Sunday 7th June 2009

Five to six on a lazy early summer afternoon as we slowly slip into that period when we actually come to realise that the evening is here and there is work tomorrow. However, I am not going to fuel that fire, instead, I am going to let you know how my weekend has been and hopefully cheer you up. On Friday I should have gone to sleep earlier but as usual, did not and finally got into bed just before 2am. I got up a whole hour before I really needed to because I wanted to make sure I had a hearty breakfast. Therefore I had had only three hours sleep, not ideal but never mind, I think I was too excited.

I really love Alton Towers and theme parks in general but particularly Alton Towers. I have been there in 1998 and the following year, then again in 2001. 20th June 2001 was my last visit (2909 days ago or 7 years, 11 months, 18 days) although a planned visit in October 2001 (for the Halloween special Fright Night) failed because we got stuck in traffic on the M1 from Leicester and finally came off the junction for the resort but it was 9.30pm, too late to bother the few miles that remained. So, on Monday morning when James invited me to with a group from work to Alton Towers I could not say no. The 2 for 1 special voucher did also help but I was looking forward to going back after a long eight-year break. There had been many new attractions since my last visit.

So at 6:33am (two minutes ahead of the planned itinerary) I got into James’ black 1 Series as we headed up to Staffordshire, in the newly christened Team Airmobile. In our car were Naomi and Lee, we were on our way to Thatcham to pick up Belinda. I had only discovered late on Friday night that Lee went to secondary school with my best friend Pav. I thought it had been rather strange when a long list of “mutual” friends appeared when I tried to view his Facebook page and add him as a friend. The journey up north was going to take a good few hours but we had plenty of food and sweets (Fran had put together a packed lunch in cooler bags) plus we had entertainment in the hands of James. There was a mixed bag, I recall YMCA being played as I got into the car but we crossed all genres and decades. I have to confirm that even Bring It All Back by S Club 7 played but then Belinda does have it as the ring tone on her mobile too! Of course, I do not mind some pure pop (translated to cheese for the rest of you) but sometimes you just want a banging dance track to get you in the mood. We stopped at Warwick services for a comfort break and wander, to be met by the other car, Team Nemesis. Driving a light blue three door Audi A3, driver Nikki, with passengers, Jo, Fran, Kirti and Moss. It was a short break before we back on the road. The route had been A43, M40, M42 then A roads to Burton-on-Trent (through the town) before heading onto the A50 and following the signposts to the park. This route was not ideal, as the journey through Burton was very slow, we would use an alternative route on the way home. By now I had swapped with Lee and was in the front passenger seat, giving directions and trying to join in on the conversations about television, music, theme parks and summer holidays.

We arrived just before 10am but it took a while to park and then make our way to the entrance. Once we left the cars and walked up to the Skytrain, most people needed another comfort break. It was while waiting for the rest of the girls it was decided to have a number system to ensure everyone was present and correct. Similar to systems we had used at school, I recall a French numbers system being used when I went to Normandy in June 1993, but I digress. I was given number four after a few people had shuffled around. Ian (who was yet to join us) was going to be number eleven. We then headed to the Skytrain and headed to the park entrance. James queued for tickets at the kiosk. It was 10:36am. We were here, it was raining moderately but I could come, even though I was offered an umbrella and the opportunity to buy a poncho, purple and branded with the Alton Towers logo. No thanks, I would cope as I was, even though it was rather cold. We then had a map and planned our first attack. It had to be Air, the one roller coaster I had been anticipating the most and if I went on no other rides for the whole day I would not be disappointed. When you ask people what superpower they would like to have, the majority will answer with the ability to fly. I agree, it is easily the best superhero ability to have, just ask Nathan Petrelli. We ended the ride and the queue was not that bad. Fran, Jo, Moss and Naomi went to the separate front row queue but I was content with a row anywhere on the grid. James’ face was as white as snow as we got closer to the front of the line. He watched in complete shock as the riders flew by and complete the 360-degree barrel roll. The photograph from the ride is work a million pounds and I will try and scan and upload to FlickR later this week. I loved the ride, the position and the sense of flying is really difficult to describe in words. The sensation of flying over trees and at one point being almost close enough to touch the grass on the ground. Amazing ride and I loved every millisecond of the two minutes the ride lasted. I wanted to do the ride again but the queue for the front row. Where to next?

It was time for a hot chocolate break, although I did not indulge, we then headed onto the Run Away Mine Train as something the whole group would be comfortable to go on. Nothing to exciting but another attraction (even if rather minor) to tick off the list. We then queued for Nemesis. The queue was not that long, considering my previous visits, then again those had been at the height of the summer holidays with glorious wall to wall sunshine and blue skies. Nemesis is great fun but I had a new firm favourite in the shape of Air. As there was not a long queue, we went to queue up at the front row, although James, Nikki and Jo opted to go on the main cars. Going at the front was a great experience and it is still a fantastic ride, given its age, now a spritely teenager at fifteen. I loved it, particularly the slow climb up to the top of the of the first run before we are ‘released’. Riding at the front of a roller coaster is not to be dismissed and I would highly recommend it to any other thrill seekers out there.

After Nemesis it was time for another kiddy ride (mainly because James wanted to go on it) so we went on Blade (formerly The Pirate Ship). It was okay and stomach in your mouth feeling is great but the ride is just too short and does not go high enough in my opinion. Never mind, it was a good laugh and we then moved onto the next ride. It was still raining and we decided to get some lunch although the number of places to actually sit down and eat were limited. In the end, we settled for the Courtyard Tavern and got some food there, although James, Moss and Naomi went to Burger King!

I was well impressed with our progress and even with the poor weather I was having a good time. After lunch, we planned our next ride. It was going to be Rita. We had to catch the Skytrain to get over to that side of the park and meet up with the others. However it was a seventy-minute wait in the main queue, so we decide to split up and go in the single rider queue. This was a new option for me, as it had not been at the park during my previous visit. To fill odd seats, this would enable you to get onto the ride quicker but just meant you would not have that souvenir photograph with your friends. This was to be our longest queue of the day, taking about thirty minutes to get to the front. The ride itself was very good, a quick bolt from 0 to 60mph within 2.2 seconds and a crazy amount of G-Force hitting your body (4.5G I think). Well worth it, but after the initial shock, the rest of the ride is a little tame. Afterwards, we caught up with James and Belinda (who had opted out of Rita) and gone to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory instead. We came to Cloud Cuckoo Land and found them riding the carousel. We walked down to see the Driving School but then James could not resist a ride on the Twirling Toadstool, brand new for this season! We then headed back on the road to Hex, which was good fun but perhaps a little short and not having a big thrill factor. We then went across to X-Sector and Oblivion. This had been the flagship ride on my first trip to Alton back in 1998 (it had opened that year). There was only a ten-minute queue (can you believe it?) so we were soon onto the ride. I was really looking forward to it, it had been a while. We were on the back row and I was sitting next to a brother from Leicester. He did crack me up. As we made our approach back to the station after the vertical drop (well near vertical, only eighty-eight degrees) he was explaining to me that he had closed his eyes before the drop. Obviously, I had not but didn’t want to reveal that ruin his ego, so just said I did close my eyes at the black hole. It is a fantastic ride and concept and it felt much better than I remember it. It was getting late now and we wanted to squeeze in a few more rides before they closed. James was in charge and it had to be water rides, so we went for The Flume followed by the Congo River Rapids. The Flume was good fun but our picture came out quite poor so I bought the photograph of the other tub! I will try and scan the photographs in at work and upload them. It was 6pm as we finished on the Rapids and any desire I had to go on Air again had long faded away. We then re-grouped and headed back to the entrance to collect our photographs and then one final group photograph before we left. Although Ian had left just a few minutes earlier.

Belinda, Kirti, Jo, Nikki, James, Lee, Fran, Andrew & Kate

I got back to my flat at 11pm, had a quick bite to eat, watched some television. I went online for a short while but in the end was in bed by 11:45pm. Before I fell asleep I made a list of all things I had to do on Sunday. Thankfully, looking back I somehow managed to get most of them done!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.