Wednesday, June 01, 2005

USA April 2005

April 2005 saw my first overseas journey - to the USA. The trip lasted two weeks, and took in southern California, Las Vegas and central and east Texas. The original purpose for the journey was to attend a ham radio conference in Las Vegas. I built an entire holiday around this, and also got to attend a second meeting the following weekend in Nacogdoches in eastern Texas. The weeks in between were spent catching up with online and radio friends.

I arrived in Los Angeles on April 12 and was met by 2 friends at the airport. The next few days were spent touring around the San Diego area, where I met up with one of the locals who also happens to be autistic. Also got to meet the local naturist folks, as well as visit a resort a couple of hours out of San Diego.

Next came the road trip to Las Vegas. After a delayed start, I experienced my first US style traffic jam on the freeway just east of LA, which made us a bit late for a dinner that was arranged in Vegas. We did make it in time to eat, however. But the "day of disasters" didn't end there. Just as we were about to head off to bed, the toilet in the hotel room became clogged and we had to wait for a plumber to come up and fix it. That provided some time for some good old fashioned heart to heart conversation. The plumber did fix the problem a bit after 2 AM, but by then the conversation had become entrenched, and we ended up talking until about 4:30(!). Somehow I managed to drag myself out of bed at 7AM for a 7:30 breakfast... ;-)

With "Black Friday" behind me (no, it wasn't the 13th, but maybe the IRS and tax deadlines had something to do with it.... ), the conference went well, and I ended up giving two presentations - one planned, and one impromptu on various aspects of ham radio and VoIP technology. I also met many friends with whom I had only spoken to on air or corresponded with via email/IM. Vegas itself was an eye opener, though for someone on the spectrum like me, it's more than a bit overstimulating. Lucky I've long known how to manage sensory overload...

From Vegas, I flew to Austin, Texas to meet up with some more ham radio friends. I had previously met this couple on their Aussie holiday in early 2004, as well as frequent IM, email and ham radio contacts since early 2003. Got to see quite a bit of the scenery around Austin, as well as 2 days operating ham radio from a naturist resort (hmm, so I barely made contact? ;) ), and also took in the beauty of the local wildflowers at the wildflower gardens in Austin.

The next Friday was the day where anything could have gone wrong. It was to be a 4 way meetup at Houston (Bush) Airport with some other hams from the eastern states, then a 2 hour drive to Nacogdoches. While waiting on the tarmac at Austin, the pilot announced a short delay due to a technical hitch, and it looked as though Murphy would have his day - but no, it wasn't to be. Although I arrived 10 minutes late at Houston, everyone else made it on time and the meetup went without a hitch. After a lovely lunch of catfish and crawfish (mmm, must go back over for more!), we hit the road and headed for Nacogdoches.

The weekend in Nacogdoches could be described like a family reunion. Most of us hadn't met in person before, but we have worked very closely on air for well over a year providing emergency communications (yes, these days, I can do a LOT from down here!). The weekend ended up being a productive planning meeting, as well as a time to really get to know each other. As a matter of fact, a couple of the participants had been peeking on Google and found out a bit more about me, which brought us closer together...

On the Sunday, we headed back to Houston, and I flew back to Austin for a final night, before starting the long 30 hour journey home, via El Paso, Los Angeles and Auckland, before arriving back in Melbourne on the morning of the 27th.

All in all, the USA holiday brought out the best in the people I met, and I had a great time, although some serious issues were brewing back home...


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