Flew out to Dulles a couple of days early for the express purpose of going face-first into chicken wings at the Buffalo Wing Factory in Chantilly and hanging out with friends, which I did; maybe not as many friends as I would have liked for as long as I would have liked, but that's the way it goes. The wings were outstanding, and while the World's Greatest Waitress no longer works there, the service was still outstanding. On Friday morning, I caught a ride with Mark up to Baltimore, and I'm glad he did the driving, because the traffic on the Beltway through Montgomery County was horrible, and it wasn't much better on 95 north to Baltimore. He'd chosen to prepay for parking a couple short blocks away from the hotel, but it was a reasonably nice day and no big deal.
I actually attended opening ceremonies for once, and was somewhat relieved that it was a straightforward introduction of guests (including the award of the Compton Crook Award to RL Kwang for her debut novel, The Poppy War, about which more anon) with none of the annoying theatrics that I'd become inured to from certain anime conventions. That was about the only programming I managed to attend, aside from a panel on imperialism and why people write about it in fantasy & SF, which suffered somewhat from one of the panelists wanting to talk about "cultural imperialism", and another who got a little Marxist about peasants rebelling against aristocracy who was brought up short when I pointed out that a lot of the Spanish peasantry supported Franco and the Nationalists, not the Republic. Anyway, after that I caught the obligatory 1632 panel with Chuck Gannon, Virginia deMarce and some other author I didn't recognize, and it was good. That was it, though; there were some other panels that looked mildly interesting, but I skipped them in favor of hanging out with friends or reading The Poppy War, which is the first new book I've bought at a convention in quite some time. Had a good time and am definitely going to budget hard so I can go back next year.
Paul was kind enough to drop me off at BWI's rental car center on his way home to southern Maryland, and I downsized from a full-size to a compact because the full-size didn't fit my budget any more. Fortunately, Enterprise's notion of a compact includes a Kia Sorrento, which had room for me and all my bags. The Sorrento didn't seem that much bigger than my old Sportage, arguably less since the cargo compartment was barely big enough to hold my computer bag and backpack, much less my suitcase. Still, it had good strong air conditioning, a USB port and Bluetooth to recharge the phone and play music on, and that was good enough. From there, it was around the Baltimore Beltway to I-70 West, and out to the Buckeysville Pike Days Inn, where I dropped off my stuff, then headed over to Brian & Brenda's via the local Walmart, where I picked up some brats and diet soda with the last of my cash.
I spent a pleasant afternoon and evening with the Edminsters and their grandchildren, and all too soon it was time to head back to the Days Inn and crash. In the morning, cash being short, I skipped the Waffle House and headed for the nearest Dunkin', which was just a couple miles down the road. There I bought croissants and iced coffee through the app, but unfortunately whoever made the coffee forgot the Splenda, so I wound up stopping in Leesburg at the Chick-Fil-A to get some iced tea and some sweetener for the coffee. That having been dealt with, I looked for cheap gas around Dulles, and found a Royal Farms just short of the Poland Road Sheetz of beloved memory; the gas was a dime cheaper there, so that's where I went to top off the Kia. Wound up driving the rest of the way around Dulles to get to the rental car return and then hung out there for about an hour waiting for digex to show up, which he did - not in the Dodge pickup I was expecting, but rather in an old (300K miles) Mercedes diesel sedan. Then we were off to the Amphora in Herndon, somehow missing the turnoff and winding up on Route 7 before I pulled out my phone and looked up the directions. Much food, fluids, and conversation ensued, and it was Good. He managed to get me to Dulles in just barely enough time for me to check my bag at the counter, make it through a painfully slow TSA line, and get to the gate just in time for preboarding. It was a good day.
So...I made a few mistakes that made things tighter than they needed to be. I forgot to put my knife in the suitcase before I left, so the TSA confiscated it at McCarran. I wasted probably $20 on Uber trips to the Dulles Expo Walmart, bought stuff there (and at the CVS by BWF) that I didn't need or wound up not using, ate too much (which is to say at all) at the hotel, and stuffed too much money in the CFA and Dunkin' apps. Well, at least the credit union didn't block my credit and debit cards for being on the other side of the continent.