Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tales from The Red Road--Nexus 2015

Full disclosure: I was not in the least looking forward to the drive by myself. But, that brings me to the new title I will be using, Tales from the Red Road.

I have been blessed with a pretty good sense of direction, and could, more often than not, find my way to somewhere new. And then I got a TomTom, and it has Dennis Hopper’s voice. For those of you that rely on a GPS unit, you know what the Red Road is; it is the right road, lane, turn-off, etc. Follow the Red Road and you can’t go wrong. Usually. It can also be a tyrant.

So anyway, I couldn’t wait past about noon to leave; I was antsy to get it over with and to time it to miss the most of the awful traffic around the Windy City. My first goal was Corky’s Dogg House, in Cedar Lake, IN. It has been my custom since I first went to the last LGGC with the Axeman to stop in and enjoy a real Chicago-style Dog, with the real ingredients, particularly Vienna Sausage Natural casing Hot dogs. Poppy-seed roll, cucumber slices (I take off), a tomato wedge, a pickle wedge, onions, bilious green relish and mustard, with a sport pepper to top it off, all dusted in celery salt. OMG… A couple cons ago, the Mad Wizard, Jim Wampler, gave up his no-bread thing to try them and has never regretted it. It adds about 40 minutes and miles to the trip, but worth the stop.
Traffic and weather up through IN was not too bad, but there was a stretch of about 35 miles that worried me. Too bad I was right when I came back, but more on that later. A few brief sprinkles but no downpours, although  I saw a few in the distance. Too bad Indiana is so damned boring to drive across. Going from Cincinnati to Chicago or Milwaukee necessitates driving the whole lifeless stae diagonally. Once you have been lulled into a near-stupor, you hit the Tollways. Thank the State of Illinois for I-Pass, the electronic toll thing on my windshield.

No stopping and slowing in those long lines for the folks using money, nosirree. Cruise on down the middle and hardly slow.

Now there is something: what are apparently “Suggested speed limits” on the tollways. I guess they figured that if they post it at 55, they will only go about 70, in all the lanes! What a joke; I would set the cruise at a scary level above the limit simply so I would not become a sitting duck and I was still getting passed on both sides.

Finally got to the Crowne Plaza in Oak Creek, WI, out near the Milwaukee airport. It was a nice venue and shows promise should the Game Fair continue to grow. The venue was large enough that I could not give you any numbers on attendees, but it seemed busier than last year.

Side tip: if you are ever in the area, or it is there next year (which will be Memorial Day Weekend) check out di Carlos Restaurant. They do carryout and I can personally vouch for the pizzas and meatball sandwiches—the rest looks equally yummy.

I ran an adventure in Curse of the Weaver Queen on Friday that was pretty good. I had run that particular adventure nearly a dozen times, but this group made it really fun again. Sadly, they all died.

There was a screening of the second installment of the Knights of the Dinner Table Live Action. It was pretty rough but seemed to get an enthusiastic response. As troubled as this production has been, one can only hope that certain people make good on pledges and promises and see it to a good resolution. Past track records seem to weigh against that.

There was a vendor there I felt worthy of note called ZZipEtch (www.zipetchlaserengraving.com) that had some very nice custom-etched glassware for sale at a very decent price. I got a wine glass for Cheryl with two very-Oriental-looking dragons etched on it. Melinda and Gordon seemed nice folks; hop over and check them out sometime. Tell ‘em you heard about them here.

KenzerCo was playtesting a new Expansion for The Great Space Race, their very creative and highly addictive game of spaceship racing. In my mind, any rules changes that allow you to shove the competitor into a black hole are OK by me.

There were lots of boardgames played as well as a fair bit of minis. Sadly, the guys with the water table did not show up this year. I missed their steampunk dirigible fights and the fleet action of quadremes on the water table was a sight to see last year.

I ran a session of Snakeriders on Sat afternoon. I must admit that I am getting a bit tired of running it now for over three years (my partner says we sell more if I run it) but this group was very enjoyable and provided me with more fun that I have had in at least the last 10 times I have run it. All but one died, but they did it in a novel and entertaining fashion. The lone survivor hopped aboard his magic giant beetle and flew away to fight another day. “Live to fight another day” was always the first mantra of Old School playing; no shame in recognizing the odds against you and beating feet for the door.

Chris Hoffner, Harold Johnson and the rest are putting together a well run show. It seemed well organized and there was never a dearth of con folks if you needed one. The site could be a winner; the hotel set up a lunch-serving area and the prices on the wraps and salads were reasonable. The dogs, however, were overpriced and the buns too doughy and cold, to boot. Sorry, if you can’t do a decent dog, you lose at least on star from my rating. That’s like a Chinese restaurant that can’t do a decent shrimp fried rice.

Gaming went long into the night, well after I had retreated to my room. It began distressingly early as well, but that’s what cons are all about—non-stop binge-gaming.

Personally, I think their decision to move it next year to the Memorial Day Weekend is a wise one. It is too hard for too many gamers get that Friday off that you need for a con; that weekend it is expected and so should work out rather well. So far as we plan right now, Eldritch will return next May.

I was planning to get an early start back on Sunday to attend my oldest’s birthday get-together, and did start early, to no avail. Here begins my tale of woe…

Dear State of Indiana: What the hell is going on in your legislature? Did you spend so much time figuring out a law that would allow Hoosiers to discriminate against whomsoever they choose that you forgot you have an infrastructure that includes highways? What bunch of hare-brained loonies in your DOT did not see the problem involved with working on two major bridges in a span of 28 miles on I-65? They should be flogged, publicly humiliated and forced to pick up roadside litter until they die.

As you might recall (I certainly hope your memory lasts several paragraphs), I earlier mentioned a patch of road construction going up that I thought might be a problem coming back. Sunday I wished harder than I ever had that I had been wrong in my foreboding. What should have been a 5.5 hour drive became 7 hours. It took two hours to traverse an approximately 35 mile stretch of I-65. I sat there the entire time watching my ETA clock on the GPS spin off minute after minute. I finally hit Indy about the time that I was originally supposed to be getting home, which was over 100 miles away at that point. There was no getting out of the two lines of creeping traffic to get off to a service station, restroom or Rest Area—you might never get back on. In both cases, two lanes merged into one. In one case it was Right Lane Closed, in the other Left lane Closed. Now I hit this patch of treacly traffic in mid-afternon; I can only shudder to think of what it must have been like two or three hours later. That was also my last con that I will drive that far to attend by myself.

That 7 hour journey through the purgatory that central Indiana/I-65 has become sealed the deal for me. I am just not suited to do this shit anymore by myself. My usual traveling buddy, Jim Wampler, was unable to get off of work. Axeman was in the same boat with his work. Both of them are absolutely great travelling companions. In future if I can’t find somebody to drive to a given con with me, I will not go it alone. Eazy-peezy.

I had a good time at the con—it was the drive home that sucked and certainly no fault of Nexus. We (Eldritch Ent.) plan to attend next year, and I plan to have at least two new-that-year adventures to run. Start looking at your calendars now, and maybe we’ll meet across a table there next year.

                                                                 Notice of Hiatus

On July 6, my wife, Cheryl, and I are leaving for Europe. It is only our second time to Europe and we are doing a Viking River Cruise up the Rhine. We have stuff we are doing or seeing in Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz & Rudesheim, Heidelberg & Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach and Basel. On the 10th of July we will celebrate 45 years married.
I will not be posting again until the 3rd or 4th week of July. Have a happy 4th of July and blow up some stuff for me, OK? Stay safe…

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