GG: The US Tour – The Third Leg…sorta
So three weeks ago (wow, I really didn’t realize how long it had been since my last Tour post), I wrapped up the second leg of my US Tour with a tour of the Mythic Studios. The whole second leg of the tour was quite the whirlwind and I really had no clue what I was going to do after it. I had ideas about places I still wanted to go and there were definitely people I still wanted to see, but it was hard to wrap my mind around the idea that I wasn’t done after everything that had happened.
The first leg had been full of breathtaking sights like the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and Monument Valley. The second leg had been all about meeting new people and having wild adventures. How does one follow that up? What more is there, really, to do after that? I contemplated doing the historical tourist thing and spending a lot of time in the Washington DC area, Boston, Philadelphia, etc. I even contemplated turning south and hitting up Florida, maybe Disneyworld, New Orleans, etc.
Ultimately I decided to do neither and just head north. I have guildies that live in New York State and relatives in New Jersey, so I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to visit them while I was there.
So herein lies the tale of my journeys to there and beyond over the last few weeks.
So I stayed another day in Virginia after the day of the Mythic tour, more to let things settle and think about what exactly I wanted to do for the third leg than because I had anything else planned for there. It gave me a good chance to catch up on some blog posts (the ones from the second leg of the trip) while also just giving me some time to enjoy ‘not’ driving. hehe
Unfortunately, unless there’s a lot going on somewhere, I hate staying in one place too long. So I got a hold of my guildies in New York and told them I was coming up to see them. Gotta love short notice. 😉 Leaving NoVa in the middle of the day actually seemed to be the perfect way to do it. I didn’t really hit any traffic at all going up the coast, which is amazing considering the horror stories I’ve heard about the area.
I have to say though, at one point going thru Delaware, it was SO FLIPPIN MUGGY!!! I got out of my car and felt like I’d stepped into a pool. sigh. I was really hating the broken air conditioning on the east coast. The only real trouble I ran into was when I got closer to Albany. It started this outrageous downpour the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. It was coming down so hard I had to slow down to about 30 mph just to see. It just doesn’t rain that hard in San Diego. lol. It didn’t last too long though and I have to say, the cooler climate was very nice. 🙂
I was supposed to meet up with my guildies (Saitou and Yamamoto) in the afternoon the next day, so that morning I found a diner on the internet that said it had free wireless internet and headed on over there to hang out and wait to hear from them while working on stuff. Ironically, it turns out they knew the diner I was at very well once I told them where I was. Turns out Yama had worked there in the past and Saitou’s mom worked there right now. I texted and asked her name on the off-chance she was my waitress, but she wasn’t. hehe. So Yama showed up with his fiance and Saitou showed up shortly after and we hung out, talked WAR, and ate.
We decided to head off to the local theater and try to catch a movie before it got too late. We ended up seeing the new Harry Potter movie, much to Saitou’s chagrin. hehe. Way to take one for the team man! Afterwards, we wandered around the mall we were at and chatted, then it was time for us all to head off. It was a great time finally getting to meet up with people I’d been playing the game with for a while. In Saitou’s case, we’ve been playing MMOs together since SWG. I’m looking forward to getting up that way again.
After enjoying a nice, cool, rainy night in Albany I hopped in the car the next day and headed down to New Jersey to visit some relatives. I’d only been to their place once before back when my uncle and I drove from Oklahoma to Jersey straight thru in his truck after we’d spent a week or so out fishing with my grandparents. I literally got to Jersey, fell asleep on a couch, woke up, said hi to everyone and headed to the airport back then so I was looking forward to actually spending a little more time with them. :p
This time around, I got a tour of their house (which before I’d really only seen the kitchen and whatever room I crashed in), got to meet my cousin’s husband and her two kids. Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. lol. The best part of the whole visit was when my cousin was talking about her youngest, who is turning one soon, and how his grandma had held his hand and he had walked for the first time one-handed with someone. She turned to where he was holding on to the corner of the wall with both hands and tried to coax him into taking her hand to try it out, but he would have nothing of it.
I chuckled, told her she was doing it wrong, walked over, stuck out my hand and said “Let’s go”. He looked at me for a second, took my hand, and then proceeded to walk all the way thru the kitchen and the living room… The whole time my cousin is standing open-mouthed and pointing at me while trying to get her husband to come see it. hehe. What can I say? I have a way with kids. 🙂 I told her afterwards to stop giving him options he was too young to understand and just tell him what to do. hehe. Worked for me.
Anyway, part of the reason I had been so unsure of what I was going to do for this portion of my Tour was that I knew I had to be back in San Diego the last weekend of the month. Not for Comic-Con (I’ve been at least the last five years in a row and was just over all the lines from last year, so didn’t bother with tickets), but for one of my old student’s wedding receptions. Right out of college, I ran a before and after-school program at a middle school for three years. She was one of my original 7th graders. I’d seen her thru Middle School, watched her in plays in High School as well as watching her graduate and there was no way I was going to miss her wedding reception. That holds true for a lot of the kids I had back then, but she’s one of the ones I’m still in touch with to this day, so it was top priority as far as I was concerned.
So I had an invitation to stay with some people up in Michigan and a need to be in San Diego shortly, so I decided to head up to Michigan and just relax for a few days and then fly to San Diego from Detroit. In discussing this with one of my new friends from Chicago, they mentioned they were born in San Diego but had never been there since, so I invited them along and they accepted. So, plans made, I relaxed in mid-Michigan for a few days and then hopped on a plane to a San Diego full of Comic-Con attendees.
Now, just as an FYI, if you ever plan to attend Comic-Con in the future, please follow these rules:
- Shower and use deodorant every day at the Con.
- See number 1 again. Seriously.
- Purchase your Comic-Con tickets at least 9 months in advance. Preferably, do it right after the current year’s Con ends and tickets go on sale. This is because they’ve been selling out faster and faster every year for the past five. Don’t get screwed.
- Purchase the four-day pass, it’s worth it. Only locals should ever buy single-day passes. Even then, the smart Con-goer gets the full pass anyway. There’s multiple reasons for this, but there is one main one: Preview Night.
- Reserve your hotel room at the same time you buy your tickets. Even if you have to put down a huge, sometimes non-refundable, deposit. The last thing you want to do is not get a hotel room downtown. It’s so much more fun to be right there and be able to walk to and from the Con from your hotel as parking is a PitA and the Trolley can be too. Pony up and do it, you’ll have a blast.
- Pack a comfortable backpack with solid snacks and bottled water. Food at the Con sucks and is expensive. A bad combination.
- Finally, at least for this abridged guide, plan out your forums in advance and have second and third options ready if the lines are way, way long. This will maximize your time and your experience. Fill in any huge gaps with either time cruising the sales floor or just kick it in a major forum hall and see what happens. Don’t forget, there’s stuff outside the Convention Center too, so it can be nice to get out and walk around in the ~gasp~ sunlight every now and then.
So we got to SD, picked up our rental car and headed out to grab lunch. Of all the great places to eat in SoCal, the one that was first in my mind to take them to was:
O. M. G. I love this place. I’ve had a lot of burgers at a lot of different places across the country, but nothing that I currently know of is as good as a Double-Double from In-N-Out. It is a SoCal tradition. This place is ALWAYS busy. And for good reason. With a combination of good food, decent prices and great service, it’s hard to beat. Not to mention, the menu is pretty simple. Not much to ponder about, just look, order, eat. On top of that, the staff is always dressed the same way and I love it. Especially the giant clothes-pin they use to hold their apron on. hehe
As if that wasn’t good enough, it even has a secret menu. I’m not going to ruin it for anyone though. If you’ve never been and you get a chance to go, ask about the secret menu and try it out. 🙂
Afterwards, we drove through the campus of the University of San Diego, my alma mater, and then hit up San Diego’s famous Mission Beach. Boy was it busy. I mean, I know it’s summer, but it was a Thursday for pete’s sake! Don’t you people work! hehehe. We both dipped our toes in the waves before heading off to the hotel to drop our stuff off and enjoy some air conditioning. lol.
For dinner that night, we hit up the next favourite on my SD restaurant list: Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. We actually went to the one in Pacific Beach as I love the ambience there. I love all their places though. Ironically, not for the pizza, although it is good. There’s only ever two things on my list for dinner at Filippi’s: a Meatball and their Lasagna. Now, I’m sure you all can understand a good Lasagna, but a Meatball? hehe. It’s awesome. And huge. It’s literally as big as my fist and served on its own plate with their red sauce poured on and around it. It’s a definite must-have if you ever go there.
The next day we hopped on the Trolley and rode it down to the Convention Center to hook up with Andy from Mythic since he was going to be getting off his shift at the Con and looking to grab lunch. Another quick tip: If you’re in SD and plan on exploring via the Trolley, make sure to just get the Day Pass and not pay the one-way fares. It’s usually about the same price and makes it much easier to hop on and off at will.
We met up with Andy in front of a very crowded Convention Center and headed over to the gaming room EA had set up for the event. They had previews of Dragon Age and more, although I didn’t make it out of the Dragon Age room before hunger set in and we bailed to get food. I did stick around long enough to watch the opening cinematic for the game, which wasn’t bad, and try out the character creation. Sadly, it bugged out and I couldn’t get past the base selections, but hey, it looked good up to there.
We grabbed lunch at a fairly new restaurant for the Gaslamp District (restaurants and bars tend to rotate in and out of fashion there and very few stick around long) and decided that, while the food was good and it definitely filled a niche, the service left a lot to be lacking. I don’t expect to see it there when I hit the Con up next year.
What I do expect to see there, forever and ever hopefully, is Heavenly Cupcakes. Oh my. I’d always heard about this place, but I tend to stay away from sweet-shops as I’m already needing to lose a few pounds. The last thing I need is to fall in love with a place and put on more. rofl. But wow. This place is fabulous. It’s a very basic store-front, but who cares? The cupcakes are phenomenal! Heavenly even… 😉 I tried both the Carrot and the Chocolate Chip and I almost couldn’t finish them as they were so rich. To top it off, they even sold Mexican Coke in bottles. Don’t get me started on why this is the best Coke ever, it just is. Accept it and move on.
We left Andy so he could try and get some rest after a late night at the Gwar concert that was part of the Brutal Legend party. Poor guy… yeah right. 🙂 We then hit up the SD fashion mecca that is, appropriately named, Fashion Valley Mall before going off to do some more touristy stuff around town. Before we left SD, we ended up hitting Ocean Beach (a great place to get lost, in more ways than one…) as well as Society Billiards, which is hands-down my favourite pool hall in San Diego.
No, I didn’t skip the wedding reception. No way that was going to happen. We got there early, and by early I mean right on time hehe, and headed in to grab a seat. The actual wedding had happened in Utah a month earlier and they’d had a reception there, but since the bride was from San Diego and had all her family and friends there, they had a SD reception too. The reception was held in a Mormon Temple and, despite some comments about what might happen, I was able to enter without getting struck by lightning. 😉
I have to say, the majority of it was rather odd. Not because I’m not Mormon, but because it was really weird seeing a lot of the students I’d had when they were in Middle School now walking around with kids and married. Strange. It was bad enough when they all started driving… /shudder. hehe. It was a really good time though and I loved seeing the bride and her family again as they’d always been like my SD family back then, inviting me over for Thanksgiving when I didn’t have plans. Good people. Isn’t she adorable? 🙂
So, after the fun, touristy weekend in SD and after dropping my friend back off at their place in Michigan, it was time to hit the road again. I headed the truck south and took off to spend some time with my mom again. First, because it felt like my time flew by there last time and I wanted to stay a bit longer. Second, because I needed a break. lol. Non-stop traveling can be a blast, but it can also wear on you eventually. I needed a place to sit down and transcribe all those interviews I did, write up a new Tour update (this one!), do some other WAR-related blogging, and possibly even get some gaming in. Imagine that!
It was quite the interesting drive, as it turns out. The GPS still works pretty awesomely, I must say, but boy does it get mad when there’s a road closing and you’re forced to take a detour. It has a fit as it tries to get you to turn around over and over again since there’s no way to tell it you had to take a detour. lol. That happened in St. Louis as I was trying to take this picture…
Not bad for driving a stick-shift with one hand, taking a picture with the other, changing lanes in traffic, ignoring the GPS shouting at me and overall generally trying not to kill myself or anyone else. Mission accomplished!
The rest of the drive was fairly uninteresting. The scenery was beautiful, including the thunderstorm off in the distance after dark as I neared the Oklahoma border, but nothing else eventful happened. I got in fairly late, again, and hit the sack for some much-needed Zs.
So now I’m back in Tulsa enjoying the weather…not! It’s consistently been 97-103 and humid. Ugh. I’ve been staying inside with the air conditioning. hehe. I did brave the weather Tuesday when I took my little cousin out to play golf. I drove the cart, he played the 18-hole Par 3. Afterwards, we hit up some pizza and then did 18 holes of mini-golf. Now that was much more my style. :p
I plan on being here for at least another week before heading north then east again towards Virginia. I’ll be looking for a place to live in the NoVa area once I get there. Beware NoVa! Mykiel and I will be on the loose! hehehe On the way there, I may stop and see some more WAR people. I’d like to make it happen, we’ll see how well the finances are holding out. 🙂