Trip Report – Westercon 67

Last Tuesday, July 1, 2014, I left for Salt Lake City and Westercon 67 after an after-work doctor’s appointment.  This got me on the road from Del Mar (Carmel Valley Road at I-5).  My plan was to go as far as Las Vegas that night.

Traffic through San Diego county, by way of CA-56 and I-15 was fairly light for a rush hour, as was the traffic in the southern part of the Inland Empire.  I’m suspecting that this was a combination of people who took the whole week off, and not many people leaving for vacation.

I had a bit of a delay in Rancho Cucamonga.  I remembered that there was a Sonic close to I-15 near where it crosses I-10.  However, I remembered that it was off of the 2nd exit north – Foothill Blvd.  But that was wrong, it was off of  4th, the first exit.  By the time I discovered my mistake, programmed my GPS to send me there the quickest way (back down the freeway one exit) and ate, I’d wasted about an hour.

I got back on the road, planning on getting gas at Barstow – the estimated miles to empty didn’t get me to my destination hotel in Las Vegas.  However, I missed that most of Barstow seems to lie along I-40 (or is a lot smaller than it appeared when we went through in 2008).  But I got gas a couple stops further up I-15, and continued into Nevada.

It was real obvious when I hit Nevada.  Primm isn’t much – but after dark it is bright!  But, once past Primm, the rest of the trip was a fairly quick ride through unseen desert.  I got into Las Vegas, discovered my hotel wasn’t just south of The Strip like I thought, but a fair ways north of The Strip, practically downtown.  I was at a Super 8 – the lowest cost hotel that night according to Booking.com that didn’t charge an undisclosed resort fee.  The room was fairly nice – except the curtains extended over the, very necessary, air conditioner.

Before turning in, I did some poking on the Internet to figure out breakfast.  Eventually, I decided that most of the buffetts would cost too much for the amount of food I’d likely eat.  So, I got breakfast at IHOP and headed off for Salt Lake City.

The drive to Salt Lake City was pretty good.  At least once I got into the Virgin River Gorge, the country was pretty – but not really mountainous.  The only trouble with the drive was that I hit Provo in rush hour.  The traffic was bad enough that I’d concluded – falsely as Sunday would prove – that it was fairly continuous city the whole way.

Once I got into Salt Lake City, and found the hotel (only goofing because I thought that the entrance was on a different street.  I checked in, got everything in my room, and went looking for dinner.  I ended up noting the restaurants at the City Creek mall – the hotel is part of one of the blocks, but doesn’t connect (although, it apparently did before two malls were combined and redeveloped a few years ago).  After some poking around, I decided to go to The Cheesecake Factory.  I found something on their light menu (Ahi Tartare) that left plenty of room for cheesecake.  I then went back into the room and settled in for the night.

Thursday, after getting up and grabbing breakfast at McDonald’s, I headed back to the hotel and set up the Westercon 67 table.  I ended up getting kind of stuck there until mid-afternoon since the Ontell’s were later than I’d anticipated (or I would have held off on setting the table up so I could get the party supplies).

Once I could break away from the table, I headed over to Staples for some copies and then to Costco for the food.  Once the food was secure (it had to stay in my room until the party Friday night), I helped shut the table down and went out for dinner.  This time I ended up back at the mall, but at Johnny Rockets.

Friday was mostly spent at the table.  I got over to the mall for lunch.  But after shutting the table at 6, the mall was closed for the holiday.  (Salt Lake City even shut down public transportation – which was odd given that they had a large event at the Salt Palace (Fantasy Con – which had a reciprocity agreement with Westercon) that should have drawn mostly locals).  I finally found something to eat at Harmon’s, a high-end grocery store on the far end of the two-block mall.

After eating, I headed up to the con suite to set up for the party.  Due to some miscommunications I ended up having to set up by myself for a while – which caused me to be unable to figure out what task to do next, resulting in me flitting from task to task until I got some help.  But, the party got set up and opened only a bit late.

The party was a success – other than having a bit too much food, most of which was turned over to the con suite and used through the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, I finally was able to break away from the table for a bit – mostly spent updating our pre-supporting memberships to the various conventions represented.  I did, later, get some time to poke into the dealer’s room at art show. At dinner I was heading over to Johnny Rockets, expecting to dine alone.  Instead, three east-coast fans and con runners (i.e. friends) invited me to join them.

Sunday, I managed to get away from the table a bit more, including for lunch.  I was able to spend some money in the dealers room – I picked up the Firefly game that has been continually out of stock at Think Geek.  We shut down the table to give plenty of time before closing.  After closing I was able to pick up my artwork, and some artwork for friends who had to leave early (which I still need to get shipped), before the feedback session started.  Much of the feedback was site or committee specific, but there were plenty of things that we can work on.

I’d agreed to take the bid kit for the Helsinki in 2017 bid back to San Diego – transporting their supplies is not an endorsement of their bid, I’m trying to stay neutral on the subject of the 2017 Worldcon.  However, this led to some delay as it was in luggage storage, but the first person at the desk wouldn’t give it to me without a claim ticket, which hadn’t gotten to me.  Fortunately, after I called the person with it, the other person at the desk (who may well be the person who spent the last day or two helping her due to a seriously delayed flight and lost luggage) let me take it.

So, I didn’t get on the road towards St. George until about 5:00.  I ended up grabbing dinner at a Village Inn in Orem.  I got into St. George about 10:30 local time.  I’d ended up at an extended stay, so I had a suite with a kitchen/living room and a bedroom.  But the bedroom had no window, so I left the door open all night.  (We’re staying in windowless rooms before and after Worldcon, so I guess I’ll have to get used to it there).  It also didn’t have a working deadbolt (it hit the strike plate), or a working chain (hasp) – the part on the door was missing.  I decided I was too tired to ask for a different room.

On Monday, I got a fairly early start.  I didn’t eat much since all that the hotel’s breakfast had was waffles and cereal.  It was about 11:00 when I was getting close to Las Vegas.  So, I decided to stop there for lunch.  Based on some research I’d done on the way up, and the night before, I formulated an initial plan.  I parked in the garage for New York New York – intending on riding the roller coaster later – and then headed over to the MGM Grand where they have the buffet.  Before heading out, I checked the estimated time to home – with Google Maps telling me it was about 4.5 hours – so I decided I could stay until 4 or 5 safely, and to six if I wanted to push how late I got home.

So, while I was walking around the MGM Grand, thinking about what I should do during my somewhat extended stay, I was reminded of the song “One Short Day” from Wicked.  While the song didn’t start running through my head there – there was too much other noise and music in the air – I did realize it was somewhat appropriate, since the MGM Grand is green in deliberate reference to The Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.

I ended up joining the MGM resorts players club, and set about killing some time on the penny slots.  At the MGM Grand, I went through my initial $5.00 before and after lunch.  I then wandered down their mall (The District) and found the monorail station {I’m sorry, enough potential earworm}.

I took the monorail a couple of stops to the stop for Harrah’s and The Quad and then walked over to The Venetian where I wandered through the canal shops, returning to Las Vegas Blvd. where the shops end at The  Palazzo.  I then crossed over Las Vegas Blvd to the Treasure Island, and walked on the sidewalk (since I didn’t know or had forgotten about the tram) to The Mirage.

I went in to cool off, which I did at an Iron Man themed slot machine.  This rest wasn’t as long as I’d have liked, since the second play (a $0.50 bet – 50 lines, $0.01 per line) was a big winner.  This is one of my “move on” conditions (the other being I’m out of money) so I cashed out and headed in what I thought was the direction of Caesars Palace – or more specifically the Forum Shops.

Once I figured out that I needed to go Up to get to the main level.  This involved a ride up a circular escalator (which I’ve not quite figured out how the steps are returned since the curve is the wrong way for the steps taper.  After I reached the end of the Forum Shops I passed fairly quickly through, and over the bridge to The Bellagio, which I used mostly as an indoor way to get to the tram to the Monte Carlo.  I also passed through the Monte Carlo to The New York New York and – after a quick tour of the new Hershey World store and then to the roller coaster.  Even though I’d planned on riding, I now could think of it as being free – using my winnings from before.

The roller coaster was fun.  But my memory of seeing it, but not riding it, in 2000 was a bit off – it was a mostly outside ride.  But fun – even if being thrown from a loop into a corkscrew and then back into a loop was a bit jarring, and the track isn’t as smooth as it could be (I’m spoiled, my primary coaster parks these days are the parks at Disneyland which are probably some of the best maintained).

After that, I was hot and still had some time I felt I could kill – in fact at that point I suspected if I left I’d hit the Inland Empire during rush hour.  So, I bought a bottle of water and looked for a place to sit down and drink it.  And, where does one sit down at a casino?  In front of a slot machine.  So, I found a penny machine called something like “Invaders from the Planet Moola,” which featured cow-aliens (not quite the space cows from the Planet Larson on the Far Side of the Galaxy).  This time, I played about 4 times – including getting a bonus that gave me 7 free spins – before I got another 7 spin bonus that turned into a 20+ spin bonus and another cash-out at around $24.00.

With this new cash, and the time, I figured I could go back over to the MGM Grand and visit the CSI Experience.  While this attraction is clearly themed for the show (and dated in show terms), it was an interesting exercise.

I then returned to the New York New York, picked up some chocolate (telling the cashier at the Hershey’s World that the kisses with Mona Loa macadamia nuts would be better with dark chocolate not milk) and some more water.  I tried to find the Planet Moola machine, but couldn’t (not that it would be as profitable the second time around), so I blew another $5.00 on a couple of other machines, and then went to leave.

My departure was slightly delayed due to a brain-fart that made me forget riding the elevator down one level in the parking garage, until I remembered thinking “I should have turned onto this level,” when I hit the 3rd parking level, the first for self-parking, driving in.

There was a bit of traffic getting onto I-15 south at Tropicana – or more correctly, there was a bit of traffic on the long ramp from Tropicana to I-15, I-215 and County-215.

Heading home, I stopped for gas in Primm (lower gas taxes in Nevada) a snack (shake) at Sonic in Rancho Cucamonga – again getting delayed by leaving the drive-through line to try a broken car-hop station.  I got home later than I’d planned, between the Sonic stop and the fact that 2 out of 4 lanes were closed on I-15 over Cajon Summit.

Even though I mostly worked at Westercon – which makes me feel OK with writing off the trip expenses and mileage on this year’s taxes – I enjoyed myself.  I also enjoyed Las Vegas, but would have had more fun – at least on the roller coaster and at The CSI Experience with Tara.

I realized that Las Vegas, Disneyland, etc. can be great places for people like me.  For the most part you don’t actually have to interact with people without defined roles unless you know them.  I did initiate dialog with the person I shared the roller coaster row with – but I was being polite since they hadn’t actually assigned me to his row.  The only other people where I wasn’t a customer were two young ladies who complimented me on my Doctor Who-ville shirt – they were both less than half my age, and walking the other direction, for what it is worth.

I’m thinking that given its closeness (about 4.5 hours depending on traffic – maybe less if we fly), Tara and I should spend a weekend there.  My poking around today leads me to a Motel 6 that has decore similar to the one we use in Anaheim.  Alas, and not surprisingly, the rates are a bit more on weekends and during the cooler parts of the year.