The saga years in the making:

Part 1: Getting there

It was our first year as a sword troupe and we were aggressively looking for jobs.  We founded Phoenix Swords by breaking off from another sword troupe, and some of the folks we left behind had spread stories about us that just weren’t true, but it still make it hard to get hired at some places.

So, we took a lot of out-of-state jobs those first few years.

We were on a message board run out of Iowa that post a lot of jobs in the mid-west.  This one guy in Ohio said he was trying to start a Medieval theme park.  To raise funds for this, he was holding ren faires.  Any group that performed at these fundraising faires for cost would get an automatic invite to perform at the park for full price whenever they wanted.

While that outcome seemed pretty unlikely, it seemed like a good way to at least get our group in at the start of something that might grow, even if the park itself never happened.

I contacted the organizer.  (I won’t use his name here, but his first name was Jim and his last name was shared by Neo in the Matrix.  So, we’ll go with Jim Neo to avoid google if he looks for his name online…)

The show was going to be in Roswell Ohio in June of the coming year.  It took some searching on the map to find it, but I did.  I figured out gas, tolls, meals and a hotel.  I calculated we could get 6 performers there for $397.  So, I told him I’d do it for $400, and he agreed.

“You could save money if you camped,” he said.  “I’ll let you camp on site for free.”

“OK, we’ll bring our tents, but I’m going to keep the hotel rooms in the budget in case the weather gets bad.”

“You should camp.”

“We’ll bring the camping equipment.”

(Just for the record, I hate camping…)

At the time we had a member who lived in Iowa and this faire was about half way between us and him.  So we’d drive west and he and his girlfriend would drive east and we’d meet at this faire.

We took two cars from here.  I drove one, A drove the other.  It started badly when we got on the turnpike and he got on going the other direction.

I called his phone.

“Why did you get on going east?” I asked.

“You didn’t say which way to go, so I had to pick one!” A answered.

“Why didn’t you follow me?”

“I didn’t know if you were going directly there!”

“I told you were when we left five minutes ago.”

“Your instructions weren’t clear!”

“Even if so, why did you get on going east?”

“How am I to know which way Ohio is from Massachusetts?”

“You know we live on the east coast, right?”


“So, all that’s east of us is the Atlantic Ocean, right?”

“How am I supposed to know that?!?!?”

“Turn around and go west.”

“Be more clear next time!”

“I gave you printed directions!”

“I’m driving, I can’t read them!”

“Hand them to your girlfriend and ask her to read them.”

“You should have told me this would be so complex!”

“Turn around and catch up, I’ll drive slowly until you do.”

“This is your fault!”


They did catch up and we continued west.

We took route 80 through Pennsylvania as the tolls were less and we were on a budget.  In the western area of the state we saw construction zone signs.  As we reached them, someone walked out into the highway with a stop side on a post and put it in the road.  Both lanes of traffic came to a stop as barriers were moved across the road.

A line of pickup trucks drove out of the median were the work was being done and went down the road.

The roadblock remained in place.

“How long will this last?” someone shouted to a worker getting in his truck.

“Until our dinner break is over!” he shouted back.

He drove off leaving the highway blocked.  It remained that way for an hour until the workers came back and removed the barriers again.

I don’t begrudge them their dinner break.  But, I think they could have let the rest of us use the road while they were gone as their construction wasn’t on the actual roadway, but the median between directions.

With this delay, we decided we wanted dinner as well.  But, every highway exit we passed showed no sign of any place to eat.

Signs indicated a town named Ravena, a little less than an hour away, would have all the restaurants we could want.

For that time, we held onto the idea that we would get food in Ravena.  We were hungry.  We were tired.  We were angry.

When we got to Ravena, the highway crew had blocked off all of the exits from the highway.  We could see all the restaurants and see that they were open.  But, there was no way to get to them from the road.

My wife placed a curse on Ravena.  If any of you live there, or know someone who does, I’m sorry for your fate in the face of this curse.

Once we crossed the boarder into Ohio, we did find a McDonald’s that could be reached and managed to get some food.  It’s good, I think some folks were considering who would be the most tender in the car.

As said, Roswell Ohio is hard to find on maps.  It took us a while to get there.  We had passed a big shopping area and stopped to get food for the weekend as we weren’t sure what we’d have camping.  This turned out to be problematical.

We had expected to arrive about sunset, but instead got there well after dark.

There were no signs for the faire along the main road in town, and it was off on a side road that was not well marked.

We finally found a poorly marked entrance for the “Ball and Arrow Primitive Weapon’s Club” it was held at.

There was a camp fire burning near the entrance.

I got out of the car and walked over to it.

“Hello, I’m looking for Jim Neo,” I said.

“I’m DOCTOR James Neo!” a man said, getting up.  (At not point before this had he indicated having a doctorate.)

“We’re from Phoenix Swords.  We’re here to do your show tomorrow.”

“You’re late!”

“Yes, getting here turned out to be more difficult than expected.”

“You’re going to camp?”


“Go out to the next driveway, go up the very steep hill, and camp anywhere you want on the old skeet range.”

“Won’t there be all sorts of broken crockery there?”

“The best area is near the back as most of the clay pigeons got shot early and didn’t make it to the back.”

The hill was very steep and A’s truck barely got up it.

We found that as we were quite late, all the non-clay places were already taken, so we found one right on the edge of the hill that wasn’t too bad.

Our Iowan had not yet shown up either, but we didn’t wait and set up camp and went to sleep.

A decided to sleep in his truck due to a lack of clear space.

None of us had trouble falling asleep.