RBBI Diary of Experiences
This report is written pretty "folksy" but it should give you a pretty good picture of what life was like around the show (except for the wild sprees some went on at nights). If you just want to read about the show, you might skip on down to Sept 24th date and start there.
I called the NMMA and registered for the show. I would especially like to thank them for accepting RBBI as a press representative. Many organizations are not yet recognizing internet news sources as "press". They did, and I thank them for it.
I also registered for the MRAA (Marine Retailers Association of America) "Shirt Sleeve Session" on Wednesday 24 Sept that would be covering reports from the Task Force Committees addressing issues in the marine industry.
I signed up for the Industry Breakfast (thursday morning) and for the "Business on the Web" seminar to be given Friday. I also signed up for the "Ideas for Growing Boating" seminar but it was canceled before the show.
I e-mailed the NMMA about the possibility of them trying to call attention to the El Nino weather situation. Our correspondence is posted.
I e-mailed some friends that I would be there and watched a few comments about the show being made in the rec.boats newsgroup.
I arrived at Ohare about 12:40 pm, picked up my bags (traveling heavy with two suitcases, a camera bag, and a large briefcase) and made for the street. I found the "Airport Express" van stop that was to take me to my hotel, the Best Western Grant Park Hotel at 1100 S. Michigan Avenue, and bought my $15.50 ticket for the van ride. Eventually one of their white and blue vans showed up and we filled it with 9 people and all their bags. We made the journey to the south and began dropping people off at hotels one at a time. The driver would get out of the van, go open the side door on the opposite side and yell "watch your step, watch you head, be careful" as each person got out. I rapidly picked up on that and began saying his lines him after he got out of the van. I would say, "watch your step, watch your head, be careful" then he would open the door and say the same thing. It added some humor to the trip. Lots of road construction was going on downtown and it had the normal big city "feel" (lots of glazed over faces making their way to and from work or just standing around). I was the next to last person to get off and the trip took over an hour.
The Best Western Grant Park is a typical "downtown" hotel. When I checked in they showed me my room rate ($7.00 higher than I agreed to on the phone and we politely haggled about that for a while - I did get the rate I signed up for.) The hotel received this description in the Fodor's 97 Chicago Guide Book:
"While not exactly pretty, this is a good value for travelers attending functions at nearby McCormick Place. The mauve and gray rooms are plain, smallish, and have an anti-septic feel - still they are functional. "
I really found the rooms ok, the rest of it was really dreary. The hallways were downright depressing. The lobby had 2 exits. One to the north and one to the west. One night I made the mistake of taking the west one and am not too sure how many dead bodies I stepped over in the dark alley before I "got the hell out of there."
After getting settled in, I began to try to get to a major shopping area in the 600 to 800 block of North Michigan. Being cheap I started to walk (only 17 blocks through major roadway and sidewalk construction). By the time I got there I was ready to come back to Oklahoma. All the people involved in the rat race and the construction about drove me crazy.
On the walk up, I visited a Rand McNally (maps) store. I've been looking for a map of Indonesian for a project I've been working on. They have a nice store but did not have the map I needed.
At the shopping area I visited several of their major well known stores. Sony Gallery displays the latest electronic gear for visitors to tryout. This was a big multi-floored poorly lighted building with walls and stairs everywhere. In the Shinjuku District of Tokyo they have some single floor show rooms open to the street that are very well lighted and much more entertaining.
I briefly walked in the Crate and Barrel, a famous kitchen goods place. I bypassed the "Original Levi's" (jeans) store. I had a nice time in the FAO Schwartz Toy Store. It is a huge toy store that reminds you of the store the "bad guys" try to rob in one of the "Home Alone" movies. I found it to be my second most favorite store in Chicago.
I went in the massive Borders Bookstore (which immediately became my most favorite store in Chicago). It has a large floor plan and when you combine that with a basement and 3 stories its almost overwhelming. I really enjoyed browsing around there and found the Indonesia Map I had been looking for.
I walked a couple blocks to the west to visit the Europa Book Store (European Books and Periodicals). I found it interesting but not as large as I had hoped.
Having worked up a good hunger. I ate at a nearby "mom and pop" looking burger place called "J's Burgers?". When I arrived a bunch of cab drivers were eating there. Out here in Oklahoma I eat where you see a bunch of truck drivers parking their big rigs. I figured that in the city, you might not go wrong eating where the cabbies eat and I was right. My pork chop sandwich was great. As I left a number of policeman came in to take their turn at the tables.
I took my first of many Chicago cab rides and made it back to the hotel. The hotel area was very festive now. The "Rolling Stones" were starting their world tour tonight at nearby Soldier Field. I had the South West corner room on the 7th floor and watched the tens of thousands of fans make their way on foot, in cabs and busses to the concert. Two planes were flying overhead dragging signs and news helicopters were also in the air.
View to the West
Wednesday Sept. 24 - MRAA Shirt Sleeve Session Day
The NMMA hotel registration group had promised me there were several fast food places nearby the hotel (I had not seen
any in my 2 mile walk to the north). I tried the hotel directory which pointed out a few "mom and pop" places north and
west of the hotel, one of which served breakfast, the Burnham Grocery & Liquor Store. I took off in quest of breakfast. The
Burnham's idea of breakfast (cold pastrami sandwich and a pastry) is not the same as mine. I went back to the hotel and had my first of many omelets.
I went behind the hotel and began walking north on Wabash street looking for lunch. I visited the "A Camera Store" a very well equipped used camera store. Knowing I would be carrying some heavy weight around this week, I sprung for a wide camera strap. Then I went to the nearby "Fish Hut" and tried the "chicken gizzard special" for an early lunch (not bad) and caught a cab to McCormick Place and saw the "New McCormick " for the first time.
Inside View 1
Inside View 2
Inside View 1 is taken after you go up one set of escalators or stairs. The show was on the next level with the "South Building" on your right and the "North" building on your left. Inside View 2 is taken by turning around and looking back down the stairs toward the front of the building. There were several interesting water displays in the building. The one shown at the lower left of this photo (in the black trough) would shoot out a stream of water that landed precisely in a small hole in the fountain. It would shoot for perhaps a minute then abruptly stop. It was fun to watch the tail of the stream of water when it shut off as it moved toward the hole. Since the Atlanta Olympics (timed water fountain) many facilities are using timed water displays.
I would later learn, when we came out (about 5:30 in the evenings) all that glass up front facing the west made it pretty blinding trying to walk down the stairs or escalators and out the front. I think the architects may have "dropped" the ball on that one.
As I explored the building I took a few photos of the booths setting up in the South Building. It was amazing to see all the work going on at once. It must have taken some real orchestration to have gotten all those boats where they belonged on the floor.
I attended the MRAA "Shirt Sleeve Sessions." and a nice reception with "chicken wings" afterwards. The wings were a little "hot" for me, but they made a nice supper.
Afterwards, I caught the same cab and driver I had that morning back to the hotel.
After breakfast I went up some escalators to the rear of the south show area and promptly got lost. After spending some time with the maps provided in the program I got my bearings and tried to map out a plan to "walk the show." I rapidly found that many of the aisles in the boating area were not "long and straight" and it was a little difficult to make sure you saw everything. I began working the area nearer the front (bordering the large hall between the south and north buildings).
I noticed Honda had an engine veiled to be shown later. I wish they would do their unveiling before the show or right after it opened.
One of the MerCruiser marketing types I know, mentioned an innovative award was going to be downstairs at 11. I thought he was talking about the "Product Innovation Awards" but I should know better than to believe anybody in marketing. It turned out to be a kickoff for MerCruiser's 454 MAG MPH Horizon Engine.
I returned from the presentation refreshed from the nice lunch and began walking the show again. It was early afternoon of Day One and my briefcase and camera were already feeling heavy. This is going to be a long week.
At the Suzuki booth I ran into a couple of fellows I had met on the internet. Its nice to have the internet as sort of a "prior introduction." We visited a while about the show and their products.
I continued to walk the show and also attended the Zodiac (inflatables) press conference. They made some major announcements about a new U.S. factory and an alliance with Yamaha to supply their engines.
I went over to the Toyota booth in the North building. After my disappointment over them not showing a ski boat wore off, I began to shoot some photos of the Lexus marinized engine they had on display. It had a nice pretty logo on top that was covered with finger smudges. I took out my handkerchief to wipe them off so I could get a nice photo. My "cleaning project" attracted the attention of Douglas Plescia (V.P. and GM of Toyota Marine Sports.) At first I thought he did not want me "wiping down" the top of the cowl as I might somehow scratch it. But instead, he was not real big on "up close photos" of the engine. They were polite about it and this was not the last place my camera met similar objections. It does seem strange to me to bring your product to one of the world's biggest boat shows, enter it in the innovation award contest and then stop someone with a press badge from shooting photos of it. I was invited to a 4:30 pm press conference where they would talk more about the engine and the ski boat.
I ran into one of my earliest internet boating "acquaintances", Robert Huggins of Huggins Outboard Computer Programs (and Huggins Marine) at their booth in the North building. We met on the net over 2 years ago. That is a long time in net years. He and another gentleman were demonstrating their dealer software.
Huggins Computer Demo
At 4pm I attended the Toyota Press Conference.
After Toyota's press conference I caught one of the IMTEC busses to the Hilton Towers for the OMC special meeting at 6pm. At this meeting David Jones (of Brunswick and Mercury Marine) was surprisingly named their new President and C.E.O. The meeting is covered on our David Jones Named C.E.O. & President Page. Afterwards I walked the few blocks south back to my hotel, called home, and left a message for my brother-in-law who would be going into work at 11 pm Thursday night (in just a few hours) at MerCruiser. The message was that David Jones was the new OMC president. I thought it would be funny, because nobody would believe him till the next morning.
After I put my gear up, I walked down Wabash street looking for supper. Tonight was the second performance of the Rolling Stones at nearby Soldier Field. There were some pretty unique looking people out on the streets. I went to a local Taco place and was amused when a big stretched black limo went by, stopped, turned around in the middle of the street (no easy task) and sent their driver in to place their order. The driver, waitress, and the car visited back in forth in Spanish with the car on a cell phone. My cheeseburger was pretty good.
Earlier, I planned to stay in Chicago till Monday. I could already tell that I would be able to walk the show out and complete my business by Saturday, so I called American Airlines and changed my departure to Sunday morning.
I dropped off some laundry at the front desk and settled in for the night.
After the seminar, I went back to "walking the show." Mid afternoon I tried one of the small $2.50 dipped ice cream cones. Not bad.
I ran into another one of my boating internet "acquaintances", Tom Fornier with ABOS Blue Book (an appraisal guide). He was working their booth. We discussed the industry and the internet for a while as I let my arms rest from carrying all my gear.
An IMTEC bus ride took me back to the hotel shortly before the show closed at 6pm.
I tried "ordering out" tonight. A local place in the hotel directory delivered ribs. I made sure they would include plenty of napkins and silverware. They delivered, I paid, and then I found no napkins and no silverware. Guess they know an Okie when he calls in?
I had almost finished walking out most the north building (over to the trailer and marina area) before the 10 am Export to Japan Seminar put on by JETRO, The Japan External Trade Organization.
After the seminar I finished walking out the North building, walked the Sports Fishing Show at the rear of the South Building and then I began to make a series of planned "re-stops" before leaving the show.
I went back by the Honda booth to see the emissions engine that had been "veiled" earlier in the show. I dropped back by the Suzuki booth to see the Product Innovation Award they won for their 4 stroke engine and shot a few photos.
At the Sea Ray booth I tried to get in to shoot a few photos of the giant boat they had on display. On the first day of the show I was shooting some photos from a distance and a lady came over and told me they were letting the press in to take pictures (the booth was marked Dealers Only ! at the entry). I thanked her and told her I would come back by later in the show. Today I went to the front of the booth and they directed me to a gate at the rear where a gentleman politely told me I would not be allowed in. I asked him why they were not letting the press shoot photos. He said there had problems with espionage in years past.
A little after 5pm I had seen enough of the show. I shot a few photos of the interior of McCormick place itself, then I went to the information booth downstairs to ask if there was a ATM machine (it might be nice to have some money to go home on). The lady gave me directions to go up one of the two flights of escalators and then go to the left. I didn't see anything till I got over along the north side of the stairs and found a whole new world I did not know existed in there before. Are several offices, seating and an ATM machine were back in there.
Next, I caught a cab to nearby China town to look for something for another project I am working on and to find a "trinket" for my wife. I did not find what I was looking for, but I did find a cute ceramic pig for my wife (she collects pigs). I also found a Chinese bakery, went in and just started pointing at the nice looking treats. They filled up a bag for me and I got out a ten dollar bill. The little Chinese girl said, "Sir, that will be $1.87." I about fainted after paying the "captive" prices at McCormick. The items were very good. I sat down and ate several in a diner in the back of the bakery and saved the rest for a late night snack.
East Side of Street
Next, I tried to catch a cab in China town. There are certainly not as many working that area as are working the IMTEC hotels area. A couple went by and it was hard to see if they already had a passenger or not. I decided to become more aggressive. Here came another one. I stepped in the street and tried to flag them over - of course it was a Chicago police car. Anyway, I finally got a cab and made it back to my hotel.
Thinking about supper, I checked the menu sheet for the hotel diner and found "half a southern fried chicken" at a good price so downstairs I went. They brought me a Mexican food menu (my stomach doesn't like hot food). I said what about the fried chicken? He said we don't cook that anymore. I told him they might think of removing it from the menus they are distributing in the rooms. I ate a Mexican Combo meal (not bad) and waited what seemed like forever to get my bill (the restaurant had filled up and only one person was working the floor.)
After considerable thought (I am cheap) I still decided to take a cab to the airport the next morning instead of signing up tonight for the Airport Express shuttle van. I still needed to do some "horse trading" with my ticket and had some bags to check. I wanted to be sure I got there early.
I cleaned up and got as good of a night's sleep as possible with a volcano in your stomach.
At the gate, I met the same lady and child that I had traded my window seat to back in Tulsa on the way up. She recognized me first and told her child, "There's that nice man that let you have his seat back in Tulsa." That was kind of embarrassing. I still never told her I really wanted the aisle seat anyway.
After arriving in Tulsa, I caught the Thrifty Van back to my truck and started the journey back to Stillwater with a brief stop at the "Rib Cage" in Sand Springs. My first time there - the ribs were great!
I made it home and the wife was already asking what I brought her. I gave her the ceramic pig from China Town and she liked it.
Friday the October 3rd I am finally getting the show report written and I get a call from a firm wanting me to go back to Chicago next week for another internet project I am working on. I guess the "Windy City" didn't get enough of me the first time. This time, I'm going to be smarter. I'm going to take my own napkins and silverware.
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