Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's THE Freakin' Weekend

The ViscountEric family proudly proclaims that we survived The Weekend, both the four day vacation we took to Lancaster, but the small convention of the same name at The Continental Inn as well.

With the van packed up and the dogs dropped off at the kennel the night before, we departed an hour late with our first stop for gas and food by the Lebanon exit of I-81.  The forecast called for intermittent showers throughout the day, but we were completely caught unawares by the deluge that poured forth from the heavens.  We barely sailed into the truck stop, grabbed breakfast, and waited out the hydroplaning weather. 

Although we were two hours late from our original plan, we made it Dutch Wonderland for the kids and a wet and empty parking lot.  We had gotten discounted passes valid for Tuesdays and Thursdays only, so we waited for a break in the weather and dashed towards the entrance. 

I must admit that I'm spoiled by our constant trips to Knoebels, but Dutch Wonderland is a throwback to an amusement park for kids, certainly pre-teens and younger.   A stop in the rain allowed the girls to go on a number of rides multiple times in a row and we worked our way through the original park, into the newer Exploration Island. 

My wife was shell shocked from this ride.
Even though she's too big for it, and the bee hive is deceptive, a girl loves her pandas...
The Exploration Island included a gondola cruise, an antique car ride, and a dino path with some animatronic dinosaurs. 
One of the kids was a good egg for this picture.
We got on the flume ride and were just about to jump on the "big kid" wooden roller coaster when the heavens poured forth again.  We scurried to the covered confines of one of the shows, moved over to the diving show right after, and putzed around, patiently waiting for the larger rides to re-open.

They did not. 

I managed to spend some time playing a do-or-die battle between a remote control boat and the ducks and koi in a pond while the girls got their faces painted. Slightly dejected from the weather, we jumped aboard the train, took one last tour around the park, when my wife made a glorious discovery. 

Hidden in the fine print of our maps was the following...
Rain Guarantee - Don't let a cloudy day keep you away! During the regular summer season Dutch Wonderland is pleased to provide a second chance for a day of fun in the sun! If it rains for more than one (1) consecutive hour during your visit to Dutch Wonderland and you decide to leave the Park for the remainder of the day, stop by Guest Services as you exit and present your ticket stub. You will be issued a single-day admission ticket valid for any day during the remainder of the summer season, Happy Hauntings or Dutch Winter Wonderland. You must have your ticket stub to receive a rain ticket. Rain tickets will only be issued on the day of your original visit at the Guest Services Office.
So we will be returning with our free passes.   That made an almost-bust of a day completely awesome.

After checking-in next door to our room at the Continental, we grabbed a solid dinner at IHOP, went back to the hotel so the kids could change and go swimming, while I snuck to the main building to grab my name tag for The Weekend. 

I was cajoled into a game of History of the World.  Despite nearly getting wiped out during the Mongol sacking of Jerusalem, my Holy Assyrian/Spainish team (with a castle in Scotland and a colony in Australia) won a commanding victory.  Fun was had by all, even if we did finish after 2am.
After breakfast at the Continental, we scampered off to the Strasburg Railroad for a train ride, and a stroll through the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum.
I think I was the only one who loved the train ride, but even I was saddened by the amount of commercialization encroaching onto the tracks.  What used to be a drop-off for a picnic grove and a "ghost train" has evolved into corn mazes, activity centers, and corn cob guns. 
Let's not even mention that Saturday was the beginning of Thomas the Train's week.   We narrowly missed complete chaos.
The ladies all decided to avoid the gift shops and head right to the Museum, where Millie provided a detailed history of this man, John Quincy Adams.
This statue is actually of Matthias Baldwin....  How 5-year old Millie knows about John Quincy Adams is beyond me.
With a few activities stations and a couple of diesels open for touring, the kids had a pretty good time. 
Unlike the school and camp field trips running amok, we paid attention to the volunteers and the signs, most notably the one that told people to descend the steps of the locomotive backwards (they are quite steep).  My girls took the rule to heart so much that, when we came upon a raised platform to view the interior or a passenger car or perhaps the brake training car, they walked backwards down the traditional steps.

The last part of our stay was at the Stewart Junction Railway Education Center, a portion of the Museum designed directly towards kids.  Plenty of hands on displays for older kids, Brio-style trains for the little ones, a traditional model train display, a Lego train display that was top notch. and a parent-child team activity involving yard switching locomotives on a G-Scale layout.  We all took a chance to sit down and play for a bit

Everything is awesome....
A late lunch/early dinner at DJ's Taste of the 50's was absolutely fantastic.   USA Today dubbed them "The Best Burger in PA," and I can accept their opinion.  Everything from the actual cherry in the Cherry Cokes to the burgers to the ice cream was top-notch.  Since it's a zig and a zag away from the Continetal/Lancaster Host I will be adding this to our itinerary for Fall-In!/Cold Wars.

After a quick trip to the Coach outlets to reward my wife's infinite patience, we finally returned to the Continental, the family departing for the pool and I heading down toward the "secret" ballroom where The Weekend was being held.  
WW2 Bug Hunt
The Weekend will never supplant Historicon in terms of size and scope, and that's exactly what Otto, our esteemed host, had in mind.  I never counted more than fifty people in the ballroom at any one time, although the pile of munchies everyone brought could feed three times as many.

I got into a game of Divine Right for the evening.  I had owned a copy in the past but never got the chance to play it.  We played until the lights got turned off for the B-movie-fest and we retired for the evening. 
The limited-edition upside down version of Divine Right
More breakfast from the Continental and my wife took the girls shopping at the outlets.   The Divine Right game resumed and finally finished after six more hours...
Two pieces of advice for potential players.  (1)  The entire game is based on killing kings and sacking cities, no matter what and (2) don't play your first game with the board upside down.  My brilliant success at History of the World was mirrored by my catastrophic actions in Divine Right. 

There were no dealers at The Weekend, but there was a bring and buy table that allowed me to snag some Wargames Illustrated, an Osprey, and a copy of Muchkin Bites rather cheap. 
Then there was the freebie table, where I absconded with a copy paper box filled with a mixture of army guys, some odd palm trees (more terrain, gah!), and a few mounted fellas in 54mm. 

The rest of the weekend was swimming with the family, an aborted attempt at teaching Maja to play Munchkin, and a late checkout to head back to reality (and barking dogs).
The Weekend achieves what it sets out to do:  Get a bunch of like-minded individuals together to play a variety of games and generally have a good time without the organizational drama of the larger cons.  With four or five full games going on at the same time, it's exactly what I envisioned my 40th birthday party should be back in 2014, only in a far better centralized place than a fire hall in northeast Pennsylvania. 
Next year's Weekend is the weekend after Father's Day, so we might make the short vacation a thing again.   Heck, I may even run something...

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