AWS Road Trip

14 User Groups, 5500 Miles, One Evangelist

Day 18 - San Francisco to Medford

Whew! Today was that day I had been dreading – way too much traffic and a lot of night driving.

I woke up in San Francisco and prepared for a private meeting. The organizers sent a nice sedan and drive to pick me up. The view from their 25th floor office was spectacular:


Another View

I spent an hour answering all sorts of AWS tech questions for this group. The driver picked me up and took me back to my hotel, where I checked out and then taxi’ed over to the main event for the day, my AWS presentation at the headquarters of Boundary. I accidentally gave the driver the wrong address, omitting the leading thousands digit. Fortunately I noticed this before leaving the taxi and he took me to the right address with no further confusion.

I met up with Gary Houston and Loretta Lowe of Boundary and got ready to speak.

Boundary Office

Boundary’s Cliff Moon introduced me:

Here's Jeff

The session went well, with plenty of good questions. Time was limited so I used a slightly shorter presentation and talked even faster than usual.

I returned to my hotel to fetch my luggage and my car, and settled in for what I thought would be a relatively easy 5 or 6 hour afternoon drive to Medford (Oregon). I figured that the “escape” from San Francisco would be the most challenging, and that the rest would be a piece of cake. Little did I know how wrong that would prove to be.

Here’s the video of my departure from San Francisco:

Traffic started to build shortly after I turned the camera off. Four hours in to my trip, I had driven just 96 miles. I spent an entire hour creeping along at 2-4 MPH. I tried to find an alternate route using Waze but all options were equally bad:

I pulled off at the next exit, got some gas, and spent an hour or so walking around a mall. By the time I got out, traffic was moving at 15-20 MPH, so I set out for Medford. It was past 6:30 PM and I still had 300 miles to drive.

I hit the 5000 mile mark shortly before arriving in Medford (rest assured that I pulled off of the road and stopped the car in order to take this picture):

5000 Miles

I drank lots of water and played lots of music to stay alert, and ultimately pulled in to the Red Lion Hotel of Medford at around 11:45 PM. The front desk clerk gave me a very nice suite, further enhanced with some water, juice, fresh fruit, crackers, and cheese left for me by the guest services manager.

I finalized a late-night blog post and hit the sack at 1:20 AM, with the alarm set for 6:15, sleeping like a hibernating bear in-between.

  • Total miles for the day: 358.5

Day 17 - Santa Barbara / San Jose / San Francisco

I was up at 4:30 AM, out of the hotel at 5:15, and dropped Carmen off at the Santa Barbara Airport at 5:30. She flew home to Seattle via an indirect route that took her through Phoenix.

I took a short walk to see the beach and to rest up for the day to come:

Santa Barbara Dolphins

While waiting to receive her text to signify her arrival in Phoenix, I sat at my laptop and worked on blog posts and other items. With no warning, the building shook from side to side and every structural joint in the room groaned under the stress. At first I thought that a truck had hit the building, but quickly realized that I had just experienced my first earthquake! The USGS reported that this quake was of magnitude 4.8.


After confirming that Carmen had arrived in Phoenix, I packed up and started the drive to San Jose for my talk at Adobe. My route took me over the mountains on Highway 154 and climbed from sea level to 2000 feet in less than 15 minutes. You can see this quite vividly on my departure video:

The drive to San Jose was smooth. I was feeling tired at one point and pulled off to take a short and refreshing nap. I arrived at Adobe’s headquarters building and checked in with my host, John Martinez. John gave me a tour of the three-building complex and gave me some time to relax and prepare. I was feeling tired and was apprehensive about the event, but I solderied on and things turned out fine.

Here’s my view from the podium before the crowd arrived:

Adobe Talk Podium View

And here’s the AWS Swag pile:

AWS Swag

Here’s what the audience saw (picture courtesy of John Martinez’ Twitter Stream):

AWS Talk San Jose

My colleagues John Reif, Todd Varland, Scott Liska, Mohan Vedula, and Apolak Borthakor were on hand to help out and I appreciate their efforts to keep the crowd under control.

The Q&A was intense, as always. Oddly, none of the “big three” items came up at this meeting.

I should note that I have been fine tuning my presentation for each group, adding, subtracting, or changing content each day in response to questions and to my perception of how well the message got across. I am now on version 9 of my deck.

After wrapping things up, I headed back to my car and drove another 50 miles to San Francisco, arriving at the Sir Francis Drake hotel at about 10:30, utterly consumed by the day. Here’s my arrival video:

And here’s the MapBox:

I have a private talk tomorrow morning, a lunch talk after that, and then a 360 mile drive to Medford, Oregon. This is a waypoint on the road to Portland, where I’ll speak Friday afternoon.

  • Miles Driven: 327.8

Day 16 - Santa Barbara

I spent the day cleaning up my presentation. Late in the afternoon I headed over to the Workzones office and got set up.

Santa Barbara AWS 1

Santa Barbara AWS 2

AWS Solutions Architects Miles Ward and Simon Plant helped out with some of the more esoteric questions. My colleagues Dave Schappell and Ryan Cox were also very helpful. I am happy that all of them were at the event.

After things quieted down, Jeff Simeon demonstrated his Birdeez app to me on an iPad. As someone who owns and constantly restocks four bird feeders, this app was of interest to me. It helps the user to identify birds that they see by size, shape, and color.

The event was a big success thanks to the efforts by Hannah Anderson, Garrett Holmstrom, and Kyo Lee.

I did very little driving today, but here’s my MapBox:

Tomorow I will drive to San Jose, speak at the AWS User Group, and then head up to San Francisco to spend the night. I have two early presentations there.

Day 15 - Las Vegas to Santa Barbara

We woke up early, packed, filled our water bottles, and said goodbye to the LVH, setting our course for Santa Barbara with a possible stop in Los Angeles, time permitting.

Here’s our departure video:

The drive was smooth, and early threats of heavy traffic proved to be unfounded.

Welcome to California

Shortly after crossing the Nevada / California border we saw a large, reflective metal surface in the distance:

Ivanpah Solar Facility

This turned out to be the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. I should have taken the closest exit and gotten a better picture, but we were eager to reach our destination.

We were making good time, and made a quick stop on the UCLA campus. My daughter Grace will be studying there this coming Fall so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of this beautiful campus.

Carmen at UCLA

At the recommendation of my son Andy, we had some unique and delicious Persian ice cream before getting back on the road:

Persian Ice Cream

We drove high up in to the hills above Santa Barbara to the home of my AWS colleague Miles Ward. Miles and his wife hosted a “Cloud Party” and we met a number of folks from RightScale, Eucalyptus, and AppScale. The party was a lot of fun, despite a bit of falling ash from a wildfire a couple of miles away:

Miles Party

Carmen and I spent the night in Miles’ guest room and woke to clear skies and tweeting birds!

Day 14 - Las Vegas

Hello Santa Barbara!

We spent most of Sunday on a leisurely walk up the Strip. This was not us:

Las Vegas Couple

Before we left the LVH we bought tickets for their in-house show, Raiding The Rock Vault. This show was highly rated on Trip Advisor and we were really looking forward to it!

Rock Vault Tickets

While riding the monorail to the Strip, I managed to get a good picture of the High Roller Wheel that’s currently under construction:

High Roller Wheel

We returned to the LVH, changed, and had a stomach-busting dinner at Texas de Brazil a few miles away. It was tasty and enjoyable but we both swore off eating for good after we left the table.

Back at the LVH, got in line for the show and found our first-row seats. The show got off to a fast start and didn’t slow down for a second! The musicians were first-rate and clearly enjoyed being on stage and working with each other.

Rock Vault 1

Rock Vault 2

Rock Vault 3

Rock Vault 4

Rock Vault 5

After the show we strolled through the casino for a little while before returning to our room to prepare for our morning drive to Santa Barbara.

Day 13 - Las Vegas

The LVHis part of Red Lion’s Leo collection of hotels. As an honorary member of the Red Lion R&R Club (thanks again, Red Lion), we had access to the Resort Club on the 24th floor lounge, where we had breakfast each day.

LVH Sign

After a breakfast of fruit and oatmeal, Carmen and I set off to see Hoover Dam. We started by walking over the Mike O’Callaghan.Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This newly constructed bridge handles traffic that once had to drive across the dam, and is situated so as to provide a spectacular view of the dam. The wind was brisk as we walked the 1.3 mile path across the bridge and back.

Bridge 1

Bridge 2

Bridge 3

After re-crossing the bridge we drove down to the visitor’s center and took a walk across the bridge. Once again, the view was spectacular and we couldn’t stop looking:

Dam 1

Dam 2

Dam 3

We returned to Las Vegas, bought tickets for Cirque Du Soleil’s O, rode the Las Vegas Monorail (the day pass is a good deal) and had dinner at Fix in the Bellagio. We chose from a selection of small plates and ended up thinking that we’d each had about 1/2 of an actual dinner.

O was an amazing experience. Dancers, swimmers, divers, and musicians worked together to create a unique and thoroughly entertaining show.

Day 12 - Phoenix to Las Vegas

Sky Blue

The heat was already building when I left the Red Lion Inn & Suites Phoenix/Tempe-ASU at 7:00 AM, with a forecast high of 100° I enjoyed the hotel’s complimentary breakfast and found a hidden treat, a small yet functional putting green on the property:

Putting Green Hamnpton Inn Phoenix

My departure was smooth:

The roads were nearly empty and I made good time, modulo my usual stops for water and stretching. While I was still in Arizona I saw a faded sign by the side of the road. I had to stop for a quick picture of Nothing, Arizona.

Nothing, Arizona Sign

There was a sign and a boarded-up building, and nothing else in Nothing:

Nothing, Arizona Building

Further down the road, I pulled off at a scenic vista somewhere in Arizona:

Somewhere Else, Arizona

The last 30 minutes of the ride to Las Vegas were pretty cool. I was able to see the Las Vegas Strip on the horizon:

I arrived in Las Vegas, located my wife, and checked in to the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. My accomodations for the weekend were provided by AWS user Red Lion Hotels. I’m very grateful for their support of the AWS Road Trip! You can read the Red Lion Case Study to learn more about how they moved to AWS, with the able help of AWS Partner 2nd Watch.

The view from my 25th floor room was incredible:

Las Vegas Hotel View

After a short break I changed and headed over to the headquarters of PalominoDB to tell the assembled crowd about AWS!

AWS Meeting in Las Vegas

The meeting was a big success thanks to the efforts of Laine Campbell and Steve Wainstead.

I returned to the hotel, found Carmen, and we headed out for dinner. We took a couple of pictures in the hotel lobby. I think she should be the next spokesmodel for the hotel, what do you think?

Carmen Barr Supermodel LVH

We surveyed our dinner options and chose to eat at the Benihana in the hotel. The “exhibition cooking” was indeed entertaining and we thorougly enjoyed our meal.

We will spend the weekend in Las Vegas and drive to Santa Barbara on Monday.

Here’s today’s MapBox:

  • Total driving for the day: 301.1 miles
  • Measured fuel economy: 24.3 MPG

Days 10 and 11 - Austin to Phoenix

I woke up in Austin, triple-checked the weather, and set out for a two-day ride to Phoenix, Arizona.

On Wednesday I drove 690 miles! This could have been a back-breaking day but I had plenty of podcasts on the iPod and made frequent stops for water, snacks, and pictures. I pulled in to a rest stop and found this giant tank, unattached to a truck and seemingly abandoned:

Giant Tank

I also managed to get a good picture of a truck pulling three other trucks:

Truck Truck Truck Truck

I checked in to my hotel, had a lackluster Mexican dinner at a place that was well-regarded on Yelp, and was asleep by 9:30. I was on the road again at 7:25 AM and had a very smooth ride to Phoenix, going as high as 4600 feet above sea level.

The warning at the final rest stop of the day was very strong:

Rest Stop Warning

The scenery along the way was incredible. This picture does not do it justice:

Arizona Vista

The outside air temperature rose steadily througout the day, hitting 100° at one point.

I arrived at my hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites, kindly sponsored by their new owner, Red Lion Hotels, checked in, and ate lunch at a nearby Smashburger:


Afer lunch I caught up on email, reserved my hotel in San Francisco, and prepared for the evening, adding some clarifying information to one of my slides. Presenting the same basic material night after night really helps me to see opportunities for fine tuning.

I headed up the street to the Phoenix Cloud Entrepreneurs meeting and was there for almost three hours.

Tomorrow I’ll drive to Las Vegas and deliver my AWS Talk in Las Vegas.

My wife Carmen will spend the weekend in Veas with me and we’ll drive to Santa Barbara together on Monday!

Here’s my MapBox for the day:

Day 9 - Dallas to Austin

I spent extra time checking the weather this morning to make sure that it was safe to travel. There were a few threats, none of which materialized:

Dallas Weather

Austin Weather

I left my Dallas hotel at around 8:15 AM, with a plan to visit the Czech Stop in West, Texas just in time for brunch. This restaurant came heavily recommended and I was really looking forward to having my first taste of a kolache. However, this brunch was not to be. The highway exits are being demolished and reconstructed and I was not able to exit as planned. By the time Waze (and I) figured out that I had gone too far, I was facing another 7.5 mile drive in order to make a U-turn. I love to eat, but this seemed like an ill-considered detour.

I encountered a lot of traffic on the way out of Dallas, so today’s exit video shows a lot of start/stop driving:

As I have said before, this video is of considerably lower quality than the raw MOV file from the Contour.

The remainder of the drive was smooth and the 200 mile trip went by fairly quickly. I reached two minor milestones - I saw the first Ikea store of the trip, and I reached the halfway point, miles-wise, of the trip.

Here’s my entrance to Austin:

After some email, I was getting hungry and Yelped for some BBQ. I ended up at a place nearby called Rudy’s Country Store.

Rudys Sign

The cashier was very friendly, and asked me where I was from, shouting “Seattle” to everyone else in line! This was surprising, but sweet. She brought small samples of their three types of meat to me and all were delicious. I ended up choosing the “Moist Brisket” and some spicy beans:


As I was making my way to my table, I spoke with someone who had overheard “Seattle” and he told me that he’d lived in Redmond and worked at Microsoft for seven years.

I returned to the hotel, spent some time in the pool and the spa to relax, and dressed for the Austin Cloud User Group. I drove over to the venue (thanks again, Waze and connected with Ernest Mueller, Karthik Gaekwad, and James Wickett to get set up.

The pizza dinner was sponsored by Bazaarvoice, Ernest’s employer.

Almost Ready

My old friend Jason Levitt was at the event. Jason wrote the first comprehensive book on Amazon’s E-Commerce Service. This service, launched in 2002, was the direct precursor to today’s AWS.

The talk went well and I didn’t wrap up until almost 9 PM. I gave out lots of AWS Swag and a bunch of $100 credits. I caught up with Misha from Alert Logic, and took a photo with another one of his colleagues.

My colleagues Martin Carlson, Dan Carpenter flew down from Dallas, and were joined by Harris Thayer and Alan MacInnis. Here I am with Martin and Dan after the event:

Jeff Barr, Dan Carpenter, Martin Carlson.

Tomorrow I’ll start on a two-day drive to Phoenix. This will be a long, arduous drive so I’ll write my next blog post when I arrive in Phoenix on Friday prior to speaking to the Phoenix Cloud Entrepreneurs.

Here’s my MapBox for the day:

Day 8 - Dallas

Because I spent most of the weekend in motion, today was my day of rest. I caught up on email and blogging, did some laundry and dry cleaning, and prepared for my presentation to the North Dallas Cloud Group.

I have been evolving and modifying my presentation for each event. The basics have not changed, but I have made subtle changes to streamline the content and to add clarifications in places that seem to raise questions night after night. This speaking tour is a rare opportunity to continuously improve my presentation and my speaking skills and I am doing my best to take advantage of it.

I drove to the Alcatel Lucent Gravity Center (a startup incubator run by Jennifer Conley and met up with meeting organizer Casey Watson to get set up.

The members of my “fan club” (ha) at Alert Logic are pursuing a bet (or prize, I can’t quite tell). If they manage to get a photo standing next to me, they earn $100. One such photo was taken in Philadelphia and another one in Dallas. I hope that these photos make their way back to me.

Here are a couple of pictures that I took before all of the seats filled up and people had to stand:

North Dallas Cloud Front

North Dallas Cloud Rear

My AWS colleagues Martin Carlson, Dan Carpenter, and Mark Estes were on hand to meet the community.

The audience peppered me with questions (I’m well-seasoned by now) about EC2, Glacier, S3, and RDS. They asked for IPv6 support, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and even OSX in the cloud. I asked each of them to send me additional information about their use cases, which I will pass along to the teams.

We wrapped up at around 9 PM. Casey and Jennifer told me that I should make a visit to the Czech Stop while en route to Austin, and I’m planning to do that today!

I have a short drive (200 miles or so to Austin). I’ll be speaking at the Austin Cloud User Group.