Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BGG.con 1, or further adventures in transportation

I spent about 10 hours travelling today, I guess. I have to guess, because the first thing that happened to me today after I got on my first bus was that my watch battery died.

My schedule was to arrive in Dallas for the con on Tuesday early afternoon, which would give me plenty of leeway time. I could miss flights, take a long time travelling, and not really care, since I only really had to be anywhere Thursday morning. Still, I wanted to get to Tuesday night's game night in Dallas (which was not at the place it was last time), and Wed night's gaming at the hotel. And in between, some shopping.

Caught a bus in Toronto at 6:40 to take me to a 9:10 flight out of Toronto Pearson to Dallas Fort Worth. The aim was to get the bus, to the subway, to the "Rocket" airport bus at 7:18, arriving at the airport at no later than 7:40. I had to arrive an hour before the flight, according to the ticket.

Unfortunately, the subway took longer than expected, and the next bus was only at 7:38. The 7:38 encountered more traffic than expected, and I only got to the check in at 8:08. Good thing, because the clerk told me that 2 minutes later and she would have denied me access to the flight.

Things went rather smoothly after that, at least until I was in the air.

The plane was a small tube with 4 seats across. Big jumbo jets have big wings, where your only concern is that the laws of nature will wake up while you're in flight and remember that heavy things fall. Little jets have little wings, where your concern is that they'll snap off if a breeze hits them.

The plane had the same on air entertainment system that my last one did, so I got to watch a few sitcoms I had never seen (time spent checking out sitcoms on an airplane doesn't count toward wasting time).

The big difference between big and little planes is what happens to the little plane when the plane hits turbulence, which can only be described as the difference between a male and a female orgasm, except not in a good way.

No problems landing in Dallas, no customs even. Ground transportation assistance has improved just a smidgen since last time I was there. They still don't know anything about transportation in Dallas or Fort Worth, or anything at all about Dallas or Fort Worth, actually, but she was able to make me a photocopy of a piece of paper which explained how to get to the train that would take me either to Dallas or Fort Worth. Last time, she couldn't even do that.

With no plan, I had several options. What I needed to discover was how I was going to manage the rest of the week traveling back and forth to Dallas proper from the airport area, if some kind soul didn't put me up on various evenings (got a tentative offer from someone as of now, by the way).

My first thought was to take the free shuttle to the airport Westin, i.e. the location of the con. There, I would drop off the games I was bringing so that I wouldn't have to lug them around Dallas, maybe sneak a few pictures of the rooms we would be playing in, and maybe scope a free ride to the other Westin, if they offered this as a service.

You have to contact the hotel from transportation assistance to get them to send their free shuttle. I had no problem contacting them, but the shuttle took 30 minutes to arrive. So don't count on that being a quick thing. I succeeded in my first mission; I dropped my games off at the hotel in safe keeping. Unfortunately, the rooms had not yet begun being set up, since they were still being used for other things. So no pictures of the game space to come.

Also, they don't offer shuttle service between Westins, or between their hotel and downtown Dallas. They also can't get the airport shuttle service to pick you up at the hotel on the way to downtown. The only option available from the hotel is a taxi, around $35 to $45.

On the other hand, you can get a free ride back to the airport and then take an airport shuttle for $17. Since I had time to explore, I decided to try the cheap route again: go back to the airport and take the train. A day pass is $5. But train service is very infrequent, sometimes as little as once every hour and a half. It took a good 20 minutes to get to the train station, and I had an hour to wait for the train. I spent the time reading a discarded newspaper, so I wasn't put out.

Finally got to downtown Dallas, Union station. What you want to do from there is take either Blue or Red line up one stop to West End and walk into the DART information center, at which you can get information and schedules for all the bus routes in the city. I got information on how to get to Half Price Books (the big one), Cafe Brazil, site of tonight's game night, and the location I would be staying at (Preston and Harvest Hill).

All of this had taken a heck of a long time, of course. And there's no direct route to Half Price Books or the Cafe Brazil from downtown. Both require a red train line to a stop, and then a transfer to a bus and another short ride. From one to the other would require bus/train/bus. And buses are notoriously late. I tried the service going to Half Price Books, and it took about an hour.

All in all, my options for getting back and forth to the con were as follows:

- Take a taxi every day for $40 each way. Time: 20-30 minutes each way.
- Take an airport shuttle for $17 each way, and then a free ride to the hotel. Time: 1 hour each way?
- Take a bus to the train to the TRE (train) to two buses to the free shuttle, for $5 total both ways. Time: 3 hours each way.

Bleah. The only good choice is to bite the bullet and sleep at the hotel, if possible.

Anyhoo ...

I only had an hour at Half Priced Books, which is pathetic, as it is by far the best book store in the world. No other store compares, and that includes Powells in New York which just looks pathetic in comparison. There were over thirty full length shelves simply devoted to game and humor books, not to mention actual board games. Sadly, I couldn't spend all day there.

By 5:00, I had had enough of public transport, and even though I could have spent another two hours traveling for free, I decided to take a cab. So instead of spending the extra money from the airport to Dallas, I ended up spending the extra money inside Dallas itself.

Finding the Cafe Brazil was not easy, as the staff weren't quite sharp enough to tell me the first time what the best way to get there was. I ended up circling with the taxi meter running before calling again and getting better directions. For the record: north on 75, get off on Campbell exit to the north access road, continue across Campbell, up the ramp immediately to your left, over the highway, and back down again onto the south acces road. The cafe is right after a bowling alley.

I could only eat potato chips, bottomless glasses of root beer, and strawberries at the cafe. Hopefully I'll stock up on better food tomorrow.

I arrived and dragged some people into It's Alive, which I won fairly handily. They seemed to enjoy it enough. Then I saw that everyone else was in a game, except for two people who didn't want to play for some reason. They were waiting for someone else? I ended up alone and reading a book for quite some time. I was a little annoyed at that.

Finally I roped someone into playing Cribbage with me. After one round, a third player finally agreed to play and he showed us how to play Notre Dame ( I had just read the rules). I really liked it, and I have a feeling that our group will, too. A good discovery for me. I also won.

Next we found ourselves with five people, and a few games from which to select. Despite my request for Puerto Rico, we ended up playing Winner's Circle. OK, why not? I won that too, but only because I scored a great victory on the last round. In the second round, one of the horses had a 20 movement for caps, and it moved twice, coming in first place.

Lastly, we played Yspahan, by the makers of Caylus. It felt a bit like Goa to me, and I can see why Ameritrash lovers hold this game up as a standard of ridicule for its themeless, mathematical, wooden cube movement. Nevertheless, it's an ok game, but nothing that struck me as wonderful. I have a feeling that my group will like it rather more than I did. I came in last, because I ignored several important tracks that shouldn't be ignored.

My friend picked me up, and here I am.


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