Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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The Road to SMOFCon, Day 7: Abilene to Fort Worth TX

Today was our final day on the road before arriving at SMOFCon 33. Because we went farther yesterday than originally planned, we had extra time today, which we used sleeping in and then taking in some sights in downtown Abilene, Texas, including a remarkable series of Dr. Seuss statues.

T&P Depot

This was our first target: the restored Texas & Pacific Railroad station in downtown Abilene.

T&P Depot

The station has been restored to a beautiful condition, although it no longer hosts passenger trains. (The icon on this message is from the passenger underpass to the railroad tracks, with the passages to the former platforms fenced off.)

T&P Freight House Abilene

To the east, the former T&P Freight House has been re-purposed as office space.

Chocolate and Trains

To the west of the station is the former Railway Express Agency building, now home to a high-end chocolate shop. I asked Lisa if she wanted to go inside, but she demurred. "Too dangerous," she said.

Cat in the Hat

Between the T&P passenger station and the freight house is a park, with a series of Dr. Seuss statues, including this Cat in the Hat. Click through to see the others, including one where travelswithkuma gets into the act.

While exploring the train station area, Lisa spotted an interesting museum. Given the unlikelihood of us ever passing through here again, we decided to have a look at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum.

12th Armored Division Museum

We were only able to give this museum about two hours, which wasn't enough.

12th Armored Division Museum

The museum includes a display of military equipment outside, and three floors of displays inside, including not only the 12th Armored Division itself, but also material about the the German forces and also a Holocaust room, with emphasis on the camps the 12th liberated.

Professionals Study Logistics

In the basement, before a series of dioramas dramatizing the 12th Division's battles and also a prisoner-of-war camp display, is this placard emphasizing the importance of logistics, which appeals to me given what I do for a living.

We enjoyed the museum and wish we could have spent two more hours there, but we were now a couple of hours behind schedule even with the time we borrowed from yesterday, so we needed to get back on the road to Fort Worth.

Fort Worth Rail Yard

We got to the Sheraton Fort Worth around 5 PM and were able to move in to our hotel room with a minimum of trouble. Here's our view of the rail yard, just down from the passenger station. We were here at this station once before, a few years ago, on our return rail trip from Chicon 7 on the Texas Eagle. We understand at least some people have come to SMOFCon this year by rail, which would be quite convenient. In our case, it would have required going by train via Chicago, which wouldn't have been convenient at all.

The Sheraton is full tonight, which complicates matters, as we have a double-queen room when we'd rather have a single-king. Furthermore, the wired internet access doesn't work, nor does the room telephone plugged into the same connection box. I called this in, and presently a hotel engineer came up, examined the situation, agreed with my assessment of it (I'd checked the connection multiple ways), and concluded that the wires to the box were damaged during a recent renovation. He couldn't fix it without tearing up the carpet to look for the broken wire. His recommendation was that we try to change rooms tomorrow. While inconvenient (we've already unpacked everything), this is what we'll probably try to do tomorrow afternoon if we can manage it.

After Lisa had a bath and washed her hair, we headed down to register for the convention and pick up our t-shirts provided by Off World Designs. Registration was quick and easy, but I'm afraid that I'm unimpressed by the glitzy membership badge.

SMOFCon 33 Badge

That's not Kuma Bear wearing a tuxedo. He's holding up my membership badge, which on him looks more like a sandwich board. And despite the lovely production values, IMO it deemphasizes the most important single thing about a SMOFCon membership badge: the member's name. I wrote about this at extensive length some years ago in an article in Argentus #6 titled "Feeling Badgered?" wherein I contended that the most important thing on a membership badge isn't the name of the convention or fancy artwork or something high-security to prevent "theft of service," but the members' names in a typeface and display style easy to read at a distance without having to lean in close. This badge is huge (and helpfully does have a mini-program tucked in to the back of the badge), but it's mostly useless IMO. Worse, the lanyards being supplied are single-point connections that will flop around, so that the badges are wrong-way-round half the time. (Lisa and I carry clips so this won't be a problem for us.) If you're going to do lanyards, never do single-point connection. Make the lanyards double-point, connecting to the upper left and right corners of the badge, to reduce flopping.

Maybe I'm just being unnecessarily grumpy, but at a convention where the point is networking with other conrunners, being able to read the other members' names should be a high priority. (Lisa points out that having where people are from would also be valuable. When I did the badges for SMOFCon 17 in New Orleans, I printed both the name and city/state/country in large, prominent type.) Or is the assumption that everyone at this convention already knows everyone else?

Lisa and I went out looking for something to eat, but there is almost nothing close to the hotel, and the range of restaurants some blocks away did not particularly enthuse us. We ended up heading back to the hotel and ordering in a pizza. Although the room doesn't have a mini-fridge, Lisa brought the electric ice chest including the 120VAC->12VDC power supply so we can run it on AC in the room, which gives us a place to store drinks and such, and that's something of a relief, although there doesn't seem to be many places downtown where we can restock on supplies.

We've ordered room service breakfast for tomorrow morning because Lisa is assisting with a four-hour-long workshop starting at 10 AM tomorrow on the subject of "Public Speaking for Bidders" with her contribution being the video-recording aspect of the task, and we can't afford to get tangled up in how to get breakfast. Pity there's no Waffle House within walking distance.
Tags: lisa, smofcon, trains, travel

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