I love Sir Richard Branson, and Rollercoasters


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Friday we went to Alton Towers, a major British theme park. Built on a HUUUUGE Tract of land once owned by the Earl of Shrewsbury in Staffordshire, it is an enormous complex including a ruined castle built in the gothic country house style. It is also, incidently, considered one of the most haunted sites in Britain. What's a gothic country estate without a curse?? We had a great time there celebrating cousin Leo's birthday, which mostly consisted of taking the children around to the kiddie rides.

However, my fiancee and I got to ride on Nemesis, the first inverted roller coaster in Europe. It was an incredible ride, appropos for a coaster considered to be the third best in the world. It boasts a drop of over thirty metres, maximum of four g-forces, and a top speed over 80 km/h. We elected to wait a few extra minutes and sit in the very first row, which made the ride even better. The two corkscrews and the zero-g roll were crazy, making it easily the most enjoyable roller coaster ride I've ever had. Oddly enough for a town containing a rollercoaster, the local zoning ordinances prohibit any rides being built above the treeline, so the design team created subterranian ravines and tunnels for the ride to pass through. It was wicked. Pictures from the trip after the jump.

While on the topic, the British writer Shaun Hutson's book Nemesis is a supreme horror novel. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but definately worth the read. Has nothing to do with roller coasters however.

We traveled to and from the park on the train, operated by Virgin trains. Not only was it cheaper and faster than taking the bus, but it was also cleaner and more fun. Yet another of the great things Richard Branson's company (actually, all 350 of them) do in Europe that Americans only familiar with Virgin's airline and record label would be surprised by. Now if only I could find some of his vodka to mix with my Virgin Cola, for the world's first ever supremely alcoholic virgin drink. On a related note, Sir Richard has long been financing maverick aviator Steve Fossett, whose private plane went missing over Nevada today while searching for a location on which to break the land speed record. Our thoughts are with him.

BTW, while writing this post I was drinking Bulmer's Original Cider. The Brits are crazy about their hard apple beverages.

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