Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

World Fantasy Con 2014 Trip

World Fantasy Con 2014 Trip

WFC2014 was held in Washington, DC, area at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA, November 6-9. Our initial intent was to stay at the con hotel, but in researching it I learned that it was valet parking only, so we opted to stay with friends nearby instead. As usual we drove out from Phoenix, AZ, staying along the way in Albuquerque, NM as well as Oklahoma City, OK, followed by Memphis, TN, then a smaller town near Roanoke, VA, before arriving at our friends' apartment complex. They were in the process of remodeling, so had rented a second unit to stay in which we got to use for our stay. After moving in our stuff we did dinner together before crashing for the night (Wed).

Thursday was the start of the convention, so we did lunch in the area, then were shown how to take the bus that stops out front to another bus which then stops at the subway. We only had to take that one stop before exiting. The hotel had a regular shuttle from that subway stop, so we got that for free and arrived at the hotel. After getting our registration material we oriented ourselves with the hotel and where the convention function rooms were located, then returned to the lobby lounge for drinks. We saw lots of friends there and chatted with a few until dinner time. We asked the hotel for suggestions, then headed out to find something. It was almost too far for Jean, but she survived it and we got back in time to see a few things at the con before reversing our path via the hotel subway shuttle, then subway, then bus number 1 and finally bus number 2. We retired to our apartment unit to relax and get online.

Friday we took a cab directly to the hotel so I could get there for the 10am board meeting. I was presenting a bid for Tempe for WFC2016/7/8. Unfortunately, there were many concerns about the Autograph Reception location; last time we did it in the courtyard of the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and this time the board wanted a larger indoor venue. They voted to reject the site and asked me to find a larger one with more sleeping rooms. We returned to the lounge for drinks to discuss the decision, then headed to the Art Show and Dealers Room. We chatted with more friends until dinner which was in the lounge itself and rather good. We wandered around the Autograph Reception that evening until we took a cab back to the apartment complex for the night.

Saturday was more of the same. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out with a local friend who was an artist and attended the Artists Reception with him. We hadn't seen him since his move from the West Coast to the East Coast, but he seemed to be doing well. Sunday I had to be back for another 10am board meeting and we got a summary of how DC did for attendance, room nights, etc. We didn't attend the banquet, instead opting to return to the apartment complex early so we could drive to a dining location offsite. We chatted with our friends until late, then crashed. Monday we packed up and headed home. We stayed in essentially the same cities, although the hotels varied a bit, and we made it home safely. Our dog that we board for such trips was happy to come home. Our cats that we use a petsitter for were equally happy to have us back. We were happy to be back in our bed and begin the process of catching up on regular chores and re-establish our routines.

Overall, we had a good time with our friends, both offsite and onsite. It was disappointing to lose the bid for WFC2016/7/8, but as a fellow board member I understood their concerns. The deadline of the end of the year produced no suitable candidates for replacement (400+ room hotels in the beginning of tourist season didn't fall within the board's room rate interval) so I had to drop the bid altogether. Thankfully, Columbus, OH, stepped up and successfully ran for 2016 and won. WFC2015 will be in Saratoga Springs, NY; they ran a good one in 2007 there, too. Columbus ran a good one in 2010, so they were a known quantity although the Chair arrangement will be different in 2016. And there are bids for 2017 and 2018. We shall see who wins the bid(s) this year in New York!
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Worldcon 2014 (Loncon 3) / Eurocon (Shamrokon) / Reunion Trip Review

Once again my wife and I made plans to attend Worldcon, Loncon 3. In 2014 it was in London, UK, at the ExCel convention center in the Docklands area of the city down-river from the downtown areas best known. This year was more complex because Eurocon, Shamrokon, was in Dublin, Ireland, the following weekend. To further complicate our plans, my wife's 50th high school reunion in West Virginia was the weekend after that. So after much study we opted to drive to the east coast, stay with friends one night and leave our van at their place, fly out of Dulles airport for London by way of Dublin (which was cheaper than going through London first), renting a car, and touring the southern half of England prior to Worldcon. We then attended Loncon 3, played tourist for a day in the city, transferred to an airport hotel and flew back to Dublin to attend Shamrokon, toured Northern Ireland, UK, which we had never seen, then flew back to the east coast. We stayed with friends one more night, then drove to WV for her event, then home. Whew!

We left Phoenix in mid-August and took four days to get to Virginia. We hung out with our friends, whom would later join us in London and then Dublin, then flew United to Dublin. A fan in Pennsylvania had suggested to us to check out options going through Dublin first. I looked into Dulles-London (Heathrow), then London-Dublin, then either forward to Dulles or back to London first. Lo and behold, going through Dublin first and last was indeed cheaper! Since we were departing and returning to Dulles, and not Phoenix, it made sense to do that. The portion between Dublin and London was on Aer Lingus, but affiliated with United. The first leg was good enough, but we had issues with service coming back. Our friends, in the meantime, opted to fly over to London City Airport (very close to Loncon 3) and so had to go through a European airport first to get there. We looked at that option, but I really wanted a two-leg flight for Jean's benefit and the LCA option required at least three legs.

We arrived at Heathrow airport, rented our car and headed to Guildford, southwest of London, where Jean has a long distance cousin. We had arranged to get together after our arrival, but due to traffic and GPS issues we got to the Holiday Inn Hotel there later than planned. Her cousin had left a message at the front desk and when we called to coordinate our schedules they had already gotten back home. So, we ate at the hotel instead for dinner. We had a couple of issues with not getting what we ordered and the hotel apologized, giving us a discount when we checked out the next day which was nice. After checkout we left and headed north towards Preston. The reason for Preston is that it was about a day's drive in the general direction of the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT), a panopticon (sculpture artwork) in north central England, that Jean wanted to visit. I researched where it was and decided since it was in the middle of the island we should stay west the first night. We had a challenging time filling the car as the gas cap wouldn't open and there was no release button. I enlisted the help of the staff inside the fueling station and one ended up looking up the make and model's manual online. Turns out I had to lock the car with the key fob, then unlock it, then push on the door to the filling cap. I am not kidding! So Holiday Inn Express here we came. I had an interesting experience running out for Chinese Take-Away (To-Go), but I managed to find the restaurant and the food was great. The hotel had a comped breakfast in the morning, then we packed up and headed east towards Burnaby a bit closer to the SRT.

The first part of the journey to find the SRT was to take the freeway east, reach the town of Burnaby, then head south towards where Google Maps showed the SRT to be located. Strangely, there were no directions online on how to reach the SRT. All articles said it was south of the town, but there were no highway or road directions. I did print the page with its GPS coordinates which helped tremendously, but we saw lots of countryside back and forth, around and around, until we found the correct road. It didn't help that it had been raining all day either. So by the time we reached the (dirt/mud) parking lot it was mucky. We could see the tree off in the distance, about half a mile away, but there was no way Jean was going to make that journey on foot in that weather. So, we took some photos and left for our next stop in Hull along the eastern side of England. Once again we chose a Holiday Inn Express downtown, but this one was attached to a shopping mall. Parking was in the mall itself and the lobby connected on the second level. After checking in I hit the mall for dinner and discovered the American Burger Company, or some such. Had to try that. While waiting for our burgers and fries I chatted with the workers and learned a bit about the area. Except for having to pay for parking (one of the parameters I tried to use for filtering hotel options was free parking, fail here) it was a good stay. They also had the comp breakfast and we got the get-out-of-parking-at-a-discount ticket from the hotel lobby before leaving. We drove along the eastern coast, which we have never seen previously, until we got to East Rudham in Norwich. Here was another site, a Dragon Hedge, carved by a farmer just outside of town. I had to stop at a pub for directions, but we found it after that and took some pictures. It was a working farm and I took some photos of that, too. Then we left to stay in Norwich itself at yet another Holiday Inn Express. This one was next to a facility that was very busy and just downhill from ASDA, the British Walmart affiliate. We did go out for dinner somewhere nearby that was relatively unremarkable, then returned for the night.

After breakfast we hit the ASDA to stock up on water and munchies, then headed along the southeast coast until we got to Dover. We had visited Dover in 2010, so this would complete our southeast loop. We had a big problem using the GPS to get where we wanted to go as it kept trying to route us into London. Turns out we told the GPS to avoid toll roads and there was one bridge, a toll bridge, that would take us across the waterway to where we did want to go, but to avoid a toll we had to go to London instead. I finally gave up looping around (and avoiding the toll portion of London, think anti-smog fee for the inner ring roads) and paid the darn toll. We reached Dover from the north, then shot up to Ashford just southeast of London's ring freeway. Here we had a Holiday Inn, but again a fail in that they only had us on the second floor (in Europe the first upstairs floor is the first floor, so it was really their first floor) with no elevator. Drat! Jean managed to slowly negotiate the stairs after checking in, then we came downstairs to eat at the hotel restaurant. A server told us to come back in 30 minutes as they were too busy. Since they had empty tables, I asked to speak to the restaurant manager. Turns out he was cooking! So I planted Jean in a chair and went to the front desk. "May I speak to your Manager on Duty?" "Probably not as he's cooking." You see the problem. I had just purchased dinner coupons at the front desk, so I asked for a refund. I escorted Jean back upstairs and I then went out for take away instead. It was not remarkable, but at least Jean could rest in comfort of our room instead of an uncomfortable chair near a restaurant that didn't want our business. So far the Holiday Inns, not the Expresses, had both been challenges on our trip. We did eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant in the morning, then filed a complaint when we checked out. This time we got no compensation for our inconvenience. It seems most of the staff, including the manager and cook, were relatively new.

We headed out for the ExCel area of London next. I got the car as close to the Novotel Hotel as I could, got someone to come downstairs with a luggage cart to help us unload our rental car, then Jean went with the cart and I went to London City Airport to return the car. I lambasted the returns desk for not supplying a manual so I could have figured out the gas cap unlock system and they just stared at me. I accidentally left our handicap hanger in the car, so we had to order a new one when we returned home, but we got everything else out thankfully. I caught a cab back to the hotel and we checked in and settled in. Our VA friends had already arrived, so we did dinner in the hotel restaurant where I had some wonderful lamb dish. We caught up on our trip experiences and we crashed. The next day I walked over to the ExCel to check in for both of us and to retrieve Jean's mobile scooter I had reserved. Thankfully, I got to Registration on the far eastern portion of the convention center (about one kilometer away from our hotel) before the hordes arrived. I checked in and then went to the Accessibility Desk for the scooter. The fellow was just delivering them and was surprised because he had no reservation for us. What? Turns out he had an extra, which I took, but I could not pay the convention; instead I had to pay him and he could only take cash. So, I had to find an ATM and withdraw enough cash to rent it for the con. I insisted on a receipt and he agreed, then I drove it back to the hotel for Jean's use. Thankfully, the con had gotten us into a room with walk-in shower and it was large enough for us to park the scooter next to the bed and still maneuver on foot. The con was still setting things up, so when I went back I wandered around to orient myself. It was on several levels on the east end with the long march through the center itself with lots of restaurants and shops. Many were closed, since Loncon 3 wasn't that large by their standards and it wasn't fully open yet, but they had plenty of food options from American chains to ethnic choices. The Dealers Room / Art Show was on the western side of the con's space along with Exhibits. The eastern side down one level was Reg, Flyer Racks, and the Fan Village. The latter was where the beer, ale and cider was sold along with Convention Operations, fan tables under portable 10'x10' tents here and there, and Gaming. That's also where the parties were to be at night thanks to their food handling laws. Upstairs above the FV was Programming rooms. These were on the north side of the concourse; they used some rooms on the south side, but you had to walk through an empty exhibit hall to the far south wall, then take an elevator (or stairs) up to another level. That part was really isolated from the rest of the convention. On the way back to the hotel Jean and I opted for Indian, but instead of a choice of sit-down vs buffet we discovered it was buffet only. It was ok, but not great. After dinner we met up with our friends to analyze the convention layout and discuss food options.

The first day of the con we met for breakfast, which was buffet and quite good at the hotel, then wandered over to check out the con. Boy were they slammed at Registration! Lines were reminiscent of San Diego Comic Con. Thankfully, we didn't need to visit Reg again. I found the Sasquan fan table (Spokane Worldcon 2015) to help out and when I had a moment I wandered the Fan Village to find out where other cons' fan tables were located. There was no symmetry on how the tents were arranged, so the tables just kind of meandered around. There was a seating area for folks with beers and such. Except for the pricing it worked pretty well. So I helped at the table while Jean and our friends saw the rest of the con. There were issues with scooters and the small elevators, so the con devised a scheme to use cargo elevators for those with accessibility issues. It took a day to get this right and Jean was not allowed to go upstairs one day, so she returned to the hotel instead. I did lunch with some American friends and we chatted about the con's configuration, then back to help at the Sasquan table again. By dinner time the con shut down except for the big events. I watched Opening Ceremonies on the south side with some tiered seating and it went pretty well. Other events would be in that exhibit hall during the weekend. We synced up with friends for dinner after nearby as there were many hotels on the west side of the center near us as well as restaurants, then compared notes for the day.

Con day 2 was more of the same. Fan table, business meeting, some programming, lunch with friends, more table, etc. The parties at night were in the FV and it was strangely working out ok. At an American Worldcon we would have had party suites, but Europe doesn't really do that. The FV was Loncon 3's solution. It was extremely expensive for groups as all food & beverages had to come through the center's caterer. As such there were fewer parties. Day 3 was when Sasquan was hosting its party in the same tent as Kansas City had their fan tables. Voting closed this day, so KC wasn't throwing a party as it was vote count night. They were unopposed, but they still don't do that. They kindly let us use their tent and tables, but Sasquan spent $3000 on f&b! It went well and was a lot of work. We got a number of memberships there, in addition to the fan table throughout the weekend. Day 4 was when KC was announced as the winner for Worldcon 2016, MidAmeriCon II; MAC I was in 1976. Besides the fan table we had to get ready to host the Hugo Losers Party. Some of our staff went out shopping for it and the rest of us helped run it that night. The Hugo Awards Ceremony was in that large southern exhibit hall. Prior was the Hugo Pre-Reception, sponsored by Loncon 3 and I got to attend it for the first time. I was well underdressed :-) Jean and I attended the Hugos, then she returned to the hotel while I followed the crowd around to the designated southern room on a higher floor where the Losers Party was held sponsored by Sasquan. I ended up entertaining the folks waiting down the long corridor to get in, then helped at the serving tables. Folks had tickets for drinks, but food was for all. It went well enough, but the long line was caused by the reg desk system we used and we took some hits over that snafu. But people had a good time and we survived it.

Day 5 was the last day of the con. I had to return Jean's scooter by a certain time and ours was the last one returned. We wrapped up the fan table, said goodbye to our annual friends, and met folks for dinner one last time. We had planned one day of touring London with our VA friends before shifting gears to Dublin, so the day after L3 we took a cab from the hotel to the Tower of London. We walked a lot getting there from our dropoff point and then we walked a lot while there, but it was fun. As we were leaving to snag another cab I saw across the street three businesses side by side: Subway, Starbucks and Baskin Robbins. I spread my arms out wide and yelled "We won!" The locals just looked at me and kept walking. We caught a cab for the National Archives because our friends had worked for them in the US in DC; one still did while the other was retired. Once there three of us hung out in the restaurant to their building while he went off to see what he could. We met an interesting Scottish college student there and chatted with her for awhile until our fourth returned. We then took a cab to the Thames to catch a water taxi back to the ExCel area. The taxi got us close, then we took the sky cars across the river to the ExCel side. Our one friend is afraid of heights, so she kept her eyes closed the entire time. As we walked back towards our hotel we ran into a Lebanese restaurant, so we ate dinner there and it was quite good. Next to us was Dr Gregory Benford of Los Angeles. We chatted with him on and off during dinner, then we returned to the hotel one last time. After checkout the next day our friends left for the city airport to catch a flight to Dublin while we transferred to a Holiday Inn near Heathrow. Heathrow is west of downtown London while city airport is southeast. We decompressed there rather than play tourist again, then flew to Dublin to following day. We synced up with our VA friends at the DoubleTree Hotel Burlington. Strangely, their restaurant was breakfast only. If you want lunch or dinner, you either eat in the lobby in the light or in the large bar/pub in the dark. For our first night we opted for neither. Jean went to the room and I went out walking, finding an interesting pizza place about a quarter mile around the corner. After dinner in our room I wandered around and found a few people I knew from L3, so chatted with them before crashing.

Breakfast was included and it was crowded. We met our VA friends, then got registered for Shamrokon. Sasquan had a fan table there, so I helped on and off with that. We opted to do no party as they had theirs in function space, too, but it wasn't nearly as large. Since Dublin was starting a bid for Worldcon 2019 the Bid Chair arranged for a tour of their new convention center. I went on that on day 2 and it was smaller than ours, but quite nice and modern. However, on day 1, we all took a cab to the Guiness Brewery for a tour. There was a lot of walking through the multiple floors of exhibits, but we survived to reach the top floor for the comp glass of beer. Our one friend got most of them as I don't really like that stuff, just on occasion. The view was quite nice though as it was essentially a 360 degree view of the city from a tall building. We left there to cab over to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. We had more lines and more walking, but it was worth it and afterwards we entered the library and gift shop. Awesome library! We bought some books in the shop, then returned to the con hotel by cab. Dinner was three of us at a nearby Irish restaurant and I got takeaway for Jean at the hotel. I socialized with fans in the bar/pub after, then called it a night. Day 2 was more of the same, but with the center tour. It looks very doable. I again helped at the table, then did dinner with other friends at the same Irish restaurant as the night before, then experienced Dublin's version of the party plan. It was in a large meeting room and had organizational tables, book tables, food and drink available. I hung out with some fans near the back at a banquet table and had a good time. The final day of the con was shorter. We sold more Sasquan memberships, then helped them shut the con down. We ended up doing dinner with our friends in the hotel pub this time and other American fans joined us throughout the meal. We shut down early so we could pack for the next day.

We did one final breakfast with our VA friends who headed off to the airport to fly home. I took a cab to the airport to rent our car, returned to pick up Jean after checking out and we drove off to Belfast in Northern Ireland! We were surprised to find essentially no border issues when crossing over. There was a sign that said Welcome To Northern Ireland, you are now using miles. The drive was easy and we found our hotel outside of Belfast easily, Hilton Templepatrick. It was located in a suburb and had a huge golf course. We got checked in, then ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. Most hotel restaurants in Europe are only open a few hours; you have to rely on their pubs beyond those hours. We had a nice meal though, again it was lamb for me. The next day we planned to drive past Belfast for the eastern coast, then north along the coast, then west along that coast all the while hitting the National Trust Landmarks. The Irish Sea drive along the east was beautiful! Little towns, roadway right along the water, some of the houses practically at sea level. When we got to the northeast we hit Carrick-a-Reid Rope Bridge landmark. Paid the fee and I parked. Jean didn't want to walk all the way to see it, so I did and took pictures, paying to cross. It is basically a rope and wooden bridge from the main island to a much smaller one. I got talking on the way back with a British couple and we compared notes on our respective federal retirement systems. I reached the car, showed Jean all the photos I took, and we headed off west towards the next landmark, Giant's Causeway. This was a collection of polygon shaped columns of various heights along the coast that are geologically related to some in Iceland and all the way to Newfoundland in Canada. I could have taken a shuttle to some of the sights, but I walked instead. And took photos. I returned to show them to her and we continued our drive west until just outside of Londonderry (northwest Northern Ireland). Looking at the map I was surprised to see that northwest Ireland was just farther west from there, but we didn't have time. Instead we drove back towards our hotel. We decided to look for dinner and using our GPS we found a Chinese Restaurant nearby that was quite excellent. The server was from Romania so we had a great chat about the three countries (Romania, US, UK). We returned to our hotel to unwind.

After breakfast and checkout we drove down the southeast coast and all its peninsulas until we ran out and headed back to Dublin. We planned to stay near the airport, this time in a Premier Inn (the same chain we used in 2010 when we toured the UK and got stuck there for 9 extra days). However, our GPS wouldn't bring it up. No problem, I printed out directions. Yeah right. After a frustrating hour of trying to find it I realized that I could just call for help. They never answered their phone; instead, it threw us into an infinite loop between one option and the operator. I finally realized that I had their GPS coordinates on my printout and I figured out how to get the GPS into coordinate mode. I then just drove until the numbers got closer and closer. Voila! There is was. Turns out they had changed affiliation recently, so the GPS didn't know they were now Premier Inn. I mentioned our problem with reaching them by phone. They apologized, and gave us free dinner discounts. We used those and despite the slow service had a nice meal. The next day after breakfast we returned our car and flew back to Dulles. The flight from London to Dublin hadn't gone well as Aer Lingus left my wife abandoned in a wheelchair and didn't give us time to board before the masses were allowed on. The flight to London wasn't much of a problem though. And we had no issue with United, either. When we landed at Dulles our friends had arranged for a town car to fetch us and we stayed with them one more night. We compared notes post-arrival, then crashed. The next day we packed up, said goodbye, grabbed lunch and hit the road. Getting out of the DC area was a royal pain! Since it was Labor Day Weekend everyone was trying to leave. We were in heavy traffic for many hours and many miles. We drove through Maryland to West Virginia, then stayed along the interstate instead of in town due to the price of hotels where my wife grew up. We had lots of trouble finding it too. Guess what? It had changed affiliation recently as well. Guess what? They put us on the second floor with no elevator. Two fails. The next day we went shopping for some new clothing, then had some trouble finding the site for the reunion. Google Maps showed it here, but it turns out that was the old location. We had no idea where to go from there, so we called the site's phone number. Closed for the weekend. However, their website had an emergency number which turned out to belong to the treasurer who was out of state, but walked us through the directions. We finally found it many miles south of town and pulled up. Then we walked up to the first floor only to find that was another group and the reunion was on the second floor. At last we made it. Jean introduced herself and we got our badges, found a place to sit, and chatted with various folks she went to school with or recognized. Many came up to me and said they didn't remember me; that's because I didn't graduate from your school, my wife did. Some remembered Jean; some did not. Some were rather cliquish and sat together instead of joining us where we sat; a few others did join us. Some that Jean knew never came by to say hi while others did. The food was buffet style after the group photo. Jean did get to reconnect with her cousin and they are now in touch again. Most of the rest of those she wanted to see didn't bother to go to the reunion. Turns out many of them had been snubbed at previous reunions so they blew it off. I had a good time. We returned to our hotel and the next day we left to drive back home. It took us five days to do so, but we made it safely and uneventfully.

Overall this was a great trip. It was complex to plan for, but the plan worked out pretty well. We saw old friends, made new ones, got to play tourist in London, Dublin and Northern Ireland (for the first time). Very memorable. Worldcon and Shamrokon were great events. Food was mostly good. Lots of fond memories :-)
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

San Diego Comic Con 2014 Review

San Diego Comic Con 2014 Review

Having survived the memorable LibertyCon 27 / Westercon 67 (see previous post) trip we looked forward to a docile SDCC. Jean and I were, once again, working full time on staff; she worked Artists Alley Check-In and I worked Programming. Jean needed to be at work early Wednesday morning in mid-July, so we drove over Tuesday. Manchester Grand Hyatt was our hotel of choice for two reasons: they have self-parking (unlike lots of hotels in San Diego during Comic Con); they are on the same side of the trolley tracks as the Convention Center (thus preventing a frustrating experience waiting for the trolleys to pass in order to return to the hotel). We shared our room with a friend from northeastern Arizona (first trip to SDCC) and an artist friend from Chicago. 2014 was the last year we got free passes by being on staff. Apparently, the State of California decided to change the law (or interpret the law differently) so that the convention had to pay sales tax on the advertised value of the free passes (or so the story goes).

Jean had to go to work early, so she left before I got up. After cleaning up I did lunch at Seaport Village (outside the Hyatt) with AZ friend before we walked to the CC to get our badges. I was due to work doing tech check-in where program participants test their hardware / software using the con's equipment (actually, rented from the CC) in advance of their program items later in the weekend. I worked until late afternoon and returned to the hotel room to find Jean napping; she had gotten off work earlier, so was resting. Artist friend was setting up in Artists Alley and AZ friend had wandered around downtown San Diego to kill time. He and I did dinner nearby, then brought some back for Jean. I returned to the CC for the Program Team meeting Wed night. We got our orientation, updated on the latest and greatest policies, and returned to the hotel. Artist friend was back so we all talked until we ran out of steam and crashed.

Thursday meant starting work about 9am. I put on my SDCC grey shirt (Programming uses light grey polo shirts) and walked to the CC. Upstairs I grabbed a soda and visited the Program Office to check in. As usual I was in charge of Room 6A and learned who my team would be over the weekend. Say hello to the tech guys along the wall (one for audio, one for video), put up the name placards, make sure the water pitchers have fresh water, be sure the correct number of seat covers are out for the reserved (green), deaf (yellow) and handicap (red) seats. Ushers were in place and I remembered several from the previous year and met the new ones. Later in the day my AZ friend showed up all excited like a kid in a candy store. I found him a seat and he enjoyed the program in the room. We took off for lunch to Seaport Village, grabbed a sandwich and drink, and returned so I could go back to work. More programming until 5pm when I got off work and went back to the hotel. We did dinner offsite, then returned for more conversation before getting online. As usual I had to wash my polo shirt to reuse Saturday (they only let us have two polos per weekend).

Friday was more of the same. Programming, lunch, more programming, dinner out. We have our usual places to hit for food and hope to find new places as well. We met local friends tonight and caught up on stuff. Jean stayed in the hotel to rest, so AZ friend and I did food and I brought dinner back for Jean. We had a good time before bed. Washed shirt for reuse Sunday.

Saturday was similar except that AZ friend opted to stay in my room all morning. He arrived before we opened, so I picked the best seat in the room for him. Front row, middle section, just left of the head tables on risers and just right of the big screen for camera feeds and video. He said later during lunch that in between each event he had comic fans rush up to ask if he were moving. "No way dude!" Afternoon programming was good and I got off duty at 5pm again. We did dinner elsewhere with more friends while AZ friend checked out the Masquerade. Conversation later before sleeping. No washing polo shirt, yay!

Sunday was the last day of the con. More programming, lunch, more programming, then wrap-up Programming meeting. Met everyone at hotel, headed off for special dinner north of downtown, back to relax and reminisce the weekend. Oh, and I left the polo shirts at the meeting; had to bring my t-shirt to put on at the end of the day.

Monday brought packing up, checking out and heading home. We said goodbye to artist friend and brought AZ friend back to our place to retrieve his car. It was an uneventful drive back along I-8 to SR85 to I-10 to SR202. He was so jazzed that he asked to work in Programming for 2015. I told him I'd recommend him. That way he'd get a comped staff badge :-)

After 20+ years of working SDCC as staff it all blurs together. I got to meet Evangeline Lily, see a couple of premier television episodes, make some new friends and see some old ones one more time. And it's San Diego in July vs Phoenix in July. No brainer!
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

LibertyCon 27 / Westercon 67 (2014) Review

LibertyCon 27 / Westercon 67 (2014) Review

In late June 2014 my wife and I drove out to Chattanooga, TN, from Phoenix, AZ, to attend LibertyCon 27. Our friend, Uncle Timmy Bolgeo, started it and ran it for 25 straight years! He turned it over to his daughter, Brandy, who now Chairs it. We decided to drive our 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid instead of our 2010 Honda Odyssey Van. The Civic got much better mileage (37 vs 22 mpg) and had fewer miles (just over 120K with an extended warranty to 140K). Since we weren't bidding any sf/f cons we didn't need the extra cargo space, so we sacrificed that for better mileage. The vehicle made it fine in three days and we had a great convention. Our friends from Virginia drove down and we hung out together, attended programming, ate at nearby restaurants and got to spend some time with old friends. We toured Australia with Timmy in 1999 and 2010 as well as part of New Zealand in 2010.

We arrived the day before the con started (Thu) and left the day after the con ended (Mon). It was held at the Choo Choo Hotel in downtown Chattanooga and was made up of three buildings, interestingly called Hotel 1, Hotel 2 and Hotel 3. Consuite (hospitality) was at the clubhouse next to the outdoor pool and centrally located. Parties were in Hotel 2. The function space was in a separate building next to the public parking garage with multiple rooms including a tiered theater. They also utilized a room in one of the Pullman Cars permanently anchored to a train track on the property. That's where the readings were held and I got to visit my friend, Les Johnson, a physicist manager and also a fiction & non-fiction published author. The cars are located next to the water garden walkway between the hotel lobby and Hotel 1 which, at night, is dominated by frogs making interesting noises until you walk by. Don't get that here in Phoenix! We had a great time and the Closing Ceremonies had almost the entire convention attending. It really is one big happy family there, unlike almost all other conventions I attend.

On Monday after Liberty we headed out for Salt Lake City, UT, and Westercon 67. Our GPS path to Kansas City, MO, for our first night's lodging took us through the toe of KY. The first glitch to our trip occurred when our tire went flat on the freeway. I labored in the heat and humidity to get the spare installed and, thankfully, a nice fellow stopped to help. He refused to accept funds for gas and so I thanked him. As we were driving down the road the spare went flat! Now we were dead in the water. I called AAA and asked for a tow to the nearest Costco in Nashville, TN, so we could get a new tire (or two). This occurred and, as luck would have it, the tow truck driver got us there 5 minutes before closing (830pm)! The store's tire center thankfully stayed open to handle our tire problem and discovered that our original tire had gone flat due to sun rot. We had parked the car for an extended time until we could get the extended warranty before we hit 120K, so the tires took a beating in the Phoenix summer. The fellow's inspection showed that all four tires were rotted, so we ended up with four new tires before we left Nashville.

We retraced our path through rural KY and I was tired so we switched drivers. I was dozing when I heard the rumble strips on the left freeway shoulder and came to as my wife was avoiding something in the roadway. She caught part of the downhill median, overcorrected and we headed towards the jersey barrier along the right shoulder. She swerved, but we fishtailed into it and the side airbag went off while we spun around about 3 times! We came to without any traffic around us and we were pointed diagonally across the right lane along the shoulder. I managed to get out and found the right side of the car messed up, the trunk was really chewed up, but otherwise we were ok. I had a burn along my arm from the airbag, but that was it. The car was still running, so we swapped places and tried to drive away until the trunk caused the right rear tire to deflate and we were, once again, dead in the water. So I called AAA again and gave them our location just inside KY from IL state line. Two hours later and several highway patrol car visits later the tow truck arrived. It seems the dispatcher gave him our location incorrectly. He did load up our car and returned us to the nearest town so we could get a hotel, empty out the car (three luggage carts full) and agreed to take our car to his body shop. We had already notifed our insurance company while we waited for the tow truck. It took awhile, but we finally crashed after cancelling our hotel rooms in KC and Cheyenne, WY.

In the morning we called around after some research online and found that Enterprise Rent-a-Car was affiliated with our insurance company. So they picked me up and arranged for a rental car without us having to pay a thing! We got a VW Jetta diesel and, although it got great mileage, was not the most comfortable car I've ever driven. Returning to the hotel we managed to get everything into the back seat and trunk from our Civic and we were off again through rural KY. We had made a new hotel reservation for Lincoln, NE, so despite the extra distance we made it late, but safely Tue night. Wed we continued on to SLC and arrived at the W67 hotel without incident. We checked in, parked, and settled in for the convention. As luck would have it I ran into some friends with whom we ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and hung out in the lobby until it was time to head horizontal.

Thursday of Independence Day Weekend was the first day of the con and we got our badges, then I visited the Sasquan (Worldcon 2015 Spokane) fan table to lend a hand. 3 of the 4 Worldcon 2017 bidders were present along with some other groups including Portland, OR, as they were bidding for W69 in 2016. So I helped out at the table, toured the facilities, had lunch with friends, did some more table-sitting, had dinner with friends nearby and hit the parties upstairs. Portland had their party and a few others promoting 2017 Worldcon. I wasn't up too late thankfully.

Friday was more of the same. Site selection closed that evening, so I made sure that Jean and I pre-supported Portland before voting. They ran unopposed and won easily, unlike the previous Portland bid for W66 headed by a fan from Seattle that lost to a hoax bid. See Westercon 64 Business Meeting online for details. More meals with friends and more parties.

Saturday was the Fannish Inquisition for Worldcons and I got to participate in Sasquan's presentation as a general update. The 2016 Worldcon gave a brief update, then on to the 2017 bidders. It went pretty well. Then more table-sitting, more meals and more parties including Portland's victory party.

Sunday was the last day of W67. We wrapped up our Sasquan fan table membership selling as did the other fan groups and found a few fans with whom to dine offsite. Unfortunately, the first two places selected were closed due to the holiday so we had to settle for third place which turned out to be quite nice. It was far enough from the hotel that I had to drive Jean there, then back, but we had in/out privileges. Dead Dog happened and we had great conversations in the hotel bar until late.

Monday we headed home, staying overnight in Las Vegas, NV, on the way. Tuesday we arrived safely and after emptying the rental car I touched base with Enterprise. No rush to return the car until they heard from our insurance company to do so. We used it for a few more days until the company notified them to have us return it which we did. At that point we were using our van only. We learned from the company that our car was totaled and that payment was supposed to arrive before we left for San Diego Comic Con. It didn't thanks to an address snafu, so we found it when we returned. I then used the funds to pay off one of our credit cards. And we settled for using the van only from then on.

Needless to say, this trip was quite traumatic, but we were not hurt seriously. We enjoyed both of the conventions and met nice folks along the way. It will remain one of the most memorable convention trips taken!
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

LepreCon 40 (2014) Review

Lep40 was held at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel (aka Mesa Marriott) in downtown Mesa, AZ. The traditional dates of Mothers Day Weekend were observed once again. And, once again, I was both Hotel Liaison and Treasurer.

Thursday of the con weekend we took possession of some of the function space including the Sedona Room where Staff Lounge was located. Sedona really is three rooms opened up into two, making a large room, and a third with a board table. In the past we had used it as Consuite in the two-room side, then Staff Lounge or Green Room in the boardroom side. This time we swapped them. As such Consuite was rather Spartan and the con took negative feedback about it. The staff loved the larger side though.

Fan tables were set up in the foyer of the convention center building, not to be confused with the city-owned Mesa Convention Center next door. We also set up Registration outside of Ballroom H, also called the Boardroom just to make things more confusing, rather than the lobby like we did for LepreCon 39 (2013) which worked well. Dealers Room was in Ballroom D and G while Program was in ABC and EF. Art Show had taken EFG in past years, but it was moved to the Canyon Room, formerly the restaurant. In the past Canyon had been used for Special Events. Starlight, attached to the east end of Canyon, was once again Gaming. The second floor room above the pool was also Program.

After stopping by an ATM to withdraw enough cash to open Reg, Art Show and have a reserve for the Charity Auction I performed the pre-convention damage walkthru with the hotel, identifying any existing damage to walls or carpet or ceilings, then helped Reg open. I made sure that the Fan Tables were identified correctly as to who got what, made a pass through the Dealers Room while they were setting up, and checked in on Art Show also during setup.

Jean was Guest Liaison, so we fetched Gail Carriger from the airport, got her and her guest checked in, then took them to dinner at Carlsbad Tavern in Scottsdale for New Mexican Food. We returned to hang out in Staff Lounge and check on the progress of things. Reg shut down and I backed up the data, counted the money and turned it in to our safety deposit box with the hotel. Jean and I went home for a bit to feed pets, then came back for the night at the con hotel.

Friday was to open Reg, do lunch, check on the progress of things, interface with the hotel and put out fires here and there. Since the official Guest-of-Honor dinner was moved to Saturday we went offsite for dinner, fed pets, then returned to hang out and shut down Reg again. More Staff Lounge and socializing occurred before crashing.

Saturday started with opening Reg, lunch, check on things, get Charity Auction funds ready, coordinate GoH Dinner at the nearby Pier d'Orleans, return to hotel to close Reg after closing out CA, home to feed pets, return to hotel to hang out.

Sunday was open Reg, lunch, close Reg for Lep40 so Lep41 could open for pre-reg memberships (which Reg had already been selling), close out Art Show, perform post-con damage walkthrus with hotel, enjoy Dead Dog and go home.

Monday I met with the hotel to discuss what went well and what didn't, get our final hotel rooming list and official count of room nights (below what we had budgeted), and start working on the estimated hotel bill. I also started depositing funds into our checking account in small chunks since we have a low activity account. Put in too much at a time and we get zinged fees. I learned that the hard way at Lep34 in 2008.

I didn't get to see much as I was working two jobs, but what I did get to do I enjoyed. It was interesting doing dinner with Gail Carriger out of character (that's her pen name). I also enjoyed meeting the other GoHs throughout the weekend. The dealers really seemed happy this year, but the Art Show sales were low. For the first time in many years we had someone else doing it and that transition was late in happening. Unfortunately, after all the accounting was done and bills paid Lep40 lost over $5000. Granted, that was less than last year, but put us in the red zone for corporate finances. Hopefully, Lep41 in 2015 will correct some of that.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Spokane Trip 2014-03 Review

Spokane Visit March 2014

As part of being on staff for Worldcon 2015 in Spokane, Washington (aka Sasquan), we schedule regular Division Head (DH) meetings. Some are in person and some are online. For the last weekend in March 2014 we met in Spokane in person.

Jean stayed home while I flew up on Southwest Airlines non-stop from PHX to GEG. I flew up on Fri Mar 28 and shared the hotel shuttle to the Red Lion At The Park with one of my Deputy DHs, Bobbi. Upon arrival I made a few calls and found others already at dinner, so we connected with one of her Area Heads, Bill, for dinner. Using a recommendation for a nearby hotel we took the shuttle to dine at Queen of Sheba, Ethiopian food. We really liked it and called for the shuttle to retrieve us when done. Another of my DHs, Marah, had the hospitality suite open and we socialized the rest of the night.

Sat Mar 29 I met Sally (Chair), Glenn (Vice Chair) and Pierre (Vice Chair) for breakfast. We got some work done, then caught the hotel shuttle to the Spokane Convention Center (SCC). We started our tour with a briefing from the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Visit Spokane. We then wandered through the SCC as best we could considering that there was a volleyball tournament going on. We got to see some areas, but not all. We also toured the DoubleTree Hotel's function space, then the Davenport Hotel's lobby and some function space after lunch at a nearby Chili's. We then met for awhile before dinner at a highly reviewed restaurant, Sante, then after we met in the suite. Together we pounded out a preliminary space allocation usage for each division / area. We finished the evening with socializing in hospitality.

Sun Mar 30 Sally, Glenn, Gene (DH) and I met with the Sales Rep from the CVB to discuss our bottlenecks with the hotels. We came up with a plan, then met with the other staff persons until folks had to leave for the airport. We checked out of the suite and finished our meeting in the hotel lobby before dinner. A bunch of us attempted to dine at a restaurant across the street from the Davenport, but they refused to seat us due to our numbers. We opted to go to the Dav and had a very good meal. Together. When finished some walked back while others waited for the hotel shuttle. After returning a few of us met in the bar, then I crashed.

Mon Mar 31 I caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport and flew home, GEG-PHX. Jean picked me up at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and we went out to lunch before going home.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

SMOFcon 2013

This year was the 31st annual SMOFcon event. Secret Masters Of Fandom was a phrase coined many years ago by author and fan Jack Chalker as a joke. It took and it is still used today. It is primarily made up of fans who volunteer to run Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention), but also run other similar events. This year it was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, at the Royal York Hotel, headquarters hotel for TorCon 3 (Worldcon 2013). I attended because I was promoted to be a Vice Chair for Sasquan (Spokane Worldcon 2015). And I flew because Jean wasn't going and I don't drive in snow.

Since SMOFcons run Fri-Sun I flew up Thu eve. I had arranged for a roommate from the east coast who arrived before I did. So when I got there he was already checked in. We chatted briefly, then I stepped out to grab some food. With a Tim Horton's restaurant around the corner and open 24 hours it was easy and cheap. I did walk around a bit to check out the function space and see who was around. That's when I discovered where the Hospitality Suite was located. They were still mostly setting up, so I tried to stay out of the way but still talk with other fans. I returned to our room to get online and converse more.

Friday was mostly open so I arranged to meet with friends for lunch, wander around the area to see how things had changed in 10 years, and then hung out in Hospitality. I met some new friends, saw some old ones, and consumed calories. By dinner time we had a group of Sasquan staffers ready for a walk. One had restricted mobility, so I rode with her in a cab and, thanks to construction, it was long and expensive. We hit a nearby steakhouse and had about 20 people at our collection of tables. All too soon it was over and back we walked to the Royal York for evening events, hospitality and conversation.

Saturday was the busy day. I started out with breakfast with Sasquan's Chair and one other Vice Chair, attended programming including an excellent presentation on marketing your Worldcon, did lunch with another group, more programming, then another dinner with yet another group at Tim Horton's, followed by the Fannish Inquisition where we had to present Sasquan updates in between London (Worldcon 2014) and future bidders (KC in 2016, many in 2017, several in 2018, Dublin in 2019, etc). Committee members from Chicon 7 (Chicago 2012) did a reprise of their presentation the previous year in Philadelphia (SMOFcon 30) about the Chicon hotel disasters. We all ended up again in hospitality before I returned to my room.

Sunday had lots of fans leaving for home. Sasquan had an impromptu staff meeting where many of us got to meet many of us, we did some brain-storming, and attended some final programming. A few of us went out for dinner, hung out in hospitality, and ended the night with being online.

Monday I took off early for the airport to catch my flight home. Unfortunately, due to the weather my flight got delayed, cancelled, rescheduled and I arrived in Charlotte, NC, with insufficient time to catch my rescheduled flight to Phoenix. I got wait-listed for the final flight of the evening, waited with a large group of folks in the terminal, then ended up with the last seat open on the plane. It didn't matter that it was in the last row or that it was a middle seat; it mattered that I was going to be home Monday evening. Jean picked me up from the airport about 4 hours later and I was happy to be home.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

LosCon 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend (November 2013) is LosCon every year in Los Angeles. We usually drive over Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), check into the con hotel (LAX Marriott), attend the convention, check out of the con hotel on Monday and drive home. Once again we followed our tradition.

We left early enough to arrive before midnight. Traffic is lighter at night and our arrival time varies depending on our schedule. We always listen to audiobooks when we drive and we managed to finish one, then started another. It takes about 7 hours to make the drive, so there's plenty to listen to. We rolled in early evening, checked in, and unloaded the van. Thanks to bell service we made it in one trip (two carts). We checked on our friends who attend each year, but they were out. So, I wandered around to see who was where, what was open, etc. Since most of the con opens Friday there wasn't much to do yet. So we settled in and went online until bed time.

Friday morning we coordinated with our friends from the east coast, headed out for lunch, then hit Costco as usual so Jean could get her cookbook they only offer once a year. We returned to the con hotel and I helped out a little bit at the fan tables. Since I wasn't there to promote anything from Arizona or Phoenix I wasn't having to worry about fan table details, party details, etc. Instead I could just help out. That benefited Sasquan, Spokane Worldcon 2015, www.sasquan.org, as well as Westercon 68, San Diego, www.westercon68.org. Since we had a lot of staff from Sasquan we opted to meet for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. Jean opted to not attend, so I went with others and we had a great dinner together. I got a to-go order for her and she enjoyed it when I returned. I then hit the parties going on all evening, making two passes and talking with folks until I got tired. I returned to the room, got online, then crashed.

Saturday was more of the same. Lunch, help with fan tables, walk through the dealers room and art show, see some programming, help at fan tables, dinner with friends, help out with a party, hit other parties, crash. Much less work than running a bid.

Sunday was similar. Lunch with friends, fan tables, attend convention, dinner with friends, hang out in Dead Dog Party, chat with fans in lobby, get online.

Monday we packed up, did lunch, checked out, then headed towards home. Since we got back early enough we fetched the dog out of boarding, unpacked and did chores, and life returned to normal. At least normal for us.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

World Fantasy Con 2013 Brighton UK

World Fantasy Convention 2013 was held in Brighton, UK, over Halloween Weekend. My wife and I attended the event as I'm on their Board of Directors, having chaired WFC2004 in Tempe, AZ.

Jean and I flew from Phoenix to London Heathrow arriving on Wednesday, the day before the convention started. Although we usually rent a car when visiting the UK, we opted to use the bus service (express coach) from the airport to downtown Brighton. I waited to book the service until we were at the airport and had trouble getting on of my bank cards to work. Thankfully, I have more than one and once tickets were purchased we wandered out to the appropriate bus stop location. After waiting many minutes I went back inside to find out why there was the large delay. Apparently there was an accident on the M25 (freeway) which interfered with their schedules. So we waited some more before boarding the coach. The driver was nice enough to load our bags underneath and we climbed aboard. We made a stop at Gatwick Airport, then finally Brighton. We caught a cab near the arrival spot, which was also near the site of World Horror Con 2010 (Royal Albion Hotel). The cab took us to our Best Western Hotel down the road from the con hotel, Hilton Metropole. We checked in and settled into our room. For dinner I wandered out into the rain to find a restaurant that offered take-away (to go) service, and brought food back for us to eat. We found we had terrible mobile phone service there and the internet service was also poor. Somehow we made it work.

Thursday we did breakfast, then took a cab to the con hotel, got our badges, registration materials and book bags, then wandered around a bit to find out where everything was. The hotel was really unique in design with function rooms on different floors accessible from different directions. There was a pre-con controversy about their accessibility issues, but ultimately we found a way to take an elevator to every meeting room we wanted to visit. They were just spread around the hotel. Even the board meeting on Friday and Sunday was reachable by a service elevator. We hung out in the lobby to chat with friends, did dinner with one from the midwest, then walked back to our hotel which was just too far for Jean. We got online and crashed.

Friday we did breakfast again, then I walked to the Hilton to attend the Fri board meeting. We didn't have a quorum, but accomplished a few things. There were some bidders for future years and I introduced one for Tempe again for 2016/17/18. After that I did lunch nearby with a friend, got some take-away for Jean, and walked back to our hotel. Due to the mobile phone problems I missed doing dinner with another friend, so went nearby for take-away once more and did some shopping. I made it to the Hilton in time to attend the Autograph Reception. I said hi to a few pros, chatted with fellow board members, and hung out until I got tired. Since it was raining I took a cab back to the Best Western for more email.

Saturday brought breakfast again before Jean and I cabbed back to the Hilton. We hit the Dealers Room and Art Show, stuck our heads into Programming, chatted with old friends and made a few new ones, then left for dinner nearby. We returned to our hotel early.

Sunday we started with breakfast, I made it to the Sunday board meeting, then did lunch nearby. I returned to the Hilton to chat and say goodbye to fellow con members. Dinner was another take-away due to the weather, then back to get online stuff done and pack.

Monday we had our final breakfast at the Best Western, checked out and took a cab to the spot for the express coach after I bought the tickets online. I had trouble getting confirmation, so I called from the front desk and found that I had to rebook over the phone, but that worked ok. As we waited for the coach to arrive we chatted with Tom Doherty of Tor Books and his wife. We had a great conversation which continued on the bus. Strangely, we had to change buses at Gatwick due to the length of time our driver was on duty because of another accident. They offered to help move our bags, so we slowly transferred to another coach for the remainder of the trip to Heathrow. We didn't fly out until Tuesday, so we caught the hotel shuttle to our Ibis Hotel nearby. We were disappointed. It was almost 1/4 mile from the front desk to our room and Jean can't walk far. The room itself was extremely small with two twin beds and, with our luggage in the room with us, we barely had room to move around. In the UK they usually offer two towels per person: one bath towel; one hand towel; no washcloth like we're used to in the US. They only had bath towels. Later I checked into dinner at the hotel's restaurant, then researched nearby food. I found a chicken place a short walk away, so I ambled over there and got more take-away. It was rather good and we ate in our room. We finished up with email and crashed.

Tuesday we checked out after breakfast, caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport, then had to wait to check into our flight home. We survived customs and waited until they announced our gate, rushing to make it on time. The flight home was uneventful and we arrived early enough to fetch our dog from boarding. Slowly we caught up on unpacking, daily chores, and email.
Mike Willmoth Web Photo 2007 March

Pacific Northwest Trip Sep/Oct 2013

I'm way behind on writing about our trips, so here is a review of our trip to the Pacific Northwest in September/October 2013.

Shortly after Worldcon 2013 (San Antonio, TX) I learned that my role for Worldcon 2015 (Spokane, WA) would be as Deputy Division Head for the Convention Center. Two weeks after winning the bid I met with my Sasquan (official name for Worldcon 2015) Division Head, Bruce Farr (also the Finance Division Head), for a meeting in Phoenix, AZ. He had just moved to the Bay Area, but was in the process of selling his home and doing CPA work for clients in the Valley of the Sun. As we were meeting at a nearby Applebee's restaurant we were going over the Spokane Convention Center contract when I mentioned the issue of formally activating the DoubleTree Hotel contract. They were giving us two weeks to activate the clause in the signed contract to move forward with a full contract. We decided to give one of the Co-Chairs a call, Bobbie DuFault, who lived near Seattle, WA. So I called her cell phone and reached a guy. When I asked who it was he replied Gene (Armstrong). I then asked why he had Bobbie's phone and he replied that she had passed away earlier that day! OMG! Gene gave me what details he had before I hung up to fill Bruce in. We finished our meeting, going over details of my duties and what we needed to work on in the short term, then I gave the other Co-Chair, Sally Woehrle, a call. She gave me a few more details, but mostly everyone was waiting for the autopsy results. I asked Sally if she needed me to do something else for Sasquan and she said yes, offering me a Vice Chair position. She explained with Bobbie's passing she needed to fill a third VC job and she wanted me, so I said yes. Suddenly, I was Bruce's boss. The next day I participated in a Skype call with Sally, Glenn Glazer (VC over Business & Finance divisions) and Pierre Pettinger (VC over Front of House divisions). I am the VC over Back of House divisions (Convention Center, Facilities [hotels], Hospitality, Operations and Services). We discussed meeting in Spokane asap to visit the hotels and the convention center to move forward with the convention details. We settled on the last weekend in September 2013 due to our schedules; Pierre couldn't make it, but we opened it up to any Division Heads (DHs) interested. I contacted the Spokane Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB, aka Visit Spokane) and arranged for a discounted room block and site visits for the folks able to attend.

When I learned that Bobbie's memorial would be the first weekend in October 2013 I discussed the trip with my wife, Jean, and we decided to stay in the area to attend both Sasquan's meeting in Spokane and Bobbie's memorial near Seattle. In planning the trip we realized that Yellowstone National Park was close enough to visit and neither of us had been. So we came up with the idea of driving up to Spokane from Phoenix, then post-meeting heading into Montana and dropping south into the park. We could drive through it in a day and stay south of there before returning to the Seattle area for the following weekend. Jean asked about driving along the coast to return home, so I planned that out as well.

We left home on Wed Sep 25 for an overnight stay north of Salt Lake City, UT. Things went well until we got close to Page, AZ, when we learned that US89 was closed due to a collapsed roadway! We got detoured east onto the Navajo Reservation until Kayenta (where we found out about the Navajo Codetalkers Museum) and then back to Page. We finally arrived at our hotel well after midnight and crashed immediately. Thu Sep 26 we departed and headed north along I-15, passing into Idaho and ultimately Montana, the first time for both of us there. Snow along the freeway in MT was quite beautiful, thankfully not on the road. We intersected with I-90 and headed northwest into northern ID and finally eastern WA for our next hotel east of Spokane. Coeur d'Alene, ID, was quite beautiful being located along a lake. We hope to get back there someday.

Fri Sep 27 we checked out of our hotel, shopped at Costco, grabbed lunch and headed into downtown Spokane to the Red Lion At The Park for our convention meeting stay. We checked in and met up with folks as they arrived: Sally, Bruce, Becky Thomson (Services DH) and later on Glenn. We had arranged for a CVB meeting to learn about the housing bureau system they were proposing we use for the convention. Bruce arrived in time to make the meeting with most of us along with Amy and Ashley from the CVB. They put the tech support person from Vancouver (BC) on the phone as we got our demo so we could ask questions. We were suitably impressed and decided to use the HB after doing a core dump with Glenn when he arrived that night. Sally and I also met with the sales rep for the DT about the proposed hotel contract after discussing some minor issues we wanted changed. We did dinner together and met up in the lounge after I fetched Glenn from the airport.

Sat Sep 28 we met for breakfast at the hotel, did our site visits with the Red Lion, DoubleTree and Davenport Hotels as well as the SCC. We did lunch nearby in the middle of the visits, then dinner at the Davenport which was quite good. We discussed lots of details until we ran out of steam and called it a night.

Sun Sep 29 we met again for breakfast, toured the SCC again, lunch nearby and met in one of the function rooms to hash out where we might put stuff as a starting point. Dealers Room could go here; Hugo Ceremony might go there. I took Glenn back to the airport and the rest met for dinner downtown before crashing early.

Mon Sep 30 we checked out and headed back to MT for an overnight stay just north of Yellowstone NP. The drive was gorgeous and we arrived in early evening. There were numerous tours staying there hoping to visit the park the next day. Unfortunately, the federal government was talking about sequester (shutting down non-essential services) and everyone was worried they wouldn't get in. That night we saw on the news that it was going to happen :(

Tue Oct 1 the US federal government closed all national parks and our plans to visit Yellowstone died with that announcement. Just in case I called the park phone number only to receive a recording that they were closed until further notice. Sucks! There was no way for us to drive south directly to our hotel stay in Jackson Hole, WY, so we checked the map and decided to go around. We backtracked into ID, headed south, then east and entered Wyoming from the southwest. North to JH and we arrived at our hotel. We would have cancelled, but they required 72 hours notice and I didn't feel like fighting it. We had a nice stay otherwise, other than the noise of water running down our wall periodically throughout the night; it turned out to be a water pipe that was scheduled to be rerouted that week.

Wed Oct 2 we left Jackson Hole for Boise, ID. We drove through southern Idaho and saw lots of potato farms. It was an uneventful drive and we checked into our hotel without incident.

Thu Oct 3 we checked out and headed towards Vancouver, WA for our next stay. We drove west through southern ID, entered Oregon from the east and stopped briefly in Portland to visit Powell's Bookstore (largest new/used bookstore in North America). Due to the pricing of hotels in that area I found that Vancouver had better rates. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby that was pretty good. We spent the rest of the evening online catching up on email.

Fri Oct 4 we hit another Costco for shopping and arrived at our hotel near SeaTac Airport. We didn't need to be close to the airport, but debated whether to be near the memorial (east of Seattle in Gold Bar) or near where Sally and Becky lived. In the end we opted for the latter. Due to their schedules we didn't meet up with them; instead Jean and I met with a friend for an early dinner near Yelm, WA, whom we knew from online in the 80s. He had suffered a stroke, recovered slowly and was finally able to function independently again. We had wondered why we didn't hear much from him for several years, but were glad he was doing as well as he was. Later that evening we met with Gene east of Seattle. We did dessert at Denny's and chatted about his background & experience, how Sasquan's structure started out, my involvement, etc. We returned to our hotel.

Sat Oct 5 we visited spots nearby before heading to Gold Bar for the memorial. It was crowded! Over 150 people there. Since the house was near a state park along one road they had folks picking up and dropping off those walking more than about a quarter mile down the road. I dropped Jean off and went to park, taking photos along the way. We chatted with friends, met some new ones, met some relatives after the service, ate and drank before leaving about dark. The service was quite good with many getting up to talk about Bobbie and how she changed their lives for the best. I have seen very few services that were that well attended or with heartfelt presentations. It was a tribute to how loved Bobbie was. We returned to our hotel near SeaTac.

Sun Oct 6 we departed for the coastline and headed south into OR. We stopped occasionally for photos, ultimately staying overnight in Newport. We ate dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant which had good oyster stew.

Mon Oct 7 we left Newport for Eureka, CA. It was more of the same: photos, lunch, beautiful scenery, hotel, dinner. We did Cajun/Caribbean and it wasn't bad, although a bit expensive.

Tue Oct 8 we departed for Gilroy, CA. I had schedule to join Glenn and his wife for dinner with Bruce and his wife, but Jean wasn't feeling well. So I dropped her off at the hotel and headed to Glenn's home near Santa Cruz. It turned out that due to the delay it was just the three of us. We hit a restaurant nearby, then returned for an early night due to his work schedule. I got back to Gilroy and crashed.

Wed Oct 9 we left for Glendale, CA. Instead of Hwy 1 we did mostly US101. After checking into our hotel we headed to Burger Continental in Pasadena for dinner. A favorite spot with JPL engineers we were introduced to it years ago by a friend who used to work there. Despite the name they are mostly Mediterranean cuisine with belly dancing on the weekends. We returned to our hotel for email.

Thu Oct 10 we left for home and arrived in time to fetch the dog from boarding. Then came the tasks that happen after every trip: unload the car, clean up the messes that the cats leave for us each trip, and slowly get back into the groove.

Overall, the trip was a mixture of audiobooks, scenery, interesting meetings, frustration at the gov't, emotional release with friends, good food and memorable times.