Thorpe Park

13th July 2002

At this stage it's impossible to say with certainty what I'd expected on my first day of travelling with five coach loads of American tourists. Perhaps my two days travelling with three of them should have served as a warning. The reality was that culture shock set in in style, particularly in the volume level of the conversation. My best defence was to sit as close to the front of my coach as possible, where at least there'd be one other person without an American accent. Tony, our driver, had prior experience of Americans on his bus and seemed to be coping better.

The day began with an hour of so-called Exclusive Ride Time on Colossus (#41). The concept of an exclusive session was new to me, having never travelled with a club before, but in theory at least it works exactly as the name suggests. The reality was somewhat different with a group this large, as two hundred and fifty people do not an exclusive session make, but it was nevertheless possible to get in a few circuits. I would have been in the first train of the morning had it not been for several people shoving their way past me in the queue. I have to admit I was a bit taken aback by this; I would have thought a club group would be better behaved. But what do I know?

The ride itself is advertised as the first in the world to feature ten inversions. Many of the passengers this morning counted as we went along, and sure enough, they were all present. For me, however, this ride felt very much like a record breaker for the sake of breaking records. The last five inversions were all identical, and to be frank, not hugely comfortable. They were at least graceful, thanks to the smooth tracking of the wheels on the rail, but the nausea factor was surprisingly high.

Thorpe Park

Unfortunately, my morning got fouled up in style when I belatedly discovered that one probably shouldn't keep glasses in a coat pocket while riding. This wasn't going to be a show-stopper for me by any means, as it was possible for me to see without them. Nevertheless, it was quite irritating as it turned out that it would not be possible for me to get them fixed until after returning home, a full week later. Needless to say that's not a mistake I'll be making again!

I had been blissfully unaware of what my food options were likely to be for this trip. Lunch was a rude awakening in that regard, as it proved impossible to find anything even remotely healthy. I shared a meal with the Reagan family from Texas, each of whom has been on several hundred coasters across the world. I was also introduced to a number of people from the European Coaster Club, who had turned up for the day.

After a quick spin on the Flying Fish powered coaster we made our way across to what is apparently a strong candidate the strangest roller coaster in the world. X:/No Way Out (#42) has trains which run backwards around the course. Every now and then they stop completely dead, where passengers are bombarded with unusual noises, mist sprays, and lighting effects. One of our group memorably labelled it as coaster meets car wash, which seemed about right.

We left the park in the early evening for a long drive to the Blackpool area. Our intrepid leaders had warned us that we would be staying in budget accommodation; in this case, Pontins Blackpool. As a previous victim guest of Butlins the spartan accommodation and lack of hot water didn't surprise me, though some of the Americans were quite taken aback. It wasn't a major issue for me, however; the place was clean, and all rooms look exactly the same when you're asleep.