Mask Exempt?

I was at Alton Towers last week again. Yeah I know I love that place. Thursday was spent with friends and was a great time. We did the usual way of queueing for all the rides and enjoyed the conversation (and the Yorkshire pudding wraps).

We only managed about seven rides as it was really busy. Most of the day the queues were above 1 hour for most of the rides although the Smiler did get up to 110 minutes at one point.

That night I spent the evening in the hotel. Just me alone. I was in room 101. I will never go in a room so close to reception ever again. Whilst I accepted that there would be noise from the patio until about 11:15 when they turned the heaters off I didn’t then expect a member of staff to rearrange the furniture in the upstairs lounge at 3am.

Anyone who knows the TV programme Room 101 will shudder at the thought of staying in it. It’s the room into which you put all the bad things of society.

The lake in the middle is quite nice though. I had a view over this from my room (as opposed to every previous visit where I’ve had a view of carparks).

In all honesty though – I’ve never had a great experience at the Alton Towers hotels. If I were reviewing the stay as a whole I’d say the hotels are a bit of a cop out. The so called themed decor in some of the rooms is minimal – mine was simply a border, carpet and light fittings. Very little extra was done to make it an explorer room – and above and beyond what a standard Holiday Inn does there’s not much for kids to do at night. You need to entertain them yourselves.

Now I know I didn’t pay extra for a luxury room – this time it’s only the basic room – but still… I will say though that it’s very comfortable compared to a Travel Lodge or Holiday Inn room.

Breakfast the next day was at 7:30 ready for me to walk up to the park gates.

I was one of the first up there at about quarter to nine, and at just after nine o’clock they let us into the park. With no early ride time at the moment due to social distancing everyone is getting let in at 9. This gave me plenty of time to collect my Platinum pass!

Unbelievably on day two I hardly took any photos! Then again, I’ve got more than enough photos of rides from different angles and it certainly wasn’t great light for photos with a typical British grey sky sitting above.

I’m a bit miffed by some of the current Fastpass lines too, whilst Smiler, Oblivion, Rita and Th13teen have decent queue jump facilities; the batching points for Nemesis, and most specifically Galactica are far too early down the queue line and after you’re batched you still have 5 minutes of queue time ahead for Nemesis, and 15-20 minutes of queue time ahead. Hardly Fastpass – considering it’s a £105 upgrade!

This September is my next trip and I’ll be doing it the normal way then. No fast-pass. The park tends to quieten down in September, plus whilst fastpass has its benefits for maximum ride I do find I lose a lot of the experience of the place as I feel like I need to maximise my pass. When I do it the slow way I’ll sit in for dinner rather than grabbing it on the fly.

So I’ll say farewell to Alton Towers until September.

At Alton Towers you will find…

You can leave the kids behind,

There’s a new world just for you,

and all the others in the queue.

Remember the 1980’s advert? Yeah we rewrote it back in the 80’s at school! You know what this means though – yeah my first Alton Towers trip of the new season! A day with all the niceties at my favourite place.

The day was grey. I arrived just after 9 and parked in the premium parking. £12 with my Merlin Card is so worth it to be right by the entrance rather than down at the bottom by the hotels.

We joined the pre-queue queue, which now extends down towards the carpark.

Once we were given the go-ahead we went through the temperature checking and security tents which are now outside the main gates and then were made to wait until they opened the gates proper at 9:30, by which time the queue was really building up.

Once in the park sadly the early ride time isn’t happening at the moment and so all rides open at 10 but it does give me chance to grab my Platinum Fastpass, have a nice walk round and grab a coffee.

So my first ride was my favourite – Wicker Man. I did 3 in a row.

Then – breaking my trend – I went to RITA next – 5 on that; and whilst nearby I got a couple of rides in on Thir13en too. I’m not a massive fan of that one to be honest – I find it a bit boring. So I went back to RITA and rode the twice again.

By 11:30 I was on 12 rides and I headed to Smiler. I did 10 rides down at X Sector – alternating between Smiler and Oblivion because of the one way system operating. I finished the first session at about 1:15 on 22 rides total.

By this point the sky was looking very grey so I headed to the chicken place for dinner. They do a veggie burger. It wasn’t great to be fair and I think I’ll stick with Woodcutters in future.

The next hour was spent watching the rain from under a canopy as what can only be described as the end of the world came down. A few rumbles of thunder accompanied it and the rides did stop briefly whilst the thunder passed.

I then headed back to Dark Forest and took a skyride in the rain across to Forbidden Valley.

I was at this point very pleased I chose to wear my leather jeans! The waterproofing in them from when I used to wear them on my motorbike was still working well and my legs were dry. The Wicker Man coat is also surprisingly still waterproof, although the seams did start giving in after about an hour is deluge.

So down at Forbidden Valley I did 1 Galactica ride and 5 Nemesis. This took me up to 28. Two of the Nemesis rides were in the rain (they closed Galactica when it rained) and riding Nemesis was hurting with the rain in my face so I decided to have a coffee and doughnut. Bad call!

The rain eased and I had a skyride back over to Dark Forest and walked the rest of the way to X-Sector for another few Smiler rides.

This was the point at which I realised the doughnut was a bad call. On my final ride of Smiler I tasted the doughnut 14 times. I decided to abort inverted rides and had another Oblivion ride. Taking me up to 30.

The final two rides of the day were back over in the Dark Forest where RITA dried me out nicely.

On and yes there were ducks. This one was a knobhead.

A good run home too. The reason I love the fast-pass and premium parking combo is that I can leave the park before JCB turns out and causes a huge queue up to the A50.

Well so much for that

Not many countries or areas still have fords, but if you don’t know what one is it’s a place where a road crosses a river without a bridge, so all vehicles have to pass through the water.

Usually there’s a depth marker adjacent so drivers can make a safe judgement as to what their vehicle is capable of when it comes to fording.

Most cars will safely ford 8″; and guidelines say you should never ford a depth of more than half way up your wheel because you risk floating.

Last weekend we went to Rufford. It’s a beautiful country park in Nottinghamshire; part of the ancient Sherwood Forest; and adjacent to the mill entrance is Rufford Ford. Killer of Mercedes and BMW cars. The water was at about 12″ – a figure considered impassable for most cars.

I don’t know what it is with BMW, but their designers insist on putting the air intake right behind the grille (our Jag is the same, hence me refusing to drive through anything deeper than a puddle); but unlike me who knows the limits of my vehicle – BMW drivers don’t seem to understand this.

This was the second BMW killed that day.

Last Sunday there were three blue BMW’s in a row at one point, all dead, all fatally dead with hydrolocked engines. The drivers don’t understand that the bang you hear as the wheels lock up is the con-rods snapping or the crank shearing in two.

Usually it needs a full engine rebuild with at least two new pistons required. More often than not it will cause major damage to the block and require a whole new long block (essentially a new engine). With diesels it is usually even worse as the compression inside the pistons is so much higher (often double).

A fair crowd usually watch the ford.

Last week a blue M5 went through the ford and cut out just as it got to the end. The video is on YouTube and you hear the bang as the engine kills a piston. An £85000 car; and he killed the largest mechanical component because of his stupidity.

When we returned from our walk around the park his car was still there being attended to by the AA. The AA guy told him quite plainly that he needed a new engine. It was a 3 litre diesel and it wasn’t running on all cylinders – you could hear the broken con-rods spinning on the crank.

First the guy thought he’d be able to limp it home – the AA guy told him that wouldn’t be able to happen as sensors would cut it out every time he put a load on the engine; and then he discussed claiming on the insurance – even the AA guy told him that you can’t claim on insurance when you took an avoidable risk.

Your BMW is fucked. You fucked it because you were either an idiot, or showing off. Either way a rebuilt engine is gonna cost you £10000, or a brand new one £35000.

The rest of the trip was glorious though.

The bluebells are fully out in the woods. I love bluebells!

Growing up with Trifles

Those of you who followed me from Blogger to WordPress may remember when my website was called Growing up with Trifles; or More Trifles. At one point I even had the domain same moretrifl.es (a Spanish domain, which when we were in the EU I could legally own*)

I fucking love trifle. I was pretty much weaned on the stuff. Growing up near a large dairy manufacturer meant regular supplies of trifles. We all knew multiple people who worked there (2 of my cousins!) and it was staple work on the run up to Christmas as demand for trifles increased.

The staff knew the trick – damage a pallet of top quality M&S trifles with sherry and the next day they would be in the factory shop for 10p each. It was guaranteed that if there was a big event coming up a “whoops” would happen.

Every resident of the town had a bag of trifles in the freezer for emergencies. Even now when I see “do not freeze” embossed on the top of pre packed ones I quietly think “bollocks”. I ate hundreds of them that had been frozen and I never ailed anything!

So occasionally these days I get trifle. In the Brexit cupboard we have quite a few Birds trifles.

You wouldn’t like me if I’ve been deprived…

*don’t get me started on Brexit.

Alton Towers the second

I pre-booked this back in August before all the craziness started with the plan of having another trip to my second home.

When we went to level 3 I was really anxious about going, after all it said avoid unnecessary travel; however I’d paid for my add-ons and was set to lose money, so I thought with the right amount of caution, and a good social distancing and masking regime it would be satisfactory.

Alton Towers is really beautiful in the Autumn, and it certainly is one of my favourite times of year.

Sadly Nemesis is closed for long term repairs and Th13teen didn’t open at all, and we did have a temporary closure on Galactica at one point; but I managed Smiler twice, Rita twice, Galactica twice, Wicker Man twice, Oblivion & Spinball once each, Enterprise, and The Blade once each.

It wasn’t massively busy, and rain at about noon certainly cleared the lightweights out.