RonO (rono_60103) wrote,

Trip Report -- Part 1

This year our vacation took us to Albuquerque for a visit with the family then to Anaheim California and the surrounding area to visit some theme parks and attend LA Con IV, the 64th World Science Fiction Convention. This is my trip report. Unlike the last couple of years, I didn't do any work on the report while on the trip so this is from memory, almost a week after returning.

Wednesday August 9, 2006

For the second year in a row, I had a dental appointment on the day we left on our trip. This time Derrick's appointment was scheduled for the same time. This meant that we had to get up only a little later than normal and Derrick and I had to drive to the dentist. We also knew that we would get back with less than an hour before our ride picked us up. This left our morning a bit more harried that would have been optimal. However, everything went smoothly and we were read when our ride showed up.

Our ride was with a new company, and a new driver who had never driven to Midway. Unfortunately, its been years since I've been to Midway and Tara had never flown out of there. This caused a bit of stress when the driver took what I thought might be a longer route. In the long run I suspect it was just as good, since I forgot that Midway was south of I-55 so we didn't go nearly as far out of the way to avoid the traffic on I-290. We arrived at Midway with plenty of time -- or at least with what would have been plenty of time at O'Hare.

What I had somewhat forgotten about was Midway's reputation for having very slow security lines. While they were not as bad at throes in Atlanta after the 2004 CTIA show, they were slow. It took us about 30 minutes to get through security, leaving us with less than an hour before our flight boarded. Security also dumped us between our gate and the restaurants. We quickly got in line at the Pot Belly Sandwich Works, the only restaurant that had quick lunches available, and got three sandwiches and drinks. We got back to our gate, and ate while waiting to load.

Our first flight leg was from Midway to DFW on a regional jet. Because of this, Tara and I had to gate check our carry-on bags, but that wasn't a big problem. The flight was smooth and relatively quick seeming, even though I had to take an aisle seat due to the "2 and 2" seating.

According to the travel alert I got before leaving, and the announcement before landing at DFW, our connection was only a few gates over in the new terminal at DFW. So after landing and retrieving our gate checked bags, we walked over to the next gate. Just as we were about to sit, an agent informed us that our flight had been moved to a terminal on the other side of the airport. We caught the train to the other terminal, but that was a nice ride.

At this point things started going a bit wrong. The plane we were supposed to fly to Albuquerque had problems so the flight was delayed. Then the replacement turned out to be unavailable, so we were delayed longer. I think our total delay was 2 or 3 hours, mostly spent sitting at DFW.

After the delay, our flight to Albuquerque was uneventful. However, when we got close to landing I looked out the window. If I hadn't know we were about to land I would have figured we were still near Dallas. The ground was the wrong color. Instead of the yellow-brown color normally seen in the summer, everything was green.

We landed and got our bags. I then took the shuttle to get the rental car. Because of the delay, Avis had released my car, but quickly found me another. I got to the car, a white Ford van with Arizona plates, and went back to the Airport to pick up Tara and Derrick. We then drove to my parents, who had dinner waiting.

Thursday August 10, 2006

Our first morning in Albuquerque was spent settling in. Tara and I did go with my mom to the store to get some groceries for the week. That afternoon, we all went to the Balloon Museum. This new museum is very nice, but not too large and can easily be covered in couple of hours. After that we went back to my parent's house. We ended the day by taking my parent's to Garduño's.

Friday August 11, 2006

Shortly after we got to Albuquerque, Derrick expressed interest in taking the Tram up the mountain. While he wanted hot chocolate -- since he has only been to the top of the Sandias in the winter -- we thought that lunch at High Finance would be a nicer choice. While discussing this, I brought up the fact that my parent's had planed to take me up there for dinner on my birthday, probably about 30 years ago, but plans were postponed when the weather was bad. Somehow the trip never got rescheduled. So we compromised, my parents would take my whole family for lunch 30 years late.

We left for the tram in time to get up before lunch time. We drove to the base of the tram and found a close parking place and headed up. The tram was more crowded than the last couple of times I'd ridden, but throes were weekdays in the winter, not the summer. We got to the top and looked around a bit before eating.

We ate a nice lunch at High Finance and then wandered around the area near the top of the tram. Tara and my Mom kept mostly to the decks since neither is walking all that well these days. But my Dad, Derrick and I took a short hike, probably a quarter to half a mile, up towards the crest before coming down.

Ron, Tara and Derrick at the Crest
Picture of us at the Crest

On the way back, we stopped at Bien Mur and looked at jewelry and pots. Tara got some earrings and my Mom determined that she needs at least some of her collection of pots appraised again.

Later on Friday, my older sister and her family dropped by, and we spent the evening with them.

Saturday August 12, 2006

On Saturday we spend much of the day the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. We chose to go on Saturday because they had dances. Amusingly, the dancers that day were a group that does dances from the plains and mid-west, instead of pueblo dances. The troop were very good, especially the one five-year-old boy who is showing great promise, even learning dances that no other family member does.

We ate lunch there and then toured the museum and gift shop. At the museum Derrick learned about how difficult life was in the pueblos during the per-colonial and Spanish colonial periods. Tara got a couple of books at the gift shop to reinforce this learning. After that we returned home and spent the rest of the day with family.

Sunday August 13, 2006

Sunday we spent most of the day at my parent's resting and relaxing. Tara and went out to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon.

Monday August 14, 2006

On Monday morning, Tara Derrick and I went to Coronado State Monument near Bernallio. We had a nice walk around the ruins and the museum. Derrick and I took a walk along the river walk and then we went back to my parent's. Afterwards we all went to lunch at the new Flying Star in Corrales. </p> Derrick in armor
Derrick in the armor worn by Coronado's Troops

That afternoon, Tara, my Mom and I went to Old Town to look for beads for Tara's mom's business and to look at possible birthday presents.

My younger sister and her 20-month-old son were scheduled to return from London on Monday. My mom had been concerned that due to the heightened security that they wouldn't be able to bring any diapers. Fortunately, one of my connections found the BBC web site that confirmed that that would not be a problem (all though they were not looking the information up for me). As it turned out her flight from London to Las Vegas was delayed, and she missed her connection to Albuquerque and had to spend the night there.

Tuesday August 15, 2006

On Tuesday, Tara Derrick and I drove to Santa Fe via the Turquoise Trail. This is the back route that goes on the East side of the Sandia mountains. The day was cloudy and we got a fair amount of rain, but it was otherwise a good trip.

In Cedar Crest, we noticed a sign at a church that read "Welcome to Seattle NM." A couple of miles further on, I looked up at the Sandia's and noted that if I pulled off and took a picture, I could probably fool people into believing that it was taken near Seattle, not near Albuquerque. The rain and low clouds really looked a lot like how the rain and low clouds look on the west slopes of the Cascades near Seattle. (I didn't find a place to pull of and get the picture, however).

We made a stop just inside of Madrid (pronounced like "mad rid," not like the city in Spain or the current Attorney General of New Mexico). We wondered into a few shops there. The first art gallery didn't catch anyone fancy. The second shop turned out to have hand made shirts, cut and made like Hawaiian Aloha shirts. I found one that I bought, after considering two or three others. We then wondered across the street into a gift and curio shop where Tara found some stuff for her and Derrick.

We then continued on to Santa Fe. When we got to Santa Fe, I made one serious mistake, and I really knew not to make it. New Mexico 14 ends at Cerreos Road in Santa Fe. I decided that since I was already there, I didn't need to drive one exit -- albeit about 3 miles -- on I-25 to get to Saint Frances. Quickly I realized that this was a big mistake as the traffic and longer distance to the intersection of Cerreos and Saint Frances made this trip take about 30 minutes, instead of the 5 or 10 it would have otherwise.

We got to the plaza and got a late lunch just before Tia Sophia's closed for the day. We then wondered about a bit and Tara got a few more things. We then headed back

Wednesday August 16, 2006

On Wednesday, Tara and I took Derrick to the National Atomic Energy Museum. I found it an enjoyable experience and learned a couple of things. I don't know if Derrick learned as much, but he got a "Science is Awesome" shirt which he really likes.

After that we went across to Old Town and did some more shopping.

Thursday August 17, 2006

Thursday was another rest day. Tara and I ran out to Costco to get Hot Dogs for the Chicago Bid party at Bubonicon that weekend.

That evening, most of the family dropped by to celebrate my upcoming (at the time) 40th birthday. In addition to some normal presents, my older sister and her husband gave me a bunch of "over the hill" type gag gifts -- such as Ben Gay.

Friday August 18, 2006

Friday morning was spent getting the last of the food we needed for the party. My younger sister was off that day, so we also spent time with her.

That afternoon, Tara and I went to Bubonicon. We spent a few hours that evening, including attending a talk on doing astrobiology research in caves.

While we were at the con, my younger sister took Derrick and his ten-year-old cousin to a rock climbing gym. By all reports, he had a very good time.

Saturday August 19, 2006

Saturday morning, Tara and I got the onions and tomatoes ready for the party at Bubonicon. We left for the con about 10:00, but stopped to get the last food we needed for the party (hot dogs that I could eat). We decided to get lunch before going to the con, and ended up at the Route 66 Diner when I could not find parking near the Frontier.

We got to the con, and attended a talk by the Artist Guest of Honor. After that it was time to start setting up for our party. Unlike any other con I've been to, most parties were sponsored two-hour blocks in the con suite. Since we were serving hot dogs, we got 5:00pm to 7:00pm. Unfortunately, the con had a mass autographing session -- and no programming -- from 3:00 to 4:30 and two really good panels at 4:30 and 5:30. This meant that we had a lot of people hanging around the con suite during our set up. It may have also caused not as many people to be there when we actually had food available.

At the party we gave away about 160 of the 200 hot dogs we cooked -- and left the rest for later noshing if needed -- we also ran out of nearly every condiment we had. We were also thanked by both the Con Chair (who was surprised that Columbus was there) and one of the heads of the Con Suite (who was able to restock since our hot dogs distracted everyone from the lack of other munchies for a couple of hours).

Bubonicon is a nice con. This is my second time there -- having last visited in 1996 when I didn't even think about going on to LA until it was too late. However, it is very different than the Chicago area regional. It isn't that much smaller (2005 had just over 500, compared to 750 to 800 at DucKon), but it only has three tracks of programming -- one of which is mostly made up of readings and author talks. It also has very few parties. In two years, I only saw one real party -- the Denver bid party -- as well as the three sponsored blocks in the con suite (our Chicago bid block, a Columbus bid block afterwards and a tea on Sunday afternoon).

While we did not sell any memberships, our ability to do something at the last con before the Worldcon where the 2008 site would be selected did not go unnoticed.

Sunday August 20, 2006

Sunday started fairly relaxed. We thought our flight was just after noon, so we got ourselves packed (except for the last laundry) and were relaxing when I got the flight notice. I had misread the schedule and had the flight time an hour later than it really was. So instead of relaxing for a while before leaving, we had to rush our last packing and leave.

However, traffic was almost nonexistent and we got to the airport with plenty of time. We checked in and got thought security. I had one last complaint that the GarduÑo's at the airport is outside of scrutiny, and then we went though. Even with the increased restrictions, we got through faster than we had at Midway. The only problem was that I forgot to push my laptop through. However, the TSA agent was used to that problem and sent it through (after confirming that it was mine).

Lunch was a bit of a problem. Tara and Derrick went to the normally reliable sandwich shop, which turned out very unreliable -- Tara's sandwich was burned and they got the wrong kind of chips. I found the La Hacienda shop on the other side, and got a Carne Assada burrito, which fell apart about ¾ of the way through, revealing a bay leaf that hadn't been pulled out.

We boarded our flight to Phoenix. It was a smooth short flight. After we landed, the flight attendants suggested that we close the windows to keep the plane from heating up. We had to walk a ways at Sky Harbor, but not too far. The airline changed the plane that was being used for the flight to Orange County, so some seats had changed. But ours were not effected.

The flight to Orange County was similarly short and smooth. The Orange County Airport is very compact and we were near the center so we got out quickly. It took me a bit to find Avis, but this time my car was waiting. This time it was a white Chrysler mini-van with Nevada plates. I did get lost trying to get back to pick up Tara and Derrick, but wasn't lost for long. We then drove to the hotel and got checked in.

After getting settled in, we went to Downtown Disney for dinner. Because of the crowds we ended up getting take out pizza slices, or similar, but it wasn't a bad meal. We then went back to the hotel and went to the pool.

Sunday was the last day of the international Pokémon Card tournament, and the Hilton was the headquarters hotel. So, when we got to the pool it was filled with kids who played that game competitively and the hot tub was filled with their parents. Listening to their conservation, I decided that I could almost be listening to parents at a karate tournament, or a vaulting fest.

Monday August 21, 2006

On Monday we went up to Universal Studios. At first, I had to get used to driving in Souther California traffic again. Once I settled in, it went smoothly but not quickly. We were caught in a major traffic jam just after exiting I-5 for US-101, but we got to Universal Studios at a good hour.

Tara had paid extra to get "Front of the Line" tickets which allowed us to use a special gate for most of the rides and attractions. This helped us avoid waiting and made the day much more pleasant -- especially since Derrick doesn't like waiting and Tara's legs don't like standing around.

Derrick being eaten by Jaws
Derrick being eaten by Jaws.

We took the studio tour first. Afterwards, we let Derrick spend some time in the Nick Blast area. We rode the "Back to the Future" ride and then got lunch. After lunch we saw the Animal Actors show and headed down to the lower part of the park.

Derrick and Sponge Bob
Derrick and Sponge Bob

We tried to get on the Jurassic Park water ride, but after getting in the boat, the ride had to shut down -- later we learned that someone climbed out of a boat. So we went to the show on special effects. (If one of the hosts in the Special Effects show wasn't the same person who hosted our studio tour, they must be brothers). After that, we rode the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster and then finally got on the Jurassic Park ride.

After that we left the park itself and wondered around the Universal City Walk. Near the center, Tara and I rested for a while while Derrick played in a fountain and got drenched. After that Tara found the Wound and Wound Toy Company and could not leave there without buying a couple more robots. After that we went back to the hotel.

Derrick getting soaked
Derrick playing in the fountain

By the time we got back, Tara and Derrick were tired but not hungry and I was past ready to eat. I waked down to a Carl's Jr. while they got ready for bed.

Tuesday August 22, 2006

Tuesday was our day for Disneyland. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a late start and the park was very crowded. So we barely got out of Tomorowland before we were burned out. We never even got over to the California Adventure even though our tickets would have let us into both parks.

After getting in, we headed for Tomorowland and took the Star Tours ride. After that we got "fast pass" tickets on Space Mountain which weren't good for about 3 hours. We took a spin on the autotopia cars, got lunch and visted the Inoventions area. A highlight at Inoventions is a show demonstrating Honda's Asimo robot. We still had time to kill so we took the railroad around the park.

Say Hi Asimo
Asimo during his show

After that we finally got onto Space Mountain. Derrick was a bit concerned about it at first, but settled down. I enjoyed the ride. all though I don't know if not being able to see was an advantage or a disadvantage to the way I normally handle roller coasters.

After that we left Tomorrow land, and wondered briefly through fantasyland and into frontierland. We took a ride on the Mark Twain which allowed Tara to sit for a while. After that we worked our way out of the park and back to the hotel.

On Sunday when we first went to Downtown Disney, we took the Anaheim Resort Transit and got a bus driver who couldn't speak English and didn't know that he didn't have any route maps. When we went to return, we could not find the bus back to the Hilton and finally took a bus to the Marriott across the street instead.

That evening we got our badges and I stopped by the Chicago in 2008 party and scheduled the first of many shopping trips I'd make that weekend.

I think I'm going to stop here, and do the con in another report.

Tags: cons, new mexico, travel

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