Sunday, February 9, 2020

2019 10 Texas Roadtrip to Bouchercon the World Mystery Convention in Dallas

2019 10 Texas Roadtrip to Bouchercon the World Mystery Convention in Dallas

For the first time in ten years, I am headed to Bouchercon: the World Mystery Convention. This year's con is in Dallas, Texas, and Denice is joining me for the road trip from Milwaukee to the Lone Star State. We think the driving distance there will be around 1,000 miles each way but we are going to take the "scenic" blue highways to get there so only time will tell.

After Denice retired in June, we set a goal for ourselves to visit all 50 states. Our definition of a visit is to see something and sleep in a state in order for it to be taken off the list.

Friday, October 25, 2019

We are up at 6:00 a.m. today and out the door by 7:30 a.m. to get some breakfast and run a few errands. We are on the highway by 9:30 a.m.

Our route from Milwaukee takes us southwest to the Illinois border. Our goal is the town of Ottawa, IL, which is the start of the Illinois River Road (east side). Along the way we make two stops. The first is Art Tunes in Harvard, IL, which has a sign out front that proudly announces, "All Kinds of Shit." Once inside the main room, the second room is signed, "More Shit," while the third room, full of antiques and collectibles, is signed, "Even More Shit." The store is full of musical instruments, art supplies, collectibles and the art of the shop owner, Dale Sinderson. He gave us a tour and we enjoyed him almost as much as the three pieces of junk I bought along with a collection of plastic hands.

Our second stop was at a party store in DeKalb, IL, that was going out of business and offering 80% discounts on everything. I needed some plastic masks for an on-line workshop I was taking so I bought 8 for next to nothing.

We reached Ottawa, IL, by 2:00 p.m. Highway 71 West takes us through Starved Rock State Park which appears to be a great place to hike but today it is just too fresh for us to want to get out of the van. We stopped at the Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfoul Refuge on the Illinois River and took the time to climb the observation tower and hike the nature trail.

We reached Peoria by 5:00 p.m. and went to eat on the river at a steakhouse called Alexander's. A nearby Baymont proved to be close so that is where we hunkered down on our first night to watch the World Series.

Total miles for the day: 256
Total miles for the trip: 256

Saturday, October 26, 2019

We were up at 6:00 a.m. this day in Peoria and headed over the to 50's Dinner for a sarcastic but fulfilling traditional breakfast.

Then it was time to hit the road. Today we left Peoria on Hwy. 29 and caught Hwy 24S for most of the trip.

It is duck hunting time in Illinois and we ran into duck hunters (and one state marshall who asked us to leave) in Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area and Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Near Liverpool (irony: we were listening to George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh) we went to the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. Here we spent an hour or so at the Dickson Mounds Museum where we learned a great deal about Illinois' indigenous peoples including this serious fact: by 1840, all indigenous peoples were removed from the state. Think about that.

These three photos are from within an installation in the museum that tells the story of the indigenous peoples.

Back on Hwy 24S, we cross the Mississippi River at Quincy, IL, and entered the great state of Missouri.

Taking Hwy 24 W, we rode on the Missouri Valley Wine Country trail which also partially includes the Lewis and Clark Trail. Although it was a rainy and dark day, this might have been one of the most interesting roads I have ever been on. I highly recommend this drive.

At the end of the route we entered Jefferson City where we checked in a Best Western only to be told I am a Gold Member. That did not seem to mean anything price wise but it did cause a little chest puffiness.

Tonight we ate at Jefferson City's finest German Restaurant, The Das Stein Haus. One of my favorite lines from White Christmas is when Emma calls the General's Lodge "a Tyrolean Haunted House." This is very fitting for this restaurant where we also had bleed over from the Halloween karaoke going on in the bar. Our food was good but this is really a place to see.

Total miles for the day: 373
Total miles for the trip: 629

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Today's breakfast in Jefferson City was at another 50's diner called Oscars. This one was actually better than yesterday's because it had cooler décor and was actually playing 50's music.

Today we headed out of Jefferson City on Hwy 50 S onto Hwy 63 S where we found Painted Rock Conservation Area. The area was coolish with a dense fog so it made hiking the loop trail easy and kind of spooky. The fall colors were gorgeous and we found some neat things on the trail.

Our route was too weird to describe but let's just say we weaved our way around Missouri all day.
At one point, we were on the Missouri Ozarks National Scenic Road Tour where we stopped at the Round Springs Picnic Area and visited the Round Springs.  There are caves here but they closed for the season (and you need an appointment when they are open). We were happy with what we saw.

Our circuitous route continued until we crossed into Arkansas on Hwy NN.  Along the way we stopped in an antique store on the highway where Denice out spent me.

Tonight we stayed in Blytheville, Arkansas, in a Holiday Inn which had a Perkins in the building. This meant we could eat fast and get up to the room in time to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Kansas City Chiefs, a game we could have gone to if we had got our act together. The Packers won but in their style: stumble, bumble, win anyway. What a season so far.

Total miles for the day: 320
Total miles for the trip: 949

Monday, October 28, 2019

Today we ate breakfast at Perkins in our hotel because...breakfast is free!

We were on the road by 8:00 a.m. today. We took the Arkansas Great River Road (from Blytheville to Eudora) by heading out on the famed Hwy 61 S.

We tried to visit the Hampson Archaeological Museum in Wilson but it is closed on Mondays. The Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge proved to be a drive through on the highway (a fairly common occurrence for some of the things I had written down to do on this trip).

 We took a beautiful drive through the fall colors of the St. Francis National Forest on Crowley Ridge and the Mississippi River State Park. We stopped and hiked the Bear Creek Loop in the MRSP.

We next took a long boring ride through the flat cotton fields of Arkansas. Whereas Missouri (and even Illinois) had proved interesting and colorful, Arkansas seemed used up. One exception was a short drive through the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

We had a very moving experience visiting the Rohwer Japanese American Evacuee Center near McGehee. Arkansas.

If you don't know the shameful history of these camps from WWII, you should. In the case of this one, 8,500 Americans of Japanese descent where relocated forcibly from California to this cotton field in Arkansas where they would live and die over a three year period. We even saw tombstones for their young children as well as the seniors whose last time on this earth was as a civilian POW in a camp with barbed wire and guard posts.

After a ride around trying to find a good combination of hotel possibilities and eating establishments, we went with gas station food and a Days Inn in Lake Village, Arkansas. The good news was I could watch Monday Night Football.

Total miles for the day: 365 
Total miles for the trip: 1314
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The plan today is to drive from Lake Village to Mena where we can pick up the Talimena Scenic Drive to Oklahoma. After rising at 6:00 a.m. and grabbing some food in the hotel lobby, we head down Hwy 8 S through rain and fog for the route.

For breakfast we find the Round Table diner in Fordyce, a really cool place to eat in an old railroad station. Fordyce is typical of the small towns we have gone through on this route: depressed, desperate for local jobs, and deserted. But this diner is awesome--a real beacon of light in this town.

We arrive at Mena around 1:30 p.m and head up the mountain onto the Talimena Scenic Drive only to be enveloped in a cloud, fog so thick I was drive 30 miles an hour and still felt unsafe. We could only see enough of the roadside to know that it would have been gorgeous with fall color supplemented by overlooks with scenic views--but all we saw was fog.

We bailed out of the drive and made a decision: the weather is not going to let us get out of the van so let's head to Dallas. We called our hotel in Dallas, booked an early arrival, and five hours later we were in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas, Texas.

After parking the car in an outdoor lot next to the hotel, dragging our suitcases up a hill in the rain and checking in, we met Ted Fitzgerald (Ted the Younger) from Boston, Massachusetts, coming down the escalator in the lobby. Ted told us of diner plans at 7:30 p.m. in the hotel's Italian restaurant so we ran up to our room to unpack, clean up, and get ready for the party to start.

At 7:30 p.m. we met Ted and Theodore B. Hertel, Jr. (Ted the Elder) from Milwaukee, my best friend and crime fiction convention cohort, for diner. At our table was Beth Fedyn from WI and her friend Wilba from the Twin Cities. Later we would be joined by the New Yorkers, Jackie and Jeff Meyerson. Around us in the restaurant were Chris Aldrich (New York), Patti Cheney (Arizona), Marv and Carol Lachman (New Mexico) and the Don Sandstrom's daughters, Karen Muir and Bibi. There was a lot of hugging, good conversation and a feeling on my part that despite the ten year absence for me, slipping on the robe and slippers of comfort that occurs when surrounded by like minded people would mean this Bouchercon will be OK.

Edmund Fitzgerald (Ted the Younger), Denice, Me, Theodore B. Hertel Jr. (Ted the Elder), Jackie and Jeff Meyerson, Wilba, Beth Fedyn

Total miles for the day: 526Total miles for the trip: 1840
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Despite the fact that we are at our destination, we still get up this morning at 6:00 a.m. After a breakfast in the hotel, we are off to some local sites for tourist viewing. Denice and I decide to walk to the tourist sites but the cold, wind and rain drive us back to the hotel. We drive to a parking ramp about one mile from the hotel. 

Our first goal for the day is The Crow Museum of Asian Arts. 


Next we walked over to the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Is it just me or is this the snarkiest little Jesus ever?

Back at the hotel, we were in the lobby by 5:00 p.m. to go to dinner with Ted the Elder, Ted the Younger, and Beth Fedyn. Because of the weather, we decide to take a cab over to the restaurant but just as we are going to get into the cab our good friend and author Sandy Balzo arrived from the airport. We waited until Sandy checked her bag and then we were off to a local eatery called
Theodore B. Hertel Jr. (Ted the Elder), Beth Fedyn, Sandy Balzo, Denice, me, Edmund Fitzgerald (Ted the Younger)

After dinner we took the same cab back to the hotel where The Teds, Sandy and our Arizona buddy Patti Cheney watched the last World Series game in the bar.

Sandy Balzo, Patti Cheney and Theodore B. Hertel Jr (Ted the Elder)

An exchange of Teds: Edmund (Ted the Younger) Fiztgerald

After that it was off to bed as Bouchercon: the World Mystery Convention officially opens tomorrow.
Thursday, October 31, 2019

For the first time on the trip Denice and I slept in this morning. We did not get up until 8:30 a.m. before heading downstairs for a hearty breakfast in the hotel.

My first official Bcon event is to be interviewed by Chris Aldrich for the Bcon historical archives. I am asked the following questions:

What was the first Bouchercon you attended and what are your memories from that convention?

Summary of what I said:

In 1978 I took a job as a librarian in a suburb of Milwaukee where I had a customer named Mary Ann Grochowski. She and I would talk a lot about mystery fiction and she introduced me to my first fanzines. Mary Ann bid on Milwaukee as a Bcon location and in 1981 she was the chair of the "Beer City Capers."

Bouchercon XII · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · Oct 9-11, 1981 “Beer City Capers”
Chair : Mary Ann Grochowski
Guest of Honor : Helen McCloy
Fan Guest of Honor : Allen J. Hubin
Mickey Spillane hosted by Max Allan Collins

What is your most memorable Bouchercon moment?

Bouchercon XXXII · Washington, DC · Nov 1-4, 2001—interviewed Michael Connelly after 9/11

Bouchercon XXXV · Toronto, ON, Canada · Oct 7-10, 2004
Fan Guest of Honour : Gary Warren Niebuhr
Make Mine a Mystery: A Reader’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction – Gary Warren Niebuhr [Libraries Unlimited]

Bouchercon XXX · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · Sep 30-Oct 3, 1999
“Mischief in the Midwest”
Guest of Honor : Max Allan Collins
International Guest of Honor : Reginald Hill
Fan Guests of Honor : Beverly DeWeese, Maggie Mason
Toastmaster : Parnell Hall
Lifetime Achievement Award : Len and June Moffatt
Chairs : Ted Hertel, Gary Warren Niebuhr

What does Bouchercon mean to you?

It introduced me to the family of crime fiction. It led me to be a conference chair, a panel participant, a guest of honor and a published author of 5 books about the mystery.

If you had to use one word to describe Bouchercon or what it is all about, what would it be?


All the interviews from this archive program will be preserved at the Lilly Library in Indianapolis, the home of the newly established Bcon archives.

After a brief break wandering around in the book dealers room, it was time to interview my mentor, Marvin Lachman. Marv and I met through the fanzines and in person at the 1987 Minnesota Bouchercon. We have been friends ever since and he really taught me what it means to be a fan of this fiction. I owe a lot to Marv so it was great for me to do this interview.

I only got the opportunity to be Marv's interviewer because of the sad death from cancer of Texas author and fan Bill Crider. Bill was also a long time friend as we first met at the 1981 Bouchercon in Milwaukee. He was a gentleman with a gentle humor and always a treat to visit with. It was an honor to represent Bill Crider at the panel.

After the very satisfying interview, I went right across the hall to Ted the Elder's panel, The Thrill is Gone. Ted moderated five thriller writers for an hour with great success.

After a brief break, I joined my friends at 6:00 p.m. for the Bouchercon Opening Ceremonies. This is where my friend and fanzine editor George Easter presents the Barry Awards. It is also time to announce this year's Don Sandstrom Award winner. The Sandstrom is a lifetime achievement award given for outstanding fan service to the community of crime fiction. The first person to win this award was Marv Lachman. I was the second. My good friends Ted (Ted the Younger) Fitzgerald and Theodore (Ted the Elder) Hertel are also winners. This year the award went to Jeff Popple from Australia.

For dinner tonight, Denice and I, Ted the Younger, Sandy Balzo and Patti Cheney went across the street from our hotel to a French restaurant called Bullion, a very elegant restaurant with great food, great service, and great presentation.  Every once in awhile we love to eat like a 1%er.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Denice and I went our separate ways this morning as I got up at 7:00 a.m. in order to be able to attend the 7:30 a.m. Deadly Pleasures breakfast hosted by its editor and my good friend, George Easter.  About a dozen folks gathered around the table to eat and entertain each other with stories.

Denice and I went off on some Dallas adventures this morning. We took our van out and got to the first area a bit early giving us a chance to walk around the neighborhood on what was the first fairly warm and sunny day in Dallas.



By 10:00 a.m. we were at the doors of the Latino Cultural Center. Today is the beginning for Dia de los Mueros, a holiday that I normally spend in Mexico with my artist mentor and friend Michael deMeng. This year I can only enjoy the annual visit to Oaxaca, the home of Dia de los Muertos, on Facebook, so Denice and I went to this museum so I could see the art exhibit.

The Center also had a wonderful display of ofrendas for the holiday.

This ofrenda was especially interesting to me as it honored Pedro Linares, the original alebrijes maker. As I mentioned, I study in Mexico with an artist named Michael deMeng and on tours set up by Colleen Darling I have had a chance to visit the home of Pedro's family, still making papier-mache alebrijes to this day. 


Then we went on to the Haas Moto Museum and Sculpture Gallery. Haas was a National Geographic photographer who loved motorcycles and speed. The museum is essentially his personal collection of bikes and they were amazing to see.

Assemblage art by Michael Ulman called 1909

I had to be back to the Hyatt by 1:00 p.m. in order to participate on a panel called Bouchercon Reminiscence moderated by my  best friend Theodore B. Hertel Jr. (Ted the Elder). Also on the panel were Ted (the Younger) Fitzgerald, Marv Lachman (who I had interviewed yesterday), longtime fan friend and former Bcon chair Thom Walls and attorney Mike Nevins. Our job was to entertain the audience with stories from the past. I will leave it up to them to decide if this happened or not.

This might be a good time to list my personal Bcon history:

Bouchercon XII · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · Oct 9-11, 1981 “Beer City Capers”
Chair : Mary Ann Grochowski
Co-Chairs: Gary Warren Niebuhr, Bev DeWeese
Guest of Honor : Helen McCloy
Fan Guest of Honor : Allen J. Hubin
Mickey Spillane hosted by Max Allan Collins

Bouchercon XVIII · Minneapolis, Minnesota · Oct 9-11, 1987
Bouchercon XIX · San Diego, California · Oct 7-9, 1988
Bouchercon XX · Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Oct 6-8, 1989
Bouchercon XXII · Pasadena, California · Oct 11-13, 1991
Bouchercon XXIII · Toronto, ON, Canada · Oct 8-11, 1992
Bouchercon XXIV · Omaha, Nebraska · Oct 1-3, 1993
Bouchercon XXV · Seattle, Washington · Oct 6-9, 1994
Bouchercon XXVII · Saint Paul, Minnesota · Oct 10-13, 1996
Bouchercon XXVIII · Monterey, California · Oct 30-Nov 2, 1997
Bouchercon XXIX · Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Oct 1-4, 1998

Bouchercon XXX · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · Sep 30-Oct 3, 1999
“Mischief in the Midwest”
Chairs : Ted Hertel, Gary Warren Niebuhr
Guest of Honor : Max Allan Collins
International Guest of Honor : Reginald Hill
Fan Guests of Honor : Beverly DeWeese, Maggie Mason
Toastmaster : Parnell Hall
Lifetime Achievement Award : Len and June Moffatt

Bouchercon XXXI · Denver, Colorado · Sep 7-10, 2000
Bouchercon XXXII · Washington, DC · Nov 1-4, 2001
Bouchercon XXXIII · Austin, Texas · Oct 17-20, 2002
Bouchercon XXXIV · Las Vegas, Nevada · Oct 16-19, 2003

Bouchercon XXXV · Toronto, ON, Canada · Oct 7-10, 2004
Fan Guest of Honour : Gary Warren Niebuhr
Make Mine a Mystery: A Reader’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction – Gary Warren Niebuhr [Libraries Unlimited]

Bouchercon XXXVI · Chicago, Illinois · Sep 1-4, 2005
Bouchercon XXXVII · Madison, Wisconsin · Sep 28-Oct 1, 2006
Bouchercon XXXVIII · Anchorage, Alaska · Sep 27-30, 2007
Bouchercon XXXIX · Baltimore, Maryland · Oct 9-12, 2008
Bouchercon XL · Indianapolis, Indiana · Oct 15-18, 2009

At the end of this day, I will have attended 23 Bouchercon: the World Mystery Convention events. I do not regret a minute spent as a crime fiction fan but this is most likely me last Bcon.

This afternoon, Denice and I went tot he Nasher Sculpture Center which has a world class collection of sculpture both indoor and outdoor.

I will have to admit that as an art fan, a little bit of sculpture in a museum is tolerable. A museum of sculpture is a bit too much for me.

To celebrate Dia de lost Muertos, Denice and I had a wonderful dinner of Mexican delights at Meso Maya Restaurant near our hotel.

This evening I was honored to attend a wake called Remembering Bill Crider hosted by Angela Crider Neary in a suite in the hotel. The advertised start time was 6:00 p.m. and that is when I showed up. Angela, her husband Tom and I had a chance to talk for about 15 minutes before the second guest arrived. From then on, it was game on.

Shelly Dickson Carr (the granddaughter of John Dickson Carr), Sandy Balzo, Patti Cheney

Eyecon, Milwaukee Bcon and Cloak and Clue buddy forever, Beth Fedyn

With the suite full of fans talking about Bill, themselves, crime fiction, life in general, the party went on until 10:00 p.m. For me, it was a chance to meet and greet old friends I had not seen for quite awhile. 

This proved to be a great way to bring my personal Bouchercon adventure to a close. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

This morning Denice and I intended to eat at the breakfast buffet in the Hyatt but the line was way too long when we went to breakfast. Instead we took the van and drove towards the airport using GPS to find the very trendy Bread Winners Café where we had a nice meal.

Then it was over to the Frontiers of Flight Museum near Love Field. This museum is dedicated to local airlines like Southwest and Braniff so a great deal of the exhibitions are about them. They do have a section of vintage air planes plus aerospace technology.

An Apollo capsule

After that we were on our way to the Dallas Aquarium. As with many places like this, emphasis is on kids and families so the place was packed and noisy. Although we saw some stuff and had a relatively good time, maybe we should have done this during the week when school was in session.


Tonight is the last night of Bcon for us so I decided to make one last appearance at the Anthony Award Banquet. For most of its history, Bcon has given out a fan based award for the best of whatever (each con can pick its own categories) and it is done at an all conference event. This year's con did one of the best presentations of the awards.

There was one odd thing. I was sitting at a table with Ted the Younger, Ted the Elder, Patti Cheney, Cheryl Bonner and William Kent Krueger and his wife Diane. Some of us were trying to figure out why there were plates on our table is we had yet to decide where we were going to go out to eat when the conference chair announced that the salads would be served one half hour after the awards. No one knew this was a banquet but we instantly went into cheap mode and decided to stay put for the dinner. I called up to our room and got Denice in her fancy-pants so she could come down and join us. The whole night was warm and fuzzy and a good time was had by all.

So--after 23 Bcons, running two of them, a Fan Guest of Honor Award and my own Anthony in Toronto--I will admit that it is sad to say this is the closure on Bcon and my fan days. They were great, I would not trade them for anything and I will truly miss my friends.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Today Denice and I arranged to meet Ted (the Elder) Hertel for breakfast in the hotel so we could get his books for the trip home, saving him having to worry about the weight of his suitcase or forcing him to buy another. We were joined at breakfast by Sandy Balzo, Patti Cheney and Thom Walls making it a nice way to say goodbye to some dear friends.

Denice and I were on the road by 10:00 a.m. with the intent of taking the fastest route as far as we could go.  We drove until 6:00 p.m. and ended up in a Holiday Inn Express in Poplar Creek, Missouri. The hotel has an attached restaurant so we used our discount coupon and ate there. Back in our room, we discovered that it has two TVs (I know!) so we could both watch what we wanted.  For me, it was Sunday Night Football. I do not even want to know what Denice watched.

Total miles for the day: 519
Total miles for the trip: 2359

Monday, November 4, 2019

Today we left Missouri and drove home. We wanted to be home for a Marquette Golden Eagles basketball game on Tuesday night.

Total miles for the day: 526
Total miles for the trip: 2885

I was happy with seeing my friends at the Bcon in Dallas. Denice and I managed to take Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Texas off our state list. I got to see rural and small town USA, some if rather desperate looking. I got to see some great parks and museums. This was time well spent but it was good to get home.

No comments:

Post a Comment