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.