Getting There | Friday | Saturday/Cosplay | Sunday

Welcome again to another round of Otakon pictures, courtesy of the guy who still isn't big on taking pictures and still hasn't forked over the money for a digital camera that can actually take quality pictures. In other words, bear with me.

While the other three pages are more saturated with pictures, I didn't take very many until Thursday (and even then, didn't quite figure out the flash until Friday). As a result, this page is more story-oriented. Although that's sure to please the good folks at,1 you might get bored with the story of how we got to Otakon. If you want to skip ahead to the actual convention, go right ahead.

For those who want to read about the ridiculous exploits of how a bunch of Wisconsin hicks got to Baltimore via New York City, I present to you...

Wednesday / Thursday

Getting There is Half the Fun!!

NO IT ISN'T!! But before I get into any editorial comments, let's start with the all important Cast of Characters:

Okay, kids! Today’s secret word is “Plan.” You’re going to be hearing the word thrown around a lot, but you’re not going to be seeing much of it in action. Technically we did have a plan. This was the itinerary I received:

Step 1) Wed. 3:00 pm- Leave work and throw travel bag, clothes bag, food bag, and Dr. Pepper into car (I’m usually a Mountain Dew drinker, but Dr. Pepper is the official non-alcoholic beverage of any anime convention).
Step 2) Wed. 4:00 pm- Drive like a maniac to Milwaukee.
Step 3) Wed. 7:00 pm- Arrive at the Logan residence and meet up with Whitewater/Janesville contingency (which left Whitewater at 6:00).
Step 4) Wed. Night to Thu. Morning- Drive to New York City, with 4 stops for the following reasons (and these are important):
• Fresh drivers in both cars
• Bathroom breaks
• Stretch legs and make sure new drivers/navigators are awake
• Fill both gas tanks, regardless of how empty they are
• Food Purchases (Not drinks- use car’s Dr. Pepper supply)
Step 5) Thu. 11:00 am to Thu. 9:00 pm- New York Funn!3
Step 6) Thu. 11:00 pm- Arrive at pre-determined motel in Maryland. Sleep.
Step 7) Fri. 8:00 am- Leave pre-determined motel in Maryland.
Step 8) Fri. 9:00 am to Sun. Afternoon- Form into teams of one and assault the con!!
Step 9) Sun. Afternoon to Monday Morning- Drag our tired asses back to Wisconsin.

The details such the New York Funn! and the pre-determined motel were worked out by the rest of the contingency. My job was to make sure we get through Chicago (my city of expertise) and yell “I-80!” whenever someone asks how to get to New York.

So that was the plan. And now to carry out the plan…

Step 1) Hooray! I got out of work an hour early! Since I knew that there was no way in hell the Whitewater group would actually leave at 6, I had plenty of time to leisurely pack everything and straighten up the apartment before leaving. I called Scott to give the news that I was Milwaukee-bound at 3:15 pm, 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

Step 2) With the extra time, I didn’t need to drive like a maniac. Instead, I grabbed some lunch in Green Bay, refueled the good ol’ Sunbird in Manitowoc, and complacently waited out a gigantic traffic jam in Milwaukee, courtesy of my Chicago Cubs (the only time the Brewers sell out is when they play the Cubbies). Traffic cleared once I passed the exit for “Wrigley North” and I was on my way to a rare event… I missed my exit.

Step 3) Still no sweat! Since the Janesville group wasn’t even in Whitewater, the Whitewater group wasn’t near Milwaukee. I turned around, found the exit, and found Scott’s house. After securing the Sunbird in overnight parking (aka the garage), I got word that the Whitewater group had just left Whitewater. Yay… and only an hour behind schedule. Scott’s dad and I started watching the Cubs game, and it was 2-1 Brewers in the top of the fifth when the gang was all here. We were on our way!!

Step 4) With 4 drivers in Sara’s vehicle, and 3 drivers in Nick’s Saturn (with that damn, damn manual transmission4), the four allotted stops would be more than enough to get us to New York. Here’s what we actually did:

Stop 1- Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chicago, IL
A communications mix-up put us on different versions of the Dan Ryan Expressway. Afraid that they would not re-connect and that we missed the turn for the Indiana Toll Road, we pulled at a friendly neighborhood KFC in the urban, lower-class South Side. The ghetto? Worse- White Sox territory. Fortunately, the patrons were of the “friendly urban-dwellers just trying to make a living” variety and not the bad apples who tarnish the south side’s image, so we were able to verify that we could still catch the tollway. Unfortunately, this is where I learned two things. First, nobody had eaten dinner yet, and were more than willing to burn a half-hour sitting down and eating chicken. Secondly, the plans for New York City amounted to “let’s see the ocean, let’s see the 9/11 Memorial, let’s see Times Square, let’s see Central Park.” That was it. Particularly concerning was the ambiguity of the “see the ocean” part, since the Atlantic Ocean is quite large and takes up a sizable portion of the east coast. Sara appointed me the job of triangulating a single location in the New York area that had convenient parking, access to a beach, and was not too far from I-80. Loosely stated, my response was “WTF?”

Stop 2- George Ade Service Plaza, Portage, IN
From the KFC, we decided to make our first official stop when we successfully navigated our way onto I-80 and entered the toll road. If we hadn’t stopped already, there would be no news about the trip- Jesse and I relieved Chrissy and Nick of driving duties, we had our bathroom breaks, both cars refueled, and we were still licking our fingers from the KFC. Of all things, the stretching legs was the troubling bit. We had been driving for only twenty minutes, and everybody still took forever to get back in the car (I do believe Chrissy and Sara braided their hair during this time). Sara insisted that we were still pretty-much on schedule. Somehow, I managed to get back onto the highway without killing the transmission, and we were cruising through Indiana.

Stop 3- Commodore Perry Service Plaza, Sandusky, OH
Amazingly enough, we got through Indiana with no issues. Scott and I made a bet on who could kill Nick’s car the least, and despite toll booths to leave Indiana and enter Ohio, it was still a scoreless tie. We were feeling better now, and had time to establish the walkie-talkie jargon and the code names for each vehicle (Sara’s car was HockeyChicken, Nick’s car was Stellvia2). Scott and Dave took over, and even though it was Scott’s first contact with a clutch pedal, it was still 0-0 pulling out.

Stop 4- Brady's Leap Service Plaza, Mantua, OH
Whoops. We were too busy establishing codenames that we forgot to refuel Stellvia2. Scott asked if this should count as one of the official stops. HockeyChicken answered “negative.”

Stop 5- Gas Station, DuBois, PA
I hadn’t slept at all thus far, and Scott had managed very little during his downtime in Indiana. With both of us getting dangerously close to empty, we somehow managed to exit the freeway and get to a gas station (the challenge was not so much the sleep-depravation, but rather the fact that Nick was the stick-shift expert and had been passed out for the last five hours). Although it should have been official stop #3, HockeyChicken decided to keep Dave at the wheel for “another hour.”

Stop 6- McDonald's, Wingate, PA
Another hour later, Dave was dead. This was also the only hour I was able to sleep through. It was about seven in the morning at this point- eight if you factored in time zones (last year Nick forgot about the time difference; this year Sara refused to acknowledge it). Now hopelessly behind schedule, Sara and Chrissy got on my case for trying to get back on schedule. After all, they were the ones that wanted to see New York and get there at a reasonable time. Somewhere in this, we did manage to find the ocean, or at least narrow it down to somewhere in Staten Island.

Stop 7- Citgo, Blakeslee, PA
I honestly am not quite why we stopped here. I think it had something to do with making sure all drivers were fresh for the New York leg (the home-stretch stretch?) and confirming that we want to stay on I-80 until we turn on south I-95. It was certainly interesting though, since the exit was right next to Pocono, where NASCAR was racing this week. We were all quite amazed at the number of weirdoes at this gas station, devouring NASCAR merchandise and having pointless discussions on which racers were the best. Not to mention the fact that they were trucking halfway across the country to attend this event. We left, happy that us anime geeks would never waste our lives with stuff like that.5

Step 5) Okay, a little late (about 1:00), but we’re finally pulling into New York. It’s just a matter of turning on south I-95 and heading down to Staten Island before crossing the state line. Then it happened. HockeyChicken flew the coop. The signs were pretty clear- turn left for north 95, turn right for south 95. For the remainder of the day we received conflicting stories from HockeyChicken. At times it was because of my firm directions to make sure to turn right. At times it was a moment of panic and indecisiveness. One time it was because they decided to change the plans at the last second without contacting Stellvia2.

However it happened, we soon found ourselves on north I-95 crossing a six-dollar toll bridge into the Bronx, which is of course nowhere near the ocean. Rather than turn around, they immediately scrapped plans for the ocean and headed into Manhattan. Stellvia2 was not happy about the sudden improvisation, but hell, Manhattan’s nice, and certainly Sara could navigate us to wherever they wanted to go next. We’re not quite sure what motivated them to abruptly want to drive through Harlem, but again- we followed. We locked our doors, but we followed.

Having survived that (which, in a way, was sort of cool; there’s a hidden beauty to the place), we drove down Park Avenue with the strange notion that we could find someplace to park. After a ridiculously long time (traveling the length of Central Park), we did and set out on foot to explore the city. The next five hours was spent doing the usual tourist bit, including the constant arguments (particularly between Sara and I) and a few of us thinking it would have been better off skipping the side trip… which led to more arguments. Generally, we were all a bit frustrated and who wants to read about that?

I think we managed to calm down and enjoy ourselves eventually, and we did manage to hit some spots:

There's the ocean! I found it!
My first successful ocean sighting on the trip, viewing south from the Empire State Building. After the trip my sister asked me if I saw the Statue of Liberty. I told her that the answer was technically yes, since it's that thing poking up from one of the islands.

Everybody's happy, got it?
Dave, Nick, Scott, and Jesse in Times Square. Since most of us were pretty frustrated at the moment, I told them to pretend we were all having fun. That got mixed results... Dave took it a little far and Scott did the exact opposite. Of course, who the hell's looking at them? It's Times Square!

Oh look- a bench
Considering that we had just walked from the Empire State Building to Central Park on foot, this bench was the best part of our trip. Nick and Jesse actually were nice enough to look at the picture, while Chrissy, Sara, and Dave had their own pics to worry about. As for me- I was one with the bench.

With HockeyChicken deciding to postpone the ocean until after the convention, all that was left was that pesky 9/11 memorial on the south end of the island. Although we had a great moment of compromise, where we would drive there and *try* to see it, ultimately nobody was in the depressing/patriotic mood by the time we got to our cars. Good thing too because now you’ll be spared from the inappropriate June 9, 2028 reference.6

Step 6) Now on the west side of Manhattan, we had to get to New Jersey. It was about 9:00, and Chrissy wanted to see Times Square at night. That was our challenge- New Jersey via Times Square. I’ll spare you the details, but through some good planning, crafty driving, and a lot of improvisation, a pair of Wisconsin cars somehow got exactly that. By the time we got to the New Jersey Turnpike, we felt like we had really accomplished something. With all that negatively behind us, New Jersey was a breeze, although Delaware has the gumption to charge $5.00 for driving about ten miles. That’s pretty pretentious considering it isn’t even a real state. Indiana? Ohio? They can charge $5.00.

Step 7) Fortunately the motel accommodations were planned remarkably well, and we left about as close to on-time as Nick gets.

Step 8) At about 9:30 we pulled into the Camden Yards parking lot and there it was- Otakon!

The Prince of Baltimore summons you...
Click to enter Friday!!


  1. Right around this time, issued a controversial judgment classifying script format stories as "chat-based" stories, which had previously been banned. A week later, and without warning, they deleted almost every script format story from their site, including the only remaining copies of stories written by a few of my friends. One day after this "script genocide," Anime Reality was born.

  2. He works as a pizza delivery guy.

  3. Funn!™ is a registered trademark of NoBrandCon and BrandCorp. BrandCorp owns you!

  4. I got my first taste of driving a stick when Nick and I went to Otakon last year. The less said about it, the better.

  5. Okay, I would. But only because Todd Kluever, a local boy who my Dad once pit for, is just starting a promising NASCAR career.

  6. A reference to "The Connection," where an attack on New York on June 9, 2028 killed hundreds and swayed the course of history (and totally screwing over my protagonists in the process). I totally had the 9/11 vibe going on.