So - we get off the airplane in Phoenix about midnight, drive through to San Diego in a rented minivan and show up at registration for the Convention at the buttcrack of dawn.
We pull into our chosen hotel, Old Town Inn, which is located about five miles North of the convention center. Having researched the heck out of the whole shebang before we left Columbus, we chose this hotel for two reasons
1) We could get a room. The hotel rooms downtown were sold out in about two days via the booking service that the convention uses to manage room rental.
2) It was close to the Old Town Transit Station, which provided access to a special light rail route that would take us right to the convention center from our hotel. (Hey Columbus!!! Pay attention here!!! A ten minute ride to a major convention from an outlying hotel!!!)
Oh and one more reason - this hotel get a lot of good reviews online.
So we pull in after 10 hours of travel with little or no sleep, looking and feeling like the winners we are and stagger into the hotel lobby. The hotel staff is great. Of course our rooms won't be ready until 3pm that day, but they might be able to get us in as early as 11am, and yes - we can use their restroom and park our rental car in their lot while we stagger over to the light rail station. Nice nice people.
We then go hit Denny's for breakfast. Not because we really want to, but because we could figure out how to get in and out of their parking lot. Let's just say the little grey cells were running very slow by that point for all involved. One nasty breakfast later - we head down to the convention center.
Annie and I had both volunteered. Annie - cuz she is a cheapskate who was paying her own way (Yes, she had to earn the money for the plane ticket and her part of the hotel room. If you need a baby sitter in the Clintonville area, she is starting to save up for next summer's vacation already!)
Why did I volunteer? Because volunteering lets you do two things. The first is see how the whole convention works from the inside and help out the poor beleaguered souls who give up their time to organize and run the convention. The second? So I could keep tabs on the offspring. (Yeah, I'm such a mom.)
Tony and Tate bought registrations. It's $75 for the entire weekend. That is Thursday-Saturday with a Wednesday night preview. As far as convention costs go, that isn't too bad. Volunteer registration is fairly well organized. We get through, sign up for our assignments, then wander around inside the convention center and look at the mass of humanity pressing against the lobby doors waiting to get in. Tony and Tate join the throng from the outside, queueing up to get their prepaid registrations.
Did I mention there are no on-site registration sales? Too bad if you snoozed. Amazingly enough, Tony says the line went very quickly. They had about 100 people processing entrants in a large hall, then folks were herded into a waiting area for the convention to open.
At 9 am, the doors opened and people rushed into convention center and immediately flooded the Dealer's Hall. The Swag Rush has started. It's like freaking 1849, but for collectibles instead of gold.
(What is Swag you ask? Swag is all the cool freebies that are given out over the course of the convention - it can be anything from posters, to books, to action figures. Some items become very sought after - like the huge swag bags from Warner Brothers, which you need to have to have to carry all your other swag. I ended up with over six swag bags filled with stuff. I'll go more into this later.)
OK - here is how big and crowded the Dealer Hall was. My first panel wasn't until 10am, so I decided to walk the length of the hall. According to my calculations, the hall was almost 900 feet long. It was crowded. It took me 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Without stopping to geek out. It was just that crowded.
I had lost Annie by this point. And Tate and Tony. We all had things we wanted to see before we headed back to the hotel, plus I was scheduled to volunteer at noon. Ah - foolish, foolish me. I had -maybe - 3 hours sleep. This was going to go great.
So I leave you here until the next installment, intrepid reader. You'll learn more about volunteering, swag monkeys and San Diego.