Travels

Trip reports and travel related posts.

Life Report/Trip Report

When last I posted way at the other end of this surprisingly long February, I had a job, and a potential house.  Since then, Tara and I have packed up, gone to a convention, moved across two and a half-states, and settled in at my parents’ house until we can get our San Diego house sold.

We actually started packing in late January, with the delivery of a PODS container (hereafter referred to as a/the pod).  It took some effort to get it loaded, largely due to a combination of lack of motivation, and never having the right things to put in it when we needed.  In the end, I suspect it could have had more volume, but was probably about where it needs to be weight wise.  At first, we intended to have the pod picked up while we were at Gallifrey One, but we were far enough behind that we postponed it until the following Tuesday.

Gallifrey One was nice, even if a combination of Tara having to go in for her last day of work in California, and trying to pack a few more things into the POD meant that we didn’t get there until after nearly everything but evening programming was done on Friday.  Comfortingly, most of the people I ran into up there didn’t see any problem with us being at a con less than a week before we were supposed to move.

We knew that we’d need help with the move, so we arranged for Ace Relocation/Allied Van Lines to pack at least some of our stuff and ship everything that wasn’t pre-loaded into the pod.  However, when I was talking to the Ace agent, I probably overestimated the amount we’d have packed, so both our estimate and the work order were short.  As it turns out, this was far from the only time where my communication skills failed.

On Tuesday February 16, the pod was picked up.  While this was happening, Tara and I grabbed lunch and headed over to Poway to pick up a Cruise America 25′ RV that would be our home during the final packing and moving process.  When we got back, we moved a few basics in – including Naga (who we wanted to have time to acclimate before adding the other cats).  We also got as much packing as we could done.

Wednesday morning the packers arrived early, and proceeded to do exactly as little as they could based on what was in their work order.  As a result, not even everything that we’d ask to be professionally packed was packed.  When the truck and loaders arrived, none of us were happy.  Given that Tara and I had crapped out on packing, we ended up contracting to have the loaders do a bunch of the packing (at a premium), which ended up taking the rest of the day Wednesday and into Thursday morning.  Additionally, this resulted in having things packed that shouldn’t have been – the worst being our mid-weight coats, and one of the cat carriers, specifically the more expensive soft one that Pabu needs to be in since she hurts herself on the bars of a regular one.

In retrospect, we should have gone ahead and had the pod picked up on Monday (or Friday), and had the packers there on Tuesday to pack everything.

As it worked out, Tara and I moved into the RV (parked outside our house, hooked up to an extension cord on a circuit that wasn’t rated for the full 30 amps required) on Wednesday night, with Naga.  This was the first (and so far only) time Naga has had us at night without other cats around.  But, she didn’t seem interested in snuggling – just making sandcastles in the middle of the night.

When we originally planned on using the RV, we figured that it would be easy and safe to put a tow dolly on it and pull Tara’s car behind.  However, the RV only has a 2,500 pound tow capacity, which Tara’s fairly light car exceeds on its own.  After a lot of back and forth, I finally it upon a solution during Wednesday night – Tara could fly back to San Diego in a week or so, and then drive her car back for about the same or less than the cost of the tow dolly.  (After a few refinements, Tara improved on the plan to avoid having to stay with anyone in San Diego, and we reduced the cost by using frequent flyer points)

Given the layout and bed size of the RV, Tara and I ended up in separate beds.  She took the bed that could be made out of the dinette, where I slept on the most permanent bed in the back (deciding that the over-cab bed would be better left to the cats).  This worked out since it kept her from needing to climb over me (or visa-versa) at night, and us from being crowded into a bed that probably wouldn’t have fit me anyway.

The rest of the cats joined on Thursday and managed to get along OK – albeit Naga and Pabu sometimes disagreed about who should snuggle with Tara at night, and none of them snuggled with me.

Late Thursday, we headed to drop Tara’s car off with the friends who will be keeping an eye on it, and picking her up at the airport when she flies in.  After that, we stopped at PetCo shortly before closing to get another soft-sided cat carrier, and, at Tara’s suggestion, some training pads to put under the cats in their carriers; as both girls have been known to have accidents when traveling.

It was on Friday that I discovered more communications problems.  First, I thought that we were good for the carpeting people to be in on Friday, but I needed to sign the work order.  So, instead the carpeting was scheduled for Monday and we had to wait for the carpeting guy to drive over with the order to sign.

We did manage to get the cats secured into their carrier, and everything in the RV and my car ready to go on Friday.  But, instead of the 10:30 or earlier I’d hoped for, it was nearly noon when Tara took the RV down to see The Kid, and I took a detour to sneak some of the stuff from the freezer and refrigerator that weren’t worth cramming into the overflowing RV fridge to a dumpster, and then to see The Kid.

After leaving The Kid a bit before 1, I went to find a place to dump the electronics recycling off in El Cajon.  The first place I had an address for turned out to be closed, but I found a second.  However, the route to it was blocked by a major accident investigation, requiring detours both to get to the center, and then to get onto I-8 east after dropping stuff off.  As a result, it was after 2:00 when we stopped for lunch – not in El Centro as I’d expected, or Yuma as my most optimistic plans had hoped, but at the Golden Acorn Casino about half-way between the Alpine and the descent into the Imperial Valley.

It was also at this lunch stop that we discovered that three of the four cats had managed to pee in their carriers, requiring us to replace their pads.  This left us with too few to make it to Albuquerque on our original plan if the trend continued.  So, after a stop near El Centro, I ran ahead to the PetSmart in Yuma to get more pads (and more toys since the one we got seemed to help calm the kitties in transit).  I left word to have Tara meet me at the Pilot travel center towards the eastern edge of town.

However, my memory was very bad.  The travel center I was thinking of was a Love’s center not a Pilot, so Tara went right past it.  However, she found another place to stop before leaving Yuma, and called me so that we could meet up.  It was at this meeting that we determined that it wasn’t a good idea to press on to Coolidge as it was already dark and we were already tired.

So, we located an RV park with an opening less than a mile away, and I drove the RV to the park and got set up for the night.  I hooked up to shore power (for the first time in a real 30 amp circuit using the weird connector) and city water (not that we trusted it that much).  I skipped hooking up the sewer line because the ground connection in the park looked about the same size as the hose we had, and I didn’t think we had any sort of a coupler for that kind of connection.

Saturday morning, I decided that the trip to Coolidge was short enough that it was still worth our time to try to get preview night tickets to Comic-Con.  However, this delayed our departure about an hour from when we could have left.  However, I was also worried because the “black water” tank of the RV was already showing 2/3 full, and I wasn’t sure we wanted to keep going with it that full.  Still not believing I could use the local sewer, we ended up driving about 20 minutes back into Yuma to a gas station where we could dump.  We waited another 20 or 30 minutes for the two RVs ahead of us to finish dumping before we could dump and hit the road.  I let Tara run ahead, and stopped at an Albertson’s to get a gallon of bottled water (I’d been unable to satisfy my nighttime thirsts for anything resembling a reasonable cost with what we could get at gas stations or convenience stores).  I also grabbed some sandwich makings figuring that we wouldn’t want to find a place to eat along the way (Yuma to Coolidge has a paucity of places to eat until one gets to the exit in Casa Grande for Coolidge).

I met up with Tara at the only open rest area along I-8 in Arizona not that long after she got there.  However, it wasn’t quite as open as it should have been: the bathrooms were closed.  It was also hot.  So, we had to fire up the generator in the RV to comfortably have lunch.  When checking things at the rest stop, I discovered that the black water tank still showed 2/3 full.

After lunch, the trip to Coolidge was fairly uneventful (except for a detour due to the exit from Eastbound I-8 to Westbound I-10 in Casa Grande being closed.

We got to Coolidge, and parked into our spot at the RV park where Tara’s parents spend their winters (in a “park model” RV, which is an RV in name only) mid to late afternoon.  Tara’s mom had made us dinner, so we had a nice supper and then turned in for the night.

On Saturday, since it was daylight when we parked, I went ahead and hooked up to the sewer system, opening both valves under the seemingly understandable assumption that that was the way to do it.  Later, I read the fine manual tucked in a nearly hidden compartment in the RV, and discovered that in a park situation like we were in, they still wanted the valves closed until ready to dump.

Sunday morning, we slept a bit later than optimal, and still had to do a bit of packing before hitting the road.  This was slowed down when Tara’s mom insisted on feeding us before we left.  I also chose to take advantage of the city water to attempt to flush whatever was causing the black water tank sensor to read wrong, which both added to our delay in leaving, and resulted in me nearly being trapped in a squatting position (not wanting to put my knee down in the rough gravel of the parking pad).

Since before leaving, I’d been debating the best route from Coolidge to Albuquerque.  Google maps kept insisting that the fastest route was to take US-60 past Qumedo and then cut up to I-40.  I’d been preferring the route up I-17 to I-40 – knowing that the route down south through Demming and Hatch was much longer (even if Google kept claiming it was an OK alternative).  Finally, I (foolishly) decided that we should listen to Google’s advice.

This turned out to be a mistake.  First, there was a lot of construction around Superior Arizona, which slowed us down.  Then, Tara was so worn out by the winding drive down into the Salt River Canyon.  So, we switched vehicles, and I drove the RV up the less winding side of the Salt River Canyon.  Even so, by the time I got to Show Low, I decided that staying on US 60 was not a good idea.  So, I found the alternate route to I-40 at Holbrook (a short hop, albeit one that was a bet westerly).

One thing that did help was that on Sunday, Tara and I finally started taking advantage of the FRS radios we had with us.  (I finally, well after the trip confirmed that we could have been legally using a GMRS band and power off of my recently renewed GMRS license – but I didn’t know that then so our range was somewhat limited).  As long as we were within, more or less, visual distance of one another, we could communicate without phone service or the dangers of driving (a 25′ RV) while trying to use a hand-held phone.

However, it was already getting dark by the time we hit the New Mexico border.   I’d wanted to pull over at the rest area just inside of New Mexico, but they were closed (apparently for the night, as there were plenty of cars parked there, or just leaving, as we passed).  So, Tara suggested the Cracker Barrell in Gallup instead.

We appreciated the meal, and the time off the road, but it further delayed us on an already delayed day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, albeit dark; and for me driving what I came to think of as a behemoth a bit stressful.  There was the side trip through Grants due to a badly labeled low bridge warning.

Upon arriving in the Albuquerque area, I followed family knowledge rather than Google and took Unser across the West Side.  Even at night, this was an odd trip knowing that the stretch from Paradise to Irving should have been known as Lyons, should haven’t gone passed either road, and the fire station on the west side of the road should have been a county station not a city station (or at least those were the condition when I last lived in Albuquerque and frequented Paradise Hills).

I also gave Tara the radio tour of some of the area – knowing that she was probably as tired as me, so having me make snide or tour guide remarks probably would be at least somewhat appreciated.

We got in late – after 10, and much later than I’d have anticipated or wanted.  (The fact that the clock in the RV was still on Pacific time probably added to me thinking it was earlier than it actually was most of the afternoon).

Monday, we dropped the RV off, and then got signed into both of our storage units – the original 10×30 unit the relocation agent recommended over having the local Allied agent store our stuff, and the 10×10 unit I added to deal with the extra stuff that we ended up hauling due to the movers not getting it.

Tuesday, I borrowed my Dad’s pickup and we took about half of the stuff we’d offloaded to the locker and put it away.  On Wednesday and Thursday we took over a few more loads and continued to organize and recover.

Friday, the movers arrived with our main load.  Due to the manager at the storage place finding an ideally placed unit, it took just two movers to unload and pack the unit (80% of the way from the back to the front, and all the way to the 15′ ceiling for much of that).

Yesterday, we took the last load up to the storage place (putting it in the large unit, since it was closer to the entrance and had room), as well as a few other errands.

Tomorrow, I start my new job – first with an online webinar with anyone else new to the contract, mostly at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, then by spending the afternoon at the badging office.  On Tuesday, Tara flies to San Diego and starts heading back this way with her car.

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill Business District

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood’s major business district is along Central Avenue – which carried Route 66 from 1937 until it was decommissioned – stretching from Washington Boulevard on the east to Girard on the west.

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

When I was in college at the University of New Mexico, which is located just west of Nob Hill, running from Girard to University mostly north of Central, I would head into Nob Hill with some frequency, mostly to do shopping at War Games West.  While I did walk up Central on at least a few occasions, and biked up Silver, one block south of Central, at least once, I’ll confess I mostly drove up Silver to the parking lot at Silver and Amherst that served War Games West and the rest of that block of buildings.

But, my recollection was that most of the other businesses in the area weren’t that interesting.

Over the last few years, Tara and I have discovered that at least the section from Richmond on the west to Carlisle has a number of interesting and eclectic shops, and is always worth a visit when we are in Albuquerque.

Much of the development along Central was started after 1937.  But a major development was done in 1946 and 1947 when Robert Waggoman built the Nob Hill Business Center, the first modern (i.e. car oriented) shopping center in New Mexico (according to Wikipedia), and possibly west of the Mississippi (according to a reference I’ve misplaced).

Nob Hill Business Center is a Streamline Moderne style building with hints of the New Mexico Territorial style.  The structure is U shaped around a small, but probably sufficient in 1947, parking lot.  The parking lot faces Central, and the building runs along the other three sides of the block bounded by Central on the north, Carlisle on the east, Silver on the south, and Amherst on the west.  There are store fronts available that both face the parking lot, and the three outside streets.  Since Silver is up Nob Hill (the geographic feature) from Central in that area, most of the Silver frontage is made up of the upstairs sections and backs of the stores.

In the two interior corners are two larger store spaces.  My understanding is that, originally, these were occupied by a grocery store and a drug store.  The remaining store fronts are available for smaller shops.

Now, the two corner shops are occupied by the La Montanita Co-op grocery store, and a salon and day spa.  But there are two stores in between that we like visiting.  One is a gallery (whose name I’ve forgotten) and the other is Beeps, which I can only describe as an eclectic store as it carries toys, jewelry, novelty kitchen accessories, and other interesting things.  We used to also enjoy browsing at the design shop that used to face Carlisle at the northern end.

Continuing west from Nob Hill, we pass an Asian “street food” restaurant in the building that was occupied by the late lamented War Games West when I was in college, and later Bow Wow Records.

A bit further down the block is The Flying Star Cafe‘s original location.  When I was in college, their easternmost storefront (one storefront west of the former location of War Games West) housed a Double Rainbow ice cream parlor (possibly only until 1987).  As I understand it, the franchise owners wanted to go a different way, and converted the shop into the first Flying Star.  Since then, they’ve taken over every storefront west until a small alley.  The rest of that block has two free-standing buildings, one a fairly mundane building containing a pizza parlor, and another housing a Starbucks.

The building containing the Starbucks was a KFC when I was in college.  But I think it was built for something else – but more recently than when much of the rest of the area was built up.  It is a fairly long and narrow building with a rectangular footprint. But its roofline is mostly a half-cylinder, except at the front it is cut in a circle.

Continuing into the next block west is an Arby’s and one of several sushi restaurants along this stretch as well as business well off of Central.  I’d guess that, like the Starbucks, this is a newer development with even more parking.

The block after that has Kelly’s Bar and Grill, located in what was a Ford dealership, and later (or at the same time) may have been a Texaco station.  I’ve never been to Kelly’s – too many other favorites to go to a place that could be found elsewhere – but it has a good reputation.

Kelly’s apparently leases part of the building to a Cold Stone, and to a flower shop.  The rest of that block is occupied by the Hiway House motel, and a Korean barbeque located in what I think was once the motel’s lobby and check-in area.

The next block is where the eclectic nature of the area is most apparent.  In that block, in addition to a restaurant or two and a store selling smoking supplies, is a vintage clothing store, Masks y Mas – which specializes in mostly Mexican arts and crafts largely focused on Dias de Los Muertos – and Astro-Zombies – a comic book store with a good selection of comics and graphic novels, and a whole lot of other geeky toys and games.

The north side of Central through that area has some more mundane stores, including a dry cleaner, Kurt’s Camera Corral, a Redwing Shoe store, and Disco Display House, a party supply place.  These were all there when I was in college, as was The Guild arthouse movie theater.

There is also a block where there is a complex with shops on the lower floor and condos on the upper levels.  This is less than two years old, since it was strikingly out of place to me; more so than it would have been if it had been built in the prior 23 years.  But it also has been there long enough for one business to go out of business.  Most of the business there are pretty mundane.

On the north side is also where we find a Satellite Coffee, owned by the same people as The Flying Star – which yesterday was full of hipsters and nerds in the mid afternoon.  There are also a couple of clothing boutiques catering largely to the hipster demographic.

As I said at the top, Tara and I always find it worth a trip.  On the other hand, I still will miss War Games West and we’ll miss the design shop.

London Trip Report

Tara and I were in London from August 9, through August 23 in part to attend Loncon 3, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).

We actually left on August 8th.  Having found that the least expensive option when we booked our flights was the British Airways flight non-stop from San Diego to Heathrow, we had an evening red-eye departure.

Since I needed to work on Friday, the day started with me getting up to finish packing, and then with Tara dropping me off at the bus to work.  After a regular day at work – including an aborted attempt to buy a compromise camera at Staples during lunch, aborted because they didn’t have it in stock – I was picked up by an airport shuttle directly from work while Tara was picked up from home with both of our suitcases plus her carry-on.

Since she was picked up nearly half an hour before I was, she ended up waiting at the airport outside of security for me.  Once I got there, we got checked in and through security with only minor issues relating to the backscatter x-ray.  We had a couple of hours before the flight.  Normally, I would have eaten then, but I was wasn’t feeling well and was mostly very thirsty.  So after drinking a large bottle of water, and letting it help, I grabbed something for Tara and I near the gate.

The flight to London was fairly uneventful.  I’d managed to get us seats in one of the only two places where there were only two seats together in regular coach – at the very back of the cabin – so we didn’t have to contend with anyone else if we needed to get out.  However, that led to one of the only two things that were very eventful about the flight: my breaking off the plug on the cable for my noise-canceling headphones.  (Fortunately, these headphones are designed to support multiple cables, but this is the only one that they come with and I’ve not been able to get Sony to show me a replacement).  This kept me from being able to listen to much music (of my own) or watch any TV or movies after that.  Fortunately, I’d watched the entire Lego Movie before that.

The other event of memory was that Tara took the Indian chicken option for dinner (I had the veg lasagna option since I’d had chicken tikka masala for lunch), and found it had too many spices.

Once we got to London, we were able to bypass the long queue for immigration since Tara cannot stand for long times these days.  So we got our bags (which I put on a trolley, even though both bags had good wheels at that point), and we made our way out to the arrivals level where we found the Costa coffee for needed drinks and a rest.  After noting that our phones connected first to Vodophone and seeing a place selling prepaid SIMs, I picked up a pre-paid SIMs for both of our phones – confirming that our Verizon iPhones are indeed unlocked.

After that, we found our way down to the Tube station.  Before leaving, I’d discovered that on the day we were flying out both Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect would not be running due to “Crossrail Improvements” – only later discovering that Crossrail is a new service being constructed, not a maintenance term I was unfamiliar with.  I had figured out our best route to our hotel – or more correctly the Lambeth North Tube station across the street from our hotel.

However, I hadn’t looked for (or found) a step-free route, so our route was simply to take the Piccadilly line from Heathrow Terminal 5 to Piccadilly Circus and then take the Bakerloo line to Lambeth North.  Not only was this route not step free, it required us – read “me” – to carry both of our suitcases (which had in at just under the 20 Kg limit) up two flights of stairs at Piccadilly Circus, and one at Lambeth North.  The later continues to baffle me considering that once we got up the stairs, we encountered two very large lifts (which were, apparently part of the original 1906 design – see the Wikipedia entry  – but are clearly more modern).

After leaving Lambeth North, we found our hotel just across the street, Bayliss, to the north.  We got checked into our hotel, The Tune Hotel Westminster.  We knew that our room would be small and windowless (the later illegal in the US), but I think I was startled at just how small.  While we could get in OK, there was no way to arrange our suitcases so that Tara’s didn’t slightly get in the way of the door.  I got stuck with the side of the bed that was about 8 inches from the wall, and had to plug my CPAP in on the other side of the bed (I always travel with an extension cord for this purpose, and it is sufficiently heavy-duty I don’t worry too much about using it on a 240v circuit, which all of my electronics – CPAP, and the chargers for the iPhone and iPad – can deal with without issue).  Given our red-eye flight, and the trip from the airport, we were pretty much wiped, so we sat in the hotel room recovering.  Looking for something to watch while we got up the energy to go grab dinner, I found that BBC3 was rerunning “The Day of the Doctor” (the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special), and we ended up watching almost all of it.  We ended up eating at The Chicken and Pizza Palace across the street where we were both overwhelmed by the Chicken Mountain Sandwich – which has a fried chicken breast and a hash brown patty on it.  The other two times we ate there, we got the regular chicken sandwich without the hash brown patty.

Sunday, we were both still tired from the flight, so didn’t get out at all until about 10:30 – and only then for brunch at the Costa’s Coffee that occupies most of the ground floor of the building containing our hotel.  I then suggested (foolishly, considering that it was a rainy Sunday) that we could do some shopping since we were too late to want to spend time at any of the Museums or attractions.  However, after taking the Tube (Bakerloo line) to Oxford Circus and a couple of miscues, we found our way to Hamley’s.  The problem was that Hamley’s was crowded and hot – probably due to the crowds.  This made it less fun that it might have been to work our way through.

After we left, we found a nearby Pret A Manger for some drinks and snacks, then returned to our hotel.

I went out and took a walk exploring the local area – first to the south (which I was thinking was north due to being turned around) where I located the Imperial War Museum and found my way back to the station and then went in search of a Boots to see if they had a replacement for the broken headphone cable.  When looking for Boots, I discovered that Waterloo station was in the direction I thought of as “south” – and when I got back I noticed something that should have made me realize the mistake: I could see the top of the London Eye above some of the elevated tracks coming out of Waterloo station.  After I got back, we grabbed dinner at an Asian restaurant across different streets from the Lambeth North station.

On Monday, we decided to go to the exhibition at the British Library on comics and politics (I don’t recall the exact name).  I determined that the British Library was closer to Kings Cross/St. Pancras than it was to Euston.  So after breakfast at Costa (assume this for the rest of our trip except during Loncon), we headed to the Kings Cross/St. Pancras station.  However, I had misread the map and thought that the library was on the Kings Cross side, so we popped up into Kings Cross station, and ended up grabbing a snack at the Pret there before deciding that the lines to get anywhere near the Platform 9 3/4 photo op were too long.  We then headed out to find the library.

After a misdirect due to there being TWO libraries (one belonging to the local borough), we finally found the British Library, got our tickets and toured the exhibition.  The exhibition was pretty good, and we both enjoyed it – although we both spent some time sitting, as I was starting to discover that I’d hurt my back and partially re-triggered my sciatica.

When we were done, Tara determined that she needed to go back to the hotel and rest.  I wasn’t interested in this, so I took her suggestion (and hoped for plan) and headed out to the Westfield mall at Stratford – adjacent as I found out to my enjoyment Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.  After checking out the fairly crowded mall – briefly looking at cameras as well as looking for a replacement cable – I headed over to the park.  I spent some time in the aquatic center and then headed over for the Orbit, only to find it closed (and it starting to rain).  So, I headed back, taking a swing by The ExCeL (without getting officially off the DLR, or even leaving the station) and then over to Canary Wharf where I discovered that the DLR and the Underground do not actually share a station, thus requiring an extra set of tapping in and out, as well as some walking and crossing one street.  From there, I took the Jubilee line back to Waterloo and walked back to our hotel.  We got dinner that night back over at The Chicken and Pizza Palace.

On Tuesday, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Our trip there suffered from the length of the walk from the Tube station – long enough that Tara had to rest part way.  We did enjoy the museum, but ended up skipping many of the galleries that we were less interested in.  When it got to time to head back to our hotel, I realized that we could probably catch a bus closer to the museum that would take us to some station.  After consulting with a couple of people there specifically to help tourists with public transportation, we ended up on a bus that took us all the way to the Elephant & Castle stop – the last stop on the Bakerloo line, and one stop south of Lambeth North.

(I’m sure we, or at least I, did something else, but I don’t recall what).

On Wednesday, we started out by taking our clothes to a laundry for a service wash.  This was accomplished on the bus, since there was a bus that runs from near our hotel to very near the laundry.  After that, we took the bus to the Victoria station and caught a combination of underground and the DLR to Greenwich.  After a lunch of fish and chips at a pub we walked to the observatory. We enjoyed the tour – even if Tara had to skip much of the “Longitude Punked” exhibit.  She was bothered even more by the walk down the hill and was quite sore when we got back to the DLR station.  However, I had noticed that there was a parking lot by the observatory.  So, if we’d known we probably could have caught a Taxi from our pub to the observatory, and back.

After Greenwich, we headed over to the ExCeL to get our badges.  However, by the time we got there, we discovered that we’d be too late to pick up our cleaned laundry, making Thursday morning a bit more interesting.

On Thursday, I ran out as early as I could to pick up our laundry, while Tara did most of the packing.  Once packed and checked out, we caught a minicab to the Southwark station (since I was unsure at that point how close the taxi drop off was to the Jubilee line lifts) and took the Jubilee line and the DLR over to the ExCeL.  Once there, we learned quickly that it was a good thing that we had picked up our badges on Wednesday.  Before doing anything with the con, we got checked into the Aloft hotel, where our room was probably 3 or 4 times the size of the room at the Tune.

The con was a good con.  I managed to get to The Retro Hugo Awards, the concert from The Worldcon Philharmonic, and The Hugo Awards – as was as Seanan McGuire’s concert.  I also got to a couple of panels, the business meeting and at least one other concert.

I also picked up a second job at Sasquan.  I’m now on the hook to do the web interface and database for the Hugo Award voting.  I guess instead of having a whole year to clean it up a bit and make it easier to set up, I just have a few months.

Tara had a scooter for the con, which helped her get around during the con, but didn’t do as much to help with her legs recovering as she’d have liked.

On the Monday of the con, we checked out early and left our bags with the hotel before the last day of the con.  After closing, and the “Sasquan Listens” panel, we headed back to the Tune.  This time we got a room on lower ground floor (a.k.a. basement) that was even smaller.  The bed was against the wall, and the bathroom was a tiny raised-floor cubicle.

Tuesday, I found out quickly that there was a real problem with our bathroom – the shower drain couldn’t keep up with the shower itself.

Since we’d slept in to recover from the con, we decided Tuesday wasn’t the day to get tickets on a “Hop-on/Hop-off” tour bus.  After some debating and research, we decided to go to the Old Spitalfields Market.  We made our way to the Liverpool Street station, and then caught a cab to the market.  After a light snack (we split a sandwich), some browsing, we grabbed a mid-afternoon meal at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the service at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, since they messed up our order, and things came out somewhat randomly.  But since this was between normal meal times, they may not have really been ready for service.  On the other hand, the food was good.

Tuesday evening, I managed to poke correctly at the Golden Tours website and got it to cough up a package that included 48 hours of hop-on hop-off bus tour, a bonus 24 hours of bus tour, and entry to both the London Eye and the Tower of London.

On Wednesday, we headed up to the Waterloo station and then walked over to the London Eye.  We enjoyed the trip and the view – even if Tara took most of the pictures due to the lack of a working camera other than my phone (which I don’t think I take good pictures with my phone.  I’d originally planned on bringing my film camera – but I got the wrong format of 400 speed film, and then grabbed our ten-year-old digital only to discover on the London Eye that the batteries were dead.  (Tara claims I don’t take pictures much – I claim it is because of the lack of a camera I can use comfortable, but the fact that it took a week and a half to discover the dead camera batteries and I never replaced them does give some credence to her argument).

After riding the Eye, we found the Golden Tours stop.  The representative there recommended that we catch the next bus – on their Blue Route – and change near Buckingham Palace to get to the Tower of London the quickest.  But we ended up staying on the Blue Route due to the crowds at Buckingham Palace and the need to cross a street.  As a result we spent nearly 3 hours on the bus (traffic) it was after 2:30 when we got to the Tower, and we were both hungry.  We ended up eating at the KFC and spent some time glancing at the shops before we headed to the Tower entry.  There we learned our ticket was good for 7 days, and that they were closing soon enough that it wasn’t worth going.  So, we took the next bus back to our hotel.

On Thursday, we headed out in time to catch the first busses at the nearest stop – which turned out to be the same stop for the London Eye.  The representative suggested that we take the boat, and again we ignored her advice.  We caught the bus and ended up taking 2 hours to get to the Tower.  We had an enjoyable tour, taking in mostly the White Tower.  By the time we were done with that, the lines for the Jewel Tower were too long for us to want to stand in them, and the steps in the Bloody Tower were beyond Tara after the White Tower (and may have been beyond me).  So, we returned to the hotel.

I decided to set out on my own that evening for some shopping.  First, I hit up Harrods, skipping most of the floors of clothing – finding most of what I’d want to look at located on a single floor: furniture (browsing only), electronics, and toys (or big boy toys and little boy toys).  I then found the food halls on the ground floor, not the lower ground floor as I had thought.  After some browsing, I ended up on the candy area.  I started out debating about a boxed collection of dark chocolates, but then spotted hand-made dark chocolate dipped candied oranges and lemons – and chocolate dipped candied oranges are one of Tara’s favorites.  I purchased 100 grams of each.

After leaving Harrods, I worked my way on the tube over to Oxford Circus to locate Marks and Spencers and/or Selfridges with a goal of looking for socks.  I managed to end up at M&S, but only after having a dinner at McDonald’s due to not finding any of the places on Argyle street worth eating at.  After acquiring socks, I returned to the hotel and gave Tara my purchases from Harrods, which she appreciated – and promptly offered me one of the lemons.

On Friday, Tara woke to a sore throat and earache – the result of too much cigarette smoke on the streets and the position of the air conditioner in our hotel room; it ended up blowing on her head most of the night in an attempt to keep us from combusting, especially given the nice, heavy duvet we had.  After some discussion and a carry-out order from Costa’s, I headed out on my own.

At some point on Thursday, I scouted out my planned route for Friday – albeit in reverse.  My plan had been to have us take the Bakerloo line to Waterloo station, then change for the Waterloo and City line.  At its far end (one stop and about 2.5 Km away), we’d then change for the Central line to the St. Paul’s stop and visit St. Paul’s cathedral.  Much of this was to see if the walking distances from The Central Line to the Waterloo and City, and from The Waterloo and City to the Bakerloo were fairly short so that Tara would be able to do them easily.

However, on Friday industrial action (a.k.a. a strike) had shut down both The Waterloo and City line, and The Central Line through central London.  So, I instead took the combination of the Bakerloo and the Jubilee line (requiring a change that I still wonder if it isn’t about as long as just walking from our hotel to the Jubilee line at Waterloo station) to Westminster and toured Westminster Abbey first.  As I was leaving Westminster Abbey to head back to the Westminster station, I noticed a police box prop had been set up on Parliament Square.  So I worked my way over (accidently crossing one street just as the light changed) and discovered that not only was the prop there providing publicity for Saturday’s season premier, but so were stars: Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman in costume.  After taking a few pictures – some a bit grainy due to having to use the digital zoom to get close enough due to the crowds, aggravated by overcast skies and fake fog.

After my close encounter with The Doctor, I headed back to the station.  At the station, I asked a ticket and assistance agent for her recommendation on how best to get to St. Paul’s given the industrial action.  Her recommendation was to take either the District or Circle lines – interchangeable along the Thames through most of Westminster and The City of London – to Mansion House.  She also told me that would be her normal directions since Mansion House is nearly as close to St. Paul’s Cathedral as the St. Paul’s station.

I followed her directions, and then followed the signs in the station towards St. Pauls, emerging on the surface on Bow Lane near St. Mary Aldermary church.  I consulted Google Maps, and soon found my way down Watling towards St. Paul’s.

At St. Paul’s, I got some lunch from their café, and then headed upstairs.  I paid for my tour, but before it started, I took a seat under the dome for the 12:30 Eucharist service.  The service was both novel and comfortably familiar – novel in that it was much more liturgical than I’m used to having grown up in The Presbyterian Church, and spent the last 15 years in either non-denominational Evangelical churches or Evangelical Free churches, and comfortably familiar since they used bible verses to institute the communion (something my current church doesn’t do).  I am glad that I saw others dipping the wafer into the wine, since even doing that I found the (oddly white) wine a bit too dry and strong for my taste.

I really enjoyed both churches.  The architecture is somewhat familiar since the church I grew up in is built along similar lines – shaped like a cross with an inverted boat-shaped nave.  However the altar and quire at Westminster Abbey are below the cross – which isn’t fully balanced – and at St. Paul’s, there is a second altar beyond the quire.  Most intriguing to me is the presence of chapels at the top of each cross, the one at St. Paul’s was rebuilt after World War II and now honors those Americans who gave their lives defending the UK.

Also, when I was touring St. Paul’s, I was struck with the thought that had my brother-in-law led a youth/boy choir group on a trip to London (or if he leads a youth/boy choir trip to London in the future) I could see him organize the choir at either Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral into giving a short, impromptu, acapella concert from a more-or-less appropriate place.

After St. Paul’s, I thought through my options, and decided to take the river cruise that was included with our bus tour.  The ticket was good from either Embankment or the London Eye down to North Greenwich, or visa versa.  Since Embankment was closer, this was where I headed.  However, due – probably – to the platform work that is keeping the deep lines (Bakerloo and Northern, IIRC) from stopping there this summer, I couldn’t take the exit that leads to the dock.  Instead, I ended up going the wrong way around and had to walk a fair ways through a public garden (a.k.a park) before I found my way out to the street.

My thoughts were to take the boat all the way to North Greenwich and then use the Emirates Air Line cable car over to the Royal Victoria DLR station and then head back in time to go to Evensong at Westminster Abbey.  What I hadn’t counted on was how long the Thames is or how far down river North Greenwich is.  It took an hour (rather than the half-hour I’d been led to understand), and it was clearly too late to go to Evensong when I started heading back.  Oh well – I’m hoping for a next time.

After I got back to the hotel, Tara wanted to go out for dinner and shopping.  So, we headed out to Oxford Circus.  We found an Italian place on Argyle street at Little Argyle street for dinner.  After that, we worked our way to Hamley’s – which was a bit less crowded on the Friday of a holiday weekend than it had been the first time we were there nearly two weeks earlier.  We picked up a couple of things that we’d looked on our first visit.

I then suggested that we see if we can catch a bus that would take us through Piccadilly Circus, which we were fairly successful at – except it ended up a bit crowded so we didn’t have ideal seats for enjoying the lights (which are ads, I knew, but still fun).  The chosen bus dropped us off quite close to our hotel.  We turned in for the night.

Saturday, after breakfast, was spent finishing our packing and checking out of the hotel.  Alas, in the process of packing, there was a communication glitch between Tara and I and we each thought that the other had a bag that had two Coke Zeros and a bottle of ginger ale Tara had about half-consumed.  We only noticed this much later on the Tube between Waterloo and Green Park.

We caught a cab from our hotel to Waterloo – having to convince the cab driver that we really wanted him to take us there given that it was just a fairly short walk.  From there we used the Jubilee line and the Piccadilly line to get us to Heathrow.  The change at Green Park still had a bit of a walk in the underground interchange level.  Near the end of this, I took a peak up into the ticketing level to see if there was a news agent I could get to without touching out and back in – not that I was so short of Oyster pay-as-you-go money that it would have been a problem.  Alas, there wasn’t a news agent at all.

We got to Heathrow about half-an-hour before we could drop off our bags.  So I grabbed some Coke Zero at the Boots there, and then we waited.  At 12:30 we were able to drop off our bags.  I had us walk to one of the further drop points since overhead signs were showing South Security wasn’t as busy.  Both the bag drop and security were easy – even if a bit disconcerting due to the different policies.

One thing I noticed and like about Heathrow Terminal 5, the bag drop locations (they assume that you’ll either check in at home, or at one of the many self-service kiosks) have the agent seated, which seems like a better way to do it.

Our flight home was similarly uneventful.  I had to use an odd combination of cheap (and clearly much higher impedance than most) earbuds that I’d gotten on the tour bus under my cableless noise canceling headphones.  But this let me listen to music and later watch some of the entertainment.  For some reason, instead of the on-demand system we’d had on the outbound flight, we just had a selection of channels.  I think all I really ended up watching was part of an episode of Top Gear, most of an episode of Horrible Histories, one part of A Very British Airline about BA itself, and perhaps most oddly, Postman Pat: The Movie.  The last featured the voices of David Tennant and Rupert Grint (who actually sang, and pretty well).  I’m somewhat suspecting that one or both were fans of one or more of the earlier incarnations of Postman Pat and thought it would be fun to be in the movie.  I also caught quite a few jokes clearly aimed at the parents, including one at the fact that the movie was CGI where the original show had been stop-motion animation.

The worst part of the trip was once we got to San Diego.  Clearly, the customs station at the San Diego airport was designed with the expectation of small flights from Mexico (like on 737s or DC-9/MD-80/717s) rather than overseas widebodies.  By the time we got off the plane, the line for immigration was quite long.  Finally, I flagged down a skycap with a wheelchair for Tara.  Once she was in the chair, we were able to get the attention of officials who got us to the handicap priority line.

I also have to question the main delay getting past there.  Once we had our bags, we had to have them all – including our carry-on bags – x-rayed.  I don’t totally understand that, and can confirm that this is a new practice: I didn’t have to do it in 2006 or 2007 when I’d flown back from Delhi, but I think I did when crossing the land border from Canada at Buffalo last December.

One last part of the trip – and perhaps the most distressing – wasn’t discovered until Sunday.  Somehow I apparently left my bag of cables, which had my iPod in it, on the plane.  In addition to the iPod, it had both of our UK to US power adaptors, my phone and iPad chargers, two back-up power supplies, other assorted cables, and a device I had help fund through KickStarter that allows one to plug into a USB port without risking data being transferred.

Overall, I enjoyed the trip – enough that I was partially hoping that the volcano in Iceland would trap us in England for a few more days.  But, I am glad to be home – even if the cats decided to snub us for a few hours, and Appa is now convinced that I’m trying to hurt him when I offer the cats canned food.

Depending on both our budget and the outcome of the site selection vote next year, our next overseas trip will probably be either to Dublin or to New Zealand – hopefully both if we can put enough aside.  On the other hand, London is quickly becoming another favorite city to visit (along with Seattle and my hometown of Albuquerque), even after only two visits – one for only a few days.

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.

Another trip to Reno

This weekend, Tara and I headed up to visit The Kid, who is still up in Reno – and may be for an indefinite time.  We spent a lot of time on the road for what amounted to a visit of less than an hour – but it was a pretty good visit.

Since we needed to visit during the day on Saturday, our plan was to drive as far as Bishop on Friday night.  Both Tara and I had to work full days, so we couldn’t get off too early.  However, I was able to sneak out of work about 3:00, and even with having to do all of my packing (and Tara doing all of her packing) we left the house about 4:00.  We made two quick stops to top off the gas in my car, and our cash supplies and headed out.

Continue reading

Too Much Time on the Road

I’m tired. Yesterday, I drove up to Reno and drove back today (538 miles each way – 8:48 travel time according to Google Maps).

Yesterday, I didn’t get on the road until after 11:00 due to delays at this end, and had The Kid with me (I was taking up to a treatment facility in Reno that, hopefully, will be able to deal with his issues). As a result, we had lunch at the Lake Elsinore McDonald’s I use as a way-point I used to make sure that my car’s GPS didn’t argue with me about taking I-15 through the Inland Empire rather than the slight shorter, but actually slower, I-215 route.

However, my car’s GPS apparently thinks that freeways are much faster than non-freeway highways, so it tried to run me through Sacramento. Having driven both of the Sacramento routes within the last week and the US-395 route two years ago, I still argued with it until it gave up and quit trying to send me to I-5, somewhere around CA-60.

Because I had The Kid with me, I couldn’t keep listening to A Storm of Swords, so had planned on listening to music; but could not get my iPod to play properly through the car stereo until I got a 3.5mm audio cable in Bishop (I couldn’t find one at the Arco in RB, nor at one of my other pit-stops, nor could I find the one that should be in my office), so I ended up listening to KNX for several hours.

We stopped for dinner in Bridgeport (it was too early when we hit Bishop, and I could tell it would be way late by the time we reach Nevada), at a burger walk-up that wasn’t too bad.

We arrived late – after 9:00 – and it was after 10:30 when I got settled into my hotel.

Said hotel, a Baymont Inn, was not that nice. The room was fairly clean, but the bathtub was stained and they forgot to give me soap (which I could have gotten from the front desk, but it wasn’t worth it for the short night).

I stopped back by where The Kid was about 9:00, only to find that all of the paperwork had been sent here by FedEx, so I could have left earlier. My early trip wasn’t quite as quick as I’d have liked. I ended up stopping in Carson City at a Lowe’s to make use of their facilities (and briefly look at blinds to appese some of my guilt), then at a McDonald’s Minden for a supplement to my breakfast, and finally at the Wal-Mart in Minden to track down something to keep the tea stain on my shirt from becoming permanent.

As lunch time was nearing, I took a detour (not really worth it) onto Mammoth Scenic Loop, and grabbed lunch at the Pita Pit in Mammoth Springs. This added a bit of a delay – and probably more than just doubling into Mammoth Springs would have – but was at least a recognizable option rather than the sometimes gamble of small-town restaurants. I probably could have held on to Bishop, since it is much closer to Mammoth Springs than I tend to think it is (even after less than a day).

I made another stop, at Manzanar National Historical Park. I spent more than an hour there – and could have spent more time in the visitor’s center museum alone. I cannot say that I enjoyed the visit, after all this park records one of the darkest chapters in American History, but I felt it was worth it. The reconstructed barracks and mess hall are quite telling, as even with possibly better construction, sand and dirt were everywhere in all three buildings. As I was there, I kept thinking that yesterday would have actually been a better day – today was mostly overcast and not that hot, but yesterday when I had made a pit-stop at a rest area not too much further south it had been over 100 degrees and the wind was blowing; which would have probably made those barracks even more depressing.

The last legs of that drive are the worst. I ended up stopping for dinner near where CA-58 crosses US-395, selecting my dining spot as much on the strength of “its not Burger King” as for any other hope of a good dinner. However, the dinner wasn’t bad.

The drive across the Inland Empire was after dark, and I got slowed for some construction on I-15 between the county line and Escondido (which my GPS tried to route me around, but I ignored it since I couldn’t see the back-up it told me was coming).

I suspect that sometime in the next month (and possibly again regularly for a while afterwards) both Tara M Oakes and I will be making that trip. Given that we’d need to be able to spend part of one day in Reno, I’m thinking that we’ll need to go about as far as Bishop after work on a Friday, the rest of the way to Reno on Saturday and then home on Sunday. At least if we’re both in the car, I won’t have to do all the driving.

(FYI, based on Google maps, I’ve driven about 2,099 miles over the last 8 days – all without a co-driver, and mostly with only myself in the car)

Wondercon Report

This weekend, Tara and I headed up to Wondercon Anaheim.  The Kid was elsewhere.

Since I was in charge of the Conjecture 2013 / Conchord 25 table, we needed to be there before the loading dock closed at 9:30.  So the original plan had been to leave about the time I regularly leave for work: 6:30.  Due to the normal delays of getting moving in the morning, we ended up leaving a bit after 7 instead.  And I needed to get gas and let Tara get some cash before we headed up, so we were running a bit later than I’d have hoped.  However, we benefitted by an unexpected lack of traffic, so we arrived in Anaheim in plenty of time to use the loading dock.

When I read the rules that stated that carts would not be allowed in the lobby of the convention center, nor in the parking lot by the loading dock, I had concluded that we’d be able to park at the loading dock for long enough to offload onto our own cart.  Instead when we got to the dock, we were met by some of Freeman’s teamsters who quickly took the table supplies, loaded them onto one of their small flatbeds and trucked it into the convention center.  It took us a couple of minutes to figure out how to get from the loading dock back to the short-term parking for exhibitors during load-in and setup.  Once inside, we were directed to exhibitor registration where we got the four exhibitor badges, found our table and got set up.

For better and for worse, we had a fairly small setup.  We forgot to bring a table cloth, so we were setup on the plastic tablecloth provided by the decorator (presumably also Freeman).  But other than that, and the fact that I’d failed to account for an 8′ table instead of the 6′ tables we usually get at cons, the setup was easy and I think was OK, if not flashy.

Once setup, Tara headed out to pick up her badge and the scooter she’d rented for the weekend, while I waited at the table for the hall to open and Jack who would be helping at the table on Friday and Sunday to arrive.

Things stayed quiet at the table in the first hour or two after the table opened.  Tara brought me lunch and after I’d eaten, I headed to the other end of the convention center to get my regular (as opposed to exhibitor) badge.

There was one minor glitch with Friday’s setup.  Since The Kid didn’t need it, I was using his phone for the square.  But I couldn’t get the program to download to his phone due to problems with both the convention center’s free wi-fi and Verizon’s over-the-air network.  So for a while I had his phone and had left my phone at the table.  I forwarded calls, but that didn’t solve the problems with texts – which resulted in Tara texting the wrong phone a couple of times.

On Friday, I made one panel: The Geek & Sundry panel with Felicia Day.  During the panel, it was apparent that she has concluded that the last season of The Guild would, indeed, be the last – but this was not a surprise to most people, so I think I just missed it.

During the rest of the day, I alternated between manning the table and checking out the other entries in the exhibition hall.  We did take a break midday to check into the hotel – but couldn’t get our room yet so I had the bell staff hold our luggage (on the flat cart we didn’t need/couldn’t use during load-in)

Once the exhibition hall closed at 7 and we’d shut the table down by removing the books and fan bait (i.e. candy),  and taking the cash box and our personal stuff with us.  We retired to the hotel and got into our room.  There was one glitch with the room: the only way to get the cart Tara had rented into the room involved me lifting it to get it around a corner that could not be traversed with it on the ground.

We ended up getting a pizza from the hotel’s connivence store, but it wasn’t that good – the sause was way to sweet (quite possibly to appeal to kids in the same way as the sause at a certain rat mouse fronted pizza chain).  After eating, we turned in but somehow it was already after ten.

On Saturday we got up and moving and headed to the hotel’s coffee shop for breakfast – a costly mistake even if the food was good.  It was, by far, the most expensive meal of the weekend.  After that, we headed over to the exhibition hall to find out I’d misread the setup information and we’d really needed to be in there a bit earlier since the hall was already opened to people with professional badges.

There was also a bit of confusion about getting the other two exhibitor badges to Eylat and her husband who were my help for Saturday.

Once they were settled in, I headed up to catch my one panel of the day, Inspector Spacetime (or more properly Untitled Web Series About a Person who Travels in Time as well as in Space.  This in some ways seems like an odd choice since Tara and I have mostly watched Community sporadically off of Hulu+, and I’d only seen the first or first couple of episodes of the webseries.

It was, however, quite interesting to hear about all of the fun, and legal back-and-forth, that led to the series getting created.  Among the highlights was the listing of previous actors who played The Inspector, and the way that the creative fandom took a typo in an interview to create one of The Inspector’s periodic allies: TARVIS; and how this kind of fan creativity has actually be incorporated into the series.

I was also interested in the process of creating the music – including composing a theme that matches the couple of notes heard in the clip showed on Community – and composing the music for the brief cues used in the series.  Because of the way that the composer works and thinks, after the first season/series/story was completed, he was able to release a 30 minute soundtrack album (out of a season of episodes that lasts a total of about 18 minutes).  Included on the soundtrack is the 1974 version of the theme.  I just hope that if a subsequent album results from subsequent seasons, he’ll take on recreating the original 1962 theme – in the style of how the BBC Radiophonic Workshop did the theme for Doctor Who in 1963 using rudimentary techniques.  I’d be happy if he did it all digitally, but could synthesize the sound of that early piece of electronic music.

The remainder of Saturday was spent like Friday – either at the table or elsewhere in the exhibition hall.  I did spot a couple of books: Doctor Who: The Forgotten from IDW and Serenity: Shepherd’s Tale from Dark Horse.  Unfortunately when Tara went to make the purchases, I didn’t have the exact title for the Doctor Who book, and she ended up picking up a different book (Doctor Who: Dave Gibbons Collection) which we’d like to sell to someone who’d actually appreciate it.

Over the course of the afternoon, Tara and I did mention key Hugo Award nominations to two of the booths – Tara let IDW know about the nomination (Best Graphic Story) for Locke & Key: Clockwork and I mentioned Best Novella nominee San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats to them – to be informed that one of the women in the booth dies in it.

After we shut down the table, Tara and I headed to a nearby Denny’s for dinner.  After my quick check had located three Denny’s fairly close, I chose the one that was the second closet to us but the furthest from Disneyland.  It was still busy, and there were a fair number of people there that we could identify as being from Wondercon.

We turned in not too long after dinner.

On Sunday, we had a bit more relaxed morning – but we did have to get the room packed up and checked out.  We got breakfast from two of the food trucks parked on the plaza outside the convention center and had eaten in plenty of time to get into the exhibitor’s line for entry to the hall.  We were fully set up and Tara was off to get in line for the panel on Joss Wheadon’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Since I was stuck at the table until the panel was over, since Jack had to leave after church and wasn’t expected until 12 or 12:30, she texted me some of the better bits.

Jack did arrive in time for me to make my panel of the day, this time the panel for Arrow.  Another good panel, with some nice teasers about what is coming in the last part of the first season.  I also appreciated that they keep an archery coach on set who started out the training of the lead by showing him all of the bad archery she’d seen in movies and warning him not to do any of it.

The rest of Sunday, like the days before, was made up of sitting at the table and checking out the show.

In addition to the two books mentioned, and some movie posters that will eventually go up in the vaulted part of our living room, I considered but didn’t end up getting, a couple of items from the California Browncoats: a “Mudder’s Milk” water bottle and a USB that comes loaded with some related songs.  The former, I never got around to getting, and I wanted to confirm that I had only a couple  of the songs – I’m presuming that Vixy & Tony’s contribution is or includes “Mal’s Song,” which I have.

After the room closed at 5, we got torn down fairly quickly – but not as quickly as nearly every other fan table we could see who had started tearing down before 5 in clear violation to what was spelled out in the information packet.  The worst offenders where, however, the table to our left for the Jerico fan group and one across the way for a Battlestar: Galactica fan group who were gone by 1 and 3 respectively.

Load out was a bit more confusing since I had to palletize and wrap less than one pallet’s worth of stuff and then communicate correctly with the teamsters to get it out to my car.  On the other hand, the teamsters were thankful that I was actually following the rules – way to many people (mostly fan groups, but some dealers or artists) were simply hauling their own stuff out through the loading dock without paying attention to the teamsters moving stuff with fork-lifts and electric flatbeds.

With all of that confusion, it was about six when Tara and I hit the road.  We stopped for dinner at Denny’s in San Clemente, and then rejoined the much heavier traffic into San Diego and home.  We got home tired, and Tara was glad to have today off so that she could further recover and also deal with other issues.

Overall, I’m happy with Wondercon Anaheim, but am looking forward to being able to go there and not be in charge of the table next year.  I would have liked to sold some Conjecture memberships, but we still had a lot of interest and gave out quite a few flyers, PRs and Fandom Indices.

While I don’t think it was a deliberate swipe, or even more than a semi-random arrangement, but I would have found it easier if they’d put us in the same row with ConDor and Comic-Fest, which was near the full corner booth that Gaslight Gathering had.  They easily could have put us in that row, moved the San Joaquin Valley Star Wars fan club to where the Battlestar: Galactica group was next to the Mandalorian Mercs and the Rebel Legion (two Star Wars costuming groups), and put the Battlestar group where we were and had a much more cohesive grouping.  (This would have also given me neighbors who would have even less problem watching things when I had to run to the restroom during my solo shifts.

I also have some ideas how we can handle things both at Comic-Con this year (and next) and at Wondercon Anaheim next year presuming that we are selected to host Westercon 68 in 2015.

Trip Report: 24 Hours of Gallifrey One

This weekend, Tara and I attended our first Gallifrey One – 24 Hours of Gallifrey One.

The original plan had been for the full family, including The Kid, to attend as well.  But, on Thursday night events transpired so that it was decided it would be better if he missed a day of school and I drove him out to Yuma to start his week with his grandparents in Arizona a few days earlier. This had the drawback of putting us a bit later in our planned departure.

Originally, the plan had been for Tara and I to pack ourselves and the car starting when we got home (me about noon, her possibly as late as 1) and then leave straight after picking The Kid up at school – about 2:30.  Instead, I didn’t get back from the round trip to Yuma (about 180 miles each way) until 2:30 or so, and I still had to do some of my own packing and pack the car.  So, it was nearly 3:30 when we got on the road, and I was tired enough to have Tara do the driving.

We did learn one thing on this trip: if the GPS in the car is programmed to provide directions, and my phone is connected and given permission to make data calls for traffic information, we should trust it if it tells us to leave what we think is the obvious route.  We were detoured around a bad block on The 405 shortly after we got on it at the end of The 73 tollway, and might have saved 2 or 3 more minutes if we’d followed its directions to not get on The 405 there at all.

On the other hand, by the time we got to LA and checked into our hotel – we were staying at the LAX Hilton a block away from the LAX Marriott hosting the convention since the room block filled in about an hour – we were too tired to do much more than drop off the stuff we brought up for Rebecca to use in the Staff Lounge, grab dinner at Denny’s and vegetate in our room.

Saturday, we grabbed the breakfast that Hilton had made available to us since I was a frequent guest member and headed back to our rooms to see if we could upgrade our Comic-Con memberships to give us preview night.  Due to an attempt to connect to the hotel’s WiFi (and choosing the wrong SSID) I didn’t make my first attempt to connect until a few seconds late.   Then that attempt returned an error page, so it was about 2 minutes into the sales period that we actually started waiting.  After about 45 minutes without anything visible being returned, we gave up and headed over to Gallifrey One.

On Staturday, we spent some time wandering around looking at the fan tables (and talking to people we knew in and near them), and looking at the stuff for sale in the Dealers’ Room and on display in the Art Show.  In the afternoon, I sat in on two panels – plus the last part of a third.  The partial panel was an interview of two of the directors of recent and future episodes.  The next panel was the interview with Ben Browder.  I then stayed through for the presentation by Dick Mills on the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – especially on Doctor Who. We didn’t stay late on Saturday, grabbed dinner at Denny’s again and returned to our room and turned in earlier than at some conventions.

On Sunday, we got over to the Marriott before much had opened, so sat and waited for the main panel room to open.  In the morning we caught the interview with Freema Agyeman, then did some more wandering and shopping.  Later in the day, we listened to joint interview with Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines, and Mark Shephard’s solo Q&A session.  I stayed for the panel featuring everyone at the convention who acted on Doctor Who prior to 2005, while Tara walked off a muscle cramp.  We decided that staying for the year in review video was going to put us on the road too late.

We headed out, stopping for dinner – at Denny’s yet again – and gas in San Clemente, getting home to three lonely cats about 9:00.

We are definitely planing on going back next year, and will probably be bringing our niece up with us (which may or may not alter our travel plans depending on her class schedule next spring).

We also brought home some purchases: personally autographed pictures of Sylvester McCoy and Mark Shepherd, a knit robot hat for Tara, the second compilation of Assimilation² , the Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who crossover comic series from IDW, four Big Finish audio Doctor Who  dramas, three new prints to be framed and hung (and we’re behind on that as it is) and some assorted jewelry and knick knacks.

Trip Report – Albuquerque to Santa Fe by New Mexico Rail Runner Express

Today, Tara, The Kid and I headed to Santa Fe, and took advantage of the relatively new extension of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express (a.k.a. The Rail Runner, or NMRX).  We had debated taking it, but once we learned that the Sandia Pueblo stop was located just a few yards (OK, a few hundred yards) north of the roundabout that replaced the rather crazy three-way intersection between Roy Road, NM-313/4th Street; so was only a couple of miles from my parents’ house where we are staying.

Continue reading

LosCon Report

I got back from Loscon an hour or so ago.  This was an interesting Loscon for me (Interesting in this case is close to Wash’s “Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die?” definition).

Our original plan had been to leave mid-morning on Thursday, grab lunch in Oceanside, and arrive at the hotel mid-afternoon for some relaxation.  However, this plan was put into jeopardy on Wednesday evening when Tara became very ill, apparently with something similar to what The Kid had nearly recovered from, which I’d attributed to minor food poising.  By Thursday morning it was getting clear that she was in no shape to come up on Thursday.  So I moved our reservation to Friday.

But, when Friday dawned, she was still in no shape to travel, and The Kid was still having lingering symptoms – not to mention that I’d be too busy to ride heard on him without Tara there as well.  So, I packed the car in a hurry.  Part of this rush packing included not having Tara help me pair down the party supplies I’d pulled from the SanSFiS locker, and included 7 12-packs of pop that I’d picked up on Thursday from Von’s when I was buying Tara some ginger ale.  Somehow, with all of this, I ended up with so much stuff in the car (much of which, I didn’t really need) that there was no room for any other passengers, nor room for our flat cart in any place that it would not risk becoming a missile But, I at least got on the road about the time I expected to.

I arrived at the hotel in good time, not bothered by any Black Friday traffic jams.  I was early enough that there was still self parking available in the garage – and I found a space very near the ballroom doors.  This allowed me to unload most of the fan table supplies in short trips, and start setting up the fan table.  It was during this unloading, I discovered I’d forgotten the Westercon Bid banners.  Later, I realized that I also forgot my shaving kit – which is where I keep my medicine when traveling.

Around 3:00, I checked into the hotel, and brought my car up to have a bellman take the party supplies and my personal stuff to my room.  At this point, they concluded that the self-parking was full, and checked my car into the valet.  What I didn’t warn them was that once the stuff was in my room, I intended to leave shortly to do the main supply run for the “San Diego takes over the Con Suite” party and at least some of the food for the Westercon bid party on Saturday night.

This trip took me about two hours.  My first stop was Matsua Marketplace in Torrence, which was a long(ish) drive (about 8-10 miles) for two items: pocky and wasabi peas.  Next, I headed into Ingelwood where information showed I could find a Smart ‘n Final, a Ralph’s and a Costco all within a couple of blocks.  I hit up Smart ‘n Final hoping to find Cheetos and small scones.  I found the Cheetos, but no scones.  I also determined that the Ralph’s was actually a Food for Less, and didn’t bother going there looking for scones.  At Costco, I located other small pastries to use in place of the scones, and purchased the bulk of the pop.  Thinking in terms of Con Suite, I picked up the full variety – getting both Coke and Pepsi colas, in both diet and regular, Dr. Pepper in both diet and regular, and 7-up.  I got only one case of each (32 cans for the Coke and Dr. Pepper, and 36 cans for the Pepsi).  This added to the 4 12-packs of Tab (for Comic Fest’s Tab and Moon Pies), and the 12 packs of Ginger Ale, Orange and 7-up.  I also grabbed some milk to accompany the “Genuine Imitation Ovalkwik” and for the tea.  Once I was to the car, however, I realized that I had forgotten to get the fresh fruit and veggies I intended.

I finished up the fan table, shut it down and then headed up to set up the con suite (having a bellman take up the party supplies and food).  The party went well, and we all gave away a fair amount of information.  Condor and the Westercon bid sold a decent number of memberships, and we at least gave away a lot of Conjecture / Conchord flyers.   When we closed, we had a fairly good stock of pop (my purchases having been supplemented by many 12 packs of Mt. Dew courtesy of Gam3rCon and not heavily depleted – due in part to the competition from the other parties one floor down).    Fortunately, I was able to stash it in the back hallway of the suite being used for the New Orleans and Kansas City Worldcon bid parties, so I didn’t have to schlep it down to the first floor where my room was.

I ended up leaving the con-suite about 1.5 gallons of milk and some of our extra pastries (which I could have kept if I’d been thinking about it)

Saturday, I was up reasonably early to get the fan table set up, and was able to stay away from it for much of the day.  I spent some time browsing the dealers’ room, and took a quick pass through the Art Show and the new Make Room.

In the morning, when I made one last attempt to see if someone could swing by our house to get the stuff I forgot, I discovered that Adam was unlikely to be coming.  So, I was left taking care of checking into the party room for Saturday night – not a big deal as this will be reimbursed from the bid.

It was about 2 when I went to see if I could get in, having been assured by the party liaison that the room should be empty as a result of our having given it up for Friday night.  But, when I was checking in, I learned that the room wouldn’t be available for me to actually get into until after 3 because it was being occupied by a Platinum Elite hotel guest who had late checkout at 2:00.  Once I did get the room, I took a quick look at it and then headed out to Costco to get the food for the bid party – ending up with the same small pastries as the night before, supplemented by some other cookies – and some more fruit, including some mango and pineapple to go with the somewhat absent “1916 Panama-Mars-California Exhibition” theme.  Once the food was safely in the room, I spent the rest of the afternoon in and around con space.

We shut the table down about six, and I took stuff to my room (or the party room) and then snuck into the staff lounge (with permission of the person running the staff lounge) and grabbed a bowl of chicken curry – more because I should have been hungry than because I was hungry.

This turned out to be either a mistake or a fortunate happenstance, because I quickly began to start feeling rather ill in much the same way as the rest of my family had been.  I was able to get some Pepto-Bisimol  in the gift shop, which helped a bit, and tracked down someone who was able to handle setting up the food.

By the time the party was going, I was feeling better and concluded that maybe all I’d had was a migrane which decided to have most of the symptoms, except for the headache.  I was actually feeling pretty good, when I grabbed a Coke and drank it, not all that quickly.  However, within a minute or two of finishing, my body reacted badly – prompting me to rush up the stairs (remember, I have a bad knee – which was complaining about me doing too much standing, walking and lifting early in the day) to the public restrooms one floor up – I refuse to use the restrooms in a party room, even my party room, out of principle.  After I had thrown up (not a lot, but some), I headed back to the party and informed people that I was leaving, and not to expect me back – and to do a minimal shutdown and I’d take care of it in the morning).

I spent the rest of the evening in my room, initially sweating and feeling quite warm, but eventually chilled.  I ended up throwing up a couple of more times before I fell asleep.  However, for numerous reasons, I only slept in fits and starts most of the night.  I did, however, start sipping water in the early hours of the morning – due to feeling severally parched.

Today, I was able to get the party torn down.  Due to the fact that we had more leftover pop than I could comfortably transport home – even with with other consumables I had transported up – or safely store at the house, I ended up leaving it for the con suite (which I did get criticized about claiming that it was wasteful – I contend my mistake was in buying too much in the first place, a lesson learned).

During the day, all I actually consumed was a couple of cans of Ginger Ale – until I got home – and did have some instances of feeling worse then better.  I made a few more passes through the dealers’ room and make room, and did my share of SMOFing.  I had hoped to be able to pack up and leave earlier, but ended up leaving the tables up until 3:30 – and it was after four by the time I actually got on the road.

Overall, the con was a good con.  The Westercon bid had another successful promotion, and Conjecture at least got a lot of information out.  I just hope that it turns into memberships (a lot of people were unsure if they could come, so didn’t want to make commitments 11 months out).

One thing I felt really bad about at one point, however, was when I realized that for numerous reasons, while I’ve been to 8 cons this year (not counting Comic-Con), including three outside of San Diego – and will hit SMOFCon next weekend – Tara only made three, and she was only at both Anime Conji and Comic Fest for one day.