Posted On 06/07/2016 By In News

North Carolina Keyboard Meetup – A Long, Strange Trip

Photo Galleries

I know first things first, here are the photo albums that I’ve gotten from folks, with more being updated as I get them. I know most people just want to look at pics and not read my ramblings, so knock yourselves out:

GeekHack Thread (with photos in thread comments & info on any more meetups I plan)

livingspeedbump’s photos

Booper’s photos

CPTBadass’ photos

HoffmanMyster’s photos

dilbertprogrammer’s photos

Introduction

I have been getting people together within the keyboard community for a while now. The majority of the people I hang out with on a regular basis are actually people from the forums. Engicoder (the creator of 1976) and Retrochick (creator of some epic artisans) are some of my dearest friends. Last year, with the help of Engicoder, I organized a meetup in Raleigh. The Raleigh meetup was deceptively easy to pull off, and definitely made me slightly unprepared for what a big out of town, weekend long meetup would need in terms of planning and foresight.

Planning

I was unsure if I should call this segment “Planning” or “Procrastinating.” The general planning for having a meetup in Asheville began some four or five months ago when I started gauging interest on GeekHack and working out a date with out-of-town travellers. Unlike the last meetup I organized in Raleigh NC, Asheville seemed like the perfect location for the next big community gathering because of it’s location. I assumed it would be relatively easy to plan, simply get a cheap community center room somewhere in town and stay with my granny who lives 1hr away.

Wrong.

Planning an event in a town that nobody lived in proved to be rather difficult. The more things slowly developed the more it seemed like it could be possible to rent a giant cabin for as many people as possible to stay in. Not only was I trying to find a place for the meetup, but I was also trying to find and organize as many people as I could into housing and cabins.

Originally the Mrs (Lizard) and I were looking into mega-cabins (16-20 people) and found 1 that seemed to fit the bill without busting the bank. Unfortunately the owners didn’t want to rent to a bunch of non-related-computer-geeks. Super lame. The early stages of freaking-the-hell-out began with my cabin falling through the cracks. I was definitely feeling the pressure to accommodate and help out as many possible out of town travellers as possible with housing, as well as trying to find Lizard and I a place to stay as well. Before worrying about housing though, I had to find a place for the event.

In Asheville, community centers really didn’t seem open to working with me, not many were even open on the weekends for rentals. Engicoder found a fantastic looking event place called Base Camp AVL. I sent an inquiry email about the space, but wasn’t very optimistic as the space looked far nicer than something I could afford. I was met with a swift response and a fantastic price for the facility for a 3 hour rental on saturday. Success! Even with the great discounted price Base Camp AVL gave me, it was still significantly more than I had planned to spend based on my Raleigh experience.

After paying out of pocket for the rental space, I was really not ready or even able to organize a cabin for myself or anyone else. My wallet was empty, and being unable to front the costs of renting a cabin for a weekend I broke down and asked GeekHackers for help, and hoped people would still be able to arrange places together and be able to make the trip. I was completely uncertain of where I’d be staying until the day before I left, when I finally decided to crash with some people in a little place 35 mins outside of Asheville in Black Mountain.

Everything was finally a go for the weekend and meetup. I could finally start to get excited about the trip and not just worry endlessly about everything working out.

The Cabin In The Woods

When I arrived in Black Mountain, a small town outside of Asheville, I pulled into the local grocery store parking lot right as Engicoder was walking inside. What perfect timing! After admiring how much cold beer the Ingles had (literally a huge walk in cooler AND more chilled isles than any local grocery store I’ve been to) and buying a good bit to take with us, we headed for the rendezvous point that was a 30 minute drive straight up the mountains. Engicoder and I arrived at the cabin just a few minutes before ccarlitos pulled in from his 9+ hour trip. Within half an hour the guys from the midwest (WI and OH, 14+ hour trip) had arrived. Finally Retrochick, Booper, and Scubaste arrived. Booper and Scubaste were the real champions here, having found the house, dishing out the cash upfront for the place, and organizing things for the long travellers after hearing my plea on GH that I couldn’t handle figuring out accommodations for everyone.

Even though I’d already met half the people in the cabin before (many I hang out with weekly), I hardly felt like I was meeting anyone for the first time. It felt like a non-shitty family reunion (crazy! I didn’t know those existed even!). There was no awkwardness at all as people, beer, and keyboards started filling up the house. We immediately had a mini-meetup and filled the long dining table with keyboards, caps, etc. Gifting boards and caps to each other also happened in record time.

Things got slightly more interesting when a long time email-pen-pal, dilbertprogrammer, called me around midnight to inform me that he and his girlfriend had gotten a flat tire on the way to hang out with us at the cabin. I’ve had shit-rag cars my whole life, so I know how awful it is getting stranded, especially in the middle of nowhere without much cell service. Instead of letting him fend of the army of hungry bears (that we never saw, but knew were out there…) I went down the road to pick them up. Fortunately, because I’m so used to having such bad vehicles, I have AAA Gold and called in to get the car towed. Unfortunately we really were in the middle of nowhere and AAA had nobody available to pick the car up until the morning. So the easy solution was just to keep hanging out, hopefully salvaging some of the night with conversation and beer for the stranded couple, and then let them take my car back down the mountain to Asheville until all was well with their car situation.

 

Handing my (new) car over to someone I had just met in person for the first time didn’t feel strange at all for me. This hobby, unlike any other I’ve ever know, brings people into relationships that are easier to define as “family” than “friends.” If there was a resounding theme of the weekend, “family” would be it.

Meetup Day

I was the first to say “fuck it” and drag myself out of bed Saturday morning around 8 am. First things first: Coffee. Everyone had, without any real coordination, brought a bag of local coffee along with them. Coffee was ground, french presses were filled, and sipping my first cup of the morning on the gorgeous back porch began.

Second on the agenda was to get into town early enough to snag lunch with Binge and Ziptyze who had travelled over nine hours to get to Asheville. Introductions and hugs were exchanged.

When we got to Base Camp to set up, I was extremely stoked to see how nice the place actually was in person. There was a huge room waiting for us, complete with plenty of tables (including a ping pong table) and space for everyone to showcase their keyboards. There was also plenty of parking, something I had worried quite a bit about.

The meetup itself went off without a hitch. New friendships were forged. Plenty of gifts were exchanged and keyboards, caps, and cases were given away. Guys like KeyKollectiv and Massdrop sent some really cool items to hand out as well. There was really an incredible selection of keyboards at the meetup. There was an insane number of custom boards, keycap sets, vintage boards, and artisan caps at the meetup. If you haven’t already check out more pics from the meetup right at the top of the page!

The Morning After

Sunday morning was set to be another great day with friends, but also one of sadness as the great fellowship would be split up as people started to leave. We headed into Black Mountain around noon to find a place for brunch.

We found a nice little cafe, waited 5 minutes to order alcohol (due to NC laws, no alcohol can be sold until noon on Sundays), ate, drank, and had an amazing last meal together. After that, my weekend journey was just about over as I headed back towards Raleigh.

The End Of Times, The Best Of Times

Going home was hard. Leaving new friends at the meetup was hard. Leaving old friends at cabin was hard. Leaving was really, really hard. I wanted the weekend to last much longer than it did. The lasting bonds that such an odd hobby has forged never ceases to amaze me, nor does the generosity of this community. I hated that this weekend had to end, but I’m already looking forward to the next time we are all together again.

Thanks to everyone that came, hopefully we see each other again sooner than later! Hopefully we have more new faces at the next meetup!

<3 Andy/livingspeedbump

 

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