Thursday, September 14, 2000

Worldcon Chicago

I just returned from WorldCon in Chicago. For a log of my trip, and side trips ,check the triplog. (Previous Blog Entries)
Bear and cubs

Saturday, September 09, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Saturday #3

Clayton NM to Hutto Texas. 710 miles.

I dropped by my parents' house. My mother was home from rehab and was doing well, using a walker. I was able to show them the pictures I had taken of the farm in Siloam Springs and although the property had changed quite a bit, they were able to confirm that I had found the correct house.

After a couple of hours, I hit the road again for the final leg of this trip.

The jeep was not cooperating, and I stopped about a dozen times to let the engine recover. Still, I made it home about 4am on Sunday.

The total trip mileage was 6377 on my GPS trip computer.

Friday, September 08, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Friday #3

Grand Junction CO to Clayton NM. 600 Miles

I chose a route through Lake City and Creede and Pagosa Springs that I had not traveled in many years. While it didn't go through the highest mountains, it did have many pleasant canyons. One thing was interesting. Many of the aspen and other deciduous trees were turning colors early this year, probably from the heat and other stresses. I got several beautiful shots.

Going through Creede, the road went above an area where there were several mobile homes. One had a spraypainted sign on it 'No Train'. And sure enough, off beside the road into Creede from the south, there was an old, unused narrow gauge railway. Some time in the past, it must have joined the railroad that currently ran from Chama. Someone wanted to bring tourists into Creede. Other's didn't want that. Politics are everywhere.

I stopped for lunch at an old time favorite spot, the Malt Shop in Pagosa Springs, and then it was time to say goodbye to Colorado.

New Mexico greeted me with a rainstorm, and strong winds carrying dust. Of course, I had been driving with the windows open and I got a little wet before I finally buttoned everything up. Then through Taos, and up to Eagle's Nest and down through the Cimmaron valley by dark.

My car trouble that had been constant every day since Chicago (with the exception of the Yellowstone day), was gradually getting worse. From one-second power losses, it was now so bad I had to pull off on the shoulder and turn off the key before I could get power back. At least the power always came back when I followed the rules.

Thursday, September 07, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Thursday #2

Jackson WY to Grand Junction CO 430 Miles

While my first inclination was to head south via Salt Lake City, to make use of the interstate, I realized the more direct route would be much shorter, and would also give me the opportunity to visit Dinosaur National Monument, which I had passed by several times in the past.

The road itself was soothing, with many canyons, and lakes. But once again, along the Flaming Gorge canyon area, there were the signs of a massive grass fire. For many miles, the land to the right of the road was bare earth, populated with black sticks, all that was left of the sagebrush. On the right, the vegetation was untouched. I wondered, in this day and age, the highway system provides an extensive barrier system against grass fires. What would it have been like before the roads, when there were no firefighters to slow the fire's progress?

Interestingly, I saw little or no evidence of firefighting among these ashes. Only near ranchland did it appear that an effort was made to halt the fire's progression.

The Dinosaur National Monument was quite a spectacle. An historic dig site, an ancient riverbed upended at a 70 or 80 degree angle, had been roofed over by the park service. All this century, full dinosaur skeletons had been removed from the site, but still there were many more. Seeing this graveyard of stegosaurus and allosarous and others, still in the rock was quite a sight.

The travel time was productive for me, and in addition to the hour long Burger King stops, this night I gave up on making more miles so I could sit at a McDonalds with outdoor tables and write out an outline for seven related novels.

Of course, people watching was fun as well. This McDonalds had a large playscape, and inside there were three boys about 12 or 13. At the same time, three older boys, about 14 to 16, came by for drinks. As they left, the older boys commented to each other that the younger kids had just left their bicycles by the door, where they weren't safe.

One of the older ones, with mischief in mind, turned back, picked up one of the bicycles, and just waited there until the boys inside noticed him. In a panic, they came out to rescue their bikes. However, the older boy was bigger, and their complaints were cautious, especially as the other two older boys had returned to watch. The younger ones were seriously worried, and I ached to tell them that the older boy was just playing with them.

Finally, the instigator was ready to leave, and now he had to find a graceful way to back down. By comparing bicycles, and finding something wrong with each of them, he left without taking any of them. The younger set were of course relieved, but offended at the judgement on their bikes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Wednesday #2

Bismarck ND to Jackson WY. 715 miles

This was Yellowstone day, or rather 5 hours through Yellowstone. This was also a personal record, but not one I want to ever break. Five days is much better, and I wouldn't mind trying for five weeks. I told myself that I would check with Canyon Village in the park and if they had a room, I would spend the night and make up the miles later in the trip, but as luck would have it, the last available room was taken just minutes before I got there.

Still, Yellowstone is a place where a lot can happen in just a few hours. It started before I reached the park, just on the other side of Beartooth Pass. There was a huge expanse of freshly burned forest. The smell of smoke was still strong. This was just one of the many burns I had already seen this trip.

Up on the pass, it started to snow, and quite heavily, at that. I passed a snowplow coming up the other direction to handle the little drifts that were starting to gather on the road. I felt sorry for the motorcyclists who were stopped at a viewpoint to bundle up. Several cars turned back from the pass, although it was still quite passable.

The first animal I spotted in the park was a deer, but it was far from the last. In Lamar Valley, I spotted a herd of Buffalo off in the distance, and just past Tower Junction, the road was clogged by the many vehicles that had stopped to observe a black bear and her two cubs, just twenty feet or so from the road. I got some great video.

However, Yellowstone was not immune to the dry spell, and the lakes and rivers were all down several feet. Some of the watering holes I had seen in years past were dried out.

After passing through Canyon Village and stocking up on supplies, I walked over to the Upper Falls, and was scolded by a squirrel.

Down by Fishing Bridge, I stopped to marvel at the trout that no one is allowed to fish and then on down by Lake Yellowstone. By then it was getting rather cold, and I was NOT going to close up the Jeep in Yellowstone! I had not brought a coat this trip, but two shirts, a sweater, a wool pullover and a windbreaker, together with the heater running full blast at least made it tolerable.

I saw the steam from the geysers, but this trip, they were going to be ignored. After several trips, it is the animals that draw me there, time and again.

And my observations weren't done yet. While trying to make it to Grand Teton before I lost all my light, I saw a male and female elk near the road, and then a few miles farther on, I saw a pair of bull moose grazing in the distance. Of course, the video camera was ready at hand.

Finally, I reached Lake Jackson, and although the sun had set, there was still quite enough light to take pictures of the Tetons, and the mists rising in their valleys.

Tuesday, September 05, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Tuesday #2

Chicago to Bismarck, ND 835 miles.

When I checked out of the hotel, and got into my car, I still wasn't sure whether to head east, and see parts of the great lake I hadn't seen before, or head west, and just maybe come back through the mountains. Of course, the reports of 112 degree weather back in Austin may have inclined me towards the mountains, but I really think it was a simple luck of the draw that led me to Lake Shore drive, and naturally west. It was a long drive, and 835 miles, my personal record, but it wasn't unpleasant.

I had traveled along Interstate 94 before, on other trips, most memorably another science fiction convention trip, where I had taken my son Thomas with me to a convention in Oklahoma, via North Dakota.

I did, however, start to develop a engine problem, where the Jeep would lose power after driving for more than an hour. It cleared up each time after stopping the engine for a few minutes, but I tried various ways to combat it, such as higher-octane gas, and STP fuel treatment.

Monday, September 04, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Monday #2

Not over 'Til the fat Arisian Sings

Beginning Astrophotography

The Rebirth of Hard SF

And that was the end of the convention. I saw Debra and Mary Ann off in their taxi to the airport, and then took a long nap.

As evening came, with all the events over, I walked down to Navy Pier and took a boat ride in the harbor while they shot off the fireworks. I saw Larry Niven and wife walking the streets as well.

Sunday, September 03, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Sunday #2

Traditionally on Sunday morning, there is a business meeting of the SFWA, and like most, there was conflict and controversy. Still, that is the place to get closest to the real story and the fastest news, and I get to vote against bad policy.

Forthcoming books from Bantam

Forthcoming books from DAW

Forthcoming books from Warner

How I buy what I buy

And again, more visits with other Authors, only this time, the Masquerade was on the TV and the room was totally packed. I left early and watched the event with Mary Ann and Debra in our room.

Saturday, September 02, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Saturday #2

Why Short Stories are Still Worth Writing

Copyright on the Internet

I tracked down Debra in the dealer room where she was buying a dagger and trying to buy a period costume. Mary Ann joined us and we went to eat.

Forthcoming books from Baen

Forthcoming books from Ace

In those, I got to watch the publishing staff at work.

What do we mean when we say Hard Science Fiction?

I again spent most of the evening in the SFWA Suite talking to other writers. The Hugo Awards were going on, and were on the hotel television, so we watched in comfort with a buffet table close at hand.

Friday, September 01, 2000

Worldcon Chicago Friday #2

More events I attended:

Estate Planning for Authors and Artists

L. Frank Baum and 100 years of Oz

Researching your Writing

Creation of a Publishing House

Best of the year SF anthologies

Many of these were chosen for the subject, but more were chosen because one of the speakers was someone I wanted to meet or understand, especially book publishers and editors.

I located the SFWA Suite, a room limited to writers, and talked to some of the other writers who had retreated there from the day's activities. I intended to wait there until Mary Ann and Debra were due to arrive from their plane flight, but just as I started feeling like something was going wrong, I got a telephone call from Debra, telling me that their plane was being delayed. Still, they made it.

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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Marfa Lights

I am recently back from a little road trip in my jeep through Colorado, New Mexico and far west Texas. In the photo's section, there will be a number of Rock Mountain scenes for a while. In addition, I spent the night by the highway outside of Marfa Texas where I looked at the fabled "Marfa Lights". I must say it was interesting and puzzling until I figured out what was going on. Here is a still clip that is actually a 9 minute time lapse image of the radio tower and the lights that move above it. I would love to show you the video, but I don't have that much disk space.