Plans Change and That’s OK

As we approach Christmas and the new year – this this past year has been an exercise in flexibility; planning ahead and going with the flow. When we set-out on our adventure on October 1, we had meticulously planned our route and made several reservations. Along the way, we’ve met several full-time RV dwellers who have been living on the road for years. We are relatively new to the nomad lifestyle but have made enough vacation-length trips in previous rigs to be adequately prepared. The plan was to make 25 stops between Southwest Washington and points in Florida. We made it to 20 different places before an urgent family issue came up, causing us to alter our plans. We’re near the ocean, as planned. It’s just the Pacific rather than the Atlantic.

We took six weeks to travel from Vancouver, Washington to Orlando, Florida; and then six days from Orlando to Los Angeles. We spent Thanksgiving Day eating smoked turkey from Rudy’s Barbeque somewhere between Stockton, Texas and Deming, New Mexico. We didn’t have big plans for the holiday, but it was more extemporaneous than originally imagined.

Following a tech conference in Orlando, we were looking forward to visiting several colleagues in Florida, not to mention the week-long stay at Cape Canaveral to watch a space launch. When life gives you lemons, you make a lemon meringue pie!

Next Destination

Plans are still in flux. The awesome thing about being mobile is that you don’t really have to have a long-term plan. We’re in L.A. now. There is a lot to see and do, but this place is crowded and expensive. We’re headed up the California coast in a few weeks but have no plans after that – but we’re on the hunt for a house with property to spend either summers or winters in a place we can call “home base” and travel from.

Lessons Learned about Planning and Not Planning

In most areas of the country, you can get an RV park or state park reservation on short notice as long as that place is not anywhere in Florida during the winter. Most of the older and smaller RV parks don’t have sophisticated web site and reservation systems, as most are managed by resident retirees working from their motorhomes with a laptop. Reservations were easy to find in Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia. Calling Florida parks in August, we were only finding short-term availability at most parks that weren’t completely booked-up for the season. Some of the reservations we had were for crowded sites with limited hook-ups. One of our month-long reservations in Jacksonville had us moving the rig three times due to limited site availability. When I started calling Florida parks in July, there were a lot of openings for January-March. But when I called back in August, most were gone. This may have been related to news about the Canadian border re-opening after COVID lock-down along with the seasonal retiree migration. Either way, we learned to plan ahead when headed to popular spots like Florida.

Boondocking and Moochdocking

It isn’t hard to find a spot in most regions to park the rig for the night, but you can’t always control your surroundings. The recent increase in homeless populations has changed the boondocking game in more populated areas. Not long ago, you could pull into any rest area or Walmart parking lot and stay the night, but this isn’t an option everywhere you go.

Harvest Host is a great service for those who like a little adventure when stopping for a day or two while en route to a destination. We had joined both Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome before they merged into one service. For a reasonable membership fee, you can request to stay on private property. Most hosts are farms, vineyards and historic museums. We had some very peaceful stop-overs like the Vermillionville plantation in Lafayette, Louisiana and we met some great hosts like Barry in northern Florida. We also “moochdocked” with a few family members and friends who had space to park the rig on their property for a day or two. True boondocking is typically when you go off-grid and live complete self-contained. I made a point to upgrade to longer-lasting Lithium-Ion house batteries and install a directional LTE antenna. Although good investments, we have only used them for short stays. A class-A diesel-pusher like the Tiffin Allegro RED Data Bus is not an ideal vehicle for the kind of off-road boondocking that most 4-wheel drive Sprinter Van owners pursue.

Even though plans have changed, we’re still enjoying being on the road and having the freedom to travel and take care of business. Working from the road continues to go well. Connectivity is good and our living space is comfortable and adequate.


Chat with Bob Ward in Orlando

During the Live! 360 conference in Orlando, I had this chat with Bob Ward, SQL Server veteran of 28 years and Senior Architect with Microsoft. Bob is the author of several books, a frequent keynote conference speaker and industry-leading SQL Server expert. He shared his insights about work/life balance and learnings about how to thrive in a remote work environment.

Live! 360 was the first in-person Microsoft data community conference I have attended since the start of the pandemic. The organizers were extra-cautious with proof of vaccination and COVID testing at the event. Attendees, speakers and exhibitors wore masks. With several industry headliners who travelled from all over the country to present, it was clear that we were all ready to get back to spending real face time time together.

See all of the interviews at DataOnTheRoad.blog

Aren’t you on the wrong coast?

Yes. Our plans changed. We had planned to stay in Florida for at least the winter, and possibly into early Spring. But plans have changed and that’s the thing that is so great about being mobile… we can also be flexible while being productive from the road. The short version of the story is that our daughter had some unexpected medical issues and needed support from Mom and Dad. She lives in Studio City, near Los Angeles. We stayed at a park in Northridge, which is in the San Fernando Valley north of LA, in December through early January. I worked from the DataBus while Sherri helped with medical appointments and other logistics. Everything’s good with the girl now so we decided to head out of the city to the California central coast.

We’re now staying a block from the ocean shore, right on the border of Grover Beach and Pismo Beach. I’m sitting outside under clear blue sky in 70-degree weather listening to the ocean roar in January! Our Internet service continues to be great from the bus. I work daily from 6 to 3 for a client on Central Time. We walk the dogs on the beach every day, ride bikes and explore in the evenings and weekends. It’s a five-minute walk to a 9-hole golf course where we lost nine balls yesterday. We were about 20 over par but we had a great time. There is a grove of trees two blocks away where tens of thousands of Monarch Butterflies return every winter. I have been trying to capture the perfect sunset over the ocean on time-lapsed video and still working on that. Here are a few shots of the sunset from near our spot.

With all that is going on lately, on I don’t have in-person speaking engagements coming up but do continue to present remotely for user groups, and you can find those presentations on my tech blog at SqlServerBi.blog/presentations. More soon!

Buck Woody Interview in Orlando

One of the most recognizable members of the Microsoft data community and one of my heros, Buck Woody has been teaching and presenting at conferences for the past 16 years while holding leadership positions at Microsoft. He is a mentor to many, frequently sharing advice and pearls of wisdom. We chatted at the Live! 360 conference at Universal, Orlando.

If you haven’t attended a conference and heard Buck speak, you must. Not only entertaining but he shares insights that that only he can from a unique perspective. Buck truly believes is mantra, that “smarter people are better people and that everyone can be smarter”. He’s on a mission to educate the community about building skills, working smart, finding happiness and balance in life by enjoying what you do and doing what you’re good at. His presentations often employ role-playing, dress-up, object lessons, story telling and sometimes just goofy humor followed by a serious and meaningful learning experience. But is also one of the most public Microsoft figures in social media (@BuckWoodyMSFT) and I always look forward to his witty posts.

See all of the interviews at DataOnTheRoad.blog

An Interview from The Cube, with Adam Saxton

Seven years ago Adam Saxton started recording short video presentations from his cubical at the Microsoft Technology Center in Las Colinas, Texas. Branded as “Guy In A Cube”, he shared his learnings as a Customer Support Senior Escalation Engineer. Teaming up with colleague, Patrick Leblanc, they now have a YouTube following of about a quarter million subscribers. They have a series of training classes and a weekly cadence of high-quality, informative and entertaining “how-to” videos on every imaginable topic related to getting the most from Power BI. Every Saturday morning at 9:30 AM Central Time, they broadcast an interactive Power BI livestream Q&A session on YouTube.

When I told Adam that we were coming through the Houston area in the Data Bus, he and his wife Crystal invited Sherri and I stay and to join the Saturday morning Power BI livestream. What a great experience to spend the weekend with with their wonderful family of four humans, six dogs and a sheep named Wilson. Adam grills a mean steak and we watched the premiere of Dune in the theater room.

Adam loves to give back to the community. Spending time with him, you quickly understand two things about him: he loves tech and toys and he genuinely wants to help people learn. OK, maybe there is a third thing… that there is only one Adam, and that’s the real Adam. There is no front, no facade. He is very transparent about who he is, what he does and why. He talks about his mentors and heros, and why he loves what he does – personally and professionally… two worlds that overlap in many ways.

He talks about how he got started in the early days of his career on the Microsoft help desk as a Senior Escalation Engineer, his mentors, and becoming and one of the most recognized Microsoft community leaders in the world. He shares his love for tech, family, video, problem-solving, helping others, giving back and paying forward.

See all of the interviews at DataOnTheRoad.blog

Outrunning Tornados

Quick update from the road. We are in Vaiden, Mississippi, on the way to Red Bay, Alabama. After arriving in Lafayette, Louisiana later then expected, high winds and tornados were predicted for the region so we headed out early the next morning and Sherri literally outran the storm. Quick update from the road. We are in Vaiden, Mississippi, on the way to Red Bay, Alabama. After arriving in Lafayette, Louisiana later then expected, high winds and tornados were predicted for the region so we headed out early the next morning and Sherri literally outran the storm. We had driven through this stretch of I-10 the night before. This is pretty exciting stuff for a couple from the PNW, unaccustomed to tornados and hurricanes (headed for Florida).

We stayed on the Vermillionville museum property in Vermillion District of Lafayette. This was a great Harvest Hosts location with a large secluded parking area, situated among the bayou, alligator ponds and 150 year old plantation homes. We regret the we had to leave in the morning before enjoying a real Cajun meal at the restaurant, but we didn’t to test the bus in tornado conditions.

We enjoyed spending an evening in downtown Houston after two days up in Conroe where we were hosted by the Saxton family. We can’t thank Crystal and Adam enough for their hospitality and sharing their family time with us. We enjoyed the premier of Dune in the theater room, which looked and sounded bigger and better than most luxury cinemas. We shared an awesome steak dinner with the family, 6 dogs and the new family sheep, Wilson.

Next stop is Red Bay, Alabama where we are joining the pilgrimage of Tiffin owners to have the bus serviced and upgraded. Although we’ve heard a lot of stories about this unique experience, we really don’t know what to expect.

Guy In A Cube Power BI Livestream

I just wanted to give a big big Thank You to Adam Saxton and Patrick Leblanc at GuyInACube.com for inviting me to participate in the Power BI Livestream yesterday. It was a blast and an honor to be hang with you the Saxton clan (even the sheep and the great dane!). You can watch the replay for the Saturday morning YouTube livestream here:

I’m trying to minimize crossposting between the my long-time blog, SQLServerBI.blog and DataOnTheRoad.blog, but we are still getting started and just wanted to make sure you all got the word. Please subscribe to DataOnTheRoad.blog if you are interested in following the data community leader interviews along our journey in the Data Bus. Regular technical blog posts and videos will be on SqlServerBI.blog.

Here are a few quick shots from yesterday. Interviews with Adam will follow in the next few days.

Interview on the Road with Andie Letourneau

This is our first community leader interview on the road after setting sail for the south. Andie Letourneau is a tenured data professional who has worked with SQL Server “since it was just a baby”, in her own words. Today she develops data solutions using several Azure-born tools. She is speaking at the PASS Virtual Summit on November 11 on “Hitting the Bricks with Azure Databricks“.

She talks about her passion for clothing and wine, and enjoying desert life north of Phoenix, Arizona where we spent a few days with she and her husband, Guy, a patent consultant with a rich background in mechanical engineering. Andie and I were scheduled to deliver a session on Power BI activity monitoring at Phoenix SQL Saturday in 2020, for which she made us matching “cloud” shirts to celebrate Azure and cloud solutions. In her early career, much of her work was focused on managing, debugging, & customizing CRM and accounting software as well as integrating disparate systems. She enjoys creating elegant T-SQL code to solve complex problems and simplify business processes. Recently, she’s been focused on Power BI and Databricks. She’s a life-long learner and has attended numerous SQL conferences and training events over the years. The PASS Virtual Summit is free to attend online. After signing up, you will find Andie’s session here.

Andie and I work together at 3Cloud Solutions in the Data and Analytics team. We also met up and spent the morning with our colleague and 3Cloud team Director, Kathy Vick, who shares her story in an interview to be posted soon.

see all the interviews and posts as we travel in the Data Bus

Finally Out There! – Idaho, Utah & Arizona

We’ve been on the road for a week. After leaving Vancouver, Washington for a cross-country trek through the Southwest and Southern US, our destination on this leg of the journey is the Orlando Live! conference in Florida in mid November. Stops will include Phoenix, Albuquerque, Lubbock, Dallas, Houston, Lafayette, Vaiden MS, Red Bay AL, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Orlando. We moved into the Data Bus from the house in Ridgefield, Washington back in May and staying at an RV park for the past five months, wrapping things up at “home” and preparing for this trip. It’s good to finally be on the road.

All of the videos and interviews we do along the way will be posted on the main page at DataOnTheRoad.blog. Subscribe to the blog and watch for frequent updates.

We’ve made stops in Idaho and Utah before spending three nights in Page, Arizona. Sherri graduated from Page High School in the 80s and has friends in this little town situated on a plateau overlooking Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River as it flows into the Grand Canyon. Page sits on the Northern Arizona border with Utah, and is surrounded by majestic red cliffs, mesas and huge monument rocks that form an indescribably impressive desert landscape.

Her are a few shots from our trip so far, from Idaho and northern Arizona. We just arrived in Phoenix where we’re meeting up with friends and my 3Cloud colleagues, Andie and Guy Letourneau, and Kathy and Ed Vick. Watch this blog for interviews with them and others as we continue eastward to catch-up with others in the data community.

Going On The Road – Fall & Winter 2021

On this first leg of the Data Bus journey, we are heading to Florida from our soon-to-be former home in Vancouver, Washington. We plan to meet up with colleagues, data community leaders and user groups along the way. We’re just getting started on this grand adventure so we welcome your comments below this post. Can’t promise to meet everyone or to attend every event, but please post your comments below this post. Also, let us know if you have advice about places to visit. We’re also being respectful and mindful of social distancing, meeting outdoors where possible.

Red Bay, AL10/28/21 – ?
Atlanta11/3/21 – 11/6/21
Orlando11/14/21 – 11/20/21
Jacksonville, FL11/29/21 – 12/29/21
Cape Canaveral1/2/22 – 1/9/22