Thursday, August 31, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Thursday

All through the con, I attended various pannel discussions. Many times there were ten different things going on at one time, so much of what I wanted to see was just not available. Here are some of what I attended:

Self Promotion and Publicity -- How authors have promoted their books.

The books of Ben Bova -- the Guest of Honor.

Writers and Families -- how to make the trade-offs while supporting a writing career and supporting a family.

In the evening, there was a large Meet the Pro's party, where all the authors at the convention were available for autograph signing. I was on the list of authors, but the fun of the event was wandering around the several ballrooms, finding old faces and shaking hands.

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Wednesday

Green Bay, WI to Chicago, IL 210 Miles.

This was the opening day of the WorldCon, or rather the pre-opening day. By the time I had traversed the road construction that kept traffic to a crawl through Racine, and after I had located the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago, I really only had time to get my registration materials and read up on the upcoming events. I also did some exploring through the underground maze that connected many of the hotels in that area.

Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Tuesday

Huntington IN to Green Bay WI, 725 miles.

Once I got in range, my plans started falling into place, and one of my ideas, that of circling Lake Michigan, firmed into reality. There were a lot of miles to cover, and this was new territory. At first, it was just more of the flat farmland I had been seeing through Illinois and Indiana, but once I got up to Cadillac, Michigan, the land acquired a scenic, north woods, beauty, full of many lakes. By the time I reached the top of the peninsula, I was looking forward to driving across the huge Mackinac bridge to the upper peninsula. It was a very big bridge, four or five miles long and very tall to accommodate ocean-going ships. By sunset, I was on the other side, taking pictures and then driving on down into Wisconsin.

Monday, August 28, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Monday

Mt.Vernon MO to Huntington IN. 600 Miles

This was a day to make miles. I didn't have any particular destination, other than to see the Arch in St. Louis again. I really didn't know what I wanted to accomplish other than to get to Chicago on the right day. Mainly, I wanted to get up into the Great Lakes region, and maybe see some land I hadn't seen before.

In St. Louis, all the highways converge to one bridge over the Mississippi, and I had been there before on other trips, so it is not surprising that I got lost. Well, maybe not lost, but rather turned around. I accidentally took the westbound highway instead of east bound when the routes got all tangled together. At least I got to drive though the city and see the architecture. (That's the excuse anyway.)

Sunday, August 27, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Sunday

From Weatherford, OK to Mt. Vernon, MO. 475 Miles.

My parents met and married in Waynoka, and all my life, I had heard of the place, but I had never been there myself, so I intended to look it over.

As I crossed the Cimmaron river, I saw the Little Sahara State Park, or at least part of it. The sandbars of the river have, over time, blown up on the north bank and created an impressive dune field. My parents talk of playing on the sand dunes as kids, but today it is a playground for sand buggies and wide-tire jeeps. I didn't feel like going in myself. For one thing I didn't have all the equipment they wanted before they let vehicles into the dunes, like that tall flag so that other vehicles could see you on the other side of a rise.

The town of Waynoka was a pleasant place, with lots of facilities for the dune buggy trade. I drove around, finding the former location of one grandfather's drug store, and the church where they went, and the train yards where my other grandfather worked.

I next traveled east, heading for Arkansas. Of course, once again it was a very hot day. My car thermometer reached 110 at one point, and I finally had to stop at a diner/gas station to drink down some Gatorade and eat some ice cream. I settled into a booth at the diner and let myself soak up some air-conditioning.

The next booth over had a couple that attracted my attention. The man had the distinctive facial features of American Indians, and was bare-chested with numerous tattoos, one of which was an Indian drum. He was into a newspaper, and he commented to the woman as he read. From what I overheard, he was reading the section of the newspaper that listed the arrests and it was just like all the times I have seen older people reading the obituaries, looking for people they know. He turned to her and mentioned that so-and-so was arrested for burglary and what's-her-name was arrested for prostitution. It was an interesting look into a different culture.

I arrived in Siloam Springs, and immediately tried to find the farm where my family lived when I was born. The farm is in Oklahoma, and the town is in Arkansas. I quickly got lost. I had been there very few times in the past, and on my own, I had never been confident that I had located the place. Finally, I got on the cell phone and called my parents. My father gave me directions, and I was able to locate a farm that almost looked right. I took pictures (later confirmed) and marked the location in my GPS so that I could find it again.

Siloam Springs has always been interesting to me. I was born there, and from what I understand, it was a close decision whether my family would stay there and farm, or return to work with the railroad. So, for one decision, instead of growing up where my father worked in a city and electronics was the norm, I might have grown up rural, more concerned with the weather, seed, and soil.

Saturday, August 26, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Saturday

Roadside Park to Weatherford in central Oklahoma 425 Miles.

At about 5:45 AM, a group of motorcyclists drove into the picnic area. It was still pre-dawn, and I imagined that I could still stay asleep, but that was an illusion.

The cyclists were just a advance force. They began setting up for the rest of them to follow. When they started talking about how many dozen eggs to cook, I hauled out my laptop and set up on the picnic table to work on my novel while the sun rose.

Before I leave the wrong impression, let me say that the motorcycle club people were very nice and offered me coffee. Don't imagine black leather and tattoos, these were ordinary people from the surrounding towns who went on outings together on their white and chrome machines. By the time the others arrived, I packed up. They probably needed the picnic table a lot more than I did.

My mother was recovering from hip replacement surgery, so my first order of business was to go visit her in the rehab center in Amarillo. It was nice to see how well she was doing. She had been moved from the hospital just the day before and today was the day all the different rehab specialists came to visit and check out how well she was doing.

While I was talking to my father, and explaining that I was going to be taking side trips on the way up to Chicago, he mentioned Mt. Scott in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. So, when I left Amarillo, that is the direction I headed. The day was very hot. Driving in an open jeep at 106 degrees does tend to wear on you, so I made an extra stop at McDonalds for an ice-cream cone. Mt. Scott was every bit as pretty as he had said. From the top, there is a wonderful overlook over the surrounding lakes. The buffalo herds and the longhorn cattle were a nice compliment to the rolling meadows between the mountains. As it got close to sunset, I headed north, in the general direction of Waynoka.

Friday, August 25, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Friday

To Chicago for the WorldCon 2000 and back again, with side trips of course

Austin to the roadside overlook on State Highway 207 above the canyon containing the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River. 450 Miles.

I left from work, since I had packed the Jeep the night before. The main purpose of this trip was to attend WorldCon, the annual World science fiction convention. This year it was to be held in Chicago, and ran from Wednesday through the next Monday. Of course, I could have flown up there, but what's the fun in that? I like long road trips. So I just extended the time off to a full two weeks, which gave me, roughly, five days to get up there, five days at the con, and five days to get back.

The trip to Amarillo is well practiced, but I didn't quite have time to make it the whole way, given the time I left. When I ran out of alertness, it was midnight and the roadside park was welcome. It appeared deserted, so I just pulled up to a picnic table and leaned the seat back and dozed off.