Some time the beginning of this year I was sitting on the couch reading my work e-mails on my phone and I saw a bunch of e-mails congratulating me. It turns out that during my time out of the office I had won a trip through work. Our parent company, TDS, has a program called Inspiring Excellence. There are several categories and everyone can nominate their coworkers. Close to 200 people were nominated out of thousands, then HR and management went through and chose 59 people for this award. I had seen the e-mail going around about nominations a few weeks prior but didn't think anyone with OneNeck actually won these trips and didn't know how big of a deal they made them.
So first thing I did is tell Natalie I wont a trip. Her response, "Yeah it's a scam". So I tell her it's through work and initially she wasn't all that impressed. When I saw that the trip was to Georgia the first thing I thought was "Who the hell wants to go to Georgia"? In my 6+ years in Florida I had been to Georgia a couple times but never the good parts. Just boring country towns where they grow peanuts. Regardless I was excited to get out of the office for a week and relax.
Once I got back to the office they started sending me packages. HR didn't just send me an e-mail with my tickets. No, they had to go all out. They send me decorated packages with personalized luggage tags, a check for spending money, and a bunch of other stuff with the itinerary. At this point I could tell this trip is going to be a lot fancier than I was expecting.
June 5th rolls around and it had been busy at the new house. I had been working hard to get all my drip lines installed and make sure everything is working before we leave town for two weeks. So on June 5th we load up the car and head out to California to drop off the kids with my sister before flying out to Georgia the next morning. Well as luck would have it about 45 minutes from the house my AC gradually stops working and within a few minutes it's blowing nothing but hot air. It was 106-108 out around the valley that day and we had no option but to keep driving. So we rolled down the windows and drove 90 mph all the way to Morongo with only one stop. We had to stop and get the kids ice cream in Quartzite before getting back to our miserable drive. Lucky for me I always keep a 24 pack of water bottles in the car. Unlucky for me Zach decided he was going to be a pain in the butt that day and wanted to put his blanket on. We tried taking it away from him but he kept putting it back on. It was the drive from hell.
June 6th we hopped on a plane and flew out to Atlanta. Our flight was with Southwest and it absolutely sucked. We got lowest priority boarding and my carry on had to go in the back on both flights so I had to wait for everyone to get off the plane just so I can get my carry on. Things got better once we landed in Atlanta though.
From the time we got off the plane it was red carpet service all week. I didn't have to touch my bags and I didn't have to tip anyone for taking care of all my stuff because TDS already took care of it. We stayed our first night at the Ritz Carlton downtown because the Ritz Oconee was full. They flew us out a day early because our flight would have been too late on the 7th for the activities so I got an extra day for free. So the first thing we decide to do in Atlanta is look for spots from the Walking Dead. We managed to find the spot where Rick found the tank in the first season but we quickly learned it wasn't a good part of town and got the hell out of there.
The next morning the fun began. We got picked up and took an hour ride over to the Ritz Oconee. We sat around eating lunch and drinking beer (except Natalie) and met everyone coming in from around the country. After lunch they gave us a few hours to ourselves before the first round of activities started. We decided to take a walk around the property and I found a hammock that looked really appealing. I went to sit down with my beer in my right hand and my Nikon camera in my left and the hammock was off balance. I did a complete back flip and landed on my knees without spilling a single drop of beer. Natalie was laughing her ass off, a couple from our group tried to pretend they didn't see and kept walking, and I was there on my bloody knees proud that the camera survived and no beer was spilled.
The night was our first activity. We met on the yard by the evil hammock and they had an open bar. They split everyone into groups and gave us bling so we could find our groups. Natalie and I were the green shamrock group. Once everyone is about 3 drinks in they decide to tell us we have some puzzles to solve. The first clue lead us to the conference room where they locked us in to do an Escape The Space. At this point the only person there that isn't drinking was Natalie and they had another open bar in the conference room. What better way to solve a puzzle than with a few cocktails? Basically they split us into 8 teams, had 200 items in the room with clues on it, and we had to solve a bunch of clues to get the wire cutters to deactivate a fake bomb. I think we completed it in 57 minutes, 3 minutes before we would have pretended to blow up. Oh, and my team won.
After all the fun in our team building activity was dinner in the forest. The thing I liked is that it was assigned seating all week so we had to meet new people. Well the first night they put me next to our future CEO and his wife and the celebrity couple. Our CEO's wife is a very energetic person and had to let us know that her favorite movie of all time is Hoosiers and the guy sitting at our table was in the movie along with his entire family. I told her I was in diapers when that movie came out (1986) and I had never seen it so she decided to name me Buster Brown. It stuck with me all week. Did I mention that by dinner they now had two bars at the event and it would be like this at every event for the rest of the week. They probably spent close to half my salary just on alcohol.
The next morning at breakfast the CEO's wife decided she wanted to sit with us again. So we got to talk a lot with our future CEO and found out that he's a really cool down to earth guy. After breakfast we went on a boat trip where they showed us all the mansions, gave us beer, and let us play in the middle of the lake for a couple hours. These pontoons are not made for pulling jet skis but our driver decided to let us take a try at it. Out of all of us that tried one really skinny guy that had been water skiing since he was in diapers was able to get up while the rest of us failed. I was too fat for the boat to get me up on skiis so I had to go with the knee board.
The rest of the week was pretty much just hanging out in the day with random activities and open bars. Friday night we had an awards ceremony and this is when the our future CEO's wife figured out that Natalie is pregnant and announced it to everyone around. So we had a little celebration and again, I drank for two....
The last day there we took a bike ride around the golf course and got lost. We had a mini carnival on the lawn for 4-5 hours and by the time it was over we just went to our room and crashed.
It was an amazing trip. I figured they probably spend 6-10K on each person plus just as much on their guest. Our room was nearly 500 bucks a night. I think everyone but two people there had a guest, which I thought was odd so we had a group of around 130 people once you add in HR and upper management. Every part of this trip was so well planned out. They even had community supplies at every event with bug spray, sun block and tums. With the open bars those tums were like gold. Every day we got a package delivered to our room with gifts from management and/or supplies for the next day. I almost felt like a celebrity for a week.
Pictures are not in order. I've been too busy and am too lazy to sort them all out.
At the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta
I think this is after I did a back flip on the evil hammock
We were required to wear our name tags at all TDS events. This was at dinner in the forest.
Dinner in the forest. This is our future CEO's wife. This lady was all smiles like this all week.
Our bike ride through the forest and around the golf course.