Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Clam Chowder Fries? — INBOUND 2022 Trip: Part 1

The last time Bridget and I went on a trip was 2019. That wasn’t our plan, but it just sort of worked out that way. 

We’ve all experienced the pandemic interfering with travel plans, but that really isn’t the reason we hadn’t gone anywhere in the intervening three years since our trip to INBOUND 2019 in Boston, MA. 

Sure, there was a quick day trip Bridget and I took to Kansas City in 2021 — driving a box truck — to pick up mattresses as a favor for Bridget’s brother Neil (he manages a furniture rental warehouse, and needed the mattresses for a client delivery the next day). 

We’ve just had a lot of things going on in our life — a lot of responsibilities and commitments — and hadn’t had the chance to go anywhere. 

We really needed a break. 

It seems only fitting that our first “real” trip was a return visit to Boston for INBOUND 2022 — once again with our friends Jason and Jolene.

We set off on Tuesday, Sept. 6 for a 10:55 a.m. flight out of Omaha. Thankfully, our flight wasn’t at 6 a.m. like the 2019 trip, which meant we were actually able to get some sleep the night before.  

Jason and Jolene picked us up from our home in Midtown Omaha at 8:30 a.m., and we headed to Eppley Airfield. 

It is surprisingly difficult to pack for a trip when you haven’t had to do it for a few years. I made a detailed checklist in the Notes app on my iPhone, and that really helped expedite the process. (I normally just “wing it” when it comes to packing, and it adds a lot of uncertainty to the effort.) 

I also decided to dress more casually at the conference to minimize the clothing options I had to pack. Most of the attendees wear jeans, so I left the khakis and slacks at home this time out. 

As we were walking to the Southwest gate to check in, Jason and Jolene informed us that they had signed up several weeks prior for the TSA PreCheck program (so they could have an expedited trip through security). 

(Not gonna lie — I was a little envious of my friends’ newly minted airport status as I waited for my sneakers, Osprey messenger bag, and iPad Pro to come through the scanner.) 

We all arrived at security at 9:02. Jason and Jolene were through by 9:09; Bridget and I exited into the gate area at 9:19 a.m.

As we sat at the gate waiting on our flight, we chatted and caught up with each other. It had been a busy summer, and we hadn’t gotten together since the UNO Hockey season ended in March — which is unusual. 

It is typically a quick flight from Omaha to Chicago (about an hour), and we arrived in time to have some lunch before our connecting flight to Boston at Midway International Airport. 

The four of us opted to have pizza from Home Run Inn in Midway’s central food court area. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of one of the mini pizzas fresh out of the box (I was out of practice snapping photos for travel blogs), but we did get this picture of Jolene’s discarded pizza crusts: 

As we were waiting at the gate for our flight to Boston, Jason (who was in the “A” boarding group thanks to his employer) got this pic of a fun placard on a Southwest Airlines tow truck: 

Normally when I fly, I read a book to pass the time. But I had just purchased “Top Gun: Maverick” (read my review) on iTunes. So I had the movie downloaded on my iPad Pro to watch (and ended up watching it three times during our flights). It was a great way to pass the time, but I’m definitely going to purchase more digital movies before I fly again! 

It was rainy and cool when our plane landed at Boston Logan International Airport. Considering the sweltering heat that has been a fixture of Nebraska’s weather since May, our group appreciated the more fall-like temperatures. 

During our 2019 trip, we took an Uber from the airport to the hotel. This time, we took mass transit to the Aloft Hotel in the Seaport District. Due to construction within the city’s rail system, the MBTA Silver Line was free, and it dropped us a few blocks from our hotel. 

On our last trip, our rooms at the Aloft (a Marriott property) had a view of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). 

This year, we were on the opposite side of the building. We could see DHL cargo trailers and low-end industrial structures near the harbor — a different view, but it was pretty interesting to see various watercraft in the harbor during our stay. 

After we dropped off our bags and refreshed a bit, we headed over to the convention center to get our lanyard badges for the conference. 

Before I go any further, I want to talk about the session registration process for the conference. In 2019, you could register via the INBOUND website *or* the mobile app — and your name badge (which was a plastic card with a QR code) allowed you to be scanned into each session. 

For some reason, the conference organizers decided to make everyone use the mobile app to register for sessions. Frankly, it was glitchy and problematic (and the interface didn’t suit a 5-inch screen at all). 

Because there are concurrent sessions at INBOUND, I really wanted to do our registrations on the website (it’s much easier to navigate with a trackpad or mouse). When that wasn’t an option, I loaded the app onto my 2018 iPad. 

It wouldn’t work on that iPad (I have no idea why), but I later got it to work on my 2017 iPad Pro. Regardless, many interesting sessions were already full by then. 

In addition to registration changes, organizers switched to name badges that included little “pucks” with LED lights that got you into the building each morning and into the various “RSVP-required” sessions (although, for some odd reason, they also wanted attendees to show proof on the app that they had RSVP’d... even though the “puck” was what allowed you to be scanned in). 

I guess the pucks were an enhancement. The organizers could randomly make them change color at various events held at INBOUND. You could also “connect” with other attendees by clicking your pucks in close proximity: 

Honestly, I preferred the process in 2019. If social media posts and conversations with our fellow attendees are any indication, others in attendance were frustrated by the various issues caused by the app and the session registration process. 

Anyhow, after picking up our badges, we headed to M.J. O'Connor's Irish Pub for dinner. The restaurant is housed in the Westin Boston Seaport District hotel (that connects to the BCEC), and Jason had eaten at the establishment a couple weeks prior at the 2022 Digital Summit: 

I thought the food was solid. Jason and I had the Boston Lager Fish & Chips: 

Bridget and Jolene opted for the Lobster Mac & Cheese: 

We also had the Chowder Fries (which Jason had sampled on his previous trip). They were pretty interesting. The fries are smothered in clam chowder and topped with bacon and scallions. 

I mean... they aren't really my thing, but they tasted good (kind of like loaded potato boats). Definitely worth a try if you find yourself at this restaurant. 

My only pet peeve with the experience was the fact that our waiter didn’t automatically refresh our drinks (I had ginger ale). I know the staff was busy serving conference attendees, so I’ll chalk it up to larger-than-usual traffic for a Tuesday night. 

After dinner, I filmed Jason, Jolene, and Bridget looking at this large video board in the Westin — featuring an aerial view of Boston: 

As we were walking back to our hotel, we spotted one of the Mailchimp cars that were offering folks rides (frankly, I don’t know if these were special taxis for the event or not. I did wonder out loud if you were required to watch a sales pitch for Mailchimp if you took a ride). 

The driver of this particular car drove away when I took a picture. I dunno if he thought I was gonna report him or not (I wasn’t... I just wanted to document it for the blog). 

A short distance from the Mailchimp car was the HubSpot VIP Welcome Party. The party wasn’t included in our registration, so we stood outside the fence and watched for a few minutes. 

I also want to mention that they took down the wall-mounted Scrabble game in the lobby of our hotel that had been there in 2019. Jolene and Bridget were disappointed, but they said it had fallen apart and they couldn’t find replacement pieces: 

We were pretty tired after a full travel day, so we retired to our respective rooms to settle in for the night. 

Lots of interesting stuff is on the way — informative conference sessions, fun food excursions, and a trip to Rockport, MA!  

The INBOUND 2022 Trip series: 

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