Thursday, 26 April 2012

BotCon 2012 - part 2

Just gotta finish off Day 1 first.

So after I unloaded and changed in my room, I headed straight back down to the concierge desk for some info on how to get across to the CBD (which was blocked by train tracks and roads), plus to see for sure that there weren't any grocery stores or fast food franchises close by (nothing showed up on internet searches).  I was told about the tunnel entrance/exit to the hotel that goes under the train lines (see the hotel map in the previous post - it's on the bottom floor), which was really helpful. But I was also told that the closest thing to a grocery store was a 7-ll about 6 blocks away (and that the only fast food outlet was a Subway).  I was given a couple maps of local restaurants and touristy things to do, and left the hotel (via the tunnel - which I noticed was also for accessing the trainstation).

I walked down towards the Book Depository (now a Museum), because it was still early, and I could eliminate that off my list early, freeing up tomorrow completely.
On the way, I passed by this building, which looked out of place in "the old west" of Texas (for its age). It almost seemed European medieval...
And from the other side (later in the day when I was on the other side).

 As I approached the Book Depository (the second floor from the top, the window closest to the street side of the building, is the infamous sniper spot).

 The museum closes at 6pm, so I had enough time. I went in and paid $11.50 (had a $2 discount voucher from the hotel concierge), and was handed a set of headphones and playback device and directed to the elevator, to go to the sixth floor.
When it got to the sixth floor, I didn't realise that the elevator had two sets of doors, so I was wondering why the doors hadn't opened after a while. I pressed the "door open" button and heard doors opening... I looked around, and sure enough, I was already on the right floor (lucky no one was around to see me).
The tour took about an hour, just walking around the entire 6th floor, which was full of displays, info and relics of the fateful day in 1963.
It was fascinating to be standing near the spot, and looking out onto the street below, seeing a pivotal part of American history before me.

When I got out of there, I took a photo of the road way, where the assassination took place. (between the overhanging signs and where the road bends around to the right, under the bridge). I never realised how close it was to the actual building. It almost seems redundant having a scope on the rifle.

The next stop I had planned (from before I left Brisbane) was to the Sonny Bryans Smokehouse. It was just 2 blocks away, and was featured on Man Vs Food... so I expected great things.

 The TV show had reviewed their sandwiches, but I wanted to sample all their different meats (they had about 10 listed, with various flavours and seasonings to some of them.
I was actually surprised that they didn't do steak at all. It was just marinated, smoked meats, often served in slices or chunks.
I asked for the dish that had all the meats (the Pitmaster Platter) which comes with two sides and 3 bread rolls.  The meats Pulled Pork, Pulled Chicken, Turkey, Ham, Sausage, Jalepeno Sausage, Chopped Beef, Sliced Beef & Pork Ribs.
I also wanted Onion Rings, so asked for a large portion of those as well.
To drink, I didn't want anything alcoholic or too sugary (enough calories in the food), so the person serving me suggested an "Arnold Palmer"... a half lemonagde, half Iced Tea drink, named after the golfer.
It wasn't half bad actually.  And I'm someone who hates the taste of Ice Tea.

Within 3 minutes, the Onion Rings were on the table.

10 huge rings of onion, in a thin crunchy batter... not the regular type of batter I was hoping for.
Before I could finish them off, the main course arrived. All for $20... compared to the Onion Rings being about $7.

The two sides I chose was Mac & Cheese, and green beans casserole. Most of the sides were bean related, and I didn't want to have too much gas in my system to cause any pain from the bloating.
I asked beforehand if they pack up left-overs, just to be sure I could take most of it home when I got full. I wasn't aiming to eat it all at once, as I figured it could cover me for the next day as well  if the serving was big enough.
As such, about 20 minutes later, before I was too full to get back comfortably, I had it packed up to go.

Ever heard of a Cobbler?
I heard of it from American TV shows, so was curious when offered it as a desert. I told them I was too full, but wanted to know what it was. They described a fruit crumble styled desert with no pastry base, and gave me a sample. It was nice, but I told them that I would have to come back another day for it.
I left with my doggy bag, and headed off to look for the 7-11.
I eventually found it, and grabbed a couple bottles of diet cola, to help wash down all that meat. Plus 3 uniquely American/Mexican Doritos flavours - all very hot, and very full of artificial colourings & flavourings....
Plus a couple candy items as well.

I headed back for the Hotel, which lead me past the JFK memorial. I saw a picture of it at the museum, but didn't know if it was anywhere nearby.

It is a huge cube, in two halves (had another gap on the other side). The only thing inside was a solid square black block on the ground with his name on it. Not sure what it is supposed to symbolise.

I also found an Italian outlet on the way back to the hotel, so I know where one meal will be before I head back home. :p

I was back at the hotel around 7.30 and decided to see if I could get onto the net.
It was about $9-10 a day, for up to 5 days at a time.. which will cover me to Sunday night. I think I'll be too tired on that last night to be able to do any report writing anyway.

The computer was still taking time to set up, and kept uploading updates...

Here's a couple photos of the view from my room at night.
The chuppa chup tower lit up at night.
And a building a few blocks away, which has a constantly changing pattern & colour of lights.

This hotel has about 40 different channels... and rarely anything on that's worth watching. It actually took 4 hours until an episode of Law & Order appeared, and I haven't seen too many episodes playing (in previous years, it was on like every hour on several channels... to the point of being a running gag between Ian and I.  It's weird not having that to rely on when nothing else is on to watch - as I like those shows).
There's a TV channel (hotel channel I guess) that is just a 5-10 minute loop of various secluded beaches... like tranquil ocean sounds for people who want some noise in the room, but don't want the distraction of TV programs.
And there's like 15 different sports channels... WTH?  It's no wonder Americans are so fat - they don't even need to go out to watch their favourite sports anymore, as every sport in the whole world is covered on one of those many channels.

About 4 hours later, I was hungry again and ate the rest of the dinner.
I started on the photos and report for the first day (the first posting), and as already mentioned, at about 8am (here) I had to log off due to having difficulty keeping my eyes open.
But when I did try to go to sleep, I started thinking about what to do on Day 2, which had me too excited to go to sleep.
 I figured that I should at least try to get to one retail store this year, and looked up the location of the only nearby department store (Walmart) on google maps, to see where the trainline was (thanks to the train map from the concierge the day before).

It was within walking distance of the trainstation, but since I've found that Americans seem to prioritise cars over pedestrians, I had to try to work out if I could actually get to the Walmart on foot, as there were two major roads in the way.
Google maps was really helpful in determining that there were pedestrian crossings, and in the process, I found that there was a Target store between the station and the Walmart. (never trust a store search via google maps - always go through the store's own store locator)
Now I was really keen to go.
I cleaned myself up, and headed out (it was about 10.20am by this stage).

I went down through the tunnel to the train station, knowing to catch the red or blue line trains, to the City Place station. (when said fast, by the train operator, it sounds like City Playstation...)

After double-checking with the station attendant, I bought a $4 all-day ticket (which was just double the price of a one-way ticket), and the train was there within 5 minutes.
Within 10minutes I was at the destination stop (5 stops from where I started) and the Target store was right at the exit to the station.

This was one HUGE escalator... the biggest I'd ever seen before.

I walked as fast as I (painfully) could, half expecting other BotCon attendees to be there, or had been there already... and sure enough, the shelves were noticeably picked clean.  Most of the toy section was healthily stocked, but there were a lot of empty pegs in the Transformeers section. A few Movie toys were still there, along with some first wave TFPrime Deluxes, Legends and 2 Voyager Megatrons.
Plus, the two masks and the Electronic Optimus mask (which I grabbed).
With the Electronic Mask, I also bought the single Dark Sentinel Prime (Cmdr Class figure) that I needed - this was quite exciting as it was the LAST Dotm non-gimick general release toy that I was missing.
I also bought the lone DotM Legends Soundave toy sitting there, because it wasn't released in Australia, so figured I could make someone else happy back home who was wanting that toy (but wouldn't import one, due to what it would end up costing in the end).

I also had to buy some allergy medicine, because like yesterday, within 15-20 minutes out in the open, I was sniveling and with itchy eyes... I couldn't believe how quickly and how severely it was hitting me.  The chemist at the store said it was worse than usual this year... so tomorrow, the pre-con tour should be interesting.

Leaving Target, I walked over to the Walmart, to find that it was just a small grocery version. It still had a small toy section, but only had 3 Movie Deluxes (discounted to $8, but all early wave figures).
I decided to grab a few food items - not too much, so that it didn't cause a strain on my injuries.
That lasted about two aisles, as I kept finding things for me to sample, ending up with an armload of food items, filling 4 shopping bags.

Back to the Train (walking slowly), I went straight back to the hotel. I was back in my room at about 1pm.
I ducked back down to the lobby and ground floor while it was quiet, to take a few photos and look around, plus got a few things printed out that I need (my BotCon shopping list, including what others are wanting).

Another sign up for the two tours.
The upper level, where the panel room will be located.
The lower leverl, where the Dealer room will be located.
The main interior of the hotel, looking down from the 10th floor.
And looking up from the main floor.

Back at the room about an hour later, I was on the computer quickly, before getting to sleep at about 3pm. (for 5 hours)
When I woke up (to my alarm - to get ready for the pre-reg package pickup), I found that the cleaner had slid a piece of paper under the door to say that they weren't able to clean the room (I had the door locked while I was asleep)... Now, apparently they clean rooms until 4pm (must be short staffed), and I had waited until 3pm, thinking that maybe they missed the room completely.

I headed down to get my boxset and other items at 8.30 (they started at 8.20, so maybe a good sign after last year was late for almost everything). It was fairly quiet now that the small "early bird" pickup session was now being divided into two smaller segments, due to the Golden Ticket concept.
That was good for me, as it meant getting out of there a little earlier.
And I ran into Colin (a part time Australian fan, who has been to a couple BotCons before) on my way back to my room.
He said I look terrible.. which I was.. :p

The full package that I received.
The paperwork.
The six toys as vehicles.
And in robot mode.
The bio cards.
A collage of the artwork...

Straxus (the attendee figure)

Tomorrow has the early start of 6.30am, and it is now just past 2am...
Damn... time just gets away from you when you get caught up in all these things.

I guess I could skip the tour if I wanted... I have the registration stuff now (the condition for early bird access is to register for the tours or custom classes), and the only thing that actually interested me in the tour was the Mint... which we have in Australia anyway, which I could go see if I really really wanted to. The other stop is a ranch, which I lived and worked on when I was younger, so no big excitement there either. And since I can't ride the mechanical bull because of my surgery (one thing on the tour that I wanted to do), I'm left with a rather boring day.

Hmm... if I feel too tired when I get up at 6.30, I might go down and say that I can't make it, and head back to my room for the day, to get some more sleep, and prepare things for the reporting of the convention.
The Tour is $80, but probably better losing that money, than missing out on the more expensive convention itself, by ending up in hospital.
It probably explains why some years it seems like there are more people in the early bird lines than in the tours and classes... people probably just sign up for tours they don't go to (or miss because of how early it is) just to get early access to the registration package and Club Store on Thursday.

I'll get ready and go if I have to, but with the surgery and these severe allergies (that the hayfever medication isn't completely helping suppress) that 9 1/2 hours tomorrow could be better spent resting and preparing things for the actual convention.

To be continued...

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