Last week I had the pleasure of travelling from Perth, Australia to Fargo, North Dakota, USA for the Microsoft Dynamics GP Escalation Engineering Summit 2013 event.
This internal event allows the top level of support engineers for Microsoft Dynamics GP from around the globe to come together and exchange knowledge and get updates from the Development and Product Management teams.
However for me, one of the most important aspects of the Summit is chance to meet with my colleagues and create and/or update my working relationships/friendships.
My trip started on Friday 31st May at 3:30am Perth time (GMT+8). After working hard to get my support cases up to date and hand over cases which still needed attention, by the time I had finished packing and got ready for bed, I only got in a one and a half hour "power nap" before having to get up again. For those of you thinking that it was not even worth going to bed, I did feel better for it.
My transit to Fargo involved four flights (Perth - Sydney - Dallas - Chicago - Fargo) and got me to the Ramada Plaza Suites at about 0:30am Saturday morning Fargo time (GMT-6). That works out as an elapsed 34 hours in transit. It was almost longer as the flight into Chicago was late leaving and then had to take a longer flight path to avoid some storm cells (see below).
I was concerned I would miss the connection and spend a night in Chicago airport, but luckily the flight leaving Chicago was delayed as well and so I was able to make the connection. So all went well and I even "smuggled" in 10 packs of Tim Tams, 5 packs of Chicos and 2 tubes of Vegemite.
After some sleep, I got up on Saturday and did some shopping at the West Acres Mall, well the Australian dollar is still quite strong and I like Eddie Bauer trousers.
Now comes the really cool bit. When I found out that I was going to be coming to the US for this Summit, I let some of my Microsoft Dynamics GP MVP friends know and Leslie Vail and Belinda Allen agreed to fly in from Dallas and New York (respectively) to see me. They were both scheduled to arrive on Saturday afternoon, but Leslie was delayed and so it ended up that I spent a day with Belinda before Leslie finally arrived a day late.
On Sunday night, the three of us were joined by ex-Microsoft employees, Emily Halvorson and Sheila Ochoa for a lovely dinner at the Passage To India restaurant.
Then on Monday I had some meetings in the Fargo office followed by dinner at Sheila's house. Her husband, Ricardo does make the most awesome steaks. A funny thing happened while at Sheila and Ric's house, they mentioned that they had an Australian neighbour, so we decided to take a Tim Tam chocolate over to him. Turns out, he used to be a Police officer and lived in a suburb of Perth about 30 minutes from where I live. Anyhow, while I was saying hello, the neighbour mentioned he had run out of Vegemite. I had a tube with me and so I ended up giving to someone who would appreciate it rather than using it to persuade Americans that it is actually edible.
We finished the evening with some Tim Tam Slams (just to see who would make a mess of it) and some cupcakes to celebrate my upcoming Birthday (on Thursday).
Tuesday morning, I had to say goodbye to Leslie and Belinda. Even though we only had a short time together it was great fun and we even got some work done together. Thank-you ladies for making the trips to Fargo to catch up with me. I am not sure when I will next be able to get to a Technical Airlift or Convergence conference.
So now the EE Summit started. We had an opening session with Chad Sogge and Jeff Trosen on the Fargo campus, before driving to Walker, MN to the Chase on the Lake resort on the banks of Leech Lake.
I had a lovely lake side room in the main building which had a great view of the lake.
The lake is the third largest in Minnesota, it covers 102,947.83 acres (416.6151 km2), has 195 miles (314 km) of shoreline, and has a maximum depth of 150 feet (46 m) (from Wikipedia).
When I left Perth, the daytime temperatures were about 20C/68F. The daytime temperature in Fargo was about 17C/62C and in Walker about 14C/57F. I know that summer is late coming to North Dakota and Minnesota, but I was expecting the North American Summer to be warmer than the Perth winter.
We stayed two nights at the hotel. On the second night (Wednesday) we have a lovely dinner at The Boulders Restaurant just outside of town.
I have a lovely Fillet Mignon with creamy garlic mash potatoes, very yummy. After dinner Aaron Donat and I were given complimentary birthday cheesecakes. Aaron's birthday was that day an mine the next day.
Sadly, the last day of the EE Summit had arrived. After our last session we took a team photo and if we look cold and wind blown, that's because it was.
At lunch, Aaron and I had a huge birthday cake. Thanks Lori for organising it. Cupcakes, cheesecake and now a birthday cake... I was very spoilt.
Then it was time to drive back to Fargo and the office. I was going to spend the evening with Emily and so she picked me up from the office. On the drive back to the hotel we saw a mother duck trying to cross the road with nine ducklings. After a couple of scary moments, she and her brood made it across safely, thanks to some drivers who slowed down or stopped.
I checked back into the Ramada for my last night.
When I got to my room, I had a big surprise. My family in Perth had organised for a huge bunch of Birthday Balloons to be delivered to my room.
I finished the night with a dinner at Basie's in the hotel with Emily and her son Luke.
Friday had arrived and it was time to pack up and head back home leaving the hotel at 1:30pm. The flights were easier this time as I was able to get the direct flight from Fargo to Dallas (and so bypass Chicago).
An interesting point about my international flight is that the flight to Dallas takes off from Sydney, but the flight from Dallas stops in Brisbane. This is because the head winds on the return flight mean that the plane does not have enough fuel to get directly to Sydney and so stops to refuel in Brisbane.
After a few hours transit in Brisbane I head home to Perth. My wife, Jennifer, picked me up and I was home by 12:30pm (on Sunday).... another 34 hours in transit.
While I enjoy visiting with my friends in the USA, I do wish the travel time was less.
PS: Thanks for all the birthday wishes.