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May 18, 2018 | Orlando - Atlanta

The NPE in Orlando has been a complete success for exhibitors and visitors alike. The Editourmobil was situated prominently next to the entrance to the west hall, ideally placed to greet visitors every day. At the booth in the Bottle Zone, which was very well received and highly sought after, we, the PETplanet team, had great discussions with readers, exhibitors and, of course, people we met during our tour. As so often happened at the event also we see again a number of new contacts for the next stage of the tour along the east coast to Canada and from there again across the northern United States heading westwards. All in all, we closed this year's NPE with a spirit of optimism for the next leg of the tour and visits, which are sure to be highly interesting, no doubt about that!

It's the weekend after the NPE. Experience tells you that after such a massive fair, you come down to earth with a bit of a bump; so much effort goes into the event and then it seems to be over all too quickly. My tour partner and PETplanet editor Heike and I pack our things in the Editourmobil, ready for the move from the Vista Cay Resort, our accommodation during the fair.

On Saturday, we are heading for Atlanta, where we have a packed calendar of appointments. We set off in the afternoon and finally end up near Gainesville, where we spend the night in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrell (where we dine well, thanks to the recommendation from Markus Kosak of the drinktec team). The next morning, we are off again, this time heading north on the highway. En route we stop off a few times, before reaching the Indian Springs State Park, a little gem in the forest with a lake, where Wendy, our host, offers us the perfect pitch on an almost empty campsite. Absolute bliss surrounded by pure nature! Unfortunately, my laptop broke down on the previous trip and so Heike and I are forced to share her laptop to do the follow-up to the NPE and the usual routine tasks. Fortunately, we’ve left ourselves enough time on Monday because our first appointment on this section of the tour is just an hour away in Peachtree City, and is scheduled for the Tuesday. In the evening we decide to cook in the Editourmobil, for lack of any convenient alternative, and simply because we feel like it.

The next day, it's Monday, we are off to Peachtree City. Here we will be visiting the local office and workshop of MHT USA tomorrow. MHT is also one of the tour supporters and we have already visited CEO Andreas Krampe at the NPE booth. But first, we have a hurdle to overcome: where can we park overnight? In the entire city, which boasts the highest density of golf carts in the world, there is no official pitch or dedicated space for RVs. We talk to the head honcho of a mobile home park, where there are usually simple houses that can be transported by truck. Lo and behold, there’s a place for us between the houses. Right next door, a Publix supermarket and a Starbucks are conveniently located, so we can stock up with all we need, such as various beverages in PET, plus coffee and they even have Wi-Fi. Meanwhile there is the threat of rain approaching, and a quick glance at the weather app indicates that the next few days are going to be anything but rosy around Atlanta...

It is Tuesday and we have a bit of difficulty manoeuvring the RV around the back entrance of the building complex on the site, on which somewhere, MHT is also located. Somehow, we seem to have missed the driveway at the main entrance and ended up round the back. Osmand, our trusty navigation app, is not always 100% accurate, sadly. No matter, as it turns out because the rear entrance is wide enough to accommodate our monster vehicle. Once inside, Andreas Krampe and his team welcome us. A lot has happened since we were here for the last time during the 2015 Tour, and the mould and hot runner manufacturer is keen to expand and extend its service offer still further and generally improve. From here, MHT services spare parts, maintenance and repair work in both North and South America and is also the local sales representative. After a tour of the workshop, the team invites us for a sushi lunch at the local Japanese restaurant, and we all pile into the Editourmobil. On the way back, it’s raining cats and dogs, and we decide to move on to be close to SIPA, our next appointment. They are situated near Atlanta airport, but our appointment is the day after tomorrow, Thursday, so we finally spend Wednesday at a fairly crowded camping ground on Highway 75. We have plenty to keep us occupied, including doing some work on the next issue of PETplanet Insider. Interestingly, our vehicle here looks rather small, compared to other RVs which are the size of a coach, and which have two-sided “slide-outs” to increase the living space. We also have one for Heike's sleeping area, but not four.

Today, Thursday, we are with SIPA. Antonio Orru, the Key Account Director, welcomes us and we discuss the local service strategy of the Italian-based equipment manufacturer. After a final picture at the Editourmobil, we drive to the next appointment, again near Peachtree City. Swiss closure manufacturer Corvaglia will be opening its 9,000 square metre facility in November this year, supplying the USA and Canada from here. We meet General Manager James B. Fisher in his makeshift office and hear about the building and discuss the company’s objectives for the next few years.

As before we are still on the campsite in the south of Atlanta, connected to water and electricity. The latter is absolutely vital to power the air conditioning, because the heat and humidity are almost unbearable. It's Friday and we set about washing towels and sheets for Rolf, who will be joining Heike today for the rest of the tour, whilst I fly back to Germany. Rolf, Commercial Director at PETplanet, is a seasoned veteran of many tours, and will now be literally taking the wheel. The weekend will be for re-charging the batteries, because next week we have a packed timetable in the area. And then, we will be heading off to North Carolina!

Yours
Kay Barton