Charlotte 2016 – trip report

Through sheer smart asseray and a manager who takes special care of me I managed to obtain a trip to Charlotte this week. Being a special snow flake who loves the journey and adventure I did not take the direct route; I went via Detroit. One of my coworkers who was also visiting the Charlotte site is someone I highly respect and enjoy spending time with; Mr. Mayer. Mr. Mayer drives from the shores of some lake whatever it is called north of Detroit, all the way to charlotte when he visits the site. Road trips are one of life’s great pleasures to me, and spending time with great people is something I seek out rather than avoid. It’s pretty simple math If Jeff and I are going to charlotte at the same time, and he has time to pick me up, I better go to Charlotte via Detroit.

As a bonus Jeff hired a few new people for his team who happen live near / in Detroit who were both coming down with him. I’d not spent much time Brandon or Deb before, so this was a great opportunity to meet them. 8 hours in a car with people I’ve never met? Some might be nervous, not me. I’m an optimist and I have blind Jeff. I figured Jeff hired them, so they must be great people. Bring on the adventure and road trip.

The Journey down

The flight to Detroit was a no brainer, nothing much exciting at all for me. Started the flight in a middle seat, and managed to sweet talk and trade my way into an isle seat that’s about all there is for story there. I slept for the rest of the flight. Team boss, who took the direct flight out, had more adventure them I did. Something about “is there a doctor on the plane” then flight staff trying to clean up a diabetic poosplosion a few rows in front of them with a mountain of single use sanitation napkins. Makes for a great story – Ironically something similar happened on my return flight home. Massive hurling sounds from first class cabin followed by “is here a doctor on the plane”

Jeff and crew picked me up at the airport about 40 minutes after I landed and we started bombing down the motor speedway to Charlotte. Jeff “had” a mega cab extreme massive pickup last year. Then the truck obtained the death rattle where it would start to shake the hop down the freeway until the drive died, or they managed a semi controlled stop. The manufacturer bought it back and after some horse trading the buyback became an extremely comfortable full sized Denali with all of the awesome. Pretty much felt like I was getting into a presidential motorcade when they drove up and the back of the Denali automatically opened for me. Jeff’s new people did not disappoint, they are excellent road trip company. Brandon is from Lync on the dev PM side and had a billion amazing questions about our service, which he’s moving too. I managed a bunch of questions back at Brandon about Lync to learn more things. We had fun trading knowledge.

We maintained a fairly speedy average on the drive down until we reached about 15 miles from their hotel in charlotte. Traffic stopped for the most part while we slowly passed by a semi parked in the middle of the freeway. Brandon was checking WAZE and it did not look pretty. I was thinking “why is the traffic leaving the city moving and the traffic going into the city stopped” Some odd traffic math is a-foot here and we’re not even at the circle-K. We eventually found the hotel. While Jeff and team checked in, I found team boss in the lobby hanging out. I sat down with them a bit to wait for my next driver.

Thevaos dinner

One of my core trip goals is spending time with the team. Planning to deliver on that goal, and being strait up cheap even with the company’s money – I did not ask for a hotel budget. My planning went like this: I asked Cole, can I fly to Detroit, and he said sure. Then I asked Chris if I could sleep in his guest room Monday night, and he said yes. Then I let the rest of the Charlotte team know I was coming out. That’s about the extent of my planning. Figured opportunities would present themselves and the rest would somehow happen. Much like food magic happens for me in Redmond. Monday night Chris picked me up from the hotel lobby and took me back to his place for dinner with his wife Kimberly. He rolls in a nice Ford pickup with canopy on the back filled with life essentials like fishing gear and an ice chest.

I know Chris is a talented genius and all, but I had no clue he was an unbelievably skilled cook as well. Kim made it home shortly after we did. She and I watched Chris cook what he called shaking beef. The man has a collection of Woks to cook the food in. Yes, a collection, and he can tell you where each one is better. Chris’s shaking beef was hands down the best meal I had the entire trip. Like, so good I can close my eyes now, remember what it looks like, smell it, and taste it. the meal has been added to my food spank bank. I’d love to learn to make it, but it might ruin the memory – tough call here.

The cooking, from memory, looks a bit like this — Sirloin beef in a wok with jalapeños, some cut up white onions, fish oil, sesame oil, white rice vinegar, and a pinch of salts sprinkled on all professional performance chef style. While he was filling the Wok he puts some onions in a bowl with oil and vinegar to cook; new method to me but one I’m adding to my cooking knowledge. While the beef was soaking Chris fried some white rice in sesame oil in one of woks. The rice smelled fantastic. White rice is good but this had a smell of popcorn and sesame to it that was amazing. Chris said it was oils and the Wok seasoning. Whatever it was it tasted spectacular.

Chris cooked up the beef in the Wok then we mixed it all together in bowls and ate it around the kitchen island with chop sticks. Holy moly, I ate my bowl then scraped the wok clean. It was hard to not stuff my face in the wok and lick it clean like coon dog who’s not eaten in a day. Somehow I resisted. I had a crush on Chris before, now I might be in love with this man. After foods we hung out and chatted for a bit before bed time. Oh ya, Kim baked us some cookies f022716_1754_Charlotte201.pngor desert. I’m telling ya this couple lives well.

Before bed I called the kids on Skype. Chris directed to my room for the call. Speaking to the kid was rad, but the discovery in my room was off the wall spectacular. The Thevaos family has a nick cage on a rainbow pillow case in the middle of their guest bed. Cracked me up laughing! Even better the nick cage pillow is probably one of the best pillows I’ve ever slept on. Can this place get any better? I’m not really sure, but I’d like to find out. The kids noticed the pillow in the skype call and had to check it out.

Not sure I managed to, well I guess I can work it out why I did not get any pictures of dinner because all I could think about was how amazing it was. My mind was overly consumed with joy and happy flavors and didn’t have any cycles left to think about getting a picture.

Work – Day 1 – Morning

Chris and I strutted into work and I spent some time with the front half days’ shift, Cstep and JT. We went over some stuff and caught up for a bit. Last time I was out here I stayed with JT a night or two. I work with these guys often but it’s been a few years since my last site visit. When it comes to relationships there’s not much you can do to replace face time. Chris and JT and I went down to the cafe for breakfast and met a few other coworkers in the café. Cstep was annoyed with a remote power shell session so he attached a debugger to it to see what’s happening. I love working with smart people. Bassey was there working as well and we caught up too. One of the times he came out to Redmond for a visit the millfam took him out La Push for a weekend on the Ocean. JT’s last visit he came out with Bassey we took both of them up to Mount Rainier for some snow. JT was running on maybe 2 hours of sleep out 2 days, but he powered through. Work has afforded me some exceptional relationships and adventures.


Around 11 Brad picked me up at work for some bowling at a place called revolutions. We bowled with some guys from the back half of the week for about 8 games I think. We exchanged many words about balls and life and work. The ball talk stared when they had me sniff their balls. These guys are so deep into bowling they actually have scented bowling balls. The Microsoft stay fit program supports their bowling habit as a reimbursable fitness expense. They’ve been trying to bowl every week on Tuesdays. We talked shop, houses, babies, beards, all kinds of things. It’s such a great experience spending face to face time with guys I’ve worked with for years mostly via phone and skype. I managed to break three digits every game. Around four Tre rolled me back to the office to spend some time with the swing shift. Sadly, a security thing came up and consumed most of my night. I owe these guys some more love soon.

Brad went back home to obtain his wife then they picked me up from work and we found a Mexican place for dinner. Food was Good, but no Thevaos cooking. We went back to Brads place on the lake for a tour and some talky time around what might be the best tequila I ever had. It’s an in Mexican brand extra anejo dark tequila with a sweet dark rum flavor to it. We sipped a few shots before calling it a night. Sipped because you don’t shoot something that tastes this amazing. Brad has a washroom down stairs with a zombie theme. They took thick red paint and splashed it across paintings and the shower curtain to look like blood – Kev approved.

Brad and Tre talking about “bowling” things. The little pad next to the tape on the table is a scented finger dryer thing.

Mmmm – AMAZING tequila

Hack day

Wednesday team boss booked as a hack-a-thon day for the entire team. Score, time in the same room with everyone at the site. For the hack day we came up with ideas and projects to work on. Then broke out into smaller teams and worked at solved some problems all day long. I might have roamed around the room a bit and sat with all of the teams to hang out and vanished for a bit to interview someone. Might have, no one can prove it. I also might have broken into the room and let everyone in because the doors were all locked. Again nothing anyone could prove or that I’d admit too. After the hack day the team moved the bonding to a bowling place down the street for some chicken and waffles and meat balls. We spent the evening there hanging out, cigars were smoked, drinks were bought with coupons, stories were told and shuffle board was played.

Further solidifying my man crush, Thevaos busts out a tactical black cigar case and mini blow torch. After smoking outside in an annoying wind storm we went inside for the shuffle board. Shuffle board is fun; I’m thinking we’ll need one in the loft of the bedroom wing once we finish it, and the kids are old enough to not lick the dirt off of the board.

House Mally

After morale event dinner with the team, Mally took me home for some nap time. We hung out and caught up for a bit then went to bed around midnight. I’ve stayed with Mally before on other trips out here. He’s running a Mercedes 2 seat convertible that might have broken 100 on the way home. Not sure. It did have a heater in the seat that blew warm air on neck; nice feature. We woke up around 4:00am and were in the office before 5. We stopped at a Hardy’s on the way in to quench my CFS biscuit breakfast craving. There might be a biscuit obsession on this coast. On the drive to and from Detroit we were county a place called biscuit world we never managed to stop at.

Back half team

Pretty sure we’ve made it to Thursday now and it’s my day to spend with the back half teams. We started the day with a few hours in a conference room covering reSearch and source code exploration. Before it was time for second breakfast down stairs in the Cafe. Then I hung out with the shift and we worked on some issues; more bonding time. I love bonding time. Around 1 we had a few hours of meetings followed by me training swings on the same thing the morning shift got. Spent a few more hours with the teams then Mally and I went back to his place for dinner and rest. Was planning on staying with Palliser Thursday night but his kids were a germ based mess so we changed those planes. Something about the croup and coughing and what not.

The back half swings shift is the one I work with the most, and most of them I’ve not had much or any face time with at all. Big trip high light for me to put faces to names, and fist bump some Bob power!!

Drive time Home.

Team Mayer has been watching the weather and there is snow in Detroit and it appears to be falling between here and there. Mayer decided we should drive all night towards Detroit to avoid being snowed in. Mayer texted shortly after we made it home to Mallys house to let me know about the plans. We agreed on leaving around eight. Mally and I had Just enough time for dinner with the Mally family before headed back to the hotel to drive home. Which brings us to now. Sitting in the back of brand new Denali typing a trip report on my phone to help me stay awake for morale support.

The drive home was not too bad at all. Looking at the Doppler on our cellphones we were racing the snow fall. We’d stop and the snow would catch up with us for a bit then we’d get back on the road and eventually we’d pass the snow line and the roads would be dry. Mayer picked the perfect time to leave; impressive planning. I was texting Michelle on the way and she managed to get me booked standby on an earlier flight. Instead of leaving at 20:30 I left Detroit at 8:30. I was getting nervous because I did not have a set seat on the plane. I was next on the stand by list until the flight started boarding. Teela Brown was on my side and I made it onto the flight. I slept on and off on the flight and managed to talk the flight attendant out of about 10 packs of Biscoff cookies; Love things.

Made it home in time to surprise the kids. They were out being picked up from school when I drove in, and they did not notice the car. Momma told them there was a surprise. I hid in our room and said random words while they were looking for the surprise until they heard me and snuggle tackled me. It’s good to be home.

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