This month, my road trip was centered on attending the National Private Truck Council’s annual meeting in Cincinnati. The theme for this year’s meeting was “You Must Be Present to Win.” A clever title, I thought, as many of the exhibitors were probably going to be giving away various prizes throughout the tradeshow, as well as a good incentive to sign up for the meeting. The flight from Chicago to Cincinnati is a short one, and I was fortunate to have Victoria Kresge, our new Vice President of Dedicated Services and Logistics, waiting to pick me up when I arrived. We both had rooms at the main meeting hotel, the Hilton Netherland Plaza, so we headed to the hotel to check in.
The Netherland Plaza Hotel was built in 1931. The financing for the buildings came from the Emery family, which had made its fortune in processing the by-products of Cincinnati’s stockyards. The Carew Tower and Netherland Plaza Hotel were designed to be a “city within a city,” an entirely new concept in 1931, with a combination of shops, department stores, offices, and hotel. As the construction on the hotel came to a close, the name St. Nicholas Plaza was selected. Just before the grand opening, another group filed an injunction against the new hotel’s name claiming that it had purchased the rights to the St. Nicholas name. Having invested heavily into the monogramming of linens, china, silverware, and stationery, the new hotel’s name was quickly changed to St. Netherland Plaza. Eventually, the “St.” was dropped and “Netherland Plaza” is the name that is now famous. The Netherland Plaza did suffer a period in the 1960s when, not unlike many properties of the period, much of the detail was covered in a modernization effort. But in 1981, the hotel closed for nearly two years of renovations. The carpets were removed, exposing the grand marble; the light fixtures were all cleaned; the murals in the Palm Court had 50 years of smoke and dirt removed to reveal their beauty once again and the paint that had covered the wood paneling was scraped off. The hotel’s breathtaking Art Deco was restored to its 1930s glory. In 1985, The Netherland Plaza earned National Historic Register and National Landmark status. Victoria and I had dinner in the spectacular Palm Court before turning in for the night to rest up for the days ahead.
The meeting started early the next morning, and between the flurry of educational sessions and meeting lots of people, we put the finishing touches on the NationaLease booth that Victoria had set up the day before. The tradeshow space was filled with great displays, including several trucks, as well as the booths of a couple of NationaLease members, Aim NationaLease and Transervice Leasing, a NationaLease member. Joe Gallick, Senior Vice President of Sales, joined us in time for a late lunch and the opening of the tradeshow. We had a great time talking to customers and vendors, catching up with old friends and making new ones. By the time the show closed for the day, the three of us were ready for a good meal (and some comfortable shoes!) Joe suggested a Cincinnati favorite—Montgomery Inn.
In 1951, “Ribs King” Ted Gregory and wife Matula opened this barbecue joint in the very undeveloped village of Montgomery, OH. They now have four locations specializing in—you guessed it—ribs! Now, I’m not typically a big fan of any food that requires you to gnaw on a bone, so ribs are not my usual order, but since it’s the thing to do, I gave it a try. I was not disappointed. There was no need to gnaw on any bones with these ribs. I actually didn’t even use my knife. The tender meat came right off the bone with a fork and the smoky, spicy barbeque sauce was the perfect compliment. The mac and cheese held its own, too! With full stomachs and rested feet, we decided to try to find the spot where we had heard a number of our colleagues would be meeting up later. True to its name, O’Malley’s in the Alley is a narrow pub tucked into a back alley about two blocks from the hotel. As we found out, it holds a remarkable number of people, who filled the bar and spilled out onto the back patio. Old friends retold old stories, and new friends got acquainted as more and more people continued to flow into the narrow space. Our aching feet eventually got the better of us, and we headed back to the hotel for the evening.
The next day started early again with more education sessions, and then one of my favorite parts of the meeting, the inductions to the Driver Hall of Fame. Hearing the stories of these four drivers, who have not only driven millions of miles without a single accident or moving violation, but also do so much for their families and communities was truly inspiring. The afternoon flew by, as we manned our booth and had the chance to chat with lots of people.
I rushed back to the hotel just in time for Shawn Watson and John Marshall from Truckway NationaLease to pick me up for the Cincinnati Reds game. Ron Horstman, Tim Shimrock, and several of their customers joined us for a great evening, and what turned out to be a great game, ending with a save by the lefty pitcher Aroldis Chapman, nicknamed the Cuban Missile for his 100+ mph fastballs.
After just a couple remaining sessions on Tuesday morning, Victoria shuttled Joe and me to the airport, but we had to make one last stop. I had never tried the famous Cincinnati-style chili, so we found a Skyline Chili on the way. Skyline Chili is unique in that it is not chili con carne, the meat dish that originated in (and is the state dish of) Texas. Instead, Cincinnati-style chili is a sauce usually used over spaghetti or hot dogs, containing a unique spice blend that gives it a very distinct taste. Officially, the recipe for Skyline Chili is a well-kept family secret. However, many Skyline patrons believe that the unique taste of Skyline Chili comes from chocolate and cinnamon, spices common in Greek cuisine’s meat dishes. The only Cincinnati staple left to try was Graeter’s ice cream. I found one in the airport and sampled the Blackberry Chocolate Chip. A little while later, I got a text from Victoria with a picture of the Graeter’s sundae she was enjoying. Mission accomplished!
“You Must Be Present to Win.” This theme began to take on a new meaning for me over the few days in Cincinnati. An article in Psychology Today, explains what it means to “be present.” “Try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That’s how life ends up passing us by – we do it to ourselves.” The concept of “being present” may seem out of place at a conference like NPTC, with sessions, tradeshows, speakers, and customers all vying for your attention. As I thought about it a little more though, I realized that it couldn’t be more fitting. Being present is essential in order to appreciate the stunning detail in a marble staircase, or the unexpected surprise of seeing an old friend for the first time in years. Being present is necessary in order to enjoy a good meal or have a meaningful connection with someone in a crowded place. Being present is required in order to appreciate the accomplishments of a million-mile driver or fastball pitcher. Most importantly, being present is mandatory in order to develop relationships, and in that most important game of all, you truly must be present to win.