We didn't get to go to the Browncoat Ball last year, even though it was so close (in Philly), because we had just closed on our house and were in fullscale move-disarray. We vowed to go to the next one. When it was announced that the next one was in Austin, I was thrilled. I've been to Austin before, it's a fun place. I have relatives across the state in Midland, TX, and since I don't travel much, it offered an opportunity to hook up with them as well. My mom, who likes to visit my dad & younger brother in TX, decided she'd drive down from MO and they could all caravan over to meet up with us. So not just a Browncoat Ball, but practically a family reunion as well!
Originally, I really, REALLY wanted to take a train down there. I have an intense dislike of flying that has only become more severe with the privacy-invading security theater that has been getting more and more ridiculous since 9/11/01. And I LIKE trains, a lot. And it was a great tie-in to the first aired Firefly episode "The Train Job". A great idea, that alas, was not to be. It would have taken too much time, and the cost was extremely prohibitive. So we decided to drive instead (this was, of course, before the crazy gas-price-increase over the summer). Fortunately for us, by the time the Ball actually rolled around, prices were dropping. Whew!
Our car is fairly small (it's a 2001 Kia Rio), and we were taking a ton of costuming stuff, as well as food & stuff (we had an extended stay hotel, and dealing with gluten issues on the road is a hassle - so we brought a lot of stuff with), so we ended up buying one of these to tie onto the top of the car. It worked really well, though the way we packed it, it was a bit heavy for two people to manage. And I cannot tell you how many people asked us about "the body on the roof" throughout the journey (ours didn't pack up as plump as the one in the ads). Even funnier were those that didn't specifically ask, but followed us closely on the highway, or zoomed up beside us and paced us while staring intently at the roof.
It took us a LOT longer to pack up the car than we had anticipated. Our intended start time was between 9 and 10 am, and we didn't actually get out on the road until around 3pm. I had planned our stops on the way there using google maps estimated times. It was grueling, especially that first day when we started so late. I've learned that when planning drives in the future, I should add about 2 hours for every 5 hour stint per googlemaps; for stops, for traffic, for whatever time is mysteriously lost during road trips. Our first night was in Wytheville, VA (SW of Roanoke). It was fine, though we got not enough sleep, and our earlier stop at Outback Steakhouse in Hagerstown, MD had left me some variety of poisoned, so I had an aching gut and crankiness throughout the 2nd day.
The BB folks had asked after we registered where we wanted to be listed as from (info that ended up on the con badges), and we listed Martin's Bay, on the planet Athens. It was a random name I chose (though Athens is, of course, part of the world-canon of the Firefly universe), but as our anticipation mounted, we made up stories for ourselves about our fictional home. In our world, Martin is a big wheel, and many things are named after him. Imagine our delight as, after dinner, we stopped in Martinsburg for gas. It totally made our too long, exhausting day. I am still grinning like a loon, just thinking about it.
The next day was perhaps the most grueling. First, as I mentioned, my gut ached. Second, the road glare was really, really getting to gregortroll. Finally, we were traveling up and down in the mountains. I have a very hard time popping my ears in mountainous situations. Gum doesn't really help, or swallowing. Mostly I need to yawn to make it happen. So my ears hurt, as well as my gut, and I was terribly cranky. And the drive was SO much longer than we had anticipated. We probably spent 12+ hours on the road, having thought we'd be about 8 1/2. It was exhausting. I don't remember what we ate that night.
Night number 2 was spent in Memphis, TN. Again, uneventful (though I now realize that I do have a fondness for Courtyard Marriott). Still not enough sleep. We got up on day 3 knowing that our longest leg was ahead of us, and that we could collapse at the end of it and stay in one place for 6 days. Ah, the holy grail of travel!
(to be continued, when I get around to it)