I’d like to say that I was a Browncoat from the beginning, but the truth
is, I was a viewer of Firefly when it was aired, but wasn’t truly a Browncoat
until December 2007. The tipping point was the Browncoat Cruise. It
seemed an ideal opportunity to meet a small group of Browncoats while on a real
vacation and to possibly rub elbows with a celebrity or two.
My wife and I were completely overwhelmed by the Browncoat Cruise and left
the experience with more than a few new friends. But there is woefully
little Browncoat activity in our area despite our trying to drum up little Shindigs
and Showings here and there and we decided to tour the ‘Verse in our own
way and go “Into the Brown”.
We decided to go in the late summer for this trip. We wanted to avoid
most of the crowds. We weren’t planning to go to Dragon*Con and
so the weekend after was a good time to visit with friends we knew would
be attending. We started sending emails and calling to make an itinerary.
I wanted to visit my cousin in California as part of this trip. He had
had a health scare and it seemed a good time to connect. It meant that
our trip would miss some of our new friends in Seattle and Utah but it also
allowed us to use airline miles for the trip.
By coincidence another friend of ours from Australia moved to L.A. about a
month before our trip so we were able to add her to the itinerary. Another
chance alignment meant that friends from England would be in Washington DC on
the day before we left. A few emails and calls and we arranged dinner
with them on the night before we flew out.
We were able to put the final touches on the travel plans only a couple of
weeks before the trip. I have to mention here that even though I am writing
up this travelogue, my wife Heather was the mastermind of logistics for this
trip. Without her meticulous planning neither of us would have gone anywhere.
|Drive/Subway to Washington, DC. Dinner with Browncoats.
|Cab to Baltimore. Fly to L.A. Bus to Santa Barbara, CA.
|Visit with cousin.
|Take train to Camarillo, CA. Drive to Valencia,CA. Dinner with
Browncoats. Drive to Santa Monica, CA
|Visit with Australian Friend.
|Fly to Denver, CO. Drive to Monument.
|Visit with Browncoats.
|Drive to Alberqerque, NM. Dinner with Browncoats.
|Drive to Smithville, TX
|Visit with Browncoats.
|Fly to Indianapolis. Bus to Bloomington.
|Visit with Browncoats.
|Fly back to Baltimore via Charlotte. Cab home.
There were eight distinct get-togethers on this trip and each of them
was fun, unique and special.
|Browncoats Lyn and Kevin
| Jay, my cousin, and his partner Brian
|Amanda our Australian friend
|Browncoats Therese and Michael
|Browncoats Dan and Sandy
|Browncoats Chuck and Mary
|Hawke and Cedric (The Bedlam Bards)
These symbols represent the forms of transportation we used:
1) Browncoats Lyn and Kevin: Day
Lyn and Kevin are from England and we first met them on the cruise. They
were visiting Washington DC and New York for a few days and just happened to
be in DC just before we left. When we were first planning this, we were
thrilled at a chance to see them again. We chose a nice downtown seafood
restaurant and drove to the nearest Metro station and took the subway to visit.
Lyn is a super-Browncoat and attends a lot of conventions and so we had a
chance to hear about her experiences at cons in England and the US and to
hear where she’d be. Kevin is a Browncoat as well, but not like
Baldwin is Lyn’s favorite actor from the series and she told us how Mark
Sheppard likes to address her as “Adam’s number one fan” by
sight – a title she is slightly embarrassed about but doesn’t deny.
Kevin talked about his family and his retirement and about his experiences
travelling. He was somewhat low-key to Lyn’s bubbly exuberance.
They remind me of my wife and I in a way. We reminisced some and talked
about our upcoming trip and started to get excited. It was the first
really thought about the trip and it seemed such a crazy thing to do.
But as this thought goes through my mind, I hear Lyn talking about this Con
and that event she was planning to attend and I realiize why we are doing
it. It is to be with people like Lyn and Kevin – people like me
and my wife who are real and normal and connected to others like us through
a common interest. It doesn’t matter what that interest is, just
that it is powerful enough to draw us together, and it is important to us
that we try to maintain the connection.
2) Jay and Brian: Days
My cousin Jay is actually my first cousin once removed (he’s my
Mother’s first cousin). Age-wise he’s almost dead in the middle
between my mother and me. His partner, Brian is only a few years older
than I am. Jay is a great guy and was one of the few of my relatives that
my wife had not met.
Jay and Brian travelled to Australia a few years ago and fell in love with
the place. They have lots of Australian friends and so I took advantage
of this trip to go and visit with them. I had a feeling that Heather would
get along with them and wasn’t disappointed. I thought Jay and Brian
were going to kidnap her! It made me feel good to know that they thought
I had made a good choice in life partners.
I had not really spent much time with Jay and Brian together before this. It
was sort of an abstraction in my head that they were living together as a (married!)
gay couple, but it hadn’t really struck home to me how well they fit together. I
had met Brian on a few occasions by himself and could see how he and Jay might
have been a match, but it was good to encounter them together.
Jay and Brian have two pugs named Rosie and Lucy who are like children to them. I
have to say that the little critters were adorable and I practically had
to keep Heather from stuffing them in our luggage. I think we may see
pugs in our house before long.
We had a great time with Jay and Brian and it set a high-bar of expectation
for the rest of the trip. The energy of seeing them again, seeing them
together, feeling their love for Heather and their love for me made that part
of the tip emotionally significant. We shall have to go back.
3) Browncoats Therese and Michael Day
We met Therese and Michael on the Cruise along with their daughter Francesca
who played in the RPG that I ran there. Therese is a weaver and loves
to sew and do costumes and I remember having a lot of fun talking to her about
those things during Speed-Friending. Michael works in Camarillo which
was convenient to the train from Santa Barbara, and we had arranged to have
him pick us up at the station (about a 40 minute drive) and ride back to their
Our original plan was to have another friend, Sherlynn (whom we knew from
the LABN board) meet us in Valencia to join us for dinner and then ride with
her back to her home in Reseda (about an hour’s drive) and take a cab
to Santa Monica (about a 10 minute drive). Unfortunately circumstances intervened
and Sherlynn had to drop out. Michael very generously offered to drive
us to Santa Monica (an hour’s drive one-way after midnight!). We
owe them something special for that!
Therese and Michael had invited their neighbors and their two
boys (who were the Browncoats who had introduced them to Firefly) to dinner
to join us. We talked for a while about food, about travel, about work, jobs,
life, and well it just cascaded from there. It was a fabulous meal. The
highlight was the apple pie with the Serenity symbol on it. Very Browncoaty.
After dinner we watched the episode Out of Gas. I enjoy the episodes
more sometimes when we can watch with other people because we all know them
so well and can point out things that others might have missed. It was
fun to meet new Browncoats but it was Therese and Michael’s generosity
to what are essentially strangers that got me.
I dislike making people go out of their way for me as it makes me uncomfortable
to think that I am being a burden. People who pay for my meals or who
do unexpectedly generous things for me put me off my guard. It wasn’t
the only time people were kind on this journey and it made me very glad that
we had decided to explore Browncoat culture and associate ourselves with these
4) Amanda from Australia: Days
Heather and I met in an online community called LABN and Amanda was one of
the folks from that board. She lived in Australia when we first met her
online, but later moved to London around the time we were taking a trip there,
then she moved back to Australia then to L.A.
In catching up with her she told us about her new man, David (yes, another
one!). David had been in London when she was there and they first met
even though he is an American. He and Amanda are well suited to each other
and I can see why they’d hit it off.
We spent days at the beach and in and around Santa Monica. The hotel
was on the primary bus lane and since her David was working during the day and
she hasn’t gotten the hang of driving the US yet, it was convenient to
get to town that way. It did mean a ton of walking though.
That proved significant since the one day we thought we’d not walk much
turned out to be the day we walked the most. Poor Heather wore the wrong
shoes that day and ended up with a monster blister. I, on the other hand,
swelled up in the heat like a bloated fish and had to keep stopping to puff
like a bellows. I felt terribly fat and out of shape.
Heather and I were both appalled that neither David nor Amanda had seen Dr.
Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog so we forced her to sit and watch
it in the afternoon. We were also ashamed that our friend had not seen
the Firefly series yet. She had seen the movie and was a big fan of
Buffy and Angel, but had somehow avoided Firefly. We made her swear
on a stack of shot glasses (they were handy) that she’d remedy that.
Somewhere around the second day we realized that it had been three years since
we had last seen Amanda. It didn’t feel like that long. It
felt like it had only been a few months. We fell into the easy patter
and comfortable presence of friends. Even her David, whom we had not met,
fell into the mix like he belonged.
These are our friends. We might not see them often, but they are as
close to us as our family. The physical separation does not dim the emotional
bond we share with these people any more than it does with our family. In
this case, absence has definitely made our hearts grow fonder.
5) Browncoats Dan and Sandy: Day
Dan and Sandy were among the first Browncoats we met on the Cruise. In
fact, I think they were standing in line with us when we were checking in. I
know Sandy was the first “Browncoat hug” I received that day. Dan
and Sandy are remarkable people. They have an easy-going manner and a
welcoming way that makes you like them immediately.
I can’t say I have ever seen either of them look sour or out-of-sorts. And
while I don’t kid myself for a second to think that they never feel that
way they have never showed it to me. They have two great kids and a pack
of cool dogs and a herd of interesting cats living in their home. A home,
I might add, that was one of the coolest homes I’ve ever seen. It
has an elevator, a waterfall, a huge deck and an actual theatre among other
things! They welcomed us into their (very cool) home and made us feel
like part of the family. In short, it was cool.
I have to say that their children are every bit as remarkable as Dan and Sandy. Their
son is clever, creative and active despite Asperger’s syndrome. Even though
he’s a handful he’s most definitely going to be a remarkable person
one day. Their daughter is beautiful, bright, and creative as well. If
River and Simon have real-world counterparts, I’d say it was those two.
Dan made it very clear that it was useless of us to reach for our wallets. He
made a point of paying for everything. Remember when I said I feel uncomfortable
letting people be generous to me? Dan was so gracious he didn’t
let me have a chance to feel uncomfortable. I also made him promise to
let me return the favor should he come to visit me. He agreed that it was only
We had a cookout with another cruise friend, Kim, on our last day. We
had hoped to see Anna from the cruise as well since she had recently moved
to the area but somehow we missed connecting. Fabulous food, great weather,
good company, and a lot of rum smoothies made it a celebration of friendship. We
rounded it out with the BDM, Ariel, Trash as well as the Buffy
More With Feeling and Hush.
I didn’t want to leave but we had a schedule to keep. I do hope that
they take us up on the offer to visit Maryland. I would like an opportunity
to show them the kind of hospitality they showed us. More than that, I
want to share our family with them like they share theirs with us.
6) Browncoats Chuck and Mary: Day
It was a lot longer drive to Albuquerque than I had thought but it wasn’t
a hard drive. We got there just about 6PM which was perfect timing. I
had met Chuck and Mary on the cruise but had not spent a lot of time with
them – there
was a lot to do and too many people to meet, and I am sorry now that I had
not. In our one night with them I learned how interesting they were.
We were joined for dinner by Shawn and Alycia who we had also met on the cruise. Shawn
was hard to forget as he had been the centerpiece of one of Jonathan Woodward’s “performance
art” bits. We had also had some interaction during the cruise and
it was great to see him again. I immediately recognized Alycia from the
cruise but didn’t remember ever speaking to her during the trip, and after
diner, as with Chuck and Mary, I was sorry I hadn’t.
Shawn drives a wheelchair due to spinal injuries and was recovering from a
pulmonary embolism only a few weeks prior that had caused him to flat-line on
the treatment table more than once. I have to say, he was in a good mood
for such an ordeal – but that’s Shawn for you – a laugh in
the face of adversity.
We were glad to hear news from Dragon*Con since Chuck and Mary had just returned
from Atlanta the weekend before. We saw all of the nifty stuff they brought
back and heard the stories from the Browncoat Events. It made me both
sorry we’d not gone and glad that we’d not had to endure the crowds
at the same time. We were pleased to hear a second report of the rumor about
another Browncoat cruise.
Things have been hard for Chuck and Mary, too. They weren’t down
or depressed about it, but rather had a sort of calm acceptance about it that
made us empathize rather than feel sorry for them. They also didn’t
dwell on their situation either. I only mention it because it was still
fun to visit with them even though times were tough. It lent an air of “make
hay while the sun shines” punctuation to the evening that was also part
of why we took this journey in the first place. We left the next morning vowing
to make a point of spending time with all of our dinner companions at the next
Browncoat function where we found ourselves together.
Interlude - The Drive Days
When you hear 917 miles you don’t think of it as being over 12 hours
of your life driving. But when you are driving it feels as if your ass
is about to explode and your head will drop off and roll into your lap. The
car we rented did okay while averaging around 80 MPH at 20.9 MPG and we didn’t
find ourselves completely insane or divorced by the end of it. But I have
a better appreciation for the Serenity crew’s feelings when Wash complains
about 18 hours vs. 9 days of travel “off the radar”.
All in all, I think we probably were only slightly better off for driving. With
money, time, and convenience being factors, we decided to drive in order to
minimize time in airports. However, if any one of those three things had
not been a factor…I’d have been on a plane in a heartbeat.
We slept in a hotel in Van Horn which is about halfway to Smithville. I
think I got bit by a spider or scorpion on my leg. It is a week later
and it is still red and is tender to the touch. Heather ran into a yucca
plant and bruised her wrist. We ate dinner in a “country kitchen” type
place whose idea of a “smoking area” was a sign next to one of the
eight or so tables.
The highlight of the experience was the staff at the hotel who were professional
and pleasant. They helped us change rooms when it became evident that
someone had been smoking in the non-smoking room and did so without any eye-rolling
or complaint. We had a good breakfast for the road. We arrived in
Smithville around 6PM and checked into the B&B.
7) The Bedlam Bards Days
We consider ourselves fortunate to know guys like Cedric and Hawke. They
are a lot like the other musicians we know from the Celtic Festival and the
local Ren-Faire so they aren’t intimidating like other celebrities are. And
while they might argue that they aren’t celebrities, they are to us – even
as they are friends.
We ate dinner with them on the cruise as one of the “celebrity dinner” options,
and I was pleased to meet Joyce, Cedric’s wife. The five of us got
along very well as we are kindred spirits. We all love food, music, travel,
life, spirit, history, movies, television, technology, and games. Not
to mention Firefly, Serenity, Joss, and the stuff that drew us together. It
wasn’t surprising that we bonded.
We wanted to see Joyce and Cedric again because the cruise
was sort of a “working place” with the Bards being guests and all. This
was a chance to be with them in a more casual environment that was more like
friends should be. It was pure serendipity that the B&B was on the
same road as their home. I knew from talking to them that Hawke lived
in a small hut on their property as well.
Visiting Joyce and Cedric is kind of like visiting a wildlife preserve. Between
cats, dogs and rats there is the rural environment. I kept expecting to
see Marlin Perkins (Mutual
of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom) peering around a tree remarking at the “Bard’s
natural habitat”. I am not sure why I expected it was like that
but it seemed so natural that I wasn’t surprised to see it was exactly
that way (without Marlin Perkins, though).
After “the drive” it was nice to relax, watch some TV, eat some
good food, hang out and veg out. We got to play with the rats, get bitten
by the cats, and run with the dog. We had a nice swim and dip in the spa
at the B&B. We sat on the porch and sang some songs and heard some new compositions. Hawke
gave us one of his new CDs. The next night we went to Austin and saw
the bats (all 1.5 million of them!) that live under the bridge go out for the
We came to Smithville a little stressed, a little worn out and a lot overloaded. It
was almost too much to deal with all the driving, the planes, the hotels and
the friends. Great times. Lots of fun. But after more than a week
on the road we were just about done in. Joyce, Cedric, and Hawke made
us feel casual, relaxed, unstressed and at home again. We had been re-centered
and were prepared for the last leg of our odyssey.
8) Browncoat Tim: Days
Tim was someone I knew from the BBS
for the cruise. I shook his hand the first day at the hotel, and
immediately sensed he was a kindred spirit on the Browncoat journey. We
spent a lot of time together since he was assigned to our table for dinner
(there’s that serendipity again) and we had a lot of similar interests. Between
Joyce, Cedric, Hawke, Sandy, Dan, Lyn, Kevin and Tim we had a regular crowd
that hung around on that boat. But Tim was a little more…something.
We took the bus to Bloomington from the airport in Indianapolis, and despite
some hard travelling pains were glad to see Tim waiting when we arrived. He
took us to our hotel and we headed into town to see what treasures Bloomington
had in store for us.
A few weeks earlier, Tim had been out to see us. He had decided that
two days of our impending visit was insufficient and determined to come out
to see us in a preemptive visit. We proudly showed him our town and displayed
its treasures for him (as well a Browncoat banquet) and he was determined
to return the favor.
Tim had arranged a travelling meal that consisted of appetizers and mains
in different restaurants and was a lot of fun (I’ll have to steal that
idea). The next day we had a full day in the State park with a Browncoat
cookout and episodes to see. It took a while for everyone to show up,
but in the end we had about a dozen who turned up to meet us strangers.
We had plenty of food, desserts, and the Firefly episodes Serenity and Out
of Gas as well as a few of the cruise highlights from the DVD. Later,
we toured the “pioneer village” at the park and on the way home
drove through a few local sights. It was nice to meet so many Browncoats
and to see Tim in his element as proselytizer and Serenity/Firefly evangelist. He
believes so hard.
That evening, I realized that Tim was more like a brother to me. He
means a lot to Heather and me and we care for him more than a friend. He
has a special place in our hearts. We had saved
the best for last.
We got home at around noon on Sunday almost two weeks (give or take a few
hours) from when we left. We had spent a lot of time with some outstanding
people and were exhausted and glad to be home.
Overall, the entire journey was more than 6,000 miles and used cabs, cars,
trains, planes, busses, subways and some shoe-leather. We went to 16 cities1 not
counting the ones we passed through without stopping. We sustained minor
scratches, bruises, and at least one poisonous bug bite. We met almost forty2 Browncoats
and made one recruit (maybe two!), eight dogs3,
seven cats4, four rats
(plus some more I saw but didn’t actually meet) and a hedgehog.
We came home with one roll of film, a CD of photos, a music CD, some sand,
a geode and both of the stuffed animals we had taken along (no crew lost!). Although
I bought a pound of stone-ground cornmeal, I lost it along the way, but it only
cost me $2 so I didn’t fret about it.
We will probably never do this again but I am very glad we did it this once. I
will certainly be out to visit some of these people again in order to see more
of them, their families and communities. This trip, more than anything,
confirmed what it was to really be a Browncoat. It means we belong
to a family.
1 Washington, Baltimore, Los
Angeles, Santa Barbara, Camarillo, Valencia, Santa Monica, Denver, Monument,
Albuquerque, Van Horn, Smithville, Austin, Indianapolis, Bloomington and Charlotte
2 7 in Valencia, 5 in Monument,
4 in Albuquerque, 3 in Smithville, 19 in Bloomington
3 2 in Santa Barbara, 2 in
Valencia, 3 in Monument, 1 in Smithville
4 3 in Monument, 4 in Smithville
Care to Comment?