Texas Pinball Festival 2023, part 1: The drive up from Houston, hotel check-in, and settling in

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Texas Pinball Festival 2023

Before I start telling the story for this year, I want to flash back to the posts covering my experience last year. I will be doing a lot of comparison and contrast with that experience.

We start with the tournament entry and pass purchase. Last year, the tournament waitlists from 2020 were cleared. (The 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This left me a chance to get in the tournament; it was potentially small, but ultimately I did get in and play. This year, I knew I was going, and so I was at my computer when the tickets and passes went on sale (I don’t remember the date off-hand, but I may come back and add it later).

And so, I’m in, and not a lot happens until a few days before the event. Except that the anticipation builds, and I actually take vacation time from work (unpaid) this time around. In retrospect that was a wise move as I can’t imagine dealing with work in the middle of trying to get ready for the trip.

So fast forward to Sunday night. Colin, the lead tournament director, tells us that two volunteers are needed for the registration desk shift immediately prior to the tournament, and he had zero. Actually, if you want to get technical, he typed “ZERO” in all capital letters just to make sure we all saw it. Not that I blame him; as an event organizer I’d start to freak out if it was that close to the event date and I had no volunteers for a potentially vital shift.

And so, after sitting on the fence about volunteering this year, I took one of those two shifts, with the main benefit being that I would get to practice on my own with the other volunteer for that shift, and not have to fight through the queues. This dropped my stress levels significantly. (I’ll get back to this in part 2.)

After taking care of a couple of last minute details, I finally set off for Frisco early in the afternoon on Thursday, March 23. In order, my stops were: Golden Chick on Remington Valley Drive and I-45 (near Airtex Drive) for lunch; Buc-ee’s in Madisonville for fuel and a T-shirt; the rest area in Navarro County (going towards Richland); and a convenience store in/near Rice for a drink and snack. Along the way, near Fairfield, was the only notable traffic delay for road work, and that delay wasn’t but a few minutes.

After getting into the area just north of downtown Dallas on US 75, I ran into some traffic. I decided to detour down some side roads. Specifically, my route used Knox Street, Abbott Avenue, Armstrong Parkway, Inwood Road, and finally Royal Lane and Quincy Lane to take me back to the Dallas North Tollway. The original directions from my satellite navigation software were to stay on US 75 to I-635, then get on the Dallas North Tollway there. As it was, I may not have saved a lot of time. However, I don’t like just sitting in slow-moving freeway traffic.

I finally arrive at my chosen hotel, the Hotel Indigo on Avenue of the Stars. I’ll go into more detail on this later but this turned out to be a great choice for a hotel. My room was near the end of the hallway on the sixth (top) floor. Throughout my stay, at least once I realized I had to go back down to the car to get something. This was a bit of a chore between the elevator ride and near-worst-case walking distance within the hotel.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind getting the extra exercise, but I’m already doing a fair bit of walking. I’m walking to and from the hotel, walking around the conference center, and walking to and from the 7-Eleven. It adds up rather quickly in fatigue (and shoe wear, for that matter).

About the only real minuses to this hotel were the lack of a mini-fridge and lack of an in-room microwave. (Supposedly, there was a community microwave somewhere on the first floor. I never cheked into this as I don’t normally use microwave ovens.)

(Quick sidenote: I didn’t ever get around to writing the post on Rant Roulette regarding last year’s lodging situation, so I’ll summarize it here: I wound up at a cheap hotel otherwise known for being a good brand, but this particular location was awful. The joke I made was that the address may as well have been on Tobacco Road, between the in-room smoke smell and people smoking just outside their rooms.)

So, back to Thursday night. I settle in to the hotel room. After unpacking and taking a quick break, I drive down to Domino’s (Gaylord Parkway and Preston Road). I chose Domino’s to cash in a free pizza from the rewards program. (I was going to do this  at some point during the stay, it just happened to be the first night.) The reward was for a free medium two-topping pizza. I opted for pepperoni, ham, and onions paying the extra $2.38 (after tax), for the extra topping. Drinks came from the nearby 7-Eleven (Gaylord Parkway and Parkwood Boulevard). I chose two one-liter bottles of Brisk Tea (two for $3). My usual 7-Select sweet tea (which would have been two for $2.50) was sold out, unfortunately. This parallels last year’s experience of cashing in the free Qdoba entree.

After dinner, I took inventory of my personal care items. I immediately had the sinking feeling I left my (face) shaver handle and blades back in Houston. I put my clothes back on and uttered some very bleepable words to myself. Then it was time to make a quick run to Target before they closed for the night. (This was at 9:30 pm; Target was set to close at 10 pm.) My total came out to $10.27 ($9.99 plus tax minus the 5% RedCard discount). But more importantly, I now had a Harry’s handle and blades I could use for the duration of my stay. Honestly, even though this was technically an avoidable expense, I was probably due for a new shaving handle anyway.

At this point, it was time to wind down. I took a badly-needed shower and did a couple of other personal care tasks. After checking a few things on my laptop computer, it was time to call it a night. I had a busy weekend ahead of me.

Series NavigationTexas Pinball Festival 2023, part 2: Friday qualifying and a brief trip onto the show floor >>