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That time I took a group of people to Boston for the Azure Red Shirt Dev Tour

I had tweeted out the hashtag #BostonOrBust.  Seriously, don’t do that.  I tempted Fate, and Fate called me out on it.

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft’s Mary Baker reached out to me to see if there would be any interest for people in the Albany area to take a chartered bus to the Azure Red Shirt Dev Tour in Boston. I set up a poll on the TVUG Meetup site and emailed the members to get a feel of who would go. The numbers were high enough for Microsoft to reserve a charter bus and they asked if I would be the point of contact. This would mean keeping track of people and arranging to bring breakfast on board. Since we would be leaving from the Amtrak train station in Rennselaer at 5am, this would be a morning that would start much earlier than by my usual standards.

On the morning of the event, I went to a local Dunkin Donuts at 4:15 am and picked up an order of donuts, bagels, muffins, and coffee. Microsoft had already shipped cases of water and Gatorade to my house. I drove down to the train station and rounded up the other attendees. The bus had gone to RPI first to pick some students there. Then it came down to the train station and we boarded the bus and took off. We had 12 people, not counting myself and I sent the attendance list to Microsoft.  I was pleasantly surprised that a third of our group were college students.

Less than a minute after getting on the highway, an alarm went off. Apparently the bus was overheating and would not make it to Boston. The bus driver called for a new bus and then headed west to exit 24 of the Thruway to wait for the bus. We waited for about 45 minutes and a new bus was delivered. We carried over the food and beverages to the new bus and headed out. The delay meant that we would be arriving at the event just as it started. I emailed the contact person at Microsoft, Vanessa Diaz, to let her know that we would be delayed.

It was a pleasant ride on the Mass Turnpike. The sun was coming up, the leaves were changing colors, and there was just enough of a touch of fog to make the scenery look a bit magical.  I posted a tweet from the bus and added the hashtag #BostonOrBust. Famous last words, don’t ever do that.

After a couple of hours, we were about 40 miles out from Boston and the engine temperature alarm went off again. Same alarm, different bus. We pulled over and the driver added more coolant to the engine and we headed off again. We made it almost a mile before the alarm went off again. We pulled over again and the driver called for a new bus. He was told it would take an hour and they were sending a mechanic. It was now 9:30, the starting time for the event.

I went outside and took a picture of the bus on the side of the highway and sent it to Vanessa with a message saying that my previous ETA estimate was no longer valid. She called me right back and started working on alternative plans to get us to the event. We decided that our best option was to send a couple of taxi minivans. When I gave the actual attendance count, I neglected to include myself.  I was lucky number #13.  While I was on the phone with Vanessa, the mechanic from the bus company arrived.  He started pouring more coolant into the system and putting cases of coolant into the cargo compartment of the bus.

While the mechanic was performing various coolant related activities with the bus, the taxis arrived.  Each one could take 6 people.  That’s when we figured out that while I was 93% accurate with the attendance count, it would appear that 7% percent would not have a ride.  We were facing the possibility that we would need one more taxi.  That meant at least another 20 minute delay while we waited for the additional vehicle to arrive. Fortunately, we didn’t have to execute that option.  While we had been waiting for the taxis, a Chevy Cruze had pulled up.  Another driver from the bus company got out of the car and I had assumed that he was a supervisor of some sort and I pretty much ignored him while he talked to the first driver.

As it turns out, he was another driver for the company who just happened to be driving by and he had pulled over to see if he could be of any assistance.   When he heard that we had one too many people for the taxis, he offered to drive one of us to the destination.  So I had everyone else get in the taxis and I rode with this bus driver.  He knew Boston better than the taxi drivers and gave them detailed directions to the destination.  The taxis took off and we followed in the Cruze.

Load’em up, move’em out

The taxi drivers were fun to follow as they had only a limited understanding of how traffic lights are supposed to work.  Based on other drivers that I saw in Boston, I don’t think that is a unique behavior pattern.  For reasons only known only to themselves, the taxis took a different set of directions than what the bus driver had suggested.  And when I say “different”, I mean wrong.  To their credit, they only had to make one illegal u-turn in the middle of the street to get to the right location.

When we finally arrived, the first session was over and they were in a break. Vanessa and Mary met us outside and quickly got us registered.  We found our seats and Scott Guthrie started up a demonstration of what was new in SQL Server 2017.  He mentioned that there was a user group stranded on the way in, but we shouted out that we were here.

He then spent another hour on Azure Containers and Azure Functions.  All good stuff.  I was familiar with the concept of Azure Functions, but it had never really clicked with me before on how useful they could be.  Go watch the recording of Red Shirt Dev Tour in NYC on Channel 9.  Scott and his minions covered a lot of cool things.

We had a nice lunch and we had a couple of hours more of Good Stuff.  Seriously, go watch that video.

 

Scott Guthrie doing a cognitive services demo

 

At the very end, we were brought up to the stage to meet the Man in the Red Shirt.  This was actually a really big deal as he had to leave right after the Boston event to fly to NYC for the next day’s event.  The one that I keep telling you to watch.  Scott Guthrie was very gracious and took the time to greet each one of us and then we posed for pictures.

Scott Guthrie with the Lost Bus Riders

After taking the pictures, the Microsoft event crew gave us some cool swag to take back home.  They also arranged for a better ride home.  We went back in a nice luxurious Mercedes Sprinter passenger van.  This met with the general approval of the group.

Riding home in the rich lap of luxury. It lived up to the M-B motto, “The Best or Nothing”

Despite the transportation issues on the way in, we had a good time.  It was well worth the trip and I think that everyone learned some cool stuff.  And I can not thank the Microsoft event team enough for taking care of us.  They came through and rescued us from the side of the road near exit 12 of the Mass Turnpike.  It was incredibly awesome that Microsoft provided a bus to allow us to attend the event.