LA Pen Show Recap (with Road Trip Round-Up)

Road Trip weather

When I was trying to decide how to best organize this post, I debated planning it and titling it “A Pen Show in 3 Parts.” The first part being the drive to LA, the pen show itself and then the drive home. I drove from Kansas City to Little Rock where I met up with Lisa Vanness. We loaded up the van with a metric ton of ink and then we drove to LA. We took three days to get out to LA, stopping at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo and then at the Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma.

On the road to LA: desserts and museum stop

We made dessert a priority. As it should be.

On the Road to LA: Southwestern Skylines and Cadillac Ranch

We got to enjoy some beautiful southwestern sunsets and sunrises. Unfortunately, LA weather was not on our side. The last two hours of our drive was in a torrential downpour and Angelenos are not accustomed to driving in rain so there were a lot of accidents on the highway that slowed our progress.

LA Pen Show Friends

Once we arrived though, we were greeted by happy faces of friends from near and far. Evelyn (AKA Schmevelyn) was waiting for us in the lobby when we arriver and went with us for lunch at Tender Greens across the street. After some nourishment, we were ready to unpack the van for the Friday flurry. We only had two of the three tables for Vanness Pens for Friday and Saturday as these were Trader Days for the LA Pen Show. Per the rules of the LA Pen Show, anyone who pays for a Trader Pass is allowed half a table for trading on Friday and Saturday. So, that allowed Joe, Me, Davina and Lisa two tables – half a table each. Then on Sunday, we are allowed our full allotment of three table which Lisa had purchased for the one public day. It’s pretty convoluted and the only pen show I know of that’s run this way.

It also means that there are considerably fewer people who purchase the Trader Passes which are $65 each. The passes for Sunday are only $8 per person.

Pens of the LA Pen Show

For me, it means I get a little bit of time to walk around on Friday and Saturday after we are set up. Though not all vendors are set up and nor do they have all their merchandise out, I do get to see a bit and maybe even make a purchase or two.

Joey Feldman's Custom Cover Notbeooks

As has become tradition with the LA Show, Vanness Pen Shop create a special Tomoe River notebook (by Curnow)  with artwork created especially for it by the venerable Joey Feldman. This year was the addition of pen rolls and cases with the same artwork by Joey for Vanness by Rickshaw Bagworks. Unfortunately, only sample protoype pen rolls and cases were ready in time for the LA Show so Baltimore Pen Show attendees will be the beneficiaries of these amazing designs as they will be made available for the Baltimore Show.

Lisa Vanness and Sule

The photo above were my two closest companions over the weekend: Ms. Lisa Vanness and Sule, a pen repairman who was sitting behind us. He shared his tangerines, dried dates and sudoku puzzles with me. He also told me he will turn 90 in March. He is one of the reasons I love pen shows. I meet the most fascinating, amazing people with wonderful stories and kind hearts. He said I looked just like Carol Burnett when he saw her perform in 1952.

Crowds on Sunday at the LA Pen Show

Then, Sunday happened. And it was the madness and mayhem we expected. And then some. The public attendees were asked to line up outside (outdoors) by the swimming pool so that they could see in the ballroom windows into the show while waiting in line to pay their entry fee and winding their way through what the vendors coined the mouse trap as there was one corner of the ballroom that was a dead end where the Edison table was located. The guys at Yafa said people would talk with them and say “See you later!” and they would reply “See you in a few minutes!” because they knew the mouse trap ended and attendees would have to come back the same way they came in.

That said, there are a lot of things about the LA show I wish were different. The aisles were too narrow. Having the show open to the public for one day is not enough. The show should be open the the public on at least Saturday AND Sunday. I think there should be some option for non-traders to buy three-day passes if they want them. Many people feel that the show organizer does what he does because he wants to make the most money possible. I cannot figure out how letting more people into the show more days wouldn’t allow that to happen? Let Thursday and Friday be Traders Days and Saturday and Sunday be Public Days. And for all that is holy, move the show back upstairs to the larger space. Many attendees said they would not come back if it was as cramped as it was this year.

People don’t need to go to pen shows. They can shop online with YouTube videos as their instructors. I hope the organizer (who, as rumored, only wants to make money) understands he is going to lose money if he does not listen to the outpouring of dissent.

So, after a frustrating Sunday, we speed packed the van with the help of Joe, Evelyn and Kasey and headed to Victorville for the night so that we could avoid LA traffic in the morning.

Lisa Vanness & Davina Darling at Oatman, AZ

Monday afternoon we stopped in Oatman, AZ to visit with the donkeys that roam the streets. We bought donkey treat and snuck a few bites of apple to them too which made them happy to have something in their diet besides kibble. Davina was a real pro with the animals since she grew up a farm. Then we took a long, winding back road from Oatman to Kingman, AZ and ate a classic 50s diner.

The rest of our trip was a blur of the worst kind of weather. Sleet? Check. Fog? Check. And then endless snow and even icy road conditions. This weather-pocalypse put us behind schedule by a day as we only made it as far as Gallup, NM on Monday as I-40 was down to a single lane by 6pm and I was the only person in the van brave enough to drive in the snowy conditions. On Tuesday, our windshield wiper fluid tubes became completely frozen so every 30-45 minutes we had to pull over and spritz the windshield with water manually in order to wipe the road grime off the windshield. At one particularly slick off-ramp, we slid right through the intersection. The ABS brakes did their best to slow us down but they were no match for un-shoveled roadways. Luckily, it was a desolate off-ramp and we came to no harm. Needless to say, we were extra cautious on further stops.

We made it to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night with about five hours left to Little Rock but there was ice and rain between OKC and Little Rock and we were not willing to risk life and ink to go further.

Wednesday morning we set off for Little Rock and got back to the shop a little after lunch time. With the help of Mike Vanness and Barrett, we unloaded the van cargo and got merchandise added back into inventory and took a deep sigh of relief.

After a delicious pizza dinner and an early night, I got up on Wednesday morning and headed back to Kansas City as fast as my little Mini Cooper could carry me. With 20000hz podcast as my co-pilot and copious amounts of Starbucks Doubleshot and a bag of Honey Sriracha Combos, I made it home in good time.

My Home Team: Lucy of Totality, cat of awesome and Bob's Welcome Home note

Oh, what a happy sight greeted me. Col-o-rings collated and counted, Lucy happy to see me and a Welcome Home note on Col-o-ring paper from my sweetie (written with his Hinze pen with Diamine Matador).

As with all pen shows, I love seeing friends old and new. I love getting a chance to look at pens and ink and paper and I love getting a chance to help people find the perfect ink, pen or notebook at the show. I look forward to the next show. I hope it won’t be as stressful for attendees and the weather will be more cooperative.

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this post were provided free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks Ana, I, too, enjoyed following your posts. Glad you got home safe. I had a similar road trip experience in 1972, what a tense time on icy roads. Hope to see you and Bob in Little Rock or Atlanta.

  2. Oh, what a weather/driving ordeal!! I was so sad not to be going to LA, but when I heard about the weather, I wasn’t quite so sad. After all, I go to LA in the winter for a reason… If I want rain, sleet and fog, I can get that here! Glad you made it back safely!

  3. It was good to have you in LA and to see you again. I hope that the LA promoter hears you great people because I wouldn’t want these problems to keep great people like you away. I love seeing you all!

    1. Thanks, Mary! So many vendors travel such a distance for the LA show, it’s a shame that the attendees don’t get more time and space to enjoy their wares.

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