TTN: 6-8 November 2022
BGG.CON: 9-13 November 2022
Day 1 – Sunday 6 November
Sunday morning, 5.15am – George and I wait, bleary-eyed, in the garage with our suitcases, for the taxi that was due at 5am. Luckily, 5am was earlier than we needed it to arrive, but when we were finally on the road and heading for the airport, our first safety margin of time was completely gone.
Perhaps it was daylight savings that threw our driver out, perhaps it was something else – but he certainly lead-footed it on the way to the airport, so I guess he realised not everyone has space in their timetable for a 10-minute delay… I would have preferred him not to do 70mph in the pouring rain, but hey… we got to the airport in plenty of time, I think around 5.50am.
The good thing about bigger cities like Portland, compared to Wellington, is that they actually have the counters open for check-in for early flights. Many times, I have shown up at Wellington airport when instructed to find that I am the only person there – no staff, no one at the check-in, not even a coffee kiosk open, just a cleaner or two and a disinterested security guard. PDX had the bustling feeling of market day morning, with everyone already well into their workday, and queues forming at check-in and security already.
We paid extra for priority to see if it was worth it, and it was – we skipped the line and got our bags checked in really quickly. If we also had the TSA pre-check, we would have been through everything in 10 minutes. As it was, we were still on the other side of security and in the queue for coffee by 6.20am.
I forgot to change my analogue watch to allow for daylight savings, and thought it was 7.20am, aargh – but luckily, we checked our phones before we skipped breakfast. Mine was an OJ and a chocolate muffin, and George had a bagel and cream cheese, then we headed to our gate and settled in to wait for our boarding call. It was also nice to be able to board first and stop listening anxiously for our call – and we got first dibs on the overhead compartment, too.
One thing that I definitely appreciated about American Airlines is that, while the lumbar support on the seats themselves was oddly placed far too low to be comfortable, the belts are very long – I generally have to ask for a belt extender so as not to lose feeling in my legs, and there was a good 30cm of extra belt left even when I did mine up loosely. It’s something I really hate about flying, that choice between ramming the belt closed and cutting off the circulation, or having to ask cabin crew for an extender – they invariably pass it to me with a flourish, as if I want attention drawn to the fact that I am fatter than their average passenger. So that source of anxiety is nixed, and I appreciate it very much!
AA offers two drink services on a flight this length, usually. You can get some of their beverages and a snack for free, or pay for other menu items. They only had the biscuit (which probably contained ginger), no pretzels, but the cabin crew made a special effort to bring me a croissant from first class, which was amazing. As usual when flying, I had tomato juice. I drink quite a lot of tomato juice anyway – particularly V8 – but tomato juice has always been something we have at the airport (on the ground) and in the air. There are claims that there’s a scientific reason or two for it, but for me, it’s traditional, comforting, filling, and the vitamin content (especially in a V8) helps me cope with the demands of travel. They didn’t have V8 available, so I had Mott’s, which is bland and almost unpleasant at ground level, but was pretty acceptable in the air – and that’s apparently a proven effect of altitude/cabin pressure.
Something really unexpected was how early our flight arrival was – we had an incredible tail wind from the jet stream, which flows west to east across the USA, meaning we arrived almost an entire hour earlier than predicted. Given that the jet stream is fairly permanent, I don’t quite understand why the flight time wasn’t always the same length hours in that direction – it must vary sufficiently (by a whole hour?) that it sometimes takes the full 3.5 hours, but it’s pretty confusing for connecting flights… I think we took off a bit after 8am PST and landed at 10.45am PST, but we were expected to land at 11.30.
We made up for all the time we gained by waiting for a shuttle to the hotel only to find that we were booked into the Dallas Hyatt Regency DOWNTOWN, not the Dallas Hyatt Regency AIRPORT, and therefore ineligible for a shuttle – so then we had to wait for a Lyft car. That turned out to be awesome, though – our driver had a lot of interesting information to share with us, including that we were actually staying right near where JFK was shot (oh, yeah, that happened in Dallas, I utterly forgot) and that there was actually an x marking the spot where it happened.
Next year, I think I will plan to come for a bit longer before the convention and actually see Dallas a bit more – go to the museums, try some more non-hotel food, get a bit of a tour, that sort of thing. Something I learnt about myself is that once the convention is in full swing, I don’t like to leave for too long, or I feel like I miss out on things, so I need to plan any sightseeing to happen before I change gears into convention mode.
Planning to arrive a bit before the actual start of the conference will also allow me to adjust and not be as tired – I wanted to go to the play-testing session that evening, but felt too drained from all the stress of preparing for the trip, the travel, worrying about our pets and if they would behave for the housesitter, and being unsure if we were actually invited (and if I could bring George), or if this was something for a sub-set of the attendees, and me showing up would be a faux-pas. Social anxiety affects a lot of people, so explicitly making sure all conference attendees knew they were invited to all things in the schedule would be helpful in future.
We were so tired that we misunderstood the instructions and took off the wrong way down a long corridor, then had to haul ourselves all the way back to the lifts we had completely missed, so that was extra tiring! Once we were actually in our rooms and showered, we found that we were both too tired to even contemplate eating in one of the hotel restaurants, so we decided to splurge on room service – the menu seemed pretty good, and made some big claims. I have eaten at a lot of hotel restaurants, and while they aren’t all haute cuisine, they tend to be pretty good.
Well, in this case, the “room service” part was underwhelming. It was basically like any other food delivery – no cart, no plates, no domed covers… no cutlery… Given that I ordered steak, that made eating it a challenge that I didn’t enjoy. Also, steak in a cardboard box is never going to feel “gourmet” – it definitely didn’t justify the price! But it was decent. And we were fed without leaving the room, yay! That meant we had a bit more time to just rest.
While I read my book for a bit, George went and explored.
The oddly named “Coffee’s Post” coffee shop offers “snacks” in the same way that a tiny roadside petrol station does. Still, from what he was able to pick up, we had enough to tide us over, if we decided we didn’t want a full dinner – and it was good to know there was a microwave available, too!
The hotel “pool” is hilariously tiny. Initially, I thought I would be swimming every morning in the hotel pool to help me get going and feel energised for the day – but given the hotel “pool” was more of a pond, I decided that I didn’t feel like going through all the logistical challenges of getting to and from the pool, getting changed, and all the rest of it. This is the first hotel I have ever been to that didn’t have some kind of changing area/toilet directly adjacent to the pool (and that didn’t have a pool of a size to match the number of guests) – you have to go inside to get to any bathroom, and they are labelled as mobility toilets, which makes me even less willing to take one up to get changed. The pool was probably the sole biggest disappointment for me – I love water, and I was looking forward to it immensely.
When I packed for this trip, I had to make the terrible decision that all readers will recognise: bring all 3 books in the series I just started, and risk lugging them around without ever having time to read them, or only bring the first book, and risk running out of reading material.
Alas, I chose the latter, not expecting to consume almost an entire book on the plane, and finish it in the first evening, too tired to do social stuff. Damn.
Meanwhile, George assembled the Intertidal Survival prototype, and had a play-through of TWOIT, then we had a light snack and decided to try and sleep, because we had a huge week ahead of us!
Here’s a little video to accompany this post:
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