Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shattered Moon Alliance (SMA) Con 2006

Two weeks ago, Matt and I took our first long road trip since we got married. This trip was to Madison, Indiana for the EverQuest2 Shattered Moon Alliance Convention. The premise was that the players in that guild would gather for a weekend to meet each other and have a good time. We used the weekend as a longer getaway and a chance to catch up with Matt's long-time friend, and EverQuest buddy, Hector. Here's the day-by-day run down.

Wednesday, July 19th: We left Jamestown at the early hour of 7am and head down I-90. Somewhere in Ohio, the air conditioning became noticably weaker and then practically non-existent. This is not good seeing as how the predicted high temperature in Indiana for the week was 80-plus degrees. Lunch and cooing over babies commenced in Columbus, OH where we saw our friend Karen, Karen's new little girl McKenzie, Kevin, & Mickey. Columbus is a real nice city, but I imagine a lot of that is helped by the fact that it is a university town.

We finally met up with Hector in Carrollton, KY so that we could follow him the rest of the way to Madison. After getting settled at our hotel, we grabbed dinner at Cabana Joe's. Sean Paul's "Temperature" was playing over the loudspeaker, and Hector and I used the moment to sing jibberish with inserts of "OH OH!" We capped the evening off with a walk along the Ohio river waterfront to see where a teenager, high on inhalants, had plowed through a crowd of people during the annual river regatta with his car. Over a dozen people were injured, some seriously.

Thursday, July 20th: After a heart-attack breakfast at the downtown greasy spoon, we strolled the streets of Madison. It's an older city with a lot of structures that have been meticulously restored. I took a lot of pictures of doors and some windows. The city also is decorating pigs for a fundraiser, much like how other cities have decorated horses, cows, buffalos, and lighthouses.

But the real goal of the day was not casual window shopping. It was a hike at Clifty Falls State Park. One neat sight before we even hit the trails was a group of Amish/Mennonite folk who were watching a baseball game played by the younger generation. We started on trail 7, which has the view of Clifty and Little Clifty Falls (to see how far we hiked, look at this map, and then meandered over roots, stairs, and stones to the end of trail 4. Hector failed to mention to us that the trails don't form a circle. When we realized this at the beginning of trail 3, we decided to go up on the road that runs above the trails and make our way back to our car. At this point, I think we might have given up and just laid down in the road from exhaustion if we had not run into two bikini-clad girls in flip flops. They approached us, giggling, and asked "Have you seen a red bug?" Later on, Hector, Matt, and I realized we all thought the same thing, "There's lots of bugs!! Why do they want to know if we've seen a red one??" One of us said quizzically, "Um, no?" The dynamic duo giggled and said, "We went on the tunnel trail and now we can't find where our bug is parked." At that point, we realized they were referring to a car. The girls decided to hike on to the park office, which was quite a distance away. Hector amused us by muttering, "Tee hee! I can't find my bug!" the rest of the way to our car. A shower and change of clothes later, we grabbed a buffet dinner at the Clifty Inn. The food was decent, although my body was more concerned with shoving protein into my mouth. I think I went into auto-consume mode. A drive around the park roads revealed that we had hiked about 6 miles.

Believe it or not, the evening didn't end there. We then went to McQuiston's Malthouse for some beer. I decided to do the 8-beer sampler. If you visit this fine establishment, beware, for the "sampler" glasses are more like half-pints. My favorite was a Reserve Stout from Bluegrass Brewing Co. out of Kentucky. After several beers, we collapsed at the hotel.

Friday, July 21st: I know you're thinking, "They had the whole weekend still??" in terms of stuff to do. Friday, we woke up fairly early and headed to Louisville, KY to pick up Jim & Jenny from the airport. Their flight was on time, and we quickly got their luggage sorted and went to Bob Evan's for brunch. The brunch part happened because we were waiting for a call from another guild player, Fran, on whether she was going to be able to make it. Midway through biscuits, crepes, and sausage gravy, we got the call that Fran's visit was a no-go. Undeterred, we headed back to Madison and the downtown area. The heat and humidity pushed us inside the Visitor's Center, where we watched an tourism video circa early 1980s. After stumbling around some side streets, we ventured back to the Lanier Mansion, where we were met with blessedly cooler conditions and some history.

After the house tour, we got ice cream at Kaleidascoops because it's similar to the Baskin Robbin's model of ice cream stores. I bought some popcorn from a gourmet shop and we walked through an old fashioned ice cream/candy store before we ran to the public restrooms to watch a storm roll through the area. Jim & Jenny hadn't seen a good storm in awhile since they live in the desert air of California. To back-up to the public restroom thing, Madison converted an old gas station into public restrooms that are air conditioned, have a little seating area, water fountains, and some tourism information. It's on one end of the downtown area and was perfect for our little escape from the rain. As the rain and wind picked up, we moved inside to wait it out. A water-logged fellow joined us on the benches inside. Then Hector and Jenny started talking about where they bought their horses. Innocent enough of a conversation until they mentioned how much "plat" some guy had and that he had just a million gold sitting around. The conversation digressed into more EverQuest2 talk until our soaking-wet companion slipped out the side door of the rest area and ran down the street in the pouring rain. It's safe to say that we scared him off.

After the rain settled down enough, we made a break for the car and went back to our hotel which had lost power in the storm. We all cleaned up some and then crammed ourselves into Matt's car for the journey to Belterra Casino for dinner and a little gambling. Dinner was a success for me since I enjoyed steamed crab for the first time. It was a success for Matt in that he doubled his money playing poker.

Saturday, July 22nd: We rose early once again, and squished ourselves into Matt's car for our day trip to Paramount's Kings Island. The goal of the day was lots of roller coasters. I personified the phrase "scream like a little girl" many, many times. Although, apparently I said, "Oh my!" on the Italian Job. Hector picked on me for that a bit. We conquered The Beast twice (see related picture a couple posts below), The Racer twice, Flight of Fury, The Vortex, Top Gun, and Adventure Express. We decided to forgo getting soaked on one of the water rides, and instead shot water guns and people going by on the ride. I'm not sure who had more fun, us or the ride operator who also was setting off water spurts to soak the riders.

One point of amusement was our coffee break at Starbucks. Originally, we were going to see a musical production of The Wizard of Oz in Louisville, but the idea was voted down. We started discussing who would be what character in the play, and Hector said Jim would be a monkey king. Jim retorted, "When monkeys fly out of my ass!!" This caused the woman sitting next to us give him the evil eye, collect her child, and bolt out of the cafe. Jim is a pretty upstanding guy, so this made it even more laughable. Several rides, large amounts of food, and fireworks later we found our way back to the car and stopped at the nearest gas station to buy beer. What? You thought the day was done?? Of course not! We went to Jim & Jenny's room where we soaked our feet in their hot tub, looked at EQ2 screenshots, and had several cold beverages.

Sunday, July 23rd: Unfortunately, this was the last official day of SMA Con 06. We got breakfast at a Big Boy's, where the waitress claimed we couldn't order orange juice because the water was out. This caused much discussion since there was no problem getting coffee and water to drink. It remains a mystery. After fulfilling our food needs, we began the "heritage quest" to find Jim an Indiana hat. Of course we found it at the last place we looked. Hector then led us down the backroads of Indiana where we literally drove through a creek, through a covered bridge, and saw lots of soy and corn. We sadly raced to get Jim & Jenny to the airport, only to receive a call from them 10 minutes later telling us their flight was cancelled. They were able to work it all out and get on a later flight though. Hector, Matt, and I gorged ourselves silly at a Texas Roadhouse (I think) and then made the final trip back to Madison. Hector hung out with us in our room for a little while, talking about the trip and the game, before heading home to get to bed.

Matt and I immediately became depressed that our vacation was ending and went out to JoeyGs for a drink. We were the only ones there on a Sunday night until our bartender from McQuistons showed up and had a drink with us. We took one last cruise along the riverfront and headed back for some much needed sleep at the hotel.

Monday, July 24th: We packed up and got on the road by 10am. I drove the entire way home, entertained by my iPod on shuffle. Our main break was lunch at White Castle on the outskirts of Columbus. Probably the most notable thing other than the fact that we chose our 2nd Wedding Anniversary to drive 8 hours from Indiana to Western New York.

A fine, fine trip. I'm not sure where next year's SMA Con will be but we discussed doing a cruise in two years for the guild. I'd love to meet the other folk in the guild that weren't able to make it for various reasons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was an awesome acount of the trip! Jim

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