After two long weekends of JCS performances, the next weekend proved to be even longer still! I had been trying to plan a trip to this year’s Bowlmani Festival pretty much ever since I failed to make it to last year’s inaugural event. Over the course of the year I had contacted a number of people I thought might like to go with me and help defray some of the costs. In the end, I ended up with a group comprised of myself, thenarus, Brandon, fluffyumpkins, and AmpDivorax for the excruciatingly long 16+ hour drive out to the fringe edge of nowhere that is Winchendon, MA.
I’m pretty sure that this is the longest road trip I’ve ever personally been a part of. I’ve certainly flown further away, but only driving down to Florida comes anywhere close to as long in terms of driving distance/time, and I can’t remember if I’ve ever attempted that without stopping.
Bowlmani Festival began on Wednesday and continued through Sunday. I was originally going to leave on Wednesday so we could have pretty much all day Thursday-Saturday before returning on Sunday. However, due to a work scheduling conflict with Jon, we had to delay our departure until Thursday evening.
Chad drove up to my place from Bloomington, arriving mid-afternoon. From there, we drove up to Muncie in the minivan I borrowed from Brandon’s family to pickup Jon and Dave. Then it was up to Ft. Wayne to pickup Brandon. This obviously was not the most direct route to Massachusetts, but it was the most efficient way to bring all the parties involved together for the long journey.
It was already around 7 in the evening by the time we were leaving Ft. Wayne to “begin” our journey, so we were in for a long overnight drive along the top of Ohio, across the little tab on the NW corner of Pennsylvania, and through the seemingly endless state of New York, before finally reaching Massachusetts—which we still had to traverse about half of to get to our destination.
Fortunately, the van had enough space for us not to be too cramped and we had good company to keep the drive from becoming desperately boring. Still, with food and bathroom stops, we did not arrive at Tokyo Game action until around 10:30 on Friday morning. That was a good 18-19 hours since I had left home (even longer for Chad) and a really long time to be in a vehicle—no matter how fun it may be.
TGA wasn’t opening until noon, so we had about an hour and a half to wait. We had some delirious, sleep-deprived conversations and were eventually greeted by Anthony of TGA who came out to the parking lot briefly.
TGA is located in an old bowling alley—emphasis on old. No offense, but it looks like a real dive from the outside. Actually, the inside isn’t all that much better, but you can tell that they’re putting work into getting the place back into shape. It’s just going to take time and money. They certainly demonstrated they’re willing to put forth the effort. The entire staff was universally pleasant, friendly, and helpful throughout our visit.
Obviously the game room is the main attraction. Their collection of music games is a sight to behold for any fan. This is backed up by a room full of Japanese-style candy cabinets with fighting games out the wazoo. There was plenty to keep the members of our party (and all the other attendees) busy without any real trouble. The food counter was also a nice place to visit to get a beverage or some actually good food—both Japanese and American. The way TGA blends culture into creating an experience beyond the game room is to be commended.
We spent most of Friday playing games and meeting people. We also got checked into our hotel where at least some of us (including myself) tried to get caught up on some missed sleep. Saturday was really the highlight of the experience punctuated by a live performance by kors k.
It was cool for an authentic Japanese experience to come to us (well, closer than going to Japan anyway). It was fun watching everyone get into the music and the performance. Of course everyone was such a rabid fan there that he likely could have played Chopsticks on a Casio keyboard and gotten the same response.
Sunday we made the long trek back home. Even though we left in the late morning, it still turned out to be an overnight trip. After drop-offs in Ft. Wayne and Muncie, I arrived back on my driveway at about 6am. Poor Chad still had another hour and a half to get back to Bloomington at that point.
I basically dropped into bed and slept for an hour or so. I actually woke up and got showered and dressed like I was going to go to work. I was getting ready to head out the door shortly after 8 when I changed my mind and decided that my exhaustion might make getting to work a bit dangerous and would most certainly make me practically useless once I got there. So, I called in and took a half day. I slept for 3-4 hours and then went into work for the afternoon.
It was probably Thursday or Friday before I had completely recovered from the sleep deprivation and fatigue of the trip, but I think the experience was worth the sacrifice. However, if I go again next year, I think I’ll elect to fly.