Shambhala, hypercoasters dream

Shambhala

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?

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?

Shambhala

Great sunset on a excellent ride….

Shambhala

Best rollercosters I’ve ridden, so far…

Jetline at Grona Land

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

And from Stockholm’s Grona Lund

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.

United states

Déjàvu

Six Flags great America

Vertical Velocity or V2

Deja Vu (no longer exists)

Raging Bull

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.

Las Vegas

Speed: The ride (no longer exists)

Massive fan of LIM (Linear Induction Motor) and Hydraulic Launchs, so speed the ride is right up my street. I’d also add it was the best ride on the Vegas strip by a long way.

Japan

Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima

Nagashima Spa Land

Steel Dragon 2000

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.

Fuji-Q Highland

Eejanaika

Fujiyama

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.

Tokyo Dome City

Thunder Dolphin

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.

Spain

Parque Warner Madrid 126

Parque Warner Madrid

Superman / la Atracción de Acero

Stuntfall

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.

UK

Alton Towers in 2015

Alton Towers

Nemesis

Smiler

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

Stealth

Swarm

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 pleasure beach

Infusion

The Big one

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.

Drayton Manor

Shockwave

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.

Sweden

Jetline at Grona Land

Gröna Lund

Insane

Jetline

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.

Denmark

Dæmonen

Tivoli Gardens

Dæmonen

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.

VR on a rollercoaster

Galactica_Logo_Alton_Towers

Alton Towers seems to be refitting Air with Virtual Reality glasses and calling it Galactica?

Alton Towers is to open what it claims is the world’s first rollercoaster that combines a physical ride with virtual reality, giving passengers a “customised journey into space” via headsets that use groundbreaking technology.

The ride, called Galactica, will launch in April and is the first major new ride at the Staffordshire theme park since 16 people were injured, including five seriously, in a rollercoaster crash last June.

Its a nice idea but I’m still unsure if this warrants a yearly pass. I mean I like Air but adding VR doesn’t really justify the yearly price?

I feel if they had added another coaster I might have been more interested but right now, it feels like a compromise. Heck if they had added VR to one time Th13teen, that would have made more sense.

Guess my Alton Towers pass still sits waiting for me to pick it up.

Alton towers smiler crash result

Alton Towers in 2015

Alton towers have finally came back with the results of the tragic alton towers smiler crash in June 2015.

Human error caused the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash in June that seriously injured five people, the Staffordshire theme park has said. Two women – Victoria Balch and Leah Washington – had legs amputated after the Smiler ride hit an empty carriage on 2 June.

seriously injured five people, the Staffordshire theme park has said. Two women – Victoria Balch and Leah Washington – had legs amputated after the Smiler ride hit an empty carriage on 2 June.

Staff misunderstood a shutdown message and wrongly restarted the ride, an investigation by the park confirmed. No technical or mechanical issues were found with the ride itself. The ride, which has been closed since the crash, will reopen next year with improved safety measures.

“A ride shutdown message was misunderstood by staff at the ride,” an Alton Towers spokeswoman said. “This led to a decision to manually restart the ride, overriding the control system without appropriate safety protocols being followed correctly.”

Staff misunderstood a shutdown message and wrongly restarted the ride, an investigation by the park confirmed. No technical or mechanical issues were found with the ride itself. The ride, which has been closed since the crash, will reopen next year with improved safety measures.

“A ride shutdown message was misunderstood by staff at the ride,” an Alton Towers spokeswoman said. “This led to a decision to manually restart the ride, overriding the control system without appropriate safety protocols being followed correctly.”

Human error… The kind from poorly paid late teenage-mid 20s people. Its hardly surprising as the chances of technical malfunction was always super low. The fact it was reset also explains why the failsafe didn’t do what its meant to do.

Humans are sadly the weak link, especially unmotivated, over worked and under paid staff.. I hope they start paying the staff better before the Smiler reopens next year.

“The investigation also identified areas where protocols and the training of employees should be improved. There were found to be no technical or mechanical problems with the ride itself.”

It added that Alton Towers had introduced a number of new safety measures across all its multi-car rollercoasters since the accident. When the Smiler reopens, it will include new safety measures including additional CCTV cameras and an enhanced safety process requiring a senior member of staff to authorise the manual overrides that caused the Smiler crash.

Maybe its time to use that years pass.

New heights?

Dave Mee sent me a link to the New York times piece on the new league of giga coasters.

Just How Tall Can Roller Coasters Get?

This is not a rhetorical question these days..

Theme parks have engaged in a dizzying quest for height in recent years that has spawned a number of roller coasters as tall as skyscrapers. Altitude rather than velocity has become such a defining characteristic that rides that take advantage of their soaring heights have been given a name befitting a mammoth frame: the giga coaster.

Enthusiasts use the term to apply to a roller coaster with a drop of 300 to 399 feet, meaning that its riders fall the length of a football field. (Anything beyond 400 feet and you’re in strata coaster terrain.) Four of the five giga coasters in the world are in North America, at theme parks all owned by the same chain, Cedar Fair Entertainment (the fifth is in Japan).

On the face of it, I was thinking wow this looks like a good ride… But then I looked into the actual facts.

Fury 325 Carowinds (USA) March 25, 2015 325 feet (99 m)
Millennium Force Cedar Point (USA) May 13, 2000 310 feet (94 m)
Steel Dragon 2000 Nagashima Spa Land (Japan) August 1, 2000 318 feet (97 m)
Intimidator 305 Kings Dominion (USA) April 2, 2010 305 feet (93 m)
Leviathan Canada’s Wonderland (USA) May 6, 2012 306 feet (93 m)

 

Fury 325 is only a few meters taller than Millennium Force and Steel Dragon 2000 (which I had the pleasure of going on while in Japan). I trust its a great ride but hardly anything to shout about. Its also 15 years afterwards!

Loved Steel Dragon 2000 and the big one at Blackpool but for me its about doing more with less space. You only have to look at the Nemesis or the late Smiler. Heaven knows how they were able to fit 14 inversions in the space usually reserved for a duck pond in most American theme parks.

To Alton Towers or not to Alton Towers

I have owned a yearly pass for Alton Towers and Thorpe Park theme parks in the UK for a few years now. Its been well used over the last few years. The last time I went was in late March before going to Tokyo.

Soon after I got back, the smiler crashed and everybody and their mum pointed me at the news. Its pretty shocking and it does make you think but to be fair Rollercoasters are not meant to crash in this kind of way.

I did pay for another years pass before this all happened but haven’t picked it up yet (it becomes active once you go to a theme park and use it). I’m not quite sure how I feel about picking up my yearly pass especially since the smiler is still closed and looks to never be back…?

The years pass doesn’t start till I pick it up but I wonder how Alton Towers will react if I decided I wanted my money back?

In reflection, the Japanese way of triple checking everything before letting the train leave the station, is quite sobering to read and think  about. My reaction in light of the smiler accident is slightly changed.

  • Will I be back at Alton Towers at some point? Yes
  • Will I ride the smiler again? Yes but it looks unlikely it will survive
  • Am I upset with the way Alton Towers have handled this whole thing? Yes

Rollercoasters the safest moment of impeding doom

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…

Perceptive Media at the theme park?

Stealth

I had the pleasure of going to Thorpe Park on the weekend as I gatecrashed Kate’s Birthday.

A number of things got me thinking as I queued 18 times for Stealth, 10 times for the Swarm (forward and backwards), 3 times for Nemesis Inferno and once on Saw the ride (don’t think my head could hand the banging nature – not impressed! Gerstelauer could learn something from Bolliger & Mabillard). I adored Stealth even though I had butterflies in my gut about the height of the top beforehand. I remember seeing a board years ago when I last went to Thorpe Park talking about a new ride, shows how long ago since I had returned.

Although I fell in love with Stealth, I was also very impressed with the swarm.

Not only was it a great ride but flexible enough to have a number of options including riding it backwards! Which I did 5 times and I can only describe it as being dragged by a tentacle monster attached to your waist backwards. You can hardly feel the over shoulder constraint and it just feels amazing being dragged along with your arms and legs naturally dragging along.

The swarm is one of the modern coasters which has been properly thought out. Ironically (ironic because Alton Towers has bags of land but seems to always tightly pack rides and London land is expensive) because Thorpe park have loads of empty space it could build a complete site with waterways, over turned police vans, busted fire engines, etc. The whole thing is really well themed. Nemesis and Oblivion were early on this front but in Swarm has given it a super modern and very London overview.

The Swarm roller coaster at Thorpe Park

While waiting in the queue theres a news report about a national emergency spawning from Thorpe Park. After spending much time in the queue waiting for my forward and backwards adventures in space. I started to notice the same video parts coming up again and again. Don’t get me wrong I expect there might be about 30mins of footage on a loop, which is much more than any other theme park I’ve been to.
But I started thinking what a great chance to do something Perceptive. The ride should react and change to the people waiting, how long their waiting, whos waiting, etc.

Swarm news report

Can you imagine what would happen if you conversations were used in the queue experience? Tweets, photos, the lot were included and manipulated to fit the theme. Now thats an idea I may have to take forward…

I was also interested in Thorpe parks teaming up with Ministry of Sound, which seems to bring it closer to the concept of a Rave than you can make up. The whole site was blasting out dance music and I got to say I quite liked it. Not only that, in the line for the Swarm, they were handing out wireless headsets for the queuing. The headsets had volume and a switch for off, channel a and channel b. Channel A was generally MoS dance music and channel b more 60s and 70s disco. Each headset seemed to have a number of sponsors including O2.

Line music

Although I thought it was a nice idea, I was a little miffed with having to wear one in a queue of 2mins later in the day. I was literally walking to the entrance being handed a headset and walking through the queue system and then giving them back up before getting on the ride. I imagine in a much larger queue it could be rife for abuse/fun with Perceptive Media…

So who do I need to get in touch with about this idea?

Cocktails and Rollercoasters, how else to celebrate?

Google Cocktails

Its that time of year again when I celebrate surviving one extra year on earth, and for me its got to be rollercoasters and cocktails with friends.

So here is the schedule (which is weather dependant of course)

  • Sunday 7th April – I’m Gatecrashing Kate Reader’s Rollercoaster party at Thorpe Park, London. Something tells me we’re going to need to make use of this weatherproofing offer.
  • Wednesday 10th April – I’m consider I should do something simple like going out for a meal and bowling (yes they now have bowling in central Manchester), as I’m going to be out the rest of the weekend.
  • Friday 12th April – Its time for a Cocktail Masterclass at The all new Kahlua coffee house, can’t wait to make those Espresso Martinis (heck coffee and cocktails, it doesn’t get much better!). The guys behind the Kahlua coffee house seem to read my blog which is a little spooky and seem to have something special in store for me? What it is I have no idea but I’m sure its fun!
  • Saturday 13th April – I will be at the ORG North event but afterwards, its back to the fine cocktails all night, starting at the Alchemists and moving into Lola Cocktails later in the night.
  • Sunday 14th April – Its get up with a slight hangover, get on a train and head to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for even more Rollercoasters.
  • Monday 15th April – Sleep off most of the weekend… (smile, Zzzzz)

If your interested in joining the party at any of the points, you should know how to contact me already. Twitter might be the best way, as I will be using my extended life battery when ever possible.

To note at some point in May, we’ll be going to Alton Towers to finally experience the smiler! The plans was always to go but Alton Towers delayed the launch of the ride till May.