This post may end up long, but I’m bunching a whole bunch of topics into this single post.
ResNet is about a whole lot more than simply attending presentations and dealing with work-related stuff. It’s about making connections, meeting new people, seeing old friends. It’s about volunteering and helping out. This post covers the stuff that the other 2 didn’t. It covers all the stuff that happens at ResNet that happens outside the actual conference.
I’ll start by saying how ResNet is one big family. Everyone is friends at ResNet. If you weren’t friends with people there, you most certainly are now. I met up with some people I had met over the past 5 years of being part of this great organization. I also made some new friends.
I’ll admit it. The stuff that happens outside the conference can get a little crazy. As someone once described it, it’s like a bunch of college IT folks pretending we’re in college again. That is true to a certain degree, though usually things don’t get quite as crazy as they may have when we were in college. So to complete this thought, some beer is involved. And since beer is involved, I have to comment on the local beer I got to try.
The best of the local stuff was most definitely from Surly. I was able to drink the Furious and Bender on tap. Bender is described as a brown ale, but I’d call it more of a porter. It’s a very tasty beer. Furious is one of the best and most balanced IPAs I have ever tried. I brought some Bender, Coffee Bender, and Bitter Brewer back with me. I also got to drink some Summit, though it was only the Extra Pale Ale, which is just a pale ale. It was good, but got boring after a while. I tried some Schell’s, but I don’t remember what it was. It was pretty pale, but still pretty good. I think it was an adjunct lager of some sort. I also tried a couple New Belgium – the 1554, Mighty Arrow, and Fat Tire. The 1554 was very good. The other 2 weren’t anything special. I stuck mainly with Surly for most of the trip. Needless to say, if you’re in Minnesota, drink as much Surly as you can. The stuff is awesome.
One of the evenings brought about some shots of Jagermeister. Now, I’ll admit it. I love Jagermeister. I haven’t had the stuff since college. I’m also not one to normally do shots of anything. This was a fun way to end a night (after the lights in the bar came back on). In fact, the waitress even did a shot with us.
We tried a couple different bars in town. St. Cloud is a small place with not much to do but drink it seems. In fact, I counted no less than 3 shops selling bongs and other smoking devices along the main strip downtown. There were also a ton of bars. The first bar we tried was MC’s Dugout. It was a strange place where beer was not the drink of choice by most of the locals. In fact, they were all (including the bearded, pierced, tattooed, burly men) drinking what I would call “girly” drinks. They were pink and orange in color and served in curvaceous glasses. I later learned that those drinks are pretty high in alcohol and called a Hairy Buffalo. The second bar was The White Horse. This place had the best beer selection in town. The problem was that it didn’t seem to have any air conditioning. We were literally sweating just sitting there. The live music that was ridiculously loud didn’t help either. I would have loved to stay at this bar, but the atmosphere just wasn’t conducive to a bunch of people wanting to drink and chat. We ended up at the bar where we would return a few times, Tavern on Germain (aka The Tav). It provided us with lots of great beer (they had Surly on tap, which was all I needed) and a great jukebox (all I have to say is there was a biting incident while Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” was playing). We were all worried about being on a dry campus, but the downtown area wasn’t far and the beer flowed like the Mississippi in town.
The town is pretty small, but it’s nicely setup in a grid (at least the downtown and surrounding areas are). It’s pretty walkable, but if you didn’t want to walk, there’s regular bus service (though I didn’t try it). It was about a 10-15 minute walk from the campus to the downtown area. Part of the problem was that the main road through town was under construction and you couldn’t easily get across it. The downtown area is pretty small, confined to a 5-6 block strip that’s only a couple blocks wide. Towards the outskirts, it looks like most suburbs with lots of strip malls and parking lots.
On the half day, I went to the Mall of America with a bunch of people. All I’ll say about that is that it’s a mall, just a really big mall. The only thing that sets it apart from any other mall is the amusement park in the middle, complete with roller coasters. The outside is about as inviting as any other suburban mall and the mall part has the same stuff, just more of it. It had some extra sit down type restaurants, but besides that, it’s still a mall.
While there, I did get to try some of the local cuisine. We ate at a Thai restaurant downtown one night. I enjoyed my meal and the waitress was really nice. It’s called Sawadtee (I found it amusing because we have one in Providence called Sawaddee). We also had some local foods. One of the lunches in the cafeteria had a dish known locally as Tater Tot Hot Dish. It’s a casserole with some kind of meat, some gravy, some peas and corn (maybe carrots, too) and tater tots. It was interesting and pretty enjoyable. We also had pickles-on-a-stick, which were really good. Apparently, they have lots of food on a stick in the Midwest. The last of the Midwestern food I had was at the airport. I tried some fried cheese curds, which were a lot like mozzarella sticks, just not as stringy.
This ends my reporting on this year’s ResNet Symposium. It was a lot of fun and I learned a whole lot and made lots of new friends. I can’t wait to see everyone next year in Bellingham, WA.