I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but there’s this little tv show based on a series of books called Outlander. If you’re reading this, like many of you, Outlander has probably spilled over into your real life. There’s a saying in our world, “All Because She Wrote A Book” about how friendships, businesses and events have formed because of Diana Gabaldon’s books. Many lives have changed for the better as we have stepped out of our comfort zones and begun traveling to events and meeting our on-line friends.
For several years, I’ve watched these events unfold mostly on the east and west coast, Comic-cons, etc and I didn’t go. Some of it was due to the cost, some of it was because I don’t like to stand in long lines and huge, loud crowds freak me out. But then last summer I heard about the 2018 ‘Thru The Stones’ event in Iowa and I was intrigued. Thru The Stones is the creation of Deb Ford, who is one of the most amazing, welcoming and energetic humans I’ve ever met. She runs the event every two years in Davenport, Iowa, with help from almost every member of her family and anyone who’s lucky enough to marry into it.
Thru The Stones is different from other events because there are ACTIVITIES!! I love me some activities especially those that stimulate my brain and even more when the subject is Outlander. There were Classes, a Trivia Contest, a Costume Fashion Show, a Ceilidh and we’d all get the chance to meet Show Runner Ron Moore, Costume Designer, Terry Dresbach and Ed Speelers who plays psycho-pirate Stephen Bonnet. That seemed like my cup of tea.
In attendance would be several Outlander people I ‘knew’ from Twitter, (hey Rhonnie, Jill, Lori, Mary, Mandy, Courtney, Sandhya, Carole and Cyndi!) Even though I thoroughly read the Thru The Stones website, I really didn’t know what to expect. For those of you who are considering attending an event, I hope hearing about my experience might be helpful to you. The following is my happy, weekend adventure:
I left Texas on warm morning feeling somewhat ridiculous in a heavy coat that I wouldn’t need for hours. In Chicago, I switched to a small plane which arrived in Moline after dark and when I saw snow from the air, this Texas resident was verra excited and happy for the coat! The instructions said to use a phone in the airport to call the hotel for a ride, but the phone was broken, my Uber app was stubborn and wouldn’t take my new credit card, so I finally called the hotel on my cell and they said they’d send a car to pick me up. I was slightly frazzled by then and decided to walk outside and wait. I stood for a moment or two and breathed in the glorious clean Iowa air, it was so dark and peaceful at the airport. Very different from the Austin airport. (This was the only SNAFU the entire weekend and it turned out to be a HUGE blessing in disguise!)
Suddenly I heard some loud female laughter and as I’m always channeling my inner Nancy Drew and thinking they might be Outlander peeps, I moseyd on down the sidewalk and noticed a group of women sitting on a bench in an enclosed area. I saw a woman whose silver-blonde hair was glowing like an angel. I walked to where she sat and inquired ‘are you Miss Fancy Pants?’ Yes, it was Rhonnie from New Zealand. She recognized me from our many Twitter interactions and jumped up and we hugged hello. She and the other women generously offered to let me share the van they were waiting for; it arrived just then so we hopped in and we were on our way. (Yes, I cancelled the car from the hotel.)
Our driver was a fun, older man who got a kick out of us as we giggled and gabbed our way to the hotel and he gave us a wonderful tour explaining where we were. Our driver even stopped at Walgreen’s so another woman and I could buy Cpap water. #HotGeezerAlert Once we were checked in at the hotel, I found that my room was next to Rhonnie and Lori’s. We took 15 minutes to drop off our luggage and get cute and then we headed outside and found a wonderful restaurant for dinner. After dinner while walking back to the hotel, Rhonnie checked one off her bucket list when she lay down in a courtyard and made snow angels. Here we are curtsying after I helped her up!
After dinner, we went back to their room and had a mini PJ Party as one does when the husbands aren’t around.
The next morning, more friends joined up and we headed out for breakfast in town at a small family-owned restaurant. We were slightly afraid of our sausages, but it was good hardy food and so much fun. After breakfast, we made the quick walk over to the River Center and checked in and received a wonderful welcome packet, gifts and name tags. There were some talented vendors selling their wares at ‘The Beardsley Trading Post’ so we walked around buying items we couldn’t live without.
Then it was time for classes. I knew I’d be tired from the schedule (as I struggle with health issues), so I only went to one class and it was the perfect one for me. I took this one and thoroughly enjoyed the female speaker and her son who is a very talented musician who played a flute he made from cedar wood.
#7 – Native American People & Traditions This presentation will include oral traditions of Native Americans daily life, and the planting of the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Drumming and singing, you will learn a Native American song. The audience will also get the chance to learn some Native language and will be extended an invitation into a drum and rain stick circle.
After the class, I went back to my room for a little rest and to get dressed for the night’s festivities! We all met back at the River Center early Friday evening for the dinner, the Opening Ceremonies and the Trivia Contest whose winners would win dinner with Ron and Terry on Saturday night. Many of the women had teamed up ahead of time and had clever names and matching t-shirts. The enthusiasm level was off the charts!! Everyone at my table has read the books multiple times and all are intelligent women, but truthfully, we were so bad at this! Maybe it was the laughter, the gin, the excitement, we really tried, but we were dumb as a box of rocks and I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun!
Congrats to the groups who won dinner with Ron and Terry on Saturday night!! Speaking of the dynamic duo, Ron and Terry came downstairs early on Friday, explored the Beardsley Trading Post,chatted with folks in the lobby then came into the Ballroom where they spent the night visiting with everyone and taking photos. I was really impressed by how friendly they were and how much time they spent talking to everyone. They officially went above and beyond the call of duty. After the Trivia Contest, Deb Ford surprised Terry with a “This is your Life” Retirement video from co-workers, friends and fans thanking her for her friendship, inspiration and amazing costume career.
Picture Below: Terry giving me bunny ears after I made a random smart aleck remark.
I slept in Saturday morning (see previous night and the gin), woke up and dined on my fave hangover special (tuna melt, french fries and 3 diet cokes) at the lovely restaurant in the Raddison. Ron Moore’s Keynote Speech was Saturday at 1:30 and we were all thrilled when Terry Dresbach came with Ron and instead of Ron giving a speech behind a podium, she interviewed him. Obviously, she’s known him for many years, but she asked him a zillion questions (like a cross between a Prosecuting Attorney and David Frost) and not only elicited fascinating answers from him about his life, work process, fan interactions, etc but they both got huge laughs from the crowd. It was an amazing time and I was grateful to be there.
After the Ron and Terry Show, I took 45 minutes or so and wandered around downtown Davenport. The hotel sits on the Mississippi River which I’ve never seen, so I walked down to the River, then randomly around the town. Due to the reeeaally cold weather and spitting cold rain, I headed back sooner than I normally would have, but I really enjoyed seeing that wonderful small town. Visit if you can!
That night was the Governor’s Ball and Jamaican Dinner and MANY women (and a few men) came in very elaborate, creative costumes. I spoke to one woman who drove hundreds of miles with multiple gowns in her vehicle and changed several times during the weekend.
We heard that Ed Speelers flight had been delayed, he’d ended up in Madrid and then flew all night and arrived after dinner just in time for his appearance. Terry (and Ron) emceed the amazing Fashion Show.
Then Julie Terstriep interviewed Ed Speelers who was delightful and not at all terrifying like his character. The highlight for me was Ed doing his Mick Jagger imitation and he was really good! After Ed’s interview, everyone lined up according to the number on their name tag and my number was almost the very last. There were two areas set up for photographs, one with Ed and one with Ron and Terry. Again, everything was beautifully organized. During this time, there was a Ceilidh in the ballroom and those who’d taken advantage of the dance class on Friday, were able to demonstrate their new dance moves while the rest of us happily flailed around.
It was around 1:00am when the photo line finished and I was the very last person who went through. Ed, Ron and Terry were still warm and friendly even though they had to have been exhausted by then. I don’t know how they did it. Afterwards the Fun Girls gathered for drinks and conversation as by now we had all become very good friends.
All of my Fun Girls except Courtney: 🙁
Sunday morning, a group of us gathered for a quick buffet breakfast before we hugged goodbye and scattered to catch our flights at different times that day and the next. Thru The Stones was one of the most fun events I’ve ever attended and I can’t thank Deb Ford and her team enough for all their hard work. It’s amazing to think that all of these events, small businesses and most importantly friendships have happened ‘All Because She Wrote A Book.’
Post Scriptum: There was a wonderful ‘Whore’s Breakfast’ with creative place settings, I think it was based on Claire’s first visit to Madame Jeanne’s, I know you’ll correct me if I’m wrong; and so many other parts of this weekend to participate in. The website is www.thruthestones.com for those of you who want to see everything offered at the event.