The Long Journey (Home)
A Chronicle of our 2018 Summer Road Trip (part 1)
In my last blog post, I highlighted quite a few changes that had happened in my life over the last few months. Now I’m going to look at another change that’s happening as I write this. As a result of leaving Upper Deck and working from home (and convention circuits), we’re relocating. The final relocation won’t happen until late in July. We decided that this was the perfect opportunity for an adventure!
Our end destination is likely to be Indianapolis, Indiana for a handful of reasons, but right now we’re adventuring for the summer and the first leg of our journey is to Florida, where my parents retired. My partner and I have an 8-year-old daughter, Maxine, and her last day of school in California was the day we moved out of that apartment and hit the road.
Our first week of adventure was a cross-country drive. The first night we stopped in Yuma, Arizona. That’s not very far from Oceanside, but Thursday nights my wife hosts Fresh Cup of Geek, a Twitch show on the Bard Podcast Network that talks about nerd-culture so we had to make sure that we were set up in a hotel room early enough for her to eat dinner, prepare, and host. Max and I took that opportunity to do some exploring.
We found a huge Barnes & Noble (but it closed at 7 pm, which is weird) and then we went to a local game store called Fan-Quest Comics & Games. We chatted with the owner for a little bit, and this was my first opportunity to buy Mordenkainein’s Tome of Foes – so I picked it up. I have yet to look through it, but it sounds like a book I’ll get some kicks out of.
From Yuma, we spent the day driving through Arizona and New Mexico and landed in El Paso, Texas. We got there much later in the day and didn’t get to do as much exploring as we did the night before, but we did find Sun City Games which had the biggest selection of HeroClix I had seen in quite a long time. In my time running a local game store (Fox Comics & Games in Marion, Illinois) we had an enormous HeroClix crowd and eventually had to split our HeroClix nights into two groups. We also formed a competitive ‘Clix team and traveled to tournaments. Sun City put us to shame. Boosters took up at least a 20-foot wall space, with Starter Sets and FastForces nearby, and sealed bricks on a shelf above the rest of the wall.
The other neat thing we got to do in El Paso was eat dinner in an old train car. Track One was right next to the Marriott we stayed at. From the outside, the building looked like three train cars pushed together, and the inside was exactly what you would expect. An old-timey feel with dim lights and narrow seats really leaned into the ambiance. That description doesn’t really sound so comfortable, but it felt so cool that I didn’t care.
Our third night on the road we stopped on the other side of Texas to stay with my brother and his family for the night. We hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving of 2016, so it was great to catch up. He had bought a few local beers for us to try, and we ended up staying up until about 3 am catching up and swapping stories. My family isn’t very close, and it’s not huge, but it’s big (I have 4 siblings and 7 nieces/nephews). We have trouble staying in touch, so there are often times where we go months or a year without talking to each other. We’re all very different people.
We did a late start the next day, again chatting with my brother’s family. That night we didn’t make as much distance as we would’ve liked because we ran into the Cycle of Travel. If you’re not familiar with this dastardly cycle, it’s the point in travel where you stop to fill up gas, so everyone gets drinks. Then you stop because everyone has to pee, and you top off your tank. Then you realize everyone needs drinks, so you stop to get new drinks. Then everyone has to pee again. Then you need gas. Then you need drinks. It’s honestly all kinds of vicious and ended up costing us some precious time. We stayed in Houma, Louisiana which is right outside of New Orleans.
Right outside our hotel was a brand new, fancy, 2nd & Charles. I worked at the one in Gainesville, Florida for a short time as Assistant Manager. I was brought on because I knew games and comics, and 2NC wanted to start doing more gaming stuff – which I knew. For a short time I tried to help them figure out what that looked like, but eventually, I was called away. But I still like the 2NC brand – it’s genius, and I think that they’re great stores (that I could sink a lot of money into). I got to pick up my pulls for the week (except Exiles #4, which they were out of) and some new stuff that we didn’t have room for. Then we ate at a great Cajun place, Bourdeau & Thibodeau’s Cajun Cooking – we tried the Gator Bites, some more local beer, and Shrimp Creole and hot damn it was spicy.
After another lazy morning, we made our way to New Orleans. We had an amazing early lunch in the French Quarter at Gumba Ya-Ya’s, did some sightseeing, and then got iced coffee (cause it was warm) at Café du Monde. Walking back to our car, it started pouring. This might be normal, but my partner and I are rain lovers that have spent the last nine months in California, and the year and a half before that in Reno… we haven’t seen much rain in the last few years so instead of, sensibly, finding a nearby place to wait it out – we fucking booked it.
So there we were in a parking lot in the French Quarter in our little Nissan Versa, all three of us soaked to the bone. Since all our belongings are either packed and in storage, or in the back of our car we all changed out of our wet clothes while the rain continued to plummet.
That night we stayed in Lake City, Florida. We didn’t get to the hotel until well after midnight. When we woke up, we made our way to Gainesville and visited my old stomping grounds. I got to reconnect with some of the employees, which was a cool experience. The store hadn’t changed much in the few years I’d left it.
And then, we made it to my folks’ place.