Mar 262020
 

HOME!

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

The total trip, counting side trips and assorted nonsense was 7108 miles.

<Beginning Odo>

<End Odo>

My initial plan for the total driving portion of the trip was 6600 miles plus maybe an additional 10% for misc. That would make about 7300 miles. I planned to leave 2/13/20 and return 4/13/20 for being gone a total of 60 days. While it didn’t last as long as expected (33 days), the distance is within shouting distance of the plan and I learned a great deal.

I’ve talked about some of them but what were my takeaways from the trip? (in no particular order)

  • Financial disaster (due to circumstances beyond my control)
  • Keep in close touch with partner is essential!
  • Successful proof of concept
  • Eliminating some of my romantic notions of RVing
    • If you fill up all of your space with perfectly packed stuff, you will find it doesn’t go back in the real world of RVing.
    • RVing in cities SUCK!
  • More carefully defining trip that would make it more successful in the future
    • Stay out of cities as much as possible
    • More capable vehicle
      • RAV4 can do it but strains
    • Slightly bigger RV space
      • Standing is important
      • At least two zones (bed and eating/writing/cooking)
    • Bathroom and shower NOT requires but N2H
    • Built in heating/cooling are almost essential!
  • Truck Stops are the BOMB for RVing
    • Flying J/Pilot for the win
  • Take more care with planning and distances between shows
    • Make sure there is down time or it becomes a grind rather than a joy
  • Don’t do it in the middle of a pandemic 😛
  • Comfort on such an trip is essential
    • Or it becomes a grind rather than a joy (yes, I’m repeating myself)
  • Think three times before bringing something.
    • Many items I had were moved and shuffled around and never used
  • Be prepared for being sick
    • Be ready to jettison a show to give you time to heal!
  • General Delivery works if well planned!
  • Take photos of sales and sign-up sheets in case they get lost
    • First time in 8 years this happened… lost two shows worth of data L
  • Shows that DON’T provide tables are few and far between
    • Maybe skip taking tables?
  • Travel pulling a trailer takes longer than expected
    • Make time for the important items
  • Listening to movies really makes the miles melt away
  • Doing non-show business on the road is possible, if a bit more difficult
  • Spares of essentials like keys and glasses are REQUIRED

So, bottom line, would I do this again?  Drumroll….. Yes! Despite all of the headaches and heartaches of this show I think that this is a viable thing, assuming a natural disaster doesn’t interfere.

Despite my intense need to be home at the end of The Great Road Trip, I attribute more than three quarters of it to my cold, and the stress of the pandemic and issues around it rather than just the rigors of the trip itself.

In fact, I’m so sure I’m going to do this again (when is still a question mark because of the reach of the pandemic), I’m already planning on selling my RAV4 and have decided what pickup truck I will buy (I do a great deal of research before any major purchase and it has already been done – Ram 1500 Classic for anyone who cares… Looking at a 2 year old model).

I’m still unsure about the trailer, however. I have two conflicting ideas, modifying current trailer to support my thoughts (dealing with the small size), and two, trading it in on a slightly longer, taller trailer that has more space inside. The first one is cheaper but more time/effort consuming with many potential issues (including the likelihood of being unable to resell it ever). Leaning toward buying a new trailer but sometime in the future.

I believe this is a final all on The (not so) GREAT Road Trip. Thanks for reading!

Tom Gondolfi

 March 26, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 252020
 

3/17  Weed, CA to Castle Rock, WA (HOME) – 410 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Don’t ask me why, but I woke up in Weed at 4AM and couldn’t shake a sense of foreboding. I think I worried about possible border closures and travel bans. Adding to that was my overriding desire to be home and close out this disaster of a trip.

I only had 6.5 hours left to drive. Why not right then instead of waiting for some mythical “wake up time”. So I bundled up and hit the road. Nominally I should have done laundry and a shower but home beaconed. My wife would forgive me being scrubby. And I’d have plenty of time to do laundry later.

I don’t remember ever being so single-minded about driving on this trip. No movie. Only a bit of music. I stopped for gas only. Bathroom had to wait for gas stops. I pushed my tank so that I only stopped twice (pretty good when you are only getting 15-16 mile per gallon on a 14.5 gallon tank). I ate stuff that I had in the trailer and gutted it out.

I focused only on getting home, counting down the hours. Each new town in Oregon was a milestone as was crossing the bridge into Washington. I knew it would only be a bit more. I came up our road at about 12:30PM feeling the tension in my body release (and oddly watching my wife drive past me on a post office run).

I will say I came close to crying with relief when I pulled in and shut off the engine. I just sat there for probably fifteen minutes. The end was here. My responsibilities for this trip could be dropped. Home.

I collected some essential items from the car and trailer and went inside for a shower, food, and sleep.  

My wife returned and caught me in the shower. She hadn’t been expecting me until late evening. Then, of course she hadn’t expected me to leave at 4AM or even make it to Weed.

Next: Wrap-Up

 March 25, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 242020
 

3/17  Barstow, CA to Weed, CA – 635 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Yes it is really named Weed, CA. For those who don’t know, this used to be the illegal capital of marijuana prior to legalization. Its remote local made it difficult to find pot farms back in the day. They are proud of this heritage. I reserve comment.

Ok, I’d planned on only going as far as Redding, CA but lo and behold, there weren’t any truck stops in Redding. It stunned me. I looked for the next available and found them in Weed (more on this later).

CA99 has always been an alternate to I5 through the California produce valley. I’ve driven it so many times (both up from LA and down from Sacramento) that I almost know every pothole. However in an attempt to make it more user friendly, CA99 is undergoing significant construction to add at least another lane to its width. This made for some ‘fun’ driving with my trailer.

In my hurry to get home, I bypassed my parent’s home. If for no other reason than they had already put up with me on the outbound leg. I also had some concern at this time that a travel ban might fall into place. If I have to weather any long term issue, I want to do it in my own home with my loving wife and partner. Onward!

So I got to Weed late in the evening, well after dark. Weed is high up in the mountains and actually still had snow on the ground. Probably the coldest place I stopped at the entire trip. But this isn’t what worried me. In the truck stop parking lot I found a pile of auto glass near where I would be parking. Someone had broken into a vehicle sometime in the past. This didn’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  I parked with some trepidation. It was the only time on the entire trip I felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Truck stops may be a bit noisy but I never worried about my personal safety or that of my possessions. Too many of the truckers carry guns and everyone knows it. People generally don’t mess with them.

My concern didn’t turn into reality whether it was founded or not. I slept with my heater blasting away all night to keep me warm.

Next: The Long Voyage Home 3

 March 24, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 232020
 

3/15  Albuquerque, NM to Barstow, CA – 675 mi

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

So for those followers of the blog, I apologize for my long delay in this post. I didn’t realize that I still was more ill than I thought (no, not C19, just a good, old-fashioned head cold). I got home and for the next few days my mind was so foggy I couldn’t do much of anything but sleep and watch movies… I even did that without much thought or mentation. As of 3/22 my brain cleared and I’m ready to go again (in a weak, limited fashion).

The last three day speed run home was surreal. I realize now that a good deal of that had to do with my illness, but there was more. The C19 pandemic has people doing different things. It’s not quite apocalyptic out there, but people are on edge like they are waiting for everyone to go crazy on us, or that a real life zombie is going to come around the corner at any time. Let me give a couple of examples.

Normally in a store people will edge their way past you to get to an object on the other side of you in the aisle. I was seeing people going around several rows to come back in to the aisle I was in so they didn’t have to get so close.

Or, how about the young man who questioned me about my trailer art. He seemed excited. When I handed him my business card, he surreptitiously slipped it into the trash while my back was turned EVEN THOUGH HE WAS WEARING GLOVES!

I want to be clear that at that time all of my symptoms were internal. I wasn’t coughing or sneezing. I wasn’t blowing my nose constantly. My nose wasn’t cherry red. I didn’t look feverish. I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t have bloodshot eyes or even blood tracing down from the corner of my mouth.   

Salt shakers, napkin dispensers, jelly, sugar, etc all were removed from tables at restaurants. In fact the number of people in each were maybe 5% of the normal patrons. When you come in on a normally busy morning at a truck stop and you see only ONE other customer, one waitress and a single cook, you wonder. Worse, the waitress treats you like a leper and only comes over when you demand her presence.

Now with all of the updated data, these folks were probably doing exactly the right thing, but it is surreal to experience.

Drivers, on the other hand, became more aggressive and drove significantly faster. I was cut off more on these last three days than in probably the last year. I should qualify this… Non-Commercial drivers. Truckers and their brethren all were just as friendly and courteous as always. To them this is a minor blip. They will continue to haul.

Enough about the pandemic, let me talk about the trip.

My plan was to go from Albuquerque to Needles, CA. Eight hours or so. An easy jaunt, especially as I’d found out that my poor gas mileage was due to two factors I’d never considered:

  1. I’ve always found that cruise control is my friend, especially the adaptive CC I have in my RAV4. I put it at the speed I want and it gets me the best gas mileage AND I don’t have to worry about folks that just happen to be going slower than me (unlikely but it happens).

Not now. I found that my CC would bring me up to the edge of my set speed with the engine winding at high RPMs and hold me there, not quite taking me to the set speed. If I would tap the gas with my foot it would get there and then the rpms would drop (and save gas).

As an experiment, I drove without my CC for most of this day. Even going through the mountains I increased my gas mileage by about 2 mpg!

  • The RAV4 comes with two settings: Eco and Sport. When you power on it starts in Eco as default. And even though my wife (who has a Mazda CX5) says mine doesn’t have ‘zoom-zoom’, I find that after a Prius, even the Eco is plenty of power. Well, I found that Eco exacerbated the problem above and caused the car not to maintain speed well. In Eco setting I might have a set speed of 65. Even on a slight hill, my speed would start dropping until it hit about 58 before it wound the engine up and struggled to get to 65 again. By popping my car into Sport mode, I’d say that my resting RPM was just a bit higher but I didn’t see the up and down speed thing nearly as much. It also helped keeping things steady when I drove without cruise control. This alone probably saved me another mpg. 

Neither of these sound very large, but when your normally 28+mpg car only gets 15mpg (or less) towing the trailer, 3mpg increase is about an 18% reduction in fuel cost!

The improved gas mileage allowed me to spend that bonus mpg to travel faster. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I’d planned on taking the entire trip at 65 (to even get that 15MPG). When I learned 1 and 2 above, I jacked it up to 75 and still increased my mpg to close to 16.

Back to A to Needles. Bottom line, I messed up. I planned at staying at a truck stop 20 mi short of Needles (closest I could find) in Arizona. Well, I missed it. Scratch that. I saw it but didn’t think it could possibly be the one I wanted as I wasn’t close enough to Needles. I was in Needles before I realized my mistake.

Worse the mistake compounded itself. Because of the desert around there, the next real stopping point was Barstow, over two hours further. I had three choices, none of them appealing. I could go back to the truck stop (half an hour back). I could try and find a place to sleep it off in Needles. I could push on to Barstow. For many, many reasons, I chose the latter. But to do that I needed to top off my gas tank in Needles.

Let me just say that Needles is the largest rip off of all places I’ve ever been. They aren’t even polite about it like a Las Vegas casino is. The last gas station I’d passed in Arizona the gas was circa $2.50 a gallon (a far cry from the cheapest I ever got it at $1.66/gal in OKC I believe). In Needles, every station charged within a nit of $5.00 per gallon. Note that this is in the middle of an oil glut. I mean I’d driven through CA on the way down and it was higher but not THAT bad. Fortunately I only needed about 3 gallons to top off and make sure I’d make Barstow. Worst rip off of the trip. A pox on Needles!

BTW.. Barstow gas price… $2.61

I made Barstow and crashed hard.

Next: The Long Voyage Home Part 2

 March 23, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 142020
 

3/14  OKC to Albuquerque  – 543 miles.

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I’ve spent the better part of a year planning and organizing for this road trip. It was planned to facilitate TANSTAAFL Press’ breakout year. It is hard to see it as anything but an abysmal failure, something that is gnawing at my soul as I drive the seemingly endless miles back home.

As they said in Apollo 13, “You can forget about the flight plan. From this point forward we are improvising an entirely new plan.”

Based on the number of conventions being cancelled, and the fact that I make most of my gross at shows, this year will not be a breakout year but maybe a breakdown year. It will be difficult to keep things moving and I will have to make some cutbacks somewhere as a result. My initial thoughts include: No anthology this year or maybe next. Limited book releases (even if I may create the content for future releases).

But for its failures financially, the great road trip also provided some valuable data. I try to keep these things in mind as its other disappointments peck at my psyche.

  1. Travelling with my “hotel room” strapped to my back is totally viable. This was mere conjecture prior to this trip.
  2. I find my current trailer a bit too limiting, but it is doable. I’d like to upgrade to a point where my kitchen is inside and it has a toilet/shower. The first is more important than the latter. Heating / Cooling are a must as well.
  3. Truck stops are my friend, especially Flying J and Pilot (the cleanest and most consistent services).
  4. Travelling long distances is totally doable (for me this was a huge question mark) as long as I make frequent stops to stretch and break up the fatigue.
  5. SLC is not my demographic (sorry, folks of this region but three failed conventions tell me a great deal)
  6. My RAV4 is just not quite good enough to pull my trailer. Oh, it performs but strains like a toddler trying to pull a loaded wagon up a hill. The gas mileage is also abysmal. If I’m going to do this in the future, a pickup truck (something I said I would never do) will be in my life.
  7. My ability to successfully engage with customers isn’t diminished by the locale (SLC as an exception).
  8. Cooking out of the back of my trailer is difficult at the best of times (see kitchen inside above) for two reasons, weather and lack of time to dedicate to being out there cooking. If it is inside I can do other things while I cook.
  9. Be more prepared for failure cases such as colds or cancellations or both.
  10. Most importantly, that I can enjoy the life on the road (with the exception of not having my wife able to participate). I don’t get quite as much content created on the road because of driving hither and thither to set up my “hotel room” but I can still make it work.

On the whole, I planned well. My successes here way outstripped my failures. I’m pleased with what I accomplished as a proving ground for this type of trip in the future. But I sincerely hope my next trip (whenever that may be) will not be interrupted by another pandemic or similar natural disaster. It literally could be the end of TANSTAAFL Press. The only saving grace of this trip is the money I won gambling in Vegas – not a thing to base your business on.

Next: The Long Voyage Home

 March 14, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 142020
 

3/13  Dallas to OKC – 195 miles.

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I didn’t blog about my trip to Dallas. Only one thing of note came up, I received my first ever “General Delivery” package. I needed some more cat toys and my wife made them and shipped them to me. I expected a great deal of hassle but it was quick and easy.

Thursday was a long day with a 9AM load in and open until 7PM. Thursday was disappointing in sales but it was the first day of a four-day con. I got a lot of “I’ll come back later” lines. Unfortunately for many of those folks, there wasn’t a later. Friday morning I showed up to find a note in my chair stating that a federal judge had ordered all gatherings of 500 or more to cease and desist as of 11AM Friday morning. The show had no recourse but to shut down.

Thursday night I found out that my big Chicago show had cancelled and likely the Gov of Illinois was going to put a similar moratorium on gatherings as Dallas had which would cancel the second Chicago show as well.

Looking at it, I decided not to risk Memphis cancelling on me. I turned tail for home, cancelling the rest of the NOT SO GREAT Road Trip. I figure 5 days of reasonable driving will get me back home.

My decision ended up to be very wise. Memphis cancelled this afternoon, as did Norwescon, one of my staples in the PacNW. At this rate I won’t have any business at all after this year.

Next: Learnings of TGRT

 March 14, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 122020
 

3/10  Monument, CO to Amarillo, TX  – 400  miles

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

Well, I planned to visit with ADB today. As such I got up early and made haste. I wanted to get to Amarillo before close of business. My hope was a quick tour and then dinner with old colleagues. Where do I start with my mistakes 😊  First, I’d forgotten I would transfer into the central time zone and thus lose an hour (oops). I also hadn’t touched base with Steve Cole in several weeks.

I did call Steve when I was about 90 minutes from his office, only to find out he had some significant surgery earlier in the week. It had been scheduled for several weeks ago but got postponed. As I didn’t wish to cause any issue by imposing where I would cause pain, I told him we would cancel and maybe we could do it another time.

This left me with two options. Stay in Amarillo anyway, or press on further toward Dallas. I originally wanted to do the latter, but I began to think of the things I should get done and I was already tired.

The calvary has a saying – The horse, the saddle, the man.

The horse: As I’d already done 3500 miles, over the great divide while pulling a heavy trailer, I chose to take the time to get an oil change for my darling RAV4. It required removing the trailer, but I’ve become adept at connecting and disconnecting it. Two minutes, no more. I took a look at the old oil. It didn’t look any worse than after a normal oil change. Good news. Reconnecting the trailer, counting testing the lights, five minutes.

The saddle: Batteries need charging. Laundry needed done.

The man: Oh, I needed a good meal. I saw something on the map called the Big Texan Steak Ranch. When I drove up to it, I almost ran away. The outside looks cheesy at best. But hunger and fatigue drove me inside instead of searching for something new. The inside was even cheesier than the outside with a carnival shooting gallery and gift shop but I persisted.

The menu had great items but I decided on something simple: Medium rare 12 oz ribeye steak, caesar salad, beefsteak tomato and red onion, and dinner rolls. Simple, yet one of the best steak dinners I’ve had in dozens of years (excepting those by my wife). 

The steak was charred nicely on the outside with simple seasoning. The inside was juicy, tender, and perfectly done. For those who know me, know I use quite a lot of salt. This steak got NO seasoning of any kind once it hit my table. As it was grown on the eastern side of the Sierra-Nevadas it had none of the ‘fishy’ taste of most of the meat in the PacNW has. Probably the single best steak I’ve ever eaten, and that counts a steak at Ruth’s Steakhouse where you are lucky to get out paying $100 per plate.

It’s hard to mess up a beefsteak tomato unless it is over/under ripe or diseased. I received a softball sized tomato that was perfectly ripe and as tasty as sunshine.

The salad probably was the most pedestrian with croutons that looked like they had been poured out of a box. In spite of this, it was tasty with a slightly spicy dressing, crisp lettuce, and fresh parmesan. 

But the crowning glory of the meal had to be the dinner rolls! I know, right? A lowly dinner roll? But these rolls were so fluffy they seemed made of air rather than bread. They felt and tasted like they belonged on the plate of a god, not a mere mortal.

And no, I am not getting any compensation by this restaurant to post this… If you find yourself in Amarillo and want a GREAT steak meal, drop in.

Next: Cancelled!

 March 12, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 092020
 

3/9  Evanston, WY to Monument, CO  – 486  miles

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I’m sure anyone who is really paying attention (maybe two of you), they are asking themselves, what does Amarillo have to do with your next stop in Dallas for AllCon? Not a thing other than it is on my way. Or maybe I should say nothing directly.

Let me ‘splain. My writing career started, innocently enough in Amarillo, TX, a town I’ve never been in. I love making people scratch their head. I specifically said career because I had been writing long before one incident led me down this rock infested route to where I am now, huddled in a box 8x6x4 in the middle of the freezing night in, of all places, Evanston, WY. The incident in question was selling my first piece of fiction, which I never intended to do.

I spent a good number of YEARS of my life devoted to playing a game called Star Fleet Battles. It is a very complex game based around the original Star Trek. You fly ships around and try and blow each other up. The producers of the game, Amarillo Design Bureau (don’t get ahead of the story), produced a fanzine once a year named Captain’s Log. I eagerly bought up each copy the moment it hit the stands and would devour it cover to cover. Invariably the magazine held one or more stories about something happening in the fictional universe we all played within, but, also invariably, the fiction sucked. No, not just bad. I mean it hurt even after I am dead kind of suckage – bad characters, shaky plot, logic holes you could throw a bantha through (oops.. wrong series), and more. Sometime in the eighties, one of those Captain’s Logs pushed me over the edge.

I stoked my computer with coal (it was a long time ago) and when the steam came from the stack, I hammered out about an 18 page short story. Took me about two hours. I then wrote a cover letter saying that I loved CL but that whomever wrote their fiction needed to have their liver repeatedly eaten out by giant eagles, or something like that. I said I’m enclosing a story and you should be writing stuff more like this. There not yet being internet, I placed it in my pony express pouch and held it out for next passing rider.

Now I have to interject. I really had no intention of being published. I hadn’t even considered it a possibility. I merely wanted to give them something that they could compare the shoddy crap they had been publishing against. Call it a yardstick. What did happen is history. I received, by carrier pigeon, an envelop with a check and a letter saying in short, make these changes and we’ll publish it in the next CL. I literally stood in my living room looking back and forth between the check and the letter. “Let me get this right, someone will PAY me to do something I love? Where the heck was that part on our high school vocational aptitude tests.” BTW, my story got the cover!

So getting back to ADB, they are the publishers of Star Fleet Battles and Captain’s Log. Steve Cole, Leanna Cole, and Steve Petrick make up the core of ADB. While I’ve had a tempestuous history with ADB, I also recognize the debt I own them. Countless hours of fun, and more importantly the conditions that allowed the seed of my writing talent to first poke its green leaves above the soil.

Which brings us to Amarillo. I figured as I was going to be so close (Dallas), and I’d never met the oft mentioned Leanna nor seen the shop that started the worldwide phenomenon of SFB, that I’d stop by if they’d have me. To my surprise, they agreed.

That is why the next stop is not a convention but rather a small gaming design / manufacturing company in the panhandle of Texas. 

More stuff about road tripping. When you plan, and find just the perfect storage places for all of your items and everything is neatly put away before you leave, realize it won’t stay that way. You don’t have a huge amount of time and facilities to get everything just so on the road as you do before you leave. So, if you have packed to the point where there is zero tolerance, you will find yourself with less than zero space and patience. Let’s take a couple of simple examples: Laundry. Just by living you create dirty clothes. You may even have a space dedicated for that dirty laundry to go, BUT after its has been cleaned, you need to put it back. Where do you fold it? Will it get back into the neat little cubbies that you originally stored it in?

How about things you use every day like your computer, recharging batteries, business cards, et al. You need to be able to access them, move them around. Are you going to live in one of those little numbered puzzle games where you need to move your recharging batteries, to move your laundry, to move your computer, to have a spot to eat dinner? It is infuriating doing this moment by moment in an overstocked, under-spaced location. And remember I dropped off a good deal of stuff before I left. My advice, like writing a story, when you think you have everything perfect, whittle off an additional 10% no matter how much it hurts. I do have a minor luxury in that realm, I’m selling books as I go along, so my stock is shrinking increasing space for other things. Helps but isn’t good enough. Cut deeply my friend. You will thank me in spades for it.

Looks like I lost my first pair of glasses. My computer/reading glasses seem to have vanished. With forethought, I carried a spare of each of my two pair of glasses with me. I still don’t know how the other disappeared I’ll keep looking but it is not corporeal in my current space.

Next: The Best Laid Plans

 March 9, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 092020
 

3/8   Layton, UT – Evanston, WY 101 miles

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

I have a number of topics I want to chat about today, but as the title says, let’s start with the convention.

SaltCon is a great little show for family and hardcore gamers. While I didn’t count, I’d estimate a door of 2000. I will say that I have never seen so many infants, toddlers, and frankly children of all ages at any convention I’ve ever attended. On the plus side; YEA! The next generation will have that many more folks added to our otherwise rather aging boardgame population. On the minus; oh, what a racket / ruckus. I will say that on the whole the parents were exceptional at keeping their kids under control, but it only takes a couple to color the judgement of this old fart.

With so many gamers, one might theorize I must have done quite well from a business perspective, right? <BUZzzzz> Thanks for playing. I lost money doing this convention. I didn’t even cover the cost of the table let alone any other costs (state taxes, cost of print books, gas, food, etc). Now two caveats come to mind as I say that. First, I was ill. Day one I only put in half a day. I never really got into my full charismatic engagement of potential customers until day three. Second, I don’t want anyone to think it was a bad convention. The folks who ran it were helpful and superbly organized. The convention itself had a positive and friendly vibe. The venue was exceptional. The only negative thing I can say is that it didn’t work for my business.

Along those lines, I thought back. I’ve been to SLC twice before this (different conventions each time). Each vending opportunity I’ve lost money. It looks like this is NOT the demographic for my work.

I am interjecting here about one of the ‘games’ that was at SaltCon. I got to play twice. It is called Artemis: Bridge Simulator. They had an entire room set up as the bridge of a ship with seven bridge officer stations: Captain, helmsman, fighter Ops, Engineer, Comms, Science Officer, Tactical, each with its unique requirements and skillsets. Amazingly well done. I highly recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to play. As it is a ‘game’ the server and client software can be bought. I’m sure they have set it up at more conventions than just SaltCon.

I played Engineering first. Lots of fun coordinating different power requirements of the ship vs the moment by moment needs. Anticipating the needs based on what took place at that moment was quite fun. I intended to play the Helm second but someone wanted that and they were minus a Captain. I decided why not. Trying to think big picture and communicate CLEARLY your orders to each officer was a fun challenge. I think I did that well even if we actually didn’t succeed in our mission. Which brings me to a minor segue here. The mission we were doing while I was captain was based off of a ST: Voyager show that my writing mentor actually wrote – The Omega Directive! Steve, if you are watching, your vision lives on. It tickled me that it had come full circle like that.

Artemis… play it if you get the opportunity. Any of the scenarios was a great deal of fun.

To sum up: SaltCon is great for gamers. SLC area is not good for vending for me.

Getting ill: I will admit that I didn’t fully think of this while I was planning this trip. Oh, I made some hand waving and brought a few items that definitely helped, but I didn’t think it all the way through. As most us know, the Con Crud® is a real thing. It happens when you cram thousands of bodies into a small space. Germs from person <n> get passed around to person <n+m> in many permutations. I’m sure there is some mathematical formula for just how likely someone is to get sick based on the number of people, etc. Even if you don’t get ill, there is still talking yourself hoarse, sore feet/back from standing all day, sore joints and muscles from loading in/out. There will be a reckoning. Bottom line that unless you have the constitution of a Rigelian ox, or are an automaton, you will get ill in some way. Think about beforehand. What do you do when something ‘attacks’ you? Not attend the show? Soldier on? What about medicines? Food while you are sick? Can you put up with your small enclosed space for multiple days at a time (in a bad but not worst case)? What about not having a caregiver? All of these things you need to think about in advance.

Now I’m not saying drag around an iron lung, a full pharmacy, or even tie a doctor onto your hitch. I’m only saying to think about what you can get easily on the road and what might be more difficult (ex: I’m prone to nasal infections so I brought along my nettie pot. Not something you will find at your local truck stop nor in a small-town pharmacy). Thinking about it BEFORE you get ill/injured allows you to make difficult decisions BEFORE you are in a bad way. The example for me is that thinking back on this last show, I probably should not have been there for the first two days at all. I should have hung up a sign “Sick and staying away for YOUR protection.” When I was there on day 1-2 I wasn’t effectively marketing anyway. My mind was too focused on what my body was/wasn’t doing to focus on the attendees. But, and here is the rub, I wasn’t in my best decision making mind because of my head cold. I kept thinking more about the sales/revenue/engagement than realizing that all of them were compromised. Just think of multiple scenarios BEFORE they happen. And don’t forget the most critical decision of all: what would make me call off the rest of the shows and go home?

After the show, I packed up and hit the road. My original plan had been to not leave until the morning following the convention but I couldn’t see losing the daylight. I went off to eat up miles before my next stop. Probably a bad thing in retrospect. I hadn’t slept long enough the night before (only 5+ hrs) so I got drowsy VERY quickly. By Evanston I could barely keep myself awake and said, “I’m done.”

Next: Long Haul to Amarillo

 March 9, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 072020
 

3/5   Layton, UT 0 miles

To see the entire road trip visit www.tanstaaflpress.com/tgrt/

If I was a poet, I think it would have been entitled from bad to verse. So I bedded down at a truck stop only to find that I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up every couple of dozen seconds hacking a lung up needing to blow my nose or both.

By my reckoning my sleep consisted of one stretch of 30 minutes and two stretches of about 15 minutes.  At which time the sun peeked out and let me know I needed to start the day. Not only that I had to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for my customers – all when I felt at best like cold SOS on stale bread. I think (eventhough I’ve never experienced one for real) it felt like a hangover after a three day bender.

I got into the con in time to battery my lights and get them shining. I scanned the rest of the booths. Only two of us had books and the other gentleman had books tied to his RPG product. So I sat there. Moving hurt. Coughing hurt. Blowing my nose hurt. Not moving hurt. And this was after 1000 mg of pain-killer.

The doors opened and… well, not much. A mini-rush but as always no one stopped to look at books. Can someone tell me why there is a cloaking field over books until noon?

Besides the point, I managed to hang on for about 20 minutes when I realized there was no way I would make it through the 10AM-6PM day. I put up a sign saying I’d be back and went out to my trailer and slept. Actually slept. I managed to get 30 mins, 45 mins, and 60 minutes worth of sleep, in that order. Now I felt at least moderately like a human being. I went back inside at 2PM. Managed to gut out the rest of the afternoon.

When I got out I made the horrible mistake of going to Texas Roadhouse BBQ. Thought it would be a good place to stoke my needy body. Instead I nearly lost everything. Noisiest restaurant… Ever. I don’t deal well with noise in the best of times. This made it worse. Poor service, messed up my order didn’t help. The prime rib was excellent, however.

Escaping that hell, I beat feet to a different truck stop (the one before didn’t really have a place for me to park and I felt uncomfortable where I ended up). This time got a prime spot, and slept for… 4 hours followed by 3 hours. When I can get big blocks of sleep nearing normal, I know I’m close to well or at least well into mending.

This morning I did laundry and took my first truck stop shower… pretty nice here at the Flying J… and other maintenance chores. 

My energy lasted today from 10-3 before I really started to run out of steam. But I gutted it out. Made it and am back for some more lovely sleeping.

Next: SaltCon Overview

 March 7, 2020  Uncategorized No Responses »