Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Southeastern Builders Conference

Early in 2017, I heard of a home building convention being held in town. With much excitement I dragged Chip along and with the vendors map in hand we notice the list of entirely hired-out services and companies to the likes of seamless gutters, water filtration and flooring. The reality of the situation was apparent, our efforts to glean knowledge would be futile. The positives of attending the convention was we verbally acknowledged that we are our own staff and needed more, specifically the hot items in current building materials. Through Google searches, we came across The Southeastern Builder Conference, watched some promotional videos on Youtube, learned that the conference was being held in Orlando, FL and in 5 months time. We grinned from ear to ear at one another, we had found what we were looking for.

Two months prior to the conference, I debate about booking a room at the conference's host, The Gaylord Palms. There's a promotional deal for $150 a night, which could be minimized to 2 nights, and we're attending the conference for seventy dollars each. I think to myself, what a steal and to stay at one of the fanciest hotels in all of Orlando, I'm in! Chip reasons that we could stay a lot cheaper with the RV and we can bring Bandit. Being price sensitive, I'm easily swayed and book at the nearest RV resort. For the following weeks we both unknowingly start to look forward to the conference, it seems less like homework and more like a 4-day, 3-night getaway (which we could really use after all the delays and time needed to get the RV fixed).

It's July 25th and departure is less than 24 hours away - let the debacle begin. The truck's AC goes out, it was out a week prior but Chip thought it was fixed, however, this time it really goes. The good news, Chip knew the problem and was able to fix it, costing us $200, and delays our departure by 5 hours. I'm exasperated, I should be in a resort pool by now, but okay, it is what it is. I remind Chip that he wanted to look at the brakes on the RV and he's throws caution to the wind and we haul out of Gainesville. On the interstate, we're smooth sailing - it's 5pm and by the time we arrive around 7pm we'll have a late dinner. All is good, and we are actually, occasionally, moving to the middle lane to pass other vehicles. Then, a semi truck pulls along side us and rolls down his window (on the interstate? we're confused.), so I roll down mine and he says: "You've got a blown tire." Shocked, we didn't feel anything happen, we pull to the shoulder. Sure enough we not only have a blown tire but it is entirely gone! The wheel remains with flapping tire bits around it like Medusa's hair. The RV is swaying from side to side by the force of oncoming vehicles zooming past us. Throwing caution to the wind is no flippant idea any longer; safety is our first priority. There's an exit about 3 mile away, with relief that we're not going to have to work on the side of the interstate, we take our time to the exit. Pulling into a vacant lot we focus on the task at hand pulling out tools and removing the wheel, while staying optimistic. "Oh honey, let me document this for my blog." and "Is that why you wanted me to a buy a lug wrench?" come spewing out of my mouth, I'm resolved that the issue will be promptly fixed and am therefore curious and eager to help.

That is, until Chip states the spare is dry rotted. My face falls but Chip, the problem solver, tells me to start searching for a tire place, he thinks there's a Tractor Supply not far. I locate a tire place directly behind the parking lot, but closing in 30 minutes. Jackpot! Chip tells the owner we need 2 new tires, one for the ride and one for the spare. Tire guy starts jacking up the RV and reports that we'd better add another to the list because the one riding just front of the blown town is dry rotted too. An hour later, $500 spent, and back on the road we're crossing our fingers we arrive no later than 11pm.

Arrival to the Grand Palms RV & Resort - we're tired, completely and utterly over with the day but glad to have finally arrived. We hope our arrival signifies a new start, with no more issues, and gratefully head to bed. The morning brings back our vigor and we attend day 1 of the conference happy and read to learn. We divide and conquer going to different breakout sessions before the expo opens. Chip learns about new plumbing options and attic insulation concepts. I attend sessions on money/tax saving tips and best ways to avoid leaks.

The expo opens and we navigate vendors, skipping past those that don't pertain to us (contracting computer software and, again, flooring options) to the materials and new products that Chip wants to hear more about but I take note that I need to focus on the opportunities to complete all the giveaways and drawings (especially because majority of the attendees were men and in my opinion, many men don't focus on the details, such as apply for a Yeti Cooler giveaway - the most popular item vendors were offering as a prize). I steer Chip to the tables with giveaways and he then steers me back to the materials, the gentle tug back and forth is fun and by the end, with only a few more rows to visit tomorrow, our dogs are barking but we feel empowered (I know I'm winning one of those coolers!) and renewed. That evening we made plans to meet up with my mother in Kissimmee to eat at The Catfish Place. The dinner out and catching up with my mom is enjoyable and a nice break from the fiasco of the day prior, then head back to the RV to find that the AC isn't running, actually nothing is turning on. Out come tools, Chip yammering away about how buying the RV was a dumb idea, and discovers that the converter broke but have no idea if the AC is broken and won't be able to tell until we get a new converter. (I have no idea what a converter is but safe to say that we needed it, however, now it's 8pm and the store that supplies it, Camping World, revolves around the retired population (because dinner is no later than 5pm for the early bird special), and is in fact closed. We are grateful that it's night time and the temperature in the RV with the windows open is bearable. More problem solving ensues as we want to attend the next day's breakout sessions but we can't leave the RV without AC all day in the dead of summer in Florida because Bandit would die (RV's heat up like cars and the circulations of air through the windows is meager so we feared the worst). The outcome - we'll attend the first session, then head to the resort to pick up Bandit, then to Camping World, then replace the converter and hope that's the only issue, then head back to the conference (missing some breakout sessions) but visiting the last vendors at the expo. In the end, it was the converter, thank God!, but by the time we are back at the conference it was apparent that we were in no mood to be there, feeling defeated by the fiasco's of the last few days and just wanting to have ourselves a little getaway, which was anything but. The next game plan - blow this popsicle stand and finally enjoy our late afternoon and evening - a stop to the store that makes shopping a pleasure and in the cart goes frozen pizza, drinks and snacks then we'll hang by the resort's pool. All will be okay. Then it's rains and rains the entire evening. The Southeastern builders conference was worth our time but we'd had enough - things could be worse but we cut our loses - there'd be no getaway for us. It was time to go home.

P.S. The conference was poorly documented because of all of the above.
P.S.S. I did win a Yeti Cooler! Chip said that at least something good came of the conference. On the other hand, I was elated that I actually won something.

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