I'm home from a 3-week business trip, and I thought I'd share some of the travels as I legitimately had a "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" experience, although not as chaotic as the movie! I didn't post too much about it while travelling, choosing to wait for my return home to share this. It was 3 weeks with only a carry-on bag, so I’m glad to be home and wearing different clothes for a change! 😄

Week 1 - Redmond, Washington - MVP Summit

I can't post any of the content from this one for NDA reasons. MVP Summit is partially a time to celebrate together with other MVPs and Microsoft folks in Redmond, and partially to sit with product teams to provide feedback and hear about future product plans.

Selfie of me in a blue hooded sweatshirt, short brown hair, standing on a stone sidewalk in front of a Microsoft logo and sign.
Selfie in front of one of the Microsoft signs near the newer buildings on Redmond campus.

The best part of MVP Summit for me is always meeting friends I haven't seen for a while and others I haven't yet met in person. I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of my time this year with the Microsoft Excel team. Since there isn't any Dynamics GP content at MVP Summit, the next best thing for me is sitting in on sessions with Excel, Power BI and/or Power Query product teams. It was great to spend time with fellow MVPs like Ken Puls, Wyn Hopkins, and Cristian Angyal, among many other Excel MVPs whom I met for the first time. Cristian is one of my #SML (Saturday Morning Learning) acquaintances who I was meeting for the first time in-person.

Belinda Allen, a smiling woman with long grey hair, wearing a light brown sweater over a dark brown floral shirt; Jen/me, with short brown hair, wearing a blue long sleeve hooded shirt with the Microsoft logo on the front and a lanyard around my neck; Cristian Angyal, with a shaved head and black goatee, wearing a light blue button down shirt underneath a dark blue blazer, with a lanyard around his neck.
Belinda Allen, myself, Cristian Angyal
A group of people laughing while posing for the picture. From front left to right: Chris Wagner in a green, black and white t-shirt and eyeglasses, partially kneeling on the floor; Belinda Allen with long grey hair, leaning with her arms around Chris’ shoulders, wearing a brown floral shirt; me with a blue hooded shirt and short brown hair; Mathias Halkjaer in a white t-shirt and a lanyard around his neck, with blond spiky hair and brown facial hair; Cristian Angyal with a shaved head and black goatee, wearing a light blue button down shirt and dark blue blazer; Kristyna Ferris with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, kneeling in front right in front of Cristian with a grey golf shirt and a lanyard around her neck.
L to R: Chris Wagner, Belinda Allen, me, Mathias Halkjaer, Cristian Angyal, Kristyna Ferris

Travel from Seattle to California - Amtrak Coast Starlight

One of the highlights of my trip was an "epic" train ride from Seattle, Washington to San Jose, California on the Coast Starlight route from Amtrak. That train goes from Seattle to Los Angeles, and my route was a 24-hour train ride, it was longer if you went end to end.

I took it over two days, stopping in Eugene, Oregon first to visit an #SML friend, Mark Walter. It was glorious! I had dinner with Mark and his wife, and the next day we went on some hikes along the Oregon coast. It was a beautiful day - warm and sunny - and we enjoyed the heck out of it.

Later in the day, they dropped me off at the train station for the remainder of my trip to San Jose. The rest of the trip was overnight and I managed to snag a late upgrade into a "roomette", which is a private room for up to 2 people. Trust me when I say you'd better know the 2nd person well! It's a very small space, but it was a fun experience, and compared to the coach seating I had originally purchased, it was great to have some privacy for that long of a trip plus having a bed to sleep in overnight. The views were tremendous. The sleeping accommodations were fine, comfortable enough for the night, and it was enjoyable vs. flying or driving. When I went for dinner, the porter converted the roomette into a bed, with a thin mattress, clean sheets, a blanket and a couple of pillows. Had there been two people in the room, an upper bunk would also be converted to a bed.

Week 2 - Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, California

I got off the train on the Sunday morning and made my way to the airport via light rail transit. So easy! I rented a car, then drove for a one-night excursion to Santa Rosa. My whole purpose of going to that specific location was Snoopy - seriously. LOL. I'm a fan. The Charles Schulz museum is there and several things in the town are named after him, including their airport. I've followed the museum on Instagram for years so I was looking forward to seeing it. I'm a big kid at heart although most people don’t see that side of me unless you really know me well.

The next day I was on my way towards Santa Cruz, and stopped at the Muir Woods National Monument. It was amazing, truly amazing. I still can't get over the height of the redwoods and the beauty of the forest. I hiked for as long as my feet would let me, as I still am suffering from Plantar Fasciitis whenever I do any significant walking or hiking. 🙁 So, 90 minutes was about my limit, at a relatively meandering pace.

Another trip highlight was getting to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge twice as I was going past/around San Francisco to and from Santa Rosa. That was pretty cool and I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but it would have been difficult to do while driving solo. The rest of the week I was taking the opportunity of a "week off" to visit a new client, scope out and start a new project with them. We had a good week getting through most of the work we discussed and I've got some more work to complete when I return home. It was fun, great people to work with.

Travel from California to Las Vegas - Southwest Airlines

I may get some flack for this, but the boarding process seems so much more civilized than the typical stampede most other airlines have at any other boarding with numbered assignments for the boarding order. I realize Southwest isn’t the fanciest of airlines, but the price couldn’t be beat and it was the only one with a direct flight to Vegas. No brainer!

Week 3 - Las Vegas, Microsoft Fabric Conference

This was the wildcard week of the trip. I got a relatively-last-minute chance to attend as "Staff" for the conference and took advantage of that. I was doing some shifts in the Community Lounge, and also volunteered to be a proctor for a full-day workshop on one of the pre-con days "Microsoft Fabric for the Power BI Professional". It was totally worth it to go, even though it meant another unbillable week for me. What a week! One of the highlights had to be getting an invite for dinner at Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen. As someone who watches the show, it was pretty cool to be able to eat the food I see getting prepared every episode. It was excellent! Thank you to Jason Himmelstein and John White for that!

I arrived on the Sunday, and checked into the MGM Grand. What a f*cking zoo. Honestly, it was overwhelming the moment I set foot in the door. Too many people, too much noise, all the things I'm not great at dealing with in large doses. Plus, I can't believe that there are still places you can smoke indoors. Unreal, and so gross. It's been a lot of years since I've seen or experienced that, I'd forgotten what it's like to walk through that every time you go anywhere outside your hotel room.

The conference itself was great. Some things were frustrating, like a lack of options for tea drinkers, but I've seen that at every other US-based conference, it's not specific to this one. The pricing of everything in MGM Grand was incredible, in a bad way. Since there were few options to have tea, I went to Starbucks once a day. At the food court, the "cheap" Starbucks option, it was $6.45 USD for a venti tea. It's $3.75 CAD (or so) at home, for reference. In the conference center, the Starbucks there was even higher at $7.95 USD. Unreal.

Most other things were great, including, again, meeting some people in person for the first time, and hanging out with more #SML peeps. There were several of us at #FabCon and we had a chance to either eat together or sit together in sessions throughout the week. I worked 4 hours or so of shifts throughout the week plus the 8 hour workshop day, and took in as many sessions otherwise as I could fit in my schedule.

6 of the #SML gang at dinner, left to right: Christina Lanham with brown curly hair and glasses, wearing a grey t-shirt under a black jacket; Bob Kundrat, short grey hair and glasses, wearing a red half zip sweater; Jack Irby, short grey hair and glasses wearing a blue checked button down shirt, me with short brown hair wearing a blue t-shirt; Greg Kramer, short grey hair wearing a red t-shirt; Sheila Hart, blonde hair and glasses wearing a blue shirt under a black vest.
Christina Lanham, Bob Kundrat, Jack Irby, me, Greg Kramer, Sheila Hart
6 #SML friends posing around the conference dining tables. Left to right: Belinda Allen, with long grey hair tied back, wearing a floral print long sleeve shirt; Jack Irby with short grey hair and glasses in a blue button down shirt; Christina Lanham with brown curly hair and glasses, wearing a grey t-shirt; me with short brown hair in a black t-shirt; Sheila Hart with blonde hair and glasses, wearing a white shirt under a light blue cardigan; Kevin Arnold, wearing a blue baseball cap, wearing a dark blue golf shirt and blue jeans.
Belinda Allen, Jack Irby, Christina Lanham, me, Sheila Hart, Kevin Arnold.

The flights home went smoothly, apart from me spilling my soft drink all over myself and sitting in wet pants for the remainder of my 2nd flight. UGH! All in all, it was a fantastic trip.


#SML, aka Saturday Morning Learning, is a group of people who meet every Saturday (morning my time), to talk about Power BI and related topics. If you’re interested in learning more about the group, feel free to reach out!