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Because we had gotten off to such a late start at the beginning of the road trip, it also meant that I could return the rental car a lot later. That gave me the opportunity to have a good sleep-in. Then I finished emptying the car and cleaning it up a bit. I drove the car to Victorville to return it, adding a further 17km (10 miles) for a total = 9445km (5869 miles). Various detours, food, and shopping trips during the entire journey added another 82km (51 miles) for a GRAND TOTAL of 9527km (5920 miles) that I drove. I doubt that I will ever break that record. I got picked up by Jim and Carol and then we went to Ala’ al Deen, a restaurant in Victorville that we go to every year which serves Middle-Eastern food. After returning to the house, I repacked everything for the trip back to Australia. We then drove to Pasadena to visit Roy Pounds, and we all made our way to LAX together. We had a light meal at the newly refurbished food area in the Bradley Terminal before I had to make my final farewells. Found out that the “free” wi-fi at LAX was conditional upon installing a Norton app, and basically said: “No f—king way!” Boarded my plane only to find that I had been assigned the bulkhead seat next to the baby cot. I bought the more expensive Premium Economy seats so I could stretch out my legs which I could not do properly in that seat, and I had to put up with an infant next to me. Fortunately not too bad, but I was not happy about the situation. Waited forever for my luggage at Melbourne Airport, but my sister was there promptly to pick me up. Home at last. Seeya next year!!

I’ll be posting some videos on YouTube over the next few days. Here’s a link to the first – https://youtu.be/PwN7X7tTDcY
We got off to a reasonably early start today because not only did we have a long way to travel, but we also had to allow time to visit the Grand Canyon! We approached from the east so that we saw some of the canyon land start to appear. Our first stop though was in the National Park at the Desert View Watchtower. While the tower is built with natural stone selected for size and shape to make this attractive edifice, it is built around a sturdy concrete and steel core. Unfortunately the top of the tower was closed for renovations but the mid-level gave us a great view of the canyon. From there we drove further west along the rim, stopping at another vantage point before reaching Grand Canyon Village where walked along the rim trail for some more great views, and an inquisitive squirrel. All good things come to an end, and we departed the canyon to head back to California. Because of the time spent exploring the canyon, we did not get to our destination in Hesperia until around 9:00pm whereupon Chris immediately transferred his belongings into Jim Alves’ car. Jim had to take Chris home in Los Angeles because he and the people he was living with were moving up to the Bay Area the next day, hence the rush to get back in time. However, I finally got the chance to relax and unwind. 921km (572miles) travelled today. Total = 9429km (5859 miles).

Farewell to friends and we headed off west on the return leg of the road trip. At least I-40 did not give us any trouble this time, which was a good thing because we had a long way to go. No scenic stops before we pulled into Elk City, Oklahoma at a La Quinta hotel. We got a room at a good rate and this turned out to be the nicest hotel stop for the entire trip. Beside a pool, it also had a spa which I happily took advantage of. Bliss! 964km (599 miles) today for a total of 7303km (4538 miles).

Another long day of driving non-stop except for a lunch/fuel break. Pulled into Winslow, Arizona and chose a cheap Motel 6. Extremely basic facilities! Dropped off our luggage and headed off a few miles further west to the famous Meteor Crater. When we got there, we were informed that they had just gone onto their new timetable that day and the ticket office would close in ten minutes! However, the facility itself would be open for another half hour, so we took the opportunity. In hindsight, we should have gone straight to the crater, but we still had enough time to get a good look around. It’s hard to comprehend how big it is just from looking, but it’s about 1.1 miles (1.8km) from rim to rim. I’ve wanted to see this for decades, and it did not disappoint. Left with a good swag of pictures just before a dust storm was about to hit, and headed back to Winslow. Travelled 1205km (749 miles) today for a total =8508km (5287 miles).

Sales were pretty poor. To fill my time, I called upon my atrophied drawing ability to draw something in Gary’s sketchbook. Slightly naughty, so I won’t show it here, although I might put it up on Fur Affinity later. I got three drawings done by various artists in my own books. When the dealer den closed and I counted my total sales, I had not covered my book costs. However, Gary will hang onto the unsold ones and sell them at a couple of other conventions that he will be attending, so I’ll turn a profit eventually. Thankfully I don’t do this sort of thing for a living – as a hobby, I can afford to be patient. Dinner that evening was at a local teppanyaki restaurant which was in easy walking distance. When we got back, the ice cream social was going on, and we had one for dessert. Some fursuit shenanigans in the foyer was fun. A shout out to Brian and Annette Miller, old friends of mine whom I forgot to mention previously, and their grown-up sons whom I had not seen since they were youngsters.

The second day of sales in the dealer den were marginally better than the first day, but overall the customers were down for everyone. Gary reckoned that it was much quieter than previous years, and we speculate the recent hurricane had much to do with that. At least I got to meet and talk with a lot of people during the day. That evening, Gary, Sparrow, and I went to Coletta’s in Memphis for dinner. I’m told that it is the oldest continuously running restaurant in the city. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but nice enough inside. It’s not the first time that I have been there. Fifteen years ago when I previously went to Mephit Fur Meet, I went there with a bunch of other furries, several of whom were there today. Going there on the Saturday after the con has become traditional, and that is what the tuxedo T-shirt was for. All us “Dons” sat at one large table while three or four others who were not appropriately attired had to sit at another table. Gary made me groan by labelling me as “Don Under”. I have to pay him that one. Did you buy me that T-shirt just so you could make that joke? Jim Groat was the “Godfather” of the Dons and kept the conversation interesting. And the food was delicious!

Because I arrived too late to pick up my membership yesterday, I had to wait until Registration opened before I could get my badge and get into the dealer room to set up my books at Gary Akins’ table. Not that there was a great rush because the room did not open to the public until midday. I attended the opening ceremonies before that happened. When business finally started, it was rather slow. I learned that all the flights into and out of Memphis had been cancelled yesterday, so that had affected the number of people getting to the convention, so we hoped that it would pick up the next day. After the dealer room closed, I went out to Marlowe’s Restaurant in Memphis for some good barbeque with Gary and Michael Pena a.k.a. Sparrow. Great place – I recommend it! Photo of me courtesy of Sparrow.

Farewell to Matt, and we head east to Olive Branch, Mississippi – just over the border from Memphis, Tennessee. The goal was the Whispering Woods Hotel & Conference Center which was to host Mephit Fur Meet. I timed the departure to get us there around 5-6pm, and the trip was going well. We had gotten through Dallas with no trouble and then into Arkansas, past Little Rock and then stopped for a rest break, food, and refuelling in Carlisle. We then continued our journey along I-40 East… for a few minutes before we came to a complete stop. Although we did move a short distance a couple of times, essentially we were stuck in one place for FOUR HOURS! We never did find out the reason why for certain. It had been steadily raining practically since we had gotten into Arkansas – the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that had pushed inland. The further east we went, the heavier it got. Some people got out of their cars to stretch their legs, but I preferred to stay dry. While waiting, I noticed in the side mirror that the occupants of a car just 3 or 4 cars back were also stretching their legs. One had a Superman “S” T-shirt on, and I stared hard at him. That looks like Mike Curtis of Shanda Fantasy Arts. Then I saw another man – that looks like Richard Thatcher, an old friend of mine. I had travelled hundreds of kilometres only to come to a stop within mere metres of two acquaintances of mine in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas! Anyway, when we finally started moving again, I made the best speed possible for our destination, but night had fallen before we reached Memphis, and the rain was very heavy. So here I was trying to navigate through unfamiliar territory, in the dark, in a rainstorm. It was horrendous! At last, after only one false turn, we got to the hotel a bit after 9pm.... what kind of hotel does not have a marquee outside the front door?! We had to unload our baggage in that bloody rain! (Photo taken a couple of days later.) Gary Akins had beaten me there by quite a margin because he had made a side trip to meet up with a friend with whom he travelled to the hotel with the benefit of a GPS unit to steer him around our traffic jam. At least they had some pizza for us. Distance travelled = 834km (518 miles). Total so far = 6339km (3939 miles).

Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 August 2017

Mattcon. Besides the aforementioned friends, Gary Akins and a few other acquaintances turned up for the weekend. This annual gathering at Matt McCullar’s place was nicknamed Mattcon a few years back. We’re up to #7 this year. It involved a lot of food, conversation, food, games, food, strange drinks, and food.

Monday 28 & Tuesday 29 August 2017

Still at Matt’s place. Frankly I have forgotten the order of how we did things. Some places we went were on the weekend but it’s not critical. Frankly I have forgotten the order of how we did things. In no particular order, we went on our annual pilgrimage to Fry’s Electronics in Arlington, Forever Young records for CDs and vinyl, an enormous grocery store, World Market, Best Buy for some elusive DVDs, Barnes & Noble for “The Art of My Little Pony” – The Movie, and an Italian restaurant for dinner during which it absolutely bucketed rain for a while. Gary had ordered a special T-shirt for me to wear next weekend at a certain event. Naturally I had to show how elegant I scrub up and modelled for Matt when it turned up. Don’t know why I totally forgot to take any photos all four days. Already looking forward to coming back next year!
Distance travelled = zero (I wasn’t doing the driving!) except for a repeat trip to Fry’s to return a DSL modem that did not solve Matt’s poor internet problem like we hoped. I’ll add those miles on at the end of the trip report since we didn’t really go away.

Although we had originally hoped to visit another national park, we were due in Fort Worth, Texas by Friday afternoon, and that was a two day trip ahead of us. So we headed east and then south back through Denver and stopping for the night in Raton, New Mexico . Nothing special about that town except that it was virtually exactly halfway to our goal. 900km (559 miles) travelled today.

Another long slog south-east, but the traffic was okay until we hit north Fort Worth where massive roadworks were screwing up traffic flow. Perhaps there might have been a smarter way around them, but I was playing it safe sticking to a clear route. At least I knew the last part without having to consult a map, and I think we arrived around six o’clock at Matt McCullar’s home. Normally when I visit, I am the first to arrive, but this time, because I came so late, a lot of my friends had beat me there for our annual get-together. Dirk and Cindy Martine, Gregg and Melissa Anderson, and Allen “Redbear” Fesler were all there to greet me, and of course Chris who is the newbie. Matt had virtually gone straight home after Brock got back to his place, and he had spent a couple of days getting ready for the gathering. He looked so pumped! ;) Distance travelled = 898km (558 miles). Total so far 5505km (3421 miles).

We headed east back into Wyoming – our destination: the Grand Teton National Park. Although if we had spent the night in Yellowstone and would have gotten to the Tetons much earlier, we did get to see some interesting scenery coming in from the west instead. Despite trying to take a road that was little more than a very narrow gravel track, we did end up where we intended despite the detour. The Grand Teton Ranges are magnificently rugged, and we got a good view of the glacier nestled between Mount Owen and Grand Teton. The Snake River was also quite picturesque. Chris took tons of photographs at several stops as we looped around the Park. The weather was threatening at times, but we dodged a storm and barely saw any rain until we left the Park. We had a late lunch in Jackson before heading south to Rock Springs for the night. 568km (353 miles) travelled for a total of 3707km (2303 miles).

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