All posts by Shawn K. Quinn

Texas Pinball Festival 2024 part 1: The drive, arrival, check-in, etc

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Texas Pinball Festival 2024

Just so there’s no confusion, especially for the new people: this is a seven-part series, and there are a lot of pictures and a lot of details to the story. In previous years, five parts was enough, but this year is much different, as you will soon see.

Our story begins on Thursday morning at 10:59 Central time.  (All times in these posts will be in 24-hour format. 00 is the midnight hour, 12 is noon, and 13-23 correspond to 1-11 pm.) I would depart the house and begin the trip to Frisco for the third year in a row. My first stop would the Golden Chick on East Louetta in Spring for a somewhat early lunch. That segment of driving  would be uneventful; speeds on I-45 would stay above 50 mph (but not by much) for at least most of the segment south of Beltway 8, then stay close to the legal limit of 65 mph until reaching the exit.

I would arrive at around 11:23 and order my usual at Golden Chick. What’s that, you may ask? The four-piece tenders combo, spicy, with gravy for dipping sauce and mashed potatoes, and Dr Pepper for the drink. (The drink sometimes becomes sweet tea depending on my mood, but to me, it felt like a Dr Pepper kind of day.)

With lunch out of the way, it was time to hop back on the road. I would do exactly this at 11:46. The next stop would be what has become a tradition: Buc-ee’s in Madisonville. I arrived at roughly 12:53. As one of the billboards says, “Top two reasons to stop at Buc-ee’s: #1 and #2.” On this visit, I would take care of #1. (Hey, I never met a Buc-ee’s restroom I didn’t like.) Before leaving I would purchase a “Texas for the Win” T-shirt (not shown) and a small bottle of Red Diamond tea. (Of note, Buc-ee’s is one of the few convenience stores/travel centers to stock Red Diamond tea in individual servings.)

So the bathroom break was out  of the way. My travels resumed at13:28, and everything would be fine until I reached about 4-5 miles south of Dew (FM 489). Traffic would come to a rather sudden standstill (stalled tractor trailer in the right lane). This would amount to about a 21 minute delay (14:06 to 14:27) with further slow progress for the following 9 minutes (14:36).

I’d hit another slowdown at 14:48, this time for construction, and finally make it off of I-45 at 15:02, taking FM 833 east to cut over to TX 75 north through the east and north sides of Streetman (with a detour onto Loop 262, also known as East/West Main Street and North Hogg Avenue). I would stay on the I-45 frontage road and pull over into the Navarro County rest area at around 15:30.

This would be a very brief rest break. This stop would last just long enough for me to stretch my legs and make another brief bathroom visit. I would get back on the road at 15:41 and arrive in downtown Dallas just in time for the evening rush hour. Upon reaching the  Walnut Hill Lane exit on US 75, I would exit there. Then, I would cut over to the Dallas North Tollway via Walnut Hill Lane, Inwood Road, and Royal Lane. Traffic on the Dallas North Tollway would be moderate. However, I would still manage to arrive at the hotel at 17:30. That’s not too bad given I told them I expected to be there at 17:00.

Check-in went smoothly and I would relax in the hotel room briefly before walking down to pick up my wristband. I would walk back to the hotel then back down to the convention center to hang out with a few friends for a while. (There were tentative plans to have a group dinner, which fell through.) So I decide to go (drive) to Denny’s. The nearest Denny’s from the hotel was a good 7 miles away in Plano, just north of the President George Bush Turnpike on Preston Road. I stop off at the Walgreens a bit further south (nearest one that was still open) to get a personal care item and, just in case, some cash.

Finally, with all that out of the way, time to go back to the hotel room. I would shower and call it a night.

(Note regarding pictures: These were the only pictures I took, though I do have daytime pictures of the Madisonville Buc-ee’s and the Navarro County northbound I-45 rest area in the posts for previous years, which see: 2022 and 2023.)

March 6 and 10: Little Dipper and a movie

In every other respect, March 6 was another typical Wednesday night. What made this one stand out? This was the last time I played pinball in Houston before leaving for the Texas Pinball Festival the following weekend.

Most of these scores, except for T2, were pretty lousy, and there were several other games of T2 with much lower scores. I only played Stranger Things and Creature once each, and Monster Bash twice. This was literally the day after the tournament directors for TPF sent out the machine lineups for the tournaments (via email). T2 was on the list while most of the other games at Little Dipper were not.

The other main reason I came down here was to get some pictures of Main Street in front of Little Dipper, one of which I added to the gallery.

Finally, Sunday would be a limited engagement showing of Labyrinth, the film from 1986 directed and written by Jim Henson (with a couple of co-writers helping out). I thoroughly enjoyed the film. This was despite missing what I thought was one of the best scenes (the Magic Dance song towards the beginning of the movie).

The timing of this limited engagement couldn’t have been better. I had quite fond memories of playing the Labyrinth pinball at Houston Arcade Expo this past year, and it had been a while since I saw the movie all the way through. (And that was on video or TV, not in a theater.) So this did help me “get in the mood” for the Texas Pinball Festival.

On the way out, someone left a credit on a multi-game arcade machine, which I played on Dig Dug. I put up 36,170, which is a pretty good score given I haven’t played it in a while. And with that, although I didn’t know it at the time, the stage was set for what would be an epic weekend.

Quick update from Frisco

Hello everybody from Frisco, Texas. When I return to the computer later today, I will have one post to make about events that happened before Texas Pinball Festival.

Once that is done, I will have a virtual mountain of photos and notes to go through. There will be a lot to recap, so this year’s series of posts could stretch out to as many as eight. I will try not to make them too long but at the same time I want to get in as many details as I can as this was quite a memorable trip and I am eager to share the full account of it with all of you.

Texas Pinball Festival 2024: On with the show!

Once again, this weekend (upcoming, March 15-17) is the Texas Pinball Festival including the Wizards tournament. And, once again, I am confirmed for the Wizards tournament and a hotel room in the area.

New to TPF this year will be three tournaments held by NTX Pinball, of which I will be playing in two on Friday. The first will be a group matchplay tournament Friday morning, while the second will be a strikeout tournament Friday evening.

This year is quite different from the past two years. I’m not going to go into detail right now, but the challenges I have faced both as a pinball player and in life away from the game have changed. I’ve also made some new friends outside the pinball/classic arcade community, which has helped.

This will be the third time I’ve made the trip to Frisco both for the festival and the pinball tournament. My current plan is to attend TPF, including the Wizards tournament, every year through at least 2027. This is of course subject to many variables: health, finances, and of course lack of extraordinary circumstances (such as another pandemic along the lines of COVID-19).

In the immortal words of Queen:

I’ll take it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show!

And finally, the (updated) links for those looking to follow along:

Of particular note, I will probably not be live blogging here over the weekend, but will start re-capping the events on Monday after I return.

Poison Girl February 25: And the winds just keep on whirling

After the previous night’s runs on Godzilla, I was inspired to head over to Poison Girl for the first time in a long while (since September 8 when I set the 59.0M+ grand champion on Whirlwind, if you want to get technical). So long, in fact, that the lower high scores had been automatically reset. My 59.0M+ grand champion, however, was still there.

I started off with a quick game of Dolly Parton, scoring a new personal best of 263,170. Then, I moseyed on down to Whirlwind and put my first quarter in, to be greeted by “CREDITS 4 1/2”. I went ahead and coined up the other half credit making it “CREDITS 5” and started the first game.

I’d start off with a real stinker of 1.35M+ and would wind up winning enough replays to turn that five credits I started with into a whopping sixteen games actually played, lasting easily an hour and a half. (I’d have to dig up the photo timestamps to compare the sessions during which I put up other high scores, but they are probably about the same or slightly longer.) By the time I was done, the score to get a replay had skyrocketed to 10.2M (it started at 4.2M) and I had put up three of the four lower high scores: 23.1M+, 18.4M+, and 10.5M+. That left only PBK’s 13.9M+ of the high scores that were up on my arrival.

I would wrap things up with a quick game on Guns N Roses (Jersey Jack) scoring a rather unremarkable 775K+ (replay was at 2M). I’d call it a night after another unremarkable game of Dolly Parton and a game on the re-themed Mata Hari.

February 22 and 24: Einstein’s and Del Mar

My usual reason for traveling out to Katy is a weekly RPG (role-playing game) meeting on Thursday nights. We have missed about a months worth of meetings for various reasons. I had some car issues; others had work or family conflicts. It was definitely an evening to look forward to for me.

Then, I found out the meeting was canceled, but not until after driving the distance. Never one to miss an opportunity, I salvaged the trip by getting in some pinball at Einstein’s since I wasn’t too far away. This turned out to be a great decision. I got to play some old favorites like Stars, Hoops, and Black Knight: Sword of Rage, but I also got to check out Stern’s latest game, Jaws. (Unfortunately Attack from Mars was turned off/out of order.)

Now, Jaws is not without its share of controversy. Perhaps the biggest complaint, or at least the one that was most prominent from my observation, was that the shark toy didn’t eat the ball. After I played a few games, I can say that there’s no reason for the shark to eat the ball. Trying to work that into the game would, in fact, completely destroy the flow. I don’t have a picture, but the shark is above a captive ball mechanism, not any type of scoop or eject. These are two completely different types of objects with regard to the flow of play.

My very first game on Jaws happened to be the highest scoring game on that machine (144.2M+) for the night. The other truly notable score was a 303K+ on Stars, including the first time I’ve scored special on a game in novelty mode (twice in one ball).

Then on Saturday night, I decided to drop in for “a quick game or two of Godzilla”. Which, of course, meant I played eleven (!) games counting all the replays I won. Only two of those replays were from matching.

Perhaps the even bigger punch line: there was ¼ credit on the game when I arrived, so the whole session cost me only 75 cents. In summary: Top score for the night of 248.1M+. New scores for destruction jackpot champion (in the 248.1M+ game) and Godzilla multiball champion (later game).