Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Charlotte, North Carolina

I returned late last night from a business trip to Charlotte to visit a customer. I was providing in depth technical support for a discussion around model management, one of my areas of expertise.

This was a heavy working trip, and the entire eastern seaboard is socked in with deep gray skies, so no images. I brought the G10, but without a strong enticement (i.e. bright blue skies) there was no way I was going to carry that cam everywhere. Obviously, had the F70EXR been in my pocket, I would have captured many images of the details of the trip and the surrounding countryside from the plane. That is exactly why I own that camera ...

Anyway ... on to the trip itself.

Unlike the ill-fated trip down to San Antonio, this one was perfectly smooth and efficient. Fly to Toronto, clear customs, wait to board and off we go. In Toronto, I grabbed lunch at the Molson Bar, the only sit down place I could find. They had 7 televisions within my vision, and all had a nasty streak on them as if the LCD crystals had failed. I asked about it and the waitress said that the TVs had been on for 24 hours a day since 2004 ... wow.

I flew to Charlotte in a tiny Canadair 100, which is a cigar tube with itty bitty engines. A small interior, but a beautiful flying airplane. As we got below the clouds on approach, I was shocked at how lush the area is. It is wall to wall trees with few open area. Looks a little like England and New England.

We flew in (and later out) over Lake Norman of Catabwa and the smaller Mountain Island Lake just south of Norman and north of Charlotte, and I could not help but feel that this must be a truly serene place to spend any time. Utterly spectacular. Here, you can see how close the lakes are to the city, and how treed the surrounding area is. But this does not come close to capturing the beauty of the area.

I arrived Sunday night at 6pm, Nick (my traveling companion from Houston, had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. We eventually connected and grabbed a taxi downtown to the Holiday Inn City Center. Nice Hotel, very inexpensive, the rooms are a little plain. The area is very nice, although a little dead on a Sunday night. There was a catechism at a local church that was attracting dozens of well-dressed people though.

We eventually settled on a decent local restaurant, whose name I have totally forgotten. The food was nice.

Monday was a full working day at our offices, which meant a fairly long taxi ride. We spent the day with Nick presenting and me providing support when questions came up. Monday night included dinner with the customer, including numerous people from related teams. Very interesting mix of people and quite fun to hear discussions of good or bad locations to live within the US. Charlotte is one of the better locations it sounded like. Texas is great (no state tax) but has high property taxes. Something that drives people to move to Colorado (for example) when they retire.

Anyway ... the dinner was at a really terrific place called Flemings. I can say that this was probably the best steak of my life ... blackened, at least an inch thick and tender and juicy beyond description. They serve appetizers and side dishes family style, and those are terrific. Can't say enough about the place ... try it if you can.

We adjourned to a sports bar that allows cigars (until January when the no smoking laws go into effect) so my friend Nick and one of the customers could light up. We sat around and watched the Packers lose to Minnesota in a place where the walls were literally covered in televisions. The two projectors on each end were something to see.

Tuesday was spent with me doing most of the presenting and demo, followed by several hours with the customer on their system. We helped set up an environment for them using our wonderful Jazz platform (look it up at ... and had a lot of fun doing it.

At 4 it was time to blast off to the airport again ... and I basically was in travel status for the next 8 hours ... getting home around midnight. That's a long day ...

Charlotte is lovely, and very friendly. I can't tell you how many times someone said "sir" or "ma'am" while I was there. The food is fantastic and I enjoyed my limited exposure to the night life.

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