Welcome to Cupcakes and Coasters! Part One

This post was inspired by Zoe London. 2017 saw Cupcakes and Coasters really take off, and with it came a bunch of new faces to the blog, and I realised that a lot of the stuff I write assumes that you know more than me than you actually do. So, I thought today I'd do a kind of mini-autobiography of my 'theme park career', which will hopefully help give a little more context to some of the stuff I write and also help you get to know me a little better.

So where did this crazy hobby begin? I have been doing this a LONG TIME and I can't really put my finger on exactly when the enthusiasm fully kicked in, but my family have always really been into visiting parks. I don't have to dig very far back in our family photo chest to find pics of us at the likes of Thorpe Park and Chessington, and then on top of that we've visited Orlando every few years since 1994.

Me at Thorpe Park in 1994. Ain't I cute?

My parents especially are into their parks. Not as much as I am of course, but they travel a lot and will always make time for a park if there's a major one nearby. In fact, they like to troll me with it - they've been to parks I'm yet to tick off my list such as Ocean Park, Motiongate and Luna Park in Sydney. And they're not quick to let me forget it either, bastards!

I was pretty hardcore into RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 & 2 from the instant they came out, and I believe this is the spark that really ignited the enthusiast within me. I would spend hours drawing and designing my parks - first on paper which I would then translate into the came and watch my visions come to life! Compared with some of the RCT parks I've seen on the internet mine were total rubbish, but I was proud of them nonetheless and took it all very seriously.

This mad bunch of people is CoasterForce. You can see where I get it from.
And my love for this game is what lead me to the coaster fan forum CoasterForce - I believe I was googling for hints and tip on the game and Google fed me the RCT threads on CoasterForce. I signed up and from there I discovered a whole world of people passionate about theme parks - just like me!

And I also finally got to know more about parks outside of the UK and Orlando. I'd always known they existed, but this was the very first time I was seeing photos and footage of the parks from people who had actually been there. This also introduced me to RCDB, and thus my love of trip planning began. At this time I was still only 16 or 17, so not really in the position to go jet setting all over the world, but I would plan epic trips and file them away for 'one day'.

Yh, the huge hair was a thing for a while. Don't ask.
The start of 2008 I finally took the plunge and went to my first CoasterForce meet up - at Adventure Island, a park I had visited loads as a kid but hadn't been back to in years. It was fantastic experiencing a park, if only a small one, with people who were just as enthusiastic about this stuff as I was. Life-long friendships were born that day, and one of the guys I met on that cold and windy day in Southend was even a guest at my wedding last year.

From there it kind of spiralled, 2008 saw me travelling all over the UK and expanding my park portfolio outside of just Thorpe Park. I went back to Chessington for the first time in about ten years and finally got to experience the likes of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Flamingoland. The creds were coming thick and fast, and I absolutely loved the buzz of watching my coaster count rack up the numbers, and soon enough I was grabbing my first milestone of 100 coaster credits on none other than Dragon Flyer at Camelot.

Thorpe Park, 2008
2009 was the year I first went abroad with CoasterForce and got some really 'unknown' parks under my belt in Germany and Denmark. What you have to remember is that the internet at this time ain't what it is today, so we pretty much headed to these parks not really knowing what to expect, which was incredible! The joys of experiencing theme park culture in different countries was mad, and I absolutely loved the WTF factor of it all. What do you mean you can toast bread on an open fire at theme parks in Denmark?!

Piraten has lots of H-airtime
By the end of 2009 I started University and went on a sight hiatus as I was bouncing between studying, partying, nursing a hangover, rinsing and repeating. But not before rounding off the year with my 200th coaster credit on Troy at the fabulous Toverland! Finally, my first taste of 'proper' wood outside of the UK and Gwazi at Busch Gardens. It was so different to anything else I'd ever ridden, and I loved it. I decided then and there that I needed to get my ass to the US for a real taste of what a wooden coaster could do!

2010 was a bit of a dead one for me. From what I can tell looking back through my 'files' (lol) I only gained 14 new creds that year, most of which I believe were obtained on a family trip to NYC which included a stop off at my first taste of Six Flags - Six Flags Great Adventure. As Stealth was one of my favourite coasters, I was absolutely gagging to ride Kingda Ka, but actually ended up falling more in love with El Toro, the gargantuan Intamin woody that commands the park's skyline. I think it's fair to say this was my first experience of proper, insane, sustained ejector airtime. I had never felt anything like it, and finally got what all those Americans on the forum were going on about! And then on the other side of the park was my first ever B&M hyper coaster, Nitro, and the other end of the airtime spectrum with the incredible floater airtime throughout pretty much the entire ride. Yes. That settled it. More American parks on the agenda ASAP.

Looking happy in Italy. BEFORE riding the Screaming Squirrel, of course.
2011 was a quiet one again. I headed off to Italy with CoasterForce to dabble a little more in the European coaster scene and to get some more of the bigger European parks on my coaster CV. Fell in love with Shock, the launched Maurer Sohne beast with the non-inverting loop over the lake. I think this was probably also the year I really got into 'cred-whoring'. Scouring through RCDB and coaster-count, it seemed pretty achievable to me to get all the of creds in the UK, so this year I made a concerted effort to start chipping them off, heading to the likes of Funland Hayling Island and mopping up the South Coast.

One of the best Flying Dutchman ORPs you'll see today.
And how could I forget, 2011 was the first time I venture to the holy trinity in Europe: Efteling, Phantasialand and Toverland! Sure, I'd already been to Toverland, but experiencing the park and all of its madness with a huge group of coaster nerds is an entirely different experience altogether. I fell in love with the whimsy and majesty of Efteling, getting lost in the fairytale forest and losing our minds over just how good the Flying Dutchman was. And then Phantasialand. Oh god Phantasialand. Granted the park was RAMMED during my first visit to this, my most favourite of parks, so it would take a few more visits for it to solidify its place as my number one - but good lord. I'll never forget my first ride on Mystery Castle where fear really got the better of me, or laughing so hard at how outrageous River Quest is and how it even exists as an attraction. God I love that park. We also went to Bobbejaanland, which is just...the worst.

My face when somebody asks me how I feel about Bobbejaanland
2012 is where it really gets interesting. We'd been planning it for ages, but my best friend and I had agreed that the day after I handed in my dissertation and thus completed my three years at University, we'd hop on the first plane out of London off on the trip of a lifetime 4 years in the making - we were heading stateside! Fast forward to June of that year and we were dragging our suitcases through Heathrow and boarding our plane to California.

I've just realised how long this is getting, but I'm actually really enjoying writing this so I will leave it there for now and post the rest later in the week.

Talk later xoxo,