SXSW 2011 and the epic roadtrip is a wrap!

All the states our roadtrip took us through #ChevySXSWAnd like that, the craziest roadtrip I’ve ever been on is over. We got back to Vancouver late Sunday afternoon. It was an emotional farewell to the EhTeam as we all went our separate ways after spending the better part of two weeks together in a Chevy Traverse driving nearly 8500 kilometers as we drove from Vancouver to Austin and back again.

We visited 9 different states, stayed in 9 different hotels, and visited countless gas stations, restaurants and rest stops along the way. We wouldn’t change anything about it.

Nine other teams from around North America were all doing the same thing as we were – driving to Austin from various parts of North America. We had 11 challenges to do during the trip down and we were judged on our creativity and execution of those challenges. We did our best considering the lack of internet connectivity (more on that in a bit) we had as well as the longer distances we had to drive compared to other teams. Early on during the trip down, we were discouraged by the scoring system used for the challenge aspect of our roadtrip (we would get scoring updates the following day after posting our challenge responses the next before).

Wilson's Arch, Utah

As a team, we decided to do the best we could on the challenges but also not let them get in the way of us enjoying the trip and the many amazing places we got to visit along the way. Things started on a more positive angle when we came upon Wilson’s Arch in Moab, Utah:

Wilson's Arch, Utah

As a team, we spent a good hour climbing around the natural rock formations and stunning scenery. It really seemed to energize us.

Wilson's Arch, Utah

Wilson's Arch, Utah

Some other favorite destinations along the way included:

A burned out train car and building along the Great Salt Lake in Utah:

Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake

Meeting some great grade 1 kids in Twin Falls, Idaho:
Mrs Eller's 1st Grade class

Mrs Eller's 1st Grade class

Mrs Eller's 1st Grade class

Doing little photoshoots at any interesting ‘scenic viewpoints’ we came across:
Chevy SXSW Roadtrip Day 1

A very quick stopover in Las Vegas on St. Patrick’s Day:

Nevada

Nevada

Vegas

Vegas

and probably my favorite part of the trip: visiting Area 51 and the Extraterrestrial Highway:
Nevada
Nevada
Nevada
Nevada

In case you wanted to know how far the #Ehteam traveled

The only real point of pain during the trip was truly a “Nerd World Problem”: our internet connectivity while driving.

Considering we had 5 different wireless devices, we had so much trouble with internet connectivity. Of course this is because we were literally in the middle of nowhere so was kind of expected a little bit of the time.

The #EhTeam is heading to Utah

We had a Bell MyFi, an AutoTel CarFi, a Droid Incredible with personal hotspot (on Verizon), a Samsung Galaxy S with personal hotspot (roaming on Telus) and my iPhone 4 (on AT&T) with MyWi running. We would all try to connect to the various devices to complete our challenges and upload them to various places with many times, the uploads failing at 95% due to us driving out of signal range. Eventually we’d have to stop somewhere and grab some real wifi to complete the challenges.

Once we got to Austin and SXSW Interactive, it was nice to park the Traverse and spend the next 5 days walking everywhere or taking the occasional pedicab.

Some of my favorite things from SXSWi this year include:
SXSW 2011

  • Retrollect – I kept seeing people everywhere using what I thought were old school Viewmasters but it turns out a new app is paving the way for a comeback of these fun 3D viewers. Using an iPhone or Android device, you create your own disc of images and tweets that can be shared with others online…the company behind it is hoping to offer the ability to get your own physical disks printed so you can pop them into a viewer. I’m still working on my disc of photos from the roadtrip.You can view my disc here using photos I took with my iPhone on the roadtrip.
  • Nikon + Vimeo’s Light After Dark event which I already wrote about
  • Group.Me – basically BBM groups for everyone else. All the roadtrip team captains had a Droid Incredible smartphone (which I quite liked) and we used Group.Me to stay in contact, get our next challenges and even find out which hotel we were staying at that night. It worked great (when we had connectivity) and would fall back to SMS based chat if we lost our internet signals
  • Chevy Photo Boom – although it might sound biased since they sponsored our roadtrip, but Chevy really had the coolest photobooth I’ve ever seen on the SXSW tradeshow floor. Using 30 DSLR cameras and a few Mac Minis, they were able to stitch together Matrix-style animated clips of people jumping and wearing costumes. The Eh Team chose to (try to) all jump in front of the Canadian flag:

30 Canon Rebels & Mac Minis take the 360 photos = 3 mb gif

We also got to hang out with some celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal (star of Source Code):
SXSW 2011

Michelle Monaghan (Source Code co-star):
SXSW 2011

Grammy winning producers Play-N-Skills (with Wayne):
SXSW 2011

Eclectic Method (one my favorite photos from the trip):
On stage with Eclectic Method #sxswNikon

and Diplo:
Nikon + Vimeo present Light After Dark: Diplo

See interesting ‘works of art’ done in cheese at the Icanhascheezburger party:
SXSW 2011

and race each other in pedicabs across town:

SXSW 2011

The final night in Austin was also pretty special.

SXSW 2011

The Eh Team got together one last time in Austin and headed to the ServerBeach Geek Party at Venue 222. Special thanks to Ramon at Peer 1 for inviting us.

It was happening at the same time as the Foo Fighters were taking the stage at the official SXSWi closing party but the Geek party seemed more like our thing and we had a fabulous time.

SXSW 2011

They even handed out nerdy glasses with tape on them to everyone, which surprisingly, almost everyone wore for the whole night. Seeing Neiliyo perform was also a highlight:

SXSW 2011

SXSW 2011

SXSW 2011

It’s hard for me to say if this year at SXSW was better than last year. It was just different…in the best possible way since last year was such an amazing experience for me, especially happening immediately after the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The roadtrip really added a completely new dimension to the experience and the friendships made with my team and the other teams will be life long. For that, I can’t thank Chevy enough for the opportunity.

SXSW 2011

I’d like to thank everyone that donated to our Raise-A-Reader fund and all our sponsors: Atlantia, GM, Local Public Eatery, London Drugs, Oakley, Olympus Canada, Red Truck, Sandisk, Sharks + Hammers, and Whistler/Blackcomb who all contributed in some way to make our trip fun and successful.

I especially want to thank a few people that worked tirelessly around the clock to make sure we were all safe, comfortable and had fun during the roadtrip. Chrissie, Lisa, and Adria who handled all our travel, hotel and vehicle logistics, all the folks at the special events group at OnStar for helping us during the trip and everyone at GM & GM Canada that worked behind the scenes to make everything happen.

I also have to thank my wonderful teammates Michelle, Wayne, Amber and Leila who truly made the trip enjoyable and fun.

I already can’t wait for next year.

Check out all my photos from the trip and the Eh Team’s Flickr Group.

UPDATE: Our friends at Jones Soda, who we met in Austin did up an Eh Team label for us and are sending us some…too cool! Thanks Todd & the Jones crew!
So awesome! Rec'd the #Ehteam bottles from @JonesSodaCo

7 Comments

  1. What an amazing opportunity and what a blast. That’s something you won’t soon forget. It’s kind of like going to camp as a kid, but more fun.

  2. Eric says:

    AWESOME stuff. The photos are amazing. Great memories for all! #TeamCbus

  3. kaylee says:

    We’re so happy to hear the west coast Canadians made it home safe. Great post and banging awesome 360° photo! Cheers to surviving more time on the road than anybody ever though was imaginable (although, in LA, you think we’d be used to it!)

  4. Tyler says:

    The matrix-style photo thing is cool!
    John, you need to pick up some more camera bodies and set this rig up in Vancouver!!

    Or need use your arduino board and rail and speed your dSLR really really fast around a track in a similar manner!

  5. serra boten says:

    it was great to meet you guys, and i’m glad to see the eh team made it back to van city in one piece. and the photos are awesome!

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