On Sunday I went to Alton Towers as the park was open from 10am – 8pm (this is normal hours in Europe for most theme parks). Part of me wishes I didn’t bother, but as the UK is on the brink of another national lockdown I decided to drive there and back. Its not the first time I’ve done it and this time at least it wasn’t pouring with rain.
As I drove in to the car park I could see the huge long queue to enter with social distancing. I think the monorail was closed because of social distancing too. After 40mins, a bag check, temperature gun check and a check of my eticket I was in.
First stop the Smiler. This is when I spotted the sign about single riders. There will be no single rider queue due to social distancing guidelines join the main queue. I knew then it was going to suck…
Standing in the queue, which was extended up and around the top ridge of the Smiler compound. You could see markers on the ground of where you are meant to stand. Problem is most people were not standing on them no matter how much Alton Towers staff shout over the loud speaker system. Heck they even called out a few people and it made no noticeable difference.
One of the biggest problem with the Smiler queue is it exists underneath the ride structure and its setup to be like a maze for mice. Of course this isn’t good for social distancing at all. You could see there were obvious gaps to allow distance between the fences but people just took it as they were 2 meters from the people in front and back and that was enough.
I got on the ride twice and I’ll be honest twice I had to glare at the people following me to back off. I really should have worn my mask, which you only need to wear when entering the station. I honestly didn’t feel that safe while queuing. Of course all this queuing means you are in close contact with people for a long time. A hour each time for the Smiler.
The Smiler train has 4 rows of 4 seats (16 riders), I shared a row with a couple the first time (there was a seat between us) then had a whole row to myself the second time. You can easily see why queues were so long.
With two rides I looked around and saw the horribly long lines for food so decided to head over to Nemesis and Galactica (I didn’t bother going to Rita or 13). The queue for the cable cart was 60mins (Imagine it would be 1 household per cart), so I walked over. Nemesis had a queue time of 55mins and they had opened the line up to include the extended line right up in the field, last time I been up there was back in 1999! Usually Nemesis’ queue is no more than 5-10mins. The bunch of men/lads/idiots behind me stood within 0.5-1 meter. I did tell them to back off and they made stupid faces and silly noises. I couldn’t be bothered so popped my headphones on, pretty much ignored them. On the ride I had a whole row to myself again. No wonder it was such a long wait. For all that waiting, Galactica was only 30mins wait which isn’t that far off the last time I was in Alton Towers. I did share the row with another couple like the Smiler.
The killer for me was Wicker man which I have never been on and finally got the chance but there was one hell of a time cost. Almost 2 hours of queuing in to be fair a socially distance observing line. The line was moving so slowly, most people had given up standing and were sitting around. It was dire, make no mistake. After listening to 2 hours of the Guilty Feminist’s audiobook I finally got on the ride and it was clear why things were so slow. Each row had 2 seats and they were seating every other row. Meaning a maximum of 12 riders per turn, not the usual 24.
By the time I got my ride on Wicker man I decided I was fed-up and close enough to the entrance to drive home before the sunset and I didn’t fancy driving at night through country lanes.
I’ll be frank Alton Towers is a horrible place to be during a pandemic, I felt a lot safer going to Blackpool Pleasure beach. The staff seemed a lot more knowledgeable, gels (for example there was no gel in the line for the smiler over 2 hours) and cleaning was a lot more visible.
Maybe I’ll revisit next year out of season…
This design of rollercoaster (Maurer Rides SkyLoop / XT 150) as experienced on Ukko and Abismo. Is thrilling at first but its re-ride-ability is super low. I think I managed 11 rides and that was too many.
The other one I’m also not a fan of is the intamin AG ZacSpin Ball Coaster, as discovered first on Kirnu and then Insane. I was able to manage much more rides but having to balance the car with my weight, means the car is spinning a lot more than expected.
I’m more likely to go on them more than most people but you won’t see me on them 30x times, like the hypercoasters. I guess its more thrill vs experience?
Shambhala is a steel roller coaster located at PortAventura World, in Salou Spain. The ride opened to the public as Europe’s tallest roller coaster, taking guests up 76m (249ft) high before allowing them to plummet back towards the ground below. In this video we’ll explore the type of ride experience Shambhala offers, as well as its many statistics and developed theme.
Its certainly one of my favourite rides. With 32 rides in one day.
“…while building this attraction I also wanted to change the usual one-sided relation – a situation where the body is overwhelmed by physical impressions but the machine itself remains indifferent, inattentive for what the body goes through. Neurotransmitter 3000 should therefore be more intimate, more reciprocal. That’s why I’ve developed a system to control the machine with biometric data. Using sensors, attached to the body of the passenger – measuring his heart rate, muscle tension, body temperature and orientation and gravity – the data is translated into variations in motion. And so, man and machine intensify their bond. They re-meet in a shared interspace, where human responsiveness becomes the input for a bionic conversation.”https://danieldebruin.com/neurotransmitter-3000
Its a good idea but unfortunately couldn’t work on a rollercoasters, which is my thing. Or could it? For example everyones hand up in the air means what? The ride goes faster? How on earth does work? How meaningful would this be if you could actually do this?
Its one of the research questions we attempted to explore in the living room of the future. How can you combine different peoples personal data to construct a experience which is meaningful and not simply a medium of it all.
These global changes don’t seem meaningful or so useful? Maybe its about the micro changes like mentioned previous.
Of course others have been working around this type of things too.
I certainly have a love for B&M Hypercoasters like Shabhala in Port Adventura. Currently the 3rd highest in Europe at 249.3 ft. I assume we don’t have any in the UK due to the massive amount of space it requires?
Total rides today Portadventura https://t.co/Bz1nV0zA0i
32x Shambhala https://t.co/ozCHCd15w5
1x Diablo https://t.co/ORkdRKEXn2
4x redforce https://t.co/HVvYpTra9F
6x dragon khan https://t.co/4QHHYOBcqH
2x ferious baco https://t.co/IvvJ2vktDE
1x stampida https://t.co/aPDM3CjeiG pic.twitter.com/0kusjOUkOr
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) September 7, 2018
Somewhere between getting food and riding Shambhala, I caught a candid shot of this lady sitting on Shambhala’s landscape with a nice pictures of Shambhala in the background. If it wasn’t for Dragon Khan in the background, it would almost seem like a snowy scene in the himalaya?
Great sunset on a excellent ride….
I make no secret of my love for Rollercoasters, heck some call me a rollercoaster nerd?
I can trace back where it comes from but I just feel so alive when faced with the moment of impeding doom. Going around and doing it again and again, is exciting too. You get to feel the adrenaline rush and understand what the coasters design and imprecate it fully from different ride positions. On that topic, I’m a back seat rider. The pull of the coaster and the intensity is just amazing. Its a real shame when you are placed somewhere in the middle.
The rollercoaster geeks like me, tend to use some online resource to keep a eye on new coasters and where to head next. I found rcdb.com is great for this. I have considered hacking up a self quantified/tracking system like trakt.tv to capture how many times you have been on a certain ride, when and maybe which position. Instead I keep a track in my head while in the queue and post it to twitter…
For example from Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) June 25, 2018
And from Stockholm’s Grona Lund
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) June 18, 2018
Theres a better way to do this i’m sure… I started wondering if my aspersions to do something with Mastodon or Micropub & Microformats, could fit with this too? Terms look ok too if its a free app, shame theres no api but the pages are simple enough to turn into a large xml store or what ever.
It could recommend stuff to you and you can start to pick out unique elements which you like or don’t like. In the my case looking through my rides I really hate Vertical Chain Lift Hill’s like you see on Abismo. They are trying to be too clever and actually feel really crap and short for me to enjoy.
Anyway a project for another day…
So with that out the way, here’s my top rollercoasters across the places I have been.
Deja Vu (no longer exists)
Its funny because I have been to many parts of America but not really seeked out rollercoasters, so the main ones are in Vegas and Six Flags great America near Chicago. Six Flags is typical of a American theme park with lots of rides packed into a space. There were lots of choices for coasters but V2 and Deja Vu caught me, when I could stand the long queues. Raging bull was nice too but was less keen on the restraints, likely now I’d be cool with them.
Speed: The ride (no longer exists)
Spa Land is one of the best parks I have been to. Its large but not Alton Towers trek around the park size. Within the park is lots of rides including a bunch of thrill and extreme rides. However the crown of Spa Lands is Steel Dragon 2000, which hits a top speed of 95mph on the way down its almost 95 meter first drop (5th highest in the world currently) Then theres a 75 meter hill and drop straight afterwards. Thats higher than the whole of Blackpool’s Big One (62 meters drop). At almost 4mins for a ride, its still the longest track in history and the gravitation force over the hills is insane! There is nothing like it and it eclipses everything else in the park.
I went to Fuji Q after Nagashima Spa Land and although its got some great coasters, I think I preferred Spa Lands. Fuji Q’s big ride at the time was Takabisha but I wasn’t convinced by it. Felt similar to Saw the ride in Thorpe Park (another one I was so-so about). I did like Do-Dodonpa but after going on Stealth lots of times, this felt poor in comparison. I noticed they changed the hill into a loop now, which might be better but at the time it was a hill.
If I could build a rollercoaster, I would do it like Thunder Dolphin. Right in the middle of a city but go big. The Dolphin is a rare surprise but it shuts early due to noise I expect? Its quite thrilling riding through a city centre in this way and quite special.
Parque Warner Madrid, is a great park. Its not massive but they nicely grouped all the big rides close to each other for easy access to other ones. The theme nature of the park was good and very late opening really helps space out the day. The only thing is its quite a long way out of Madrid which means a coach or car only. The park is packed with rides but the two selected are the best. Stunt drop is just so much fun while Superman is as close to Steel Dragon 2000 as I’ve gotten in recent times.
Out of all the theme parks, this is the most visited one. I like Alton Towers but its estate is vast making repeat rides tricky. For example; the distance between Smiler and Nemesis in time is at least 15mins by cable cart! Walking would be 20-30mins. However the number of extreme rides are plentyful. The SW (Secret weapon) series of coasters have been record breaking and a genuine joy to have in the UK. Nemesis for me is still the best inverted coaster I have been on. Its quite insane its 22 years old and hasn’t lost its roar and intensity. Its the reason why (almost) all other inverted coasters don’t appear in my list at all. Even Batman the ride although similar lacks the landscape which features so much in Nemesis. Nemesis is basically cut into the side of hill to keep it below the treeline. You can see similar with the Smiler which isn’t tall but super compact crossing over its self many times. I would include Oblivion and Air but they have fallen out of my ride book in recent times.
Thorpe park is a nice park and its small enough to quickly get high numbers of rides in a short time. Although it doesn’t have enough big rides in my opinion. I use to have a merlin year pass which meant I could go to Alton Towers & Thorpe Park over and over again. So on a long week in London, I would head to Thorpe Park on Friday or Saturday with my luggage then get the tube back to Euston for my train back to Manchester.
Blackpool is so close and unlike most UK theme parks, opens late. Its got some good rides but I haven’t been on the new Icon ride yet.
Its been a long time since I took a ride in Drayton Manor, but I won’t forget Shockwave which is one of the only stand up rollercoasters in the UK.
Grona Land isn’t a thrill seekers paradise but its small opens late and you can easily run around to the entrance of each ride really easily. Jetline was surprisingly old skool but also had quite exciting elements including the out and back via a tunnel. Its also quite a smooth ride at the start. Insane is a winged insane coaster, even I had to take it easy after the 11th time. Its the first time I have been in a ball coaster and after a few breaks, quite enjoyed it.
To be fair Tivoli Gardens isn’t really a extreme roller coaster park, but the one ride they do have is like a mini Superman / la Atracción de Acero. Same maker and coasters, just much shorter time and much less extreme.
Some people are going to hate me for this post, and they may be right. Who am I to comment on Japanese culture? I don’t even speak the language and only been here a week. But these are personal experiences which I am talking about, aka don’t send abuse you’re experience may be very different.
Its the 4th day of my trip to Tokyo (Japan) and I’m on a speeding bullet train going to Nagoya to ride rollercoasters and hopefully spend sometime in the Spaland. When the bullet train (Shinkansen) first started I thought this isn’t bad but then then it gets to lines outside of residential areas and you can feel a difference of G’s on the body. The train is super clean and theres plenty of leg room and room for the laptop (as I’m writing this now). There is power (although I didn’t bring my power and theres wifi but I can’t work out which SSID and there all secured (using my myfi instead)
Anyway talking about the speed of a bullet, I had the joy of going on the Tokyo dome city’s Thunder Dolphin. First up I would say every major city should have a major roller coaster! Imagine if London had one on the site of the Olympic park or the 02 Dome? I could imagine one in Manchester at Sports City (near Manchester City, but then Manchester Utd would want one at Old Trafford). Anyway this isn’t just a crappy rollercoaster, oh no its in the top 20 highest rollercoasters in the world and the view of Tokyo is fantastic, shame you can’t take a camera.
And this is the rub…
Japanese culture is fascinating but also frustrating from an outsiders perspective. The line for Thunder dolphin wasn’t long, but I passed a point where it suggested it would be a 40min wait! There were about 100 people in front of me and bear in mind the roller coaster has 12 carts of 2 each, so 24 people each time (leaving out single riders, which is another problem, I won’t go into here). The ride takes 90-100 secs. Basically I should have been on the ride in under 15mins even with change over time. However, the ride guards were very insistent on everything being locked away in the ride lockers. They even made me put my tissue in my pocket in the locker! Watches, rings, loose change, etc also had to be put away.
Getting there, this is going in my blog for sure. Super anal system slowing everything down pic.twitter.com/30vQ5Na322
— Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) April 19, 2015
The lockers were not like you get in theme parks in the UK, it was locked things with keys you would wear on your arm during the ride. Making the idea of your watch falling off a bit of joke to be honest. Of course I was never going to point that out. The procedure to make sure everything was done, was done to the letter.
I read the sign and laughed when reading don’t scream as it may be uncomfortable to other passengers. Think I’m being a bit alarmist? I’m not the only one… I want to go to Fuji Q highland which is close to Tokyo (no bullet train unfortunately) and sits in the base of Mount Fuji. But this worries me…
Robin Franzi wrote
This park has a great potential, but it is so badly managed. The lines are really long (1 to 2+ hours per ride) because the personnel takes so much time to get people seated. Seriously, the lines could be divided by at least 2 if they were more efficient. The frequency of the cars is extremely low. With a little bit of rain or wind, they stop running them. Don’t buy a daily pass unless you have the whole day. This park can be very frustrating. Be warned.
I think sums up Japanese culture better than I can explain. Everything seems so efficient but actually is quite annoyingly convoluted unless you question. Maybe this is why the extremes of the youth of Harajuku? Breaking out of a very traditional culture?
Our Airbnb host (i’ll call her catfish ninja because she looks noting like her photo and myself & Rebecca thought she was the mum of the women in the picture actually. She also lives in a area where ninjas use to live and I can see why) is lovely but when asking about a spare key, she answered saying we don’t need one, just leave the door closed. Now this made us feel very uncomfortable as we do want to go different places at different times and we don’t really like the idea of leaving our passport, money, clothes, etc in a unlocked apartment in a city we don’t know. I understand Tokyo has very low crime but I don’t want to take the risk.
Tokyo is very safe and except the few people shout something at me in Japanese, being called a Gaijin a few times (quietly of course, under their breath) and being asked if I want champagne and a girl in Shibuya late a few days ago. Its all been ok.
Think of this as part 2
While I was on the wrong bullet train back to Tokyo after failing to get to the Nagashima spa-land (I got on a commuters train on the same platform going to the same location 5mins too early). I was standing all the way to Yohohoma because of the wrong train thing, and because all the non-reserved seats were taken. I saw a man with a laptop case on a chair next to him (I was about to nab the seat) but a woman got in there ahead of me. She tried to gesture but the man looking at his phone with earphones ignored her. She tried multiple ways without actually touching or speaking to him. In the end she picked up his bag and positioned it between her feet. The idea of inconveniencing him by sitting on a seat she paid for, frankly ignores and worries me.
Before the wrong bullet train back from my failed attempt to get to Nagashima spaland, I was stuck at some unknown station near Nagoya, wondering what had gone wrong and how I was going to sort stuff out, when some lovely woman/girl came up to me and asked if I needed help. She was so wonderful, not only asking where I needed to get to but also helping me get some solid food, pointing out better ways to get to Nagashima spa-land from Nagoya and even Tokyo. A real breath of fresh air.
Her spoken English wasn’t great but neither is my Japanese full stop. But she could write english well. So in the burger bar near the station, we sat and talked via paper and google translate on my tablet. She was great and I can’t believe the amount of time she took out of her schedule to help me out. It was truly amazing and she was so wonderful. A hour had gone by the time we got back to the station and got two different trains.
I have experienced a tiny slice of the negative and positive sides of modern Japanese culture in a short matter of time. It really makes you think how different things are in our own western culture. Fascinating to think what will come over the next week.
Don’t forget to check out my Flickr group full of interesting bits I’ve captured and shared. Right now I have taken upwards of 350 pictures, the .
On the eve of me riding the smiler at Alton Towers, I saw this video and thought absolutely! That massive rush of adrenaline I get when riding roller-coasters is so great. Its really makes you feel so alive, because as they say… Nothing makes you feel more live that being so close to that moment of impeding doom but without over stepping the mark…
26x times on Infusion in Blackpool Pleasurebeach? Thats nothing… I hear you say?
Join me, as we celebrate my birthday and…
Live life in the very fast lane, up high above…
That distinctive sound of thunder and screaming,
As we descend downwards like a falling rock.
Before emerging back up to catch some wicked air.
Feel that adrenaline rush as you ride into the unknown,
That ecstasy you only get while riding rollercoasters…
Its my birthday in April and I’m itching to get back to rollercoaster riding…
Join me if you dare, but I warn you I’m totally a hardcore geek about coaster rider and won’t tolerate any messing around looking at the gardens, fooling around with ghost trains or resting to catch your breath…
We’re either riding or in a queue period! (those are the rules…)
Got to live and love it, if you want to ride with me… baby 🙂
When I was a young boy I tried to create a roller coaster system from technical lego by turning the points upside down and slowly changing the angles of the pieces over a long piece of track. Its not obvious how it works but don’t worry it didn’t work so its not actually worth going into more detail about. So I was suprised to see K’nex launched a range of roller coasters tracks. I can’t express how cool I think this is, if I had the time and money, I would certainly get some and get it setup in a room. Instead I get to watch the endless youtube videos and wish instead.
I've ridden some of the best but I had forgot how fun it was to ride a new one till today. A friend of ours was going to Thorpe Park for her birthday and asked if me and Sarah would like to come along as her husband did not really enjoy rollercoasters. I guess Coasters is one of those subjects we just never got around to talking about. So it was a bit of a shock when we explain how much we adored coasters.
Nemesis Inferno really brough back my desire to ride more exotic coasters, and from the picture it looks like one I heard about a while ago is coming to England next year. From a little browsing around it seems the unknown coaster's development name is stealth but looks like a carbon copy of Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster. Going on estimates it seems Dragster is 2 times the height but 60+ meters in the UK is pretty good going and I'm wondering how they got the planning permission for such a tall structure, so close to Heathrow airport? To get a feel for how this amazing roller coaster will look check out this shot from the top of dragster, this one from the ground and this one from the side. Thorpe Park isnt the only one doing this type of ride, Warner Bros are building Superman: Escape which is seems to be the same height, same designers and looks like this. So even at half the height its going to be one hell of a Hydraulic launch ride.
On another note, Oakwood is also building a secret rollercoaster which seems to have a few people interested. Plus its good to finally see Drayton Manor build another decent coaster to go with the slightly aging but still only english stand up coaster – Shockwave