Magic City Comic Con 2016
Magic City Comic Con is the winter companion convention to Florida Supercon. This year it was held over the weekend of January 15-17, 2016 at the Miami Airport Convention Center in Miami, Florida.
Because it's so far down there, we took off on Tuesday. We knew there was snow in the forecast, but we'd hoped the worst would go north of us and we'd get through with little trouble. Instead we awoke to snow coming down at a good little clip. We had to clean off both vehicles twice because it was coming down fast enough to cover the windshield again.
Once we got on the road, it didn't seem all that bad at first. However, the further we went, the worse things became. We stopped at the rest stop on I-74, and I wondered whether it would be better to wait until the snow let up at least a little. However, my husband wanted to keep going, so with some trepidation I got us back on the road.
By this point the snow was so heavy I could hardly see where the ramp merged into the road. I was going about fifteen or twenty miles an hour, following the tracks left by a big truck ahead of us. Several times cars passed us and a little while later I'd see them in the ditch, stuck.
At the worst, it was all I could do to tell the difference between road and not-road. I was creeping along at about five miles an hour, afraid to pull over lest someone rear-end us. Then it finally started to lighten up and I rounded a curve to see flashing lights. I assumed it was just some tow trucks and cop cars dealing with vehicles that had slid off the road.
Instead, there was a massive pile-up in the westbound lanes. I could see multiple big trucks, one with the whole cab torn apart. I was pretty sure they'd be pulling people out of there in body bags, and the thought of how easily our lanes could've ended up like that was enough to have me shaking all the way around Cincinnati and down to Lexington.
While we stopped at the Lexington rest stop, I checked the news on my iPhone and was surprised to discover that the worst injury was a broken kneecap that would require surgery. Still, I felt the need to call home and let my brother-in-law know we'd gotten through safely and were in Lexington.
As we pushed on through Tennessee and into Georgia, I saw ice on the cliff faces along I-75, but no more snow. Still, the delay from having to creep through the snowstorm was enough that we arrived in Atlanta right at rush hour. So we ended up having to creep our way through a traffic jam.
By the time we arrived in Macon, I was throughly ready to turn in for the night. However, we made a wrong turn when we got off the Interstate and went several miles the wrong way before we realized we needed to turn back around.
But once we did find the Sleep Inn and get checked in, we were happily surprised by just how nice it was. They even had free popcorn and lemonade in the lobby.
The next morning we got up and had their complimentary breakfast, which included eggs and sausage patties. Then we carried everything back to the van and hit the road south.
In Macon it was still cool enough that we carried in all our drinks to make sure they didn't freeze. But by the time we got to Valdosta, we took off our coats. And once we got to the first Florida rest stop, it was so hot I even pulled off my sweatshirt.
When we go to Tampa, we take I-75 the whole way. But to get to Miami, we had to get across the peninsula to the Atlantic coast. The obvious way would be to go through Orlando -- but all those routes are toll roads. To avoid having to pay tolls, we took I-10 across to Jacksonville to catch I-95.
As we approached Jacksonville, I saw several signs announcing one of the upcoming interchanges as Chaffee Road. Since I knew Roger Chaffee had been assigned to the naval air station during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was involved in flying the recon planes that took pictures of the missile sites, I wondered if it were named for him.. However, when we stopped at a rest stop and I got a chance to Google it, I wasn't able to find out anything.
As we headed down I-95, I recognized a lot of places I'd heard about, including Daytona Beach, the home of the Daytona 500. As we approached the Cape Canaveral area, it gave me a certain frisson, but we were too far west to see any of the launch complexes.
The further south we went, the more we saw green grass, even mowers at work, things that made it feel less like January than April or May. And then we got into the Miami area and it was time to start watching for the exit that would take us to our hotel for the night. This path took us on US 1 and A1A, roads I'd read about in Pat Frank's Alas Babylon and in histories of the early space program.
As soon as I saw the hotel, I wondered if we'd made a mistake. It had a general look of deterioration, and the impression only increased as we checked in. If it hadn't been so late, I would've been ready to cancel our reservation and find some other place to stay. But we were too late to cancel without having to pay, so we decided to just suck it up.
However, I didn't really feel safe there, and between that concern and the cardboard-thin mattress, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night. I was very glad when we finally checked out the next morning.
We stopped briefly at a branch of our bank to acquire change, since we were lower than we would've liked for a big convention. Then we continued down I-95 to the Miami Area Convention Center and the attached Doubletree. We got checked in, but they didn't have our room ready for us, so we ended up sitting in the lobby for several hours, biding our time.
At least the room became available before time to load in, so we were able to get all our personal belongings up there and out of the way. However, there wasn't much time to spare, and we probably could've started a little early if we'd headed over to the loading dock immediately.
When we first got there, we were at the back of a long line of vehicles and having to haul each cartload of merchandise a long way. But as another dealer got finished, we were able to move closer and make load-in at least a little faster.
As soon as we got the van unloaded, I had to take it back to the hotel parking lot. Then I hiked back over to the convention center to work on setup. I built our structures and we started filling them. We got most of our merchandise set up before they closed the dealers' room for the night, but we were pretty well exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel for the night.
On Friday morning we got up and had our breakfast of bagels. It's odd how these upscale hotels like the Doubletree have fewer of the amenities we actually want. They don't have a complimentary breakfast and they don't have a refrigerator or microwave oven in the room.
Then we headed back over to the convention center. It was weird to go through the mall area and see all the stores still closed. And when we walked through the breezeway, the air was warm and humid, but it had a different feel from the same temperature and humidity in summer in the Midwest. I marked it down to the salt in the air from the ocean.
We finished setting up and I even had a little time to look around the dealers' room before the doors opened and customers started flowing in. When they did, sales came in spurts. We'd have periods when it was so dead I'd have time to go on the Internet. Then we'd have a rush of customers and struggle to keep up with them.
After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to our room to have supper and wind down. I did a little more work on my novel, but it was mostly fiddling around with notes rather than producing actual text as I had just a week earlier.
On Saturday we got up and had breakfast. Then we walked over to the convention center. The weather was even warmer, to the point I wondered if I'd made a mistake in not switching to shorts.
When the doors opened, I noticed the same pattern of dead periods interspersed with times of traffic so intense we could hardly keep up with it. After observing it for a while, I could see that the busy periods tended to happen right after an event let out. Worse, being near the entrance was not actually a benefit. Instead, the crowd was so intense that people weren't stopping to shop because the sheer crowd pressure behind them created a sense that they needed to move along briskly.
By the time the dealers' room closed for the night, I was tired and sore and really could've used a soak in the hot tub to loosen up. However, my husband didn't want to have to go through the lobby to get to it, so we ended up just staying in our room to wind down before turning in for the night.
On Sunday we got up to have breakfast before getting our belongings out of the room and checking out. While we were packing up, a thunderstorm blew up, complete with high winds and pouring rain. Just as I was despairing of getting everything into the van in that weather, it stopped.
By the time I went down to retrieve our cart, the only signs of the storm were some puddles and an abundance of palm fronds scattered on the asphalt. I got our possessions into the van without incident and we headed over to the convention center to open our booths for our final day of sales. We continued to get high-volume traffic without the sales to go with it, to the point that we started to pack the stuff that had received very little interest, under the guise of making our displays look less crowded and busy.
When the doors closed, we started packing in earnest. Then I got the van from the hotel parking lot and started to load out. Even so, it was almost midnight before we were done loading, and that was with a young man helping us with a great big cart.
Then we had to drive over to the Day's Inn we had selected as a replacement for the grotty Motel 6 we wanted no further part of. We encountered a closed road and had to creep through a lengthy detour, which meant that it was extremely late when we got checked in. The place had some interesting architecture and probably was an old roadside inn from the 1960's that had been renovated. However, they didn't have a complimentary breakfast, and their WiFi was crap. We pretty much collapsed in exhaustion and fell asleep.
Monday morning we had to force ourselves awake and drag ourselves through another breakfast of bagels. Then we carried our stuff out to the van and hit the road north. It was a long, hard slog through the Space Coast and up to Jacksonville. There we ran into a huge backup and immediately regretted having not stopped at the rest stop just south of the backup. By the time we got through, we just stopped at the first truck stop we saw because there was no way we were getting all the way to the rest stop on I-10.
By the time we got to Macon, I was completely exhausted. The desk clerk fancied himself a comedian, and I was not in the mood for his stupid jokes. And then he seemed to think it was a trivial task to relocate the van to the other side of the building to be closer to our room, but I was so tired I was shaking and didn't trust myself to move it. Except I couldn't convince him until I practically threw an adult temper tantrum. Then he backed off and I could finally drag a minimal amount of stuff inside and sleep.
Tuesday morning we had a pretty good breakfast, then checked out and resumed our trip. It was a very long and weary trip up, lengthened by a stop in Knoxville to visit their Vitamin World. By the time we finally arrived at home, I was pretty well wiped. I could also tell there was no way we were going to be able to do Anime Midwest back to back with Florida Supercon. As exhausting as the trip back from Miami was, we had to get some downtime in there before doing anything else.
Copyright 2016 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 19, 2016.