This is my first trip to the AGU Fall Meeting. As I write this I am on Level 2 of the Moscone Center (West), San Francisco, USA, having spent the past hour or so finalising my talk for tomorrow.
First impressions of the conference and organisation are very favourable. The Speaker Ready Room where you upload and check talks has around 40 stations that you can use and several people on hand to take you through the process. Registration took but a few moments, despite my forgetting to bring along the receipt for the registration payment. Wi-Fi is free and fast, well, at least it is now, just before the Ice Breaker session but it does bode well.
The trip to San Francisco was uneventful if a bit tiring. I flew with Air Canada via Vancouver and the 10 odd hour flight there passed quite quickly (ably helped by a selection of mindless movies that suited my somewhat addled brain). The changeover at Vancouver was a reasonably pleasant experience, considering my past experiences of US immigration. I hadn't realised this, but you go through immigration to the US at Vancouver, not at the final US destination, so transit passengers are corralled into a small waiting area until ones bag is retrieved and ready to head to the connecting flight. Once called up to identify your bag (on a computer screen!) you head off through security again and thence to your interview with the Immigration official. At least this time I visited the US I had completed an ESTA; when I travelled through the US on the way to Mexico 18 months ago I had forgotten this and got wrapped on the knuckles as a result ("non compliant" was what the official called me!). Once that was over with, you are effectively a domestic traveller like any other person travelling from Vancouver to San Francisco.
The journey from the airport to downtown was likewise uneventful on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). It was just a shame that all this happened in the dark so I couldn't see any of the city as I went along. My hotel is just round the corner from Union Square right in the heart of the shopping district and when I arrived the place was buzzing as befits 9pm on a Saturday night! Very lively atmosphere, what little I saw of it on my 5 minute trek to the hotel. My room mate had already checked in and was fast asleep when I arrive (it was 5am UK time by the time I got to the hotel) so I dumped my gear, crawled into bed and slept too.
This morning we had an expensive breakfast in the hotel (won't be doing that again as there are plenty of other, cheaper options available!) then headed off for a walk in the sunshine before meeting up with some colleagues for lunch. After that we headed to the Moscone Center to register and that about brings us up to date. The real business starts tomorrow; I have a talk to give at 1500 in session H13G "Digital Soil Mapping and Hydroecological Modeling I". This is a rather general soil/hydrology modelling session and I was originally invited to give a talk in an R-focussed session, so I've had to retool my talk to suit. This does mean that the session won't be too interesting to me scientifically and I may try to sneak out (or in rather as I am on next to last) to a session on carbon isotopes. Whether to risk the session under-running or not?
Off to meet up with some people now and sample a beer or two before bedtime. I'll be back tomorrow, Wi-Fi permitting with a round-up of Day 1 of the AGU 2011 Fall Meeting.