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From the opposite end of the workbench

…the twisted ramblings of a ship modeler.


Traveling to Model Contests

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 With the coming of spring, the geese are flying north again, the trees are beginning to blossom, and it’s time for model shows…armed with copies of FineScale Modeler and printouts of from the IPMS webpage, I start developing my war plan. There are so many shows, and just a limited number of weekends… 

Living in the NY metropolitan area, I’m fortunate in that from my driveway, I can be in upstate New York, Long Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut within 3 hours. Add on another hour and I can make Virginia, Boston, Rhode Island…so needless to say, I have my pick of model shows… 

Armed with various lists, a calendar, my appointment book, a map and compass, I set out to dominate the world…My local show is MosquitoCon, only 15 minutes from home…two weeks later it’s Fairfax Virginia,  then New Cumberland PA, then there’s the NJ Historial Miniatures show in central Jersey in April, only a 30 minute ride. Then comes Hell Weekend, when we go to Long Island, which means crossing the pot-hole infested Cross Bronx Expressway, a notorious highway famed for destroying models in transit… then drive 7 hours to Buffalo for NorEastCon the next day. After that, it’s another show on the next weekend, a 5 hour drive north to Plattsburgh NY, which, aside from being my hometown, is host to CanAmCon on that same weekend. The family will join me for this event, since it’s a chance for the grandparents to see the ballerina.

A few weeks later it’s back to Virginia…oh wait… we’ve got the Ship Model Society’s Joint Club meeting in Groton, CT on the same weekend…choices, choices. 

The Spring Offensive ends back at my museum, hosting and organizing the NJ Ship Model Society’s Annual Saw-Dust Day, held on the 3rd weekend of May. That Sunday is a show in South Jersey, and that effectively marks the end of the Spring campaign. Then things settle down in the modeling world…at least here in the Northeast. The Nats are in the Mid-West this year, and I simply don’t think I can make it…but that’s ok, because I have an airshow to organize and run in August, so that will more than make up for any model shows…and of course, the summer brings my other hobby, WW2 reenacting, so that fills in any empty spaces that may left open in my calendar. Finally the summer is over, and it’s time to start Fall Offensive…Hopefully, during that time, there’s been a few rainy days that I’ve been able to build something new. 

The Fall Offensive starts out in Virginia, then it’s off to Hermitage PA, then Rochester, NY, then down to Reston Virginia. Milford, Connecticut and Attleboro, Massachusetts finally end the Fall Offensive, leaving me, my car, my wallet, and my models, beaten, battered and bruised.

By this point in time, if you’re not asking yourself, “WHY?!?!”, you should either have your head examined, or you’re planning to  join me for a roadtrip…

It’s not about the awards, whether they’re nice engraved plaques or little plastic Grammy-wannabes, or the medals that for some reason never get hung around your neck. A long time ago, when I had something to prove and I cared about it,  winning mattered…now, it’s about simply being there…about hanging out with fellow modelers, and about letting the organizers know you drove 5 hours to come to their show to support them…and the hobby. It’s about finding that guy who decided to thin out his collection and become a vendor for the day, and you find treasures for a few dollars… It’s about driving on the open road, with your models packed safely in the back, a few dollars in your pocket, and a good song on the radio…it’s about getting lost trying to find some little VFW hall or PAL building in a town you’ve never been in…and it’s about seeing what other folks are doing in the world, because face it, upstate New York, Delaware, and Virginia are quite different from New York City. 

In some ways it’s an excuse, a chance to get out and see the world while having a destination at the same time…some trips involve hotels…some trips involve a tent and a sleeping bag, but most are simple roadtrips…leave early, come home late.

The family understands me, or at least they tolerate me…and my desire to ramble the highways looking for those elusive spray-painted signs that say ‘Model Show ---->”. Sometimes, they’ll even share my enthusiasm if there’s something really neat nearby, like a mall, amusement park, or a really nice hotel…but for the most part, they’re content to stand in the door and wave goodbye as Daddy leaves at 7am to travel to the local battleground. Always try and discourage your family from attending a show if there’s nothing for them to do… It’s ironic that we get upset by redundancy, slow traffic, and all the other things in life, yet, we’ll wander aimlessly around a model room for hours, we’ll search through the vendors trying to find models we want, and we’ll spend money we know we don’t have…but we do it anyway.

I honestly think it’s not the model building, or the contest, that draws us together at these events…it’s more of a case of mutual understanding and support…we gather together to let each other know that it’s still ok, we’re with ya…we are modelers, therefore, we UNDERSTAND. Of course, those words are never spoken, only implied, and the models we build are simply the medium we use to fulfill that need…

So what does this have to do with anything? Not much…and it’s not very funny either…oh well…when it really gets down to it, you shouldn’t be reading this anyway, you should be building a model…

 Jeff Herne