SMOF License

Winter Road Trip Day 9: On to Albuquerque

It was a relatively quick drive in to Albuquerque today, once we tore ourselves away from our hotel window.

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A mere ninety minutes later, Albuquerque appeared in the distance as we crested the final hill.

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In keeping with the SMOFCon 37 theme of "All Right Turns," we turned right from I-40 east to I-25 south, then right onto MLK, and then proceeded to circle the block in which the Hyatt is located rightward a couple of times until we managed to find the entrance to the public parking garage.

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After we got the room loaded, I started to fade badly, but we decided to try looking downstairs, where we met up with several other SMOFCon early arrivals who, like us, were hungry. Checking the restaurant guide and Google Maps, we went to Hana Sushi, which is only about 450 m (about four blocks) from the hotel. It was nice to not have to rush through a meal and to spend it conversing with friends.

The Con Suite was not yet open when we got back, so we hung around in the bar with Sharon Sbarsky, Mark Linneman, Linda D., Mo Starkey, and others attracted to the aura of conrunners gathering. After the Con Suite opened, we headed up to the second floor to collect our badges. SMOFCon chair Ron Oakes had kindly generated a badge for Kuma Bear as well as for the two of us.

I would have loved to have hung around until late, but I still have to work on Friday morning, so I must get as much sleep as I can. Speaking of sleep, I'm pleased to report that my replacement CPAP mask did indeed arrive ahead of us. In fact, it appears that it was delivered about the time we were leaving the Holiday Inn Express in Grants. The only bad part is that the Hyatt charges $10 to receive packages. That's annoying, but all of the other alternative ways of avoiding that would have cost even more, such as next-day shipping to Ron Oakes so he would have received it yesterday. So I charged the $10 to my healthcare savings account (it being part of the cost of the prescribed medical equipment) and I look forward to getting better sleep.
SMOF License

Winter Road Trip Day 8: Cottonwood AZ to G/a/l/l/u/p/ Grants NM

We originally intended for today's trip to be relatively short, but along the way conditions changed and we made a destination change for some tradeoffs I'll discuss later, making today's journey 313 miles not including minor diversions.

The day started damp, but the shower was outside, not inside like last night. Fortunately for us, the parking space right in front of our hotel room opened up and Lisa moved the Astro to make packing easier.

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Because we were making better time than expected, Lisa suggested that instead of Gallup, we try to go to Grants, New Mexico today. As she drove, I called IHG. Technically we shouldn't have been able to make that change, as the reservation at Gallup had a 48-hour cancellation window; however, apparently my Spire status meant something (or possibly both hotels are under common ownership), as they were able to shift us sixty miles east to Grants.

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Around 6 PM, we arrived in Grants at the Holiday Inn Express. We've stayed here once before heading the other way. We were unable to get a suite upgrade because they are nearly full. I have a feeling we would have had that upgrade at Gallup, but it's not too big a deal, as we have plenty of room, including places to put our stuff and to hang up clothes, a desk where I can work without Lisa having to climb over me every time she wants to do anything in the room, and the usual amenities we expect to find at a Holiday Inn Express in the USA.

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So tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive at SMOFCon in Albuquerque, where I'm both looking forward to and dreading my schedule. Honestly, I am not sure if I'll have any time to write about it if I want to get any sleep at all.

Cottonwood Interlude: Unwanted Indoor Shower

When we got back to the Super 8 after our ride on the railroad, Lisa handed me the memory card from her camera, and I spent more than an hour pulling stuff off of her and my cameras and uploading them. I also had mail both work and personal/fannish to process, but eventually I was about ready to go have dinner. About that time, Lisa noted that there was a dripping sound coming from the bathroom, and that was not good.

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After discovering that the room phone wasn't working, I ran (literally) down to the office to tell the manager. He came quickly with me, and then headed upstairs to the room immediately over us. A few minutes later, the leaking slowed, then stopped. Our first theory of an overflowing bathtub was wrong; the tenant there was just taking an ordinary shower. Apparently there was a leak in the drains that poured down from our ceiling.

The hotel manager (a very nice fellow, incidentally) had the person upstairs move rooms and brought a mop and started to clean up our room. He also brought us a complete new set of towels to replace those we'd used to try and mop up the mess. As we're moving out tomorrow and have thoroughly moved in to this room, he said we didn't have to move, which was handy. We went and had dinner while he cleaned up the room.

I was a little worried that he'd think we caused this, and had visions of the famous hotel flood at Disclave that led to the little "don't hang things from the water sprinklers" signs in many hotels. But the manager saw immediately that this had nothing to do with us, and was just bad luck. He thanked us for reporting the problem so quickly.

It was a good thing that we hadn't gone to dinner first, as the mess of water that would have flooded our bathroom would have been much worse.
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Winter Road Trip Day 7: Verde Canyon Railroad

We booked two nights at the Super 8 in Cottonwood, Arizona so that we did not have to pack out of the room today. After I logged out of work, we drove the short distance up to Clarkdale for our scheduled ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad.

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Between Lisa and me, we took a whole lot more photos than what are in this entry. See the Verde Canyon Railroad Album I created on Flickr if you want to see the whole lot. It's a really nice trip, and I think it was money and time well spent. I wish we'd had more time to go through the museum and read all of the information signs, but we did buy a copy of the route guide that should have additional historical information to be absorbed at greater leisure.

It's only about 15 minutes drive back down to Cottonwood on Arizona 89A. (We drove up to the railroad on historic route US-89A and back on the more modern state route, for variety.) We'd intended to immediately head out to the Black Bear Diner for dinner, but it took me more than an hour to get the photos from both our cameras uploaded, and as you'll see, I didn't try to label or geotag them precisely, as it would have taken even longer. As it happens, it's a good thing we were in the hotel room for some extra time, as I'll explain in my next entry.
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Winter Road Trip Day 6: Rancho Mirage CA to Cottonwood AZ

Working from the hotel room for four hours before heading for Arizona went okay, but Lisa and I got sloppy. We generally are pretty thorough about "lodgecombing" every hotel room, going through the room a final time before we leave to make sure we haven't left something behind. In our zeal to get going today for the longest single day on this trip, we left behind multiple things: some food in the hotel refrigerator, but more importantly, it appears that when packing my CPAP machine, I dropped the mask and it must have rolled under the bed or something like that, because it wasn't in my kit with all of the other pieces when we got to Cottonwood.

While I have spare masks at home, I don't generally carry spares with me on these trips. This is really annoying. I've traveled all over the world and never lost a mask. I checked with the Holiday Inn in Rancho Mirage and they did not report finding a mask (which is why I think it rolled under the bed or in some easily-missed location. I called the Hyatt Regency in Albuquerque and confirmed that I could order something shipped to me to catch up to me when I get there on Thursday. I then ordered a replacement mask with express shipping. However, for the next three nights, I'm without my CPAP, which is unfortunate, not only because snoring bothers Lisa, but also because it ruins my sleep. But there's nothing that can be done about it in the short term but to put up with it. I was about due for a replacement mask anyway. Maybe I'll have to start carrying an extra with me.

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We pushed onward, crossing into Arizona and refueling at the Flying J Travel Center just over the border. Our policy when traveling in winter in particular is to refuel relatively often and give ourselves lots of reserve.

At Quartzsite, where the snowbirds flock to spend the winter, Lisa (who has stopped here before when she used to drive through here periodically) pulled off the freeway so we could have a look at a monument to an camel driver.

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Of course we had to stop at The Other Tonopah.

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We could have skirted Phoenix on Loop 303, but we wanted to eat at a restaurant we can't visit in California, Nevada, or indeed anywhere west of Goodyear, Arizona.

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Having left Rancho Mirage CA about 10:30 AM PT, we got to the Super 8 in Cottonwood AZ just after 8 PM MT. We lose an hour having come into the Mountain time zone, but to make up for it, I don't have to get up until 5:40 AM instead of 4:40 AM. Also, tomorrow we are not traveling cross-country, but instead we're going to go ride a train, about which more tomorrow night.
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Winter Road Trip Day 5: Loscon to Rancho Mirage (With a Museum Detour)

We checked out of the LAX Marriott this morning and after spending a couple of hours sitting at the Westercon 74 Tonopah table, disassembled the displays, moved everything back out to the Astro, and set off for SMOFCon. Including the two memberships that Lisa Deutsch Harrigan sold for us from the adjacent CostumeCon 39 table, we added a total of nineteen more members to Westercon 74 at Loscon 46.

Our route for today had a bit of a dogleg in it as we made a side trip to the Western Museum of Flight in Torrance, a bit south of LAX.

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One of the museum volunteers offered to escort us over to the back lot. This required us to follow them in convoy through a secured gate, as the museum and the back lot are on the grounds of an active airport.

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Having had only a light breakfast at the hotel, by the time we left the museum, we were hungry. As it happens, there was a Black Bear Diner just a short distance away.

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After lunch, we set off for tonight's goal, the Rancho Mirage Holiday Inn Express. Lisa drove while I navigated. If you look at the map, you'll see that we accidentally swung north on I-215 from CA-91 rather than more directly east on CA-60. This turned out to be less than five miles longer, but it cost extra time as there were several slowdowns on this route we could have avoided if I hadn't briefly dozed off just before the CA-91/CA-60/I-215 interchange and let Lisa miss the exit. (Lisa was too busy dodging maniacs on the freeway and left the navigation to me.)

IHG upgraded me to Spire (the high end of their affinity program) just before this trip, and it has already paid off, as they upgraded us to a decent suite with a separate living room and bedroom. There's no full closable door between the two, but it's not one of those semi-suites with a little half-wall divider that makes the room worse, not better, by taking up floor space. I have a decent sized desk in the parlor with room to open up both my computers (I need two for the Day Jobbe for technical reasons) and where I can work without disturbing Lisa. That's good because my day starts at 0530 Pacific Time and I'd like to let her get some sleep while I work. And it's significantly nicer than the hopeless arrangement of the LAX Marriott's rooms. (Much of the discussion at the parties this past weekend was over how much the hotel's remodel has ruined the usability of the rooms in many ways, with the claim that customer surveys say that people really don't want desks, tables, or anywhere to store their stuff when they stay in hotels.)

For the rest of this trip, the plan is for me to work four hours each weekday before we move on (with one exception I'll detail later in the trip). While today's trip was only about 150 miles, tomorrow will be a long one, about which I will write when we get to Cottonwood, Arizona. However, now I must get some sleep before shifting back to the Day Jobbe schedule at a 0440 PT alarm.
Tonopah Westercon

Winter Road Trip Day 4: Loscon Saturday

The middle day of Loscon passed much the way the first day did. We got off to a nice start with the hotel buffet breakfast, joined again by Father John and his friend Bob before heading down to our table.

I spent most of today sitting behind the Tonopah table extolling the virtues of Westercon 74 in Tonopah, and apparently some people though it was a good idea, as they put up money to buy memberships. Even as we were packing up close to 7 PM, there were people asking to buy memberships, and I was happy to oblige them. For Loscon thus far, we have added 16 attending members (including a few conversions from voting to attending), which is a 15% increase in total attending members and is very heartening.

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Both Lisa and I did get away from the table a few times today.

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After closing the table, Lisa and I went to dinner, where David W. Clark, freed from his Cargo Cult Books dealer table, joined us. The only significant break I took from our table today was to go to Dave's table, pay for the books and videos that Lisa and I had bought from him, have my copy (purchased from Dave) of The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D. autographed by Nicholas Meyer, and buy two autographed copies of Craig Miller's new book Star Wars Memories: My Time In The (Death Star) Trenches. (One of the copies is for Linda Deneroff, who couldn't come to Loscon but will be at SMOFCon next week.) On top of that, Dave had Harry Turtledove autograph one of his books that I was going to buy from Cargo Cult. I was pleased to be able to thank Harry later for having done so when I saw him.

After dinner, Lisa and I took several loads of stuff that we will not need for the rest of Loscon down to the minivan to get it partially loaded for our departure tomorrow. We hope to leave no later than noon because something Lisa wants to do and to give us time to fight our way through traffic on what is scheduled as our shortest leg of the trip, but one that takes us on the way east out of the LA area.

Lisa started to wind down as I made a brief foray to the party floor.

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I used to enjoy the convention party scene much more than I do now, mainly because I need more sleep than I once did. I'm happy that lots of people were having a good time.

Lisa tells me that we're going to be back here next year. It may be slightly easier to do the trip next year as we'll just be driving home after next year's con rather than driving to Albuquerque and back afterwards.
Tonopah Westercon

Winter Road Trip Day 3: Loscon Friday

We had a leisurely breakfast buffet this morning in the hotel restaurant. (The Peppermill Saturday buffet is better for less money, but we're spoiled.) Father John Blaker joined up for breakfast, which was nice because we've not seen him for quite a while.

After breakfast, we set up our Westercon 74 Tonopah table. Not too long after we got there, we sold our first membership, at which point I realized that I'd left the receipt blanks (and also most of the registration forms) at home. Fortunately I had the material that I could copy in the FedEx Office business center inside the hotel, so got it sorted out eventually.

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We sold five attending memberships (including conversions from voting) today. We were at 101 attending members (plus the voting members from Utah who hadn't converted yet who are supporting members) as of a couple of weeks ago, so we're well on our way to the lower end of our projected 200-400 attending members. (Supporting members do not count toward our maximum 450 attendees because they aren't attending; we're constrained by the fire marshal's rated capacity of the Tonopah Convention Center.)

When we closed down just before 7 PM, Sally Woehrle (who is, among other things, chair of Westercon 73 in Sea-Tac next year and an Advisor to the Chair for Westercon 74) joined Lisa and me for dinner in the hotel. We have no energy for going off-site, and besides, I'd end up losing my good space in the parking garage if I did so.

We finished dinner around the time that the parties were starting, and we went to some of them just as they opened, but tried to pull ourselves away before 10 PM. I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted last night on account of having to fill out Westercon 74's responses to the SMOFCon Fannish Inquisition FAQ and writing about yesterday's Snow Adventure. Tonight we hope to get some rest, because tomorrow is another long day of talking about Westercon.

There was rarely a dull moment today, so if you've been trying to contact us by e-mail or through any of our social media accounts, expect some delay, as we're answering people in person here at Loscon.
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Winter Road Trip Day 2: Bishop to Los Angeles

We slept in for a couple of hours this morning, figuring that we should have had the worst of the snow behind us as we drove from Bishop to Los Angeles to attend Loscon. We were wrong.

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Our departure from Bishop was delayed a bit because Schat's Bakkery was open this Thanksgiving morning. This is a great place that I did not appreciate when I lived here in 1979-81. We bought a loaf of their sheepherder sourdough bread along with lunchmeat and cheese to make sandwiches later, as well as a loaf of raisin break and their chocolate chip cookies. We were lucky to escape with only that stuff, as their bread and other bakery goodies are excellent.

We'd assumed that the snow would abate as we headed south. Instead, it started getting worse.

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Out of the chain zone, we though we were in the clear. Wrong again.

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As we got closer to Lancaster marveling at the snow falling so heavily in an area that rarely gets such weather, the darn windshield wipers came loose again. Lisa carefully pulled off the freeway and re-secured them temporarily, but we clearly needed new wipers, and sooner, not later.

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After Lancaster is Palmdale. I found myself putting three words in a sentence that I never expected to run together.

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Finally, and much farther south than I would ever have expected, the snow turned into rain.

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We got to the LAX Marriott before sundown, which was a relief. We checked in, and a bellman worked with Lisa to take a cartload of our stuff up to our room while I parked. (I later moved into the parking garage to make it easier for us to move stuff back to the van when we leave on Sunday. I noticed that one day of self-parking at this hotel costs more than an entire four-day membership to Westercon 74.

After unpacking, Lisa and I registered for Loscon. There was no fan table reserved for Westercon 74 / CostumeCon 39, but Elayne Pelz at Registration told us than any unlabeled tables were available and directed me to go over to Operations and get a piece of paper and a marker and claim a table. Lisa and I set up the Westercon banner behind a convenient table and we then hung around for a few hours socializing with early arrivals.

Because of the adventure of the snowy drive, we ended up not having lunch today, so we went back to the hotel room and made sandwiches from the fixing we bought this morning. Big excitement, I know, but we had had enough. I worked on Westercon 74's responses to the SMOFCon convention questionnaire, and Lisa worked on getting her camera set up for some video we'll be shooting tomorrow. I'm glad we don't have to start early tomorrow.
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Winter Road Trip Day 1: Fernley to Bishop

Fortunately the Day Jobbe work was manageable as everyone else was working on getting away for their long holiday weekends as well, so I was able to shut down around 11:30 AM and start packing. Lisa had been staging material in the living room for the last couple of days, but I'd been behind on packing my personal stuff, and in the end I did end up leaving some things behind — nothing critical, but definitely annoying. I also forgot to go get my stack of $2 bills that I typically bring along on these road trips to use as tips.

There maybe was 1 cm of snow overnight, but much of it had melted by the time we started packing the Astro, which helped a lot. It was pretty cold, though. In the end, we managed to get away from Fernley House just before 1 PM.

Here was our route for today. There are shorter routes, but this was the only one that had a chance of not requiring us to put on the snow chains. I was nervous all morning, though, as both the Nevada and California road conditions web sites were showing chain controls over Montgomery Pass (US-6). However, by the time we got on the road this afternoon, the chain controls had lifted. The question was would they stay lifted.

We had very little precipitation fall on us heading south on US-95. Occasional snow flurries, but nothing to worry about. Clouds all around us, but they mostly seemed to be heading east and to the west and south it was slightly clearer. Our goal: get over the pass by dark.

South of Mina, we turned onto NV-360 and followed big rigs up into the mountains. Most traffic was heading our way, so when we got back into the snow, the trucks were helping keep the road relatively clear for us. We turned onto US-6 west for the climb over the summit. Light snow continued, but again, as long as Lisa kept a measured pace and left lots of room for the vehicles ahead of us, we seemed to be doing okay.

Just as we crested Montgomery Pass, the amount of slush being thrown up onto the windshield was enough to need to run the wipers for the first time since I had new wipers installed at Jiffy Lube when I had the oil changed. To our horror, we realized that the wipers were starting to come off! Fortunately, there was a pull-off just past the summit (it's a vista point for Boundary Peak, and the road department had cleared it, thank goodness). We got out and reinstalled the wipers. The Jiffy Lube guys hadn't installed the wipers properly. It would have been bad if the wipers had fallen off, that's for sure.

The adventure of the nearly-missing wipers was the most excitement we had on this drive, and I'm glad for that. We'd made our goal of getting over the pass by dark. By 5:30 PM, we reached our hotel in Bishop, the Vagabond Inn. After checking in, we went and refueled the Astro (more than $1/gallon more than gas in Fernley!), returned to the hotel, unpacked, and walked across the parking lot to have dinner at Denny's (where hotel guests get 10% off).

Tomorrow's trip is a little longer than today's, and there may be more snow on the roads here in the Owens Valley, but we still are not in a rush, so we have our fingers crossed for our Thanksgiving Day drive to the LAX Marriott.