…it’s a long strange story.
Due to major computer problems, I’m posting three days of CatCon 6 posts at once. Hopefully, by Tuesday I’ll be able to post from home on a daily basis.
Day 0: In which I give you a quick update before going to bed.
Once again the Magic Bus is loaded up with sleeping people and all ready to set out for Critter City, Texas, home of CatCon 6. This year, our band of merry travelers includes…
Spike & Mary Jones (but not Miranda, who elected to go on vacation with her grandparents and other relatives)
The Misiaszek Family & new dog, Sadie
Avis Crane 2.0 (because she’s a duplicate) and her cat, Leon
My nephew and helper, Zachary
Our super petsitter, Sharon
Grace, myself and our critters: Lucy, Sasha, Flash, Abby & Bea
Once again I thank Grace for not adopting another pygmy goat.
(Bea: I think you cannot have too many goats.)
Everyone has been here for 3-4 days and we’ve been sightseeing all over Northern California. We’ve also been playing all sorts of games and doing all sorts of other tomfoolery, including sliding in the Slide Room here on the bus.
(Leon: Great googly moogly, the Slide Room is wicked fun!)
(Flash: I told you it was crazy, bro.)
(Sadie: We were sliding ON THE CEILING!)
Our route this year will be the exact same route that Grace, Daisy, Winker & I took in 2008 when we went to the very first DogCon 1. We’re hoping to find a few new roadside attractions to visit.
Anyway, it’s time for me to hit the sack so I can get up and drive in a few hours. More bloggage tomorrow.
Day 1: In which we drive through California, stopping at many interesting places.
As planned, we all got up before daylight and ate a hearty breakfast prepared by Zach and myself. Rather than drive down the quicker, but deadly boring Interstate 5, we took off down much older, much more scenic Highway 99.
(Flash: Mmmm…vacation breakfast food is great!)
(Leon: Oh hell yeah! Scrambled eggs with tuna? I’ll take that any day!)
(Sasha: And Dad’s biscuits with canned dog food gravy was delish!)
(Sadie: Oh my that was tasty. The portions were big, too.)
(Lucy: Yeah, Dad & Zach don’t mess around when they serve up chow.)
(Abby: Dad made corn cakes with veggies & fruit for Bea and I, and we are full now.)
(Bea: Yeah, I feel like I’m going to pop.)
Our first stop was a few miles off 99 in Lodi, where we saw the World’s Largest Wine Glass. It’s like, 180 feet tall and actually made of glass. See, Lodi is famous for vineyards (and Creedence Clearwater Revival songs), so the local grape growers & vintners had the glass built back in 1990. It costs nothing to see, but the gift shop at the base of it was not open yet, so we could only take pictures as souvenirs.
(Sasha: Yeah, because we really need more refrigerator magnets and tee shirts back at home.)
(Flash: Our fridge is already nicknamed Magneto.)
(Sadie: My mom & dad mostly bring home books and games. Well, actually, that would be mostly dad.)
(Leon: My mom brings home lots of books & games too.)
(Lucy, Abby & Bea: Our mom & dad have entire rooms full of books & games!)
(Sasha: I have it on good authority that Spike & Mary are the same way.)
(Flash: Yeah, humans love the books & stuff, but do they ever bring home boxes of cat & dog toys? Oh no, they don’t!)
A bit further down the road we turned off for a half hour drive southeast of Stockton to visit the World Famous Spider Ranch. I had called ahead a couple of days earlier to arrange this special tour of a place that raises 967 species of spider for research, movies and the pet trade. They even let us bring the critters inside with us, once they were properly harnessed & leashed. The goats had no reaction to the spiders and the only time the dogs reacted was when we saw about 50 Bird Eating Tarantulas in one room. The cats, on the other hand, don’t seem to like spiders much.
(Leon: What the hell, man? WHAT THE HELL!)
(Flash: My nerves are shot! I mean, a tiny spider crawling across the floor is one thing, but 80 zillion spiders in one place…some of them bigger than my head…is just too fucking much. I’m gonna have nightmares every time I sleep.)
(Bea: That’ll be about 75 times a day.)
(All Critters Except The Cats: HAHAHAHAHAHA!)
A couple of our human contingent were a bit freaked out, too. Maybe I should have told them what the place was full of before the tour started. I might have to watch my back for the rest of the day.
(Lucy: I think Mom invented three new curse words.)
(Abby: Dad inspires people that way.)
We did get to buy fridge magnets, tee shirts and bumper stickers, as well as big stuffed toy spiders.
(Flash: I’m gonna claw that thing to bits as soon as possible.)
(Sasha: Aww, I think it’s kinda cute.)
(Flash: Yet more proof of your insanity.)
Since our next stop was down past Fresno, we had enough drive time to play a rousing game of Ticket To Ride. Actually, two games, because we had so many players. Driving was handled by our newly refurbished autopilot, Data.
(Sasha: Data was refitted to not only look more human, thanks to a nanoplastic epidermis, but with the NeoVenusian flexible morality program, he’ll act more human when making driving choices.)
(Lucy: What the hell does that mean?)
(Sasha: Basically, that if there are no cops around, he’ll break the speed limit. Of course, with the new Omniscan technology that Joe and I installed, along with the short range emergency telejumpers, I doubt he’ll ever get caught speeding.)
(Sadie: Does she always talk like that?)
(Flash: Yep, unless she’s talking about Star Trek or Doctor Who.)
(Sadie: Wait! Sasha is a Whovian? Cool!)
(Sasha: The Third Doctor is my Doctor, but I really like them all. David Tennant can rub my belly any day.)
In my game, Brian won, but only just. Both Spike and Avis were both just a turn shy of winning. In the other group, the win went to Grace. After the game, we put the critters in the Meadow Room, which now connects to the Shoe Room and the Slide Room.
(Leon: Man, these rooms are wicked cool! After a nice snack of mouse sushi in the meadow, we went sliding in the MOST FUN ROOM EVER!)
(Sadie: I know, right? You can slide up a wall and across the ceiling! How cool is that?)
(Bea: If I’m not mistaken, the Shoe Room is bigger this year and has way more shoes in it.)
While the critters were living it up, we stopped south of Fresno at Milkshake Heaven and the name is no lie. Not only are the milkshakes big, but they have 150 flavors of ice cream to make them with. I had a Bittersweet Chocolate Cherry shake that was so good I nearly swooned.
After that, we drove over to see the World Famous Giant Jesus. I’ve lost count of all the Giant Sons of God we’ve seen, but this one is the biggest according to the record books. 300 feet tall and made entirely of recycled aluminum! Even better, he’s standing there giving a peace sign. The only thing bad about this Giant Jesus is that you can’t go up inside him…yet! The owners, a local Church of God, only finished him in 2008. The elevator they want to put inside him costs big bucks, so it won’t go in until about 2018.
When we got back on the bus, the critters were raising hell in the Shoe Room, so everybody but Zach and I went to join them. I took over driving from Data and started us on the way to Bakersfield for lunch and a look at the World’s Longest Garden Hose.
(Lucy: Hey, it was pretty fun when all the humans came in the Shoe Room to play with us.)
(Leon: Yeah, my mom was tossing shoes for Sasha to fetch and Grace & Mary & Spike were sliding down the biggest shoe pile.)
(Bea: Lauren was playing “Chase the Goats”, then we played “Chase the Human”.)
(Flash: I got my head stuck in a child’s boot, but Brian pulled it off of me.)
At Bakersfield, everyone got off the bus to have lunch at the Feed Bag restaurant. We arranged for the critters to get fed with us and the Feed Bag did a great job of it.
(Flash: Full…of…food. Must…sleep.)
(Sadie: That was a whole lot of beef stew. BURP!)
We only had to drive a mile to see the World’s Longest Garden Hose, which was 13.25 miles long when we saw it back in 2008, but has since grown to 23.5 miles long. We were told by the young fellow manning the gift shop that if it gets much longer, they’ll have to build a whole new hose reel to hold it. The one they have right now is about the size of a kiddie ferris wheel.
Yes, we bought all the usual swag, including a tee shirt that says “You ought to see the size of my hose!” Well, ok, only I got that shirt.
(All Critters: Zzzzzzzzzzzz!)
It now being noon and all, we drove straight on to Banning to see The Magical World Of The Little People, which is pretty much three acres of land done up to look like some magical kingdom inhabited by these little 4 inch high figures that are made out of terracotta and painted up by the owners of the place. They’ve been making ’em for twenty plus years and there must be 15,000 of them. They look pretty much like tiny garden gnomes and there are houses, forests, farms, lakes, mountains, etc, etc. for them to inhabit. We all liked it, especially since the critters were all still passed out on the bus.
Swag purchased? You bet!
Our next stop was Palm Springs, mostly so lots of pictures could be taken of us standing near street signs bearing the names of folks like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. After that I set Data to drive us to Grimly, Arizona so we could be part of their annual Potato Throwing Days. During the drive, we watched a couple of movies: “Gamera vs Chicken Boo” and “Attack of the Elvis Clones”.
We rolled into Grimly about 5:30 and promptly took about 5 pounds of mashed potatoes to the windshield. Before we got out of the bus to go into our hotel, we all armed ourselves with potato products. Being the first one out of the bus, I took a ball of smooshed french fries to the shoulder, but got the woman throwing them with a baked tater to the ass. From there on, it was like we were storming the beaches of Ireland. Nobody reached the hotel lobby free of tater, including the critters.
(Leon: I had mashed potatoes all over me!)
(Abby: I had a wedge potato stuck in my ear!)
(Sadie: I was covered in home fries!)
(Lucy: Winker had told me about this place, but I thought she was kidding.)
(Flash: I barely dodged a handful of french fries, but got hit square in the face by a potato puff.)
(Bea: I got lucky and only had a bag of crushed chips dumped on me.)
(Sasha: I look like the survivor of an Ore-Ida factory explosion.)
We all got cleaned up and then rested, ate dinner and went to bed early. Well, except Flash and Leon, who apparently didn’t think their baths got them clean enough.
(Flash: Not clean enough!)
(Leon: Must get cleaner!)
Destination Sign when we started: Gasoline Alley
Destination Sign when we ended: Munchkin Land
Radio Station of the Day: Klingon Punk
Day 2: In which we see monsters, check out junk, listen to creepy rocks and eat Tex Mex food.
We piled into the bus and headed out of Grimly at 6 AM, hoping to avoid any early rising tater tossers. After carefully negotiating the tuber strewn streets, went through an automated car wash, since the bus looked like Idaho had exploded on it. Aside from one hungover looking dude who halfheartedly tossed a baked tater at us, we made it out of Grimly clean.
(Flash: Yo, Dad! Breakfast? There are starving carnivores here!)
(Abby: Starving herbivores, too!)
Our route to Texas calls for us to drive Interstate 10, so today, we;ll be crossing half of Arizona and all of New Mexico before stopping in west Texas at my great aunt Pearl’s house. Well, actually, “house” is a bit of an understatement, since you could put my house in her parlor and still have room for two sheds and a dog kennel.
(Sasha: Winker told me and Lucy about Pearl’s place. It’s humongous and full of dogs and she fixes up great food.)
Our first stop of the day was the Gila Monster World roadside attraction near San Simon. No pets allowed inside, so I set everyone up to play Critters & Castles on the X Box.
(Sasha: We kicked ass on a dungeon full of ogres!)
(Lucy: I got some phat loot when we finally killed that Boss Ogre.)
(Abby: My Elven Firemage went up a level!)
(Sadie: My Goblin Rogue was a backstabbing fool! Respect my daggers, ogre scum!)
(Bea: Let’s not all get cocky. We still haven’t gotten to the Turbonium Dragon yet.)
(Leon: That was SO cool. At home, I have to wait until my mom leaves for works before I can play online games.)
(Flash: Leon, my brother, you’ve got to set up your own computer that piggybacks on Auntie Avy’s wifi. Not sure what that means, but I learned it from Sasha.)
(Sasha: SIGH! It’s like trying to teach a snake how to ride a bicycle.)
So, as the name implies, this place has a whole bunch of gila monsters on display, plus several of the other only poisonous lizard, the beaded lizard. They don’t do a hell of a lot, although the last time we were here we did see one big gila monster eat a small mouse. They have added some rattlesnakes and scorpions, which also didn’t do much, to the place, which might explain why it now costs $2.00 to get in. We bought the usual t-shirts and fridge magnets and bumper stickers, which are rather surprisingly of a higher quality and design than most places
The next stop was Junkville, a small village built by old hippies starting about 1976. It has a store, a saloon, a post office, a gas station, a church and several houses, all built out of found materials scrounged from the surrounding desert. The village also has sorts of whimsical creatures made out of junk. It’s a lot of fun to tour, as much for the characters who live there as the creative use of junk. There’s no charge to visit Junkville, but we did buy t-shirts and bumper stickers. During our first visit five years ago, Grace had said she wished they had fridge magnets, so an old guy named Pete told her he’d make her one in 15 minutes. He did it and now they sell fridge magnets made of all sorts of things. We all bought at least one and I think Brian and Grace each got 3 or 4. Soon, our refrigerator at home will start pulling in small nickel-iron meteors.
(Lucy: That place was too cool! Everyone there was giving us treats and petting us.)
(Sadie: It sure was! We don’t have deserts in Canada. I kind of like them, even with the dry heat.)
(Leon: Hey, I could get used to this dry climate, even though it does make me want to take a nap.)
(Bea: Alert the media! Hot weather makes cat want to nap! Film at 11:00!)
(Leon: You goats are a laugh a minute.)
(Abby: Some of those nice folks smelled a bit funny.)
(Flash: Oh, the irony of a goat saying somebody else smelled funny.)
(Sasha: You know, among that junk they found in the desert, there was a Groogonite pulse generator, minus the energy cells and the spatial focusing ring. They probably think it’s some strange sort of hub cap.)
(Sadie: Sasha, do you think I could read some of those tech manuals you have?)
(Sasha: No problem, Sadie. Later, we can go down and watch Joe calibrate the stabilizers for the chameleon unit.)
(Flash: Great Ceiling Cat! Now there’ll be two of them speaking tech geek!)
Leaving Junktown behind we took off at a high speed for New Mexico. While Data drove all of us humans got into a huge game of Arena Battle using little mind controlled robots about 3 inches high to fight little robotic alien monsters controlled by the game computer. The fact that every 5 minutes a new wave of monsters enters the arena made for a frantic game. Fortunately, weapons and spare parts get dropped into the arena at random intervals. We defeated Wave 6 just 12 seconds before Wave 7 would have been dropped, thus ending the game.
That game will also go down in history for the fighting maneuver known as “Stumble & Hack” and the war cry “Remember the cheese!”. You had to be there.
(Flash: Meanwhile, we critters were in the theater room watching the “Home For Unwanted Pets” Christmas 2002 Special. I always choke up watching it.)
(Lucy: If, by “choke up” you mean “cry like a kitten and need a hug from your big sister.)
After about two hours (and games of Dark Cults and Bohnanza) we arrived at the World Famous Singing Rocks. We visited here in 2008 and the only difference is that there are even more piles of rocks that make eerie noises in the wind. The story behind this roadside attraction is that a husband and wife, Gus and Willie Bixman, were out walking in the desert one day back in 1905 when they heard a strange “moaning whistle” coming from a pile of rocks. Upon further investigation, they realized that the sound was being produced by the desert wind blowing through the cracks in the rock pile. Inspired by that, the Bixman’s then spent the next 40 years piling up rocks so as to unleash the musical potential therein. This sort of behavior is very common amongst the folks whose efforts later become roadside attractions.
As we strolled through the 411 piles of stone which, thanks to strategically placed bigass shop fans, were moaning and whistling away. It’s impressive, but also creepy. It didn’t help that Spike, Mary, Brian and I were making nonstop zombie, monster movie and Lovecraft comments. After everybody, including the critters, had a good case of the heebie jeebies we bought…well, you know.
By now everybody was crazy hungry, so we stopped at a place called “Joe’s Tex Mex” and ate about 3 tons of great chow washed down by pitchers of horchata, soda and iced tea. The owner, Dom (his grandad, Joe, founded the place) even made up some chow foe the critters.
(Abby: Mmmm, lettuce, spinach and nopales salad!)
(Bea: And apples! I do love me some apples.)
(Sasha: I was loving those beans with rice.)
(Flash: I wonder if there’s a gas mask to fit me in the Warehouse?)
Our last roadside stop, which was in fact 15 miles off the road, was “Spaceport Xeno”, which is a “spaceport” built starting in early 1973 and finished in 1994 by a lady, her husband and a few friends who think that the “Celestial Love Prophets” from the “hidden planet” Xenon will be here soon to lead us all to a higher plane. I think there’s a similar place in California. The spaceport is pretty much 3 acres of flat concrete with “Xenonian runes” cut into it. Surrounding it are several unusually shaped buildings, one of which is a gift shop. You can guess what happened there.
Big props for my fellow travelers not cracking up with laughter while the nutty lady went on and on about how the Xenonians first contacted her in a dream.
(Flash: I think Mom was pinching herself to keep from laughing.)
(Bea: Auntie Avy snorted once, but made it sound like a cough.)
(Lucy: Dad was not making it any easier not to laugh when he kept asking goofyass questions that the lady and her husband took seriously.)
(Leon: No kidding! When he asked if the Xenons kept kaiju as pets, I thought everybody else was going to lose it for sure.)
(Abby: That’s our dad, always stirring the pot.)
(Sadie: Meanwhile, Sasha and I stayed on the bus to watch Joe calibrate those stabilizers and then lubricate the SmartBots.)
(Sasha: Wait until he tunes the fusion power plant, Sadie. He has to wear a Dirubian exoskeleton for that!)
Once we all piled on the bus and laughed ourselves silly, Data got us on the highway to Great Aunt Pearl’s house. When we arrived, Pearl (who is 108 years old) had a huge dinner all ready for us. While not as spry as she once was, the old gal is still full of piss and vinegar and was cracking jokes and stuff all through the meal. The main theme of her monologue was how she had arranged 30 years ago for her 15,000 acre ranch to become a nature preserve once she passes on, but she has not told her “greedy assed money grubbing” kids, grandkids, great grandkids and great-great grandkids. Fact is, she owns almost nothing but “a damned big pile of money” that will go to the preserve.
After dinner, we all just sat around for awhile before going to bed.
(Lucy: Aunt Pearl has like, 7 dogs and 5 cats and 3 pigs. We were all playing “Crazy Critter Chase”! )
(Leon: That was fun. Pearl’s house is huge!)
(Bea: You got that right! It was a hike just to cross the parlor.)
(Sasha: After all that running around, I’m ready for snoozing.)
(Sadie: Me too!)
(Abby: Me three!)
(Flash: Yep, sack time for me, too.)
Destination Sign when we started: Mongo
Destination Sign when we ended: Space…The Final Frontier
Radio Station of the Day: Psychedelic Bluegrass