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…
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…?
@ThemeParkInc Due to The Smiler being closed for the foreseeable future, we have decided to remove the branding
— Alton Towers Resort (@altontowers) June 15, 2015
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
Its been quite a year for me, the odd google plus video above is just a tiny slice of my hectic but great year.
This year I thought I would do something a little different following metadating and another year of the quantified self. Following a bit of a twitter chat with Herb and Zoe, I thought I’d give Stephen Wolfram a run for his money (not!) Here’s some of what happened this year.
I spent 6 days, 10 hours, 50 minutes watching 213 episodes over the past year.
I spent 1 week, 2 days, 19 hours, 35 minutes watching 111 movies over the past year.
Top 10 artists I listen to this year…
- Digital Italic
- Mauro Picotto
- Marco V
- Simon Patterson
- 2 Many DJ’s
- Sander Van Doorn
- Ferry Corsten
So how did I do on last years resolutions?
- Go to a new part of the world
Yeah this didn’t happen unless you count north Wales as a different part of the world. Unfortunately the holiday to Jamaica didn’t happen when my parents moved house. I’m already looking at Tokyo prices for 2015.
- Use my Task list more
Success, I certainly used it a lot more but I could still do with better ways to do offline tasks. I am intrigued about the differences between using task to remember stuff and tasks to refer to stuff.
- Bake a bloody cake
Ahhhh! The cake is not a lie… Well Sarah’s Banana bread/loaf suggestion
maydid happen while I was down in Bristol with my parents. Yes its easier but frankly it removes the temptation to bake Victoria sponge’s all the time. Following instructions or a recipe is something I always found painful. However I’m finally going to remove it from my list! Not to say I won’t ever make one again.
- Ride the bloody Smiler
Not only have I rode the smiler this year, I think in total I have done 16+ times (sorry I lost count of how many times now, should be quantifying my rides) and boy oh boy have I loved it. The longest wait must be 1 hour 20mins in the single riders queue. Next year I’m considering get another yearly pass because its been great fun riding in Alton Towers and Thorpe Park when it was April and May.
- Improve my circus skills
This year was ideal for circus skills but I rarely went out and did any. I did make it to the Cholton Circus house event once and its in my calendar now at least. Maybe next year?
- Move away from GoDaddy
I’m fully away from Godaddy. Moved my blog, emails and domain to hover and WPengine. Another one marked off the list.
- Surround myself in higher thinking
This is certainly happening, I generally don’t watch much live transmitted TV anyway but this year I’m watching far far less. Generally I’m watching either on-demand TV shows or something educational from Youtube. The chromecast has helped with this I have to say, Xbmc is cool but the chromecast has made the process super simple. My podcast listening has increased too with things like Freakonomics. I also messed with my twitter followers a little, so generally I’m getting higher thinking stuff. My ianforrester account follows all my friends instead.
- Scooter into another country
So May/June was amazing. I did the simple option of driving through Wales, although the mountains were incredible. but I clocked up 403 miles during that trip alone. Myself and Oli Wood are talking about doing something next year, so expect to hear more soon.
- Use social media to stay in touch with friends
I started off well but then kind of lost my way in the middle of the year. I guess removing Facebook from my phone was always going to cause a issues and not enough friends use other platforms daily. I did do a little social experiment to see what I should do next year, around a Christmas card on G+ and FB.
- Pick up the family genealogy
With the help of Sarah, my insane family tree is on genealogy.co.uk. I can’t believe how much they charge but we have identified quite a few of the family who are already using it and could take it onwards.
- Live the life I choose
Dave commented on my thoughts about the hyperconnected world we are heading into.
As I believe in the hyper-connected world we’re moving into. My bets are against hierarchy and traditional. Maybe there is a word which sums this up?
So this year I stuck to my principles and I believe are seeing signs which are fruitful. I reached out for better advice to better manage and use my dyslexia to further my own career. Also next year will be the 5 year anniversary of mybrushwithdeath.
- Sort out my love life and finish the book
Been put myself out there and attended many weird and wonderful events. I also started dating different women again, hey you never know (opposites attract?) The book is still being written (slowly) but its more difficult as the dates I been on in 2014 have not been anywhere as bad, I’m also trying to remember some of the older dates. I could make up drama but everything to date has been written on top of the truth.
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…