Yesterday, I was driving home from a three-day work conference in Sioux Falls, and thought, damn…I’ve made a LOT of trips across South Dakota this year. A quick bit of mental arithmetic later, I realized this was the seventh time I’ve made the 693-mile roundtrip drive between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in a little over six months.
Holy crap. That’s a lot of driving across a state where there isn’t a whole lot to see between here and there. Once the Black Hills fade into the rearview mirror, you’ve got the Badlands and the Missouri River and…umm…a few giant wind turbines in Aurora County? Otherwise, just a lot of farmland and prairie. And tumbleweeds blowing across the interstate when it’s windy, as they were yesterday. Because it’s always windy when I’m making that drive. And worse, it’s always a headwind.
Take the conference. Please. (Haha…okay, I wasn’t super keen on going, but a lot of that had to do with the 6 a.m. departure time on Wednesday plus the constant go-go-go that is par for the course with these types of events.) My supervisor and I were on the road long before the sun came up. The benefit of that? We got to see the sun come up, and it put on a brilliant show. We arrived at the hotel about 45 minutes before the conference started, which gave us time to check into our rooms and mentally prepare for the excitement of three days worth of telecommunications presentations.
You’re jealous. I can tell.
Actually, for the most part, the conference was interesting and informative. I daresay even a bit entertaining at times. The highlight had to have been our offsite trip to a liquor store. I wasn’t sure what that had to do with our industry, but the owner talked about how, as an independent small business owner, he went toe-to-toe with a bigger corporate conglomerate that set up shop on his home turf just two miles away. Which is totally relevant to a situation CenturyCo (and some of the other telecoms attending the conference) are facing. And then, we got a bourbon and wine tasting. Event planners, here’s a tip: free alcohol is the secret to making an otherwise stuffy conference exciting.
Both nights there were offsite networking events, though I missed the first one because I had to drive 30 minutes north to Dell Rapids to interview a coffee shop owner for an upcoming article. We were supposed to meet during my business trip to Hartford the previous week (a/k/a my sixth trek across the state), but he’d had to cancel. When he asked if I might happen to be in town this week instead, I said, as a matter of fact I would be. So, the timing worked out well.
I didn’t want to hit golf balls off a third-story climate-controlled bay anyway.
While the hotel was a little dated, it was located in the heart of downtown, right on the main drag and within easy walking distance of restaurants, bars, shops, and both the Arc of Dreams and Falls Park — Sioux Falls’ biggest claims to fame. The AofD is…well, I’ll let them tell you:
A stainless steel sculpture that spans the Big Sioux River downtown nearly the length of a football field. At the center is a 15-foot gap, 85 feet above the river, representing the leap of faith dreamers take to see their dreams come true.
They light it up at night and there are many different color combinations. It’s very impressive to see.
Even though it was dark and foggy and cold both mornings, I dutifully got up at 5 a.m. and walked through Falls Park both days.
Interestingly, they are already prepping the park for the holiday season.
Conferences like this are always exhausting, just because there is so much going on. I was more than ready to come home yesterday. I left Sioux Falls at 11:20 Central time and got back to the office at 4:05 Mountain time. Transferred all my stuff from the company vehicle to my car, returned the keys, and an hour later I was kicking back on my recliner, beer in hand and cat on lap.