are concerned. 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 7 (stand up 1, sit down 2, stand up 4)

Morning free time:
Maelstrom 1
Shockwave 3
Air Race 1
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy 1
James and the Red Balloon 1

Lunch at Tower Suite (including speech from Steve Lomax)

Afternoon free time:
Accelerator 2
Flying Dutchman 1
Wild West Shoot Out 1
Drunken Barrels 1
Buffalo Coaster 1
Jolly Buccaneer 1
The Bounty Pirate Ship 1
Polperro Express 1
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 1
Harold's Helicopter Tours 1
Cranky's Tower Drop 1
Rocking Bulstrode 1
Shockwave 1
Maelstrom 1

Evening ERS
G-Force 5
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 3

Hokey cokey and group hug

Cumulative Summary of My Rides (ERSs and Freetime Combined)

Air Race
Buffalo Coaster
Cranky's Tower Drop
Drunken Barrels
Flying Dutchman
Harold's Helicopter Tours
James and the Red Balloon
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy
Jolly Buccaneer
Polperro Express
Rocking Bulstrode
The Bounty Pirate Ship
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
Wild West Shoot Out

Journey Home
Just before 18:30 Oliver took me to Tamworth station, whereupon I caught the 18:45 train to Birmingham New Street. When I arrived there at 19:04 I went to a nearby McDonalds where I enjoyed a large Big Mac Meal followed by a toffee sundae. Back at Birmingham New Street I bought a takeaway cup of coffee before catching the 20:12 train to Bristol Temple Meads. The final leg of my journey was the 22:15 train to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath Spa at 22:32 and home shortly afterwards.

More about Sunday at Drayton Manor Park available here

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Sliding the flume at Snowdome, Tamworth on Saturday afternoon.
Adding the new-for-2017 Thomas Land ride James and the Red Balloon to my ride count.
Riding Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission (which I had already ridden on previous visits) under its new name Accelerator for the first time.
Re-riding the other four coasters (Shockwave, Buffalo Coaster, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, G-Force) which I first rode during Loopathon 2011.
High overall ride count (ERSs and free 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 for the fifth year running.
G-Force being so quiet during the evening ERS.

Summing Up
Another excellent Club trip, and a great turnout too. The weather was quite good; dry and sunny all morning. Despite the afternoon being largely cloudy, it remained dry all afternoon. It was great meeting Andy and Christine Hine, Adey and Katelyn, Doug and Charlie, Stevie B, Wendy Adams Evans and several other members again. Also it was great to ride the roller coaster Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission (which I had ridden on previous visits) under its new guise Accelerator for the first time ever, and to ride the other four coasters (Shockwave, Buffalo Coaster, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, G-Force) and several non-coaster rides again. Just one point, they're all steel. Come on Drayton Manor, get some wood! Many members liked my 46th birthday T-shirt; I wore that as Loopathon day 2 happened just eight days after my birthday (30 September 2017).

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

Roll on the 2018 Blackpool Bash, I hope to be there.

Having first joined the RCCGB in March 2005, here is my updated track record for Loopathon attendance in 13 years of membership 2005 to 2017 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, 2017: Drayton Manor only

So this can be summed up as:
2 x Alton Towers only (2005, 2006)
5 x Drayton Manor only (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
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 14th year of RCCGB membership. At least my consecutive attendance of Loopathon day 2 - Drayton Manor (2014 to 2017 inclusive - four years) now equals my continuous run of missing Loopathon altogether (2007 to 2010 inclusive - four years).

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