Monday, May 26, 2008

Expo Epic - The Whole Story

(Warning - Depending on how quickly you read - THIS could take a while)

Okay, so you might be wondering why I used the word "epic" - well, here goes...

May 10 - 4:02 am

I bolt out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, in a vain attempt to not wake my husband. Mr. “I only need six hours of sleep and I’m good to go” played along by laying in bed quietly while I grabbed my pre-planned wardrobe du jour and waddled into the bathroom for a much needed shower. My mind is racing: I’ve only got about 45 minutes before blast off – got to go to Saratoga to pick up Miss Shannon, then it is off to Clifton Park to meet the ladies and the bus bound for lovely the Garden State and the Memories Expo. “Okay, just don’t lolly gag too long in this luscious shower.” I tell myself. In record time, I’m done showering and drying my hair. “Cell phone – can’t forget the cell phone!” I unplugged it from the charger and powered it up. My DH then sleepily says “have a good time” and I’m thinking to myself, “Thanks honey, but this is NOT a clothing optional event.” I still had some dressing to do and to figure out what I wanted to eat at O-dark thirty.

I get to Shannon’s – she’s pretty charged up about the trip too – we are like two little girls anticipating Christmas morning. The thirty minute drive to the rendezvous point seems to last only seconds because of our non-stop chatting about our outing. We arrive at the prearranged meeting place way before departure time and yet, we are not the first to arrive. Our intrepid organizer Stephanie and many others are already there. Shannon's other stamping buddy Julie along with her Aunt Robin, and her "birthday-girl" mom Faith are parked close to light post (I remember my loving husband cautioning me to park under a light, so I pull up next to them). Julie is obviously an old hand at these types of trips AND she believes a little pampering goes a long way. She has all the makings of Carmel Turtle coffee in her minivan (including Styrofoam cups with lids). While we are waiting for the bus to arrive, we enjoy the elixirs.

"Departure time is PROMPTLY AT 6 AM" I remember the email stated. We also had another schedule pickup in Latham at 6:15. It's now 5:55 and there is no bus in sight – Stephanie's calls to the bus company go unanswered. Finally at 6:15, the bus shows up with Bob the bus driver at the helm. (He is a generally scary guy who seemed to have stayed out drinking far too late the night before.) I had heard glowing tales of the last excursions driver Joe - Bob appears to be the "anti-Joe". We load our selves on to the Yankee Trails coach and we strike out for parts south. A quick stop in Latham to collect more scrapping women and then we are off again. Stephanie has tons of merchandise from her crafting store that she used to run. So the "Crazy Eddie sale" begins = Bargain basement pricing on loads of cool stuff. She gets on the bus’ PA system to describe the stuff and has her “runners” pretend to be pin balls by walking the aisle while “Danger Doug” (that was one of bus driver Bob’s nicknames) tries to remain awake and on the Northway. I was so proud to score a bunch of stuff for only $10! I even bought a couple of canvas bags to carry all the treasures I anticipate I will find at the expo itself. (One of these coveted canvas bags is earmarked for a bag-loving friend of mine, so it will stay on the bus keeping my Crazy Eddie purchases safe for me and not get boogered up.) Around 10am we arrive at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset. Our fearless leader had to go buy us our tickets, so we waited (not too patiently) for her return. I was really happy to be able to stand up and walk around without being bounced between seats after being on the bus for what seemed like half a day. Our little group comes up with a basic game-play. Make a circuit through the expo to check everything out and decide where we wanted to spend our time and money. First stop = Skinny Cow (hey, free ice cream - who can turn that down? Get a little sugar rush going to fuel our morning – What could be better?) Our plan worked like clock-work until I got to chatting with the lady manning the booth offering the free vacations. Turns out they want you to also sign up for a "free $99 vacation" (you know - the time share kind of thing). I back-peddled my way out of there, but by then my little band of stamping buddies had gone off the scout the expo offerings.

“Not a problem” (I say to myself), now I have the opportunity to wander around to see what I could see at my own pace. One of the first people I spoke with was Mary at the Cropperware booth. This was the beginning of my picture-taking fun. (Their product would be a definite "must have" for any serious scrapbooker.) I was very honest with her and told her my plan of attack. She is more than happy to allow pictures because she knew I would share my find with others (like YOU).

The next place to really capture my attention was Sparkle N Sprinkle. Tons of great cards were on display and loads of so many colors of embossing powders and glitter. (I honestly didn’t realize there were that many colors – truly amazing!) Plus all the rubbah and punches not to mention all the different types of glues (did you know there is a special adhesive to use if you want to put glitter on the inside of a clear Christmas ornament? – well, there is – and Margaret & George carry it!) They ultimately got custody of about a quarter of my budgeted funds and have become a new bookmark for my internet shopping sprees.

Then there was my first visit to the Inky Antics area of creative fun. They win the prize for the most time spent at a single booth. I didn’t actually buy anything until my third and last visit. That was after we discovered they carried AND demonstrated the use of Gamsol (that was Shannon’s main objective). Along this same row was Art Gone Wild and Stampers Anonymous – needless to say loads of cool stuff to be found (and mentally added to my ever increasing wish list).

Down the aisle from them was the cute and fun Darcie’s merchandise. I totally lost track of time watching the shrink art demonstration and listening to her pitch. I was sorely tempted to buy not one but two of their CD packages – but since that would have chewed up half of my funds – I thought better of it. Plus I hadn’t even completed a full circuit of the expo floor, so I walked away. (But I must admit, I did go back and tried to convince myself that the debit card was meant to be used…and this was part of my Mother’s day gift … thankfully, by accountability partner, Shannon, helped to keep me strong.)

It was getting close to noon – coincidentally, I was next to the food court AND there were my peeps! We all went and bought our $6 sandwiches – yes, I said $6. We found the cleanest table we could and leisurely ate our lunch. After all, we were not scheduled for departure until 6 pm. We would have way more than enough time to make several laps through the all displays.

After lunch, Shannon and I started on the quest for Gamsol. One of our stops was Scrappers Cove. They had a little bit of everything, so they seemed like a good bet. We happened upon a very knowledgeable lady (Suzanne) who told us about how to use alcohol inks and got us started on a quick and easy make & take.

Next we bee-lined over to Inky Antics and Shannon happily shelled out her moola for the much sought after Gamsol. She wondered if she should have picked up some for Julie and Robin and I suggested that we just drag them back to the booth so the adorable demonstrator could show them how to use the stuff.

Oh, almost forgot about our make & take at the Gifted Memories booth. They were severely picked over by the time we got to them, so they only had a couple of chipboard shapes to pick from, one color of distress paint, purple Stickles, and green Glimmer Mist. Jean told us to really slog on the distress paint if we wanted a lot of crackling – being the diligent student that I am, I did just that. Consequently, we needed to leave the little puppies to dry. Jean was a kick and told us that the inventor of the Glimmer Mist was over at the Tattered Angels booth and that it is sold in tons of different colors. Anyway, throughout the afternoon, we had to keep coming back to see is our little projects were dry enough to travel.

Around the corner, one aisle over, we wandered through the Rubber Cottage. This is where we watched the demonstrator use a stipple brush to apply the Adirondack ink to the card stock, stamp a couple images, and then finish off the bookmark with a paint marker border. Stunning results with minimal effort – that’s what I’m talking about! I loved their samples and a bunch of their rubbah, but I didn’t see prices posted, so I wouldn’t let myself fall in love with anything. (Come to find out, they have VERY reasonable prices – and they have online shopping – yippee!)

We wandered over to the ginormous AC Moore booth and made a little shaker box. The pieces were cut and scored using the Big Shot (one of the more expensive items they sell). The gizmo itself is $100, but then there are all the die cuts, cutting pads, creasing pads, embossing plates, even a “multi-purpose platform” (which makes the beastie compatible with Sizzix die cuts). I had a vision of myself homeless, making die cut duckies out of paper plates – so I said “thank you very much” to the demonstrator and asked Shannon if it was time to go meet up with our partners in crafting.

So it was back to the Skinny Cow booth (hey, it was a great landmark that we all would remember how to find). We met up with the girls and they were looking a little worn out (and it was only two o’clock – we still had four more hours to burn before the bus ride home). Shannon excitedly told them about the Gamsol and where we found it. That perked them up a bit, so we headed back to the beloved booth. While the gals were watching our favorite demonstrator color and blend, I found a stamp that brought tears to my eyes. It was like my mom was speaking to me through the sentiment and I was inspired to create a keepsake for my brother and sisters (so that’s all I’m gonna say about that – until the projects are completed and in the possession of my siblings). I resisted the urge to fall apart in public – Hey, this is our fun pre-Mother’s day outing – I wasn’t about to wallow in my grief and be the wet blanket of the expedition.

Art Gone Wild was right next door. Again I was very tempted to begin overspending – I am a total sucker for Coluzzle templates. And, boy did they have a bunch of them. Coluzzle has recently brought our a scoring tool – now THAT looked really handy! The one I really want, they were all out of (guess I’m the only one who goes gaa-gaa over the Coluzzle stuff).

We were in proximity of Darcie’s again, and I could hear the call of the shrink art CD kits. I told the girls we just had to check out the cute stuff they had and watch how easy it was to do the shrinking. So, of course we did.

I think this was when we decided we wanted to go see if the bus was in the vicinity and if we could get in to stow the treasures we just couldn’t resist buying. Robin, Faith and I hung out by the entrance with Julie’s rolling tote, while she and Shannon went in search of bus #248. We were all pretty tuckered out by this point and it was only a little after three. Eventually, the “young ones” (as I started calling them) came back with the news that they found the bus and it was wide open. (It turns out that Mr. Personality was taking a nap in one of the front seats). We made enough noise to wake his butt up, so we climbed in. Robin and Faith decided to send out mental telepathy messages to the other members of our excursion. They were ready to go and wanted the rest of the group to magically appear in their seats so we could hit the road. The “young ones” (who happen to be power walkers too) and I decided we wanted to use the ladies room inside – so we struck out for the exhibit center again. Vowing to tell everyone we could find from our group that the bus was available for boarding.

Someone I should have mentioned way before now is one of the security guards. (She reminded me of Queen Latifa). When we first came in, there were two ladies taking tickets. Everyone was going to the young skinny one and instead of lining up behind the crowd, we went over to her station and “showed her some love”. She had a great smile and an even better attitude. When we left to go find the bus, we got our hands stamped with cute little butterflies. So when we came back in, we displayed our fist in a friendly salute. We got to joking with her and told her we wanted to take her home (especially if she could drive a bus). She seemed ready to drive us anywhere we wanted to go. So, anyway, we do our business and set out to find Stephanie. Our plan was to motivate her to get on the PA system and make an announcement that the Albany bus wanted to head out early. We found a couple of the people and told them where the bus was parked and they seemed pretty jazzed thinking we might get an early start back home.

We finally found Stephanie and her entourage. They were sitting at some of the tables in the food court, just shooting the breeze. We made our suggestion and hoped for the best. None of them budged. I thought to myself – “How can they still have more to look at? The exhibit floor was smaller than a Home Depot. We have been here close to six hours. Why don’t they want to leave?” About then, “the young ones” smelled the pretzels in the food court. So off we went.

On our way back out to the bus, we found a couple more of our bus mates. They were people watching while sitting on one of the benches by the front entrance. They were thrilled to know the bus was close by and open, so we all started walking in that direction. The power walkers were pulling away at an astonishing rate, while I strolled along with my new best friends, Erin & Charlene. When we got back to our motor coach, Bob was awake and hooking up an antenna so he could listen to the ball game while working on a crossword puzzle.

Shannon, I found out is an avid Cribbage player, and brought along a portable board and cards. She and Julie began playing. I’ve never played, so I was interested in trying to figure out the game. Frankly, it made my head hurt. It really made no sense to me – no small wonder as I had been up for twelve hours by then and walked around for about half of that time – needless to say, my brain was more than a little mushy. They tried explaining it, but all I heard was “Blah, blah, blah”.

We got to chatting with the delightful Erin and found out that for fun, they were making up stories about the other people in attendance. (I thought I was the only one who did that). They came up with a plan to go find the rest of the ladies from our bus and forcibly removing them from the Expo. It sounded like a good idea, but none of us had the energy to walk back, let alone forcibly carry anyone back to the bus. So we just kept chatting. Oh, and did I mention all this time (like from when we discovered the bus was open until 5:30), the bus had been running.

So we finally convince the bus driver to move back to the place where he dropped us off – after all, we noticed that some of the exhibitors were packing up their cars to head home themselves. So we wait for another 45 minutes while everyone saunters back onto the bus with their tons of treasures. Stephanie pulled out her clipboard and takes attendance – and miracle of miracles, we are all aboard! We strike out on our way home with the promise of stopping for dinner at one of the rest stops on the Northway.

Once we get out on the freeway, Stephanie gets chatty with some of the ladies in the front of the bus. Our group is in range of the storytelling and we are having a grand ole time and our journey seems to be clicking along at a very encouraging speed. Stephanie had brought along a movie (P.S. I Love You) for us to watch, but we decided to wait until after our dinner stop to start it – that way we could watch it in it’s entirety and by then it would be darker outside and easier to view the flick.

We cross into New York, and “Danger Doug” decides to pull over at the very first rest stop. There is a sea of school busses and another five busses like ours. None of the were thrilled by that – plus our food choices were Burger King & Sbarro's – I was actually hoping for the Boston Market stop – at least there food resembles “real food”. We take a vote to press ahead to the next stop and suddenly, the bus stalls AND it can not be restarted. Reluctantly, we file off the bus and wander into the building. The Burger King is swamped by the contents of at least two of school busses. I see the sign for the Oreo shake and decide, to opt for that instead of the pizza place. One of the gals points out the cutest rolling backpack – so, since I’ve been photographing all the neat stuff I’ve seen, I snap a pic of them too.

Eventually, I get to the front of the line, order my combo and ask for the Oreo shake as my drink. Unfortunately, they were unable to comply as the shake machine was broken. Rats! Over dinner, we talk about how it seemed very coincidental that the bus stalled where Bob wanted to stop and wondered if it would be miraculously running again after we all finished eating. We hear from one of the ladies that the bus is open and no one is on it. (Highly irritating news since we all left our new-found booty aboard. We've also heard that another bus is being sent to get us - also disturbing news because I was tired and just wanted to get home to my beloved bed - and husband too, of course).
Anyway, I head outside, phone the spousal unit to fill him in on the situation at hand and head out to the broken bus. As I get closer, I realize it is running. Hmmm - maybe a scrapping miracle has occurred. I climb on and find that one of the ladies is aboard - reading a manual to her new digital camera in the fading daylight. I overhear the busdriver talking with his dispatcher about the voltage readings and they decide it is still the best idea to have a new bus come and rescue us, because it would be a very bad idea to have it stall again out on the Northway. As he leaves to go smoke yet another cigarette, Bob complains to me that one of the ladies read him the riot act about the bus being left open. I had to confess that I agreed with her. He is about 50 yards away from the bus when it stalls again. Twilight was upon us, so I decide to gather up my stuff and toddle back inside.

The exchange with "Mr. Charming" has me on the verge of blowing my cool - on my way back to the gals, I see Bob and inform him the bus stalled again - he looks surprised and asks "Really?" I resist the urge to come off with a smart aleck response and just say "Yup". I fill in the other ladies of scrap on what happened and suggest they go retrieve their belongings while there is still some natural light to see. I stand guard over purses and the cribbage board while they go do just that. I find myself at an emotional cross roads and spend a few minutes stewing, trying to decide if I want to exhibit roaring B**** behavior or just relax and roll with it. I busied myself with rearranging my stuff and decided to vent in my newest journal. By this time, my cohorts in crafting have returned to their rummy and cribbage games. After writing my first sentence, the other ladies start to gather around our tables. By this time it is getting late, we are tired and starting to get more than a little silly. We exchanged so many funny stories, my face started to hurt from laughing and smiling so much. (Much better than ranting, raving & crying about the circumstances). Time passed relatively quickly and a newer and much nicer bus finally pulled in.

We piled onto the bus and took our same seats. Stephanie has one of our taller travelers plug in the movie and start the DVD. I've been wanting to see P.S. I Love You since the first time I saw the trailer. I adore Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank is no slouch either. Luckily, I brought along tissues - because a couple of us really needed them. I HIGHLY recommend this film - it is one of the most complete and moving stories I've seen. Very true to life and touching. Bob's driving was a little better than the initial voyage, but I really didn't care because the movie was so engrossing. (I have since purchased the DVD and feel the need to watch it every other day). Needless to say, the trip back to Clifton Park flew by. It was 11:30 when we climbed into our respective vehicles to head home.

May 11 - 12:30 a.m.

I finally make it home, mumble some cryptic things about the movie and our trip to my hubby and quite literally fall into bed.

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