I’ve decided to do a proper review because I like reminiscing at the end of the year. This report is as a much a guilty pleasure for my own memory as it is a report for sharing. I’ve tried to make it concise but I’ve had an absolutely incredible year – both credwise and in the real world – so please forgive any waffle. 2017 was supposed to be a low year with less traveling and saving money for a house…and …it started out that way...before descending into the usual whirlwind of travel, conferences and creds. Oh well. No regrets (except my bank balance). January – Went to Manchester to give my first presentation at a university since leaving Royal Holloway more than a decade ago – it was nice to do something that wasn’t corporate for five minutes and give something back to the academics. Managed a quick pint and catch up with a certain Lord too. Manchester Uni. Met up with a few CFers to do an escape room, play board games and check out some VR geekery at Geology Dave’s in Kentish Town. Usual CF hilarity ensued. February – The parents are considering moving house so we went up to Norfolk to experience what the place would be like in winter (spoiler: they decided it’s too cold). We had a very brief look round Norwich, had lunch on the Norfolk Broads and drove past a very closed Great Yarmouth before giving up and coming home. Norwich The Broads Did a few job applications/interviews in February but nothing came of it. Went for an interesting one with the Department for Work and Pensions who forgot I was coming for an interview and were all on holiday – don’t think I’ll be working for them! And some charity stuff who didn’t want me. Started doing a pub quiz every month or so with the local dog-walking contingency. Love pub quizzes and, although we never win, I’ve really enjoyed getting back on a regular quiz team this year. March – Spent a couple of days at a work conference in Berlin. It was bloody cold and I got a bit drunk and thought it would be a good idea to bring take-out pizza back to my hotel room and eat it in a nice hot bath…and…proceeded to drop my phone in the bath. Bugger! Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church (taken before I dropped the phone in the bath) The fabulous Goon Quiz also took place in March. April – Didn’t do too much. I was really sick over Easter (got a kidney infection which only cleared after two lots of antibiotics and my skin started to go yellow from the extra stuff my kidneys weren’t passing out – gross). Finally got back on my feet and spent the rest of the month just walking about with the dog and exploring more of the Kent countryside. Dog-walking is always different with Saff Managed another house-hunting trip near Cambridge. Still no joy but we did visit the beautiful town of Ely with its cathedral and old city centre. Fab May – Having gone veggie a couple of years ago, I’ve been getting gradually stricter and going more vegan. Went to Kent’s Vegan Festival in Canterbury for some recipe ideas and randomly bumped into Fraser working in the town. Algae cake. Because why not? May is also the month of Eurovision and this year I went to Neal and Ali’s new place to do the usual faced singsong. We added in a short trip to Old McDonald’s Farm – finally, my first park visit and my first new cred of the year. Can’t believe I had to go back to this travesty though! I thought the place shut at 5 when it was actually 4 and we ended up having just 15 minutes to do a cred dash and to revisit the M25 viewing platform. It was still too long at Old Mac’s Farm. The Blackpool Live is always one of my annual highlights. Lots of people flaked this year, understandably waiting for Icon, but the small band of CFers that remained did what we do best and pissed about. We rode all the coasters in alphabetical order and gooned at the piles of mud. It was fab. I’d driven up on the Saturday morning but left really early and took a detour though the fabulous Peak District road before joining for Blackpool. Epic drives were to become a theme of 2017. So excited to see this area of Icon next year. On the Sunday, a few of us headed to Southport but the new looper wasn’t open yet - spite. I then drove down to Derby to meet Jer (who was joining us from the US) and Kim. We had a rather unsuccessful night trying to have drinks in Derby (Derby is – how did I not know this?) before Alton on the Monday. Climbing a sheep statue - as you do We’d been really looking forward to Jer’s first visit to Alton Towers and it did not disappoint. He loved Oblivion and Nemesis and seeing his face on first glimpse of both the Towers and Smiler was priceless Things started to get really busy in May. I had another conference, this time in Santorini - of all the jammy places to go for a conference, this really was the jammiest. I decided to tag on a trip to Athens beforehand as I’d somehow never been to Greece and managed to get a connecting flight with a day through Sofia because I’d never been to Bulgaria either. Sofia city centre was beautiful, had real character and was the perfect size for a day trip. It had loads of Roman ruins all across the city and buildings of all religions pushed up against each other, giving it the feeling of being a European crossroads. Popped into SkyPark for Soifia’s only cred and got treated to a ride with its one and only ride op! Roman stuff. Roman stuff everywhere. From Sofia, I flew to Athens which was a vile and skanky city centre – a real shock after the lovely Sofia. I did the tourist thing and went up to the top of the big hill to see the Acropolis which was a pretty incredible thing to tick off the list. Also explored the Roman Forum and the ancient Greek forum, the Agora – there’s so much history here you almost zone out of it in the end because it’s just too much to take in. But I did see a ‘wild’ tortoise and it made my day! In the evening, I visited Allou Fun Park, a cute little amusement park on the outskirts of the city with a well-themed log flume and my new number 1 worst cred in the world – Loop It – which gave me proper whiplash. Gross. Ancient Greek stuff. Ancient Greek stuff everywhere. More old stuff I can take selfies too, not just old buildings Got a boat early the next day over to the island of Santorini. Had a complete geology overload as we sailed into the giant caldera and I spent the next few days working with incredible views out across the volcanic landscape. Best view from a conference venue of all time! My office for a few days. I'll take it! I hired a car and spent an afternoon driving round the small island, visiting Akritori (the remains of a Minoan settlement that was destroyed in the Theran eruption of 1627 BC - seeing houses and pottery from that long ago was simply unbelievable). Blew me away! Went to a beach made entirely of red pumice. Definite geologist’s holiday destination. All the rocks! June – My first time at the UK board games expo in Birmingham. It was very different to the big Essen one which is more about buying games. Here, there was tonnes of room to just play games with my mates which was great. Less discounted games though. For my birthday, I went with the family to Brighton to do some shopping and check out some vegan restaurants. We went to the Heather Mills place VBites and it sucked. Won’t be going back there. The ultimate cred run happened. JayJay, Mike and I hit up a total of 20 creds across 11 parks over one weekend, driving the length of Devon and Cornwall. It was both EPIC and hilarious. Highlights involved the terrifying Victorian village at Flambards and meeting up with Dave, not having to bother with Camel Creek (ex-Cornwall’s Crealy) because I already had the cred, going back to Milky Way for fab Clone Zone and the indoor dodgems, finally getting to Big Sheep and the staff being amazing, meeting up with Will and doing 100+ down the motorway to get the cred at Animal Farm Adventure Park before they closed, spending the evening feeling dirty in Brean, going back to Crealy Devon and the new spinner being bigger than expected, seeing how cute Dawlish was (I’ll definitely come back one day) and riding ‘Wacky Warm’ at Funder Park, getting into Adventure Wonderbland for free and finishing the trip by packing in even more unexpected creds at Clarence Pier and Hayling Island. Phew! General public's view of most of the parks that we visited. Milky Way never fails to entertain though. Shame. Shame. Finally! Goons! July – The Plopterix Live gave me the chance to revisit two really great parks. Despite the slightly negative vibes and the pouring rain, I had a good time. Heidi is a fab little family addition to Plopsaland and really compliments their line-up – I always love it when parks invest in a proper wooden coaster for kids as it helps them get hooked early on. Anubis had lost some of its sparkle and was renamed Anoldbis, although still managed to pack a bit of a punch. The sun came out on the first evening as we all decamped in the middle of a field to find some of the best beer in the world, brewed by monks in a monastery. I love doing stupid stuff like this – it’s the best thing about CF, the random stuff we get up to. Doctor Dave and I discovered we’d randomly booked the same hotel and took a box of beer back to join us in celebration. Yes. It was bloody good beer. I probably enjoyed Asterix more than most of the group having been there loads of times before and not succumbing to cred anxiety. Pegasus was a nice addition and I enjoyed the puns. It was great to finally meet Coaster Hipster too Loved Transdemonium as always and was not disappointed that I sat out Gouderix to show Harry the fabulous Mad House. Spent a long weekend in Dorset with the parents, dog, auntie and uncle. We stayed near the beautiful yet ridiculously named village of Piddletrenthide. So cute. We visited the Tolpuddle Martyrs Tree (birthplace of the trade unions), Also visited Gold Hill (the site of the famous Hovis bread advert)... Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh...duh, duh, duh, duh, duh ...the Cerne Abbas Giant... 1000 years old or a 17th century piece of political satire? ...Corfe Castle (a fabulous huge ruin made of Purbeck limestone)... ...the Hardy Monument (a big tower with 72 feet of steps which we climbed) Climbing those steps was 'hardy' work West Bay (better known as TV’s Broadchurch beach, which had just seen a huge rockfall)... If you look closely, you can see David Tennant brooding ...and my first visit to the coastal town of Swanage. Yep. It's Swanage. The Tardis is looking a bit worse for wear. I usually have two weeks away with the parents and dog during the summer, driving down somewhere like Italy or Croatia, but this year we split our trip in two and went a bit closer to home. July gave us 10 days in the Limoges region of France. I’ve never properly explored anywhere in south or western France before and this was utterly gorgeous. The green landscape, the beautiful medieval fortified villages, the food, and the totally chilled pace of life. We’d hired a gîte, which is something I’d only ever heard middle class people talk about on Radio 4 before but which turned out to be a small, inexpensive cottage that comes with wine and some homemade food. Fab. We did lots of walking, buying fresh veg from local markets and mooching about little towns. Saffron spent most of the trip looking for frogs in our pond. Visited the main town of Limoges... ...the breathtakingly beautiful village of Cologne de Rouge (where there were no cars, all the buildings were made out of bright red brick and everything they sold contained walnuts)... ...the absolutely EPIC Rocamadour (a monastery perched on top of a cliff) and the sanctuary walk (down though a church carved into the rockface) to the medieval town below... What a view! Heights don't bother Saff in the slightest. Church in the cliff Sanctuary walk Caves below the cliff ...Lac Vassiviere sculpture island... Getting flashbacks from Movieland, Garda ...did some local walking at Mont Gargan... Some old ruins (and me and the dog) ...the site of the Rochehouart meteorite to visit the meteorite museum and some real life impactite rocks (the meteorite itself vaporised but the country rocks around were super-heated and became this!)... Brave adventurers! ...and the town Triegnac. Pretty. We also visited the site of the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, where an entire town has been left as it was after the population was murdered in WWII. I won't post photos as it's in bad taste (this memorial was just outside) but if you don't know what it is, I recommend reading up on the history on the place. A haunting addition to our trip but a lesson well worth remembering. On the last night, we went to a local BBQ festival thing in Uzerche were you come and buy your food at some stalls and cook it there on the coals with live music and beer. Life doesn’t get much better or food any fresher! Great place for a feast Random towers from the local area August – A couple of weeks later and we were all off on our second week up to the west coast of Scotland. We got the train up and stopped for lunch in Glasgow before hiring a car and driving out to the islands. We stayed in the quaint fishing village of Tarbert in the grounds of Stonefield Castle and in the mornings I walked with Saffron down through the woods, past the castle, to the sea. There was a small causeway with sea on both sides offering up fantastic views. Someone had gathered up all the washed-up fishing net floats and hung them in a tree. We weren't the first drifters to wash up on the beach. Morning walks Tarbert looking nice Tarbert looking bleak We had some beach walks where I was thrilled to find this amazing piece of mica schist that shimmers however you choose to hold it. One day it totally monsoon rained while Saff and I were out for about two hours with horizontal rain - walking across that causeway got proper wild (well it is Scotland!). At home among the rocks Hills We tried to recreate Outlander but I was a few scantily-dressed wicca short. Tea and sea. More rocks. We got numerous ferries across to different islands including... One rare break in the rain. ...Bute... Mainly sheep ...and Arran - where I got to tick something off the geology bucket list in the form of Hutton’s Unconformity – basically it’s the first place someone found evidence of the fact that rocks get moved about and lifted up and weathered, it’s like the birthplace of modern geological principles. Ok, I know it doesn’t sound exciting to most people but it floats my boat and I scrambled over rocks for an hour against wind and rain to find this bastard. Rocks! Whoo! Also visited the town of Oban and drove down to Mull of Kintyre and Campbelltown (which was sadly not full of camp Ians). On the way back from Scotland, we got the train along the Settle to Carlisle line which goes over the famous Ribblehead viaduct. The viaduct looks like this (stolen from the web because it's hard to get that view while on the train). Saff and I being passengers. An unofficial film about the formation of the Smiths was released and Neal stepped in to join me at the last minute when my mate dropped out. Went to an amazing little cinema where you could watch the film while being served tea – the pinnacle of cinema experiences. Also got myself along to a special Feeling Gloomy club night (a fab alternative 80s night in London I go to sometimes) that was going on for the film’s release. Made a last minute decision to go to Victorious Festival in Portsmouth. When I discovered that JayJay was also going along, we joined forces for a weekend under canvas. Hadn’t been to a festival or camped for ages and it was fantastic to get back into the festival vibe. The line-up was excellent with Elbow and Stereophonics headlining. Elbow did an incredible and emotional performance that’ll stay with me. Also saw British Sea Power, who I have loved for years but never managed to see live before, Maxiimo Park who are one of my favourite bands, Feeder, Echbelly and loads more. It was a beautifully hot and sunny weekend and the festival was next to the sea and included its own castle with a bar! We also popped out for a cheeky ride on the Clarence Pier Pinfari like true goons. All the people. So many people. Not your average festival experiance British Sea Power have lots of mascots that come on stage. The bear (called Ursine Ultra) and someone dressed as some foliage made it to the festival. Their fans always bring tree branches. Just need to see them perform in a cave now... Gotta do a festival properly. September – Another month, another conference, this time in Detroit. Normally I go away for a week or so with my mates but I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add holiday onto such a useful cred location. So I planned a solo US driving tour for my main 2017 holiday, taking in lots of new parks and some fab music-related locations. Still have lots of this trip to finish writing up as a proper report but, anyway, here are the best bits. It kicked off with a ridiculously packed day 1 with Timber Falls, Mt Olympus, Little Americka and SF Great America. I spent the evening in Madison and the next day saw a bit of Wisconsin Dells from the bank before hitting up the Timber Falls woodie, which was a pleasant surprise. The Dells The cred Mount Olympus offered up the thrilling Hades 360 which was, alone, worth the trek up here and the tunnels were terrifying. I like to think it was gift from another theme park with lots of staff waiting inside to leap out. Gooooon! I just had to call into Little Americka to try the toboggan monstrosity – having done it, I’m glad I never have to repeat the experience! I spent the evening and the whole of the next day at Great America which is a fantastic park. Come on people, stop moaning; it could be a lot worse – it could be Discovery Kingdom! X-Flight and Superman are a bit poo but me if Goliath wasn’t the best warm-up to the trip. That drop <3 and the fast pace of all the elements coming at you again and again before you have chance to breath. It was lovely to meet GWAS and see his real passion for the park. Our final evening rides on backwards Viper were hilarious and huge fun! Sadly, I’d cleared out all the good rides on the first day and the second day was mainly ticking boxes with huge crowds, so it felt a bit more like hard work. Easing me into the RMCs of the trip. Yawn The next day didn’t start out great as I got a speeding ticket. Bugger. Kings Island meant catching up with my old buddy Error and getting to briefly say hi to the infamous Jarrett who was much calmer in real life than I was expecting Despite some filler and having the worst B&M hyper, I had a wonderful day here catching up and having a local lead me round without having to worry too much about anything. Mystic Timbers was way better than I was expecting and The Beast is right up my street – it’s got so much character – what is with that ludicrous never-ending banked section? It should be awful but it’s somehow not. Sadly, I didn’t get to ride it in the pitch black, only during twilight. Banshee was also awesome – I don’t care who hates on me, I loved the huge amount of intensity. Maybe I just dig positive-gs. IDK, I just really liked it. The only other invert with anywhere near that much sustained intensity is Katun. And yes, that might have a more inspired layout, but B&M just don’t make them like that any more and I loved it. Also love the Premier spaghetti bowls and The Bat was a fab bit of nostalgia – the exaggerated swing made me miss the old Vamipre layout. Goons, goons, goons <3 Evil tree, evil tree Haters gonna hate I drove south from KI through the end of the hurricane (which put paid to my afternoon walking in the Smokey Mountains). So, instead, I went on a cave tour (where I saw a salamander!) before driving on though the Smokey Mountain pass in the rain. Drove right across to Cherokee and then back again to Gatlinburg at night as a thick mist settled in. That was possibly a bit too much driving for one day tbh, even for me. More rocks. I saw a salamander and it made my day! Definitely smokey. Popped into Sevierville to see the Dolly Parton statue and then spent the day in Dollywood. Driving 9 to 5. What a beautiful park! Lightning Rod is a feat of engineering, despite not being my number one. An afternoon of re-riding through that sensational airtime will stay with me. This is what being an enthusiast is all about! Thunderhead was also fantastic and now sadly overshadowed. Wild Eagle was turd and the vibrations were disgusting. Loved the theming of Mystery Mine – the ride less so. It became my favourite Eurofighter for about a month, until I rode Fluch. yeah! Eurgh. It's not Halloween, it's 'Harvest'. I stayed a night in Nashville and visited the main strip and the Johnny Cash Museum before driving across to Memphis just to say I’d done it and to set foot in the two extra states that you can nab from there. The musical road trip continues in Nashvile Leaving Memphis as the sun set. On again to Branson, which is like a slightly nicer Vegas, and which harbours the incredible Silver Dollar City. Well I thought Dollywood was beautiful and then SDC just blew me away. Everything about this park was cute and gorgeous. And then there was Outlaw Run! For me, I prefer it to Lightning Rod – it’s just such a complete package. So much surprise thrown at you at every turn – it got me every time. Take me back! <3 <3 <3 Wildfire is secretly very underrated. I split Six Flags St Louis up over two days which was a stupid idea. Not much to say about this park…I liked Mr Freeze as expected… Looks nicer than it rides. Rides better than it looks. SF visits were broken up by a trip out to Holiday World. Kentucky Kingdom was meant to happen too but they are c*nts and changed their opening days so boo. I stupidly didn’t realise that Holiday World was themed to actual Holidays and I spent most of my visit pissing myself at all the Christmas stuff in the sweltering heat. Slightly disappointed by The Voyage which I was hoping might slide into my top 10 but which didn’t really deliver. Thunderbird, however, was excellent. The other woodies were solid too. And their closing day music was How Soon Is Now! WTF?! My voyage could have been a little more exciting Best B&M wing for sure While in St Louis, I also visited the Route 66 State Park and the Cahokia ancient Native American mounds and had a general mooch about the city. If you ever plan to motor west... I'm sorry but it's just a hill Being the archetypal tourist Spent an evening in the incredible St Louis Museum. This place was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Now one of my favourite places in the world – part adult’s playground, part museum, part art installation, part bar. It’s just off the scale mad – like being inside someone’s deranged mind. The ultimate adult playground Staircase or dream sequence? Because they could. Had to work for a bit so made my way back up to Detroit. Stopped off in Fairmount – where James Dean grew up and the location of many a music video and pop culture pilgrimage. During my work conference, I ended up having an ‘interesting’ dinner with some gay-hating, angel-believing, fire and brimstone, born-again Christians. Yes…interesting. Got to spend some time in Detroit and pick up the CJ Barrymore’s cred which, shamefully, they had to open for me. Also visited the Mowtown Museum which was absolutely brilliant (being able to stand in the same spot as so many great popstars and social visionaries. Dancing in the street! Made another detour to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant – the birthplace of the Model T and mass production, and, where they are working on a new secret electric car. Such a cool building Had a wander through the Heidelberg community art project in Detroit’s more run-down suburbs. Art or junk? Finally got my first visit to Cedar Point. Met up with Error again and his lovely girlfriend who showed me around for an evening and another day. I got to do Halloween in the US at last! And saw the park lit up with tonnes of smoke. Smoke which caused Rougarou to shut down for an hour until the ride ops could see again! We hit Millenium Force just as it was coming back up from a shutdown and managed two front night rides with no one in the station. Left Maverick till the end as I expected to hate it and it ended up blowing me away and being the biggest suprise of the year. I adored it! That drop and that launch and then skimming over the lake ahh! I want to go back! Gemini was also surprisingly good. Got my 800th on Magnum. So glad to finally tick this park off my bucket list – it was everything I expected and more. FFS 800th baby! Think they over-did the smoke XD Orange - oh it's like being at Blackpool Double the fun. Wish I'd grown up around this. Creepy AF Last day of the trip was Indiana Beach. The two main woodies were actually quite fab but the park itself was very run down. Lost Coaster was a whole load of WTF. Secretly fab. Time just for a quick visit to Chicago - have a general walk around and get my Blues Brothers film location fix before flying home. I had a full tank of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. The bean! On behalf of women the world over Although I’d only been in the US for a couple of weeks, I’d crammed so much in that it felt like I’d been away for a month. Decided to spend some time catching-up with the family and managed to get some Groupon tickets for Windsor’s amphibious Duck tour – something we’d all been talking about for a while. I used to work in Windsor years ago while at uni and hadn’t really been back since so it was nice to reconnect. Quack! October – GhosterForce came around all too quickly. Decided I’d done enough flying and hiring for a while and wanted some time in my own wheels for a while. So took the Saab out on the late night ferry and drove on down to meet the others at Movie Park Germany. I quite enjoyed the park last time and was glad that it wasn’t getting the usual hate. I love seeing CF at Halloween – it really does bring out the best in us. Star Trek looked slow but turned out to be fab. Van Helsing was just as hilarious as I remembered – complete with zombie dog and the switch from full-on theming to zero budget by turning out the lights. I secretly love coasters in the dark so that’s fine by me. Second time I've been spited by nearby Schloss Beck though. Boo. Beam me up! Heide was done up nicely for Halloween – it really is the best time to go. Flug was better than I remembered and I got my Limit cred this time around. Some really gorgeous bits to this park But I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit this whole trip was about Hansa. From the welcoming greeting by the staff, through the fab entranceway, to the incredible levels of theming they have loving bestowed on their rides – I LOVE this park and can’t wait to see what it does in the future. Karnan was insane – it scared the out of me while at the same time blowing my mind which how theming and anticipation should be done. Plus the way the layout plays with you and is so complete in every way. New No 1. Yes please. Fluch was also fantastic. Although the coaster is just a Eurofighter plus, it has dark section with a fab launch and there’s singing Vikings going on and disco ravens. And a maze to exit. Just WTF?! It’s in my top 10 ‘rides’ if not coasters. And that evening ride as the illuminated park spread out before us. A beautiful end to a fabulous Live. New no. 1! Get in! Harry and I visited Phantasialand on the way back home. It did not disappoint. How could it? And Taron was just as gut-wrenchingly wonderful as I remembered. Feels like coming home. A week or so back in the UK and I repeated pretty much the same process back to Germany with ferry and car down to Essen for our annual visit to the Internationale Spieltage board game convention. Think this is the third year I’ve been now with my mates and it’s great fun being able to play all the new releases with other geeks. Geek alert! This year, we tagged on a visit to the nearby town of Wuppertal and its cool suspended railway. I'm just following JayJay everywhere tbh We also visited a country park in Duisburg which was once an industrial site. An old blast furnace has been left with walkways all over so tourists can come and climb to the top. Really recommend this if you’re in area – it’s free and fab. This place was a blast. Back in the UK, I’d been lucky enough to get hold of tickets to the new Mail Rail/Postal Museum exhibition. Royal Mail runs tiny trains all under London to carry the post and they have recently converted one old line into a tourist train. Took the parents along and they had a whale of a time. The train was ridiculous though – you could only just about get in it, it was so small. Squidge! November – I ended up doing a late-organised return trip to the US – this time to California. I had a conference in LA before my usual gig out in Hong Kong so decided to fly straight there and turn it into a round-the-world trip. Who needs sleep right? I took a few days off either side and added on a drive up to San Francisco and a flight home from HK via Dubai. Totally defining the whistle stop tour. First up was Knotts Berry Farm. Probably the worst park of the year, sadly. Silver Bullet was great (that final helix *faint*) and the Western area was fab with the museum and its really bored curator. But hardly anything else was open. I got spited by Xcelerator and GhostRider. The 4D shooter Iron Reef was fab but it took me two rides before the ride ops even bothered to give me glasses. Poor show really. And as for the uncomfortable Native American dancing… Jaguar! was fab though. So bright. My first visit to an American Disneyland and…it felt the least Disneylike of all the castle parks! Unexpected times. No characters the whole day. And Matterhorn is a nostalgic joy. Holiday World was looking great (if confused). Comfortably squeezed in California Adventure in the same day (I don’t do shows). If you like Cars, man it’s the best. I rode Guardians of the Twilight Zone – all the time wanting to hate it for killing one of my favourite rides of all time and tainting it with superhero bull. But that drop…with an 80s soundtrack. I’m smitten. First Maverick and now this! Come on? The riders were LOVNG it! One of my best ride experiences since the group orgy on Dodonpa. Sorry, but that Mickey is ing scary. Drove up from LA to San Francisco along the infamous 101 (that road in the OC song) through the Sierra Nevada mountains and the oilfields. California dreamin' Spooky. Spent the morning in Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. What a dump. Joker was good I suppose but probably the weakest of the RMCs I’d done so far. And it broke down on the break run for ages. M Super hero theme can do one now. The real reason I’d hired a car and buggered off to San Francisco was because Morrissey was playing there. He doesn’t really do shows back in the UK any more (although they have just announced a UK tour next year to spite me), so I was thrilled when my travel dates matched up with a gig at the Masonic. Managed to get standing tickets and he did not disappoint. So many bucket lists ticked off this year! We look to Los Angeles... Spent a wild morning driving up and down the San Francisco hills and pretending to be a celebrity. Obviously had to have a go on the famous cable cars while I was there. This is not a cable car though is it? And the sea lions at Pier 39 Spoiler: They smell Visited the Haight Ashbury area – the area where the hippy movement started back in the 60s (a bit like Soho back home I guess). Do the Hippy Hippy shake Drove out over the Golden Gate Bridge. Tourist level 100: complete Also had tickets for a second gig in Paso Robles on the way back down to LA (an incredible open air amphitheatre/vineyard). It was cancelled last minute because it was ing freezing. Boo. There was even a girl at the gig wearing a duvet FFS! Thought Cali was supposed to be warm? Made a few hours around work to visit Universal. I’d been warned it was small but it somehow seemed to have enough to do if you wanted a day there. The tram tour was the definite highlight – seeing the Back To The Future set gave me chills. Forbidden Journey was great but Japan’s is still the best. Great Scott! Lemon drop. Also squeezed in Santa Monica Pier. +1 Oh! 90s neon! Had a few days working in HK. I’ve been loads so couldn’t be bothered with being tourist and the jet lag was real. Back again. Found a connecting flight that would give me the weekend in Dubai and it would be rude not to. I hired a car and drove out from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for Ferrari World. Got the Yas Waterworld +1 first and then wandered round the mall for a while looking for the entrance to Ferrari World (I saw the plus one but couldn’t take the shame). Finally gave up and drove round to the main entrance. me, I know Formula Rossa is fast but I was not expecting that! You can’t breathe. The transition from cool indoors to desert scorching heat were a bit much. Flying Aces was fantastic but no Skyrush – I wasn’t convinced that I was going to die. Finally The plan was to drive back and meet up with Dubai Dave for an evening at Motiongate. But the hire car decided it wasn’t playing ball and by the time Hertz had come out and swapped it, there was no time – sorry Dave View when the car was working. I took a bit of a gamble and decided to try and squeeze in both IMG Park and Motiongate on the Sunday morning before my flight. I flew at 4 and so had to be back at the airport by 2pm. Here we go then… Ran into IMG Park at opening and there were like two other people there. Mopped up the creds quickly enough. I dislike indoor parks and a Eurofighter inside in a rush is just a bad idea. Blue Dinosaur was great but in a ty location so was never going to be as good as the original. Plus, the hot weather doesn’t help keep rides super smooth. Odd doing the two Sierra Sidewinders within days of each other. Not normally before lunch. So uncivilised. On then to Motiongate. I had a bit of a panic when I realised how big the complex was and how long the bus took to go between all the parks from the car park. It was dead though and I legged it round all the outdoor rides, picking up Capitol Bullet Train which I’d hyped up way more in my head. It was ok. Star Trek was better and the theming could have been so much more. Stood around pacing for the indoor Dreamworks section to open at 1pm. It was fab. Just like walking into the set of Shrek or How To Train Your Dragon. Brilliant. The theming outside of the coasters was spot on. But like Bullet Train, the theming of the actual Madagascar coaster could have been so much better. I wasn't a tribute for long. Needed to sleep for a week once finally back in the UK. Then Will messaged me with a spare ticket to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the theatre. I really wanted to see it but have only since become aware of the huge two year waiting list so am thoroughly smug at having seen it. No spoilers but it’s great. The production value (namely the way they do magic) is insanely good. Thanks very much Will and family December – I normally take my mum to a Christmas market abroad but this year I suggested Phantasialand and Efteling as she’s never actually been to a park in years and I thought it might be nice to share my hobby. I was under no illusions I’d get her on Taron XD. We had a brilliant time. Phantasialand is made for Christmas and the lights are just something else – especially in China and in the ling Bao Chinese gardens. So pretty. We did some shows and saw the Chiapas fire and projection mapping and just chilled out with gluhwein. We stayed in Hotel Matamba and the next morning it snowed and was just perfectly magical. Efteling was lovely too, but perhaps being larger, the Christmas stuff was just a bit more spread out. Great weekend overall – her trying to get up the stairs in Hotel Tartuf will stay with me. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas What's better than fire? More fire! One of the best sights of the year - the ling Bao gardens lit up. Lying fisland Dragon! Much better with the new plot and extra set Closed but pretty Work Christmas do with karaoke soon made way for the CF Christmas Meet shenanigans. Got the two new creds at Winter Wonderland – including the shame of multiple laps on the kiddie oval avec fake snow. Then the usual fab antics of scavenger hunt and pub times. Well done Peep as always. A CF institution. Sh*tivity. Thought the year was over but there was one more surprise still to come. Dad got hold of some tickets to see the Grand Tour being filmed. They literally asked if we could come along the next day – luckily I have a very forgiving office and we braced the cold of Oxfordshire to stand all day in a tent and listen to some old blokes talk about cars. It was amazing. Got the best spot too, right in front of the stage. Still can’t believe it. An on that bombshell... One more sneaky evening trip to Winter Wonderland to meet up with Chris (he’s a lurker on the forum so hi if you’re reading). We managed to round off a cracking year with a ride on Olympia Looping and Wild Maus XXL before leaving the park just as they set off a controlled explosion and shut down half of London. Joy! Finishing the year in style. An explosive end to a jam-packed colossal season for me. Sitting here now, stuffed with beer and my fake nut-based sausage roll trying to digest it all (both the food and the crazy trips). Can’t quite believe I fitted it all in. Thanks to everyone who made it so amazing. Here’s to 2018!