Monday, February 22, 2010

Road Trip

We got back a few days ago from our first official family road trip. We decided to go on short notice because Kate's mid-winter break, Dundracon, and Nicole's mom's surgery all coincided in a workable way. So we spent a couple of days in Portland, the weekend in San Ramon for Dundracon, and then the final few days in San Francisco. Overall, the trip worked out well and we had a good time.

The Portland leg was potentially dicey. We were there to support Nik's mom and if her surgery did not go well, there was a chance we'd have to stay longer than we planned. As it turned out, the surgery went surprisingly well, they did less than they thought they'd have to, and she was released a couple of days early. While there we had a chance to hang out with Nik's brother Chad and his girlfriend Megan and it's always nice to see them. Alas for Kate, no Voodoo Doughnuts this trip.

We made it down to San Ramon on Friday night, but not before a thoroughly unpleasant cop pulled us over and gave us a speeding ticket. Everyone else on the freeway was also speeding but we had out of state plates and that made us a target. Fucking cops. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. We still don't know how much this is going to cost, but it's likely to be over $250 and we really can't afford that right now.

Dundracon was good fun though. We haven't been able to attend in something like 7 years, so it was nice to make it back. Dundracon is a convention that still puts roleplaying front and center and that's a rarity these days. The downside for me was that most RPG sessions were 6-8 hours long and I could not find a game I wanted to play that fit between the seminars I was doing. The only scheduled game I played was actually a minis game, a re-fight of Rorke's Drift using (heavily) modified Sword and the Flame rules. Also played four pick up games of Dominion with Bruce Harlick and a rotating cast of opponents. That is a damn fine game.

The seminars seemed to go well. Ken Hite was my co-panelist on many of them. Get Ken and I chatting about history and an hour goes by quickly. We got to be the youngsters on a seminar about the early days of gaming, but we had a support role there, as the focus was rightly on Steve Perrin and Ken St. Andre. I had never heard Steve talk about the creation and impact of the Perrin Conventions (an early set of house rules for OD&D popular on the West Coast), so that was quite interesting. We take the internet for granted now but it's fascinating how differently D&D was played in various regions back in the 70s.

One feature of Dundracon I have always loved is their flea market. Gamers can rent a table there by the hour and sell whatever they want. I've found some great deals there over the years and this year was exception. This year's score was two old Avalon Hill games. I got an unpunched copy of Napoleon at Bay and a beat up but complete copy of Midway. Total price: $5. Also found some interesting old stuff in the dealers room proper. I picked up Heart of Oak, the minis game companion to the Privateers and Gentlemen RPG. Also got an AD&D adventure that I totally missed when it came out: I8 Ravager of Time. It caught my eye because it came out of TSR UK and many of those guys went on to work on WFRP.

The rest of the con was spent catching up with old friends (some of whom, like Tim, came out because we were going to be there). Endgame was nice enough to sell our wares so we didn't have to man our own booth (which is really how I prefer to do smaller cons these days). Sunday night we went out for a nice steak dinner at Izzy's and then Bruce, Ken, Nicole, and I joined Chris and Brian to record the 50th episode of their 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction podcast. We recorded for nearly two hours but I imagine the final episode will edit out many of the boxed wine jokes and off color comments.

After DDC it was off to San Francisco proper. We had a chance to meet up with Derek Pearcy, who we hadn't seen in person in 10 years or so. It was great to catch up and meet his family. We had lunch in the Ferry Building and I got to make my pilgrimage to Boccalone. Then he showed us around North Beach/Russian Hill. Very nice. The next day Bruce picked us up and we jaunted off to Sonoma. We had a terrific lunch at Restaurant Charcuterie, did three wine tastings, and picked up a couple of bottles to take home. Kate enjoyed an old time candy store (Powells Sweet Shoppe), which had a cool collection of vintage candy boxes and boardgames on display. That night we went down to Fisherman's Wharf at Kate's request. It's normally the sort of tourist beacon I avoid, but it was much less crowded at night.

The drive back to Seattle was thankfully uneventful. We spent almost all of it listening to an audio book, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. The book brilliantly evokes what it's like to live in a Stalinist state. The ending was a little too tidy but it's definitely worth a read (or a listen).

Now it's back to too much e-mail and work. Hooray?

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