Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tails of Dragons, Plates of Gumbo and Streets of Bourbon

Like-thinking people tend to flock together, forming clubs and associations. In the past we have been involved with computer user groups and served on their boards as volunteers. We have chaired Program committees, and Richard led Regional User Groups’ (RUGs) development programs while I chaired the Finance Committee.

Yes, there is a pattern here … RUGs development involved travelling around the world and a lot of socializing, while the Finance Committee job involved a lot of lengthy spreadsheets and analysis of revenues and expenses. I see it as fluff and stuff, and I am sticking with this view.

We have also been members of car clubs – again what took us there was a passion for a particular vehicle and an opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. For many of us, and for various reasons, we join associations and therefore there is the huge business of association management, and the professionals managing associations have their own association, ASAE – the American Society of Association Executives.
If you go to the ASAE web page and look at “who we are” you will read: “ASAE represents more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations. Our members manage leading trade associations, individual membership societies and voluntary organizations across the United States and in nearly 50 countries around the world.”

As all associations do, ASAE has its annual conference, which this year was held in Atlanta, GA. As an association professional, of course I was planning to attend this meeting. Its location opened the door to another adventure and gave us the opportunity to travel roads we know and like as well as new ones!
Richard is the Chief Adventure Planner in our family, so off he went to draw a route for us with exciting stops along the way. This time we took our Nissan GT-R, after all GT stands for Grand Tourer, and the less said about the R, the better.

Our first exciting stop on the way to Atlanta was Bowling Green, KT, where the Corvette factory and museum are located. National Corvette Museum is an incredible place, and we spent quite a few hours looking at Corvettes of all colors and ages. Here I am, sitting in front of the Museum awaiting the opening of its doors – we arrived early to have time to see it all.
The displays were pretty spectacular; I took a snap shot of one that I particularly liked:
We then proceeded to drive on a road we drove once before, the Tail of the Dragon (Hwy 129), this time driving west to east. Last time we drove in the opposite direction, which does not give you as many great views, and we were driving the heavy Escalade.  Taking the turns in the Nissan GT-R, and there are so many on this road, was so much better than last time [See October 28, 2011, Taming the Dragon? ] Yes, let’s be honest, last time Richard was driving, and this time I took the wheel, so that may have something to do with me liking it so much better J

Here I am, at the Deals Gap again, having completed the drive without any incidents.
So, the purpose of this trip was to actually attend the conference and spend some time with the people from my organization, ACRM – the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, who were also attending the event. The expo floor was split between hospitality industry representatives who were promoting  their locations and facilities and providers of tools and technologies that help with the management of associations. The intent of the hospitality industry representatives was to encourage the attendees to book their future conferences with them.

As our next stop on the adventure tour was New Orleans, we stopped by the New Orleans booth to see what it had to offer. ACRM was thinking about considering New Orleans for our annual conference, and I was curious if it really recovered from hurricane Katrina. The booth proved to be among the biggest of the cities represented and lived up to the New Orleans image, complete with live entertainment!
 Shortly after visiting this booth, we were off to the real New Orleans for Gumbo and Bourbon … Here I am on the corner of Orleans and Bourbon streets, perhaps the most famous intersection in the French Quarter – and yes, it was oppressively hot!
However, before we arrived in New Orleans, we overnighted on the Gulf, just outside Mobile, Alabama, where rebuilding after recent hurricanes was still in evidence. Groups of new resorts surrounded by sections of vacant land – they have a long way to go before fully recovering from all the storms.

Visiting New Orleans’ live entertainment venues proved a tad disappointing – the music was more modern rock than the expected jazz and blues, but it was fun all the same. Bourbon Street closed to traffic at night to allow for street performances – Richard plans to write about the most exciting street performer in his next post to the Nonstop community blog, Real Time View, so I will skip that part.

I have to admit that I now totally get the song by Jimmy Buffet, “I will play for Gumbo”. What a great dish, and one of the places where we went for lunch served a particularly delicious version of this New Orleans specialty!
Here is a picture from the New Orleans bar:


Unfortunately, I did not feel that New Orleans would be a good venue for the ACRM conference; while the French Quarter recovered nicely, the areas outside this little touristy spot were not inviting, and there is much work that needs to happen before the town returns to its former glory.

We took a route back home via Dallas, where we met with our friend from ACI, Carla Hughes, and her family – the girls have grown so much; if we did not keep up on Facebook I would not believe it!

Finally, the Nissan GT-R made it back into the garage, none the worse for wear. Did it prove itself as a Grand Tourer with or without the R? Well the short answer from my perspective is that while this car is proving popular with the young street racers around the world, for me, it is almost the perfect tourer as it can drive almost anywhere, on any roads, in any conditions.

Labor Day weekend is approaching and we are taking off in our Viper this time, roof down We will try to spot the first signs of fall and  see if the leaves are changing. Also, let’s be honest, we need to check if Colorado peaches are still as delicious as I recall from last year …

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