Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 2: The Flying J Truck Stop

When we got to Napanee, it was time to fuel up both the car and ourselves, and we did both at the Flying J Truck Stop. We thought that it would be a nice change from the usual fast food joints: a real-life honest-to-goodness place that catered to truckers, without whom our stores, from the most indie retailer in Kensington Market to the biggest of the “big boxes”, would go unstocked.

Here’s a photo of our booth:

01 flying j table

The folks who the the Flying J know a marketing opportunity when they see one. That’s why the placemat doubles as advertising for their store specials, which naturally are for accoutrements that one would need on the road: jumper cables, Bluetooth headsets, ratchet wrench sets and energy drinks…

02 flying j matClick the photo to see it at full size.

I remember old restaurants having jukeboxes in the booths. If you’re living on the road, being able to get in touch with your loved ones trumps having music, which is why these booths sport phones instead. I haven’t used a pay phone in a very long time, so I was surprised to find out that local calls are now 50 cents.

03 flying j booth phone

Damir went for the chopped steak and mashed potatoes, but I went for the real down-home option: the buffet. I picked out what I thought might be an authentic road meal, based on all those episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I’ve seen:

  • Shepherd’s pie (featuring cut-up beef, not ground meat)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • “Oven-baked chicken”
  • Sausage and peppers

04 flying j buffet lunch

They’re not going to win any Michelin stars soon, but it was filling.

After lunch, I decided to check out the store. I spotted the audiobook aisle:

05 flying j audiobooksClick the photo to see it at full size.

The “Mark Dalton: Trucker/Detective” series caught my eye. Should I buy this on the way back? Let me know in the comments!

06 mark dalton trucker detective

There’s no escaping this guy! That smug know-nothing face really needs a solid pimp-slapping:

07 glenn beck

Of L. Ron Hubbard’s books, I’ve read only two: Battlefield Earth (I considered it so-so at age 14) and Dianetics (ridiculous). My guess is that his pulp titles shown below – Spy Killer, The Great Secret and Under the Black Ensign – aren’t anything to write home about:

08 l ron hubbard

Nothing spruces up the cab of an 18-wheeler like a plush white tiger:

09 tiger

And if you’re pressed for space and your truck can’t accommodate the body of a giant cat, you can always opt for the head:

10 lion tigers heads

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 1: Slow Going

Once again, Damir and I are road-tripping to a TechDays conference. This week, the destination city is our nation’s capital, Ottawa. With the wet snow and being boxed in by trucks (see the photo below), the going’s a little slow:

02 boxed in

Here’s a trucker who’s a big fan of just-in-time compilers. Or is it just-in-time manufacturing?

01 go jit

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Road Trip Diary, Part 7: Living on the Edge

living on the edge

Every roadside stop on the 401 westbound east of Kingston is closed for renovations, so we’ve just been driving straight through without stopping. We’re just 30 kilometres east of Kingston, where we’d planned to fill up, but the dashboard display says we’re 11 kilometres away from an empty tank at the current rate of consumption.

Shall we chance it?

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Road Trip Diary, Part 6: Return Trip

green dragon

With TechDays Montreal wrapped up – and yes, I’ll post photos from the actual conference soon – it’s time for me and Damir to pack up our stuff, board the Ford Flex and head on home.

As I write this, we’re on Highway 401, just about 100 kilometres east of Kingston. Damir’s at the wheel, we’ve got Raw Dog Comedy on the satellite radio and I’m working away on my laptop (as you can see from the photo above, with my “Bruce Lee as the Green Lantern” desktop), getting info to a couple of just-added speakers for the TechDays Winnipeg conference, which happens the week after next.

I’m actually surprised at how much work I can get done on a laptop while in a car. My dad had some pretty strong motion sickness – even standing on a floating dock made him queasy – and I’ve inherited a diluted version of that malady. I can do stuff as complicated as writing code when on a plane or train, but for some reason, I can’t do it in a car. I can write blog entries, send email and tweets and do some light photo editing while in a car, but felt some motion sickness when I tried a little coding. Maybe I should try bumping up the font size – it might help.

I tweeted about not being able to write code in a car and Ken Rachynski tweeted back that it was a first world problem. He’s right!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


More Photos and Videos from the Road Trip

The Ford Flex

Here’s the Ford Flex that we drove to TechDays Montreal, parked in front of my building:

05 ford flex front

Here’s the interior, as seen from the front passenger-side door:

04 ford flex cockpit

Here’s the back of the Flex, with Damir applying (non-permanent) Bing and Windows 7 stickers to the windows:

01 ford flex rear

Here’s the magnetic bumper sticker we affixed to the back of the Flex:

03 ford flex bumper sticker 2

Here’s the Sync console:

06 sync console

We have lift-off! Here’s Damir getting us out to the open road:

07 damir driving

The open road at last!

08 open road

Little Boxes

Here’s a video featuring some pre-fab houses being moved on the highway to their final destination. It inspires a quick discussion about how we might want to travel down to the TechEd 2010 conference in New Orleans:

Big Apple Videos

Here I am, marvelling at the Big Apple’s pie selection, while looking for people to show Bing in action (I was using a Rogers stick for internet access, which worked quite well).

I was wearing my Crazy Go Nuts University (a.k.a. Queen’s University) Science ‘91 jacket while in the restaurant, which a guy in the corner noticed. He turned out to be from the class of Science ‘90 and had never heard of Bing. I walked him through a couple of demos and he was impressed — “I need to show this to my IT guys!” he exclaimed.

Here’s another video – it’s got me and Damir enjoying the Big Apple’s pie and how “cutting the cheese” onstage at a tech conference can have serious (ahem) blowback:

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Road Trip Video #2: Damir Picks Me Up

In this second video of our Ford Flex road trip from Toronto to Montreal, Damir arrives at my place to pick me up:

(In case you missed the first video, you can watch it here.)

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Road Trip Video #1: The Boss Reluctantly Hands Over the Keys to the Ford Flex

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s blog entries, we spent most of yesterday on a little road trip from Toronto to Montreal. We took nine hours making a journey that normally takes about five, but that’s because we made a number of stops along the way, demonstrating Bing to random passers-by and trying out the Sync technology in a Flex that was lent to us by Ford Canada.

Here are links to yesterday’s blog entries in case you missed them:

I did a lot of tweeting from the road as well – go check out what I wrote on my @AccordionGuy twitter page.

Upstream bandwidth wasn’t quite so hot on the road, so it wasn’t possible to post videos yesterday. So I’ll be posting yesterday’s video today.

The Hand-Off

Here’s our boss, John Oxley, Director of Audience Marketing, at Microsoft Canada Headquarters in Mississauga (just outside Toronto), handing the keys to the Ford Flex to Damir with much apprehension:

In the video, John says:

It’s Monday morning and our good friends at Ford Canada and Bing have sponsored my team to go out and highlight technology innovation changes and the impact they’ve had – with Ford Flex, location-based software and Bing – across the country.

I’m about to give this brand new Ford Flex to Joey deVilla and Damir Bersinic to go from here to TechDays in Montreal, to do Coffee and Codes, show it along the way to developers, IT pros and anyone who wants to come by and see how technology has changed.

I’m really excited about the possibilities [but] I’m a little hesitant about giving away the keys to a car…especially to Joey and Damir. But you’ve got to trust your team, and I trust the impact they can have.

You’ll tell me three or four days from now whether this was a good decision or whether it was a lesson that I learned.

Was letting us take a brand new car on a road trip a good idea or a bad one? Let us know in the comments, or email the boss-man directly at

(Please tell him it was a good idea.)

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.