Pokémon Nationals Travelogue

Well, dudes, I've been home from Pokémon Nationals for a few days now and felt like it was time to capture my thoughts in an article.  This was my first trip to Nationals and my first time meeting up with the rest of the Pokémon Podcast crew.  My memory may not be the greatest, please forgive any inaccuracies, I will try to capture as many vignettes as possible.  Keep in mind, as well, that I spent most of my time with Irene and Kidd, they will most likely show up more frequently in my tales.

First off - the drive to Indianapolis from DC is horrible.  Ten hours.  The first four are through the western mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  Then it is completely flat and boring through Ohio and Indiana.  I was about seven and a half hours into the trip when I texted Irene and told her I was going to turn around and go home.  I just couldn't take it anymore!

I left DC at 9:00 AM on Thursday, June 28, and arrived in Indianapolis at 7:00 PM.  I was lucky to find parking near the convention center - it was 106 degrees outside!  This was one of the last times that I did have to walk outside, Indianapolis has a great system of Skyarrow Bridges connecting all of the downtown buildings.  We could walk from the hotel to the convention center and the mall without ever having to step outside.  That is until the night we accidentally went outside and Dom said we could never walk inside again.  So many rules.

The first person I met up with was Irene.  I had called her cell phone and she saw me standing down the hallway.  She put her phone away and ran down the hall and gave me a big hug.  What an awesome greeting!  We went into the Open Gaming room (you could practice TCG and VGC outside of the main competition hall) together and met up with Chris, SBJ, Dom, Kidd, Kelsey, Christian, and Joe.  I was beat, everyone else was doing play testing of their decks (TCG started at 9:00 AM on Friday).  I sat and watched for a while, then we decided to walk over to the mall for some dinner.  For future reference, the Japanese restaurant at the Indianapolis Circle Center really only has Chinese food.  Kidd's noodles were crunchy.

After dinner we went to the hotel to grab some stuff then the convention center to play test some more.  Thursday night I was sleeping over at Chris's place (he is a king of hospitality), eventually we drove over there.  I stopped at Kroger on the way for some protein bars and ice cream sandwiches.  I cannot sleep unless I have an ice cream sandwich.  Kidd broke Chris's TV, Chris fixed it, and we watched some Tosh.0 and reality TV programs until we fell asleep.

Friday morning we were up early and Kidd had forgotten to make a deck list.  I drove him into the city (following Chris) and we called SBJ and Irene from my car.  I think this was the first time Kidd got to hear me do my professional voice (Steve, Kidd forgot a deck list sheet, can you grab one for him?) and my super gay voice (Giiiirl!  Kidd needs a deck sheet grab one, ok?).  Either way, we made it with plenty of time and chilled in the competition hall taking pictures of the banners and displays.

Eventually Kelsey, Dom, SBJ, and Irene arrived and we had a "team meeting."  Kelsey and I weren't playing TCG, Dom, SBJ, Kidd, and Irene were pretty nervous about the start of competition.  Things started to get underway with the player's meeting - over 1,500 TCG players with 1,005 in the Master's division.  Another team meeting while we waited for the first pairing.  When they put the sheets up we all walked over, and, well, I had to laugh.  Irene was placed at Table 1 - directly opposite the judge's stage.  Even better, she was paired against Michael from the Top Cut.  I walked her to the table and told her she would do fine.  I could tell that she thought it was all over.  Given all that - she won.  It was pretty awesome, IMHO.  I've taken to calling it the Massacre at Table 1.

Throughout Friday, Kelsey and I hung out while everyone else played TCG.  We would stand on the edge of the competition tables watching everyone play and giving color commentary.  Dom plays TCG like poker - you can't tell a thing from his face.  I'd like to believe that Kidd shows everything on his face but I was tricked a few times.  When Kidd's expression indicated a loss it turned out he had actually won.  Irene was always too far away and Steve always looks like something horrible is about to happen.  Seriously, even when he was battling me in my second TCG battle EVER he looked deeply concerned.

I will say that Team Warp Point had the most attractive TCG players and I will leave it at that.  I did not stalk any of them.

At some point I checked into the hotel too.  I had a room with two beds (sorry, Kenny, you were greatly missed!) Kidd had a great day playing TCG so we decided that he would stay in the hotel too.  This is when I learned the secret of all great TCG players - you sleep with your deck.

Travis arrived Friday and prepared to register for VGC.  When Travis arrived, I had a horrible realization - once I registered I couldn't make changes to my team anymore (turns out this isn't actually true).  One thing I truly love is the look of concern I got from Travis when I told him my team wasn't ready.  Also the looks of dismay everyone else gave me as I carried my 3DS with me the rest of the night working to level up the team I wanted to use.  In the end, I determined there was no way I could get my team to the right place in time (plus there was no way I could get an air balloon or iron ball) so I grabbed my usual gang of Pokémon and set them up in my Battle Box.  If you ever want to make Kidd laugh uncontrollably, just start reciting the names of my Pokémon team:  Darn Happy the Zoroark, TinyDynamo the Eelektross, TERRAKION the Terrakion, David Hugs the Volcarona, Snuggle Girl the Hydreigon, and, the team centerpiece - Tickles the Whiscash.  #TeamTickles

Friday evening we all went to Weber Grill (where all the food is cooked on Weber Grills) for Dinner Night with SBJ 1.  It was a lot of fun and there were a lot of laughs - particularly a Twitter post from (I think scrimmy8) referencing justinftw's propensity to favorite tweets.  After dinner we walked back through the Indianapolis Arts Garden which is, I swear, taken directly from the Bioshock universe.  Of course we were thrown out by security.

Irene and I drove Kidd out to Chris's house to pick up his stuff.  On the way we decided to stop at Meyer.  I'm sorry, did I type "Meyer?"  The way it is pronounced?  No, we went to what I was convinced was a hispanic grocery - Meijer (pronounced may-hair).  Well, that was my lesson learned.  I swear, if that store was on the east coast it would be pronounced may-hair and serve pupusas.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I found it absolutely hilarious when Interpol's "Evil" came on in the car, Kidd and I started to sing along, and Irene shouted, "What are you guys doing!?"

Saturday morning I was up early and in line to register for VGCs.  Irene and Travis were in the White Flight because they had registered on Friday and I was in the Black Flight because I registered on Saturday (meaning I would not get to compete against either one of them).  I'm certain you have seen Travis's video of his battle against Irene; I will not go into the drama of Travis having his game locked (post registration) before transferring Irene's team over to her.

Something everyone should know about the Pokémon TCG and VGC participants - everyone is actually much nicer than you would expect.  Everyone is in it to have fun.  Even though we were all competing against each other we could still make jokes and laugh together.  This was anything but cut throat.  I thoroughly enjoyed the people I met.  Honestly, I knew there was no way I could win with my team.  When I was paired against my first competitor I shook his hand and said, "Congratulations on your first win!"  I don't think he knew what to do with me.

There were eight rounds of VGC and we didn't get a break until they were all done.  I'll spare you the suspense:  I had two wins and six losses.  I didn't care, though, I was having a lot of fun.  And there were a few people who didn't realize that Whiscash is immune to electric attacks . . .

A great thing about the Pokémon podcast crew was the team meetings between each of the rounds.  Everyone would get together and announce how they had done.  People who weren't doing well were given encouragement, people who were winning were cheered on to further success.  I promise you, this is a group that was doing it right.

Kay arrived on Saturday morning and he was truly the super trooper - he had driven all night to join up with us.  Even more, he had to drive back Saturday night!  He did manage to squeeze a nap in but it really shows the lengths he went to join up with his friends at Nats.

After VGCs were done most of us were starving (we had played straight from 9:00 AM through 2:00 PM).  Kidd had made top cut (did you see that?  If not, stop reading this and go watch his video!), so he and Travis stayed in the convention center while the rest of us went towards the mall for lunch.  After we ate we came back and caught the end of Kidd's match - then it was nap time.  Full disclosure - Travis, Kidd, and Chris went on their own adventure while everyone else napped.  There was something about stealth BOGO but that is not my story to tell.

Saturday night, for dinner, we took the most ridiculous path to get to Hot Box Pizza (traversing an underground parking garage was part of the pathway); Irene and I were not having it.  When we left with our pizzas (not an eat in kind of place) Irene and I decided we walk directly up the street (yes, outside) to the convention center and made everyone come with us.  Dinner was eaten at the "food court" at the base of Skyarrow Bridge - I really don't know what else to call it - and no one would take our leftover pizza.  After dinner we all went to Chris's house to watch the Big Lebowski -

break here for some stream of consciousness: Kay had to follow me to Chris's house but my right rear turn signal was broken so Kidd was supposed to stick his arm out the window when we were making right turns except he kept forgetting to do that and I actually wasn't very good at following the GPS so we missed a couple of turns and had to cut across two or three lanes a few times but hey -

I finally opened my theme deck and booster tin while we watched the movie (seriously, I think Dom and Kidd were dying it was taking me so long to open them and go through the cards), then back to the hotel.  Kay left after the movie for his long drive back to Michigan, I don't know how he did it.

Sunday morning I actually ate breakfast, then walked over to watch the finals.  There was a little back and forth in getting everyone together, we eventually met up to watch some of the finals action together.  At some point we realized that if we could get eight people together to play a TCG side game there would be prizes!  Kelsey, Dom, SBJ, Irene, Kidd, Christian, Joe, and I set up as a group.  I kind of love the fact that the first time I ever played TCG was against Irene (she taught me how) in an actual competition with prizes.  My next game was against SBJ.  I lost both times.  Doesn't matter - it left me with a taste for more.

That afternoon things started to take a dark turn.  After lunch we went to the arcade - some people tried to persuade us to start playing Medabots TCG - Dom, Kelsey, and Kidd were especially interested.  When we were done in the arcade and back at the hotel I put myself down for a nap.  I needed my nap!!!  We got back together and started the hunt for Dinner Night with SBJ 2.  What a disorganized bunch!  We wandered the streets of downtown Indianapolis looking for a restaurant everyone could agree on.  Some people asked whether we could eat separately and SBJ shouted, "We will all eat together as a family!"  I determined that the only solution was for us to find a restaurant where everyone would be equally dissatisfied.  To that end, Dom suggested we go to Dunkin Donuts.  The image of the seven of us sitting around a table, boxes of donuts in front of each of us, all of us frowning, still makes me laugh.  Either way, we ended up at a terrible restaurant.

WAIT!!  I forgot to mention super fan Sarah.  Mad props to her for coming up to the crew.  We all signed autographs for her and she got to talk to her favorite on the phone . . . Kenny!

Post dinner, back to the hotel, pajama party!  Yes, for those not in the know, there is a lot of Simpsons at a Pokémon Podcast shindig.  Around midnight, Irene got hungry.  I'll just say this:  Irene, Kelsey, Kidd, and I all walked to the Steak and Shake, in our pajamas, in the middle of the night.  Yes, it happened.  There was a claw machine involved.

Monday morning was a little rushed - someone is a bit of a fan of the snooze button.  I said my goodbyes, collected my hugs, dropped Kidd at the train station, and was on my way for ten hours of driving back to DC.

One final note, about five minutes before I checked out of the hotel room . . . I found the refrigerator.