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The road to BlizzCon

Alex Ziebart

Anne Stickney and I decided to travel to BlizzCon a little differently this year. Why fly? Flying is boring. You know what isn't boring? Driving through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and finally, down through California. While most of the drive presented us with little more than mountains and desert, that was perfectly fine by us. Mountains are awesome. And the desert? Things lurk in the desert.

Unfortunately, I couldn't avoid airfare completely. My significant other and I began our stretch of the journey in Milwaukee, WI. From there, we had to make a geographically ludicrous stop in Houston, TX before flying back up to Grand Junction, CO where our journey truly began.

Though Anne wasn't particularly impressed by the mountains surrounding us throughout Colorado and Utah, I spent hours of our ride awestruck. She has always lived among those mountains, whereas I hail from one of the flattest places in America. Wisconsin has its share of beauty, but never before had I passed through terrain such as what you see in the header image above -- which happens to have been taken in Arizona, not Colorado or Utah, but you get the picture. To someone from the flatlands of the United States, that stretch of the drive made me feel like the insignificant speck that I really am in the grand scale of things. It felt alien and bizarre, beautiful and inspiring. If you want to partake of some scenery shots from our drive, hit the gallery at the end of this post.

We spent a night in Utah, mere mortals in the shadow of a bright red mountain range, then began anew the following morning. After dining on elven pie, of course. That's where it started to get weird. Weird in the tourist sort of way. As far as I'm concerned, that's the best kind of weird.

Upon leaving Utah, we skirted the corner of Arizona, crossing into Nevada under the watchful eye of our guardian stegosaurus. We'd set out bright and early, and since we were making good time, we started paying more attention to rest stops, road signs, and general Route 66 oddities. Abandoned water parks, crumbling ruins, and roadside businesses built of corrugated aluminum lined the highway. We wisely chose to avoid passing straight through Vegas, but it was impossible to avoid all of the sights: the Luxor, Caesar's Palace, and Camelot all crossed into our view. Shortly after Vegas, we found the holy grail of our trip. On our left, a billboard proclaimed:
Alien Fresh Jerky
90 Miles
The text alone piqued our interest. The cartoonish alien head that accompanied that text made it a mandatory stop. Anne and I being people that are not the most well-balanced of folk, an important question popped into our heads: Is the jerky made fresh from the flesh of extraterrestrials? Or is it made fresh by extraterrestrials? We had to know.

As we drove, we counted down the miles. The signs didn't allow us to lose count. Every ten miles, another sign. 90 miles later, in Baker, CA we found our tourist Valhalla.
As it turns out, the jerky is neither made by nor of aliens. The touristy absurdity of the locale did not disappoint, however. Upon entry, we were presented with racks upon racks of hot sauce varieties, a dozen different varieties of natural honey, branded energy drinks of questionable licensed legality, Alien Fresh souvenirs, and ... Ali-N, an alien fortune teller. Everyone has seen something like it in their lifetime before, a fortune teller machine seen most often in the form of a gypsy or the best-known Zoltar. You give it a dollar, it yammers on, then gives you a glorified fortune cookie slip. We already stopped, so it would have been a sin to walk away without throwing a buck at the thing. We took our fortune, something about early to bed and early to rise, and moved on with our lives a dollar poorer, but a pack of Abducted Cow Jerky richer. We tried a free sample of Invisible Jerky but found it a little too bland. There was something missing, but we couldn't put our finger on what.

We made our next stop in Barstow, CA. While we made the stop for gasoline, something else caught our eye -- a McDonald's built in a row of train cars. We had to check out what it looked like inside, right? Boy, were we surprised. The interior was not simply a McDonald's but an entire shopping strip! The train cars served as dining rooms for the restaurants within. While we bought nothing there at tourist prices, we found what must have called us to Barstow: another fortune teller machine. This time, it was the better-known Zoltar. We talked to Ali-N, so we must talk to Zoltar, right? Right!
Two fortune tellers. Two towns. The same fortune. That's it, folks. It's official. Magic is real. There's your proof. If you don't believe me, take it up with Ali-N and Zoltar.

Our minds blown, we spent the following hours in relative silence, pulling into Anaheim in the late afternoon. We ran directly to the Anaheim Convention Center to take our celebratory picture of the BlizzCon signage out front and were surprised to find that the entire outdoor area directly in front of the convention center has been completely remodeled since 2011. No longer a death trap of traffic, beautiful statuary, fountains, and lighting have been installed. The picture we ended up with made all of the anticipation worth it, because with the proper angle, somehow a water fountain makes a convention center look like it's been set ablaze.
Worth 20 hours total travel time? Totally.

Gallery: Road to BlizzCon | 25 Photos

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