Road Trip Events

Memorial Day Salute & On The Road Again

Firstly, to all USA armed forces veterans, please accept my grateful Thank You for your generous and courageous service!

Secondly, gentle Readers, this Memorial Day post is about road trip events.

Road trip events??

on the road againThe prime spark for this somewhat obscure topic is that I spent 8 hours of my Memorial Day “on the road again,” as Willie Nelson was want to sing. A secondary spark is my history of, enjoyment of, and yearning for road trips.

When you take my habit of being an events wrangler and combine it with my Route 66-ish habit of going on every road trip I can, the result is a desire to create and participate in “road trip events.” If that term confuses you, I refer you to Jack Kerouac (born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac), a French-Canadian American author of “The Open Road,” in which he wrote, “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

What this post is taking a look at is events in which a road trip plays a significant role. This can happen in three primary types of events.

  1. An event that is part of a road trip or road show organized by an organization to promote its product(s).
  2. A participant-driven event which occurs at several points during a road trip and / or along the way during the road trip.
  3. An event for which groups of people travel from various places to a central location and the roadtrip is an integral part of the event.

Organizational Road Trip

SpamericanThe first event type listed above is probably the most common. An organization, usually a large corporation, is launching a new product or a new marketing campaign for a product line, and they go on the road to promote their products and demonstrate them in-person to potential customers. Examples of this are Intel’s IoT Roadshow, Atmel’s Tech On Tour event, and Hormel’s SPAMERICAN Food Truck Tour.

An event which I co-wrangled featuring this type of road trip was the “Adobe Tech Cafe in Milwaukee.” I had read that Adobe Systems was doing a USA road trip with events at various stops, so I contacted them and asked if they’d do a Milwaukee Tech Cafe about Adobe products. “Tech Cafe” was the label we applied to medium length tech-focused participant-driven events that we felt were of interest to a regional tech community (and to the co-initiators…). Sort of like Google Tech Talks, although with a much lower budget since Google wasn’t underwriting them. Ryan Stewart of Adobe graciously agreed to add Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, to their list of stops. He led a fantastic session about Adobe’s products with lots of questions and discussions from the tech cafe participants.

hour of codeA variant of this event type is one focused more on supporting and connecting a community than marketing a product. What I’m thinking of here would be road trips involving open source products, like WordPress website software, or a general topic such as computer programming, similar to what the Hour of Code does, or along the lines of the Mozilla Webmaker program. This type of road trip event could also be used to build a new network or community of people around an emerging technology, a new concept, or a new product.

Along The Way

An example of the second type of road trip, one occurring at several points on the trip route (and possibly along the way, literally ON the road) is the proposed CM3 / I-94 BarCamp (aka the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis tech unconference, or TarCamp I-94). The concept is to have a launch event in the city at one end of a planned trip, hold intermediate events at a couple cities on the route, and conclude with an event in the final destination. A key aspect of the TarCamp is to have a connected-convoy road trip, with all the convoy vehicles connected to the internet while traveling, as well as connected to each other, making it the Neverending Unconference. One of my favorite “session” ideas was to have an author or a team of authors start writing a book in the launch city, continue writing the book while traveling, include in the book sections written in or about the intermediate cities, and before reaching the destination city, write a future-seeing chapter about what would happen at the last event. As the author(s) are about to enter the city, they hit the PUBLISH button on a digital publishing service. Participants at the last event, or anyone anywhere, can download and read the book, which might be titled, “On The Road, Too.”

We didn’t achieve the critical mass needed to turn this concept into reality, but I still think it has huge potential. Especially in this age of near-ubiquitous internet access. When we developed this event concept in 2007, we were planning for somewhat cutting-edge satellite mobile (traveling at highway speeds) internet access for the road portions of the trip because cellular didn’t yet have high speed coverage for the entire I-94 route from Chicago to Minneapolis. I’m not even sure there was high speed cellular data coverage anywhere in 2007! 🙂

CM3 I-94 caption

Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis unconference, aka TarCamp I-94

There are plenty of other connected-cities or connected-regions road trips with significant potential, such as a Green Bay-Appleton-Oshkosh-Fond du Lac I-41 TarCamp for Northeast Wisconsin, USA. Or maybe a Traverse City-Grayling-Gaylord-Mackinaw City-Petoskey-Charlevoix tech unconference in Northwest Michigan (lower peninsula). On the west coast, maybe a Eugene, OR to Vancouver, BC I-5 (mostly) International BarCamp, with stops in Portland, Olympia, Seattle, and Bellingham. I don’t know how many other participant-driven unconferences have started in one country and ended in another, but it feels like it should be done more!

Another example of the multiple-stop “road” trip event is GeeksOnAPlane, in which participants “travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to the most exciting international startup scenes with the sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities.”

Multiple Convoys Converge On Point X


Armadillo Aerospace “Pixel” lander

The third type of road trip event identifies a high-value destination and organizes a plethora of road trip routes and participants who all converge on that destination for the event. An example of this is the X PRIZE Cup 2007 road trip event I proposed after the previous year’s event. The X PRIZE 2006 event included the “Vertical Lander competition, with John Carmack piloting the Armadillo Aerospace entry with a handheld controller…Space Elevator Beam Challenge…[and] Space Elevator Tether Challenge…” I suggested that in 2007, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be part of an X PRIZE Cup convoy consisting of several thousand vehicles heading down the highway towards Las Cruces?

Many events involving thousands of people, and some attended by only hundreds, draw the participants from around the country or around the world. Lots of those events would be well suited for the “convoys converge” gathering of like-minded people. What I’m proposing for this third type of event is either piggy-backing on an existing event, like I proposed for the X PRIZE Cup, or creating an event which has the built-in component of organized road trips for participants traveling to chosen destination.

Suggestion & Promise

I’m running out of time to finish today’s post, so I’ll close with a suggestion and a promise.

go for itSuggestion: If this post has you thinking about road trip events you’d like to organize, Go For It! And if you’d like to share details about the event, or are interested in connecting with co-organizers, send an email to me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Promise: There will be more “road trip event”-themed posts because I seriously want to organize a few events of that type, especially ones focused on developing or rolling out new Automattic products, as well as events which expand and strengthen open source communities or build new ones.


Posts in this Road Trip Events series:

Road Trip Events” — Today’s post

Road Trip Events, Part 2: History


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