Stockholm Pinball Open 2013 - Heron City / O'Learys

Traveling by airplane has so far been the only means of transport for us when attending tournaments abroad. I've been considering paying Sweden a visit by van for some time now to pick up some new pins and this was as good time as any. The real surprise however was, that for two traveling persons, it was way cheaper to drive from Kouvola to Turku and buy two way ferry tickets than to first drive to Helsinki and then buy two sets of plane tickets.

We headed towards Turku on Thursday. I had previously calculated that the driving time was a bit over 3 hours, so I left 4 and half hours before the deadline. It was a good decision, as we hit a road construction site just after Helsinki, which cost us almost 45 minutes of standing still.

I had never boarded a ferry with a car at Turku before and was a bit nervous at first, but there was nothing to it. Just check in and then drive the car onboard with other vans and trucks. We went to bed early, as the ship was to arrive at Stockholm around 6 in the morning.

The next morning however began a bit earlier than expected, as the cleaning lady woke us up just a bit after 5:30. Just as I was putting on my t-shirt, we heard an announcement about all the passengers with cars needing to be on the car deck immediately. I was SO hoping to get some coffee before driving, but no. Fine, we ran downstairs and got into the car literally minutes before the gates were opened.

Driving through Stockholm downtown wasn't has hard as I had imagined. Several road construction sites slowed us down a bit and I was a bit puzzled by the locals' use of turn signals at roundabouts. My Garmin GPS navigator however failed me, and we ended up at Dialoggatan 2, that apparently was not the Dialoggatan we were searching for. Turned out the place we were going to wasn't in Stockholm, but in Kungs Kurva. 15 minutes later we arrived at Heron City mall.

We were surprised it was open even at 7 in the morning and wandered in. Virtually nothing was open inside, but we looked around, noticing the large cinema complex upstairs, O'learys, where all the pins were lined up and tons of restaurants and cafes. Pilvi decided to sleep in the car, while I explored the area. Couple of hours later the first place to serve coffee opened and I finally got my morning coffee. Wandering around I noticed an odd thing, the building wobbles at high winds. The wobbling was especially noticeable on the 5th floor. 

Some hours later O'Learys opened and we went to check out the premises. The line-up was nice; early solid state machines in one corner, DMD machines from 90's to present elsewhere. The place also had tons of large arcade games ranging from shooters to full sized racing games. The pinball machines were virtually all turned off at that point, so we went out to look for our hotel. Hotel Månen was the cheapest I could find, and I expected a horrible dump, which however turned out surprisingly good for the money; I've seen far worse on my travels.

Friday had two items on my agenda: buy a pinball machine and play qualifications. The former turned out a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. I had previously set up couple of deals, but as I called the first seller about his Black Knight 2000, it turned out some norwegian guy had bought it earlier that day. The second seller didn't bother to answer his phone at all. Great job. There was still several hours before the qualifications opened, so we went to movies and then visited Wayne's coffee for the probably largest cup of coffee I have ever been served. It was good too! Just wow.

The qualification system took a bit for me to comprehend. One entry was 3 games, played on 3 different games. The players were ranked by their score, which then gave points to the entry. The trick was, that you'd have to play 3 good games in a row, or else it would seriously hurt the entry in total. This again turned out to be a real challenge, when playing very tired from the trip. I played half of my 8 entries, but was rather disappointed in the results. There was however a slight possibility for me to stay in the game, as I was hanging on both, main competition and classics way over the cut-off point. Pilvi however did well and was in the lead in the classics series at that point.

I planned to sleep well, dope up with an energy drink or two and try again the next day. That turned out to be too much to ask for, as some dim-wit decided to smoke in his hotel room around 3 in the morning, triggering the smoke alarm. Oh man I was pissed off and couldn't get any sleep after that.

Saturday began with me being tired and cranky. I bought an energy drink from the local super market, but I bet my week old socks would have tasted better than that. Anyway, I gave another try at the games, failing miserably. Being tired and desperate for a good score is almost never a good combination, and it sure wasn't this time. The scorekeepers were being overrun by a sudden rush of players and it took sometimes over 10 minutes to get someone to write down the score. I finished rest of my 8 entries and walked out feeling pretty bad about myself at that point.

Being out of the competition I turned my attention to finally getting myself a proper souvenir! I had earlier discussed with the other finns about the Friday's failed attempts, and the others had similar experiences. TIM recommended contacting the local operators, which I did. After couple of calls I contacted the guy who runs Flipper Doktorn. He was about to come to the tournament, but promised to wait for me. So, off we went for a little drive. After couple of puzzling roundabouts (even the GPS navigator had no idea what to do on those!) we arrived at the doctor's place. We found it rather amusing that he was using an old ambulance as his pinball hauler.

The game I was after was Bally's Mousin' Around. It was in good mechanical and electronical condition, but there was way more playfield insert wear than I had hoped. The price however was good enough, so we loaded the game in my pinhauler after a short trip at the local ATM. We returned to Heron City in good spirits. The newly bought pin even inspired me to buy some extra entries for the tournament, but those weren't exactly anything to write home about.

I was out of the game, but Pilvi's only entry at friday was enought to keep her in the game. During the playoffs she actually almost managed to win her first opponent! In the end, the only truly successful finn was OMO, once again, ending up in a shared 5th place.

Overall, this was rather experience gaining trip. And by that I mean the kind of experience you get from hitting your hear the 3rd time into something, after which you swear never, ever to do it again! First of all, the next time we'll arrive by car, we'll take the ferry that arrives after 9 in the morning. Second, I'll chill out for one day and try to get a good night's sleep before playing. Third, I only bother to deal with the operators, when it comes to buying pins.

In all, 3 days in Sweden didn't differ much from a 3 day trip in Finland. We had our own little (mis)adventures, like running into a local skinhead while wearing tre kronor t-shirt, driving around in Stockholm, visiting Ikea and so forth. One thing that really annoyed me was the youth at the cinema. We went to see 4 movies during the long weekend, and every and each of them was atleast partitially ruined by a gang of teenagers. The adults usually reacted by asking them to sit down and be quiet, to which the teens usually answered with a "fuck you". The most annoying case was when someone next to us answered a phone and started to talk with a loud voice in the middle of the movie. Pilvi sais "Shhh!" to him, to which the guy replied, in english: "Don't you 'Shhhh' me, that's fucking rude!".

On Monday we left early and boarded the 6 o'clock ferry back to Turku. I so wished I had taken a cabin, staying up for 13 hours was really painful after the weekend. Driving back home I realized I'd be returning to Heron City next September for the EPC games. Until then.

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Stockholm Pinball Open 2013
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