After spending most of the morning writing and recharging device, and have one of the best warm shower ever (a very small bathroom, but with the perfect bathtub and shower hose). We are ready to go to Lake Geneva for an 1h and half drive.
But! Before than that I need to describe the house of my friend. He lives on a flat on a 2nd floor in an actually building house. All the houses looks like real American big houses made of wood (or alternative the neighborhood had plenty of nice red brick houses). They look all bigger than the usual houses of where I use to live in Plymouth, Britain. As the british, each house has his own front garden and backgarden, a patch of land that everyone seem to use differently. The front garden is normally bare (apart from some festivity decoration) while the back garden has more things like a trampoline jump, or some classic park toys like a slide, or some hoops for the kids to play with.
In my case my friend shared the garage with the other person living on the 1st floor, and funny enough the other car was running on electrical, and it was charging safely in the garage. So happy to see that electrical car a thing in USA. Fuel here it is incredibly cheap, like 3.9 $ per I guess gallon (or whatever metric system they use).
The house of my friend decorative entrance, is a mix of a weapon shop of many katana blades, few bowie knives and an amazing fighting axe, a collection on fighting books, comics, manga and RPG games, an amazing amount of miniatures, 3d printing resin device, and original boxes of more than 40 years ago about D&D and other games, and obviously various tools for training (many kettles, training bag and training matte).
The house is very long, a 3 room bedroom (for himself, his partner and the two daughters), a nice big living room (doubling up as nursery, because the partner take care of kids, I saw a little nice 3 year old boy called Larson and he was so shy and adorable).
The daughter of Keith, Val, she get up at 7 am and go to work with first light of the day, taking 2 buses and a 40 minute drive to go to a school where they teach her playing after the normal hours of learnings. That’s dedication (for the coldness and the distance), the normal school it would be otherwise 3 minutes walking from this neighborhood.
Anyway, I was saying before, we are ready to take a drive. We hop to a quick sandwich place, and here I had my first CUBANO sandwich (not original obviously but closest thing that I could get) and I tell you, for the rest of the day I wasn’t thinking anything else on how damn delicious was the sandwich with a nice mustard and meat. Again I noticed that the price are a little bit steeper than Barcelona and again I am sure it is because quality in USA it is paid. Until know the food is never too much out of proportion, but for sure it is always a good dish to fill you up. Funny enough the orange juice was already juiced with ice in it (why all beverage are iced?), and I enjoyed myself so much that food that I licked my fingers.
We are fed and ready to pick up another man living in nearby in Chicago to share the ride. Mike, is going ahead of his family to Lake Geneva (to play as well), he is a legal lawyer and the family will reach him few days later so that they can enjoy the SPA and the various entertaining facilities while he is gonna have fun at the gaming tables. He is on his 50s and he is very well mannered and we all keep each other company during the drive talking about games, experiences and difficulties to find groups.
The driving it is very easy, the road are very big (5 ways lanes), and the transition from normal road to interstate road is about seemless with no really stopping points. They use the wireless device attached to cars to I guess pay whatever invisible tall that some motorway reader is picking up.
As we make way upstate, the surrounding becomes more green, and more rural. So much that everytime that I see a barn, I cannot stop to think about all the movies where Superman grew up. Again the deja-vu of nowing america but without really knowing it kicking in. We see dairy farms, but I don’t see any cattle or horses by the motorway. I see the classic buildings that make me think of South park style of life of a small America and again, everything feel familiar. The banks being just simple red brick building (exactly like any robberies movies in the USA countryside of Bonnie & Clyde), the churches with theirs letter sign to go and find god this sunday “and everyone is welcome”, and some nice parks where kids from school are playing and training.
As we drop Mike, we go first to our hotel, to drop our stuff called The Ridge which it is an amazing resort. I never being in anything so luxurious (and we pay good bucks), and let me say. Hospitality is done very well and efficiently around here. It looks that this area it is full of these resort, where people come for winter or summer for leisure e, between water pools, outdoor activities, SPA and much more. This area was (I am guessing) a millionaire relaxing ground of the rich people of Chicago, and from here I understand why the Lake Geneva resort was a playboy mansion. Anyway, the place is amazing and the room are essential and amazingly comfy. In less than 10 minutes we are already inside the room, and drop everything and than go to Lake Geneva.
Even so, we decide that a tour around is needed before checking in at the convention. We go to the original house of Gary Gygax, we hit the 1st historical shop of TSR (where the game was sold) and it was converted in a small museum with lot of amazing and in perfect condition books of the 70s. We get welcomed, my friend buy some stuff, I take a small miniature of a Drow (a black/blue elf of the underdark). Than we hit the local library that had the view on the lake (this absolutely looks and feel like a place of the relaxation of the rich, even if very small and cute town), and than the house of Gary Gygax where we roll our die on the porch for good luck. (There is a crew actually shooting, we guess a documentary or maybe it is something related to a future tv series that we think is gonna come out about D&D).
We ride to our final awaited destination and let me tell you if The Ridge was an amazing place, the Lake Geneva it is an OVER THE TOP place around here. With a small horse riding center nearby, a golf course by the Lake, and a super huge filled with restaurants and carpeted amazing floor that makes the event of gaming feel so small in comparison of whatever other event around here.
As we enter, it absolutely smell of Nerds & Geeks, (nothing smell, but the atmosphere r is of the one of gamers all around talking and grouping and find their way the day before the main event.) People with very long beard (some really with amazing white wizard beards), long black coats (cowboy style with hat included), big massive people that I look slim in comparison, geeky t-shirts of all kind of jokes, sci-fi & fantasy known to human, or from various great gaming USA conventions.
We explore the grounds, and this place is MASSIVE. Now we have an idea of the lay of the land, and where the various gaming rooms take places. We find the headquarters, we have a quick lunch (in the amazing gigantic gathering room) with a very attentive and very young and beautiful staff serving us and than we make our way to the big queue to get our badges that identify us for the games.
The queue is long, but we make chit chat with a lot of people along the way making friends and sharing gaming stories, there are professional photographers making photos all around. We are on the end of the line, and they offer us a free local beer called The Spotted Cow. It is a simple lager and I take it without hesitation to kill some time.
We take the badges, and I almost cry a teardrop to see my name and the conference badge in my name. It means a lot. A fantasy that actually become reality. An impossibility of a very improbable thing to do in life, but at the end I am really really here. As gamer, gaming with gamers that helped the biggest game be what it is.
Than we go to a welcome party (not really a party, but more some free food and some drinks) to just talk with other peoples. We got some casual chat, and I get to meet a chemist for medical and a master sommelier. D&D is for everyone really and that is amazing, so much that the I am actually on the younger side of the people attending over here. So many people with incredible long white beards, all wizard in disguise obviously. I meet and talk with some more people, some people recognized me ahead of a post that I made saying that I was coming from Europe, and I must say it was fun to have italian-descent or related ancestry coming to me and speaking about their families and traditions, it make me feel and I am guess even them more connected.
Arriving the late evening, we look for some random games in-promptu (nothing scheduled just improvised), and we find one organised by people called “the Order of the Owl”, a certain Mark Hull friend of the past G. Gygax, and he is gonna run a 1st edition D&D one shot about “Killin a Dragon”. We are all lvl 10, we have full on magic items, we are 10 of us (which normally it is a very huge group), and he tell us, we all gonna die anyway, the dragon is gonna be played OLD SKOOL, which it means, with no hope, no kindness and barely any surviving like old time sake. Like G. Gygax was playing… this is literally a passing rod of tradition from Gygax to Mark, and to Mark into us, until he dies for decades to come.
Mark guide us, help us making characters, and we don’t make it really anywhere, but I absolutely have my love crush for this stranger. He is the best Game Master that I ever met, he knows his stuff, he has no hesitation, he is concise and very well descriptive and gets to the point. I am in awe. I am pumped and I don’t feel at all the lack of sleep of the last days, but it is 1 AM, and we need to get up at 8 AM for the next day and for a full day of games.
Reluctantly and very very tired we go back to the car, driving into the night, in a super desert Lake Geneva and eerie with a bit of mist, to our Ridge hotel. It was an amazing day, and one even more amazing is coming ahead.